THE WHYS OF THE UNWISE

Last week I announced my intentions on a new goal…the Sub 3 hour Mary.  Since then, the question has been asked: WHY?  At first, I am not even sure if I knew the answer to the question.  I knew I felt like I wanted to launch towards something.  Until this point, I have been happy to ramble around in a relatively unstructured running environment and just run whatever I felt on a given day.  This is not unlike how I have lived a large portion of my life.

I don’t believe in regret…I just think it is a bad way to go about your business.  You have to try your best and when you make mistakes you have to learn to live with them and try to atone for them to the best of your abilities.  Granted, I haven’t made any huge mistakes like the kind that land you in prison for 20 years but you know what I mean.  You can’t live in the past.  You have to keep moving forward…keep moving through the mistakes and learn from them so that you can make your today and tomorrow more relevant.  That being said, you can always look back at things that you might have done differently if you had the wherewithal at the time.

I look back on my youth and I think that I was blessed with some small amount of athletic talent.  I have decent endurance and I have a bit of tenacity.  Back then, that was enough to get me through.  I was pretty good at most sports and better than average at Cross Country Running.  At that time, it was good enough for me.  I enjoyed distance running because I was reasonably good at it without trying very hard.  I did well enough in regionals to qualify for larger races…but that was about it.  Now that I take my running semi-seriously, I am beginning to understand how little I pushed myself 25 years ago.  As alluded to earlier, I have no regrets.  I had fun in high school and was able to concentrate on other priorities like partying my ass off.  I made out alright then and am doing great now so there are definitely no regrets.  BUT maybe there is some unfinished business.

How on earth is running a sub 3 mary going to accomplish finishing any business you may be asking yourself.  It is just a number that has no relevance to anything.  3 hours is 3 hours.  It isn’t a qualifying time for anything.  It won’t put me into any kind of elite runner status (well maybe a bit.)  Nobody is really going to notice the 40 something year old guy chugging over the finish line in 2:58:15 or whatever.  All of this is true.  It isn’t about any of that.  It isn’t about some quarter century old vendetta against a race I should have won.  I think it is about me doing something that I didn’t have the balls to do “back in the day.”  It is about me trying my very best to accomplish something that is teetering right on the edge of impossibility.

I could have picked my goal to be the Boston Qualifying time for my age group (3:15 I believe.)  I didn’t pick that.  I didn’t because I feel reasonably sure that I can do it (with adequate training of course.)  I picked 3 hours because I am honestly not sure that I can achieve this goal no matter how much I train.  Throughout my athletic life I have always tried my hardest on game day.  I have always tried to gut out a great performance.  Sometimes I have succeeded and other times I haven’t.  To this point, though, I don’t believe I have ever given 100% into an athletic endeavour where it actually includes making the pre-game day sacrifices.  (I may have given 50% on occasion and maybe 75% once or twice.)

As I get older, I realize that I can adjust goals to suit whatever phase of life that I am in but if I am going to go for something pretty big like this particular goal there is no time like the present.  I ain’t getting any younger and the running game sure doesn’t get any easier as you get older.  So why am I shooting for this goal?  I am shooting at a chance for personal glory…perhaps a chance at some personal redemption.  I don’t know how this will turn out but it is going to be a fun ride.  Regardless of outcome, I know that I will achieve the goal of truly putting my everything into it.

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THE VIEW FROM HERE

Yeah…I am feeling more committed to the new goal as the days go by…and am finding it a bit more daunting of a task.  Funny because I can’t even see the finish line from here…it is more than a year away.  I have decided that the marathon that I am going to most likely run is the Amherstburg marathon.  There are numerous advantages to picking this one.  They are running this year’s version in a couple of weeks so I have at least a year to ready myself.  It is a flat and fast course that should offer me a good chance to hit sub 3.  The best reason is that it is reasonably close to home so I don’t have to travel at all…just wake up and drive there, kick some ass, and go home.  I like it.

