So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Winter Running, Florida-Style

And yes, that is snow in there. That's Ski Dubai, the only place in the UAE where you might find the (once again, a John Parker quote) white stuff that falls from God. You have to see it for yourself to believe it really exists, namely an indoor ski slope, toboggan run & refreshment lodge in the middle of the desert...all right, how about in the middle of a shopping mall in the desert...with a Krispy Kreme on the ground floor. But I digress from the topic on which I really wanted to write. Returned home from Dubai last Sunday, where the average daytime temperature was closer to 85 than it was 65, the average here in the Redneck Riviera. Before I am accused of complaining about the lack of culture or temperature here at this particular time, let me say I like running in the autumn & winter here in the Florida Panhandle. Most of my friends from around the Northern Hemisphere, in the continental US and Canada, would give their eye-teeth to have nearly year-round training which we here take so much for granted.
Most of the locals here, from my own observation, tend to shut down their training when the conditions are too hot or too cold for their taste, which leaves a window of about two weeks in the year where they get any quality time in. Ah, but that's a personal problem and an unintentional dig. Those of you who feel offended can get in line because I have many persons to which I owe mea culpas.
It's much like my work place...I prefer to have the air conditioning working in full effect because I can always add clothing if things get too cold...which to me beats sweating like a pig. But again I digress. The challenge of running during this time of year is knowing how much clothing to have on, the ability to adjust on the fly for conditions, and portability. I have written on this particular topic before; marveling at the locals who dress more like Nanook of the North at a road race when the temperature drops below 60 degrees...and subsequently overheating at the first mile. Never pretty. After taking a few dollars to invest in cycling arm and leg warmers, I would highly recommend them for running use. Especially the arm warmers. They can be rolled down around your wrists when the conditions are more temperate, or pulled back up when you begin to catch a chill. The use of bicycle-style tights (4-to-8-inch inseam) and removable knee warmers, or knicker-style tights are a happy alternative to worrying over whether to wear running shorts or long tights. Once again, around here, the need to use long tights only comes probably about three to four weeks through the deadest part of winter. Hats (almost a must, as you can retain more heat from your head this way) and gloves are also helpful, especially if your hands and ears get cold easily. Let your conscience be your guide.
Two more items to consider, make that three: Lights/reflectors, glasses, and hydration. Few of us have the opportunity to run during the middle portion of the day and use that decreased amount of daylight, so most of the runs are going to be in conditions that are dark, or near-dark. An ounce of lighting and reflection is worth a pound of pounding from a local driver heading to or from work who is not paying attention to what's going on around them. Pay close attention to drivers, and prepare an escape plan at all times during your run. A pair of sunglasses with interchangeable or photochromic lenses, preferably polarized, will also help cut down the glare of headlights and the effects of sunlight (different from summer conditions). Lastly, don't forget to hydrate, especially important as you won't feel the need to do so like during summer time. However, you still are losing water to perspiration and water vapor from breathing. Just because you're not sweating like you did during the summer doesn't mean your body isn't regulating its core temperature any less.
See you on the track.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dubai Observations, Part One

