Tuesday, January 31, 2012

500+ miles and Done

I think streaking is not that wise of an idea.  Of course, if we are talking about the running around naked kind and it involves fit women, I am all for it.  But when it comes to running streaks, I have documented my feelings on that (Really? Five Years ago?!) and for the most part they stay unchanged. Which means, of course, recently I was in the middle of the biggest running streak quite possibly of my running career.

Starting with the day before the Kiawah Island Half Marathon on  December 9th, I had been running consecutively for quite some time. With no more traveling or flying for the rest of December, I was able to be at home, rest and recover from runs unlike anytime in the previous year. I also had a little goal of running over 2,000 miles in 2011 in sight so that kept me going as well.  But when 2011 ended, I kept going. I signed up for the Graveyard 100 in March and knew I was going to have to up my mileage in order to do as well as I would hope to do. So I kept running. Soon, most of January was gone and I hadn't missed a day.

Then about a week ago I caught a cold. It surprised me as we have had such relatively pleasant weather here Salt Lake City. But nevertheless I caught one and it started to drag me down. I was still putting in my miles but for the most part they did not feel beneficial anymore. The nail in the coffin to this streak was the extenuated airplane trip, damaged luggage and then a long first day at the ING Miami Marathon expo. Once I got back to my room, with a VIP dinner to attended, I knew I was done. So Friday January 27th I did not run. Forty-eight days of running and 504 miles later the streak was dead. I promptly woke up feeling like death warmed over.

However, the next day, when I think my body finally was able to digest the rest it was given, I had not only an excellent training race but an all around good running day.  Throw in the run from my hotel to the start of the race (~4.5 miles), the run with all the kids for the Run For Something Better program and my run with Raven and I totaled nearly 30 miles on Sunday.

Nevertheless, I still feel the same way about streaks - for the most part they do more harm than good. The body only truly recovers when it rests.  It needs time to prepare itself for the next run. So even though I thrive best in races when I take less than usual rest than others, I know for sure that proper rest is needed.

It goes without saying that everyone is different.  Some people want to streak.  Some people seemingly need to Streak (see Raven above). But to simply go out and put shoes on every single day and go for a run, in the face of facts that tell you that perhaps Tuesday is a day you could take off and feel much better for the rest of the week, month, or year, it is in your best interest to take that Tuesday off. But only you know what works best for you. Find what that is.

For me and Mrs. USA, well, we will take our rest with a side of lean beef.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The passing of my father, Donald Rauschenberg

I thought trying to find the words to describe a challenging race or a hard-fought victory was tough.  I was wrong. Trying to encapsulate how you feel when your own father dies makes everything else seem like a walk in the park.

I do not often go into details of my private life in public, and will hardly open the vault in this post (you can, however, see my father’s obituary by clicking here). But after a simple posting on facebook about my father had me flooded with condolences I wanted to at least take the time to thank those who spent a few seconds of their day wishing me and my family well.

Even my closest friends knew very little about my father.  He was a quiet man who kept to himself for the most part. Having been physically crippled by a hunting accident, a series of post-accident surgeries, infections and his personal bad judgment, I only knew my father one way my entire life- fairly immobile. Yet this did not keep him from attending just about every event I participated in, if at all possible. I never so much as played catch with my father but there was no sport that I took on that he did not fully support my participation in. Yet, there were times when he could have been a better father or husband. He was far from perfect. Then again, so am I.

About four years ago I was participating in a race on a very unique day. This race put me at the exact age (just a few days off) from the age when my father was shot. From that point on, I would have had the full use of my legs longer than he ever had in his life. During this race, my father back in my hometown, went to the hospital. What we would later learn was the beginning of a slide into Alzeheimer’s took roost.  Given the nature of my race (a 24 hour event where runners simply tried to run as far as they could on a 2 mile loop) I had the ability to take phone calls while I walked certain portions. When I called my father and spoke to him, it was clear he was quite confused.  He was absolutely convinced he was still at home even though he was obviously hooked up to machines in a hospital. I had known my father as a diabetic crippled man my entire life, but this was the first time that shield of invincibility finally cracked around his mind.

