RR #27: Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k

I thought that Ragnar DC was going to be my last run for a while.  My plan had been to run that event, enjoy myself, and then take some time off from running to focus on some CrossFit goals.  I like how running makes me feel, but sometimes the actual doing of the thing is not my favorite.  And then, I ran Ragnar DC, and the curious thing that happens when you get around other runners having a good time … happened.  We started talking about the next events we want to run, the next races.  We started making plans.  And the next thing I know, I’m signing up for races.

I ran the Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k last year.  That was my first real attempt at getting back into running shape and running a race.  That 2016 Pancake Run represented my first “serious” race in over two years.  And I had a good run – I missed a PR by a minute or so, which was still a good outcome for me.  The race was pretty well run, though small, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was raining and not a generally nice day.

My sign-up for the Pancake Run this year was prompted by two things.  First, I thought I was capable of finally breaking through the 30 minute barrier in a 5k.  The fat guy holy grail of a sub-30 minute 5k had eluded me now for several races, and this looked like an opportunity to get it done.  For whatever reason, 5k races don’t make my calendar much anymore.  Since that Pancake Run last year, I have run three 10ks, two half marathons, and a Ragnar … but no more 5ks.  This was a chance to see what I had. Read more

RR# 26, continued: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 2

This is part two of my Ragnar Washington DC race report – if you haven’t read part one, you should click on this right now to head over there and read that first.

When we left off, we were pulling into Exchange #12 for our first break of the event.  The exchange was at a high school, and I have never seen so many white vans in one place in my life.  People everywhere.  The school had a spaghetti dinner they were selling as a fundraiser, and access to showers, as well, so there were some nice amenities.  There was also a big shady area back behind their tennis courts where everybody was taking sleeping bags to go lie down … a sea of runners, in repose. Read more

RR #26: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 1

OK – it is time.

Let’s talk about Ragnar.

So … last Thanksgiving I ran a 10k (still stands as my 10k PR, ahem) with my sister-in-law and very good friends who’s house we were crashing in the DC area.  Great morning, great race, really had a good time.  During the drive, somebody mentioned a Ragnar, and it turned out that none of the runners in the van had ever run a Ragnar … except me.  A sister had, but other than that no direct experience.  And everybody just casually said what a great idea it would be to do one of those things one day, and wouldn’t that be fun?

Yeah – I tend to be the type that actively tries to move things from talking to doing.  Especially at that time, I was reading a book that really had me thinking hard about the choices I was making and what I wanted to do with my time and energy.  So the week after Thanksgiving, after stewing on the idea for a few days, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen if somebody didn’t take the ball and run with it … so I sent an email out and volunteered to be captain.  By the second week of December, we were signed up for Ragnar Washington DC, to be run in late September, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, DC. Read more

Race Report #25: Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

This is part 2 of my Dark Side Challenge at the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend.  If you want to read my review of the 10k, you can find that here.

Okay!  When last we met, I was finishing up the Star Wars Dark Side 10K and then going to run another mile and a half chasing my kid around an inflatable obstacle course with a camera.  That was fun!  Really!  Enough that it requires multiple exclamation points!  But, it did leave me with a couple of challenges going into the second half of the Dark Side Challenge – the half marathon.

I was not, when I was chasing him, wearing running or technical equipment.  I didn’t have my compression shorts on.  And (and there is no way to do this but just to spit it out and get it over with) – I hadn’t prepared my nipples.  And though I didn’t leave that event actively hurting (other than my throbbing feet) … I did feel a sensitivity in the force, if you know what I mean.  Some gingerness in the upper thigh region.  A little scratchiness on the man nipples.

I had allowed myself to start chafing, is what I’m saying. Read more

Race Report #24: Star Wars Dark Side 10K

This is part 1 of my Dark Side Challenge race report – you can see the half marathon review here.

Hi.  My name is Matthew – and I’m a Star Wars nerd.

I own that.  Really own it.  And so it was a natural fit to make my first runDisney race … the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.  But, in a fit of optimism brought about by a 10K PR on Thanksgiving, I did something that may seem foolish.  I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge.  This means I signed up for a 10K on Saturday AND a half marathon on Sunday.

