So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You Can't Always Get What You Want

First, a funny: I was getting to leave my work area yesterday afternoon. I picked up my gym bag, then reached over to my desk to grab my warm-up clothes and my swim trunks, which were on hangers and drying. The lieutenant sitting across the office asked, 'what's that?' I replied, 'Speedo.' She said something like, 'well, I've never seen them like that before...'
One of those responses that will leave you (occasionally) scratching your head.
I don't think there's anything humorous I could have shot back, but everyone else in that four-person office responded in a way which was enough to make her blush. I've done it once or twice before to her, usually as a joke. After a year, though, it's almost a form of sport to see how innocent the response can be that will turn her a shade that would make Crayola jealous. It's always a little bit cerebral; leave the innuendo far, far underneath the surface.
Okay. On to my secondary topic.
While I try to work with each individual athlete who comes out to train; find out their goals, determine their limitations, strengths and weaknesses, there are some things that are absolutely non-negotiable.
1) There is one person in charge of the workout.
2) While there are individual preferences, the workout plan is not a rerun of Let's Make A Deal.
3) The workout is voluntary, which means you can leave at any time.
I do have athletes who are experienced, who know their bodies well enough, and take the time to talk with me about what they plan to do. That's a mature athlete. In their case, I listen and throw my two cents in there. Most of the time I've been fairly well in my estimation; there have been times I've been wrong, too.
One of my favorite podcasts; one that I've listened to at least once a week since it popped up on my iTunes account is produced by the staff at They were/are/coach top-shelf triathletes and have loads of experience...not to mention a serious sense of humor. The coaches corner is only 25 minutes long, but filled with great insight. My job is to teach athletes to think for themselves...then step back and serve as an advisor during those moments when they are not so certain.
I guess the choice comes down to two. I can treat athletes like rational adults who know what's best for them. I can treat them like kids who need to be led by the nose. Frankly, I prefer the former...and every little piece of rebellion and isolation just makes me more certain I'm right.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Single Is Free Verse, Married Are Sonnets, Animals Are Tech Manuals

Suzanne's in Boston this week, taking care of more business at VON 2008. While I hate the thought of being alone in the house, every so often it's kind of nice to not have to worry about whether we have everything we need to go out for a long run, track practice or race.
Before she or any of you think I don't love my wife, please understand what I mean by this. I only have to make certain I have one water bottle, one towel, one spare shirt, etc. When the workout is over, I can leave or stick around as long as I want. No need to close a conversation in order to get back to the car/house and clean up a little before a bite and a beer. While being single truly sucks bilge, it's a simple, one-hose form of suck. Being married has it's share of suck, too, but (in the words of Jimmy Red Dust, one of Jimmy Buffett's characters from A Salty Piece of Land) it 'sucks less.' It's a more complicated form of suck; a multifaceted, multidirectional, multi-flow version that varies in quality over time. When you're young it's emotional, when you're middle-aged it's physical, when you're older you toddle away from the hoses and say 'to heck with it.'
My wife has taken on the role of primary caregiver to our five-and-a-half year-old greyhound. So when she goes on the road, whatever temporary respite I might have received from the multi/multi/multi suck goes right out the window. I feel so guilty leaving him home during the workday (he usually serves as security for my wife's office) I do my afternoon running near the house and come immediately home to keep him company. He still wants/needs attention, food, biscuits, walks, and to be let outside (especially while I have my dinner in hand!), above and beyond the amount Suzanne normally gives him.
Rubin's not one to buy the 'oh, Dad's going out for an easy six-miler, after which he'll take you for a walk around the park' line. He knows:
1) Dad's NEVER gone out for an easy six-miler.
2) When Dad comes back, all he'll want to do is rest on the couch, watch television/movies and sip on one or more beers.
So...he'll stand in front of the front door and stare into the wood in the hope of boring a 'hound-sized hole through it with his doe eyes. And it doesn't matter whether you already took him on a three-lap jaunt around the park (well, two laps would make him sleep all day!); he wants more. Doesn't matter, just more. I have not figured out more what, either. In spite of my best efforts to try and understand the d-a-w-g (and his best efforts to communicate with me without pawing my leg off), we're as uncertain as we were the last time I looked at a technical manual, like the ones written in the Far East for those pre-fabricated office furnishings.
So, dear, if you read this. . . your dog is fine. I am surviving, thanks to Wolfgang Puck and Anheuser-Busch. And we both look forward to you coming home. P.S. Don't mind the remains of the wing delivery guy you'll find in the driveway. He mistook our address for someone who ordered from his shop. The dog decided to eat him. . . Okay, so I let him. It was 11:30 p.m., and nobody should beat on our door at that hour.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Our Own Cross (Training) To Bear

