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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Myth America

As the holiday season nears its end, I have no doubt whatsoever the track facility where I train will be filled with well-meaning persons trying to undo the damage inflicted upon their bodies since the end of October. I hold out hope (however fleeting) they will keep at it long enough to develop a healthy habit of daily (or near-daily) exercise.
I'm not certain what is more frightening, the pile of fitness, health and dietary myths printed on a regular basis in the public media...or those that are not only printed in the media, but repeated by medical professionals...with no scientific evidence whatsoever.
The British Medical Journal traditionally carries light-hearted features in its Christmas edition. Two U.S. researchers took seven common beliefs and searched for evidence to support them.
Despite frequent mentions in the popular press of the need to drink eight glasses of water (in fact, repeated on the health section of Yahoo!), they found no scientific basis. The lack of evidence is recorded in a study published in the American Journal of Psychology.
So, let's take a look at the other six "myths" (and my editorial commentary):
1 - Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight - unlikely to do permanent damage, but may make you squint, blink more and have trouble focusing. (If you're reading Runner's World, some of the articles will make more sense.)
2 - Shaving makes hair grow back faster or coarser - no effect on thickness or hair regrowth, but stubble gives the impression of coarseness. (So if I let my mustache, beard and head and leg hair grow long, I can slick it down for aerodynamic effect. What do you think, dear?)
3 - Eating turkey makes you drowsy - tryptophan is involved in sleep and mood control, but turkey has no more than chicken or beef. Eating lots are probably the real cause of sleepiness. (Not to mention slowness and fatness.)
4 - We use only 10 percent of our brains - imaging shows no area of the brain is completely inactive. (The jury is still out on the effects of skull thickness.)
5 - Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death - the skin dries and retracts after death, giving the appearance of longer hair or nails. (Hm...there's an untapped market for manicurists...)
6 - Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals - studies found minimal interference with medical equipment. (People using mobile phones in public, not only hospitals, are more a pain in the @$$ than anything else. Mobile phones are still dangerous in airliners and while driving on the roadways, however.)
So, go ahead and use that cell phone (quietly) in the hospital, back off your dietary intake a skosh if you're feeling sleepy, and drink when you're thirsty. If you're one of those persons who believes all the stuff you read in the newspapers, stop, already. Always, but always go to the source documents. And don't believe everything your physician says, especially when they tell you that running is bad for the knees. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Simple, Simple, Simple...

I'm back in the office after a week away...all right, I did come in once to check the e-mail. However, as quiet and uneventful as it seems things will be this week, I could have stayed home and limped about there instead of in here. Hey, you never know.
Christmas around Chez Bowen was simple and relatively unadorned. Rubin received a boatload of treats from well-meaning friends; most of them rawhides processed in China. It was with a great deal of regret we tossed them into the wastecan. However, he got some more stuffies from "Dad;" I wasn't certain whether he was going to play with them (Suzanne was waxing biblical, talking about putting away childish things), when, lo and behold, he heard the squeak of one and took it to the floor. Okay, so he wasn't wagging his tail to beat the band like in years past...
Practical was the operating word for our gifts to each other. I got Suzanne a massage/heat pad; she got me skivvies, a movie and fruitcake - I must be the only guy on the planet who really likes the stuff, in spite of it breaking one of my teeth a year ago. For us, the trip to Jacksonville was Christmas. Well, she got the presents; I got the coal. Time with good friends and more coffee in a weekend than most guys put down in a for me.
We had to get the check in the box. I was in no mood to run (I'll get some time/mileage in tonight, but it was Florida miserable out there), but felt the compulsion to do something, so I walked for about four miles...Suzanne ran and walked while I just walked and pondered the mysteries of the universe and all those other things young coaches do when there's nothing fun to do. We got hungry about 1:00 in the afternoon, and I really didn't want to go to the Chinese joint again for we did a little driving to see who was open. Just so happens that one sports bar downtown was; playing some football re-broadcasts since there was only the basketball games going down. Let me tell you, there's nothing like a Guinness and a big cheesesteak sandwich, especially on Christmas. Hits the spot every time.
Playing with the dog, and the computer, and checking the e-mail started to get very old. First we thought about hitting a movie, then decided to sit in and watch videos. Suzanne went to the Chinese carry out, grabbed a six of Guinness, then came back to stir-fry after calling our friend Laura to invite her over...the first reaction would be to say misery loves company, but we all were just keeping it simple. I heard lots about the movie Dogma from friends who recommended the Showtime series Weeds, but wow... Screaming hilarious. A great mix of comedy and thriller. I'm afraid I'll have to check that one out again for commentary material.
Who would ever thought of casting Alanis Morissette as God?
Now, I'm ready to get back to training. See you on the roads.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Live To Fight Another Day