Yikes.

I’m going to break this up into two posts – I’ll talk about the expo and the 10K in this one, and then the half marathon in the next one.

Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), runDisney races are a big deal.  People come from all over the world for a chance to run through the different parks and take pictures with the themed characters.  Several characters come out especially for these races – you don’t see them at other times.  They estimated 14,000 people started the 10K – looks like just under 11,000 finished – and then 20,000 for the half marathon.  Even though many of those are the same people that ran both races (like me) – that’s still a ton of folks.   And, in typical Disney fashion, they’ve got it very well organized. Read more

Race Report #23: Celebration Half Marathon

When I registered for the Celebration Half Marathon, I actually viewed it as more of a training run than a goal race.  I’m registered for the Gasparilla Half Marathon in late February, and I had registered so early that I believed I could get in a “practice” half marathon and still have time to recover for a real push at Gasparilla.  Also – I live in Celebration.  It felt like if I were going to be doing a 12 or 13 mile training run in town, I might as well get a medal for it.  All indications are that the race is very well run and very runner friendly … so I signed up.

Training went well.  I’ve clearly gotten faster, which I attribute largely to endurance gained with Crossfit.  My taper was very non-traditional – two weeks before the race I ran most of the actual course, about 12.25 miles by the time I was done.  And then I didn’t go for another formal run for those two weeks.  I went to Crossfit 6 days a week, and that often included running, but at no time did I go out for a run.  For dinner on Saturday night I made a chicken barley soup and homemade bread to carb up, and called it a taper.  My prior half marathon PR was 2:36 flat – my stated goal going into this was a PR, my secondary but really no-brainer goal was under 2:30, my stretch goal was under 2:25, and in my wildest dreams I hoped to get under 2:20. Read more

Pictures!

Quick update to the race report I did for The Florida Run 10K that I ran back in November.  They posted pictures!  I’m a sucker for pictures.  Not really any super good ones of me, I don’t think, but I wound up with three.  I’m going to go back in and put them into the race report itself, but wanted to put them here since they’re new.

Pictures!

results%2f2350bfa8301645cdadc5%2fdsc_4848At the starting line.  You can see this was a small race, though they were very well organized.  This picture is a little Where’s Waldo, but with me.  I’m in here, though…

results%2ffd09f4213c124352bfda%2fdsc_4880

Right after the start.  I really struggle with relaxing my arms – they always wind up high and tight like that unless I’m focusing on it.  I don’t know why, and I feel like I’ve done a much better job of working on it when I’m training.  But, especially when I am having to focus on other things (like a race start), they go back up there.  I’ll keep working on it, but I’m also open for ideas.

Incidentally – that guy in front of me was one that I marked early as “want to finish before him”.  Not sure why him, but there you go.  I stuck with him for the first mile or so, and then he left me behind. I figured that was that, until about mile 4, when I passed him as he was walking up a hill.  I never had to drop into a walk, and I never saw him again.  It was roughly there that I realized I had a very good race going.

results%2f17543b728c0a4939bc77%2fdsc_5483-1

Not too often you get pictures from the back like this.  Look at those calves!

I linked to the full race report in the first line of this post, if you’re interested.

Pictures!

RR #21: The Florida Run at Lake Louisa State Park

Update – 12/19/2016 – the race published pictures!  I talked about each individual picture here, but I want to come back in and put them into this post for anybody that might be looking for reports on this race.  Pictures!

Here’s how the website describes, in part, The Florida Run at Lake Louisa State Park:

Known as one of Central Florida’s more challenging and unique races, the course will take runners on paved surfaces, dirt trails, grass trails and some sand.

Lake Louisa State Park is in Clermont, Florida, about a 30 minute drive from the house.  I was worried about timing for my traditional pre-run oatmeal, so I had my coffee and a bowl of cereal, snagged a couple of Lara bars, and headed out.  I have visited the park before – and I hit the gate at about 6:20am for an 8am start.  Normally the park opens at 8am, but they make an exception on race day.  I made my way to the back of the park and headed over to the lakeside bathrooms for a quick break … and saw this – which is a sunrise that you normally don’t get to see:

2016-11-12-06-39-44

Read more

Process and Tools

What a boring-as-hell title for a post.  Even better? This post contains screenshots of Excel spreadsheets!