Here on the Gulf Coast, autumn temperatures and conditions don't show until the end of October, and when they do show they make themselves known quite readily. My northern friends consider me a sissy for pulling out knicker tights when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, but once your blood has thinned out from two decades of sunshine and warm, humid conditions there's no turning back. Even rainy evenings (which during the summer present precious comfort to us until the sun returns and we feel like we are in the world's largest sauna) can be a tad uncomfortable, pretty much because we get those 15-20 mph gusts cutting through the dri-fit gear we've chosen for our run.

These conditions can motivate you to very strong workouts, like last Thursday's mile repeats. I won't say they were heroic by any stretch of the imagination, but they were pretty darn good. I think my training partner and I would have been 15 (well, maybe 20) seconds per mile slower if not for the ungodly amount of rain dropping on us. Frankly, we both wanted to get that workout over with...even our warm-up was a little on the warm side.

I wrote an article last year about winter running; something I feel thoroughly unqualified to talk about, since I can count the number of times I've run in snowy, slushy or icy conditions on the fingers of one mittened hand. However, it was more about dealing with darkness, decreased visibility, drivers in a hurry to get from point A to point B, and a thumb in the eye of all those folks who love to run with headphones. It's a love/hate relationship, but we're not going there today.

One of the things that most runners do not think much about is cross-training. Perhaps they do more in the northern climates because they are in snow and snow-related products for months at a time. Down here, we race from September until May, with a little bit of a break over the holidays; for us it's more of a time where training has to be focused because of the lack of daylight. Cross-training does some wonderful things, in my humble opinion. It keeps you from getting burned out over running; that variety is the spice of life thing, you know? You have the opportunity to do some of the lower-intensity training indoors, saving your quality work for those times when it's light enough to get out there and hammer. Perfect for guys like me who haven't completely learned the benefit of easy days. Didn't say I wasn't learning, but it's usually by necessity. And, if you have a spouse, partner, friend or significant other who isn't into running or doesn't run as fast (or runs faster) than you, cross-training can also give you both some quality time, depending on the activity.

When I talk about cross-training, I'm talking exercise activities that can be done indoors, such as spinning, elliptical trainer, treadmill running or swimming. There's also basketball, racquetball, aerobic exercise of all sorts and weight training that can be done, but I'll limit myself to the first four I've mentioned.

Spinning - think of a spectrum of exercise spanning an exercise bicycle and the Tour de France.
: controlled conditions (no traffic), minimal equipment hassles (no flat tires), and the ability to work out at your own intensity level and still be in the vicinity of your fellow exercise enthusiasts. Oh, there's also the motivation of high-energy music (my instructor has played everything from Al Jarreau to ZZ Top in the past two years) and an instructor who tells you what you need to do, such as get up out of the saddle, hands at a particular position on the handlebars, pedal at a certain pace/heart rate intensity.
Negatives: doesn't help your bike-handling skills. Some instructors are less cycling-focused than others; while most Spinning instructors have a certification through Madd Dogg sports, they may (or may not) understand the focus of a cross-training athlete. You also have to find a place with a spinning class (local Y, fitness center, gymnasium, health club), then hope a bike is available. In my case, I like to use my road bike shoes, so I have to find a spinning bike that has Look-compatible cleats, or settle for platform pedals that accept workout shoes and aren't as efficient.
Burn: a 40-minute class will burn between 300 and 400 calories, depending on the intensity.

