Monday, January 31, 2011

Life is Boring as Ever

At least on the running front. I’m sure glad I don’t have any races on my calendar right now. I’m plugging away a couple or three days a week. I wish I could do more, but I have some things happening on the life front that are higher priority. I thought I would share that with you today. The story begins…..

…about 11 years ago. Yours truly came up with a little software idea right at the time of the Internet bubble, managed to raise some cash, and took a prescription writer product to market. The dreams were huge, the execution was tough, the success was limited. It made me a decent living. It didn’t get me rich.

Fast forward to mid 2010. Meeting with my largest customer. News that their new legacy software includes the functionality that my software provided. Heads up that they would be migrating away from my product. Add to that the fact that larger medical groups (the kind that can afford to pay for services) are moving toward fully integrated electronic records. The writing was on the wall. Time to start polishing the resume. I had become what I never thought I would become. A mid-fifties executive in a down employment market.

But – I’m not the kind of person who shys away from things that are challenging. I polished the resume. And started looking for a job. It took me about two seconds (well okay, maybe about a month) to realize that things were way different than they were the last time I looked for employment, that was back in 1996.

So – I’m going to change up on the subject matter in my blog for a few posts. It won’t be as much a running blog as it will be a “learn from my mistakes” blog. The good news is the jobs are there. The bad news is it’s a lot of work to uncover them. If you all don’t mind, I’ll talk about my trials and tribulations in finding those elusive jobs. Believe me – there’s a lesson for all of us in what I‘m about to write. And thank you for putting up with me for the next few days!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Hardest Part of Getting Back in Shape?

If you would have asked me this question a couple weeks ago, I would have said That the hardest part of getting back into shape was lengthening from two or three miles to double digits. Well, after a week of going six miles every other day, I have a new answer for you - the hardest part is so having to go so freaking slow!!!

Now, before you guys get all soft on me and start commenting about how well I'm doing, please note the use of the words "having to". Yes. At this point the lack of speed is self imposed. I thought I would rehash some physiology 101 to explain.

Somewhere in my pile o' crap I have the book "Advanced Marathoning" by Pete Pfitzinger. Yes. The Pfitzinger who developed the Pfitzinger training plans. By the way - if you are serious about running, I would highly recommend that book. The book is not a motivational book. It is about why you do certain things in certain order when training. In short, it's the scientific justification for a structured training plan.

The first chapter of the book discusses the how and why of periodization. The upshot is for us to work like well oiled machines in a race environment, our muscles need to be able to process the fuel that we provide for an extended length of time. If everything is running okay, and we are burning fuel at a sustainable rate, our cells are able to breakdown carbohydrates and rid themselves of waste products in perfect harmony. This is known as the aerobic (requiring oxygen) cycle. If we are unable to provide oxygen to cells fast enough, our muscles use a different path to produce fuel - the anaerobic (without oxygen) cycle. This form of respiration is not as efficient as the aerobic cycle - creating more waste product in the form of hydrogen ions. At some point, our body's inability to flush these waste products causes a bunch of other biochemical processes to occur. We (first) mentally shut down, and eventually physically shut down. This is the infamous "wall" that we all either read about or have experienced.

The real key then is to spend as much training time as possible in the aerobic zone - getting our bodies to efficiently use oxygen for long periods of time. If we spend too much time in the anaerobic zone while training, we actually need to spend more time recovering and less time training.

So - how do we know if we are training in the proper zone? Well, the technical way is to use a device that tests blood acidity during exercise:

This is typically done by taking blood samples at certain points in time during exercise. Then a graph is constructed showing blood acidity versus heart rate:

Then, one can train at the ideal heart rate - right where blood acidity is at 2 mmol/ml. Training at this level maximizes aerobic conditioning.(*)

Well, most of us don't have a Lactate Pro analyzer, nor do we have a desire to get lanced every 10 minutes while training for an hour. But, what we do have is a heart rate monitor. When data is generalized over the population, it turns out that the anaerobic/lactate threshold for most of us occurs right around a heart rate of 83% of max. So, with your handy dandy Garmin, you set the appropriate heart rate range to beep when you reach this range. Now you are outfit to train efficiently in your aerobic zone, and train efficiently when your plan calls for LT training!

So back to my "problem". Right now, my Garmin starts beeping at me as I pass from aerobic to anaerobic zone. Unfortunately, that beeping occurs whenever a small incline is thrown into the mix, or I run at a decent pace for about half a mile, or .. or.. or. You get the idea. I'm not paying attention to my pace during a run. I'm just waiting for a beep, slowing down, and then speeding up again when my heart rate is back under control. And you know what? Each time I do six miles, I'm trimming a minute or two off my elapsed time. Yes. I think I'll be back to normal soon. As long as I don't run out of patience along the way.

Face it. We can all run a 7:30 mile pace. If you're like me, you can run at that pace for 50 yards. If you're aerobically fit, you can do it for 26.2 miles...

