Thursday, December 31, 2009
I tend to divide my New Years resolutions into different categories. Physically, I plan on maintaining fitness, continuing weight training and adhering to the schedule noted above. Diet-wise I would like to try to cut refined sugar completely from my diet and try to eat locally, join a CSA and limit my consumption of refined foods. Staying healthy is very important when you’re an older Dad and have to keep up with two energetic young boys. I also resolve to take the boys out into nature as often as possible, including more camping trips and hiking excursions. I think we’ll all benefit from the experiences.
I don’t see too much happening on the job front this coming year. Hopefully everything in that area will remain status quo. I have some big personal events that will happen this year, including a marriage and the purchase of a house and a car. Not resolutions, exactly, but anticipated events nonetheless. While I am not an overtly religious man, it is my sincere prayer that everyone in my family will remain happy and healthy, and it is that self-same wish that I extend to you, dear readers, as we venture forth into the new year.
Monday, December 21, 2009
While watching the snow pile up around the windows late Saturday I was resigned to skipping my Sunday run-the gym was probably closed and the roads looked a little dicey-but the town’s monster plow eventually made it down our street and as I was finishing shoveling out the car, a solitary runner trotted by in the snow. I finished the driveway and laced up my sneakers. I headed out for five blissful miles on quiet roads, unmolested by traffic other than the occasional truck with front-mounted plow. Running on snow is akin to running on sand, albeit a touch easier since the snow on the road was already fairly well compacted. The physical exertion was minor compared to the sheer joy of hopping around in the white stuff. I hope we get a lot more storms this season.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A study in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Preventive Medicine suggested that a half-hour a day of exercise six days a week is roughly the amount needed to trigger the anti-depressive effect. The study compared two groups of depressed patients and found that the first group, which performed only 80 minutes of exercise a week, received little to no mental-health benefits. However, the second group which logged 3 hours per week of aerobic exercise had a substantial reduction in symptoms. The study concluded that "the response and remission rates in the (three-hours-per-week) group are comparable to other depression treatments, such as medication or cognitive behavioral therapy." It seems to me that runners, who often train far in excess of three hours per week, would obviously derive the full benefits, while the average 3x per week gym rat’s cardio work-out couldn’t deliver the goods.
What no one is really sure of is how it works. There is speculation that endorphins are released during exercise (“runners high”) and that they act as mood elevators. However, studies in the early 1980s cast doubt on the relationship. One study found that when an antagonist was introduced that blocked neuron receptors, the same changes in mood state occurred as when the person exercised with no blocker. So maybe endorphins have nothing to do with it.
Moving forward, a 2003 Georgia Tech study found that runner's high might be caused by the release of another naturally produced chemical, anandamide (a cannaboid) The authors suggest that the body produces this chemical to deal with prolonged stress and pain from strenuous exercise. However, no cognitive effects were observed when it was released so it’s doubtful it has any association with depression.
Just to confuse matters further, in 2008, German researchers using PET scans combined with recently available chemicals that reveal endorphins in the brain, were able to compare runners’ brains before and after a run and discovered that endorphins were indeed produced during the exercise and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic and prefrontal areas).
Scientists are now suggesting that endorphins work together with epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine and other chemicals to produce the physical and cognitive benefits associated with the runners high and the commensurate decrease in symptoms of depression.
What I was unable to find was a study that looked at what happens when someone using exercise as a depression treatment suddenly stops exercising. I also wonder whether the depression reduction effect turns into something approaching euphoria at the level of the ultra-marathon runner, and whether a sudden cessation of training in the aftermath of a big race has the potential to send the participant into a depression spiral, possibly triggering a suicide attempt. I’ll keep looking.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. Apparently so have many other readers of Runnersworld.com, who have been moved to comment with their own stories of overcoming tremendous adversity through the act of running. I have absolutely no science to back this up, but there seem to be a disproportionate number of runners who defend the physical and psychological benefits of this sport with the type of zeal usually seen in Amway salesmen and Jehovah Witnesses. I count myself among them. If it weren’t for me discovering running some 20 years ago, I would probably be taking medication for depression and buying my clothes in the tall and fat store. I rarely, if ever, see this sort of gratitude to a sport expressed by people who ride stationary bikes or rock the elliptical at the gym. So what is it about running? Why does running seem to stimulate the brain and at the same time render one calm and focused? On the other hand, why can it, as in the case of Dean’s friend, exacerbate depression? I suspect the answer lies in brain chemistry-neurotransmitters. Hopefully over the next few days I can take a look at some science and let you all know what I come up with. Meanwhile, take a look at some of the comments appended to Dean’s blog. Very interesting.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
A week or so ago, the New York Times Well blog had a posting that reviewed recent scientific studies pertaining to stretching. The conclusion? Researchers now believe that stretching is not only a waste of time, but might actually be bad for you. Stretching, the studies conclude, may actually weaken muscles rather than strengthen them, and your flexibility and range of motion is likely genetically predetermined and cannot be expanded without tremendous effort.
