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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Short, Quick Steps Up the Long, Slow Hill

"I came ten miles just for this high five!"

It startled me, to say the least. Nine miles into the first long training run I've done in more months than I'd like to admit, my brain was starting to get hazy. Nothing new, really. I've only got enough brain power to keep myself from tripping and stay out of the way of folks heading in the opposite direction. When reasonable, of course.

And one such person was on his way, a bicyclist who had moved out of the road and on to the sidewalk. I dutifully moved to the right of the sidewalk and out of sheer determination kept my eyes up, trying to keep my focus ahead of me and keep my feet moving.

Then he shouted at me. I turned my attention his way to see a huge smile on his face and a waiting hand in the air. I raised mine instinctively, and we shared one of the loudest, most satisfying high fives of my life. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.

Sometimes luck is like that. You get exactly the thing you need at exactly the moment you need it. It doesn't happen often, of course, because then it wouldn't be amazing when it did, but every now and then, it turns out all right. I was thinking about how completely lucky this moment was for the following mile, but I realized I might be thinking about it in the entirely frame of mind. True, there was no way I could have known that person would be at that spot to give me an emotional boost, but I was hardly there by accident.

First, I had to get myself out the door, which has not been an easy task for me in recent months. Combined with runs I did on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I have completed more training miles than I have done in either of the last two months. Still, I've got a half marathon on the horizon - well, honestly, it's more like around the corner, with just four weeks to race day. I just did the Run for the Water 10 miler and realized fairly definitively that I can't just go out and do those anymore. So I needed the miles. I needed the distance and the endurance. So, despite the three of four efforts of my brain to the contrary, I made it out the door.

Then, there's the mileage. I need to do some double-digits, and get used to working for 90+ minutes at a time. In the first couple miles, I considered peeling off and doing 9 instead, still a decent workout, but not what I really needed. And then I decided I didn't care if it hurt. I didn't care how long it took. I was doing 12.

But let's be honest, of course I cared how long it took. I kept my pace reasonable, but not easy, a bigger challenge after my turnaround point where my course goes from downhill to uphill. Honestly, it started to suck, and I remembered what I've learned before. Shoulders down. Head up. Short, quick steps, maintaining effort, not speed. And speed followed. And for all the correct choices I made, I was rewarded with a killer high five at just the right moment.

I've got a long way to go before I'll be "back." The Austin Marathon is three months away, and Boston is only two months after that, with a couple half-marathons and one 18 miler in the lead-up. I'm not as fast as I can be. I'm not as strong as I will be. But if I can keep taking those short, quick steps, I'll be back before I know it.

And it won't hurt to get a few knock-out high fives along the way.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Three Out of Four Ain't Bad

I can't seem to keep anything going these days.

It's been a year of transitions so far, and not all of them have been good ones, to be entirely honest. I do my best not to make my personal struggles the fodder of the internet, as I'm sure there are any number of other social media outlets that you can check for that, but it's the usual things. Money, employment, personal control of the future, etcetera.

Friday night, I went to a lovely night of theatre with Present Company's production of Much Ado About Nothing on the rooftop of the Whole Foods flagship store downtown. We went to have drinks with the cast afterward, and when we got home late, I looked at the time for my work in the morning, and recognized that there was really no chance that I was going to run before work. After 9 1/2 hours on the floor, I drove home in 93 degree weather and knew it wasn't going to happen then either, so all of three days into May, I've already missed a day of running.

Oh well.

Considering how many times I went up and down two flights of stairs yesterday, I'm not overly concerned about the loss of fitness from one day, and it wasn't like I was sitting around the house eating potato chips.

Honestly, I'm okay with having a few "cheat"days here and there. My concern isn't with the overall product, but with my personal mindset. I tend to be an all-or-nothing personality. It's much easier for me to get out and go for a run first thing in the morning if I've gone thirty days in a row and I don't want to break my streak. It's easier for me not to have a beer if it's been a really long time since I had one. And often, when I break these streaks, I often hit the "nothing" side of things pretty quickly.

I ran today, though, which is something. It helps to have someone waiting for you when you need motivation to get out of bed, so my Sunday morning runs are extremely valuable for that reason. At least it gets me out the door.

And even though I won't have run every day in May, 30 out of 31 is still good. As is 29 or 28. The point is to do more, and I believe I'm well on my way.

If I can keep it up.

