Friday, January 31, 2014

The Power of the Mantra

     So we've all heard the term "mantra". It definitely conjures up images for some. When I used to hear that term I envisioned a group of Tibetan monks, dressed in full garb, sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting "Ommmmm", over and over and over. But a "mantra" is more than that. And I have found that it can be very helpful in training.

Things that make you go "ommmm"

     When I first started running, using Couch to 5K, I also listened to music. The Couch 2 5K app would prompt me when to run and when to walk and in the spaces in between I listened to music. I got accustomed to learning the time between each prompt to "walk" and to "run" and learned that each "run" was a certain amount of each song. So I would sing the song as I ran, knowing that once I hit a certain point in the song I would get to walk again. While it's not a exactly a "mantra", that process served something of the same purpose. It gave me something else to focus on to take my mind off of what I was doing.
This is an actor portrayal of me.
Maybe a little thinner.
     As I started running with friends and cycling, I stopped listening to music as much. It's a lot of fun to enjoy good conversation with great friends as you are training, however, I missed the familiarity of the music as my diversion. But as I developed as a runner and cyclist I learned another little trick that served as my diversion. I'd start focusing on physical elements that were on my training routes and I'd use those as my distractions. For example, I'd see a tree a few hundred yards away and I'd tell myself "if you run to that tree, then you can walk for thirty seconds" or "if you can just pedal to the top of that hill then you can coast down the other side." And creating those small diversions allowed me to shift my focus from the act of running or cycling and instead direct my attention to achieving a small goal. And as I accomplished each small goal I knew that I was getting closer to end goal of finishing.
Set incremental goals like running to the next tree
     As my training rides and runs got longer and longer while I trained for Ironman Louisville, my little diversion didn't seem to work as well. When you're riding a bike for 36 miles it's fun to pick out objects along the way as your incremental goals, but when you're riding for 112 miles you mentally enter into an entirely different world. It's an amazing place but I found that I needed more than signposts and trees to focus on. That is how I developed my mantra: I can do anything. I know that may sound boastful, but it's anything but. It's simply a reminder to myself of all that I've achieved on my journey and it's something that helps me remember that whatever it is I'm doing is finite. It has an ending. And all I need to do is just keep moving forward and eventually I will finish.
Everyting you do in life has one of these.
     So that is what gets me through the 112 mile bike rides, and the 26 mile runs. I don't listen to music. And many times I'm by myself on those longer rides and runs so there's no conversation. And when I feel like I can't go on, or that the hill I'm climbing is too much, I simply repeat to myself, over and over, "I can do anything. I can do anything. I can do anything." And it works.
     Do you have a mantra? Is there a word, or phrase, that you repeat to yourself when you're training to take your mind off of things? If not, I encourage you to experiment with it and find one that works for you. It doesn't have to be something positive like mine, but rather just something that takes your mind to a different place.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Battling the Flu: Fighting the Tough Fight

     Well it happened. I got the flu. It's been 7 years since my last bout with it and this one has really knocked me for a loop.
This is NOT really me. It is an actor portrayal of my Flu.
Since my toe injury a little over a month ago it's been a struggle to stay consistent with my running. The first week after the injury all I could do was walk. So I walked about 15 miles that week through my neighborhood, limping most of the way. By the 2nd week, I was ready to get back to running so I decided to try the treadmill. Now I knew that going to the gym in the winter was a big risk. The only other times that I can remember having the flu as an adult have both come after I'd spent several weeks working out at the gym in the winter. I would much rather prefer to be outside running but with the broken toe running on the road just wasn't an option for me.
     So things were going really well that 2nd week. I got back to the point where I could run on the treadmill without my toe hurting. I had to alter my stride just a little but it worked. By the 3rd week I was going strong on the treadmill and even knocked out a 12 mile run. Now running on the treadmill for that long is torture for me, especially since I don't listen to music or watch TV while I run, but at least I was able to run.

Again, NOT me.
     By the end of the 4th week I was able to get back outside to run and I was able to knock out a 21-miler. That was great. But then the Polar Vortex hit. The cold air moved in and the last thing that I wanted to do was to run outside, in the dark, when it was 3 degrees with a windchill of -10. So I convinced myself that I could keep running on the treadmill. And I did keep running. I ran Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday I ran 14 and 10 miles. It was a 45 mile week for me and I felt great about getting all of my miles done.

