Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Long Run # 2 - Or - toes and assholes (?)

I resumed my old “Almost to the beach and back” route for long run # 2. It was a rather uneventful 9 miler aside from two disturbing trends I decided to start hating. I’m fueled by blind rage so I need something to stew while I’m running and this time it was – aggressive yielding and toe pain. I’ll tackle the toe-pain first since it is short and relatively benign. Since disavowing heavily padded shoes in favor of proper form I have had to relearn how to run. I’m a relatively frugal man, so rather than pay a coach, I figured I’d teach myself and teaching me is rather slow and painful.
The idea behind minimalist shoes is: if you run wrong it will hurt more than running wrong in padded shoes and if you run properly it will hurt less than padded shoes. To be sure: running shoes do not prevent injury. This is a heated topic and though counter-intuitive I have seen more credible evidence from the minimalist side than from the shoe company side. Add this to my personal history and you have made one runner who has passed on the pads. Running still hurts when you push the limits of speed or distance, but it’s a different type of hurt that to me is more of a painful slap on the back than an alarm. But then there’s bone or joint pain, which I am going through now.
The pain creeps up between miles 4 and 5 – sooner when heavy downhill running is occurring – and starts towards the front of the ball of my foot behind the gap between my big and second toes. Every landing makes pain shoot forward along the insides of both toes. If I stop and wiggle the toes for a bit it goes away. Luckily my beach route is rife with traffic lights and cross walks so I get a lot of opportunities to do this but alleviating the symptoms is not my goal. I have to shorten my stride and be lighter and rest. I’m not going to rest. I’m going to run in padded shoes for a week and then go back to the minimalist shoes once I don’t have pain during the day. I’m also laying low on my signature boat shoes as they lead to the forefoot slap that at least exacerbates (if it doesn’t cause or contribute to) the pain which I’ve heard could be either Sesamoiditis or Morton’s neuroma or another M word that I forgot. Is it clear that I’m a recovering hypochondriac? It was never that severe but I tend to get fanatical about health problems ever since the Ulcerative Colitis [mis] diagnosis (which is a story for another time).
Aggressive yielding is scary and annoying. It’s when a car pulls into a crosswalk that you’re in, and stops and waits for you to continue about an inch past them and then hits the gas and goes off to the dickbag convention they’re so obviously late for. It’s so obviously dangerous that I refuse to even argue why. Mitigating factors:  they possibly (usually) are oblivious to the presence of a runner, especially at night and stopping when a runner is in the crosswalk is what the law demands. But if you’re going to sit in your car and wave me on like I’m the asshole who’s holding you up, I want you to consider my position: dodging a two-thousand pound battering ram with a less than attentive pilot at the helm who’s body language suggests a considerable lack of mutual respect.
The worst are the drivers on their phones. I usually smile and laugh off the person who was watching traffic, saw a hole and half-gunned it – I’ve been there. It’s embarrassing and impossible to apologize from a car to a near-victim. I do take it personally, however when a driver is making themselves unfit to operate a vehicle safely. So I tell them. I have never done it nicely, either. Usually I stand where I should be allowed to cross and wait for them to notice me before mouthing “HANG THE FUCK UP” or “GET OFF THE PHONE” and giving them a stink eye. Sometimes, if I’m in a rush I’ll give a decent wrap on the body with my knuckles. I’ve even mis-timed it once and had to dukes of hazard slide across the hood (well the front left quarter of the hood) (they got out and yelled at me, I told them to call the cops, they probably didn’t because they knew they almost killed me). Or if it’s a piece of shit car that looks scary, I’ll just run behind it. Running is dangerous on its own, it should not be compounded. And don’t get me started on cyclists. At least cars pretend to stop at stop signs and don’t drive on the sidewalks. Jesus.
Monday was weigh-in day. As predicted: my complete lack of self-control and Irish / Italian roots caused me to pack in potatoes and pasta and bread and booze and cheesecake and just about all the garbage you can fit on a plate for four days straight including bacon fat popped popcorn and a meal that was replaced wholly by kettle corn and Belgian beer. This of course resulted in a bit of a setback and an overcompensation, which I’m so good at.
At the beginning of week three these were my stats.
Weight: 216.2
Body fat: 24%
Third category: 53.1 (I still am not entirely sure what this is. Could be hydration.)
So I’m up 1 pound and .3% body fat. Which translates to 51.88 total pounds of fat which is an increase of: .88lbs fat (and .12 lbs. muscle!)
So of course now I’ve altered my nutrition drastically, which I will delve into more another time. I do have to say that it is not the cookie diet this time. It’s much more nutritionally sound.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Long Run # 1

After having the Sunday run postponed due to rain and lasagna, I hit the road last night. It felt great for the most part. A couple things got to me.