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Left Foot

My left foot is a jerk.

Despite what I seem to do for it, stretch or relax, rest or work, ignore or treat, it always hurts a little bit when I wake up in the morning, and about an hour after I've been using it, whether that's from a run or from a long day on the floor of a restaurant.

When it first started being a jerk, I just worked through it. Even in situations where I've just woken up and I hit the road for a few miles (like today), it would only hurt for a few minutes and then relax. So I tried stretching it beforehand, which seems to have done nothing more than slow down my morning routine. With that in mind, I took to the magazines and internets to find treatments. The best lead I had actually came from my mother, who sent me a boot for plantar fasciitis. Again, some help, but not enough to make me wear a plastic shoe to bed every night.

So I tried resting it. I haven't run much in the last six months. A few miles here and there, usually very easy. Nothing too strenuous. And as a result, my left foot always hurts a little bit when I wake up in the morning and about an hour after I've been using it.


I'm sure any number of doctors will disagree with me, but as I see it, this leaves only one course of treatment. The silent treatment. Shut up, foot. You're fine. Get running and you'll feel better in half a mile or so.

This was what I did this morning when, a little later than planned, I headed out the door for an almost seven-miler. I put on my new shoes (more to come on those soon), and started running, and for the first minute, thought I'd made a huge mistake. The second through fifth minutes were difficult, and by minute six, I realized I had to slow down or I'd never finish.

My foot is currently silent. I'm sure I'll hear from it in an hour or so.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

May: No Maybe

Having options can be dangerous.

We all value the freedom of choice, to be sure. Do I want Coke or Pepsi? Will I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I stay or should I go? It's nice to believe that you've got some control over the road that lies in front of you.

But sometimes, say at around 6:00 in the morning, having choices can be detrimental, unless you're programmed to make the right one. I'm not. Yet.

So for this month of May, I've decided that I don't have a choice. I must run, every day. Done. It's decided. No question.

Now for today, this wasn't hard for me. I worked from 10 - 3, and then had nothing planned for the rest of the night, which meant that I got to run when I got home. Sure, it was 80 degrees outside, but I burned through three miles with a new best-in-a-while time. It's tomorrow, and then next week, when it starts getting more interesting.

See, tomorrow night, I've got things to do, and starting next Wednesday I go back to the world of 8:00am start times. Not gonna lie, that'll be a little rough. But, rough or not, I don't have a choice. This month is May. Not maybe.

See what I did there?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Other Considerations

Well, I figured I probably wouldn't make it through the whole year.

A late night, mixed with a midday rehearsal and no one else to let out the dogs led to my decision not to run today, so I suppose I'll have to be happy with 10 days in a row. And I am. Very happy.

I still did my burpees and my pushups, but I spent the rest of the day resting and recuperating. And eating.

In addition to all the other things on which I've been trying to focus, my unreasonably-skilled cook of a brother recently reminded me that my kitchen is a downright privilege to own, and it's not fair to the rest of the world if I don't use it to its full potential. Now, I'm certainly not the world's best cook, but I'm anxious to learn and impress my wife whenever I can, which is why I made fajitas the other night and attempted to create a reduction sauce a few nights after that.

The natural requirement of making amazing meals is, of course, that you have food in the house with which to create said meals. We've had a bad habit of buying lots of ingredients for things and not actually getting around to making them, wasting more food than I'd like to admit, so we're more careful about what we buy these days. The downside is that, whenever I decide to actually cook something, it means a trip to the grocery.

So, that was the other big part of my day today, which will (if all goes according to plan) lead to the creation of my first baked ziti tomorrow, after which the leftovers will likely get my through lunches in the coming week.

Each step of this life overhaul is going to take some getting used to, so I have to be okay with the days that I don't actually get out the door and put in the miles. I'm not training for any particular race at the moment, so I have that option. I'll still be up and out early tomorrow, so all is not lost. Today is not a failure, and tomorrow will almost certainly be a success.

Whether I'll succeed a baking ziti is another matter.