Up this morning to make my way to the swimming pool...the hammies were oinking, the quads were multiplying their pain response somewhere closer to octaves, and the calves were definitely mooing. The cacaphony of catastrophic proportions - muscle and joint pain at all-time highs - encouraged me to turn back to the (relative) warmth of my bed. Humor notwithstanding, both the missus and I were in a world of pain two days after our marathon experience. I felt guilty for not doing anything today, but if you follow the rule of thumb; no activity for the number of days equal to the number of hours you race, no hard training for the number of days equal of miles you race, well...I still owe myself a day...or two...
The marathon is a humbling experience. I've said this before. Fortunately, I still can smile about what happened on Sunday.
We had conditions on the warm and humid side; not good for marathoning, but nice for Florida in mid-December. My athletes and myself, not to mention 2,000 friends, blew off the line at a couple of minutes after seven to run the full and the half marathon.
I had both my heart rate monitor and my running watch to keep track of my mile splits and my effort. Well, I also wanted to keep track of Suzanne's performance (she had the goal of beating Katie Holmes' NYC marathon time of 5:30) for her own record-keeping. Ah, but enough about her. This is all about me.
The first half-marathon was good for the first eleven miles with splits of 7:30, 7:16, 7:14, 7:24, 7:06, 7:15, 7:12, 7:20, 7:24, 7:26, and 7:29. At that point, I hit a section of the course I had not seen and didn't take the time to look at on Google Earth; I'm usually anal about studying courses because I need to know exactly where I'm going and what to expect on the trip back. The splits went to 7:44 and 7:35.
I hit the half-marathon point with eight minutes to play with on the return trip. The calf cramps began at 14 and stayed to mile 20. I never had them bilaterally, but they would swap off; one would tighten up and cause me to walk for about 30 seconds, after which I could run for a couple of time for the other calf to join in the fun. My splits went from 7:30-ish in the front 13 to 7:51, 8:41, 10:25, 9:23, 8:46, and 9:36. I then tried to adjust my stride to keep the calves from firing too much, and had taken in all of my fluid and gels to get glucose to the muscles. After a 12:25 mile at mile 20, I did the math and knew the eight minutes I had at 13.1 had been spent. My right achilles' tendon was swollen and sore from the change in stride mechanics.
At that point I had three choices:
1 - drop out of the race.
2 - push the pace and try to get back on the good side of 3:30.
3 - walk the last 6.2 miles.
None of the three are emotionally or psychologically satisfying, and one of them could have led to some serious long-term consequences. So, in order to pay respect to the course and the other participants who were slogging it out in various stages of ecstasy and pain, I decided to walk it in. I wasn't going to get my Boston qualifier, but it was still a nice day for a walk.
I did learn some lessons from the weekend:
Regardless of how well you think you have trained, 26.2 will beat you senseless if one little thing goes wrong. In my case, I was racing on borrowed training; a base shortened by six weeks because of a fractured humerus, a peak performance months too soon, and a few too many bad training days near the end. I toed the starting line gimpy and fragile, and paid the piper.
However, I was smart enough to quit trying to race when I felt the first danger signs. I'm hurting today, I got lit up by the marathon. I may not do another marathon, but I get to live to fight another day.
You be cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat. That's the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance. -- Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), in "Bull Durham" (1988)