Dec
12

Where Art Thou Dear BeefTrain?

So you’re all wondering “Why don’t he write?” Well the answer is quite simple really, I’m busy. When I began this site initially, I was a stay at home dad hitting the gym a couple times a day. Now a days I’m working full time and what little free time I have is spent reading and reminiscing on the days when I could workout all I wanted.

Rucking with my son

My fitness priorities have been slowly adapting to accommodate my new job requirements. Suddenly, I feel the need to work on my ability to ruck march. Rather than running for fun and general fitness, some grumpy guy with a regulation haircut and an outfit designed to hide in gravel pits wants to time me. While my ability to do push-ups is an asset, the fact that I think sit-ups are an outdated exercise that work my legs more than my abs is a detriment.  I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed running in whatever clothing I wanted until I had to re-embrace the whole uniformity concept. Apparently running in warmup pants from the 90′s is still socially acceptable in some parts of the world. You can’t even hear yourself think for all the swishing your pants are doing.

I could bore you with the peaks and valleys of my fitness but the  main thing I’ve learned is spending more than a day or two in the woods at a time leads to weight loss and a serious decline in my health.  I’ve recently started increasing my training again and its always nice to have a start point to track it from.  So I’ll try and throw up a progress pic.  Of course with all the travel and food I intend for Christmas it’s unclear if my discipline and resolve will win the day.

Last but not least my wife, Princess, has saved you all.  She chose the a photo that doesn’t display the fact that I’m wearing  8″ Combat boots with shorts.

 

May
18

I’m Melting!

Well I’ve been holding out on you guys.  I was waiting to complete tomorrow’s PFT and then blow you all away with my massively improved score.  I’ve been a running madman lately trying to shave time off my two mile for the PFT.  I even did situps on 3 separate occasions over the past month.   And just yesterday I found out my PFT was canceled.  Too bad!  I was dying to see just how much things have improved.  I’m down a couple pounds and an inch in my waist.  When you eat and drink as much as I do it’s really hard to tell.  Have I really lost weight or am I simply dehydrated?  Here’s a progress photo compared to last month. Upon closer look I am disgusted by last month’s physique.  I can at least bear the sight of myself this morning.  Also, I couldn’t resist posting the first photo to help me keep things in perspective.  Several years ago I was that little guy.

Aug 2008 178 lbs

May 2012 210 lbs

April 2012 215 lbs

 

 

It isn’t an enormous difference, but it is slowly melting off.  And considering my changes have mostly been eating less dessert and trying to consistently run at least 3 days a week I feel pretty good about my improvements.  Though I did have chicken tenders, fries, corn, half a rack of ribs, and something called a “Cookie Monster” last night that involved several hundred (possibly thousand) calories of chocolate chip cookie covered by fudge and ice cream.  Clearly I’m not completely cutting out the good stuff, I’m just not eating dessert with every meal.   I’m planning on taking the next week or so off from caffeine, supplements, and weight training.  As I’ve mentioned before prolonged use of caffeine tends to nullify it’s affects.  Instead I’ll limit my training to running, pushups, and situps.

Speaking of situps, have I mentioned I hate them?  I swear my legs are sore by the time I start my run after doing a max set of situps.  I’ve noticed some improvement since I’ve actually started doing them but they still hate me and I don’t see how we could ever be friends.  I usually just knock out four max sets flat or incline.  Of course my max set has yet to be anywhere near the 52 I managed during last months test, but my numbers are climbing.  Apparently the adrenaline and motivation of having someone count helps me push through the pain and I’m much more accustomed to performing exercises that isolate my abdominals, when I train abs at all that is.  What can I say I took Arnold to heart in his Bible, The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, when he said he never trained Abs or Traps until just before a show.

I haven’t really done anything special for pushups since I nearly maxed out my score on my first attempt.  I have been changing up my running to focus on a speedier two mile run rather than my typical slow steady long distance survival pace.  Its been interesting training for such a short distance.  It’s much less daunting than training for long distance.  Often times when I just try for a quick max effort two mile run, I just want to keep going afterwards because it doesn’t seem nearly long enough to have achieved much.  I suppose I’m still learning how to pour every ounce of energy into that distance.  My times have varied greatly over the past month since I’m typically running hills.  That makes it really hard to judge exactly what my time on fast flat course will be like.  I did manage a couple miles in 15 minutes the other day on a treadmill but I was increasing my pace the entire time trying to figure out of what I was capable.  The final quarter mile was sub six minute pace so I’m just not really sure how things will turn out.  Typically I have a slower first mile as I climb and a faster second half as I fly down a hill.  My buddy “SlimJim” has convinced me to take advantage of the hills and try and push hard while I’m climbing.  Its funny to power up a hill when lately for trail running purposes I’ve been dialing it down so I don’t burn myself out climbing a hill and have nothing left for the rest of the race.  Since I’m just using this as a training tool I think I’ll be OK.  And of course just like at the start of race the the adrenaline will most assuredly have me running faster than I’ve been running on my own during training.

 

Well tomorrow I should be going through some fun medical evaluation stuff.  I’ll let you know if they find anything cool.