You’ve been warned.

I had a conversation this morning with a guy at the gym (box?  Nope … still can’t call it a box) that made me realize I’ve never talked about my thinking around how I structure the physical part of my weight loss, and the tools and processes I use for tracking that.  One of the tenets of a SMART goal, and really business in general, is that your progress and results be measurable.  A rule of thumb that I use in my career is that you get what you measure – if you are not measuring a particular outcome, and creating action items based on that measurement, you will not get the outcome you want. It just doesn’t happen.

Now – I’m a finance guy.  Which also means I’m a process and measurement guy.  That is what I do.  Exercise and weight loss is a very data-rich environment.  I’m a hammer, this is a nail.  So – I made some plans and built some tracking and measurement goals against them.

First, and most obvious, is that I have to measure the weight loss itself.  I talked about this in the Goals post that I did, but it is worth revisiting.  If I am not weighing myself regularly, then it is easy to backslide.  If I weigh myself too regularly, then I’m likely to be regularly disappointed by daily, water-based fluctuations in the number on the scale.  I also need to see long-term benchmarks, so that I can have some perspective if I have a bad week or a very good week.  So:

Measurement technique #1:  Weigh myself weekly.  Thursday or Friday (depends on which day I’m home after my workout).  I like to do it after a workout or run, because that helps cut down on water fluctuations.  Then track that weight.  This is what it looks like when I input the weight, starting from when I started Crossfit:

Weight Table
“Straight-Line” is my benchmark weight based on a pound-a-week weight loss

And this is what it looks like visually (updated with last week’s weigh-in):

Weight Chart

Next, it is time to start thinking about exercise.  I need to balance a few things here.  First, I want to exercise as much as I can without taking away from my family time at all.  I have a 4-year old and a 1-year old, and I see them for about an hour and a half a day on a weekday, and then weekends.  I don’t want to give that precious time up.  So, I work out in the mornings, and I work out during the week.  When I started a few weeks ago, I was working out Monday – Friday; beginning last week, I have also added a Saturday morning long run that usually finishes before the rest of the house wakes up.

I also need to balance the activities themselves.  Before, when I lost all of the weight, I was only running.  That’s fine to a point, but is not complete.  I want my body to be more efficient and have a kind of strength that is more broadly functional.  But I am not good at cross-training.  Enter Crossfit.  When I started a few weeks ago, the idea was to go to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday, and run on Thursdays.  Then add in the long run on Saturdays.  And then, as I got closer to goal races, swap out one of the gym days for running days.  That schedule is flexible for business travel & vacation, and has also changed around a bit since I’m not going into the gym on testing days for the new levels system.

The key here, though, is to plan this out as far in advance as I can.  There is a whole line of thought in economics about how to make the long-term planner in you commit the short-term do-er in you to do things it might not particularly want to at the time.  One trick is called a commitment device, and mine is a calendar that I have planned out all the way through any upcoming goal.  It looks like this:

Calendar

And this is planned out this way all the way through the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon at the end of February.  I color code things – you can see when I mark something as having been completed – and generally use this to be able to mentally prepare for what is coming and also adjust for any changes in schedule.  Importantly, this keeps me tied to daily exercise.  As an example, my calendar shows that I have not missed a weekday workout in over 16 weeks.  That has reached a point that any blank space on this thing is going to be a glaring failure for me going forward – and so, when the alarm goes off, I get up.

So now what is left is tracking the exercise itself.  My spreadsheet has not yet evolved to track the numbers associated with Crossfit.  Two reasons for that – one is that they can be a touch hard to track, and another is that the gym uses a service called Wodify that does a lot of that for you.  As an example, this morning we did a 15 minute 3-rep Power Snatch EMOM at 70% (yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but it sure sounds hard).  When I log what I did for that, I get this – which I can refer to the next time it is time to do Power Snatches:

Power Snatch Performance

And then there are the runs.