Here is a picture of my house during the Polar Vortex
(okay not really)
     And then it hit me. Monday morning I came to work and within 3 hours I could feel a tickle in my chest. It felt almost like an allergic reaction. I started coughing. A lot. I used some cough drops and they didn't help. I drank tea with honey and got no relief. Initially I thought it was an allergic reaction to the almonds that I had eaten. I don't have a nut allergy but it sure felt like it. My lungs started feeling tight too. By the time I got home I had a temperature of 101.4. I had an idea of what it was but I didn't want to admit it. I think there's a part of me that believes that if I deny it then it won't be true.
     But by Tuesday morning I knew that there was no way to deny it. So I called in sick and headed to the Doctor. And sure enough, after my nasal passages were violated by that giant q-tip, the test came back positive for Type A flu. I figure for my personality that's the only type of flu to get. Right?
     Now I'm on Day 9 of the battle. I was fortunate to catch it early enough to get on Tamiflu and that has really helped. But even now I have no energy to do anything. I've not been able to run in 10 days. I missed 4 days of work and even though I've gone back to work now, it's a struggle to get anything done. I'm amazed at how drained I am at this point. I feel like my battery is empty.

   But each day is a new day. And I know that with each passing day, as long as I get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, I'll get back to 100% eventually. My battery will be re-charged and I'll be back on the Ultra Marathon Training Plan. Hey I've got 100 miles to run at the end of April so I'm gonna keep Fighting the Tough Fight. Stay safe friends. And always remember to hand sanitize!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It Takes a Village

     I'm sure you've heard the old adage "it takes a village to raise a child". Well in many cases the same can be said of a runner, or a triathlete. The success that is achieved by the individual athlete is not only a culmination of his or her hard work, effort and determination, but also the support, encouragement and inspiration from many others.
      When I first started running I went out by myself. I used the Couch 2 5K app on my iPhone so I'd go out by myself, plug in my headphones, and get the workout completed. There were many days that I struggled to find the motivation. Fortunately, I found a website called that I joined. DailyMile is like Facebook for people who work out. You post your workouts and make friends. The best part about it is that you get a lot of encouragement from people you've never even met before. I continued using DailyMile for a lot of my 10K and half-marathon training.

     But after a point I really needed some personal interaction. I searched online and found some local running clubs in Lexington. I reached out to a few people and before I knew it I was invited to a group run with John's Striders. I was thrilled. I'll never forget my 1st run with the group. The leader, Ernie Peel, was so encouraging and inspirational. Even though Ernie and I don't get the chance to run together now I still am so grateful to him for all he did for me. And I still am inspired by all he does for others. Also on that first run, I also got to meet my friend Casey Hill. Casey and I lived in the same neighorhood so we started running together a lot. We even started our own small running group that we called the "Polo Club Pacers" (because we ran on Polo Club Boulevard). Casey and the Pacers helped me prepare for my 1st half-marathon and my 1st marathon.


     About the same time that I started running with the Striders and Pacers, I also joined the Bluegrass Cycling Club. I had been cycling on my own but was really struggling. I was riding a hybrid bike with big, knobby off-road tires and was really struggling. The Club took me in and made me one of their own. I learned so much from the members and was soon on my own road bike and on my way. I'm not sure that I would have developed my passion for cycling without the Club. They are just an amazing group of people.

     I also joined the Bluegrass Tri Club. The group has all different levels of experienced athletes and it proved to be a valuable resource to me in my training. I also met some amazing people through the club who helped me train for Ironman. People like Rick and Jill Kimberlin, Coy Martinez and Bob Baney. And I enjoy this club so much that I am now the President. I just hope to be able to share what I've learned with others who are interested in learning more about triathlons. It's my way of paying it forward.
     And finally, after my disappointing performance at Ironman Louisville in 2012 I knew that I needed to really improve my swimming. So I joined the UK Masters Swim Team. The team meets several times throughout the week and has an amazing coach, Susan Bradley Cox, who also happens to be in the International Triathlete Hall of Fame. Being around other swimmers and having the coaching made such a difference in my ability. I went from swimming the 2.4 miles of Ironman Louisville in 2 hours 16 minutes in 2012 to swimming it in 1 hour 37 minutes in 2013. No way that would've happened without the UK Masters.
     So if you're struggling with your training I strongly encourage you to take some time and look for some groups around you. Whether it's running, cycling, swimming, or triathlon you'll most likely find a group that you can fit in with. Like I said it takes a village.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Year of The Beast: Part Two

     I think a good personal blog should be a combination of different elements. I think it should be informational about a particular topic, or topics, and it should also allow you to get to know the blogger. In the past, before my extended blogging hiatus, I think I failed in that task. I spent a lot of time writing about the races that I did, so you got to know about me and my running experiences, but I offered little advice about any specific topic. I'm ready to right the ship now.