Apr
30

Jogging In The Land Of Cotton

Who Wouldn't Wanna Jog Here?

So nothing too exciting to tell you guys but I thought you’d all love to see just how pretty it can be jogging in North Alabama at my Ancestral Home.  It’s only 3 weeks until my next PFT so I’m trying to train specifically for the two mile run.  I’m mostly running less than 3 miles lately trying to run faster to drop my two mile PFT run  rather than my usual slow and steady survives the race without burning too much muscle.  I  spent the weekend visiting family and as always I found time to get in a run.  I absolutely despise road running but I only saw about half a dozen cars the entire time I was jogging.  I’ll make an exception for jogging in the country.

The weather was cool and breezy and just perfect for a scenic jog.  I spent the night on a bed that’s probably 40 years old so sleep was minimal and I had no desire to run whatsoever.  I thought jogging any distance is better than nothing.  So when I started I was thinking I’d run maybe a mile or two and call it good.  But as I stretched my legs I felt better and bolder and decided to see where the road led.   When I hit an intersection I decided if I made enough left turns I should end up back home, maybe, if I was lucky.  And yes, I did run by several cotton fields though they were barren.  A couple miles after I lit out a nice dog joined me and followed me for several miles.  It’s the middle of nowhere and I was no doubt the very first jogger he’d ever seen so I was just waiting to feel his jaws clamp down on my leg.  Turns out he was friendly and I didn’t have to have get tested for rabies.  When I saw the dog I realized I was jogging without my Road ID and had no phone or way to contact anyone since there isn’t any cell service where we were staying.  I couldn’t have incoherently mumbled an address or anything.  Just call me John Doe from I don’t know where.  Eventually I recognized the road we were staying on my and heart lept with joy.  I had a great time exploring the area.  When I got back home I decided to run just a little further.  My Grandfather and several other ancestors are buried at a cemetery a half mile from the house.  I ran by to pay my respects.  Funny, though I was spent before I got to the Cemetery, I couldn’t bring myself to stop running and just walk by so I stuck my chest out and pushed hard around the perimeter.  I’m sure they were pleased.  I’ve always been told ‘live life like your forefathers are on a nearby hill watching you’.  Make them proud.

I’m trying to get a smaller waist since I’m over Military Weight Specifications.  I’m beginning to think even with a six pack I’ll have the same waist size but until I’m sporting the abs again I won’t know.  So here’s another progress photo of me still weighing in at a whopping 213 lbs.  Sadly no change just yet.  Perhaps by the end of the month after consistently working on my running we’ll see some improvement.   I’ve slowly been cutting back on Reese’s cups and I even turned town a Fudge Brownie Milk shake over the weekend so I must slowly be tightening up my diet.

I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.

Apr
23

Only Running Two Miles?

Well this weekend I took my very first Army Physical Fitness Test(APFT).  As a Marine I felt like I was cheating since they skip the 3rd mile of the run.  For those of you who don’t know what APFT consists of it includes a two minute max situp, 2 minute max pushup, and a two mile run with up to 100 points awarded for each portion.  Playing the typical Military hurry up and wait game left me taking the test without eating or hydrating in about 4 hours so I was by no means performing my best but I did manage an embarrassing 52 situps, 75 pushups and a 16:40 two mile run(Scoring 229 of 300).  Obviously pushups were my strong point.  I was only a couple reps away from the max score and shouldn’t have any problem maxing out from now on especially considering  I was sore from my typical heavy arm workout the day prior.  And who the heck does the old school situps that wear out your legs and leave your abs begging for more?  While I did pass  the situp portion of the test I need to make some huge improvements in that area to have a more respectable score.  As for  my lackluster run time I’m obviously not the fastest tractor in the barn, but with such a low initial time showing improvement should be easy.  I actually think I could crank out a much better time if I had some food or water before hand.  I was already sporting a headache, dry mouth, and a rumbling stomach by the time we started our little unexpected test.  And while the course was nice and flat it was a boring half mile straight away over and over again.  Who doesn’t love a monotonous run course?

What An Exciting Course

I’m enthused to see how I improve at next month’s test.  For so long I’ve been running my trail races and it’s been difficult to see how I’ve improved because every course is a different distance with different obstacles etc..  With a simple, flat 2 mile course my increases in speed and cardiovascular endurance should be much easier to judge.  Call me lazy but it seems much easier to train for a faster two mile time than preparing for another Marathon.  I’ll keep you posted.  Now to re-watch Bill Murray in Stripes to get a better understanding of the Army.

Apr
08

Scarred For Life

Well last week while minding my own business I had something very traumatic happen which has in fact “scarred me for life.”  I was conducting some routine business with some of Uncle Sam’s helpers in order to verify my physical fitness levels when it happened.  As it turns out this day in age in order to verify the body fat content of individuals who exceed the standard height and weight standards Uncle Sam uses an extremely technical method.  They take your weight and then measure your neck and waist.  Afterwards those numbers determine your body fat percentage.  I must admit I was shocked that we don’t at least use body fat calipers by now.  Anyway I was half starved and semi dehydrated when I weighed in at 213 and fortunately for me the guy measuring my height rounded up to 5-11(I’m actually about 5-10 1/2″ depending on what time of the day I’m a little shorter or taller and get rounded up or down accordingly).  I was appalled when they put me down at 19% body fat.  Granted I just had to clear the 25% mark but I was still surprised how high the number seemed.  Now I admittedly am not currently sporting a six pack but I do still have some abdominal definition and I certainly don’t feel fat.  The problem is the fact that my neck is only 15.5″ and has been since I was about 60 pounds lighter.  I was informed all I need to do is work my neck and my body fat will go down.