“In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.”
Unfortunately, the study doesn’t distinguish between pre- and post- workout stretching, and many runners I know forgo the former but religiously engage in the latter. I feel somewhat validated in my non-stretching position, but I still wonder whether as I venture further into my 40s I should be worried more about flexibility than performance on the road. Thoughts?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I decided after the marathon that I would forgo running until the day I could walk down the stairs in my house without feeling any pain in my knees, hip or quads. Today was not that day. I’m definitely on the mend, but I think I need at last another two days before I can resume even light running without risk of injury. Ordinarily I would hit up the elliptical or stationary bike just to keep active, but I don’t belong to a gym yet in my new town and I’m off work until next Monday (no office gym) so my options are limited. I think tomorrow I’ll propose a pre-Thanksgiving walk in the nature preserve near the house. Walking is healthy, I hear. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Well, Sarah has a new book out and the publicity machine is cranking away, ensuring that every time we open a paper or turn on the news we’re greeted with a picture of the former Ms. Wassila’s sunny face and chirpy banter. Palin’s current complaint about the media centers around a picture of her on the cover of Newsweek, (at left) apparently taken during a photo shoot for Runners World. Wait, WHAT? Apparently the controversial photo was shot for the August 2009 issue, which featured Palin in the monthly “I’m a Runner” column.
I headed on over to Runners World’s web site to read the interview, which I found completely fascinating. Apparently Palin has been running regularly for 35 years, and in 2005 ran a sub four-hour marathon (The 2005 Humpy's Marathon in Anchorage). One of her greatest frustrations she had during the campaign (besides Katie Couric, I assume) was that the McCain staff wouldn't adjust her schedule so she could fit in a run. As she put it, “The days never went as well if I couldn't get out there and sweat.”
Although it kills me to say this, my opinion of Palin has just inched up a couple of notches. She cites George Sheehan as one of her favorite authors and answered a question about what running has taught her about politics this way: “Same thing it's taught me about life: You have to have determination and set goals, and you don't complain when something's hurting because no one wants to hear it.” Ain’t it the truth.
Finally, Palin on running in general: “It doesn't matter your background, your demographics, your race, your political affiliation—it's such a uniting, healthy, fun, awesome activity…we're all there together and we're smiling and we're having a good time because we're going to do something healthy and active. We need more of that. That's what sports are able to do. It's a wonderful kind of diversion from the divisiveness that is politics or that is life.” Amen, Sarah. Keep that in mind, ok?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Some of us are lucky-I have access to a gym (with a shower) at work and I’m able to log 25 miles per week on the treadmill during my lunch hour-but not everyone has that luxury. I’m also fortunate to have a family that understands that running makes me a better person, and by extension, a better father and partner. I think that is the key. It is imperative for the runner to communicate to his or her family the depth of commitment to the running lifestyle in a way that makes sense to non-runners. This isn’t easy. Runners tend to be fiercely dedicated to the sport in a way that elliptical jockeys simply aren’t. Putting on a light coat and heading out to run in the driving rain or snow seems totally insane to most people, yet it makes perfect sense to me, as I’d imagine it does to most runners. Put simply, I have to get out there and put in the miles the same way I have to drink water or eat. Running keeps me fit, gives me the mental acuity to solve seemingly intractable problems, clears my head and improves my mood. It is meditation in motion, poetry in physical form.
Running is such a part of my identity that I can’t even imagine life without it. I would willingly get up at 4am, in the winter, to run in the dark, rather than push it aside in the name of time constraints. Of course, I love my family and would do anything for them. I’d give up running in a heartbeat for them if they asked-but because of how much it means to me, I know they never would.