First, my GPS is hooked into my headphones so it cuts into my music every half mile to update me on total time, distance and pace. It cut in after one mile with a ridiculous split that I knew I wasn't running which means that it had misplaced me and given me bonus distance. Bonus distance is annoying because it makes it difficult to fully appreciate my workout and instead of updating me every half mile, it annoys me but I can't turn it off because it's giving me a total time which I can use later to figure out my actual pace. It probably shouldn't matter but I need constant feedback and validation. So every time the voice updated me, I rolled my eyes and made the ya-right-jerk-off motion (sometimes) in my head. I figured an extra half-mile would undo the damage done to me by my oppressive but free iphone app. It was distracting enough to the point where I lost a lot of confidence and even started phoning the run in - which led to the second problem I had - which I'll get to after I apologize to my GPS and blame myself. The GPS was right, I had remembered the mile markers wrong; the hazard of running too many similar routes of varying distances. So every update was precise and correct and I thought I knew better and I was wrong. First time for everything. However I did run the first mile about ninety-seconds faster than my training pace and didn't notice any extra effort, so it's a tie as far as embarrassment vs self congratulation.

Since I was not-confident in my progress, I didn't take the run as seriously and let my cadence dip which led to an overstride which led to my first sesamoid pain episode. It went on for three miles and would have continued had I not been forced to rest at a stop light - I run in West Los Angeles so every route I run is either loops in parks (yuck) or riddled with stop lights. This pain was terrible, but called attention to some work I need to do on my short runs, so it's not all for naught.

I had my usual run-ins: impatient drivers, general dolts with no foresight and apparently no ability to see a 6'3" 215 lb man in day glow orange running in the spot where they want to aim their missile; dog owners whose animals lunge on a leash that's not quite short enough; dog owners who stand on one side of the sidewalk while their dog stretches the leash all the way across the rest of the sidewalk and most of the parkway so I have to stop and step over or run in the street; pedestrians who don't realize that they need to share the sidewalk with other pedestrians (me) especially 6'3" 215lb men in day glow orange running downhill at them with a lot of angst and passive aggressive rage (i'm not sorry you dumb cunt. maybe if you tried running we'd both fit down the exact middle of the sidewalk); but nothing really story worthy. Maybe I'll dissect these city-running tropes at another time but it'll just be a lot of me typing in all caps and using "cunt" unoriginally, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it.

And yesterday was weigh in day. I'm down 2.7 lbs total, 1.7 lbs (0.5%) of fat, which is exactly my goal. A bit more muscle loss than I anticipated (0.9 lbs) but I'll just add another strength day to counteract. That was 7 days of work without "The Big One," so I'm excited to see how I'll measure up at the beginning of week 3, though my expectations are tempered because week 3 is on the other side of butter/bread/white potato/celebration ale and 4 days of sleeping in.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

First Skipped Workout

I am currently skipping my first workout of the season - more like postponing it until tomorrow night in order to skip Tuesday's workout and get back into cycle on Wednesday. I have many reasons for doing this, but no matter how many sound reasons I have, a skipped workout still gets me. It's how I know that I'm becoming a true runner without actually being one yet. A real runner would run regardless of everything that is causing me to quit without trying. A beginning runner looks for an excuse not to run. I am somewhere in the middle, overwhelmed by guilt because the odds of me running safely and "comfortably" are slim. So I'm either a beginning runner who grew up Catholic or a developing runner who's excuses are enough to warrant postponing the key run in any endurance training schedule: the long and slow Sunday run. Here is my list of excuses; it is quite complex so try and keep up.

1. It's raining. Rain is cold and wet which could lower my immune system and make me sick. Because I have ulcerative colitis, which is an auto-immune disease, I am on medicine that restricts my immune system. Running in the rain will get me sick which will cause me to miss work which will cause more stress and work against my goals of weight loss (i'm a stress eater) and stress also makes my ulcerative colitis flare up which would ruin thanksgiving. One point to not run.

The rain also makes the ground wet and wet ground is slippery ground, especially in the city. I have two pairs of shoes in my running repertoire at the moment. A pair of Merrell Trail gloves with about three hundred miles on them and a brand new pair of Vivobarefoot Neos which have less than fifty. The Merrells were my first pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes so they're exceptionally worn because I learned how to run in them and I am still not the most efficient striker especially when fatigued. Even Vibram rubber is no match for a 220 pounder scraping his feet on the pavement for miles at a time. The Neos are so new that the rubber still has the newness on it and traction is an issue for me, if only just psychologically. Either way, I picture myself coming down one of the long and steep cement downhills that I inevitably have to run, slipping and blowing a knee and ending my season in week 1 which would feel so much worse than moving one workout. Two points not to run.