So body fat is an issue I’ve always found slightly annoying.  Every guy I meet seems to have a potbelly and claim to be at 10% or less.  I think people mostly only use this number to toot their own horn and brag expecting to impress you.  Yeah I’m at 5% now but I prefer to keep it at 0-1% because I look better.  I just smile and say sometimes I get so lean that I actually have a negative body fat percentage which sadly impresses more people than not.  First of all I think that body fat is only vaguely accurate and only good to judge your progress.  If the bf is calculated by the same person using the same method it might be a viable option to reinforce the fact that you have lost some fat.  I’ve seen so many different people take measurements with the calipers and no two people ever seem to grab the exact same amount of skin at precisely the same place which further amplifies the already +/- 2 % error.

While I doubt I’m actually 19% bf I do think I’m probably high teens currently and being taped off has really got me motivated to start getting in more training.  I’m usually just fine and dandy with 5 days of weights at high intensity and grab a run when my CEO, Princess, can watch Conan.  But lately I’ve been making it a priority.  As a matter of fact typically a bike ride and a couple runs is about it but in the past week I’ve already managed to run 6 times and I’ve been experimenting with running daily when my legs don’t refuse.

I’m pretty excited I stumbled upon a park that borders our home and has some nice double track suitable for a quick loop.  The only thing is my typical loop has about 500′ of elevation gain so it does a pretty good job frying my legs and until I get in my prime running shape I don’t know how often I can run it since my quads are always sore from climbing the hills.  I’m excited to see what my body can do in time.  I actually ran 3 days in row starting the day of my body fat test.  Surprisingly the third day I ran the loop the fastest, then I had to give it a day to recover.  The other great thing is I typically only run when I can get over to a nice nearby mountain bike park but it’s a five mile drive and I have to plan for my son’s childcare which in turn makes it a major enterprise.  With this new trail discovered I can simply walk out the door and run.  This cuts down on travel time and makes the CEO happy.

 

The moral of the story here is I want to trim a couple pounds and get myself some abs so I can scoff at being accused of 19% body fat.

 

Mar
18

Conan Gained Weight and I’m Outta Shape

It’s been three weeks since my race and I’m finding some new direction in my fitness lately.  I hit the gym hard the week after the race.  The following week it occurred to me that taking a week off from weights and cardio both would probably be a good idea after running a marathon.  It probably would have been an even better idea to rest the week immediately following the race but I always feel better lifting heavy on bench to somehow make my slower run time acceptable.  This week I started lifting again but with a difficult goal of hitting 10 reps in every set.  For so long I’ve gone heavy and 6-8 reps that 10 reps and less weight has been a great way to confuse my muscles and get them incredibly sore and hopefully growing again.  And this weekend I finally tried out my legs on a little run Saturday and a mountain bike ride today.

Conan just spotted his mom and decided to escape

I originally intended to run some trail solo, but in order to encourage Princess to trail run I volunteered to take Conan for a spin in the jogging stroller while she ran.  I figured it would basically be a light trivial jog and boy was I wrong.  First off it’s been several months since the stars aligned and I ended up pushing the jogging stroller.  Second, Conan has gained 5-10 pounds since I last consistently ran pushing him.  And last but not least the weather has suddenly warmed up from the 40′s to the 80′s.  Even factoring in all these small increases in the level of difficulty I’m a hard dog and didn’t expect to feel so out of shape.  I ended up having a good but challenging run.  My heart rate was way above normal jogging rate and into race pace levels.  In case you aren’t aware heart rate monitors are great for gauging what your actual exertion level is.  Some people never think about it but just for instance if you run down a hill at a given pace your heart will be working much harder to maintain that same pace going up the same hill.  HR monitors are useful because as the trail changes I often look down and notice my HR has dropped significantly and I can make it a point to increase my pace to take advantage of easier terrain.  Even better I’ll set a minimum heart rate alarm sometimes while training to keep me from slacking.  Since I was originally going for a trail run I was wearing my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes.  Trail shoes have less cushion since the dirt trails tend to soak up the impact whereas my usual Brooks Glycerins are padded for hard surfaces.  I swear I felt like one of those new super minimalist runners with my worn our trail shoes and felt every strike on the pavement.  Minimalist shoes are not for heavy people and I’ll take my extra soft Glycerin ride thank you very much(Check out my thoughts on running shoes).  The course is just an easy 3 miles with a few hills, but pushing the ferocious 3 pound teacup poodle Moo and my son Conan up the hills really gave me a good workout.  I finished feeling slow and worn out but as it turns out I shaved 3 minutes off the previous time I jogged that particular course with him.

