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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Know When to Fold 'Em

I can play three pretty good hours of poker.

The problem is, I usually play four-hour games.

It's been a while since I've sat around a poker table. It used to be a fairly regular occurrence, back in my college days. We'd get together with some beer and a buddy's carefully-guarded chip set and spend hours trading one another's money back and forth. At some point in the game, I'd usually get ahead, playing very conservatively through the first couple hours and making my move when the moment was right. And then, unless I was able to get lucky with another big hand right away, I'd start my downward spiral.

As Kenny Rogers says, you've got to know when to walk away and know when to run. In poker, I don't. In running, however, I'm learning.

Yesterday, I decided it was not a day for me to run. My calf had been acting up on the 13-miler I did on Sunday, and throughout the rest of the day, it was fairly well on fire. I stretched, rested, and did all the things I'm supposed to do, but as I was heading to bed, I told myself that when I put my feet on the ground the next morning, if I had any concerns about my calf, I would not run.

The next morning came, and I could have run. I'm sure of it. Tuesday is a rest day anyway, so I would still have gotten a day without too much wear and tear. Still, I knew it wasn't 100%. I knew that I've been running very well the last few weeks and I'm ahead of the pace required for my January mileage goal. And most importantly, I knew that thinking you're ready before you are is the best way to give yourself a long-term injury that requires weeks, not days, to heal. Plus, I was really tired, so I decided not to run.

Unfortunately, I also decided that I did not want to do my yoga that morning. It was a 35-minute video, one of the longest in the 30 day challenge, and I just did not have the motivation after a night of fitful and sporadic sleep. Instead, I sat around doing nothing for an hour or so, and then got ready for work.

This is not the way to start a week. Every email with any bad news irritated me to high heaven. I could not focus. I didn't want to do anything. Quite frankly, anything that required any motivation from me was done without joy or drive. By doing nothing at all first thing in the morning, I set up my day to model that behavior. While I did a lot, I don't feel like I accomplished anything at all. Until, that is, I got home and did my yoga.

Even my wife commented on how focused I seemed during the practice (and how straight I'm managing to keep my back). There's something very centering about yoga that I really enjoy. While I don't think I'll stick to 7 days a week when February rolls around, I do still want to keep it as part of my fitness lifestyle, so I'll have to figure out the best way to do that. Today's yoga was similarly empowering, hence my ability to write a blog post before the sun's even up. I still didn't run, because it's a planned rest day, but I'm feeling much stronger and more positive than yesterday.

This morning, I'm all in.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


The halfway point can be deceiving.

Recently, I touted the virtues of an out-and-back training course, but this style comes with its challenges as well. For one thing, when the scenery doesn't change, you have fewer distractions from any pain or discomfort you might find, the usual complaint against races that follow this format.

My bigger problem, however, is the halfway point. You finally get to that point as far from home as you'll get, and you have no choice but to go back. I usually get energized for a moment. I've made it this far, so I know I can make it that far in the other direction. There's a brief rush that propels me forward as though I can take on the world.

And then I hit the 60% mark. Between 60-80% of whatever I'm doing, I always start to get shaky. The first half is fresh and exciting, that midpoint such a great goal, but then I have to keep going, and of course, the back half is going to be more difficult, because you've got the collected weight of the first half pulling you down. On today's run, I was feeling it something fierce on way home. My quads were tightening up, and my calf started screaming. It's not until I hit that last 20%, when I can tell myself I'm almost done, that I can stop fighting my brain and just let my legs work. Today was just a harder run.

It's appropriate that this challenge occurred today, one day after the halfway point of my 30-day challenges. Since January 1st doesn't count, yesterday was day 15 of yoga and Janu-water. The first has been extremely rewarding, and the latter has been surprisingly difficult. Still, I've made it halfway, which should mean that it gets easier, right?

Well, no. Of course not. Because I start rehearsals for my next show on Wednesday, which is going to make it difficult to find time to complete yoga a challenge, and what's more, the show necessarily involves drinking things other than water. I still intend to hold to my plan as long as possible and at all times when not at rehearsal, but I recognize what an incredible challenge this is going to be. Until I hit that last week of the month (80%), things are going to be a little rough for me.