Day 11:
No Running

Friday, January 10, 2014


I really ought to make myself get out of bed in the morning.
In recent memory, I’ve only managed to do this once, which was this past Monday. And it was magnificent. I woke early, got my run in before the sun came up, and found myself with all kinds of energy flowing through my veins. I packed a lunch, wrote a blog post and had breakfast before there were any other sounds in the house.
More than that, I got out the door on time (for once), made it to work super early and sat down at my desk with all the energy and optimism of my first day. The fact that events throughout the day beat all that optimism out of me is purely coincidental.
The important part was the jumpstart at the beginning of the day. It’s so easy to do, really. All I have to do is make the choice that, when my alarm goes off in the morning, I will not hit snooze. I will, instead, get out of bed, wander over to my shoes and lace up for a workout. Easy, right?
Well, it’s not. There’s something in my brain that just doesn’t let that happen. Could be laziness, which seems like the most obvious answer.
Whatever it is, it showed itself again this morning, though my late night probably had an effect as well. Once more, I slept until the last possible minute this morning, barely leaving time for a shower before I had to get out the door. I realized, however, that my schedule this evening would not allow for a run after work, which left me with a major predicament. Could this be the first day of 2014 on which I did not run?
Nope. Runch.
A self-appointed connoisseur of made-up words, I’ve hardly done my best work with “runch,” and I’m almost positive I’m not the first person to call it that. It’s simply using your lunch hour to get in a workout.
This would actually be ideal for me, if only I had a shower here in the office. I hate getting up in the morning, and very often have commitments after work hours. However, I generally eat very quickly, so using half of my lunch hour to do the short workouts I’ve devised this year would be perfect, if it weren’t for sweat. Obviously it would be more of an issue if I were to try this in the summer, but the schizo weather of central Texas winters is just as likely to leave me a red, sweaty mess, even in shorter distances.
Still, today I had no choice. I brought a change of clothes and a bar of deodorant to work, and I got in my run. And yes, I was a red, sweaty mess by the end, but at least I made it happen, along with the burpees and push-ups. The rest of the core can wait until I start my real rotation tomorrow.
Of course, that’s assuming I wake up early enough to get it done.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Streak Lives

It's okay, guys, I wasn't going to do all of it all year anyway.

I still ran today, and I still did my burpees and my push-ups, not to mention some sit-ups and squats, but my office doesn't have a pull-up bar or any free weights, and quite frankly, it's 11:15 and I'm just not up for it tonight. Alas.

The important thing is that I got the big ones done and that I actually got around to writing this post, brief though it may end up being. We had a long night of filming for the trailer that will be forthcoming on my latest show, and I just need to climb quietly into my bed.

The streak lives, and shall live tomorrow as well.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Seven of Twelve

With my return to the Wednesday night group run, I have defeated many of last year's months.

January, February, March, April, May, November and December all had smaller totals than I have run in the 8 days of this year, and I'm not even pushing myself. Not yet, anyway.

With daily runs of around 5K, and one long run last Saturday, I've bested seven of the last twelve months. I'm awfully proud of this fact. Not that I'm happy with how little I ran last year, but that, with no race on the horizon, I've still managed to get this motivated, if only for a little over a week.

The water resolution didn't last long, but I'm still moving in the right direction, on the whole. I've cooked two legitimate dinners, including my pseudo-successful attempt at homemade steak sauce tonight. I've eaten breakfast and lunch most days, which again, is more of a victory than it sounds for me.

And I've managed to blog. Short, meaningless little thoughts, maybe. But every day so far.

So, I guess I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

The time for decision-making draws near.

No, I did not get up and run before work today. It was colder, and true, it's not Chicago Cold, but I don't think any of those people went running this morning either, so...

Instead, I went off to work, ran in the gap between that and rehearsal, and just completed my "other" portion of the workout. In this last bit, I entered everything onto my tracking sheet and realized that today is day 7. This is good, in that it means I've made it one whole week into this adventure, which is a bigger deal to me than it sounds.

This is challenging, however, because part of the new workout that I'm doing means that I want to do at least a 100-day burpee challenge. Now, technically this means that you start with one burpee on day 1 and increase by one each day. I find it ridiculous to do one of anything, so I've been doing ten. In fact, on everything but pull-ups, I've been doing ten. Now, as I near day 10, I have to think about day 11. What am I going to increase, what am I going to keep at 10, and what am I going to drop altogether?

A sad fact of working out is that routines eventually stop working. If you don't vary the workouts that you do, you will eventually plateau and burn yourself out. That's why all these new and exciting workout programs tout "muscle confusion," which involves doing a bunch of different motions so that all the muscle groups get work and nothing gets too used to what's going on.