So this afternoon I busted out my beloved Marin Mountain Bike and went for a ride.  I really understand why people invest in a nice floor pump because using my ultra light trail pump to air up 2 flat tires took forever.  After the eternal tire inflation I rode around out front a few minutes and you’d be shocked to hear that I didn’t wreck my bike or forget I was clipped in and fall over.  I even eventually figured out how to shift my gears again.  Surprisingly my brakes and shifters were still dialed in over the winter.  I was expecting my fancy hydraulic brakes to need to be bled.  Finally I headed  a few miles down the road to Chicopee, GA and took advantage of the awesome trail network there.  Chicopee is awesome because unlike some parks you ran ride some big loops without having to retrace your steps or ride multiple laps.  There is one main short loop with several larger loops of varying difficulty levels branching off from there.  I was in my first quarter mile climbing a hill when I realized my quads were already burning from the hill climbing.  I haven’t ridden in months and forgot what a workout you can get on a bike.  I ended up riding a quick 8+ miles ride without walking, mechanical trouble, wrecks or etc..  I did feel incredibly slow but having not ridden in months I shouldn’t expect to set any PR’s.  It was also my first time riding Chicopee and the trails really flow well.  I had a great ride and really look forward to getting back in shape and riding the trails with some friends who are much better riders than myself.

So the weather has turned here and I’m really looking forward to logging a lot of miles trail running and mountain biking in the weeks to come.  I know you all miss me posting more regularly and I’ll try and be a little more social.

Mar
01

Xterrra Fort Yargo 42K Thrill in the Hills Trail Marathon

Well this was the pinnacle of my distance running, a full fledged Trail Marathon.   I’ve been planning on running this race for months now and my training for it was laughable.  I did move right in the middle of prime training time and had to figure out new places to train.  I honestly never managed a run longer than thirteen miles in preparation for this race and that was the Saturday prior to the race when I ran one loop of the course to get familiar with it.  I hadn’t run there since the half marathon last February.  Up until the week of the race I was still considering only running the 13.1 but after seeing that last years results the average time was like 4:35 I figured I wouldn’t embarrass myself too badly.  I also have some very supportive friends one of whom told me “if you can run 13.1 you can do 26.2 miles.”  I took this to heart, even though looking back, if you can lift 300 pounds you probably can’t lift 600.  Anyway this positive comment and the high average course time made me feel like I could do it.  I’ve also always said I can run all day long if the pace is slow enough and here was a chance to put that statement to the test.

The day started great.  I had child care for my son Conan.  It was just me and Princess so the morning went much smoother than normal.  I was up at 5:30, earlier if you count Princess waking up at 4 to read for a while. I’ve been taking the Controlled Labs ReDuction the past month trying to get a little leaner for the race and weighed 213lbs when I got up.   I am very much a creature of routine and I try and stick to my morning routine on race days in particular.  So I continued my routine and grabbed a shot of ReDuction, followed by a whey protein milk shake, a bowl of oatmeal and a quart of water.  Pre-race nutrition was my usual pre-workout supplement stack and a couple packs of Sports Beans.  So before the race began I had already drank half a quart of milk and two quarts of water.  Also as for my routine I made sure to complete my weight training throughout the week and had a good long arm day on Friday in particular.

And they're off! Check out all the people starting their watches.

Wow, where to begin, last year there were only 45 participants and this year there were about 80.  The race started in waves with the full marathon runners starting at 8:00 and the half runners, over 400 of them, starting at 8:30.  The wave start was awesome and really helped alleviate the initial congestion the first couple of miles.  Last year I remember walking every time we hit a hill or turn in the first couple of miles. I arrived about 7:00 and it was already getting crowded.  There were at least half a dozen people helping with parking so it went smoothly.  I’m glad we got there when we did.  By the time the race started people were already parking a quarter mile or more away.  Race packet pickup was little disappointing because you were just handed your race bib, a t-shirt and a gel.  No goodie bag like normal.  It’s not like I usually do anything with the assorted stickers,brochures, and random flavored gu gels, but I still enjoy going through the bag.  I was also kind of sad the shirt was bright orange.  I was hoping it would be red like last year but to no avail.  There was a cool Motorola tent showing off their new ACTV fitness tracker watch.  They actually gave away 6 units to race winners which sure makes you wanna run faster.

Before I got on the trail still telling myself it won't be too bad.

It was a brisk 39 degrees this morning which was OK because I had actually felt pretty good on a recent run at that temperature.  I hate being too hot or too cold while I’m running if you’re uncomfortable it’s one more thing on your mind.  Call me OCD but I hate when you’re in the middle of a good run and then realize you’re way overdressed, a shoe is tied to tightly or too loose, a watch band suddenly seems too loose or tight etc., etc..  So for this race I was rocking a Brooks T-shirt, Brooks arm warmers, Mountain Hardwear wind vest, running hat and UA gloves.  Too much info for some, too little for others.  The cool thing about my setup is it’s adaptable.  I can raise and lower my vest zipper as it warmed up.  I also tend to shove my hat and gloves inside the vest for storage.  And the arm warmers are nice and versatile because I can shove them up or down or just tie them around my water belt.   When you’re running a couple of hours or more and the temperature is rising versatility is awesome.  Also sometimes I found myself with my vest zipped down and the hat off.  Other times like when I was up on a ridge line or running alongside the lake and the breeze was being chilled by the water I was zipped up and sporting my hat. I know some of you guys just throw on a t-shirt and freeze and roast alternately but not me.  In the Marine Corps we have a saying,” Pack light freeze at night.”  That game is for the young guys trying to look tough I’d prefer my comfort to looking like a hard dog who shivers while they run.