Elliptical trainer - lets you go through all of the motions of running or cross-country skiing, without the jarring of a treadmill. These are especially good during taper periods before a half-marathon or a marathon, when you absolutely feel the need to put a check in the got a 60-minute workout block of your daily to-do list; they're also great for rehabilitation from injury, say, when you break your arm and can't run for eight weeks.
Positives: most good machines have a variety of programs which allow you to work at a fat-burning or cardiovascular-stressing intensity, as well as hill climbing, interval and random programs. All of the information (distance, pace, calorie burn, heart rate, terrain) is right in front of you, so you are not left in the dark. You can let your legs and lungs feel the burn without beating yourself to death.
Negatives: most gyms don't have enough elliptical trainers, or the ones that are available have broken pulse monitors. A good solution for that problem is to take your own heart rate monitor strap with you to the gym. Also, without a television, music or other diversion, using elliptical trainers can be about as much fun as watching paint dry. When I do use an elliptical I'm always stuck in front of a television that has The Jerry Springer Show, or Fox News (now there's an oxymoron...) on...making my workout even that much more uncomfortable. You don't get the mileage in that you would cover on a treadmill or on the road. Also, if you have knee issues, some programs will trash your knees long before you stress your heart.
Burn: 40 minutes in fat-burning mode, without going too far over the line, will burn between 600 and 700 calories. You could do another 20 minutes, but the antidepressant use may outweigh the calorie burning benefits.

Treadmill - the original, and probably the most commonly used piece of indoor cardiovascular exercise equipment. I don't have to say much about this that you don't already know.
Positives: infinite variations on a theme. The ability to walk, jog or run on these things are a plus. Add the hill, interval, heart rate, and random programs to a good treadmill and you would wonder why any of us would ever go outside. The feedback on most treadmills is pretty much the same as elliptical trainers.
Negatives: doesn't replicate road running as well as most runners would like. Why is it I can run a 5:47 mile on the track and I cannot run a mile on a treadmill at 10.8 miles per hour? The shock absorbency of the treadmill deck varies from model to model, and a good model costs serious money. Also, while treadmills have ways to carry your fluid bottles and your music player, I've only seen one that has a ventilation fan...and even it isn't all that good. Watch me sweat all over a treadmill and you'll understand why I think fans are a great thing. And again, while I don't want to complain, treadmill choice at most gym facilities are like men and parking spaces at the mall: the good ones are all taken, the rest are way out there or damaged.
Burn: running an eight minute mile, you can burn about 500 calories in the space of 40 minutes.

Swimming - the one cross-training activity that I believe really transfers over to running.
Positives: no jarring, no pounding, and (relatively) easy on your muscles and joints. You know when you're improving in the pool, and when all of the techniques are falling into place. The discipline of breathing (inhaling especially) at the right time pays back dividends during that hard second mile of a 5K run. Also, there's not much you need to get into the pool, outside of a swimsuit and a pair of goggles. Everything else; kickboards, pull buoys, fins, caps, and so's all optional.
Negatives: large learning curve. Technically a complex activity, unless you plan to limit yourself to easy breaststroke. Time your breathing wrong and you're likely to end up with a mouth full of pool water rather than air. Certain times of the year, especially in this area of the country (where lightning is a near-daily occurrence) can pull you out of the pool in a flash...pun intended. And most swimming facilities around here are very strict on pulling folks out at the first flash of lightning.
Burn: an hour of good, vigorous swimming can burn up to 600 calories.

