Use gravity

First, Kudos to TJ for running a 5:15 paced mile a couple of days ago.  Wow, that is amazing and he has been running less than a year.  He is really moving forward with his running.  Ah to be young again…

I have had some issues getting back to running which actually suprise me a bit.  I always have some pain becuase of my running, but not during my runs.  In fact, my back was really bad before the half marathon, but only when I wasn’t running.  While I was in my run, it never hurt.  Strange, I know.  Now, the second day back running 3 miles again, I have had two days with muscles pulling during my run that actually slow me down.  Yesterday, I thought I might have to stop during my run, but I got through it.  Another strange thing is now it is the opposite.  I hurt during my run and not after.  In fact, I have been running my first mile really slow, and my others at a faster pace, but still rather slow for me so I don’t think it is because of my warm up.

Half way through my run as I was starting to hurt, I remembered some things I used to practice that I had forgotten about.  To begin with, as soon as I hurt, I told myself to relax.  I let my shoulders down, I made my arms loose.  I even relaxed my jaw and forehead.  I relaxed my whole body, including my legs.  My feet started almost flopping on the ground as they hit.  After about a quarter mile of doing this, the pain went away and I was better.

It was then I had a flashback to the half marathon.  I was about 8 miles in (which was the hardest part for me because of some big hills) and a local runners club was on the side with signs and yelling encouragement to us as we went by.  One thing I heard and remember was, “use gravity”.  Oh yeah, I thought to myself, I need to use gravity.  I had practiced that a bit, but had forgotten during the race.  The idea comes (or at least I first heard of it) from Chi Running.  Although I bought a book about it, I admit I haven’t read it.  I have done Internet research on it though.  The main idea is to run tall and balanced and lean forward at your ankles allowing you to be in a controlled fall as you run.  Then as you move your foot under you to “catch” your fall, you move forward.  Basically using gravity to propel you rather than energy.  This makes running not only easier, but also prevents injuries since you are not using as much effort and putting strain on your muscles.  There is a lot more involved, but this is a quick summery of what I learned.  The main website is at www.chirunning.com, but you can search the net and get a lot of info from a lot of people about it.  I consider this the reason I have gone a year and only missed 2 planned running days from injury.  That says a lot coming from the out of shape old man that I was a year ago.

That is it for today.  My run today is going to be 3 miles.  It is to be warmer and the winds should be less than 20 mph that they have been the past two days. I am looking forward to that.

Day 8, mile 8

Today is the mid point of my diet.  It is not easy for many reasons.  I am hungry, tired and can’t run because I decided to take time off to recover and to lose weight. It seems to be almost impossible for me to lose weight while running.  I can cut back on what I eat or eat better foods, but eventually someone shoves a pizza in my face and the carbs are more than I can handle.

Yesterday was the roughest.  I have been on a physician weight loss diet for a week now and we had a presentation in our conference room at work with 10 large pizzas!  Ugh.  I sat and eat my apple and 4 oz of chicken and tried to ignore the aroma of pizza and the happy faces of coworkers as they devoured them.

If you consider my diet to be like a half marathon (funny how I now see everything in that light), I am at mile 8.  At the half marathon we just ran, mile 8 was my slowest.  It was the end of a long set of hills and the beginning of the decline.  It was the hardest part and it was also the point at which I stopped feeling my legs running and had the sensation of almost floating.  It wasn’t a fun “floating” either.  I was tired and running slower than at any other point in the race.

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As I mentioned, I am at mile eight in my diet/running hiatus.  It is rough.  I want to eat and I want to run.  But, as in the race, I have to keep my perspective.  I need to use this time to the full potential of the reason I began it.  I wanted to let my body recover from the workouts and the race and I wanted to loose enough weight to be a more efficient runner.  It is hard to run and keep good times in races at 5’9″ 195 lbs.  All the charts say I should weigh about 165 to be in the “normal range”.  I’m not stuck on that figure, but I also realize this is the best chance to get to a more reasonable weight.

Life is a race, whether we are running, dieting or just living day by day.

Running has taught me more than I thought I could ever learn from an “activity”.  It is truly amazing.

I love running.

Finish Strong

I have written in the past that with running, “The journey is the destination”. That is very true for me. When I run each day, I try to enjoy the journey to keep me from being bored or giving up.

However, in a race the finish line is the destination. During my first half marathon I ran last week, I remember thinking to myself, “pace yourself, but remember that the time you finish with will be what you look back on”. I wanted to “finish strong” and know that I did my best. I did. I look back on my hour and 44 minute finish and think, “wow, how did I do that?” It has been a week and I still am excited about it and it motivates me to go on.

Now however I am in the middle of a two week hiatus from running. I am resting my body and dieting to help get my weight to a place that will make my running easier and less painful. When I ran the half marathon I weighed 195 lbs. That was up from my average of 190 over the past six months. Don’t get me wrong, the run was great and better than I ever imagined I could have done. Just 2 weeks earlier I did a 13 mile run in my neighborhood and was thrilled with a sub 9:00 pace and last week I finished with a sub 8:00 pace. That still amazes me.

Now I am looking at a different finish line. Not a physical race, but a diet race. I don’t want to hurt myself obviously, but I want to loose as much as I can so I can look back and say, “wow, I really stuck to that diet and now I feel so much better”.

