Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 11 or speed [doesn’t] work

                I took the opportunity last Wednesday to get in some speed work. I worked them into my schedule lightly since my first marathon was far below my goal but I realize that I still need a lot of base miles to finish. They come up every other week in place of my medium length mid-week run and they didn’t start until week 9. That is the Robert is your father’s brother way of saying it was my second shot at 800 meter repeats.

                Since I started running in a minimal or barefoot shoes I’ve done 1 set of sprints and 1 session of 800 meter repeats (yasso 800’s). The sprints were a very short workout my girlfriend took from her rugby days and wasn’t supposed to get me ready for anything or assist in anything but general fitness as I was very new to minimal running and still building my general mileage so I needed a higher intensity workout. I did fast and full sprints in my Merrell Trail Gloves and after the first set it was clear that I was going too hard too soon. I was not a mature athlete at that point, so I worked through the pain, finished the workout and the jog home and took the rest of the week off with severe foot pain.

                The second time was months later and went far better than the first. It was, after all a completely different workout focused on sustained high speed not short burst of all out effort. I didn’t escape unscathed (I never do) thanks to a pair of cheap socks that I happened to be wearing with a thick seam that wore a couple holes in a couple of my toes and made the run miserable until I took the socks off and wrapped them around my hands (yuck) and ran the rest of the workout sockless, which is fine as I was in my vivobarefoot neos which have really comfortable liners.

                This third session of speed work I made sure to wear proper socks (new drymax ultra thin socks) and not hit too hard. The track is 1.5 miles from my apt. I ran to it as a warmup and hit the track and got going. I did 6 x 800m each at 3:50 with 3:50 as a rest for 400m. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. It hurt just like all good workouts hurt. I grabbed a drink of water at the fountain, changed the playlist on my ipod and set off back home. After about half a mile I noticed that both Achilles tendons were remarkably tight and seemed to ache with every step, along with the outside base of my calves. Once I noticed that I noticed the top of my left foot hurting with every footfall and the bottom of my right foot as well.

The bottom of my right foot pain is old hat. Something about my stride and the way the neos are constructed make this pain consistent on runs longer than 4 miles. I’ve taken the pain as a sign that my stride was wrong, but after weeks of adjustments nothing I’ve tried has helped and I don’t have the time to build a new box, so I’ve phased them out of every workout except for short runs and for some reason, speed work seemed appropriate since I’m on a track. I’ve tried metatarsal pads but I felt like that was cheating, and they would always slide into my arch so it doesn’t really matter if a foot pad in a minimal shoe negates the minimalness of the shoe because it never stayed put long enough for me to even tell if it worked.

I would replace them if I had the money, but my budget only allows for so many shoes, and I’m due for another pair, but I’ve been enamored with the Merrell Trail Gloves and heard amazing things about their next iteration the Merrell Road Gloves so those are my next pair, but they’re not out yet, so until then I’m running in neos (and i wear them to work a couple days a week to get my minimal fix and i do all of my strength training in them. actually, aside from the toe pain at mid length runs, they're wonderful shoes; i'm not sorry i bought them)

I had to walk the rest of the way home; another mile total. It wasn’t all walking, as I have a stupid voice in my head that constantly says “you can probably bang out a few more strides,” and it was on full volume so I’d run until the pain was too great or when the tightness on my calves/Achilles was fearsome or both, and then walk a bit more. I got home and was insanely sore for the rest of the night. I hobbled around my apartment and iced iced iced to no avail.

The next day it hurt. I knew I wasn’t going to take my scheduled 4 miler the second I woke up. I wore soft shoes to work, kept it up on the desk whenever I could but before I got into bed I noticed a red spot on the top of my foot and some minor swelling. It hurt when I rubbed my big and 2nd toe together but I couldn’t produce pain any other way (much like the pain on the bottom of my right foot, there is no way to make it hurt save for running in the neos) so I figured it would go away. It didn’t. Friday the pain was less present but still there and with the long run (18 miles) scheduled for Saturday this week and not Sunday, it was in real jeopardy.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rose Bowl Half Marathon - or - long run #10