Recognizing this pattern is a big part of the solution. Just knowing that I approach all of my challenges this way helps me to rationalize and fight through that 20% where I start questioning why I'm doing any of this at all. The changes that I'm trying to make are not just for January, and I need to be able to hold over my healthy choices in the face of adversity. It's been great to have a little buffer to get my rhythm while I got started, but the real challenge starts now.

Of course, as of this morning, I've run more miles this month than in any month last year, so I have to think I'm heading in the right direction.

A good start to the second half.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Sometimes I think that Underdog was poorly named.

"There's no need to fear," he would say. "UNDERDOG is here!"But here's the thing about being an underdog: it means you're supposed to lose. If I found myself in great peril against an animated evildoer, I'm not going to get that excited about the guy who is named after the team that will be commended for "making a game of it." Bring me Mighty Mouse. It's right in his name. Mighty.

We love the underdog, don't we? Unless you're already a fan of whatever Dynasty team is currently ruling the sport, all things being equal, many (if not most) of us will cheer for the upstart, and in many cases, we're not disappointed.

There are countless reasons why an underdog takes down the power, but for me, it usually comes down to two things. First, the underdogs get incredibly psyched up and perform at a level beyond anything they've done before; and second, the power underestimates the opponent. In sports, they'll talk about a team "looking ahead" to the next game. For example, the number one team is playing number two next week, but this week they get trounced by the JV squad, because they didn't bother to prepare. It's an old, familiar story.

In times of great stress and pressure, we can often rise above our expectations and perform like we always dreamed, but when our guard is down, everything can unravel in a moment.

I was thinking about this during my short run this morning. With my time constraints, I found myself pushing the pace a little more than I should have. Not fast, mind you, but still a level up from my standard runs these days. I considered this for a moment, and had to decide if I wanted to really go for a good, fast run, or stay in my recent groove of middle effort. I'm doing 13 mile runs on the weekends, so this would be my only chance this week at driving speed.

Then it occurred to me that I was underestimating this run. My long runs on Sunday are the Goliath to my David, when I'm the underdog who shouldn't be able to defeat the giant (but I have, two weeks in a row). These short runs in the middle of the week don't seem like much, but I could be walking (running) into a trap. Three miles is still a good distance, and I'm a long way from the days when it was basically a sprint. When I decided, at the end of December, that I was ready to push myself into speed work, I messed up a whole collection of muscles and I'm still feeling the effects. I'm not the underdog on Thursday morning, I'm the favorite. And if I'm not careful, these are the runs that can beat me.

Of course, I know I can do these runs. In a month when I've already done 12- and 13-mile runs and survived reading Ulysses (seriously, that book is tough), a little 5K isn't going to undo me, as long as I pay attention. So, I kept a healthy pace, driving a little more than some of my other runs. I did not let it get to the point of losing my breath, and I focused carefully on my form, checking in constantly for any aches or pains arising. I had none.

The lesson is to stay mindful of the moment in which you find yourself, something else I'm learning from yoga. Losing focus can mean losing a whole lot more. Don't get ahead of yourself. Rather, enjoy the moment you're in, and make it as productive and positive a moment as you can, and you can conquer anything.

There's no need to fear.

Only 24 Hours

I’m not a great manager of my time.

I can plan with the best of them. Planning spreadsheets are a bit of an addiction with me. Most work procrastinators turn toward solitaire. I set up an Excel document for how many miles to run every day from now until the end of the year to make it to a total of 2,016. Seriously. I’ve already got that figured out.

This particular vent for my attention issues is fueled by a vast resource of ambition, without a lot of action behind it in recent years. Currently, though, things are going pretty well, and this morning, I eclipsed my total mileage from last January. You know, the month when I did the Rogue 30K and the 3M half marathon. I’ve already run more miles this year than I did then. Clearly I was not training well, but this year, I'm training better. (See yesterday.)

Thanks to that ambition, I’m also still continuing my yoga streak. Day 12 today brought a lot of balance postures which made me feel strong until I inevitably lost said balance and toppled. It’s a process, right?

Except on Sunday, my current method is to complete the yoga first, and then immediately head out for the run. I’ve found it to be very helpful in warming up my legs, which is great since our nights (and early mornings) are about as cold as they get in Texas. Also, after I finish a run, I’m less than inclined to put my sweaty self on a mat, so doing the yoga first is the best way to ensure that it gets done. For the last couple weeks, if I did not have enough time in the morning to complete both exercises, it hasn’t been a problem. I would just come home and yoga afterwards. In one week, that won’t be an option.