(*) This was the approach that was used by my daughter's and son's rowing coach to aerobically train. The end result was a rowing scholarship for my daughter and International racing for my son. This was also the approach the coach used to win an Olympic Gold in 1996 and a Silver in 2000.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Nose to the Grindstone

Sorry for the infrequent posts, but not too much exciting is going on on the running front in my little world. There is some bad news/good news. For the bad news – the little storm event that played out toward the end of last December has left the trail infrastructure here in Orange County in a shambles. The word on the street is Laguna Coast Wilderness (closest to home) won’t reopen until sometime in March. Until then, I’m pretty much relegated to road running during the week. The good news is without the hills and uneven footing brought on by trails, my knee seems to be pretty much fully recovered. Now if I could just recover my fitness and speed….

In order to do the latter though, it’s just more nose to the grindstone work. The kind that is boring and mind numbing. Especially when those current 11:30 paces are the best that I can do. Double especially when remembering when 9:45 was a comfortable long run pace. It’s been tough, but I can finally see some progress. I went out for a one hour slow run (about 3 miles out and back, 6 total) last night and watched an amazing sunset. I’ve also dropped about 5 pounds in the last three weeks. So – I think I’ve got the ol’ cruiser turned and headed the right direction. I’m not ready to put races on my calendar yet, but it’s just a matter of being smart and putting in the time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Starting to Get the Hang of This

I spent the better part of Friday at one of my favorite hangouts – The Bicycle Club – here in L.A. Now – don’t go get all excited. I’m not going the triathlete route. In fact, despite the picture that the name may paint, The Bicycle Club (or “The Bike” as it is referred to by the regulars) is the second largest poker casino in Southern California. A few hours at a poker table last Friday helped me realize a couple of things:

First: Patience is a virtue.

Second:  I’m getting older. This is an inescapable fact of life. Things just don’t work like they used to. Everything takes a little longer to recover.

So – you may be asking at this point (if you’re still reading) – “Glenn. How does poker make you think about running?” Well, let me explain….

In real life, poker is not like what you see on TV. The TV sessions are edited for brevity and excitement. In fact, poker and laundry are very similar. You spend your time folding. And folding. And folding. Then, just like finding the occasional dollar bill in a pocket, every now and then you look at your cards and find a hand worth gambling on. Friday was a day that was like that to an extreme. I literally spent eight hours at a table and only played three hands.

But oh boy. When I got those hands and got my money in the middle of the table, the profits that were received made the wait worth while. In the meantime, all those people who weren’t so patient were dipping into their wallets. Some of them had won small pots and got to taste the glory of the short term win. But now, those hours of work on their part was being pushed in my direction.

The bad poker player sees a pair of Kings or a pair of Aces and jumps at the pot. He becomes results oriented. He puts the blinders on and ignores the other tell tale signs that someone is about to remove a day’s salary from his wallet. Likewise, many of us jump at every race we can. We see that BQ or PR and get all results oriented. We focus on the short term end result. In the meantime, all those folks who are more patient – who are training for a real reason – continue to pass us. We get those short term PRs, but we still end up behind in the long run (raising hand). We watch those who started at the same time that we did continue improving and progressing. In the meantime, we spent thousands of dollars in race fees, never hit that elusive BQ, and eventually sit around, injured and burned out on the sidelines.

Which brings me to part two of this post. While sitting around trying to stay awake and alert on Friday, I couldn’t help but notice the grey hair, walkers, and oxygen tanks that were spread around the poker room during the day. Many of these folks are older than my parents. And I just turned 54. But the one thing is that most of these folks are sharp as tacks. Heaven help that you get into a tricky situation on a poker table with some of them. They may not have the physical ability they once did. They can’t stare us young’uns down and physically intimidate us – but they can use their brains and experience to trump us nonetheless.

I think you can see where this is going. As we age, we just normally can’t do the things we used to. I’ve spent the last year getting all pouty because my paces and PRs are going the wrong direction. But, just like the blue hairs in the casino, maybe it is time for me to adapt. To understand that success can be measured in many different ways. It doesn't have to be PRs. Or BQs. Maybe it’s just the satisfaction of hours on my feet. Of more miles at slower paces. Of being outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of the world around me. Yes. After three years I think I’m starting to get the hang of this….

On tap this week:

  • Monday: 3 easy miles
  • Tuesday: 4 easy miles
  • Wednesday: 1 mile warm up, 4 hill repeats, 1 mile warm down for 4 miles
  • Thursday: 3 easy miles
  • Friday: Scheduled rest.
  • Saturday: 6 easy miles
  • Sunday: 35 minute tempo run
  • Total: Somewhere around 23-24 miles.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Something Just Might be Working Here…

I’m into week 2 of my training plan and everything seems to be progressing satisfactorily. I did take an extra day off this week – Tuesday. I had a long night on Monday, an early wake up Tuesday, followed by a two hour commute, a networking meeting, and an hour drive back home. By the time I got home in the early afternoon I was physically and mentally exhausted. Getting old sucks. I could have hit the trails, but opted for a much needed nap instead. Did I say getting old sucks?