For the 10th long run of my training quest, a step down week, I chose to run the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in Pasadena, CA. While it was 1 week off the suggested half marathon distance for the LA Marathon according to most (or many) training schedules, I chose it over the “properly dated” LA Half marathon for a few reasons. First, when I was signing up and developing my race / training schedule for 2012 the LA Half was an out and back on Venice Blvd and the Rose Bowl Half was a scenic trailish run through the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. While I grew up mostly in those very same foothills, I had never run in them and I ran the Venice area up to 3 times a week. I also dislike Venice very much both as a thoroughfare and a neighborhood. There are too many lights, not enough turn lanes and it’s a magnet for crime and drugs. People say I’m uptight and that it’s funky. I say fuck people. Venice is just an expensive piece of shit homeless colony and the few cool parts of it are ruined by the seemingly encouraged, if at the very least condoned and I am not okay with any of it. Also, the Rose Bowl Half had a Clydesdales division for men over 200 lbs. I know I’ll never finish well against all these little guys in my age group, so the fact that I could run against other bigs was appealing and made the deal, as if I needed an excuse to not run in Venice.

My stomach was sketchy the whole day before thanks to soda and a touch of nerves. And I had way too much cream in my coffee for breakfast, and then more in my coffee at lunch, and then I had brie and a baguette with salami for dinner because I’m mostly a moron who doesn’t learn from my mistakes. I also went to bed at midnight after drinking a half a bottle of wine. I woke up 5 hours later, still mostly full, but I shoveled in my race-day staple of sausage, peppers, onions, quinoa scrambled in egg whites. I had packed the night before so the morning was smooth. We arrived an hour before the start, just enough time for me to get my packet, warm up, and alleviate any, erm, pressure that may have—I mean take a dump… I sometimes forget who writes this blog… but it turns out that an hour early would just not cut it.

I parked and jogged down to the packet pickup. There were 4 races going off on that day so there were 16 lines. Each one had about 4 people except 1. I’m sure we can all guess which 1 had about 20 because I wouldn’t give half a shit if T-Z had a bunch of unlucky fucks in it that stood around while some high school mouth breather stopped what he was doing to help the windows with the mini-lines solve their bullshit problems. It was obvious that not only was this the slowest window, but it was also over-loaded. If I were a race director I would divide windows by number of entrants, not by how many letters are in the alphabet.

I also had the good fortune to meet the only person in line. She must have been sisters with the only one running a half marathon whom I met later, so it was an honor. She walked up to the next window and said “hi. I’m at the back of the line. Can I just get my stuff without having to wait in the line?” This is an infuriating statement for many reasons. It’s obviously not what she actually said, but I half translated it to get to the theme. I’ll fully translate it and then explain why I hate it now. What she really meant was, “I didn’t plan ahead or make an honest effort to get here on time, and if I had it was ineffective. What I need from you now is special consideration otherwise I will feel slighted. I do not believe I am subject to consequences from my lack of foresight.”
    I don’t know if you can tell, but I hate entitlement. I hate people that try and dodge the line, go around the traffic, get theirs in before others, block the way, and any other situation where people knowingly try and avoid the unpleasantness that living in a society can present. If you don’t think you should have to wait, you should have gotten here earlier. This isn’t about racing. This is about any queue anywhere from the airport to Starbucks to a fucking bottleneck going from asphalt to single track trail to a traffic jam on the freeway. Wait. Because everyone else has to wait and the more fucks that try and cheat and skirt the waiting, the more good people have to suffer through this mess. If you were as special as your apparent need to be somewhere you’d have a goddamn helicopter so fuck off. I refuse to ever be complacent about this or anything like it, or even apologize for offending the cheaters, cutters and other swine that refuse to be a part of humanity, this woman included. We’ll get to her sister later.

                I ended up having enough time to jog back to the car, peel off my sweats and jog back to the bathroom, but not enough to complete my pit stop before the start making this race the first one I’ve arrived to on time, but the third that I haven’t started on time. I rolled through the finish about 5 minutes after the gun and passed the walkers on the flat street for the first mile before a bottleneck came up and forced us all to walk. All of us walked. Not just some lazy people, but every single person who was there had to walk. This is because we were going from 2 lanes and a sidewalk wide course to a single track trail and there is nothing anyone can do about it aside from getting there before it got crowded – i.e. at the front of the pack.