I think I do a decent job balancing the demands of family life with running. It is easier for me because my family is incredibly supportive-they come to my races and cheer me on in all kids of nasty weather. Could I do better? I suppose one could always do better. I strive for balance. You'll have to ask them if I've managed to achieve it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
My plan for after the race is to decrease mileage to 20 or 25 a week and see if I get back to my fighting weight of 178 which is where I was before I started racking up the miles. I also think I want to spend more time in the gym this winter, working on strength training with an eye towards trying some triathlons. I love running but I think I’m a little burnt from this training cycle.
I have an addictive personality, which is great for training routines that require high mileage. Unfortunately I also tend to push myself pretty hard towards the outer limits of my physical abilities, and end up overtraining. One this race is over I can go back to being a normal neurotic runner and leave the high mileage to the young kids.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I can’t believe the race is next week-end. I am starting to get a little nervous. Instead of worrying about the race I should probably be looking for things for the kids to do on Saturday. The race I can handle; two kids in Philly without some planned activities, maybe not.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
M: 5 speed
Th: 6 tempo
Sat: 14 (8:53 pace)
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Most criticism I’ve read of the people espousing this view point to racism as the explanation, but I have my doubts. I think the post 9-11 xenophobia cultivated over the 8 years of the Bush administration is more to blame. Hey, Meb has a funny name and he was born somewhere else. This alone makes him suspect to the legions of red state mouth-breathers who’s closest brush with a marathon was probably when they passed by their TV Sunday morning on their way to the kitchen for another plate of biscuits and gravy.
In North America, except for the Native Americans, everybody is an immigrant. My grandfather came to this country from the ass end of Poland in 1918, became an American citizen and worked his tail off so his kids could have a better life. He would have scratched his head at the idea of someone criticizing someone who has been here for 20 years as not “American” enough. As someone pointed out in a letter responding to the Times article on this subject, “All the comments about when you become a REAL American miss the point. A country of immigrants should be thrilled to see that one person of recent immigration succeed.” And so I am.
Monday, November 2, 2009
For the last couple of months I’ve been switching between my old Sauconys and my Nike Frees. I’ve never had the guts to take the Frees on a run longer than 7 miles. While I agree intellectually with the minimalist shoe philosophy advocated by Chris McDougall in his well researched book, Born to Run, I was too chicken to try a 15 miler on the Frees. Don’t get me wrong, I love those shoes-they fit like a glove, or rather, a sock, and I feel like my feet have benefited from all the exercise they have been getting that they don’t get in regular running shoes. They are pretty comfortable to boot. Nevertheless, modern roadways are not the plains of the Serengeti and I am not a subsistence hunter. So, I took a trip to Dicks and tried on a few pairs of Sauconys. (I love that brand and have been wearing them almost continuously since 1990. Anyone remember the Jazz 3000? You can buy it today for $19.95, although it was state of the art in the 1980s).
Today at lunch I slipped on the new kicks and knocked off a brisk five on the treadmill at lunch. What a difference! I forgot how good a fresh pair of shoes feels on the feet. Can’t wait to do 15 in them later on this week.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
That last 20 miler was tough yesterday. No obvious pain anywhere, just general pain everywhere. I was slightly faster than last week, averaging 8:53 per mile. If I can maintain that over the last 10k, then I'll have a sub-4 hour finish in Philadelphia in three weeks. We'll see.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I heard a story on the radio yesterday, I think it was NPR, which noted that many of the larger races have been banning the participants from wearing portable listening devices and from accepting water from anywhere other than official aid stations along the marathon route. In fact, the top two female winners of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon were both disqualified for those very offences. "The fastest woman, Cassie Peller, a 23-year-old student at Marquette University, was disqualified shortly after the race for accepting aid - a water bottle - from a friend outside of the official water stations. That made Jennifer Goebel, 27, the winner, but only for a couple days," according to JSonline.com. A few days later race director Kristine Hinrichs confirmed that Goebel has also been disqualified for using her iPod in the late stages of the run. Apparently, Runners competing for USATF championships with cash prizes are not allowed to use electronic devices." An official from USATF said Goebel's disqualification "may be a first in the country," as race directors are now allowed to determine whether to ban iPods during races, Held reported.