If I had not seen this with my own eyes, & had one for myself, I would have called the person who said, 'dude, have you seen this at Mickey D's?' a bald-faced liar. However, at Mickey D's in the Arab world, there is an honest-to-Allah flatbread sandwich called the McArabia. I actually had this as my first meal in the Emirates, minutes after being picked up from the airport...but I had the Chicken rather than the Kofta. Actually, it was rather tasty; certainly beat the daylights out of any McRib I've ever tried here in the States.
My loving wife goes on the road about 20 weeks out of the year, often to these telecom conferences & IT shows. I've seen the contents of her bags before she leaves as well as when she gets back, & it amazes me to see the amount of stuff she lugs along with her...especially in her backpack. One more piece of paperwork and I swear that bag would have been much too heavy to carry...what a way to get your abdominal work in. There were six cases of coffee mugs shipped over, as well as what is affectionately known as booth in a box. There's a couple of hundred pounds worth of stuff...most of which needed to be given away before the last day. Either that, or we'd have been playing the old Rolling Stones tune as my personal song: '...I'll never be your beast of burden...' Again.
Sometimes, business conference travel can be as physically arduous as athletics...once you take away the late-night (over) eating & the short/disturbed sleep cycles. I turn into a pumpkin at 9 p.m. during the training year, which in my case is almost all year long. We couldn't get into a restaurant before 7:30 p.m., & service most of the times was glacial at best, because we were going to places that were more frequented by locals than turistas. That meant most nights ended at 2:00 a.m. if we were fortunate. Normally I would not have complained much, but I was trying to fit something that resembled a workout in each morning before we had to be at the conference expo at 10 a.m. After two or three instances of this I felt like turning into Rain Man...Judge Wapner's on at 11.
If this election cycle were a running event, we would be at the point on the course where the riff-raff barriers on the side of the road are starting. I have to admit I will look forward to seeing it end. I don't make any bones about my political point of view in front of my athletes or my friends, & some of us pretty much agree to disagree for the time being. However, it's interesting to see the stuff (junk, in my humble opinion, & that is being polite) that gets thrown up on social networking sites, such as Facebook.
One of the folks who is slightly associated with my training group never fails to pull up some of the most outlandish videos, straight from the colons (oops, columns) of Fox News (They Distort, You Decry). After a while you just want to find a way to put them on ignore, or the next closest thing to block. As I said, I'll provide my opinion, but I'll also try to present it in a manner that's reasonable & rational.
You don't have to agree with me...just make certain to listen when it's time to work out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Red Whiten Blues

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." - Walt Disney
Just in case my (semi-) chubby form or the photo details are not clear enough, the quote on the highway overpass (in English and Arabic) is from Disney. I'm not terribly surprised the development company Emaar (builder of some of the big malls and towers in Dubai, including the Emirates Mall, where Ski Dubai is located) didn't take Walt's dictum to heart.
If you ever want to have an OZ moment (your line: '...you know, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more...'), just take a week for a vacation to the United Arab Emirates, namely Dubai. It's the kind of place where architectural historians, or at least mechanical engineers, would scratch their heads in wonder. I modified the Field of Dreams tag line if you build it, they will come to describe the building madness that is going on there: If You Design It, They Will Build.
Take a city like Chicago, or New York. Add financial incentives. Blend with varying degrees of Islamic and Western Asian culture. Drop it into the Arab world. There's Dubai.
Before you begin to think that I have an infatuation with the city, let me balance it out. It's not a town where runners or athletes would feel particularly safe, at least not in the newest sections. The traffic pattern is hideous, the traffic insane, and the drivers very aggressive. Perhaps out toward the older districts of the city and the surrounding environs it might be more tri-geek, runner or cyclist friendly, but even then I have my doubts.
Eating in Dubai for the Western European/North American is a no-brainer. Well, it's actually quite challenging, because you can have either every major restaurant chain known to man or local cuisine, cheek-by-jowl. Once you get out into the suburbs, cities like Sharjah for example, the food is more adventurous and the people a little more fun. Where else can you walk into a coffee shop and be offered some of the best baklava outside of Beirut and wash it down with an absolutely awesome Turkish-style coffee, all for much less than what you would pay at the local Starbucks? If there's a place, please let me know so I can go there.
I didn't get enough exercise in during the week, but this trip was not so much about exercise as much as it was about adventure, about extending a few horizons and (in some cases) hanging on for dear life until the bumpy sections were through...in order to laugh about your own fear.
I hope I figure out before the next visit a good place to go running. Somehow, treadmill workouts in a place like Dubai, or Sharjah, just seem to be a really bad idea.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Aquatic Alchemy