Even without the rain, my time is limited. I'm caught between times. I only left myself a small window to train today and the rain makes it smaller. I can't run before breakfast because of my stomach, breakfast was late because I slept in, and I made solid plans with the gf and our friends for lunch, so I only had three hours in which I could make an eighty minute run, which would be fine for you normal people, but I can't run with a full tank so to speak. While training for the San Francisco marathon I learned that I couldn't run with a round in the belly chamber so to speak. Without getting too graphic, stopping mid run to use the facilities is all fine and dandy unless there are no facilities, or unless you're soaking wet and out of breath. So without having the time to wait for my stomach to catch up to the will to train, and the only bathroom on my training route being my office or a store which are both out for the reasons above, I have to award another point for not running.

The three reasons to run are much more slight. First: while I'm sitting in my apt looking outside and dreading it, Dean Karnazes just tweeted "rainy, cold, miserable and dark out. Great day for a run!" so my "hey, nobody trains when it's rainy, right?" is clearly being met from the ideal runner with a giant gameshow "BZZZZZZZZ!" Reason number 2 is much more superficial but true nonetheless. I just bought a rain shell for this exact reason. I spent 30 bucks to preempt the excuse of water falling from the sky being an effective excuse for me skipping a run. I could have saved 30 bucks if I wasn't going to run. This excuse just compounds my guilt even more. Number 3 is easy. If it's not raining tonight, I will run. I wont run in the dark and the rain, but I'd run in either if it weren't for the reasons above.

So there it is. Those are my reasons. I'm right, I know I am. I also am a phenominal rationalizer. I know my weak spots and adversity is definitely one of them. I do enough hard things every day to add more to my plate. It's all I can muster to avoid overeating, drinking, and smoking. I can't add running in the [now torrential] rain. I hate me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I had originally intended to post after every run in the days/weeks/months leading up to the LA Marathon, but I couldn't think of anything more boring than recounting a very slow 3 mile run through Cheviot Hills, so I instantly abandoned that plan.
Instead, I'm going to just post when it moves me, and other vague writing goals.

I don’t have an official time for a 5k a 10k or a half marathon, though I’ve run all 3. There are two good stories and a warrior dash in here. Instead of a 5k I ran the warrior dash in Lake Elsinore, CA. It is one of those obstacle course type events that isn’t exactly 5k and isn’t exactly a run. It’s killer. I completed it in 36 minutes but could have gone much faster if I had any upper body strength at all and weren’t scared of heights. That last sentence is what I call making honest excuses. I don’t do that often. My point being that usually I blame anything but me for my less than average performance – average being about the best I’m capable of in this self-deprecating thought process I’ve wandered into.
I like the warrior dash, though, and once I am more comfortable with my fitness I plan on doing races like it – there are more and more every year – for fun and as an excuse to cross train almost exclusively without guilt to what it’s doing to my 22k time. That said, it was less of a run and more of an obstacle course which was clear to me up front, but not currently on my list of things to master. I do appreciate these events because they make running, which is inherently an activity I believe suited better to us up-in-our-heads folks, appealing to the masses, which as I see it and science confirms, are getting more unhealthy  day by day. Whatever gets them off the couch, I say, and if it isn’t self-loathing as it was for me, then let it be obstacle courses!
My 10k time is a different story, which is to say it is a story. I dragged my girlfriend into a 10k for her birthday last year. It was in long beach on the cement boardwalk and it was the 2nd annual something that benefitted some charity. We weren’t expecting much and didn’t get much. It was a small event and there were no chip timers so all we had to go on was the gun time. Easy enough, we just edged our way to the front of the pack and waited for the gun. There were markers at the 1st 4 km of the out and back race and an aid station awhile past the 4k marker. I was in the lead pack – like I said, small event – and we all ran past the aid station and onto a street which dead ended about a third of a mile down with a turnabout. It seemed like the perfect turn around so we ran through it and back along the path toward the finish.
Of course the aid station was the 5k turnaround and instead of running 6.1 miles (10k) we ran 6 and ¾ according to Google maps. Waaaaaaaah. An extra 2/3 of a mile is nothing. Unless the race is only a 10k, in which case that’s an extra 10%! We sniffed it out somewhere along the way back to the aid station and the lady at the front let them have it for not saying anything. I don’t remember my total time, all I could think of was how silly it all was. The course wasn’t closed so I’m sure people were running past them all morning and there were volunteers at all the other turns and street corners, so why this last and arguably most important group failed to assist is so far beyond me that I won’t even venture a guess and I’ll just shrug it off and wait for the next 10k to get an official time.
I realize that story has little to do with my girlfriend, even though I mentioned her in the first sentence of it. If I were in an editing mood I would fix that, but since I’m this far down I’ll just chalk it up to bragging that I, of all people, have a girlfriend – let alone one that would be down to wake up stupidly early and run a race on her birthday. She’s a keeper.
I also don’t have an official half marathon time. This one is kind of my fault, but also kind of not. I have Ulcerative Colitis. So sometimes when it’s time to run, I am not ready to run. During training it’s mostly an inconvenience. My morning runs turn into afternoon runs, afternoon runs turn into evening runs and evening runs turn into tomorrow runs. This is why I have given myself the nickname “Forrest Dump.” I am sorry for writing that. I have never had a nickname that I’ve known of which leads me to believe that they’ve all been too mean to call me to my face (remember: I hate me). Once I overheard a group of former friends calling me “Heavy G” which sucked but was one of the many wakeup calls I got in my life (I was well over 300 pounds at the time). I also tried, on my first day of little league, to have my teammates call me “GQ,” because it sounded cool. Thankfully only one of them remembers and I rarely run into him.
So we were late to the race. It was our first race with a packet-pickup (again, my girlfriend was with me) so we were a bit unclear, especially since the instructions were very unclear and didn’t mention that race-day packet pickup would be at the start line, so we turned our one-hour early arrival into a frustrated ten minutes early arrival. And then there was the bus. Ten minutes early for half marathon was 40 minutes early for the 5k. So we got into the back of the line three busses later got to the starting line 40 minutes later. We sped through gear check, I hit the porta-john again and we found the race director who was letting the straggling 5k’ers start and then had to reset the chip readers before letting the half marathon super stragglers start. And we started, and we ran and finished and no official time ever came.
That explains that. Next time I’ll make excuses for my first and only marathon finish.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Los Angeles Marathon Training blog day 1: rest