Because next week, I start rehearsals, and I’m going to have a lot less time to play with. I need to be sure and complete my workout before my work day starts. This means as much as 59 minutes (depending on the length of the yoga video and assuming I run a relaxed pace - yes, there's a spreadsheet) of work before breakfast, which is a tight fit considering the need for food, shower, and commute. I can’t go to work later because I have to be out in time for rehearsal, and I can’t start earlier because rehearsal goes so late. There are only 24 hours in a day, and at least some of them have to be reserved for sleep. I have no delusion that this will be an easy two weeks.

If it turns out that this schedule is not conducive to healthy living, then I will make adjustments as needed. For example, I might take an extra 30 minutes of sleep one night and skip yoga the next morning. Or perhaps I can do the yoga on my lunch break, or before rehearsal starts. It really depends on how those rehearsals go and what my body is telling me. So, my first rule is that I will listen to my body.

Still, I need to put myself in a position where I can be successful. By planning ahead, I can avoid a lot of the wasted time that often surrounds my workouts. For instance, I will be absolutely certain to set out my clothes for my workout the night before, checking the weather ahead of time to save decision-making moments in the morning. I can carefully plan my grocery list for the week and pack the next day’s lunch as soon as I get home. I will determine exactly what I want my workout to be… wait, I’ve already done that.

In fact, I already do all of these things. The less I have to think in the morning, the less I think about going back to bed. There will simply be a heightened awareness through the end of the month not to let these things slip. I won’t have much margin for error in my schedule, but I don’t need it.

Not as long as I stick to the plan.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


There comes a time in every runner's life when he no longer gets faster.

I don't believe I've reached that point yet, but in truth, it's probably not that far off. Marathon runners tend to peak in their mid-thirties (nobody tell Meb), which is why that's the point when the Boston Marathon's qualifying times start to ease up.

With only a limited time to get faster, I've always been the type to push too hard, too soon and end up injured, as I have often documented here. Combine a competitive nature with an impatient temperament, and you've got me, limping through a recovery run before taking roughly 4 months off until I finally make the choice that I'm going to rededicate myself once again. Pretty familiar, particularly if you've read this blog.

Of course, you certainly haven't read this blog very much in the last couple years. In the years 2013-2015, I wrote a total of 32 blog posts. I've already written more posts in 2016 than I did last year, and in fact, since May of 2012, only one month has had more posts than the present one.

Now, why is that? Mostly, it's because this is a blog about running, and when I don't run, I don't blog. The last couple years have been inconsistent with running to say the least. My actual numbers are sitting on a crashed hard drive, but it's safe to say that since the St. George Marathon of 2013, I have not consistently been able to call myself a runner. Off and on, sure, but not across the board, and not with the sense of pride that I used to have.

The last few weeks have been different. I started up again in mid-November of last year, right around my birthday, and kept it up for about a month. Then the holidays hit and I went dormant again, but this is the part where it changed: I got back at it. I didn't just stop. For once, I took a short break and then returned, and I'm feeling pretty good about it thus far.

I've had my struggles, of course. It took a lot of encouragement (both self and from the wife) for me to hit the pavement this last Sunday, but I felt phenomenal after. I'm remembering more and more what that feels like when it's tough to get out the door, and I'm getting out the door.

My times, to be sure, are slower than they usually are for the shorter distances. I'm averaging a good 45 seconds behind my standard target for 3-5 miles. And that's okay. Part of it is that I'm running very early in the morning most days, and I'm giving my legs time to warm up and not just taking off at the gun. The other part is, well, who cares? My next (likely) race is five months away, and I can't forget that I'm still building a base. I can't be great yet, and I know that. So what can I be?

I can be better.

Better means more consistent. Setting a routine and sticking with it, even on those days when I really, really don't want to.

Better means smarter, slowly strengthening muscles and not allowing myself to fall into the trap of too much, too soon.

Better means well rounded, doing my yoga, keeping my journals, writing about how I'm feeling and (likely) writing about things not related to running once in a while to keep the habit up when perhaps I've got nothing constructive to say about exercise. For example, I'm reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Running a marathon is easier.