                But hark, what cunt from yonder back of pack breaks up onto the hillside to wave her filth past the rest of the group by walking slightly faster? Ah, another one. Insert previous ranty tangent here, I refuse to waste the calories typing it again. All I can say is I wish I had enough balls to blow a snot rocket at this woman or at least spit near her. Instead, when the course opened up in 50 yards and I passed her 20 yards after that – she was remarkably slow for how impatient she was – I made sure to cut extra close, so she knew she was getting passed with purpose. If karma were real, she would have fallen in the river and screamed for help as people wogged past her shrugging and pointing to their watches, “I have a shot at a PR. Good luck swimming!” Yuck.

                The course opened up for a mile or two before another bottleneck, but this one was friendlier and notably asshole free. Except for me. Not me exactly as I am quite polite, but my thoughts are evil and I found myself choosing a line of people’s backs that looked weak enough to be shattered by me in my bowling ball position so that I could get going. Needless to say I didn’t do this, I kept my mouth shut and build my energy so when it opened up I was back to weaving around the slower runners.

                I had a lot of fun. This was my first foray into trail running. While seasoned and experienced trail runners may scoff at that notion or qualification of the arroyo trail system / Arroyo Park as trail running, but for me who’s used to training on 100% pavement, this might as well be a safari. It felt like I was playing, not running. I was jumping from rock to rock, hopping puddles, passing people, climbing sticks and logs and fighting to stay out of the rain ruts like some shitty kid who was too fat to have real fun growing up. I kid. I wasn’t fat until high school at which point I was too cool to run. The remarkable thing about the run was the air. It smelled nice. I’m used to running on Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean and Sunset which are all choked with cars and I never noticed how terrible it all smelled until I ran through the arroyo. I will definitely try and include more (some) trails in my runs as I’m a spoiled brat and beach running just isn’t pretty enough.

                I started having a tough time when we got back on the road and started running with the 10k crowd as I’m always comparing my pace to others’ and I wasn’t aware that they were 10k’ers so I was feeling really terrible about myself for a couple miles until all the fast ones turned to finish and I had another 5.1 miles to go. And they were going to be 5.1 terrible miles if the first hill held any clue. Since I’ve never run on trails before, I’ve never come across a hiking hill, which is a hill you have to hike up instead of running. It was awesome but steep. After we got to the top some people were walking, but there was a cool tunnel about 50 yards ahead so I ran for it. I like tunnels and at the other end of this one was an aid station. I walk through aid stations or run past them and after the hill we just climbed, this one was a walker.

                It was at this point where I realized how far off my Runkeeper app was. Mile 8 was at the bottom of the hill which was about 100 yards behind me and runkeeper was saying I had just crossed mile 8.5. Psychologically I think this hurt the most, as all of a sudden I was behind myself. The pace I got was a lie, the distance I got was a lie, and the only thing I could trust was duration. When I crossed the 9 mile marker on the course it had been an hour and 31mins. To PR I needed to finish in about 30 minutes. It wasn’t going to happen. But this wasn’t a training run, this was a race. I only needed to run 13.1 miles, not a step more, so I said to myself “let’s race,” and took off.

                I stopped to walk once, when coming back down the crazy hill. It was precarious and there was a lot of 2 way traffic so I couldn’t pass anyone anyway, even if I weren’t staying safe. Plus I was eating the last bit of my clif bar and I can’t eat right when I’m running hard because I have to close my mouth to chew, so it worked out. At the bottom I took off again. I passed a lady who said “good job!” between pants and that made me run harder. She was cheering for everyone going either direction. It was awesome. It made me smile. She got it. I was chasing a PR and had miscalculated the distance so I was kicking hard, not worried about anyone else except to not run into them.

                While runkeeper continued to siphon bum info into my ear (distance: 13.5 miles, pace 8:56) I pushed and pushed and held on and finally when we came into the home stretch I couldn’t kick any harder than I already was, so I dug into the stadium and crossed the finish line (with video proof thanks to my awesome GF) and for the record that was as hard as I could go. I even jogged a bit on a downhill leading into the Rose Bowl so I’d have enough juice to finish strong (however weak it may seem, but my form is still decent and cadence is still very close to my target), and that’s how I felt I finished. Despite my GF editorializing, that was a sprint.