Race start was promptly at 8:00 and I’m always surprised by the number of runners who join in the race after the start.  The course starts off with a down and back loop on the asphalt before you turn off onto the trail about 0.75 miles into the race.  We were all parked in the first asphalt stretch and some people just waited for the pack to go by and joined in when they got there.   It seems funny that someone would invest the time to train for a race of this distance and show up late and not even run the course the way it was intended.  I’m big on teaching people not to cut corners, what can I say?  If someone is taking these shortcuts before the race starts what about when the going gets tough?

The course is single and double track running around the edge of the lake at Ft Yargo.  It’s 1,000 feet of elevation gain per lap so it isn’t for the faint of heart either.  As always if you can get off course you’re either a cheater or blind because dirty spokes does a great job making it very clear where to run.  In previous Xterra series races the trails had more roots and loose rocks and really worked your calves and ankles but I only managed one stubbed toe and a minor ankle sprain throughout the entire course.   The trails being primarily used for mountain biking means they try and get the most miles of trail out of a given area.  That said there were plenty of switch backs that led you up a hill only to come back down and run right back by your starting point.  I have to say the short cuts through the switch backs were harder to ignore the second loop around.  Every mile was posted and boy do you appreciate it.  There were 2 water stations in the middle of the course and another at the end before you start your second go around.

 

10 miles in just taking it easy

My plan for this race was mostly ‘just survive, finish it and don’t burn myself out too early’.  I’m not the most disciplined runner so normally when the race starts I take off and run with the faster runners until I can’t keep up anymore and then fall back to a moderate pace that I can maintain.  This race was different though.  I went out of my way to start in the back of the pack and focused on maintaining a slow pace that kept my heart rate down.  It’s a much different experience running an endurance race and trying to save yourself so you can actually finish.  Normally the distance is short enough that I can push myself throughout the race with no worries about finishing.  When the first half marathon runners started passing me it was hard not speeding up to match their faster pace.  Granted I would have just burned myself out but my competitive nature makes it hard not to rev my motor when the guy next to me does.  Guys you know what I’m talking about it’s instinctive.  Whenever I hit a big hill I did something against my grain and walked if my heart rate was getting high.

So the first lap was great.  I kept a steady ground eating pace albeit slower than normal and just ran my own race and ignored everyone around me.  The course was really pretty but when you’re running it’s harder to appreciate the scenery.  I started in the back of the pack so other than a few people who sprinted the first mile or so and then started walking I didn’t do too much passing.  I tried to break the race down into equal parts for purposes of nutrition and hydration.  I set my Garmin for a lap alarm every 2.75 miles and would eat a Clif Gel and drink one of my 8 oz amphipod bottle each time it went off.  Of course my Garmin Forerunner 610 isn’t exactly that accurate in the woods so it didn’t go exactly as planned.  I still hadn’t hit 2.75 miles on my watch when I spotted the 3 mile sign so I went ahead and ate.  Also if I was close to snack time and I found myself on a monster hill I went ahead and ate then rather than waste the time I was walking only to walk some to eat a short time later.  I guess I’m not coordinated enough to eat and run at the same time.  I’ve tried in the past and I always have a hard time not tripping over rocks and roots while I’m trying to open gels.  Luckily I can run while I drink and replace my bottles.

Around mile six I started getting passed by the half marathon runners and I’d say that ignoring them and continuing my race was the hardest part of the first lap.  I really wanted to pick it up and run the faster pace but I reigned in my testosterone and kept going.  I ignored all the water stations on the first lap.  I’m normally breathing so hard I can only drink out of my bottles.  And more often than not when I grab a cup of water I take a big sip and end up choking on it.  Hence I skipped the water stations and had my own fueling plan.

Coming in from my first lap

 

Before I knew it I was looking at the turn off for the half runners to head to the finish and there stood Princess with an assortment of gels, cookies, bananas, and a Gatorade to fuel me up for my second lap.  It only took me 2:33 minutes to complete the first half of the race.  I was actually pleased since last years half marathon time was 2:17 and I was pushing then.  This lap I was basically just jogging and taking it easy.  Overall I finished my first lap feeling pretty good about things.  I only managed to eat a banana and a pack of sports beans and drink a couple sips of Gatorade for nutrition.  I really wish I could have made myself eat more but eating in the middle of running is apparently a learned art.  My first lap felt really good.  I didn’t kill myself running up hills and getting my heart rate soaring like I do on shorter races so I wasn’t really that uncomfortable.  As I’ve tried lowering my running exertion level I’ve noticed my body doesn’t hate me as bad as when I’m sprinting and pushing myself to my max.  This may sound like common sense but I tend to push myself way beyond comfort more often than not when I’m running.  I’ve always felt like if you aren’t consistently training outside your comfort zone you aren’t going to improve.