     I really want my blog to be a source of inspiration for you, sprinkled with some useful information about health and nutrition, and all wrapped up in some "getting to know me better as a blogger" wrapper. Kinda like a big blogging burrito. So with that being said I'd like to share my race plans with you all for the year so you have an idea of what I'm getting into.
     Last year was The Year of The Beast. My only focus was Ironman Louisville. After my unsuccessful attempt in 2012 I wanted to focus my energy and effort on that race alone. I thought about doing some other smaller races, I guess what triathletes would call a "B" or "C' race, but I really just wanted to knock the "A" race, Ironman Louisville, out. And my efforts paid off.

     This year my focus is a little different but the goals are still lofty. This year I've decided to focus on the weakest sport of the three for me: running. I really have a love/hate relationship with running and it is the sport that I struggle with the most. I know that if I'm ever going to be good at triathlons, I'm going to have to develop my running. So this year I have only one "A" race: the Indiana Trail 100 Yes, I'm going to run a 100 mile ultra marathon.

     I know that sounds crazy for a guy who struggles with running but it really appeals to me for 2 reasons: (1) the volume of running required preparing for the race will help me focus on my running and become better at it, and (2) it will push my endurance farther than Ironman Louisville did. Now you may be asking, "Why do you want to push yourself to the limits?" Well the answer is simple (even though I don't quite understand it myself): If I don't feel pushed to the limit by an event I don't have the motivation to do the event.


     It is something that I discovered after I completed Ironman Louisville. I signed up for a half marathon after Ironman Louisville but I only did 5 training runs in preparation for it. Why? Some may call it post-Ironman blues. I call it lack of motivation. I had done the race before and running 13.1 miles did not feel like a challenge. I don't say that to belittle the accomplishment in any way. To train yourself to run 3, 6, or 13.1 miles is incredible. It's a journey I took myself and am very proud of what I accomplished, but in terms of pouring myself 100% into training I just have to be challenged. And the 100 mile race definitely will do that.

     After the 100-miler in April, I will turn my focus back to triathlons. With my running being hopefully much improved, I really want to become more competitive. My goal at Ironman Louisville was simply to finish. I had no delusions of being competitive. But now I really want to see what I'm capable of achieving. So with that in mind I plan to compete in a Half Ironman in Augusta, Georgia in September: Ironman Augusta 70.3.
     Now I know you're askng yourself "Well how is that a challenge since you've already done a full Ironman?" Well that's a good question. The challenge is that I want to do more than just finish. I want to finish and be competitive in my age group. That is the challenge. And I am ready for the task.
     So that is my race year in a big blogging burrito. Or as I like to say: The Year of The Beast: Part Two. I hope you'll follow along with me this year as I continue my exciting journey. Now, for some reason I'm really craving some Mexican food.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Running: How To Stay Warm

     Let's face it. Sometimes it's tough to get motivated to run in the winter. I love running in the snow, but when it's 38 degrees and raining the last thing that I want to do is go outside and run 12 miles in it. But sometimes running inside isn't an option so we have to suck it up, lace up the shoes, and hit the roads.

     So how can you still get outside and stay safe and warm? Having trained for my 1st marathon during the winter of 2011/2012 and now training for a 100 mile ultra this winter, I've learned a few things and I'd like to share them with you. Here's my tips:

     (1) Layer up-Yes just like your mom used to tell you to do when you were a kid. It really works. But just make sure that you don't end up looking like Randy from Christmas Story. 

Add layers but don't go overboard
So I usually wear a dri-fi compression shirt as my base layer for my upper body. Almost always a short sleeve shirt. I also wear dri-fit compression pants on my lower body. Depending on the temperature I'll either wear a thin set or insulated. I'm usually good to about 40 degrees with the thin pants, but below that I have to go insulated. If it's extremely cold, perhaps in the teens or single digits, I'll acutally wear both. After the base layer, I usually throw on a long-sleeve tech shirt. The moisture wicking helps a lot because even in the cold I sweat a lot. If it's less than 30 degrees though I'll wear an insulated, long-sleeve, dri-fit shirt for added warmth instead of the tech shirt. I will also add a 3rd layer which is usually a full zippered vest with zippered pockets. I don't like to run with a full jacket on so the vest works well. The zipper will also allow me to control my core temperature. If I get too hot I can always unzip it. If I'm too cold, I can zip it up. If it's in the teens or lower, or if it's in the 30's and raining, then I'll wear a waterproof, full-sleeve jacket. I do usually get hot in it but my experience has been that if you get your core rain-soaked in the cold weather your run will suffer. I've learned the hard way. Finally, over the base layer pants, I will wear a pair of running shorts. I like to have the pockets available and honestly, I can't stand it when guys wear tight running pants by themselves. Somethings just weren't meant to be, ya know?
     (2) Arm Sleeves-In certain conditions, I will also wear my arm sleeves. I have found that they keep me warm but also give me the option of removing them if I heat up too much. Just be careful if you wear them under a long sleeve shirt or jacket because it can be tricky getting them off. If it's extremely cold though, which for me is in the teens or less, I'll wear them.