Better does not mean faster. Not yet. That will come with time. For now, it simply means stronger, mentally and physically. And it means when that alarm goes off tomorrow, I've got no excuse.

Not if I want to be better.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


There are many advantages to running on familiar terrain.

I love to explore, and a large part of how I was able to orient myself in Austin quickly was all the running I did back then. I learned lots of the side roads and short cuts through 20-mile runs leading up to the 2011 Austin Marathon. Unfortunately for me, my explorations did not take me to the hills of miles 11-18, and I never saw them coming. That was painful.

Learning new things is great, but when you're really challenging yourself physically, it's better to be more familiar with your path. Today, going for 13 miles, my distance plateau for a little while, I did a simple out-and-back course. No surprises.

The only trouble with this course is that the far point is substantially downhill, meaning that my second half is mostly up. In the first few miles, I felt a little tight and worried about whether I'd get the full distance, especially given the increased difficulty of the second half. I was only a mile in at this point, and I realized that I had a small uphill ahead of me. Nothing too challenging, but I thought, why does it always seem like I'm running uphill?

And I thought about that for a little bit. I tried to think of the last time I ran in the other direction on this road and did not remember running down a hill at all, but here it was, going up the other way. It occurred to me that perhaps all those "flat" sections in my mind were actually dropping, and that I could use them to store energy and speed. The simple knowledge that they're downhill makes them easier.

So I took note of every time I found myself going up on the way out, and paid special attention on the way back. Sure enough, each of those ups felt only flat on the way back. Now, however, knowing that they were actually downs, they felt easier than I remembered. What's more, the long, drudging uphill of the way back didn't seem quite so intimidating knowing that there were little breaks all the way home. I felt significantly better than I did last week at this time. No problems in my hip, no issues with hamstring or calf. Looking at my course as a series of small challenges rather than one long one, the whole experience was far more pleasant.

And that has made all the difference.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Take Breaks

It's hard to know when you're getting good advice.

Everyone likes to be the person who knows about things. When we learn a new fun fact, we want to share that with everyone else, and we're disappointed when someone already knows it. It's the, "have you heard" phenomenon.

When it comes to running, there are a whole lot of people who believe that they know best. You can spend (and I have) hours on the internet sifting through the avalanche of studies, lists of tips and pages upon pages of images depicting the "proper" form. Heck, I referenced one of those studies yesterday, and just by writing this blog, I am adding my voice to the growing cacophony. Where I differ from much of the noise, however, is that I don't believe there is one answer for everyone.

I know what has worked for me, and those are the things I try to pass on to others. When someone says that they have knee trouble, I talk to them about landing on the middle of their foot. If someone has hip pain, I'm happy to offer them stretches. Always, though, I try to say something to the effect of, "At least, that's what works for me." It may be different for you.

There is one piece of advice, though, that I believe is universally helpful for everyone, running or not.

Take breaks when you need them.

Day 6 of 30 Days of Yoga is an ab workout, and was the first day where I found several instances of my body refusing to go further. That was okay, though, because the video started with the instruction to take breaks when you need them, which gave me permission. Good, because it was going to happen one way or another, whether I chose it or not.

In the run itself, it's a bit trickier, but I believe that it's still valid advice, so long as you hold to the second part: when you need them.

For a while, my personal running mantra was, "Do not give yourself permission to be weak." It meant running through pain, through exhaustion, and through any of a dozen other warning signs that I was pushing my body too hard. On more than one occasion, I've convinced myself that I need to run every day or I'll get out of the habit. That somehow rest days are hurting me more than the excessive workouts I was doing. I tend to be an all-or-nothing personality, and it's injured me more times than I can count.

So I'm learning (sometimes over and over again) to take my breaks, when I've planned them. I run five days a week, and yesterday was the first rest day where I woke up, did my yoga and really wished I could go for a run. But I didn't. I stuck to my plan, took a nice leisurely shower, and made eggs.

