Monday, February 27, 2012

When it rains, go to the Man Well

I'm not going to pretend like I'm a weather-hardened East Coaster. Running in the rain sucks. Never liked it, never will. I didn't move to San Diego because I love treadmill running and my skin is sun-sensitive. I'm here because it rains fewer times per year than it does per month in New England. The weather is mild enough that unless there is wildfire ash in the air, you will find me running outside.

Unfortunately tonight was cold, rainy and dark. But I really wanted to run and have some good thinking time, so I decided to man up and call on some of my Man Motivators.

No. 1: Watch a few minutes of Full Metal Jousting.

No. 2: Listen to some old Metallica.

No. 3: RRS Gortex Jacket

Result . . . 4-mile run through Balboa Park complete.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Suffer Session at Kate Sessions

When I'm in need of a Suffer Session, I head to Kate Sessions. After a rejuvenating post-Carlsbad break from running, I'm back on the horse and today was my first hard run. Instead of opting for some easy intervals on flat ground at Mission Bay, I decided to throttle up and visit the hillside park in PB, named for the horticulturist known as the Mother of Balboa Park. Hills for breakfast!

The 79-acre park sits perched above the bay and 10-20 of those acres, starting near where Lamont St. turns into Soledad Rd., make for an excellent grass workout. The perimeter of this section, lined by a paved path, is a half-mile long. But I never use the path and never run a measured course. Trust me: Take this opportunity to disconnect and leave the Garmin at home.

Kate Sessions is ideal for the Run like a Kid Workout, cutting up, down and across the park with no rhyme or reason to the direction you're headed. Throw on some minimal shoes, like my choice today, the New Balance Minimus Trail. Run hard for a couple of minutes until you feel that burn in your chest and then run for a few more seconds to make sure it really hurts. Follow it up with a couple of easy minutes, just long enough to catch your breath. And then repeat.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Carefree as a Dog

Running essentials, Shit Kit included.
I will never forget the first time my bowels got the best of me during a run. I can still feel the panic. It was sophomore year of college and I was crushing a 10 miler one day after class. Middlebride Road, along the Narrow River, at the halfway point of my run. The scenario played out just as every runner dreads. No shortcut home. No public restroom nearby. It came suddenly and left me with little choice.

I quickly scanned the scene. There were too many homes and not enough cover. I thought about knocking on someone's door.

Skeptical home owner: "Can I help you?"
Me, soaked in sweat, out of breath: "Let me use your toilet, please!"
Home owner: "No. 2?"
Me, head down: "Yes."
Home owner: "Not a chance, buddy."

OK. Not gonna go there. Time was running out. With each step, my situation became more dire. "Shit!," I thought. And that's exactly what I did. Instinct took over. Behind some trees, just a few feet from the street, I took care of business. Relief!

I finished the run, minus a sock, constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I had been caught in the act. I was part ashamed and part worried I would be arrested for public defecation. But nothing happened, no consequences. Crisis averted.

Little did I know this scene would become a regular part of my life as a runner. My stomach is volatile. Certain foods + high mileage = disaster. Milk before a run? Bad choice, indeed, Ron Burgandy. Anything greasy? Too much sugar? Poop!

Several years and too many such experiences and I evolved. When in doubt, leave the house prepared. A plastic baggy and some toilet paper and you've got, as a former roommate informed me, a Shit Kit. Like a toilet in a Ziplock. It might not provide privacy or the comfort of your home bowl, but at least you can unload, clean up and move on.

Now, as a veteran Pooper on the Run, I usually anticipate when a storm is brewing in my stomach. I know where the restrooms are located. I adjust the route accordingly. Or I stop, squat behind a bush and call upon my Shit Kit to bail me out of a potentially messy situation. No more inhibitions. I'm as carefree as a dog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Helplessness Blues

13 miles down, 1 million to go
Running has always come easy to me. Even when months had passed since I laced up my shoes, I could head out for a few miles, no problem. There have been days when I've been sick, sore, injured, exhausted, etc. But until yesterday, I had never bonked. It was my most humbling running experience to date. I've never felt so helpless.

Carlsbad Village was hell and I was a passenger on a very slow, hallucinogenic train ride through town for the last few miles of the marathon. I remember a guy giving me a push start from behind and some words of encouragement. I remember drinking a cup of Ultima and accidentally throwing the cup at the legs of a volunteer because I didn't have the energy to direct my throw elsewhere. I remember many cheers from strangers directed my way, kind as they were, that I didn't want to hear. 

I so badly wanted to see the finish line and it seemed so far away. I wanted to see it so bad that I continued to run when I probably should have walked or not moved at all. I was clearly out of fuel, but not much was clear to me at the time except the fact that I wasn't going to Boston.

In shambles after the race, I sat in my car, wife by my side, and spent a full hour recovering. Banana, 8 oz. chocolate milk, 24 oz. Endurox recovery drink, Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar pack, 20 oz. of water. Color finally returned to my face.   

I don't know what left me so depleted. Last year for Marathon No. 1, also Carlsbad, I trained hard and the race felt easy. The last few miles were a challenge, but I held it together. This year I trained harder, felt like I was in better shape and was confident I could shave 5 minutes off my time to reach my new BQ. I consumed more calories (3 gels, 2 salt pills and 30-40 ounces of sports drink) and the weather was cooler. But it just wasn't meant to be.

By the halfway point, although I was on pace, it wasn't as easy as last year. I knew I was at my limit. When I hit the turnaround at mile 18, still on pace, I could feel the race slipping away. I was coming apart at the seams. I started to lose focus. I vaguely remember: Hearing a band playing STP's Wicked Garden, a random cover choice, I thought. Seeing James Li. Hearing a loud cheer from Marat. Seeing Deanna, me giving her the thumbs down and seeing her look of sadness. She felt my pain.

Another roadblock in my quest for Boston. Oh well. I lived to fight another day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Marathon Beard

San Diego-grown Marathon Beard at Day 93 
A derivative of the Playoff Beard. Origin: National Hockey League. Tradition started by the New York Islanders in the 1980s during their run of four Stanley Cups.

The Marathon Beard starts on Day 1 of training and lasts through the finish line on race day, generally 12-18 weeks of growth. No trimming aside from the cheeks and neckline. No Fu Manchu, Goatee, Soul Patch or any of the like. The Marathon Beard must grow in all its glory. The fuller the beard, the more potent its powers.

Part superstition, part motivational tool, the Marathon Beard, if cultivated properly, is like the best training partner you've ever had. It's a daily reminder that you're in marathon training. When you skip a run, you let the beard down. Need motivation to head out the door for a speed workout? Look in the mirror. The Marathon Beard will not be denied.

Deep into your long training runs and on race day, the Marathon Beard will provide a tasty, functional benefit: Gel Saver. Mint Chocolate flavored Gu might taste better out of the package, but taste doesn't matter at mile 22 when you're low on energy.

You will inevitably be pressured by ladies in your life to shave your Marathon Beard. Pass this test, rebuff these requests and stay on task. Shave the beard and risk marathon failure.

But don't get too attached. Once you cross the finish line, the Marathon Beard must go.