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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Mother... of Invention

Absolutely the best possible reason for owning and using an iPod or a good MP-3 player. I've always fervently and vehemently opposed the use of those gadgets while running races or track workouts, but given personal experience, I can understand why some will use them. One thing the MP-3 player does do is protect the user from earworms, such as seen above. However, the song above is not the worst breed of earworm. I think Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy is the most dangerous of earworms. Just ask Jeffrey Crane. I shoved that one deep into his head during a track workout years ago, and I bet he still hasn't got it out of his head. In fact, the last time I saw him at a race (a little over 19 months ago) I started whistling DW, BH and watched his Marine Corps-trained butt run away in horror.
HOWEVER, I learned this weekend of what obviously has to be the most fantastic invention provided by the Almighty to man since the inspiration to brew beer. You have to love a shoe-maker who designs a slide (sandal) with a church key (bottle opener) embedded into the sole. If someone had told me such a device existed I would have thought them a little crazy. However, I saw one for myself during a swimmer potluck this weekend.
Some of the gang brought in classic (non-screw-top) bottles to the party, myself and my wife included. I keep a fold-up church key on my keychain, and a larger church key on an insulated bag we take to social functions. I thought I'd be helpful to one of my fellow swimmers, until someone called out to Mel and asked if he'd loan out his sandal for a second. Mel took the sandal off his foot, popped the top, then returned the slide to his foot. Those of us who didn't know anything about the device were in awe, and rightly so.
As John Parker would say, necessity is the mother______ of invention. Some dude saw a need and invented. We can now bow in the general direction of Reef sandals and surfer Mick Fanning. You, at least for today, are our hero.

Friday, September 26, 2008


"You are the way you are because that's the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you'd be in the process of changing right now." - Fred Smith
The weather has not taken a complete turn toward autumn-like conditions, but the mornings have been absolutely glorious this last week. The afternoons, however, are more like summer. I figure another week or so will pass before we have autumn across the board.
Before running at the beach last Wednesday night, my friend George & I were trading training notes. We use the same training regimen as when we trained together under our coach, but with adjustments to fit our own idiosyncracies & ways of thinking. Funniest thing, though...when we compare notes we seem to be fairly well in synchronization. Who would have known? We both harbor the same degree of concern about folks who used to train with us & now have gone their own way, but wish them well & (almost always) leave the door open for their return. If not for the encouragement of my wife I probably would focus & fixate more on trying to draw them back; she reminds me there are still (6-to-8) persons making it to workouts at least once a week, & my energies are better served there than chasing after the ones who are off doing something else.
Of course, I always run into the ones doing something else at local races or other running venues. They say, 'oh, I'll be back out at the track soon, Coach, I'm not racing as well as I could be...' I used to get hyped up over the prospect, then disappointed when I figured the words were hollow. This month's Track Coach magazine had the Smith quote, which pretty much said it all. Change is a process, a continuous one, & one that requires a rational decision to be made.
That having been said, I didn't feel bad about not seeing anybody at the track last Saturday morning. '...that means more time for me to do what I need to in the gym.' So I hit the YMCA for a little treadmill/swim workout of two hours, during which I did some stoopid things for which my left hip is paying the price today. Nothing major. Just a good reason to take a day or two off from running or racing (I was going to run a local 5K this weekend as a speed workout...), maybe even do something around the house...
It did give me time to observe the track workout of one of my guys last night. I assigned 12 400s; first 8 at 75-80% effort with 100 walk (1:00) recovery, last 4 at 80-85% effort with 125-150 walk (1:30) recovery. He hit consistently two-to-three seconds faster than goal pace throughout the workout, but I shut it down after 11 because I could see his form deteriorate. He's been playing it smart; listening to his body, laying down a great base fitness, & it shows...especially on those days when I'm running cr*ppy & he's kicking butt.
Track Coach also had the obligatory 'here's why the Kenyans are kicking our butt' article, this one by an engineer-turned-evangelist. Not much different from Toby Tanser's thesis in his book, Train Hard, Win Easy: Running The Kenyan Way. Some of the reasons I took away include:
1. We don't build a sufficient aerobic base.
2. We don't structure our training toward a particular event.
3. We run on the wrong surfaces.
4. We fail to exercise patience.
5. We depend on (heavy, motion controlling) shoes to counter our biomechanical shortcomings, and...oh yeah,
6. Our diet s*cks.
Whether we really want to do anything about our weaknesses as athletes lies within us. Odds are good most of us would prefer not to, but if we're smart we can try. Even an eighty-percent solution would simplify our personal lives, allow us to live longer, run longer & (maybe even) run stronger.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Introspection Blues - or - Oops I Did It Again