It paid off today. I did a 6+ miler in pretty stiff wind and felt great the whole time. Personally, I don't like to take breaks during my runs, as I have found in the past that it encourages bad behaviors down the road. This is not to say it can't work for someone else. The Jeff Galloway Run Walk Run method is a great way for people to work up to running longer distances, because it's planned. It's not simply running until you're too tired to run and then walking for a while. It's structured and careful, which is what makes it work. I know that I can run the mileage I'm going for right now without walking. My body is prepared, so taking breaks during the run is neither necessary nor helpful for me.

My rest days, on the other hand, are golden. It gives everything in my body time to recover and reset. And if I'm lucky, I find myself excited to run, wishing I could do more mileage that day, but knowing that the smartest thing is to wait until tomorrow. Everyone needs to take breaks.

Just take it from me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

30 Days of Yoga

I'm not flexible. At all.

The kind of "not flexible" where you think I'm making a joke. Okay, touch your toes now. Very funny, now actually try.

It's always been a little embarrassing when I find myself in the presence of other fitness-minded people. When we do a physical warm-up before a show, or I get invited to a yoga class, I'm always hesitant to even give it my pathetic effort, full of the knowledge that I'll be tapping my shins while everyone else is wiping the floor.

Recently, I came across an article from 2013 relating a study that found a certain gene, COL5A1, may be responsible for the inflexibility of certain people. What's more, the same study found that a statistically significant portion of good runners have this gene. The study did not suggest causation in one way or another, but it is certainly an interesting correlation for those of us who chuckle slightly to ourselves when the yoga instructor says "raise up halfway."

Whether or not I can actually blame genetics for my insufficient foldability (and I intend to), there are other facts that I've learned from my own experience (and every coach I've ever had). Cold muscles will get injured if you start too fast, and I often start too fast. Sore muscles feel better when I move and stretch them. And a strong core will help prevent injury.

I know, it's not rocket surgery. Everyone who has ever laced up shoes knows this. And yoga is a great way to do all these things.

So, I'm left with a dilemma. My choices appear to be humiliation in a room full of spandex-clad acrobats (insult) or spending at least a day a week with something hurting (injury).

Enter, the internet.

My wife found 30 Days of Yoga on YouTube from Yoga With Adriene. It's a series of videos, each offering different aspects of the yoga practice, ranging from 35 minutes down to under 15. It's a chance for me to work on my tragically nonelastic self without the self-consciousness of being surrounded by lots of folks who are good at it. And what's more, the teacher (Adriene, duh) is excellent at anticipating what it is I'm doing wrong.

For example, there are moments where she'll say, "Your shoulders will want to come up here, drop them down," and I'm almost always shrugging. It is so reassuring to find that the corrections being offered are not directed singly at me, and that the issues I have others have as well.

Now, I've only completed 7 days, and if the last two are any indication, it's not about to get easier. The series I'm doing was actually posted a year ago. She has a new one right now called Yoga Camp, which also focuses on the mental side of health. The videos seem to be a little longer thus far, though, so for now I'll stick with my beginner's plan. And, it turns out, she's in Austin, so one of these days, I may actually get up the courage to take a yoga class in public.

Maybe on day 31.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Before the Body Knows

"Quick, before the body knows what we're doing!"

The thought popped into my mind when my alarm went off yesterday morning. The last couple weeks, I've been getting up on time only to come downstairs, think, "But it's cold outside," or "My leg hurts,"and when I sit down to put my running shoes on, I find an hour later that I've gone back to sleep instead. Not particularly helpful.

I've already had to implement a number of physical changes in my life just to get out of bed. My alarm clock is about 15 feet away from my bed, next to the door of the bathroom. All my running clothes are in my closet (which is in said bathroom) except for my socks, which I pull out each night and place on the bathroom counter. This forces me to walk all the way across my bedroom and within sight of my running clothes just to make the sound stop. With apologies to my wife, this is the best system I've developed for getting out of bed.

But now, there is a new nemesis - putting on shoes. Really? That's what stops me? Sitting down on anything comfortable is apparently the kiss of death for my morning run, so now I put my shoes on upstairs. Honestly, it's probably the safer idea, considering that in trying to be quiet and walking downstairs in socks, I once missed a step and tumbled about halfway down. Apologies once again to my wife.

Physical challenges aside, you then have to overcome mental blocks. Things like "I'm too tired," or "it's too cold." And the key to defeating these hurdles (at ungodly-o'clock) is changing my default setting.