So, it's a good time to start thinking about what to do other than just running during this fall and winter. The fitness and strength you can maintain over the dark months will shorten the time it takes for you to get back into form once spring arrives...especially if it keeps you from gaining those five or ten pounds that somehow jump on our bodies between the end of October and the beginning of January.

Kia Kaha. Stay Strong.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Are You, Where You Been?

Sometimes I wonder about the folks who come out, train for a while, then suddenly "fall off the face of the earth." I understand what I call (for lack of a better term) parentism, as well as juggling jobs, home lives, spouses, other commitments, and taking up new and added challenges (Golf!? We're talking golf!?). I've said 'we're not getting paid to do this, so don't make it a job.' One of my newer runners mentioned to me the other night about scout meetings and ball practices that would keep him away. I told him, 'no problem. Make it out when you can; run on your own when you can't. Even one good track workout a week is better than none, as long as you get some easy runs in the meantime.'

What gets under my skin:

First, the assumption I should chase people down. I guess I would be more active in this endeavor if my livelihood were based on their attendance/dues. But I'm not making a living from it. My first few months were about keeping up with everyone, trying to keep them coming out. Now, I try not to take it too personally when they decide to not show for a time. Doesn't mean I don't love them, but I've got business to take care of.

Second, the assumption I should phone/e-mail/visit in case I don't see the athlete once a week. While I maintain a religious undertone when talking about running, I'm not a pastor. Athletes missing practices are not committing a mortal sin. I usually send out an e-mail every week-to-ten days about races, workouts, social functions, so I can be reached by punching the reply key on the e-mail. My voice mail works pretty well, as well as my four e-mail accounts. And with three track workouts, one long and two short road runs during the week, and the Friday night dinner/social, the only way to keep from communicating with me is - like my junior college American History professor said about how to fail his course - with great difficulty. The only way to do it is by avoiding me on purpose.

Third, the assumption I should laud or applaud an athlete's return. I'm pleased to see anyone who's been away a while, but unless the rationale for absence is parentism, work/school or injury/recovery, it's 'glad you're out here, now it's time to get with the program.'

I love each and every person who shows up to train with me; while they may not be the toughest or fastest runners in the area, they all show great potential. And it's neat to see them improve. As they say in Maori: Kia Kaha. Stay Strong.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Like Christmas, Without The Bills

How neat. I have this bright, shiny, new Dell workstation where the old Dell used to be. Every couple of years the Navy decides to do a technical refresh of their computers; I believe this is part of the contract with EDS or something like that.
Oh, and a more-modern operating system, too? Quick. Someone pinch me.
I'm certain I'll be in a honeymoon period with this particular workstation for at least two weeks. After that, when NMCI decides to exert its influence by locking me out of Lets once again I'll probably be a screaming maniac once again. But in the meantime life is not too bad.
I only wish I was as happy with my running shoes right now.
When I started to lace up the training shoes at the track last night, there was this humongous gap between the sole of the shoe and my forefoot. Yes, humongous is a technical term...let's say probably somewhere between 1/8th-and-1/4 of an inch gap, with the left shoe larger than the right. I won't mention the specific brand of shoe, but it's one I haven't used in a long time. And the worst part, in my humble opinion, is that I have less than 300 training (or racing) miles on them. So, at around $85 a pair, give or take $10, that's about 90 cents per mile.
Could be worse. I haven't had to buy too many pairs of shoes this year because of the injury in the summer. But it kind of puts a bad taste in my mouth about that particular shoe, which I have to admit I did like...but not at that price.
No use b!tch!ng and moaning about the problem, though. Shoes die. Perhaps I did some things in these shoes I don't normally do. Just provides me a viable excuse to visit my local running store again this week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ECRT/Snickers Marathon Team Log: Dayton River Corridor Half

Just got through the last of Thursday's, Friday's and yesterday's e-mails and made my boss copacetic again...ha, ha, ha... Now I can pass along my weekend in Dayton.