                I missed a PR by fifteen seconds (official time: 2:03:04) and missed a podium in my weight class by less than 2 minutes and was only 5:35 behind the winner. I finished 4th in my division and 247th overall. It’s fun to throw a weight class into the mix because it lets me race against my peers. I would not describe myself as fat, but I am a big man with extra weight. With my current muscle mass, if I were to drop to 5 percent body fat I’d be a waif at 170lbs. I was down to 179 with nowhere near this amount of muscle 2 years ago and people thought I had an eating disorder. Essentially I do not have, nor will I ever have a pure runner’s body. It does not appeal to me, nor am I willing to put in the work to obtain it, so I know I’ll never win a race of substantial size and I’m okay with that but it IS nice to see how I stack up against other MOUS (men of unusual size).

                Statistics aside this race returned my confidence in my nutrition plan, my previous training as well as my ability to summon some extra get up to finish strong. It also hinted at a love for trail running that I will definitely be exploring more. The Rose Bowl Half Marathon also reaffirmed – as most public interactions do – my strong hatred of most people, so there’s that. All in all I give the race a B+ because I feel like I saved too much in the early goings and my exhaustion at the finish line was not a result of a consistent effort as much as it was the last gasp from an extended kick which definitely petered out towards the end. Finally it taught me to look where I’m running unless I enjoy hobbling foot pain from stepping on every single rock in Pasadena, and that I may need bigger shoes and a bit more stack to conquer a proper marathon but that’s a thought that’s been marinating for a few runs now, as my feet have been swelling a bunch with the higher mileage.

                Also, I weighed in again on Monday. I stopped mentioning my weight loss efforts after the holidays because the wheels came off the wagon, but I’m back to 214 lbs. and 23.6% body fat and 53.6 of the third thing my scale measures, which is relatively the same as it has been. This week I’m abandoning the donut and chocolate diet that I was crushing last week (hostess devil’s food pop ‘ems are you kidding me?!)(so good) and getting back down with wholesome, purposeful meals and snacks. I’m really looking forward to this weekend as I get to take an 18 mile tour of Back Bay in Newport Beach and then head north to Costa Mesa. 8 weeks until the LA Marathon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Long Run # 9 – or Surviving the Game

                I just got a box of Honey Stinger Waffles ( after trying one a few weeks back and having it give me noticeable energy near the end of a long run and after reading a glowing review from This past Sunday was my first shot with them. They’re only 160 calories so since I go through about 1,000 calories an hour at my weight and speed, and since I tend to shy away from sports drinks during runs, these smaller, easier to eat guys were preferable to my normal routine of half a clif bar every 3.5 miles. Before the run I had a Gatorade G series Prime, per usual on runs over 10 miles and I packed 5 waffles. 1 every 4 miles and 1 right after I finished as a recovery snack.

                Needless to say things didn’t quite work out. They never do, it seems. After about 9 miles and 2 waffles, I could feel my calves micro-cramping. I typically like to run without calf sleeves, but as I cramped up pretty bad during long run #8 I figured I could use the compression, so I was wearing them. Micro-cramping is a word I made up, I think, just now, so if it’s already a word and I’m using it wrong then I’m probably looking like a real asshole, but for the purposes of this blog micro-cramping is that little twinge in your muscle that you always ignore, because it’s nothing, but then a few miles later it’s a full on cramp. So I had those in my calves after about 3 miles of running through some Achilles soreness, so I attributed it to that and kept going.

                I ran the last 6.2 miles of the LA Marathon first, then continued south along the boardwalk to Ocean Park before turning around at about 10 miles. At the turn around      I was dying. I thought it was the heat and sunlight so I stopped at a drinking fountain and filled up both of my bottles before continuing on. The last sub 10 minute mile I ran was mile 9. The last sub 10:30 I ran was mile 10. I typically cruise around 9 minutes per mile, so this should be an indication of my struggles. As I left the shore behind me, clouds started to thicken and at least I got a respite from the sun exposure.

                But it didn’t help. By mile 13 I was shuffling. Not on purpose as I was zoned out in my brain, but instinctually. This was distressing, as I do this from time to time and when I notice I usually think “no. go harder” and then do, but this time I thought “no. go harder” and didn’t. At this point, short of life and death situations, 11:10 min/mile was my top speed. I hoped to catch every single red light I could so I had an excuse to walk a few steps. I ate my 5th waffle. Nothing seemed to stop the cramp tsunami and when it hit I was a mile from home, holding myself up on a tree branch while my hamstrings sang pain chorus, and to boot, thanks to my new kettle bell, my traps and biceps were well on their way to the same concert.