The race itself was hard on me and each time I spoke to my father (which I did every few hours) I was beginning to realize things would never be the same. Not long thereafter, I pulled out of the race. I blamed heat and fatigue. In reality I knew it was at least partially because I had beaten myself up mentally over seeing Superman fall.

Over the next few years, as long as my father was home, while his memory itself was slipping, he was rather lucid. This changed a little over a year ago. Sparing the details, suffice it to say both his mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly. We began preparing for what seemed inevitable. Always a stubborn SOB, my father rallied on numerous occasions until finally my mother called me to tell me that I needed to say goodbye to him. If you think an 18 mile training run is hard, try saying goodbye to the man who helped make you who you are, over the phone, when he cannot respond.

I lost my Dad on Friday around 9 AM EST. He was 68 years old. If you can, please do me a favor and call your own father and tell him how much he means to you today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Impressions from the Olympic Marathon Trials

In a word, Wow.

At the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, we all knew it was going to be an unprecedented day.  First and foremost, this would be the first time in trials history that the men’s and women’s race would be held on the same day, let alone the same course.  With a multi-loop course layout, this meant standing in one spot allowed a spectator to see the runners no less than four times. With the two different genders starting 15 minutes apart and an as-to-be-expected thinning of the herd of each race as the event moved forward, there were times where runners were coming through an area for a solid 10 minutes straight.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a pass to watch the race from just a few yards away from the finish. I had thought about donning running shoes and trying to cut corners and see the runners all over the course taking close and personal action shots but when presented with the opportunity to watch from the finish, could not pass it up. I enjoyed a little breakfast courtesy of the Olympic Marathon organizing committee and reveled that the sport I love allows so many to see its premiere events so easily. Throughout the day I was mingling with people who obviously were there to support someone but who didn’t know a whiff about marathoning as well as people so firmly entrenched in the running world that their names are legendary.

Much has been written about the top three finishers (well, four actually – as Dathan and Amy Hastings' near-hits and obvious emotional responses at just missing the team were heartbreaking) and I too was quite moved by them all. However, more so than that was the pure electric feel this race had to it. Each side had about five people who may have a shot at making the team.  Yet even knowing more or less who was going to make the team did not take away some of the drama.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weight Loss

With the New Year comes the resolutions.  With the resolutions comes the desire to “lose weight” and “get into shape”. These are both very arbitrary goals which allow them to easily be forgotten, changed or given up on. The problem is many people are looking at the wrong things when it comes to weight loss.

When we say we want to lose weight, most people mean they want to tone up or cut down on the amount of fat on their body.  In reality, the number on the scale shouldn’t mean that much at all.  How we look, how we feel, and how healthy we are should trump the scale.  But the scale is far more measurable.  Weigh 127 today when you weighed 129 yesterday?  Hooray!  In a perfect world, it would be great if we all had easy access to a device that actually kept track of the fat content on our body. Even better would be a monitor which instantly allowed us to know that what we are doing in our diet and our exercise was beneficial to us and in what way. For the most part, the plain old scale is neither of those things.

Here’s an example: I weigh myself pretty much every day when I am home. I always do it after a workout (so if I am dehydrated or at my thinnest, at least I am always dehydrated and at my thinnest) and I try to remember to keep everything the same as possible. I don't weigh myself for any real benchmark but rather laugh at anomalies like this:

Friday: 10.1 mile run; weight = 176 lbs
Saturday: 15.8 mile run; weight =178 lbs
Sunday: 5.6 mile run; weight = 180 lbs
Monday: 12 mile run; weight =180.8 lbs

If I had not been weighing myself for quite some time, I would either be freaking out thinking I had a tumor or would want to give up eating or exercising or both because obviously something is askew.  But I know that weight alone means oh so little.  There is no doubt in my mind that within a day or two of my continued normal exercise and diet, I will drop back into the 170s. But if I don’t I won’t lose my mind.  In fact, as I am ramping up my miles this year for a couple of longer distance events, I would not be surprised if, even though my clothes are more loose, the scale doesn’t register much change at all.  The scale doesn’t know my waist is thinning a bit while my quads are growing a touch.