I have officially started the process of becoming a marathoner.  As mentioned previously, my wife had placed a small stipulation on my marathon training.  I needed to get myself a family doctor and get a physical.  (As a side note: I don’t like much about going to doctors.  There are always sick people there and I hate waiting around…and they have “waiting rooms” there…where people wait.  It sucks.  Also, in my experience, most doctors really don’t know too much about the athletic side of life so sometimes their advice is a bit suspect.)  But I digress.  I have put the ball in play.  I went to the doctor yesterday and she has formally accepted me as a patient.  PHASE ONE IS NOW COMPLETE.  My physical is a week away so my little weekend project is to get my blood work done.  YAY!!!  Everyone loves getting blood sucked from their bodies.

However, I am well on the way to validating my good health and putting my wife’s fears of me heart attacking in the middle of a 26.2 mile run to rest.  It’s all a good thing.  Now it is on to the task at hand.  Preparing for something that isn’t going to take place for over a year is not one of my strong suits.  But the show must go on so I have begun to read about training programs and goal paces and Yassos and Galloways and Daniels and Higdons and plans and preparations.  It is all a bit much…especially when you start looking at how fast you must run shorter events in order to predict a sub 3 finish in a marathon.  Somehow, telling myself that all I have to do is run over 26 miles at around a 6:50 pace seemed a lot less daunting than looking at the times different entities think I should be able to run a 5k or a 10k in order to achieve my goal.  Aye Carumba…this is scary shit.

My wife uses an expression: “How do you eat an elephant?”  “One bite at a time.”  As with many monumental tasks, this one will be made easier by breaking it up into chunks.  So, while I research the course that I will eventually take to train for the race, I need to work on a few things.  

1) BASE TRAINING:  I really do need to bump my weekly mileage up to a new level.  I want to work in a bit of speed work every week or so but my main goal here should be to slowly increase my mileage so I can get comfortable with things.

2) LOSE 10 POUNDS: I know…ridiculous that a runner should have to even entertain the idea of dieting but, damn it, I just think that my body will work more efficiently if I drop a bit of weight and get a bit leaner and meaner.

3) LEAN OUT: Yep…it’s more than a dietary thing.  For a runner, I am a total lazy ass.  I want nothing to do with any kind of extra training or workouts but, alas, it needs to happen.  I am going to have to force myself into better shape.  I am going to start out small and see what happens.  Maybe pushups and some crunches and we’ll go from there.  I just need to start getting used to something on a regular basis.

4) THE STRETCH: You may remember that I am totally lazy.  Stretching takes time so it is really hard for me to commit to it…but it feels so good and it makes for a healthier runner so, once again, it is another lifestyle change that I am going to need to make.

That’s it for now.  I have a doctor.  My physical will be done soon enough.  I have a loose plan.  AND I AM GETTING EXCITED ABOUT IT ALL.