                I lowered myself back onto my legs and they took the weight. At this point I hurt more than after a marathon and I was 10 miles short of that, but I still had 1 to go. I started walking, but knowing the Giants game would be starting soon and remembering the tri tip I had to marinate for halftime, I started power walking, then shuffling, then – more shuffling. Shuffling was all I could muster at this point. I was sprinting and 14:09 later I was home, pulling myself up the stairs and running the water for an ice bath.

                I figured I was in better shape than the performance suggested so I decided to check the nutrition info on my in-run snack. 55mg of sodium and 0 potassium. It said it right there on the label. I was not misled. In fact I wasn’t led at all, as leading would imply thought beyond caloric load. Another lesson learned for Forrest Dump. Now I just have to figure how much sodium and potassium I need and how to get it and I’ll be fine. And. I figured that paragraph could use another “and,” so that’s how I learned what Ice-T has been telling me since surviving the game in ’94. “Always check the barrel!” or in this case, the label. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Long Run 8 – or – We know each other, don’t we?

                15 miles on a Sunday after skipping the previous week’s run and running half of my diet (breakfast + 1 meal per day as high protein low / no carb) left me feeling a little bit nervous, especially considering the earliness needed to start the run in order to catch my beloved Giants fight for their right [to party]. The night before I ate questionable chicken but stayed away from beer which I had previously blamed my belly difficulty on, but I couldn’t resist the dr. pepper which weighed heavily on my mind, and my gut when I woke up.

                The unexpected run-ins started early. On my way out to breakfast with the GF we ran into a man I work with who I didn’t expect to see as he doesn’t live in my neighborhood, and he didn’t expect to see us either, heading back to his car at 7:45 on a Sunday morning, you never count on encountering work colleagues, but such is the life of young entertainment folk, or so I’ve heard. We had a brief stop n chat while I sat in my car, which is the piece of shit you imagine, but without all the windows you hope for. I drive a shitty car. My daily round trip commute is 1.95 miles, so I’m fairly safe from judgment as I live quite close to work and in a nice ‘hood and have developed a reputation for being extremely cheap to cover my inability to effectively save or earn money.

                We ate a small breakfast but the dinner from the night before wasn’t sitting right, so I left my apartment at 9:45 with a planned slow and easy 150 minute 15 miler and probably catch the 4th quarter of the game that should never have been. That went out the window kind of early as I wasn’t having a good day, energy-wise. I had an FRS energy drink before the run but it wasn’t enough to overcome the low energy absorption that I was going through, and it was unseasonably warm and I refused to run on the shady side of the street because it would mean about a half dozen more traffic lights, and my new shorts had a much smaller pocket so as a result I was only able to carry a clif bar and a honey stinger stoopwafel which is only about 300 calories. That caloric load would have been more than enough had I been able to get running earlier or hold in dinner, but all things considered, it was a bonk recipe.

                I ran into a friend while running on the ocean park in Santa Monica. I doffed my cap and seeing his confusion added a friendly “Howdy!” but got nothing in return. I realize now that the last time I saw him I looked like a Geico Caveman and suddenly there was a cancer patient doffing his cap in weird ole Santa Monica (I shaved my head and beard on New Year’s) so he may have just written it off. A couple texts later, and I’ve discovered that’s exactly the case.

                I hit the wall hard at 12 miles. I had to stop at 9.8 to use the bathroom, then from mile 10-11.5 I had to run insanely slow because I was either sunblind or about to pass out. I had taken in 2 fills of my handheld – a Nathan quick draw elite 22 oz. but still had the thirst, so I pulled into an emergency room that I frequent as the water fountain is cold and the bathroom is always open. I filled up my bottle a third time and on my way out heard someone say “excuse me,” and panicked, as I had no business using the facilities and do it often enough to have some kind of nickname (I hope it’s Forrest Dump as I’m a runner who consistently disappears into their bathroom for curiously long intervals), so I literally ran out of the emergency room and sprinted about a half mile in case a nurse was following me, the whole while convincing her in an imaginary conversation that I was well within my rights to use the drinking water there as it was an emergency and I was catholic so they should double-lay off but I turned and looked and realized I was alone, then refocused on pace and the painful cramp that exploded out of both of my calves.