“This is for me the essence of true romance. Sharing the things we know & love with those of my kind. Libations, sensations that stagger the mind.” – ‘Deacon Blues’, Steely Dan (1977)
Well, I talked about the fact in past years I’ve become introspective (some say moody) during the month of September, taking stock of accomplishments. Part of it could be because of some latent religious belief, some of it is the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. It may also have to do with several birthdays that occur within that time frame. I didn’t spend that much emotional coin on introspection (as I was saying) until after a swim in the sound & a quick bike ride the other weekend ago. All I could think of was old Steely Dan songs & the perfect environment for listening to them, which seemed to be that particular morning. Oops, I did it again.
I ran in fewer local road races this past year, which made many locals ask whether I was injured. This was so during the first three or four months because of the achilles’ tendon injury from almost a year ago, but I am almost out of the woods; well, except for the run/bike/run workout the other weekend which quickly turned into a run/bike. I would have hammered through in the past to prove how much of an animal I am, but now I’d like to say I don’t care what everyone’s opinion is of me. It’s not completely true, but it’s getting there.
It’s a different perspective being on the sideline, standing on a street corner, writing workout routines, working a finish chute, handing out cups of water or sports drink, or helping to produce an event from the ground-up. When you're injured it's a complete & utter b!tch, but when you're healthy & you can make the decision to not race it's sometimes enlightening.
While it’s important as a racer to get your face (or singlet, if you represent a team or sponsor) noticed in the crowd; to earn that hardware at a local (regional, national) race, the time a runner has as a racer is fleetingly brief. If they’re wise they realize this truth before the first major injury comes & learn to adjust their perspective on “this running thing.” That truth: Participation is key. The goal is to not become, in the words of John Parker, Jr., Once A Runner. It’s more important to be able to get up early on a weekend morning, when sunlight is golden & air is comfortable, & spend some time engaging in bipedal locomotion with a handful of friends. (My friends Betsy & Aaron & the 5:20 Club reminded me of that truth.) I’m not certain whether it’s the run or the post-run activity that makes it special; something as planned as coffee & breakfast at a restaurant or as simple as standing around dripping puddles of well-earned sweat on a parking lot while drinking sports drink & shooting the breeze. Ask me in a year & I might be able to tell you more.
Now, a question from one of my athletes...
I’ve been toting my plastic bottle with my energy drink to the track all summer. Now I read that some of the ingredients in plastic bottles may cause health problems. Any recommendations?
Stop reading; you have nothing to fear but fear itself. Well, not quite. It’s not what your bottle is made of, but what can grow out of the warm, damp sugary stuff left inside that is more likely to cause health problems. To minimize the risk:
1. Keep your bottle clean. Rinse the bottle out with water after you are done with your workout & before you toss it into your warm automobile. You’ll forget to bring the bottle from the car; I do it all of the time. This way, all you’ll have in the bottle when you remember it the next morning is a bit of warm water, not a high-school science project gone wrong. And when you clean the bottle, use a bottle brush & warm, soapy water.
2. Purchase a Nalgene (or aluminum) bottle. Nalgene is break-resistant, easy to clean and doesn’t have any chemicals that will leach into your drink. The aluminum bottles are also lined so your fluid tastes like fluid. Both types of bottles are a little pricey but last a long time, so you won’t feel guilty about filling the landfill with plastic.
3. Replace your bottles regularly. Don’t get sentimentally attached to that bottle you got at an event two years ago. If you’re using your bottles strictly at the track or to stash on the course for Sunday long runs, buy inexpensive ones. Good bike bottles are a little more expensive because they’re built to withstand the rigors of riding & the potential for drops. Those of you who do long distance triathlons can get rid of the oldest bottles out on the bike course, at an aid station; anywhere else will get you penalized for abandoning equipment. You’ll find (reputable) sellers on eBay (if you need to find one, ask me) who sell bottles in cases of 12 or 24. A case for 20 bucks, including shipping, is a sure cure to keeping a bottle beyond its useful life.
So now I’ve done you a favor & provided an item you can put on every runner’s birthday or holiday gift list, except for me. I already have a case of bottles, thanks.