In Milwaukee, at least, the organizer’s rule didn’t apply to mid-pack runners, only the elites who were competing for prize money, but that isn’t the case with some popular East Coast marathons like New York and Philadelphia. While there is a ban in place for NYC, race organizers will not be enforcing it.
So why ban Ipods? The USTAF claims the rule was put in place because of concerns that runners listening to music would have a competitive edge over those who were simply listening to the little voice in their heads. A secondary reason involved safety concerns about runners not being able to hear race announcements and there were also some insurance company issues. Apparently there is some science to support the performance enhancing effect of music on athletic performance. Anecdotal evidence abounds.
I’ve run distance events both with and without an Ipod. The ½ marathon I ran without my I-pod I beat my previous PR by almost 4 minutes. Then again, I was better trained for that race so I can’t say whether music (or lack of music) was a factor. All of my indoor treadmill runs are done with an Ipod, otherwise I get so bored that I feel like I might claw my eyes out. On my long training runs, I take it or leave it depending on my mood. The runs where I listen to music are usually a little faster than those without. I have to wonder though, whether running a race with an I-Pod is gives me an unfair advantage. Full disclosure: I also drink coffee before a race and caffeine is a known performance enhancer. Am I cheating? Do you race with an I-Pod? What do you think about a ban?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Most people who commented, while they clearly (clearly!) disagree with the idea of a cut-off time or a qualifying time, took particular exception to the following: “So, when I pass some fat dude who looks to be gearing up for a 7 hour finish I get a little annoyed at the fact that he's even there-because its obvious he hasn't spent too much time in training.” Now, I didn’t hear from any undertrained fat dudes, who are really the only people who should be taking exception to what I wrote, but I got an earful from cancer survivors, heart transplant recipients and the like, who seemed to think that that comment applied to them. I’m not sure why. I certainly didn’t say anything negative against first-time runners, cancer survivors, or anyone else who wants to run 26.2 miles as a sign of their recovery/survival/whatever. I have nothing but respect for people who have overcome adversity and want to celebrate this by running. Could I have framed this in a better way? Absolutely. I apologize to undertrained fat dudes everywhere, and anyone else I may have offended.
My intention was not to question why people run, or their motivations for wanting to finish a marathon. People’s goals are all different. MY goal is to set a PR while passing as many people as possible between the start and the finish lines. After all, the marathon is a RACE. (I’m not sure why competition has turned into a dirty word when it comes to the marathon.) If your goals are different, who am I to question them? That said, I don’t think the course should be open until every single person who signed up for the race and wants to finish, crosses the finish line. Nor should the people who stopped for lunch and to socialize with their friends along the route get a medal for finishing. Not if you’re going to give the same medal to someone who ran the whole way. It isn’t fair to the runners.
Remember, I also said this: “I have no problem with people plodding their way through a course in 6 or 7 hours” and this: “My personal belief is that stopping for lunch should result in instant disqualification, but this is America and I suppose if you pay your entrance fee you have a right to toe the starting line and take whatever detours you want.”
If anyone wants to debate these points, I’m all for it. Interesting ideas I’ve heard include specifically differentiating races with qualifying times with those without to try to strike a balance between those who want to go out and race and those who are looking for a less competitive experience.
Anyway for those of you running a marathon this fall, good luck. Hopefully I’ll see you at the finish line.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This I know because from my 18 years of running hither and yon across most of the tri-state area, I've learned that the body doesn't do the running. The mind does. If you tell the mind that it has to run 18 miles without stopping, the body will obey, absent some structural injury that simply prevents forward momentum. On longer distances the mind requires a bit more attention, or distraction, depending on the circumstances. I firmly believe that with enough training of mind and body, anyone is capable of running any distance. I really hope I'm not eating my words come mid-November.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
So, back after a short break spent moving, unpacking and settling in. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping in the new house, probably because the boys are coming into our room earlier than they did in Great Neck and also because I haven’t been able to find my white noise machine. I know it’s in the box with the alarm clock, which I also haven’t been able to find. Last week I skipped my long run-it was all I could do to keep up with 6 milers as tired as I was from humping boxes and putting Ikea furniture together-so I’m a little concerned about trying to run 18 tomorrow. The marathon has been the furthest thing from my mind these past couple of weeks and last night I even considered throwing in the towel and switching to the half. I decided to defer my decision until I see how tomorrow’s long run treats my body.