My default setting used to be Go Back To Sleep. I'd have to actually convince myself that I wanted to run, and when the sun isn't up yet, I'm not very convincing. Over the last couple months, I've charted my ability to get up in the morning, a small accountability measure for me and me alone, and it's worked surprisingly well. Now I get up on time more often than not, and my brain is apparently on my side in this argument.

We're still working on the body.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


I love spreadsheets.

I may have said this before, but I am addicted to making spreadsheets. I currently have three files and six sheets that get updated on a daily basis. This includes training, reading, changes in my lifestyle, budget... if it can be reduced to a number and put in a grid, I've got a sheet that manages it.

Since I began my running Renaissance, I've had a pretty involved spreadsheet that not only showed me recent data, but compiled everything into a month-by-month, year-over-year sheet. It was incredible.

And then my hard drive crashed. I'm told it's replaceable (not too financially painful) and that the data may be recovered (much more painful), but in the meantime, I still need to track what I'm doing. Needless to say, a new spreadsheet was created without delay. But I realized that, if that data cannot be retrieved, all that running information is simply gone. Sure, the important stuff (marathon results, for instance) is out on the internet, and honestly, the rest of the stuff isn't that important in the long run, but it's still nice to have.

It made me realize that one spreadsheet on one computer is not a secure enough place for me to put my running data.

One other tool I use is Map My Run, which is great, as long as I remember to turn it on. For the last couple months, I definitely have, but it was always hit-or-miss before 2015. Now, I don't forget, which will make analyzing the data a little easier, especially when comparing one year to the next. While it's unlikely that any month this year will be comparable to any month last year, it will still be nice to see a visual representation of that fact.

Even then, however, I'm a little worried that something could happen to the data. So, I've begun writing in a physical journal. Just a few sentences really delving into how I felt and what I did that day. Mileage, time, what hurt, what didn't, any sort of cross training I did... it all goes right into the journal.

The book itself, it turns out, was actually a Christmas gift from 1997. I know this from the first entry where my bold 14-year-old self declared that it would be a "chronicle" of my life. Considering that I only wrote three more entries in it (Jan 1999, Aug 2001, Jul 2002), I had about as much success with that as I've had in recent years on this blog. Already, though, I've detailed every workout I've had since December 28th, careful to note things that work and things that didn't. One more thing to update on a daily basis.

And you can bet I've still got my spreadsheets.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lessons Unlearned

If it seems too good to be true...

Finishing my 12-mile accident yesterday, I was, embarrassingly, pretty high on myself. I could not believe that I was actually in shape enough to tackle that mileage, and certainly not at the time in which I finished. Perhaps I was further along in my training than I realized, and could progress more quickly through the coming steps.

I wrote my blog post, took a shower, ate all the things, and then sat down on the couch to do a little reading. When next I attempted to rise from said couch, my body reminded me of a lesson I've learned more times than I care to admit.

The fact that you can do something does not always mean that you should.

My hip was (still is, in fact) on fire. The bright side here is that if my hip and calf muscles are still hurting as they have been the last couple weeks, I can no longer feel them for the pain in my hip. That's a bright side, right?

The best solution for this problem is to keep moving, so I went grocery shopping which was not altogether unpleasant. Then, while dinner was in the oven, I did Day 2 of my 30 days of yoga. I'll talk more about that when I've made it a full week in. At the time, I wasn't sure if it helped anything, but I was fairly confident it didn't hurt. The ultimate decision would be, when I woke up this morning, would I do my 3-mile run.

That question was answered with my first movements of the morning. No running today, thank you very much. Instead, I headed downstairs and did Day 3, adding some additional hip stretches at the end. My plan is to do additional stretching throughout the day today in the hopes that I'm ready to run tomorrow, which is a planned rest day. I'm trying to stick to my mileage plan as closely as possible, so this one-day switch should not be a big issue. If, however, I don't feel up to it tomorrow either, then those three miles will be lost to the ether and I'll pick up the regular schedule again Wednesday.

You should never try to make up missed miles, according to popular (and sound) advice I've gotten, but I've never been good at listening to advice that tells me I have limits. I'm rapidly approaching (if not leaving far behind) the age where I can no longer ignore the wisdom of others. The lesson today is easy to follow: don't run if it hurts.