How do you know when you're fatigued & would benefit from an easier easy day, or a day off? If you have an easy day scheduled and the effort seems hard, or you have cross-training scheduled and the effort seems hard...you understand where I'm going here, I hope. Case in point: I hadn't raced in three months; so I jumped into a local, low-key 5,000-meter road race last weekend to show good-will (the race organizer serves as public safety coordinator on the island where we produce a couple of events) & to test my fitness. At the worst I could call it a hard workout without too much shame. While I ran 15-20 seconds slower than my typical 5K result this time of year (blame that nasty little headwind on the outbound) the rest of the performance was pretty much to my satisfaction.
Sunday morning's eight-miler was a trudge. No worries; a couple of years back, one of the guys I used to run with always said: 'the day after a hard race, run easy; the day after a good race, run easy.' Naturally, it was more difficult to run easy after a good race; you were stoked over your fitness, blah, blah, blah... But I think every one of us were a little beat from recent efforts, so it wasn't a bad morning...if you look past the ten pounds of used kitty litter in an eight-pound bag feeling in your legs.
The one place I always find out how badly beat down (beat up?) I am in the physical sense is the pool. You can fake the track or the road by altering the course to make your effort easier. The pool, however, is another story. Well, I stand corrected. You can fake the pool if you're swimming a solo workout by lengthening the intervals, or in my case, use the entire interval. If you're not training alone and you have a bad day you either pray for them to be hurting worse than you, or hope like hell your lane-mates won't water polo (for those of you who haven't seen water polo, it's a legalized form of the dunk tag you used to play as a kid in the neighborhood pool, with a volleyball added to make it look like a sport) your sorry @$$ when they catch you on the fourth of six 150s or 200s.
A bad day in the pool can be told by how the water feels. For me, the water becomes the consistency of peanut butter; you're getting a good catch on the strokes, but man, that pull is a complete and utter bee-yotch. Maybe I would have benefited from taking Friday - my normal rest day - off, rather than putting my Speedo Aquabeat MP3 player through its paces. I decided, since we had a non-training day (and a 59-minute hit) to make up for missing Tuesday morning's swim; (refer back to my comments in You Love The Thunder...Not!) disregarding my own dictum...to hit the pool for an hour. I decided to do 60 x 40yds freestyle on the 60. For those of you doing the math, that's 2400 yards of swimming. I averaged between 44 and 47 seconds for each repeat. For those of you who coach swimmers or swim well, you know that's not impressive. When you extrapolate that workout out to a 50yd pool, it was probably 40 x 50yds on the 1:15, averaging between 55 and 59 seconds for each.
Ah, but it was fun. Now we can get back to the schedule the way it should be. I'll get a rest day somewhere. Probably while I'm flying to Dubai.

Friday, October 10, 2008

You Love The Thunder...Not!

Sometimes the weather is too nasty to run a workout on the track but you feel like your training is going to slip without an interval workout. Assuming you already have your aerobic base built, the good news is missing a single workout because of weather or life issues which suddenly arise is not going to destroy your fitness. The bad news is many runners feel the need to tack on a second workout, or do one the next day at a higher intensity than they originally planned.
Listen very carefully to me. Don’t do it. A day without a workout is a day without a workout. It’s not a character failure or the first sign of the apocalypse. Just do the next day’s planned workout & be happy for the extra rest you probably needed in the first place.
If you have access to a good treadmill on those days when the weather is nasty or dark once you get away from work, or you know you’re going to miss a track session because of a social/work function, here’s a good 60-minute substitute workout. I've used this on several occasions, especially in the late winter, when almost NOBODY wants to be out in the dark, wind & cold hammering out repeats on the track:
Start the treadmill on the manual program with a flat elevation; to simulate the resistance of road running, you can set the elevation for 0.5 to 1.0 percent. Set the speed for a pace with which you can comfortably run for an hour; I like to use about 0.5 of a mph slower than my long run pace (for example, if you’re running 8:00 miles (7.5mph) on your long run, set the treadmill speed to 7.0-to-7.1mph. A 9-minute miler (6.7mph) would set the TM to 6.2 or 6.3mph).
Warm-up (15-20 min) – 2.0 miles at starting speed.
First set (10 min) – increase speed 0.2 mph – run 30 sec, rest 30 sec x 8.
Second set (10 min) – increase speed by 0.2 mph – run 1 min, rest 30 sec x 5.
Third set (10min) – increase speed by 0.2 mph – run 2 min, rest 1 min x 3.
Cool down – decrease speed by 0.5 mph, run for rest of hour.
I’ve done variations of this workout (.1 mi/25 sec, .18 mi/30 sec, .22 mi/40 sec & .25 mi/60 sec repeats), but 30-second & minute time intervals are much more simple, especially if you’re math-challenged to begin with.
This is just a simple, 80-percent solution to take care of business when either Mother Nature or Father Time (Constraints) places undue (negative) influence upon that well-laid-out training plan of yours.