In addition to being a runner and a lawyer, I am also a student of Zen Buddhism. It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that an old teacher of mine recently passed from this life. John Daido Loori, the founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism died on October 9 at age 78 after a protracted battle with lung cancer. I took dokusan with Loori-Roshi only once, about ten years ago, but I soaked up his dharma like a sponge through recorded lectures and visits to the Zen Mountain Monastery and the Fire Lotus Zendo. Logistics and life circumstances prevented me from becoming a formal student, but I feel that Daido taught me more about reality than I could ever properly thank him for. I took Jack and Dimitri up to the monastery for the Zen Kids program last fall and saw the old man making the rounds of the dining hall. By then he had already received his cancer diagnosis and was looking pretty frail. Nevertheless, his eyes were bright and it was obvious that his spirit was strong.
While some of his dharma brothers have drifted into new ageism, and Buddhism as a whole seems to be suffering from the trivialization brought about by excessive attention from pop culture, Daido retained the essence of the dharma in his teachings while simultaneously integrating Buddhism into the American context. He often described his approach as "radical conservatism." He had a healthy distrust of consumer society and was in no hurry to exchange traditional Buddhist values for passing fads.
In his own words, Loori described how he saw Zen in America in an interview with Shambhala Sun in 2001: "Zen is not Japanese and it's not Chinese. It is American. It didn't come from Asia; it has always been here. It is a way of using your mind and living your life and doing it with other people. Unfortunately nobody can supply a rule book to go by because what it is about can't be spoken of, and that which can be spoken of is not it. So we need to go deep in ourselves to find the foundation of it. Zen is a practice that has to do with liberation, not some kind of easy certainty. The wisdom of that liberation not only affects our lives but all those whom we come in contact with, all that we know, and all that we do."
He will be missed.
what can we say of it?
Forms, created by rock shadows.
-John Daido Loori Roshi
Friday, October 9, 2009
Like many New Yorkers I have moved fairly frequently. Over the last 20 years I have lived in at least 10 apartments. During the past two decades I have reduced the act of pulling up roots and transplanting them in greener fields to a set series of movements, performed in order, over the course of several months. Granted, there are always small surprises, usually revolving around broken promises made by U-Haul and Ryder, and plenty of last minute scrambling, but overall things have gone smoothly.
For the first time I’ve hired a couple of helpers. Hopefully they will arrive on time and reasonably sober, but if I have to handle it alone I can. I have before. All this activity has left little time for running-I was only able to muster up a 33 mile week-but that is to be expected. I’ll have to take off tomorrow, seeing as how it is the actual moving day, but I’ll be back on the road on Sunday. See you then.
Friday, October 2, 2009
I hope I can get in at least two 20 milers before race day, but with the move and my upcoming trip to San Diego, it might be tough. I might try a long run in California if my work schedule permits. I find it very soothing to cruise along the beach. What better a place than California to enjoy a little LSD. (Long, slow, distance).
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
With our move to Syosset looming in the near future, I haven’t been so attentive to my running (or posting) this last week. True, I did get in a nice 13 miler last Thursday and I plan on getting that 15 done tomorrow, but I’ve been distracted. The school district we are moving into requires an inordinate (IMHO) amount of proof that we are living within the town of
I have been assuaging myself with the thought of running under canopies of crimson maple leaves on the trails of the nature preserve near our new house. This visualization of me on a cold morning run-clouds of vapor breath and frosty dew on slowly browning fields- never fails to reduce my stress to manageable levels. I plan on using it extensively while on line at the DMV tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Hopefully she will be found, alive and safe.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I needn’t have worried. When I got to the starting line and registration area there were no more than 20 runners milling around, jogging in place or nervously eyeing the bathroom. When I filled out my race form I was given number 47. The most recent race I’d run prior to the Bluemont 10k was the Long Island ½ marathon which had a field of 12,000 runners. By the time the gun went off in Bluemont, the number of participants had swelled to around 120, which according to the race director, was a new record. While I was waiting for the race to start, I took stock of the competition, mentally dividing the field into people who would end the race behind me and those I could tell I had no prayer of beating. The competition seemed to be an exceptionally fit and trim group of runners, and I was starting to get a little nervous about where I would finish, especially because the field was so small. Oh well, I thought, I’m just out here to have some fun and get in a work out.