Naturally, this means that simply doing the same thing (except one rep more) each day for the next 93 days will likely not do a whole lot for my general physique.

So, I'll have to make some choices. I like the burpees, and I like the push-ups, so I think I'll keep those. Everything else, I think, shall be rotated in. For example, Mondays and Fridays, I might do pull-ups and squats. Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll break out the ab routine from P90X and gradually increase reps until I can actually do the whole 15-minute routine (which hasn't happened yet). Wednesdays, maybe throw in some weight work, with curls and shoulders. Saturday is my long run, so I probably won't need anything more than the burpees and push-ups for that one.

Actually, I like that schedule. Just made it up on the spot, but I think I'll keep it.

Decision made.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Could Be Worse

"It could be worse."

The mantra kept playing itself, over and over, in my head as the wind ripped across my face. It's the coldest day we've seen in a long time here in Austin, but it could be a lot worse. I could be in Chicago.

First, let me say, I love Chicago. It's my absolute favorite city. But it's so cold. Always. When I lived there a few years ago, each winter got progressively colder. When the wind chill hit -20, we decided that it was probably time to find warmer climes. Still, there are days, sometimes weeks, when I miss the Second City with all my heart.

Today is not one of those days.

With an expected HIGH temperature of -10 today, I have to concede, we've got nothing to complain about down here.

It's hard to keep that in mind when you're running in 22 degrees (downright balmy) with a 17 mph wind hitting you directly in the face. I'm just not used to that kind of sensation any more. I remember well the mornings I used to walk to the train in Chicago only to find icicles running down my face when I got there. So yes, it could be worse.

And tomorrow, it very well may be.

Not by much, only a few degrees colder, but each degree starts to hurt at this point on the thermometer. And again, I'm reminded how much more hurt the midwest is getting right now.

The important thing is that I actually got things done this morning. In fact, I woke up before my alarm even went off, which makes life a whole lot easier. A good workout is a great way to start a day, and especially a day that starts off the first full work week in many. I'm ready to take it on.

Because it could be worse.

Day 6:
3.17 Miles
10 Reps

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Real Challenge

The hard part really starts tomorrow.

Today, I went on my fifth run of 2014 (which I still have trouble typing). Every day, I've gotten out for at least 3 miles, in addition to some light upper body and core work. What I haven't done, really, is get up early to make it happen, and that's where the real trouble will come in.

Ideally, tomorrow morning my alarm will go off fairly early, and I'll be out the door well before dawn. I'll do my 3 miles, because I'm not looking to increase any mileage yet. Then, I'll be back in, complete the other 3 or 4 minutes of workout that I've got, and do a little blogging over breakfast. With plenty of time left, I'll be able to catch the headlines on Sportscenter, make myself a couple sandwiches for lunch, and maybe even enjoy some coffee before I actually hit the road.


I have to acknowledge, though, that this will be much easier said than done. First off, we've got the coldest night of winter ahead of us, a full 50 degrees down from yesterday's high temperature. And then there's the more basic issue: I hate mornings. I don't want to. In fact, those days that I actually get myself out of bed are some of my favorites, but it's still difficult.

I do have an advantage tomorrow, though. Pride. I have run every day this year so far, and I don't intend to let that streak go easily. Technically, I have time to run between work and rehearsal, but I hate running and not immediately following it with a shower. Not to mention that I won't have dumbbells or a pull-up bar to complete the rest of my workout. No, my best bet is to get it done early and use the time between commitments to get some reading done, as my library books are due back next Saturday.

So what are the odds I actually get up? Better than usual, I think.

But that's not necessarily saying much.

Day 5:
3.15 Miles
10 Reps

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cautious Optimism

It happened around mile six.

That moment, and it doesn't happen every time, where you feel yourself drop into the rhythm. I haven't had a run like that in a long time. Of course, I haven't had ANY run that long since my last marathon, so that might have something to do with it, too.

But I felt that old, familiar feeling. I left the house planning on an 8-mile run, and between debating starting the same way I have the last few times and finishing the same way, I simply decided to do something completely different. I decided to run nine miles. Technically, the course is easier. The downs are sharper and the ups are smoother, but it was a much longer run than I've done, and almost as many miles as I've done each of the last two months.

It felt incredible. Yes, it was very hard. I was exhausted around mile five, but at six, something happened. I felt the movement on the deepest level. I dropped to the instinctual/finely tuned form that I've been working on.