Starting my second lap and considering whether or not to eat the photographer.

It warmed up enough to take off my styling running sleeves, vest and hat.  I even pulled my shirt off too but felt a breeze and realized high 40′s isn’t the time to run shirtless.  I also ditched my HR strap as the thing has become totally unreliable lately. So after walking with Princess while she handed me fresh bottles and gels I took off for round two.  The second lap is where you build character and truly earn the right to say you completed an Xterra Marathon.  The steep banks that you were able to sprint up the first lap suddenly leave you looking to grab a tree or root to pull yourself up.  There were a couple 6-8 foot embankments that would be a blast on a mountain bike but trying to run up them wasn’t as easy as riding down them would be.

The second half of the race was a mental and physical battle like I haven’t endured since the days the Marine Corps owned me.  The first mile wasn’t terrible but I could immediately tell I was already feeling spent before I even made it to mile 14.  What was really weird was I came upon a hiker or so I thought.  It was actually a race participant with 2 hiking poles and a hydration pack.  I didn’t see him at the starting line and he miraculously made it through the halfway point before me power walking.  I smell an integrity violator here but who knows what his story was.  I was probably rude because I actually asked him if he was out for a hike?  He was walking after all, but replied he was running in the race.  Obviously the second half of the race was when people were running out of steam.  I passed a half dozen people who were walking the course in the first 4 miles of the second loop.  I was really surprised to be passing anyone to be honest.  Every time I spotted a mile marker I calculated how many miles were remaining.  So at the four mile marker I found myself saying 17 down 9 to go.  And then I tried self talk logic that nine miles is nothing I run nine miles all the time.  It wasn’t as motivating as I thought it would be.

I swear the miles took years each and I was continuously scanning for the next mile marker.  I found myself walking on smaller and smaller inclines.  About 18 miles in I started noticing strange pains that I’ve never felt before.  My left quadriceps started tightening up like a guitar string and I began waiting to hear a snap.  Eventually the pain got so bad I had to walk a minute and stretch some to let it recover.  It helped some but before I knew it I was running a while then when the muscle cramp was overwhelming I had to rest it again.  Next thing you know my right hamstring starts cramping as well.  Before I knew it, I had numerous cramps and pain in my muscles.  It made me think  of doing an exercise til failure and then trying to continue even though the muscle is dead and totally spent.

I prayed fervently, cursed my shoes, and began to have trouble thinking clearly.  Of course it took me a while to realize this.  First I found my feet aching worse than they have in my entire life.  I began to consider throwing my shoes into the lake, as they clearly weren’t helping me any.  At about mile 21 I could actually look across the lake and see the finish line.  I then did some quick math and realized the lake couldn’t be more than 800 yards across at that point and with the water level low I probably wouldn’t be swimming the whole distance.  If I swam would they just think I was really sweaty or realize I swam the lake?  I haven’t swam in months though and my cardio capacity was way down at that point in the race so it seemed like a bad idea.  And then when I was having trouble adding up the 9 mile marker to the 13 miles I’d already run it occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking straight at all.  I was switching over into survival mode delirium.  I’m proud to say I didn’t take any short cuts though I could have shaved several miles off the course easily and I’ll admit as tired as I was it was tempting.  But what’s the point really?  I mean you race for yourself not for some magical race time that you wouldn’t have really earned anyway.  I’m one of those stubborn guys who would be mad for the rest of his life if he skipped so much as a yard of the course to make it easier.

So eventually I found myself staring at mile marker ten and thought “Ha I’m just an easy 5K jog from the finish line.”  5K is easy right you can run it in your sleep.  Well I was in so much pain that this had to be the hardest part of the whole race.  It’s as if each mile more pain was added even my Trapezius (middle of your upper back) muscles started cramping up.  And the pinnacle of pain was when a couple of toes on my right foot started aching, I think due to stubbing them a few miles earlier.  When my toes started hurting I began to walk with a limp and didn’t think I’d be able to run another step.  For a minute I really thought I would be walking the final three miles.  Eventually I either became accustomed to the new level of pain and found myself running again.  I found myself at an unmanned water station about mile 10.5 and thought yeah buddy Gatorade sounds good right now.  Of course I only found water in the three coolers.  Just after the water station I was startled to meet a jogger running against the course flow.  Right after the jogger a biker flew by me.  And then nothing but hills, more hills, and more pain.