The race director counted down from 10 to one and then we were off. The course wound around a dirt and gravel path inside the farm before spilling out onto the back-country roads which rolled through the Virginia countryside. The air was crisp and clear, the day sunny. Fall was in the air, although the leaves had yet to change colors. I started out chugging at a 9 minute mile until I could pass a few handfuls of people who were blocking the narrow path through the hay fields. By the end of the first mile I had passed about 15 people (and at least as many farm animals) and was in turn passed by a few runners who had also gotten stuck in the back. Most of the people who blew by me were the sort you’d expect would be able to leave a 41 year old borderline Clydesdale eating dust-high-school cross country runners, skinny girls, etc. I was ok with that. I believe in the decline of the body with advancing age and acknowledge my limitations. Nevertheless, there was one fellow who got ahead of me whose speed seemed to offend the natural order in some fundamental way. He was over six feet tall and pushing 220 pounds with tree-trunk legs and a bit of a beer belly. He was breathing heavily and had a stride that resembled an out of control helicopter. When he passed me, my first thought was that he had opened up the throttle a little too early and that within a mile he’d be either walking, or jogging so slow that he’d wind up finishing long after I’d started on my second banana. It took me four and a half miles to catch him. He maintained a killer pace and then raced me neck and neck over the last ½ mile until I finally left him in the weeds.
My time was 48:08, not bad for a first outing at that distance. In the last half mile I passed a 16 year old girl and a US Army Ranger. I’m not sure which was more satisfying. It was a great morning and a fun race. Now its back to some distance.
Friday, September 18, 2009
After work today we’re driving down to Virginia to see Mark & Sue and take the boys to the Bluemont Fair. The race is part of the fair festivities. I have been meaning to run it for several years, but never wanted to get up so early after the long drive the night before. This year I’m going to do it. The T-shirts are pretty artsy and the run winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains so the course is nice as well. I’ll definitely set a PR since I don’t think I’ve ever run a 10k race before. They always seemed too short to be worth the effort. Since my regular Saturday run is a 6 mile loop, I figure I might as well do the race and run with other people for a change.
Fr: 45 minutes Elliptical
Monday, September 14, 2009
I came across an article in Time Magazine last week that bothered me on several levels. The author was seeking an answer as to why he finds it hard to lose weight even though he exercises around five days per week. What he discovered was that scientists are now finding that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise can also stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder. Jeez. My thinking is that the last thing legions of American couch potatoes need to hear is that they can give up on exercise because it doesn’t work as a weight loss routine. I mean, come on. “Dieting doesn’t work”, “exercise doesn’t work”, shit, we might as well nestle into the couch cushions and rip open that second bag of Doritos because getting in shape is impossible. I think Time is pretty irresponsible for using their public bully pulpit to encourage laziness. People exercise for all different reasons. Personally, I run for my mental sanity as much as for the physical benefits. I have always struggled with my weight and have also noticed that once my weekly mileage goes over 30 my weight actually rises by a pound or two. Oh well. I firmly believe if it wasn’t for regular running I never would have lost that 30 pounds I dumped in 2007. The key is balancing exercise with a fundamentally healthy diet and good lifestyle choices. I guess that story wouldn’t sell as many issues of Time to the immobile masses.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I realized that mother nature wasn’t going to make it easy on me when I stepped out of my building into the darkness at 5:30. A driving rain and heavy winds threatening to wash away my resolve, but I cranked the i-pod and headed out into the night. (I mean, early morning.) The north shore of Long Island is a sleepy place even in the middle of the day, and it is positively spooky in the dark during a storm. There are very few streetlights along my six mile route, so I stuck close to the middle of the road to avoid stepping in a hole or tripping over a branch. Fortunately, I think I saw only one car during the entire run, which was kind of nice, actually. Clearly, morning runs in the dark are not the best venue to set any new pace records. I chugged back into my apartment complex after a 6 miler which took almost 56 minutes. In the dark I felt like I was flying, but I must have been moving more slowly as I felt my way through the darkness.
I think I’ll take it easy tomorrow-maybe a 5 mile tempo run, and rest up for a 15 miler next Wednesday.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I’ve been having a pretty good week mileage-wise, even though I had to cut my long run to 10 miles yesterday to get Dimitri to his first day of kindergarten on time. I might try for 15 on Saturday morning, but it might be a crunch because I have to attend an old friend’s wedding which starts at noon. Today is an off day.