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The Goal

Goals. What is the point of having a goal if it is going to be easy? Anybody can accomplish the entirely possible. It is the seemingly impossible that presents a goal worth striving for. I have never run a marathon before. I have run in the 20 mile range on occasions but have never branched out to the 26.2 mile barrier. Part of this was as a promise to my wife that I would get myself a doctor and get a physical before I ran or trained for any marathons. Part of this was probably due to my inability to focus at times.
For the last five or six days I have taken a bit of a break from running. I did a little vacation with the family and rode some water slides and roller coasters. I have let the legs rest up and heal up a bit. I have also done a little thinking. It should surprise no one that I am highly distractible (and am perhaps afflicted with ADHD…but whatever.) In the past I have celebrated my disorderly conduct by trying to glorify my lack of goals or ambition. It hasn’t been entirely detrimental. I have achieved a lot and certainly haven’t been lazy about my uncertain abilities. I have just lacked the focus to REALLY follow through on a specific goal other than to run a whole lot because I like it. What was I talking about? Oh yeah…thinking. Anyway, I was thinking about maybe focusing in on a running goal.
I started thinking about running goals. I started thinking about the things people have told me that I have found impressive. I really love running the middle distance events and I like the philosophical nature of the ultras but my brain keeps circling around 26.2. I thought about where I was in my running life and what a reasonable marathon goal would be. My first thought was to shoot for a Boston Qualifying time. This is no easy feat. For my age group, I would need to run a 3:15. That would definitely be an impressive accomplishment. It would certainly land me in an elite group to have even qualified for what is probably the most storied foot race in the world. I thought about the possibilities. Would I be able to put together a marathon in that kind of time? My answer to myself was YES. Bad answer…should an ultimate goal really be felt to be a relatively sure thing? I say “felt to be” because I really have no idea how fast I can run a marathon right now and, therefore, have even less idea where I will be once I have trained for one. However, the unknown is neither here nor there…I want a goal where there is not a feeling of surety. I want a goal that will push me to the edge of limits. I want a goal that I feel will put me into the upper echelon of marathoners. I WANT THE THREE HOUR MARATHON.
I don’t know if I can meet this goal. I don’t even know if I have what it takes to get a Qualifying Time for Boston. I do know that it will be difficult and that it will require months of training. I do know that, regardless of whether or not this goal is met, I will have a good time trying to get there and I will be a stronger runner at the end of it all.
I believe that I have picked my marathon. It is about a year away so I have plenty of time to train/think/run/bonk/win/lose/ruminate/pontificate and so on about it. I have put the ball in motion on the doctor front and have booked an actual appointment to have a meeting with one of the local docs. And now I have made my Goal Mission Statement. All that is left to do is run.

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LUNAS: THE PREVIEW

Where do I begin with my review of Lunas?  I guess I start a few months ago.  I was running a lot…every day.  I was at DAY 74 (which was the last day of the streak but my first day towards recovery and the first day towards purchasing my Lunas.)  The pain in my foot was not getting any better and I knew that my run streak would have to end or I would risk really hurting myself.  It turns out I had a stress fracture and that was making my runs highly uncomfortable.  I was sad to bring the streak to a close but my foot needed to heal.  This was the beginning of my personal minimalist running movement.

I did what I do when I am hurt and I can’t run.  I read books about running or, more specifically, I read Born to Run for the fifth time.  I reflected on my running and what I hoped to achieve.  I over thought everything…because that is what I do when I can’t run.  It is a wonderful combination – reading, over thinking, and not running.  You never know what will become of it.  What became of it was that I started thinking more and more about my running.  I read again about Barefoot Ted and the Tahumaras and their lesser footwear.  I thought about my own running philosophy.  I asked myself what I wanted from my running.

I decided that I wanted a more organic running experience.  I was seeing other runners passing my house and it seemed that they were all about “more.”  More equipment, fancier shoes, and more help to get them to where ever they wanted to be.  I wanted to be more about “less.”  Less crap and less on my feet…and less money going to shoe companies whose advice is to switch shoes every 300 or 400miles.  That is insane…that is four pairs of shoes a year for me.  “They” say that once your shoes wear down you run a greater risk of injury.  What kind of trash are “they” talking?  I suppose it is all about the money and their business seems to self generate all kinds of that…the more you run, the more shoes you need and the more money you need to spend.  Do you really run risk of injury in older shoes?  Do the shoes make you a better runner?  Do they make you faster?  I don’t know the answer to any of these questions but something in the back of my mind keeps telling me that the answers are all NO. 

What makes a good runner?  Not shoes.  I think desire, joy, strength, and endurance make a good runner.  You can’t buy those things.  I decided that I would embark on a different journey.  I wanted to make my legs and feet stronger so that I could battle injury better.  I wanted to learn to rely on my own muscles to absorb the constant shock of running instead of relying on spongy shoes to do it for me.  AND I wanted to do it by going back to basics.  I looked at numerous minimalist shoes and other footwear and eventually decided that the Lunas were for me.

I liked the Lunas’ natural approach to running.  All they are is a piece of rubber attached by simple straps to your feet.  I liked that they were inspired by the Tarahumara tribe’s sandals and they run for life so they must know a thing or two about what to put on your feet.  I eventually chose the Mono (Spanish for monkey) sandals.  They are 12mm of rubber attached to your feet by the Luna strap system.  They employ something called MGT (Monkey Grip Technology) to avoid slippage.  Other than that they just look like a basic pair of flip flops.