Finishing at a run it's a miracle

The final three miles was difficult for another reason mile 10-11 drug on forever because I never saw the mile marker and then when I glanced at my watch I speculated It had to have been at least a mile since the 10.  The mile markers had been so reliable I just knew I was still trapped somewhere between 10 and 11 and just moving way slower than I thought.  As it turned out the biker who passed me had been collecting mile markers.  Then I began to recognize the course and thought I had to be in the final couple miles and stepped up my pace so I wouldn’t finish with a huge reserve.  You know the guy walks a 5K and then sets a world record sprinting the final 100 yards?  I didn’t wanna be that guy So I started tapping into my reserves that I had no idea were even there until I smelled the barn.  I found myself running as fast or faster than when I started the race.  I was surprised to find my legs working so well and my pain just faded away.  I passed a couple of people walking and accused them of stealing the mile marker signs since I hadn’t see anything after the 10.  I swear though I was running strong at this point if I had stumbled onto an 11 mile marker or even the 12 I think it would have been massively disheartening.  It seemed like complete insanity at the time and I’d bet money if I’d spotted the missing mile markers I would have slowed back down.  In my race finish photo I’m actually running fast enough to have both feet off the ground at the same time.  I still don’t believe it.  At the time I was wondering if I would collapse after the race or if I was about to have a heart attack.

So I finished in a ridiculously long 5:40 which shocked the heck out of me.  It shocked me because time was dragging so badly in my head that I thought I was closer to seven hours.  I was last for my age group which was 9th place but like 61 of 80 runners.  it’s hard to say how many runners there were and do you count the ones who quit?  According to my pit crew aka Princess some of the Marathon runners decided they were actually only half Marathon runners who started early when they reached the half way point.  Speaking of Princess, she had a great time people watching at the half way point.  She saw one guy take a 15 minute plus break in which he laid down and had a picnic lunch.  She wasn’t too happy to spot the friendly guy who was only wearing running tights and no undergarments for support.  And not to mention the guy who made everyone in his vicinity blush by how graphic his anti-chafing cream application was.  Apparently the little girls handing out water turned around and faced the opposite direction.

Overall I was pleased by how well my body held up.  So many people have told me “you’re too big to run that far” and I was expecting to lose consciousness  or hear a loud pop and suddenly have a permanent limp.  My joints felt great the whole time and I had no ankle or knee pain.  The only pain was muscle cramps and sore feet.  I really don’t think I ate nearly enough but eating while running is learned art I only managed about 200 calories an hour.  Had I gotten more calories I might have alleviated some of the cramps that plagued me the second half.  People could argue forever exactly how many calories they burn running but a couple of quick calorie calculators have me burning 4600 calories during the race.  I’m pretty sure the 1000 calories I took in was well short of what I needed.  As is, just going three hours without food leaves me with a headache.   At this point I don’t think I’ll be running another Marathon anytime soon.  I think I could shave a lot of time off with some better training and if I ate enough during the race.  Honestly I don’t want to risk dropping weight just to run a Marathon faster, a little fat is one thing but to sacrifice size for speed right now seems silly to me.

Please forgive my grammar.  My Editor Princess hasn’t had a chance to go through this yet and I hate to keep folks waiting forever while I get a degree in English.

Garmin GPS

Race Results

I survived and I'm somehow still on my feet for a photo

Feb
27

Marathon Survival!

Well I survived the Marathon.  I went into the race feeling sick as a dog running on nothing but determination and managed to get it done.  A race report is forthcoming.  The race really helped destroy my immune system and allow my cold to take hold fully because I’m still not feeling 100%.  I am however injury free except for a blister and a numb toe.  I went into this race having run no further than 13 miles in the year prior.  With that said I survived the race and I highly encourage a much more intensive training program than my “don’t run too much you might lose muscle mass” method.  I’m also excited to just run for fitness without a specific training goal for a little while.  For several months now I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the Marathon and now it’s behind me.  I’ve said it before but I really want to focus more on running shorter races faster.  Particularly getting a better two mile time for a higher PT score.

I’ve been fighting a pretty nasty cold since last week before the race and I may even decide to take this week off from the gym.  I hate to let a little cold and some running affect my time weight training though so we’ll see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll just push back my training schedule a day and see how I feel.  I’m always torn about training while I’m sick.  If you miss a workout every time you’re feeling under the weather it might be a little too easy in the future.  You know how quitters form a habit of quitting when the going gets tough?  Same concept.

Anyways I just wanted to post a quick update that I survived.

 

Feb
11

Marathon! Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Well I haven’t posted in a while.  I hate to post just for the sake of posting we’ve all got better things to do than read me writing the same old same old with nothing exciting to add.  I have however integrated a handful of new supplements and changed my training up a little bit in preparation for this month’s race.   I’m all signed up for the Xterra Thrill in the Hills Marathon just 14 days away.  I’ve been training up a storm in the weight room but I must admit that the cold rainy weather has killed my running the past couple weeks.  Between the cold weather and the rain I haven’t logged many runs outdoors lately.   I’m actually just trying not to think of the scary “Marathon” word since my longest run in the past few months was only 11 miles.  Just how many Clif Gels am I gonna need for such a ridiculously long run?  And let’s not forget what happened to Pheidippides after he ran the original Marathon back in the day.  He dropped dead after delivering the news of the victory.  That could be me!