I vindicated myself yesterday. I went out in the late afternoon for a smallish hill workout. All I have to say is today I am one sore dude. But – unlike a couple months ago where “sore” was bad, today “sore” is good. Maybe – just maybe – I’ve turned a corner here. I still have a long way to go, but I’ll take it for now.

I’ll be back out around the Lower Back Bay today for three more miles. It’s a beautiful Southern California day….

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Patience of Getting Back into Shape

In a word? Excruciating. Believe me, if you want to learn about patience, go 21 weeks without training. I’ve got to tell you, it’s tough to go out and *not* compare where I am now with where I was then. Here are a couple prime examples:

  1. I’m just getting to the point where I can actually *jog* a mile without having to take a walk break to catch my breath. Before the first mile.
  2. All of my splits involve four digits and no zeros in the middle
  3. My t-shirts are still tight

Alrighty then. As if you need to be reminded – Do as I Say! Don’t Do as I Do!

On tap this week:

  • Monday: 3 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 3 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 3 hill repeats, 1 mile warm up, 1 mile warm down for 3.5 total
  • Thursday: 3 miles easy
  • Friday: Scheduled rest day
  • Saturday: 7 miles
  • Sunday: 30 minute tempo
  • Total: Somewhere around 22 or so

Keep ‘em moving folks!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


That's the last time I did "it".  “It” hasn’t been done in 21 weeks. That's like, almost half a year. And, no, "it" does not refer to finding another shrubbery and planting it in a two level effect and then cutting down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring. "It" is running 20 miles in a seven day period. This week, with my short three mile run this afternoon, I will do "it" for the first time in 2011.

I also put in a short hill session this week. To be sure, things are sssslllloooowwww and bbbbrrrrruuuuttttaaaalllll, but, in the immortal words of Randy Quaid:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let Me Clear Something Up…

When I talked about the importance of blogs a couple days ago – I meant as in *reading* them. Because to write them would mean that something exciting would need to be happening. Not so much right now.

A couple of you noticed and commented that my planned and tentative races are off the sidebar. Yes. My main task right now is getting back into running shape. That means miles on the trails, not miles on the course. To the former point, I *did* manage to get out 4 days in a row this week, including a short hill workout on Wednesday. Mileage isn’t great (3 to 3 1/2 at a time), but the last time I ran four days in a row… heck… the last time I exercised four days in a row was the week ending June 27, 2010. Jeesh!

I have a day off today, and then <<gasp>> six miles on Saturday. I think I’ll need to stick to the Back Bay, because it seems that all the local wilderness parks are still closed from last week’s rain. Have I mentioned that here in Southern California, 10 inches of rain is like the hundred year flood? Well, at least the flood of the decade. There was a lot of damage in the backcountry parks that, in some cases, are going to require a little more than just drying out. Oh well. Back to the grindstone….

Monday, January 3, 2011

Discovered Something Important This Past Week

Yessiree Bob! Or I should say Yessiree Blog! It never really struck me until this past week that I had essentially wandered away not only from my Blog, but from the entire blogosphere. I have some other things going on in my life right now that require my attention, and I let that dictate my schedule a little too much. It's tough wading through 225 unread posts....

Well, I can tell you that I'm turning over a new leaf. Along with everything else I'm doing, I will be making a concerted effort to keep my Google reader up to date. I didn't realize how much just reading blogs on a daily basis keeps me motivated. It's the old surround yourself with success thing. Thanks everyone!

Finally, day one is in the books. It was only 3 miles, but it's a start. Another 3 tomorrow...

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let's Put a Wrap on it...

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a wonderful time ringing in 2011. For all you young 'uns out there - here's what you have to look forward to when you are in the 5th decade of life - I didn't make it to 10:30 before I was sawing logs. Luckily, my wife and kids woke me up about 5 minutes before the strike of midnight so I could watch Ryan Secrest et al. Personally, I thought the highlight of the evening was "A Night at the Opera" on AMC followed by the start of The Three Stooges marathon on TCM. Maybe that's an explanation for the last couple of weeks of tweets by me (LOL!)

Speaking of 2011, I'm looking forward to the new start. My little exercise of the past few days allowed me some time to reflect on what went wrong in 2010. I really think that I just too narrowly defined my goals. Everything revolved around accomplishments. Once I lost my mojo in late March, all my running related goals were looking more and more unattainable. It became incredibly difficult to muster the motivation to slog away in the trenches. That's why this year's goals are more the type that define where I want to be in a year as opposed to what I want to get accomplished. This year, if my tactical plans get jettisoned for injury, lack of interest, etc., I can still adapt a new tactical plan to achieve my goal. At least this time, if I spend my afternoons sitting around, I'll be able to stop stuffing my face (in theory).

I start tomorrow. lindsay, I'm giving you a run for your money in the procrastination department. Thank goodness I didn't have a "non-procrastination" clause in my 2011 goals. Whew!

Here's wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and most importantly, prosperous 2011! Let the party begin!

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