                Incidentally, and conveniently within the theme of this piece (don’t I know you?), when I heard the “Hey” I turned to see someone who I thought looked a lot like another person I work with, but was too frightened to stick around to see if that was indeed him, and why would a guy who is an engineer at a broadcast network be an intake nurse at an emergency room? So I told him of his doppelganger and it turns out it was him. Completing the triforce. Because everything happens in threes. Accidental spoiler alert, I will not run into anyone else I know for the rest of this post.

                I bonked 3 miles from home. Or I should say I bonked 3 miles from the end of my run, which thanks to a miscalculation and a bit of lengthening in order to get to a bathroom I knew would be clean was 4 miles from home. So I toughed it out, made it a point to push extra hard on the last mile and when I could not take a step without seriously fearing a muscle pull, I stopped running and started walking. At least then I could get some text message updates on the game, though I had missed all but the last 3 minutes after spending 2 hours and 39 minutes in the sun, 2 minutes in the emergency room and 10 in a toilet at the Santa Monica ocean park, but we won, so I’m okay with it.

                Lessons learned: no more soda on nights before long runs, when stomach is being funny, pack extra fuel after funny tummy evenings, plan runs better, stay in the shade and get out early. This coming weekend I have to get in 17. I’m much more confident about it. And as a bonus, the Giants don’t play until 1pm, so I’m going to have all morning to get the miles in.

Finally one of my favorite running blogs is giving away a pair of Merrell Road Gloves, which I haven’t pre-ordered only because I don’t know how to pre-order them, but I have my cash in a wad waiting for these shoes to hit the store so I can own them and run the shit out of them because I love the trail gloves so much and I desperately want to love these shoes too. So click here and maybe you can win a pair so you don’t have to admit your shoe fantasies to your reader(s)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Michigan Vacation – or a week “off”