My first run in the Lunas was not my best run.  I had been off for six weeks to let my foot heal and I had lost a good amount of endurance and fitness.  I took off for a short 2 miler.  I had to stop several times to readjust the straps.  My foot steps made that horrible slapping sound of rubber smacking pavement.  I wasn’t sure what I had gotten into.  However, that first run contained some major gains.  I had adjusted the straps to where they should be.  I haven’t had to readjust since (and it has been about a month.)  I also learned a little something about form.  That slapping sound, I think, was due to my poor form from running in shoes and becoming reliant on the shoes to cushion my foot falls.  My next run was very quiet as I modified my form and went with lighter, shorter steps and higher turnover. 

Now I am a month in to running with the Lunas and things couldn’t be better.  My form has been greatly improved and I feel like my lower legs, feet and ankles are getting stronger by the day.  My runs are getting longer and faster as my endurance and speed is coming back and the sandals feel like a natural extension of my feet.  My last run felt incredible…it was the best run I have had in ages.  I felt like I was flying.

There are absolutely no negatives to my Lunas.  I feared that chafing due to the straps would be an issue but I have not had a single problem in that area.  The quality is fantastic…they really do look like they will last forever.  These sandals are exactly what I wanted when I was thinking about going minimalist (unlike so many expectations we have for items we purchase, the Lunas have met and exceeded all of these and more.)  They are a lightweight yet rugged sandal and I look forward to seeing how many miles I can log on them.

WARNING: Yes…I said warning.  If you are new to minimalist running, TAKE IT EASY AT FIRST.  You can’t go out in these guns a blazing.  You will tear up and toast your calves and Achilles.  It’s all about the baby steps.  I am still experiencing these baby steps but my Achilles is really starting to let me know when I am biting off more than I can chew.  OTHER WARNING: My feet fell right on the cusp of two different sizes for the Lunas.  I opted for the larger size.  I could have easily gotten away with the smaller size.  That would be the only thing I would have done differently.

One further note on these sandals.  They look great too.  The other day I was out for a run.  Coming from the opposite direction was a local running group.  They were being led by two women.  As we exchanged morning pleasantries, I noticed the two women do a complete and obvious double take when they saw my Lunas…and then the jaw of one of the women actually dropped.  I am looking forward to my first race in them so I can see more jaws dropping as I pass people.

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TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW KICKS

They say you can’t teach an old dog new kicks.  Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and my return from injury / conversion to minimalist running and things are going swimmingly.  However, all that you have heard about making the decision to changing to running minimalism is true.  There is definitely a learning curve but it is rewarding.  My six week layoff coupled with the change in running philosophy has forced me to begin almost at ground zero.  I still have a nice foundation as a runner but my endurance and speed just is not there yet.  But all it takes is time.

Where do I start with my last two weeks of running?  How about my new footwear?  This isn’t a full report on the Lunas but so far I am impressed.  It is not as different as I expected but at the same time it is.  It’s complicated.  Running is still as natural as ever but, at the same time, my stride is changed as I am now forced to land slightly differently.  I am noticing that my fore foot/toes land first but microseconds later the rest of my foot is on the ground…then I am up faster than before.  I don’t know too much about turnover but it does seem like I have more turnover now.  I can definitely feel that I am engaging different muscles in my calves, ankles, and feet.  Days after runs usually begin with soreness that shakes out after 15 minutes as I build the lower part of my legs and feet back up to snuff.  Fortunately, I have spent the last 15 months running in Kinvaras which only have a 4mm drop so the conversion to zero drop isn’t horrible and my Achilles haven’t been acting up.  I have been straining my calves but that seems to be dissipating  as I get stronger.  It has not been a seamless transition but it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I was afraid it would be.

Now, the other main difference is ground feel.  I know run with less than a half inch of rubber between my feet and the ground.  I feel the earth more so than ever and find that my toes are constantly flexing and grabbing on uneven ground…and it is really cool.  I am beginning to understand  the minimalist/barefoot fascination with having as little as possible between your feet and the ground.  It is a much more organic experience.