Life is a journey and the finish line is death. I want to always improve, grow, mature and finish this race with the grace God has given me since the day I was born. Just like a first half marathon, I only get one chance to live a life that I can look back on as I see the finish line approaching and say, “I have run well. I have helped others. I have accomplished everything I was put here to do”. As I cross the finish line I don’t want any regrets.

I run because my dad ran and my siblings ran and I was lazy and got fat. I run with my dad looking down on me cheering me on. He died almost 8 years ago, but he still influences my life in a positive way. Today is his birthday. Happy birthday dad. My running is my present to you. I hope I will make you proud!

I love my dad even more 8 years after his death. Now you know why I love running.

Tempo runs and hunger pains

I had a strange sensation last night as I lay in bed with my stomach growling on my 3rd day of my diet (and 3rd day off from running).  The hunger in my stomach was familiar in some way.  Of course I have dieted before and my Lovely Wife and I had both lost 85 lbs.  However I gained 10 lbs back over the past year and so I am doing the diet again over the next few weeks to try to get down a bit for running.

I digress.

As I pondered the fact that the hunger pains were not only familiar, but I also didn’t seem to mind them, I tried to make sense of it all.  Then it hit me.  Of course this is just my aged mind thinking and pondering, but in running, I have had the same feeling.  No, not massive hunger, but forcing my body to do what it did not want to do.  As we trained for our first half marathon, TJ had me doing tempo runs, steady state runs, hill runs and so on.  In doing these (especially tempo runs) I would feel horrible and my body would want me to quit.  I wouldn’t go to the point of hurting myself, but I knew that if I didn’t push myself further than I wanted to go, I would give up almost immediately.  This developed discipline in me that I credit, almost more than the training itself, to my success in my half marathon.  I have written before that running has a lot to do with psychology and now I am adding that running creates discipline (something I have never had).

So last night, as I felt hunger sweep my body and smelled dinner (baked ziti) cooking downstairs, it wasn’t dread or anger I felt, it was almost like an old friend coming to visit.  I understand that this diet won’t last forever and I won’t push myself too far.  I also understand that the hunger is working to improve my running as does a good tempo run. It is all the same discipline working on my behalf.

This is all philosophical, but it really made sense to me last night.  Of course, it could just have been that the hunger made me a bit delirious 🙂

I hate dieting, but I love running.

First half marathon recap – It was fun

I admit I was nervous going into our first half marathon.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  The only races we have run thus far were 5Ks and now I’m looking at the starting line of a 13.1 mile race with thousands of people crowding around me.

It was fun.

The first 6 miles were easy.  They were relatively flat and it was amazing seeing all those people running through the streets of Birmingham USA. I was encouraged that my app was continually measuring my pace around 8:00.  My goal was 8:2o so I figured I was banking some time for what was ahead.  Then the hills began.  In fact it was more like on long 2 mile hill.  Not really, but that is what it felt like.  The people around me went from talking and laughing to breathing hard and being quite.  It was tough.  I was beginning to pace closer to 8:30, but I told myself where there are uphills, there are downhills.  Finally the downhills started and I was able to pick up some time.  The downhills seemed to last a couple of miles also and I was feeling much better.  I was also getting back into the high 7 minute pace.

The final leg of the race was the toughest.  It was three straight flat miles.  There was a small incline for a while and then just flat.  I knew I only had a couple of miles left and knew that the time I finished with would be the time I would have to live with, so I picked up my pace.  By the time I turned my last turn and had a half mile to go, I was shot.  I somehow kept my time up though.  With the finish line 500 yards away, I gave it my all.  I ended up finishing in 1:44.  I beat my goal of 8:20 with a final pace of 7:58.  I could have cried.  A month ago as TJ and I were beginning our workouts (hill, tempo and steady state runs) I really thought 8:30 pace was a dream.  Here I finished at a time that if I could have done that for the 26.2 miles, I would have qualified for Boston!  Thanks TJ.  It meant more to me that you will ever know.

TJ, by the way finished at 1:28.  How great is that for a first half marathon.  I was so impressed.  RS, whom I was worried about since he had been hurt so much, ran in Vibram 5 finger shoes and not only finished, but ran it under 2 hours!!!

It was an amazing day.  Now some much needed time off.  TJ is already getting our training together for the Spring Scramble 5K.  It was the first race we ran in when we started running last spring and so it will be great to run it again.

Just so you know, I LOVE RUNNING!

Tomorrow – our first half marathon

Tomorrow morning at this time (as I write this post), we will be approximately 2-3 miles into our half marathon.  Wow, all this work will finally come to fruition for TJ, RS and myself.  It has been hard and fun and difficult at times.  I plan on taking it easy next week and then I am taking a week off from running starting next Friday.  It will be nice to recuperate and let my body heal.

I want TJ to know how much he has helped me getting to this point.  The workouts that he had me do have really been invaluable.  It has been fun when we run together and comparing notes at the end of the day.

I also am so impressed with RS.  He has had wisdom teeth out and about 4 running injuries in the past few months and he still keep plugging away.  It would have been easy for him to have given up, but he didn’t, he persevered.

I’m still not sure my lovely wife can come because of her back.  I hope she can, but understand if she cannot.

Anyone wanting to watch live at 7:00 central time tomorrow morning can here www.foxalabamalive.com

Thanks for all the support.

I love running.