I'm not a big fan of air travel; well, flying is fine, it's that dehumanizing stuff that goes part-and-parcel with homeland security that bothers the heck out of me. But enough of that. This year, we were smart enough to NOT go out for a seven-mile run in Clifton Gorge the day before the half. HOWEVER, we did do a couple of nice long walks on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning...perfect...just enough to keep the brain happy and not ruin our races.

This ended up being a dining extravaganza for the group; we did most of the places that we hit last year, save for Saturday night. Instead of Spaghetti Warehouse in Dayton, we got together with the RD and his wife and did Beef O'Brady's; Ray (RD) had a great time needling me, as I was cheering for LSU and the whole joint was rooting for Louisville. Well, the reason we didn't do SW this time (I think) was because we did Giovanni's on Friday evening and nearly all of us were trying to detox from the garlic; Giovanni's house dressing was loaded with the stuff, as well as their calamari.
We worked the pre-registration and race-day packet pick-up again. Fortunately, this year the race started an hour later and we had some very smart Univ. of Dayton kids working our table, so all we had to do was train them, then sit back and help clear up any problems. If it had been a repeat of last year we all would have had a crappy morning.

Temperature/condition at race start was about 58 degrees and high overcast; for those of us from Florida that's nearly perfect conditions. Most of the local participants are good at self-seeding, and maybe perhaps a little too good, because there was a big space between the front line and the crowd. Nice problem to have.

First mile was a 6:04. I knew as I made the first turn onto the bridge on Stewart St. that it was going to be a fast start pace. I worried a little bit: 'did I just sacrifice my race for a suicidal first mile?' Second mile split was called at 12:12; I still was not pleased and knew something screwy was bound to happen. I didn't feel good at all from the get-go, really; my right hamstring was tight at the junction of the lower glute (sounds like something strength-related, but I cannot tell).

Rather than deal with the hassle of taking cups of fluid on the fly (an issue I've had in the past), or not drinking altogether (another issue I've had) I carried a small 8.5 oz bottle of water with a (whole) Nuun tablet dissolved. Half a tablet is good for 8 oz of water, but I had no clue what to do with the other half and I didn't want to put it back into the tube with the other ones. So I had something to take a hit of every ten minutes or so. A warning for those of you who might think about using Nuun as part of your hydration plan: It's mildly carbonated and it will fizz up in a hand-carried bottle; so don't use a twist-off cap or it will spray you in the face. I had a sense of deja vu every time I opened the bottle, it was like what happened to me every time someone else stuffed a lime in their Corona on Friday or Saturday evening.

Last year, there were several guys who were running near my pace for the first three-to-four miles, so I had plenty of company as we went down toward the UD boathouse and toward the bike path. This year, however, either I was going faster than my contemporaries or the field got much stronger...a great majority of the race felt like a time trial from the first two miles or so. I got the pace issue worked out on the front half of the race, fortunately, and managed to go through the first 6 miles in the low 38 range.

The first signs of 'dude, it's time to pay for those first two miles' came once we got on the bottom side of the loop (turnaround) in West Carrolton. We got onto the street (very narrowly coned off, here - barely one person wide) and off the corridor bike path at that point; I could hear the breathing and footsteps of someone behind me. I must not have been hurting as badly as I thought, because he stayed right there until we got back onto the bike path and the bridge at about 7.5 miles. Even then, the guy was not putting any big distance on me. I saw Suzanne on the bike path, running relaxed and smiling. She cheered as I went by; I looked at her with that 'I'm hurting, can you tell?' look. At the bike path, Coach Rich Davis (my coach's friend) was coming from the opposite direction (a few miles back)...looking quite relaxed. He told me 'you're 19th.' About that point, all thoughts of backing off and "mailing the return trip in" went out the window.