Erin and I are moving to a house in Syosset next month. Syosset is a town on the North Shore of Long Island where I grew up, and where I did some of my first long runs 18 years ago. It will be nice to get back on those old familiar roads and also have the opportunity to put in some miles on the trails of the Muttontown preserve which is a mile or two down the block. I’m eagerly anticipating the pleasure of a long slow run down 25A to Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s Long Island home.
The temperatures have been coming down and fall is definitely in the air; this morning was a nice, cool 58 degrees. I think I’ll get out on the road early tomorrow because I have a lunch meeting and won’t be able to grind out 5 on the treadmill.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I got my Nike Frees in the mail. They seem to fit ok in that tightish Nike sort of way. I ordered a 1/2 size larger to account for the fact that the shoes tend to run small but I’m wondering whether I should have gone up a full size. The toe box seems a little snug. I can’t wait to take them out for a run, but since tomorrow is a rest day I will have to wait until Saturday.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
In acknowledgment of my evolutionary destiny, I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21, 2009. Training has already commenced, and I am going to get this race under my belt and start running ultras.
Monday, August 3, 2009
It is with this in mind that I’m pulling the plug on my marathon training. October 11 is 10 weeks away and I haven’t been doing the kind of training necessary to get through 26.2 miles. I have spent most of the summer on airplanes, crossing the country for work, and as a result I haven’t been able to fit in any runs exceeding 10 miles. I am still logging 35-40 miles per week, but simply do not have the time to go out and knock out a 15 mile run on a Saturday or Sunday morning, especially when I haven’t seen the kids in a couple of days because I’ve been stuck at a meeting in Los Angeles for the better part of a week.
After I read Dean Karnazes books I became very attached to the idea that I wanted to run long distances, despite the fact that there is no way I could fit that kind of training into my lifestyle. I can run 40 miles a week, but I cannot run much more than that and still have time to do anything else. I have made peace with this decision. I still get to go out for 6 and 7 mile runs in some of the nicest places in the United States, and I can do it now without the specter of the Steamtown Marathon looming over my shoulder. I am going to replace Steamtown with the Philadelphia ½ and be thankful that I will have the time to do some fall camping and late summer scuba diving. Life is good.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Diving in the Atlantic Ocean should not be confused with the sort of diving one watches in brilliant HD on the Discovery Channel. Tropical diving is a truly sublime experience, akin to floating weightless in outer space. Most time you don’t even need to wear a wet suit because the water temperature is in the upper 90s. Visibility is often unlimited, and sunlight illuminates the reefs and wrecks well below 100 feet.
In contrast, diving in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island is a decidedly more intense experience. For starters, the water is cold, and it’s liable to be dark as night at any depth exceeding 70 feet or so. Visibility can be as great as 80 feet, or as little as none, with the average somewhere in the 5-20’ range. You have to wear, at minimum, a 7mm thick wet suit, booties, gloves and a hood, and you should carry around a spare air tank in case something goes wrong. Despite or maybe because of the challenges, divers here in so-called Wreck Valley have the reputation of being the best trained and skilled divers anywhere in the world. I got into diving a few years ago and having experienced both environments. As much as I enjoy tropical diving, I have to admit I like the challenges posed by northeast conditions. Since my budget for travel to warm climates is decidedly limited, I think I’ll reacquaint myself with the Atlantic and get some chilly dark dives under my belt. The pool, as they say, is open.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
With the enormous wads of cash being thrown at the financial industry and the fact that the United States military is engaged in fighting two costly wars halfway across the world, the debate should be focusing on where else besides the taxpayer’s pocket the money to fund healthcare reform can come from. I have not heard a single media report that suggests that the money spent bailing out Wall Street bankers would be better spent on health-care. CNN and its corporate cronies have instead decided to frighten Americans by raising the specter of “socialized medicine” and tax increases that would be necessary to pay for it. As far back as the 1930s, conservatives have attempted to smear progressive national health care reform proposals by calling them "socialized medicine" or a step toward that inevitable result.