Today is day 1. I’m probably going to be running the LA marathon in March 2012 and I’m on an 18 week training schedule based off of Hal Higdon’s novice 2 schedule with some adjustments to fit my lifestyle and schedule. In the grand scheme of things another guy running another marathon might not be much but according to me, this is the most important marathon in the world ever. Unless I don’t run it, in which case I won’t care about it aside from wishing my friends well in it and probably snarking about the traffic nightmare on St. Patrick’s dayafter – the course runs directly between me and my coffee bean. I’m not going to do anything amazing. I’m going to keep my head down and train and write about little things -- stupid drivers, cyclists and dog owners mostly – and then I’ll post an unofficial time and update it with an official time, and this experiment will be over.
I started running in November 2007. Before 2007 I had run but I was not a runner. I started in 2007 because my friend asked me to be a groomsman and I didn’t want to be a fat groomsman. I started at 1 mile, worked my way up to 4 and that was the top. I would run 4 miles 5 days a week and in the summer of 2008 I added in some swimming three days a week. I topped out at 4 miles because I smoked 8 packs of cigarettes a week and didn’t know shit about pacing myself. I’d go out hard and die in 4 miles. It was good.
I stopped that routine in the winter of 2008 when I got knocked out by an ulcerative colitis flare up. I have had ulcerative colitis since 2005. It is not a fun disease to have, especially if you have plans on running marathons. It is essentially an auto-immune disease that directly affects your colon, may affect your joints and most of all, your mood. Or my mood. When I get a UC flare I get depressed because I can hardly do anything and it hurts. This is not a UC blog. But UC flares are treated with prednisone which causes weight gain and by thanksgiving 2010 I had put 60lbs that I had lost since college back on thanks to the steroids and resulting depression and inactivity.
Thanksgiving 2010 I was talking with my girlfriend’s brother and he said I could definitely run a half marathon. That was good enough for me and the Monday after thanksgiving I was on the streets in West Los Angeles 4 nights a week running my ass off. During that training cycle my best friend mentioned the San Francisco marathon and I signed up for that. The bug, as they call it, dug its heels into me deeply. My knee hurt really bad. I bought some mega-supportive shoes. My knee hurt worse. Wasted money hurts my sensibilities incredibly but the support means weight making the shoes $135 ugly ankle-weights.
I started reading running blogs, articles, and magazines and talking about running. I started paying attention to things. I started watching people run. All I wanted was to be better. I read an article about foot strength. I went out and bought some barefoot shoes (Merrell Trail Gloves) which I loved. I started to run in them. They gave me the opportunity to fall in love with running all over again. I had to relearn how to do it, but every step is amazing and fluid and connected and natural. I read born to run on a business trip and was convinced and officially converted and here I am. I try and drag my girlfriend – a phenomenal athlete and competitor with me as many races as I can but she does not suffer from my addiction so she only runs races she considers to have impressive views / scenery or unique experiences which usually relegates her to be my one and only and amazing crew member, which I like.
As of today: my stats are as follows
Weight: 217.8 lbs
Body fat: 24.2%
Third category my scale measures: 52.7
5k: n/a
10k: n/a
½ marathon: 2:02:02
Marathon: 4:31:59

My goals are:
Weight: n/a
Body fat: 18%
Third category my scale measures: better? (I just want to know what this is, actually)
½ marathon: 1:50:00
Marathon: 3:55:00

Today is day 1. It is a rest day. I am resting.