I changed my hydration schedule from taking a swig every ten minutes to taking a swig every mile, not that it was mattering much. I quit trying to do the 'what's my pace?' math after mile 10; at that point it gets to be too much mental. Eever try to do that stuff when you don't have enough oxygen to go to your muscles, much less your head? Pace bands or GPS are probably required or highly regarded at that point, if you're not mathematically gifted.
I was getting worried about whether four or five runners were going to roll up on me like last year. Didn't happen. In fact, I was the one who managed to roll up on about three or four, including the guy that got me before mile 7. I swung wide to the right side of the path as I came around him; he tried to slide in behind me, at which point I put in a five second surge and a slide to the left side of the path. I was not going to let anyone ride me in to the finish area.

I had one last guy who was about ten yards ahead of me from mile 12 (where I finally ditched the bottle) on. I could see he was rigging too, but there was nothing left in the tank. At the turn down into the parking lot, about 800 meters from the finish, Dale was telling me to 'get that guy.' I almost told him, 'trip him, then I can...' There was zero left for anything that looked like a kick. When we got 200 meters out from the finish, the guy pulled whatever he had left out for the kick...I had little left but fumes. I finished in 1:23:44, taking third in my age group and finishing somewhere in the top 20. For a few seconds there I was disappointed at running a one minute personal best for the half and STILL getting stomped on by two guys in my age group, until I looked at the names: John Agnew and Mike Michno. John's a three-time winner of the DRCC. Mike also is a three-time winner and has a sub-four-minute mile (or more) to his credit.

So, the DRCC was a good mid-season tune-up and test of fitness for Jacksonville. I think I'm on track for a decent day in December, once I get the hydration down pat. The long runs that are scheduled for this next six weeks and the longer mid-week tempo efforts should help. Biggest issue of all is developing pace discipline; if I go out at a low six-minute pace for the first two miles of a marathon I will be so totally screwed.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wait! Didn't I See This Before?

For those of you who take the time to read my (sometimes) unfocused rants and ramblings, thanks. I've been a little delinquent over the week, mostly because I've little to say. I'd be delusional if I began to think that there are people in this world who wait on my every word. Maybe if I were an elite athlete, a celebrity, or a real writer it would be a different story.

With three months left before the end of the calendar year, I have to take a closer look at my own leave and earnings statements. Scariest part is not so much that I have vacation time, but trying to fit it in somewhere. Since my wife has a nasty tendency to work all those holidays that most government workers (there I go using oxymorons again) it's more a day I can sit at Panera Bread, reading my latest acquisitions from the book store, or can feel the caffeine coursing through my veins as I write.

Next week is the closest thing we will have to a vacation before the Christmas holidays; we're going to Dayton to visit my coach and his wife, stay for a couple of days, and run the Dayton River Corridor Half-Marathon. I want to go out for a little schlep the day before in the area around Yellow Springs, Glen Helen Preserve, John Bryan State Park, and the like. There are some wonderful paths out there, as well as some really nasty ones, that put almost everything I've ever run in Florida to shame.
The word is out on the beer mile. According to my business partner/swim coach, the first on-line registrant went through and did the deed. I've received a couple of phone calls about the event from folks who appreciate the fact the proceeds are coming their way, but a little concerned about being associated with an event containing beer.


I guess most of them never read what Benjamin Franklin was reported to have said: 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.' I once stated my belief that coffee was proof of the nature and existence of God, but I think Ben could be right, too.
It's probably much too early to start thinking about Hallowe'en, but I can start thinking about Kona. Next weekend, my friends, is the high holidays for triathletes and masochists; the Ford TM Ironman World Championship. My choice for the haku at the end...going to be either Germans Faris Al-Sultan or Normann Stadler, or the Belgian Rutger Beke, with Australians Luke Bell and Chris (Macca) McCormack possible dark horses. Macca can talk trash all he wants, but unless he has THE perfect day it's not possible. I'm going to be massively bummed, because we are in Dayton during the day and I won't be anywhere near a computer with the time to sit and watch the event stream.