As promised: my recap of my week in Michigan as it relates to fitness and my personal goals and achievements, or, in this case, a couple short stories and a lot of excuses. We flew out Christmas Eve morning and flew back in on New Year’s Eve afternoon, then skipped down to San Clemente and returned to Los Angeles on Monday evening. So when I discuss my trip, it will include all of these locales, their varied weather and rough schedules.
Christmas Eve was a scheduled day off, and on my diet it was a cheat day. All cheat days start with a weigh in and a measurement of total body inches (ala Tim Ferris’ four hour body – bicep circumference R/L, thigh circumference R/L, waist at belly button, hips at widest) but since we had to take a cab to the airport at 6am, I was too rushed to measure, and since my body is an atomic clock, any weigh in before 9:30am is going to skew higher than true weight (don’t make me say it). Long story short, I didn’t weigh in or measure. So for those of you at home counting that’s 2 excuses and -1 fitness because of the cheat day.
I should mention that going to Michigan is an ordeal; the kind of ordeal where one could potentially eat themselves to death, or drown in cookies. I say potentially because I tried, and failed to do both.
Christmas day was another scheduled day off. Not on the schedule I was given, but I adapted it because I knew a workout would be nearly impossible to pull off as I was unfamiliar with the area and needed to depend on a local to advise me on routes / trails that made for good running, and all the locals I knew were busily preparing for Christmas dinner and didn’t have time to point me in the right direction. I should also mention that it is rural Michigan and there are no sidewalks and every road is a highway with a relatively high speed limit, so making my own way would be difficult if not dangerous, and being struck by a Michigander on Christmas is not my preferred method of celebrating.
I didn’t eat that much on Christmas, all things considered. I could have done worse, is what I’m trying to say. I ate so many cookies. I do not regret a single one. That said, I couldn’t even name half of the cookies I ate, I even ate one with peppermint frosting, which shows how out of control I was, because mint desserts are one of my least favorite things in the history of things. I even managed to get some color on my plate. One thing this diet I’ve been on has taught me is that you do indeed develop a taste for shitty foods like broccoli. I hate that I like broccoli, but I do. This was the one of the only opportunities I would have all week to eat broccoli. I picked it out of a salad and wrapped it in turkey and loved it.
The next day we went for a run. One nice thing about rural Michigan, or at least the area surrounding where we were staying (the greater Jackson area), is that some naturalists or nature enthusiasts have dug in and made some awesome stuff available to people to experience nature safely and with almost no restrictions. Our run was on a paved bike trail that was eleven miles from end to end with mile markers at every half mile. It was beyond flat (about 400 feet total over the nine miles I ran), and flanked by telephone pole pines on both sides.
At 40 degrees F it was the coldest run I had ever done, and I was a bit over dressed. I wore cotton gloves, a Nike skull cap, saucony running tights, basketball shorts (I’m uncharacteristically modest for a minimalist runner, from what I understand), a wind breaker, my dry max cold weather socks and Merrell Trail Gloves. I was also trying out some new energy chews by the same company that makes the stinger waffles (which I love). The windbreaker was the first to go as the one I have currently doesn’t do well with the whole breathability thing (cheap), and by the end I had ditched the gloves and skull cap as well. I had a little trouble with my stomach, but nothing I couldn’t manage, and the last three miles would have made a PR if I ran them in a 5k, so needless to say I was quite happy with the run.
The jacket didn’t breathe because it’s cheap. I got it for 20 bucks. It’s waterproof and wind proof, so I didn’t want it to breathe. I primarily run in southern California, so I don’t need much, but on days with rain, I wanted an option to keep me dry while not cooking me, or if it were a windy day, I could run without getting wind-chilled. So for the three weeks of inclement weather in my area per year, and the four runs I do per week, I couldn’t justify spending more than 20 bucks, and I think I did well for the money spent. If I move, or global cooling is a thing, I’ll drop more money on something more functional for increased use, but until then, I’m just fine.
The skull cap is tried and true, in fact better than my Nike dry-fit cap which toasts my brain and kills most runs, but works better at night when there isn’t direct sun light. This was my first run in gloves. Normally my hands get cold in the 50 degree LA winters, so I figured 30 degree Michigan would require some insulation. I just had some cheap-o cotton ones that worked well enough. I even used them to wipe sweat from my forehead.
My socks were my 2nd biggest purchase: Drymax Socks Cold Weather Running Crew Sock Socks,Red,XL. I ran in them once in LA before the trip and they were comfortable, if slightly hot, but as they’re cold weather socks, I expected them to perform more normally in cold weather (duh) and when they did I didn’t notice. I’m of the opinion where you only notice things that go wrong on runs, so the fact that I don’t have anything to say is good. I may have picked the wrong size, as they seem a little loose in the heel after the run, and when putting them on for a 2nd use without washing, which is something I do often because I’m bad at laundry and I am also quite cheap and if I can get multiple wearings out of something I like to abuse that privilege.
My biggest buy were my tights. I had never run in anything below the upper 40’s, and I knew that my 5” shorts weren’t going to cut it. I had a groupon for a specialty running shop and these tights were my favorite option in the shop as far as fit, function and look. They fit. They would keep my legs warm and dry and weren’t destroyed by excessive branding and logos (looking at you, New Balance). Since they are my first pair of tights, I can’t compare them to anything, but they seemed to be fine. I wear shorts over them because of what cold weather does to egos, and I was running with my girlfriend, her sister and their mom, so a little modesty would go a long way to insuring a continued healthy relationship with her family. Not that I’m saying tights / speedos are always weird, but I’m definitely not that guy. I’ll wear short shorts until the end of time, but there’s something weird about the testicleavage that personally is unappealing.