Let's hope I've learned that one at least.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

I really thought it said 11.

As I build mileage on my long run, I'm doing so with a cautious eye. My right leg has been a little temperamental the last couple weeks, so I'm being very careful with it. I took a good amount of time off, but that didn't seem to be making it any better, so I've begun working it while focusing intently on my form and pace to keep from over-working it.

The other side of that is not to reach too far above what I've already done. As with my plan to run higher mileage as the year goes on, the point is to keep healthy while progressing. Last month, my long run was around 10 miles, so the next step would be 11.

Still, I worried that this might be a little too ambitious, especially with a wonky leg. So, as I've done in the past, I designed my course to allow for a bailout. My house backs up to a road with a bus route that heads all the way through town. For the latter part of my run, I followed this road, knowing that if something went wrong, I had other options.

The additional benefit is that I'm very familiar with this road, so it helps with my visualization. I can tell myself that I've got five miles left, so I pretend that it's mile 21 of the upcoming marathon. No need to increase speed, no need to push. All that matters is crossing the finish line. Everything else is ego. Well, in honesty, crossing the finish line is also ego, but that's beside the current point.

So, as I turned up the 5-mile homestretch, I checked in on my time. Some quick math told me that I was significantly slower than I'd like to be ideally, but well within range of reasonability. But one number caught my eye. According to my watch, I'd already done about 7 miles, which didn't make sense if I had 5 miles to go. No worries, I thought, I'm sure I just mixed up my landmarks. I was feeling good, keeping everything under control, and had no reason to panic.

With two miles to go, I started to wear down a bit. There are long, slow hills on these roads, and they'll take the wind from you after almost an hour and a half. It made sense, though. When I did my ten mile run, a couple weeks back, this was the point that I started to lose my composure. So I dug deep, told myself just to get to the next mile.

And I did, getting stopped at a light with just under a mile to go. I took my first long look at my watch since the not-five mile mark, and checked the mileage. 11 down. Whoops.

I really have no idea how it happened. I planned the route ahead of time, planning on an 11-mile run. I clearly misread something, because I ended up running 12.3. On the bright side, I ran 12.3 miles today. Once I realized my mistake, I considered for a moment stopping the run at 11 as planned and walking the last mile home, but it would take me 10 minutes longer to walk it, and I was ready to be home, so I kept on shuffling, besting my best run since Boston by over 2 miles.

The rest of today will be ensuring that I take care of myself. Eat well to recover energy, stretch, hopefully do Day 2 of yoga before bed. Lots of reading. A pretty solid Sunday, to be honest, fueled with the knowledge that I did more today than I thought that I could.

Here's to happy accidents.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

30 Days

January 1st doesn't count.

It's a rule that the wife and I decided on several years ago. We'd agreed to attempt something we called Janu-water, which is simply what it sounds like. During the month of January, the only thing we would drink would be water. That meant no alcohol, no coffee, and (a bigger issue then than it is now) no Dr Pepper. A nice, clean way to start the new year.

After a particularly ambitious New Year's Eve, however, we both found our selves in desperate need of caffeine the next morning. We decided that the holiday itself shouldn't count, and anything we attempted for the month of January would be sufficient if it lasted for 30 days. And so it did.

This year, once again, we're taking a stab at Janu-water, with a few caveats. One is that an acting job that I will start at the end of the month will actually require me to drink non-water, so I'm excused for professional activities. We're allowed smoothies and/or protein shakes provided that they are connected to a workout and not just an excuse to drink something other than water. And of course, yesterday didn't count.

In fact, the other aspects of my "but seriously, this is the year" work all began this morning as well, with my first run and yoga session of the year. In addition, I did some reading in pursuit of another goal. In the coming twelve months, I plan to run 2,016 miles and read 20,160 pages. I like the synergy of the numbers.

What I will need to remember is that while these are indeed lofty goals, they are not unreasonable, so long as I approach them with intelligence and patience. I cannot simply divide the number of miles by the number of days and run that. I'm not yet in shape to do 35-mile weeks, so I've figured out a slow increase plan that will get me to my goal with a nice, slow build-up. And if I stick to that mileage plan for the first two months, I will give myself permission to register for the Minneapolis Marathon in June. Big goals, but simple steps.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to refill my water.