And what’s wrong with socialized medicine, anyway? To me it just seems like everyone chipping in through taxes to take care their neighbor. Insurance companies are only interested in making money, so they do whatever they can to deny people treatment. One of the worst things about the American system is insurers denying referrals to specialists, thus ensuring that preventable or treatable afflictions blow up into catastrophes. Countries with socialized medicine also have programs that provide numerous incentives to foster healthy lifestyles so that one doesn’t get sick in the first place. That is much more proactive than our culture can stand. Remember, America is home of competitive eating.
Monday, July 6, 2009
There are many opinions about the proper nutrition for runners; timing, composition of food, hydration, etc. In fact, there is a lively discussion on the topic over at The Well, the NY Times fitness blog. What I’ve been able to gather, is that aside from some areas of common agreement, i.e. the White Castle Bacon Double Cheeseburger is not a particularly desirable fuel source for runners, scientists and nutritionists are all over the map when it comes to this stuff.
When I started running 20 years ago I was a vegan. I lost a lot of weight, but I was also tired all the time and would feel like I was about to faint if I stood up too quickly. I think it was my vegan self-righteousness that kept me alive until I transitioned to a more normal ovo-lacto vegetarian diet several years later. Eventually, I tired of eating beans three times a day and switched to a more conventional diet, loosely based on the Zone diet, but less restrictive. My problem has always been volume. If my running exceeds 30 miles in a week I become an eating machine. I have been trying to figure out a way to prevent my weight from increasing along with my mileage, but so far I’m finding it to be a delicate balancing act.
People are different. It follows that bodies will respond differently to different fuel sources. Some people chug Gatorade at water stops with no problem, others end up heaving it up on the side of the road a mile later. The trick is knowing what works for you. My favorite pre-run drink on Saturday mornings is a large cup of coffee. Others prefer a smoothie. Vive le difference.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Yesterday was much better. I was on the road by eight and cooked through the six mile loop at better than eight minute per mile pace. I felt like my old self for the first time in a week. I’ve decided to drop my long run from the schedule for the next two weeks to give my legs and body a chance to rest up for Steamtown training, which I’ll start mid-July. By long run I mean anything more than 7 miles.
My work schedule requires that I be flexible about where in the week I can squeeze in a long run. The fact that this day is going to end up a moving target throws off the rest of the training week. I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to fit in a day of speed work and a day of hills and still program enough rest into the schedule to satisfy the demands of my creaky 41 year old body. When I ran the Marine Corps in 1997 my training was pretty minimal-one long run on Sunday, one longish run on Wednesday, and 4 miles a day every other day except on my rest day, which was Monday. Maybe I need to get back to simplicity and not over-think the routine.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I think I’ve been overtraining. The combination of long flights in a cramped seated position, too many time changes and an increase in mileage have worn me down. I had to take a break today with a 45 minute trip on the elliptical. I have a love-hate relationship with that particular piece of equipment. About a year ago I fell down a flight of stairs and injured my right foot. I was unable to run for almost two months, but had just enough mobility that I could maintain my fitness by daily workouts on the infernal space walk to nowhere. Surprisingly, I found that if you set the resistance up high enough, you get a great full-body work-out. Like many neurotic runners, the entire time I was on it I was thinking about how to equate that work-out with the one I was doing on the treadmill next to it.
Experts have long debated the benefits of the elliptical versus those of the treadmill. Most maintain that ellipticals allow for the least bodily damaging workout because the machine is extremely low-impact. My question is whether the fact that they’re low impact detracts from their efficacy as a (albeit temporary) running replacement. Some advocates of the equipment assert that the fact that the elliptical is low-impact allows the user to burn more calories with less exertion than a treadmill, especially when the lower-body workout is combined with the machine's moveable arms function. My personal experience tells me that I sweat a lot more when I’m cranking away on an elliptical, and it gets my heart rate into the zone a lot faster than running at a normal pace either on the treadmill or outside. Nevertheless, both running and working out on the elliptical give me that nice endorphin hit that I expect after some intense aerobic activity.
The main problem with the elliptical is the same problem I have with the treadmill. They both turn the act of exercise into an intensely boring experience. Neither machine delivers the emotional benefits of running outside. Unfortunately, four days a week I have to exercise at the gym in my office so I’m usually yoked to the treadmill. I think I might throw one elliptical work-out per week into the mix for variety sake and to ease the strain on my knees and lower back , at least until my body gets accustomed to marathon mileage again.