Sure it is helpful to have a scale in the house but if one does not use it correctly, or relies too heavily on the little number readout then it is probably better to not care at all.  What really matters much more than a scale is to make a food diary.  Sure they are annoying and tedious but if you, yes, YOU (me included) make note of what you eat in a day, you will probably be more than surprised at how many calories you take in. Think you eat just 2000? If you are lucky.  Chances are it is much higher.

So as January turns into February and beyond, don’t worry too much about weight loss per se.  Worry about exercising and eating right.  The weight will probably take care of itself as long as you are smart about the other two things.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hydration Products

This past weekend at the New Year's Revolution Run a few runners were talking about how they were surprised when they had miscalculated their hydration in a race where you could get a drink of water about four times a mile. I mentioned I had learned the hard way this myself and we began talking about ways to hydrate. Recently, I had experimented with two new products and I wanted to share them with you.

One, called Simple Hydration, is simple a water bottle, to put it bluntly.  But it is a pretty unique one in its design.  Not meant to be a solution to an ultrarunning distance, it is for athletes looking to get runs in up to about 10 miles who need a little support on the way.  I first gave it a test run in Fort Lauderdale in November and was a little skeptical.  I honestly do not like much of anything in my hands or on my waist when I run. 

The Simple Hydration bottle is meant to fit on your waistband, in the center of your back.  Here goes the chafing, I thought.  Much to my surprise, even though it took a little bit getting use to (I would run naked if it was legal and not an eyesore) it neither chafed, moved nor bothered me.  My only problem was that with so much of the surface area of the bottle touching my skin, the potential for chafing remained.  In addition, body heat really can warm the fluid quickly so making sure the liquid is ultra cool is imperative. (The bottle also will fit in a utility belt like SPIbelt, although I did not get a chance to try that out.)

I think it is a sold product that fits the market exactly where it wants to.  It is not going to be something you use for trek over the Rockies but it definitely is enough to get you through 90 minutes of running on a hot day.

Another watery product I tried was called was called 82Go which is basically a product which touts its major green initiative. Like Simple Hydration I see the product being used best for shorter runs or where there is not a need for a great quantity of water.  Or, as seems to be one of their goals, to replace water cups at aid stations in races.  Given the amount of plastic is the same amount used in just the lid of most water bottles, that is a very good thing. I am far from the most ecologically friendly person on the planet (although i do try my best) but I think this is an excellent goal.

The product itself takes a second or two to master and you will occasionally squirt yourself in the eye. However, slipping one into the shirt pocket of a bike jersey or into again a SPIbelt, seems like a pretty good way to carry 8 ounces of liquid refreshment.  And while this may be pure conjecture, the water tasted really good.  I am not one who buys into purified water or has a problem drinking from the tap but for some reason, these little 8 ounces bods were yummy.

I think both are worth a try. Either way, get your water people, even in the winter.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Revolution Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 45th Edition 
713.1 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: New Year's Revolution Run
Place: Kearns, UT
Miles from home:  15 miles
Weather: Indoor

With the turning of the year, I almost forgot to write this recap.  Don't worry.  As I am already full into 2012 this will be relatively short.
My only goal for this race was to run 30 miles. In case you didn’t click on the above link to read more about the format of this race, it is simple.  Runners have four hours to see how far they can traverse an indoor track course.  Bam.  That simple.

The clock starts, you start moving (or not depending on when you plan to start) and your laps are counted by chip timing. With the track being next to the ice speed skating oval, it was slightly larger than your standard 400 meter track. So each mile was just 3.65 loops instead of 4. This means, and believe me, this took more math than I wished to do, that in order to run 30 miles, I had to average a 2:10.5 lap and run 110 laps to nudge myself just a hair over 30 miles.

I was very happy as I rolled into the race venue to see so many people there doing one last race in 2011.  At the same time I knew this was going to involve a lot of dodging, bobbing, and weaving. Having done similar races, I knew what to expect and was hoping people would try to abide by not only the rules the directors sent us but also common sense and courtesy.

The gun went off at 8:04 PM and I steadied myself for four hours of NASCAR-esque left turns.  When I mentioned what I was doing earlier in the week, someone asked me if I was going to get dizzy. After pausing to see if I really needed to answer the question, I asked them if they get dizzy when they walk around a city block. I honestly do not understand many people far too much of the time.