Where do I stand on the minimalist experience so far?  I am enjoying my foray into minimalism.  Philosophically, I like it for a number of reasons.  I enjoy the feel of being a bit more natural in my running experience.  The feel of the ground under my feet and the wind on my toes is fantastic…just like when you are a kid and realizing you have speed to play with on the fields.  I also like the idea of being less tied to the ultra pricey running shoe industry.  I know that my Lunas were not free but I also know that, being just a piece of rubber, I can basically run them until they fall off of my feet.  I plan on finding out how many miles I can put on them.  I am also enjoying the fact that I am becoming stronger.  I have read numerous times that a lot of college running coaches like their athletes to do barefoot days every week to concentrate on form and strengthening.  I totally get that now.  Even if you don’t have any interest in going minimalist, I would recommend barefoot or minimalist days too. 

On to the comeback trail.  I have heeded the warnings and have been taking it slowly.  In the past couple of weeks I have gone for six runs totaling a whopping 22+ miles.  I went for my first “long” run last night…and let me tell you, five miles has never felt so much like an ultra before…ok…I exaggerate – it was not that tough.  I took last night’s run nice and slow.  It was great.  I can slowly feel the endurance coming back into the equation…now I just need the speed to come back along and I will be in good shape.  My pace has been anywhere between the 7.5 min. mile mark and the 9+ min. mile mark.  I am still a good way off from racing condition but the pace will drop as the days go on.

I hope all is well out there in the world of running for everyone.  Run free and strong, my friends.

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A NEW BEGINNING

Hi.  Welcome to the new blog.

I figured I would start up a new blog as I plan on re-inventing my running life…new running life…new blog.  Why call it the Rum Bum Diaries?  I guess I just figure that is the general state of my running life.  I am kind of a run bum.  I run as much as I can but rarely have any direction.  I don’t really race much.  I just kind of bum around…at a faster pace than I would if I was walking.  I plan on giving a weekly (give or take) report on my “training” or lack there of.  Generally, I have crazy thoughts or encounters with animals or fall down or something in any given week so there is always the chance that my reports could be somewhat entertaining.  I will also review any new products that I use in the course of my running adventures as well as review any running books that I have read.  Hopefully, the blog will turn out to be entertaining and give people a chance to learn from my mistakes or (every once in a while) my successes in running experimentation.

Where is my running at these days, anyway?  Well…it has been non-existent.  I have spent the last 6+ weeks recovering from a stupid stress fracture in my right foot.  This extended time off allowed me to catch up on sleep, re-read Born to Run, and order up a pair of Lunas (the minimalist sandals inspired by the Tarahumara tribe of running people featured in Born to Run.  As luck would have it my sandals arrived yesterday…perfect timing as this is the week I had planned to begin my comeback. 

This morning I woke before the crack of dawn and headed out for an easy short jog with the new foot wear.  I am not prepared to give a full report on the Lunas yet but I will talk about the morning run in them.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got up this morning.  I know I have gotten fatter in the past month and a half but I wasn’t sure how much fitness and endurance I had lost.  I also was not 100% sure if my foot was fully healed or if there would be any residual problems.  It turns out that there wasn’t much to be concerned about.  Even with several stops to adjust the sandals and a slow pace I was still around an 8.5 minute mile pace (under 5 minute/km).  I am not sure where my endurance is at because I really didn’t test it out today.  Today was all about breaking a sweat and figuring out the Lunas.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  I didn’t have that whole cathartic feeling of busting free of injury and flying through my first run but things felt good and right.  At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.

 ImageThis is the package that I waited for what seemed like forever.

ImageHere are the new Lunas and my new bumper sticker….sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

ImageThose are my feet in my Lunas.

Where do we go from here?  MORE RUNNING.  Yes, I plan on taking it slow and gradually building up but more running is definitely the plan.  So that’s it for now.  Until next blog time, run strong and run free.

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