So I took off this morning and ran 10 trail miles.  I felt pretty good and didn’t have any excessive pain.  I’ve only got 2 weeks before I have to put up or shut up and run the race.  I’ve been told it’s normal to be nervous about your first Marathon and to doubt your ability to run for such a long time.  I still have the nagging fear in the back of my mind telling me to call and switch my entry to the half marathon distance rather than the full.  I don’t have much of a race plan other than survive,  basically just take it easy don’t let my heart rate get too high and focus on a steady pace.  I’m running to complete the distance and don’t want to push too hard and burn myself out.  I’m also still trying to get a handle on nutrition for the race.  It seems like a fine line between eating enough to have energy and being bloated.  I’ve been downing a Clif Gel every 2.75 miles along with 8 ounces of water.  Then I’ll get some additional nutrition and extra water bottles at the halfway point when I start my second lap of the course.

I also invested in a set of those fancy Brooks Arm Warmers I mentioned in the past and had really good luck.  These things are super versatile and if I get too hot I can slide them down or take them off and rap them around my waterbelt.    It was 39 degrees out this morning and I ran in a T shirt, arm warmers, windbreaker vest, shorts and brooks running hat.  My only regret was not throwing on a light pair of gloves.  After a few miles my hands were warm enough though.  It’s really nice when even though you’re running in crappy weather you have your clothing dialed in so you’re comfortable.  I found myself alternately stuffing my hat inside my vest and putting it back on to help regulate my temperature a little bit.

I’ve been using the Controlled Labs ReDuction to try and trim a couple pounds before the race and though I don’t want to drop weight I’d love to run with as little excess baggage as possible.  I’ve also been training pretty intensively lately and I’m probably just overtraining a little bit.  However, I can’t help but think that at the ripe old age of 29 I may have lower testosterone levels than in the past so I’m trying out some Tribulus in hopes of increasing my test levels a little.  To be honest the Tribulus was only 20 bucks for 3 months supply and it’s also the number one natural testosterone booster on Bodybuilding.com so I figured why not check it out.  I’ve tried natural testosterone boosters in the past with no results.  I think in order for the natural test boosters to have any effect you have to be old enough to actually have lower test levels.  My wife “Princess” insists I don’t have low test but for 20 bucks it seemed worth a try.  Also, I’ve always been partial to drinking a quart of water with 2 scoops of Purple Wrath while I lift but recently switched to Purple PsyKO.  Apparently PW is supposed to be better suited to cardio and PsyKO for weight training.  Anyways I’ve noticed after adding the PsyKO that I’ve increased my volume enormously. I went from 17-21 sets to about 30 a workout.  I’ve just started these supplements and I’ll throw up a more thorough review once I’ve had a chance to get to know the products better.

Well, my apologies to those of you who were losing sleep at night worrying about poor little BeefTrain turning up missing.  While I doubt I’ll become a Marathon addict let’s just hope and pray I don’t become one of those crazy people who thinks Ultra Marathons are the only thing worth running.  Seriously, my body isn’t exactly designed for good gas mileage over long distances.  After this race I’m planning on changing up my training a bit to improve my PT score some.  Apparently my 2 mile run times aren’t overly impressive to the Military standard and the better my PT score the more exciting the schools they’ll be willing to send me to.

 

Jan
10

It’s On Like Donkey Kong!

Well with my Xterra Marathon by Dirty Spokes just 6 weeks away I’m really trying to step up my training.   Having just moved my running has been inconsistent at best.  I’ve finally given in and started training on the treadmill at the new gym which of course give me my much needed childcare.  While treadmill running is boring it’s so much easier than trail running that I’ve surprised myself by running some seven minute miles lately.  Of course being on a treadmill running that fast doesn’t count.  With my training regime being so poor lately I’m still not feeling completely confident about the Marathon distance.  A good friend told me if I have no fear of a half marathon then I should be able to run the marathon distance.  I appreciate the vote of confidence but when you analyze the statement it does have flaws.  I mean benching 350 doesn’t mean I can bench 700. I’ve got no doubts about the Half Marathon distance though so I’m gonna try and go the longer distance to face down the butterflies in my stomach.

And speaking of my stomach I’m tightening up my diet and increasing my cardio to try and lean up a little bit before the race.  For me  this means no more  Reese’s Ice Cream Sandwiches and no more Nestle Cookie Dough.  I do reserve the right to cheat occasionally, I mean the stuff is already in the fridge I wouldn’t wanna waste it.  I’ve also decided I’m going to try and start knocking out some runs earlier in the morning before “Conan” wakes up.  Lately it’s been wet a lot and getting dark early so by the time I have childcare it’s too dark to safely trail run.  So I may end up biting the bullet and logging miles on the treadmill and being limited to a long run on the weekend when the stars line up and the conditions are right.

Recently I watched the new movie “Warrior.”  I have to say I loved it.  The characters were complex and well developed and more importantly it inspired me to step up my training and increase the variety.  It has a few scenes of MMA combatants training for a tournament.  After watching it you can’t help but want to run some sprints, flip a few tires, and then beat on em with a sledge hammer.  Oh and you may try starting a fight at your gym.  It also makes me want to change up my training a little bit in 2012.  I may skip out on some of the longer distance races and instead focus on increasing my speed for the shorter races.

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