I use a Garmin Forerunner 410 that I’ve had for a few years now – I like it; it works.  I use MapMyRun to plan out distances.  And I use training schedules from people like Hal Higdon to figure out a basic approach to training for things.  And then I do a couple of things.  Each time I run, I log it:

Run Log
I have this going all the way back to my first run in 2012. Sometimes it is fun to go back through and read the Notes…

This allows me to do several things.  First, it is a place to keep thoughts and look for patterns in terms of things like injury, etc.  Second, it allows me to track my weekly mileage and my speed improvement over time.  Third, it allows me to track total mileage on my shoes and just in general.  So, it allows me to do things like this:

running mileage chart

And this:

Shoes

So that I know where I am at any given time and can see patterns.

I know there are many other things that could be tracked here.  One of the reasons I have not gotten a heart rate monitor is that I know that an influx of data like that could be dangerous for my tendency to over-analyze.

There are downsides to all of this, of course.  Anymore I feel like I can’t go for a run if I don’t have my Garmin – it is almost like it doesn’t count.  That is a silly, but very real, consequence of wanting to have all of the data to crunch.  There is also a time element to this, though most of the time is spent in the initial setting-up of the spreadsheet.  Now that I have it, in general this is pretty seamless.

Anyway – that’s how I do it.  Would love to hear how you do it.  And also any suggestions for extending this kind of analysis and measurement to food.

Running in Public

As mentioned, I was on a work trip to Washington DC last week, and the week prior to that I was on vacation in Delaware. There has been a fair amount of traveling this year, with several trips down to Florida before we moved, and some of the ins and outs of taking a new job that lives in a sales department.  On each and every one of these trips – including the last two weeks – I brought running gear.  Shoes, clothes, Road ID, hat, headphones, the whole getup.  I was ready for it.

And I can count on one finger how many times I actually went for a run.  In the last two weeks, that number was zero.

These last two weeks have been strange, because in both cases I was in a place that I ordinarily would have been excited to go running in.  In Delaware we were less than a mile from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk (and beach), and in Washington DC I was about a mile from the Washington Monument.  So the beach and the National Mall – two spectacular places to run, particularly in the early morning hours that I typically go. Instead of rocking it, though, I stayed up too late and ignored my alarm in the morning. I just didn’t go.

The failure was so real that I was forced to do some reflecting on it, to try and pin down what is going on inside that causes me to sabotage and outright ignore these efforts.  And I think I figured it out.

I’m afraid somebody might see me.

You see, I’m a fat guy.  Especially now.  And what I think about when people see me running is that they are seeing this guy:

2014 JFK Runway Run
2013 JFK Runway Run

or maybe this guy:

2013 Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon
2013 Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Or definitely this guy:

2014 Branford Road Race
2014 Branford Road Race

When I’m at home, I leave to go running at 5am.  And at that hour, I generally see no people.  Maybe one or two.  There is nobody at home awake, there is nobody on the road, there is just not much going on.  In a hotel, though, at 5am I’m going to run into somebody. I’m going to see a night clerk, or another guest at the little gym, or the doorman on my way out to the streets for a run.  And I’m going to be totally self conscious that they are judging me.  Or, worse, laughing at me.

Now, I know from experience that my instinct on this one is incorrect.  95 times out of 100, people don’t even notice.  We are so wrapped up in our own little worlds – we don’t care.  And the other 5 times out of 100, when people do notice, they’re almost always doing the “good for him” in their heads.  That’s what I’m doing if I ever notice somebody running that is not what you’d expect from a traditional runner.

But, for all of that, I still really struggle to go.  My mechanism, by the way, is to sabotage the morning by staying up entirely too late the night before.  This is another place where home is better, because my wife won’t let that go on for too long without shaming me.  Or at least making me feel awkward because I have to answer the question “what the hell were you DOING up that late, anyway?”

This wasn’t really a problem when I was at the peak of my running “career” (HA!).  I felt good enough that it didn’t matter so much.  I’m not there now, and I need to get over it.

Also, for the record, I’m incredibly torn about posting that picture from the Virginia Beach Half up there.  The one with my belly hanging out.  I really hate that picture.