And I ran an overall pace that was faster than any of the 3-milers I did this week.

Cautiously optimistic, today was a great run.

Day 4:
9.15 Miles
10 Reps

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adding Up

If tomorrow goes as planned, I will have run more miles already in January than I did in either December or November (or February, for that matter) of last year.

I had a pretty decent stretch of motivation from June through September while I prepared for the St. George Marathon, but other than that, last year was lackluster in the mileage department. Totaling 626 miles for the whole year, that's barely more than half what I ran in 2012, and less than half of my 2011 total.

In fact, it's highly possible that, by the end of next week, I will have run more miles than I did in 7 of the last 12 months. Theoretically, I could let this fact depress me for the time that I lost. Instead, I find it to be exhilarating, to know that I'm on my way to another fantastic year.

Okay, yes, it's a bit early to start talking about the year as a whole. I understand that. Still, it's a start.

And you've got to start somewhere.

Day 3:
3.29 Miles
10 Reps

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Next Day

I'd like to say that my motivation shot me out of bed this morning and onto the roads.

But I would be lying to you, anonymous reader. And I think we're just too close for that.

No, I snoozed my alarm for somewhere around 2 hours this morning as I listened to the 20 mph wind cutting through the 34 degree air and realized that I wasn't going to be heading out there. Besides, with nothing on my schedule after work, I could always work out then.

That excuse will work for approximately one more day, however, as I pick up rehearsals this weekend, and won't really have time late at night for the workout. So, hopefully I can motivate myself in the morning, though if I can't, I can get one more day of being semi-lazy.

I still made it out this evening, though, and I've managed to sit down for a few minutes to write a blog post, too. Why? Because I'm finally, totally dedicated to working out? Nope. Because I couldn't say that I ran and blogged every day this year if I didn't do it today. And sometimes, that's all the dedication it takes. A little bit of pride that probably won't matter to anyone but me, but will, in fact, matter to me.

So I threw on some gloves and shoes and did another 5K run. They're not fast, these runs. Both of them have been more than 1:30 off my 10K pace, but the mileage is the important thing. The fact that I get myself out the door is the important thing. And despite the fact that my body is hurting in places that it hasn't in a while, I'm proud of the work I've done and looking forward to more. And that's the important thing.

Important to me, anyway.

Day 2:
3.17 Miles
10 Reps

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Yep, it's another one of those "rededication to running" posts.

Sick of 'em yet?

I am. Well, not exactly. I'm sick of realizing that my dedication has waned. I will probably never find the correct formula to keep myself moving day-to-day and month-to-month, but there is one thing that has worked for me in the recent past, and that's what I'm starting with today.


I believe it was two years ago that I started the year with 100 straight days of running, and eventually injured myself, which led to a lackluster summer of training and a definitive "just trying to finish" performance at the Chicago Marathon. It's been sporadic ever since, if the 11 posts that I actually wrote in 2013 didn't already make that obvious.

And it's because I've always been training for something, not just for me. So now, I'm working on something that all these training programs call a "Base." Shorter mileage, slower times, and (ideally) more consistent ability to get out the door. It means that my morning workouts will be shorter, so I don't have to get up quite so early, and I don't dread them quite so much.

Additionally, I want to work on the other parts of my body as well that have gotten a bit softer recently. Arms, back, abs. All the things that I worked when I attempted P90X, but without actually dedicating myself to the 90-minute workouts I would have to complete to do that program. Don't get me wrong, the program's great, but you've got to have the time to do it.

So, I'm starting with 100 days. Run a bit each morning, hopefully at least 3 miles. Then, I'm doing pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, curls and squats. Days 1-10, I'll do ten of each. (Except the pull-ups. I'll do as many of those as possible, which at present, is not 10.) Then, I'll assess how I'm feeling. If anything is starting to hurt, I'll back off of it. And if not, day 11 will mean 11 of each, and so on for the following three months.

We're also doing Janu-water this year, which means that from January 2nd - 31st, we will drink nothing but water, clearing the caffeine, sugar and alcohol out of our systems for a little while.

Yes. It's a lot. A considerable shot of healthy all at one time, but I can adjust it as needed. I'm not training for anything in particular right now. Just for me.

So let's start again.

Day 1:
3.19 Miles
10 Reps