Score is now: Excuses (including front loaded to be paid off later) 4, fitness 0.
                This week’s schedule was stripped way down from normal to accommodate travel, vacation and allow for an increased amount of quality time with the gf’s family. For example, my normal schedule is this:
Mon – stretch, pushups, core.
Tues – short run
Weds – med run, pushups
Thur – short run, squat circuit (on step down weeks)
Fri – pushups, core
Sat – off
Sun – long run
Where “pushups” is whatever day I’m on the 100 pushups challenge (, core is either a workout I stole from Men’s fitness (3 sets 10 Thai planks, 3 sets 10 Thai crucifix, 4 sets 20 elbow-knee crunches, 5 sets 20 standing side knee lift to elbow, 5 sets 20 knee to imaginary skull, 3 min gorilla swing, 3 min axe swing side to side, 3 min axe swing straight to straight up) ( or one that I made up myself – circuit – 50 bicycle crunches, 15 leg lifts, 50 flutter kicks, 60s side planks, 60s front plank, and Squat Circuit is 10x deep squats, side squats, courtesy squats, one legged squats, squat jumps and elevated hip thrusts.
This week my schedule was as planned
Sat – Travel
Sun – rest
Mon – long run
Tues – pushups
Weds – short run
Thur – med run
Fri – short run/pushups
Sat – travel
Sun – long run
                But didn’t end up coming anywhere close. I nailed the long run, but skipped the pushups on Tuesday because our day was full. I was not a participant in most of the planning of activities, nor could I in good faith argue for *me* time as I had flown a good portion of the way across the country to do the exact opposite, so I just went with it and felt fine. I get some time to relax. Sue me. And Tuesday wasn’t a total loss, it was snowing and GF’s mom is of the adventurous spirit and took us to a preserve for a snow hike.
                It wasn’t the most athletically challenging thing I’ve done in my life. It was relatively flat for a hike and the loop was only 3 miles, but it was the novelty of outdoor activity in the snow that appealed to me. Normally I hide from crazy weather, but in this case I was heading towards it, and I finally understood snow shoeing and to a lesser extent cross country skiing (a much lesser extent). Weather is not something to duck. It’s a challenge to face. Hiking in the snow made me want to run in the snow, or at least less afraid to run in the rain. The hike was gorgeous, too. Big fat snowflakes fell the whole time and the swamps and ponds we passed had an ice layer on top that we couldn’t resist smashing with sticks or rocks. In short, it was rad and I hope to get a lot more winter sport experience under my belt (more along the lines of xterra, less X-games).
                Then we skipped town for a day so Wednesday was a wash. I had Kewpee, which started in Lima, Ohio as another burger joint you may have heard of (Wendy’s). Dave Thomas wanted to make it big time, the other guy didn’t, they split, and now Wendy’s is Wendy’s (which I continue to boycott), and Kewpee is amazingly delicious and cheap and simple and doesn’t charge for extra condiments and when you accidentally get frozen French fries and return them they replace them and apologize for the inconvenience, rather than crossing their arms and asking “What you want ME to do about it?”
                Got back on the road on Thursday with a 4-miler on the soft shoulders of the town we were staying in. The snow had mostly melted and become ice and the Merrell Trail Gloves aren’t even close to water proof, so the cold water came right in. The dry-max socks did their best, I’m sure, but they’re no match for snowmelt. I didn’t have any blisters though, so score one point for the dry max. Thursday night I got half drunk and did 10 ten second pushups. That sucked.
Update – excuses (counting Kewpee and Wafflehouse) 6, fitness: 3, drymax socks: 1.
                Friday was our last full day. I had 7 on the schedule, but I waited and waited and wasted the day away doing nothing so I only had time for 4. I didn’t even count them. I just went out and ran on the fields behind the house for forty minutes before stripping my shoes and socks off and sprinting 800 yards back to the house barefoot over ice (ouch) and having everyone in the house think I’m an idiot with a penchant for frostbite, but I wanted to say I did it, and got that accomplished.
                Saturday was another travel day. There was a dunkin donuts in the airport. I also had cookies in my carry-on. Leftovers that gf’s mom gave us so they wouldn’t tempt her. Excuses: 8. I had planned on running when I got home, as well but the time change messed up my internal clock (9) and we had to unpack and re-pack in a hurry to make it to San Clemente before the drunks got on the road (10) and we took a nap and woke up it was dark (11).  I was fairly well hungover and had not planned to run that day anyway, so I didn’t, planning instead to run Monday which didn’t happen because we had to leave town early to avoid the end of holiday weekend traffic (12) and on the way home stopped for chili’s which is honestly too heavy to eat before a 14 mile run (13) plus I could run after work on Tuesday when my groin wasn’t so inexplicably sore (14).
                But I did not run on Tuesday. Or I did, but it was only 4 miles. I didn’t see the sense in messing my schedule up two whole days when I could just forget the past and get back on track. I would have to run 2 six day weeks to make the 2 days up and with the Rose Bowl half 3 weeks away, I knew that could result in overtraining which could harm my performance so I decided to cast the missed workout aside. My next run will hurt a little bit more than it would have, but it’s my own fault, and as I learned at the SF marathon, it’s worth the hurt (I realize that is the hurt of training, not the hurt of skipping a workout, but I’ve cleverly repurposed it to suit my own needs).
                I weighed myself on Tuesday morning. Back up to 217 lbs and 24.0% body fat, so exactly where I started. I don’t regret a single cookie. We’ll notice the final score 14 excuses to 3 fitnesses and 1 for the drymax is equal to this 10 pound gain. Not scientifically, but funly.