No, this is NOT me

     (3) Hats and Gloves-For my gloves I have a couple of options. If it's not too cold, in the 40's, I'll wear a pair of Gore full fingered cycling gloves that I use for cycling. They are good for keeping my hands warm but not hot. Once it drops below 40 I'm all in with my Nike dry-fit running gloves. The funny thing is that even when it's get really cold my hands will get hot. Often times I will take my gloves off after a few miles. That's why I like wearing my vest because it has nice side pockets I can shove the gloves in and zip up so I don't lose them. Now for hats I really struggle. I HATE wearing anything except visors when I run. That's great when it's warm, but once it gets cold you have to have some head and ear protection. I've tried many things in the past. I've used toboggans, headwraps, baseball caps, earmuffs, etc. My biggest problem is that I sweat. A LOT. And within a few miles most head coverings are soaked. And then they get really cold. Recently I purchased a Nike dri-fit headwrap that really seems to work pretty good for me. It's not thick like most headwraps I've used and I can still fit my visors over it. Yes, I wear my visors over my head wrap.


    (4) Run Loops-When I run long runs I usually will run loops anyway. If I'm running 15 miles then I'll run my 5 mile loop 3 times. This will allow me to come back to a home base (my car or house) before heading out for another loop. When it's cold this is a great plan because it gives you the opportunity to make adjustments if you need to. If you're too hot you can lose some layers. If you're too cold, you can add some layers. If you're soaked in sweat you can change. You can also refuel, hit the bathroom and get some hydration.

Hopefully you won't feel like this running loops

     (5) Ice-Don't do it. I learned the hard way last year when I tried to run on the roads when it was snowy/icy. I hit a patch of ice that I didn't see and before I knew it I was on the ground. I was fortunate that I didn't hit my head but I thought that I had broken my arm. I was sore for a couple of weeks and getting back into training after a fall like that was pretty hard. If you insist on running outside when it's icy I suggest YakTrax, or you can make your own spiked running shoes. Here's a short video:

     So there you have my basic tips for running in cold weather. I hope you get the chance to experience it this winter. Honestly running on the falling snow at nite is the best way to run in my book. There is nothing else quite like it.

     Have fun. Stay warm. And be safe.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Staying Motivated During the Cold Months


     Let's face it: this is the time of year when it's hard to stay motivated. For most of us, we wake up, it's dark. We work all day then go home. It's dark. Sometimes just curling up on the couch with something warm to eat or drink seems like the best idea. I think it's some genetic predisposition to "hibernate".

     But I'm here to tell you that hibernating is not good for you. Your body needs to be active during the winter months. For me, it's a way to keep a positive mental outlook (not to mention keeping the extra pounds off).

     So with that in mind I wanted to give you all some suggestions for how to stay motivated during the cold months. There are actually a few things that I suggest: (1) sign up for a race or event for sometime in the early Spring. This will keep you focused on an immediate goal which will keep you focused on training. This year I'm planning on running my 1st ultra marathon toward the end of April so I am running 5 times a week. You don't need to do something that extreme but just choose something that you will look forward to doing. Maybe even choose an event in a different location. That way you can get a little vacation as a reward for all of your hard work. My 1st marathon was in Myrtle Beach in 2012. I took a full week of vacation when I ran the race. It was such a great experience. Give it a try. 

     Another suggestion that works well:  (2) train with a group. Last year there were days where I knew I didn’t want to train but I showed up anyway simply because I knew others were relying on me to be there. Training with a group keeps your level of motivation high. You work together to push each other to become better. You encourage each other to keep going. There is accountability that is not possible if you’re training by yourself.  I know that I can count on my running buddies to keep me motivated. This helps so much, especially for running, because I have others who hold me accountable for my training.

     And my last suggestion: (3) join a gym. When you’re around other like-minded people keeping fit it’s so much easier to keep yourself going. I joined a gym last year and even though I prefer to run outside, it comes in handy to be able to hit the treadmill inside where it's warm.

     So that’s my game plan. I’m gonna tell Old Man Winter to take his “blahs” and hit the road. I’m going to work hard to keep myself motivated and focused on maintaining all the positive progress I’ve achieved on this journey. And I hope you’ll do the same. Stay positive. Stay focused. And stay motivated.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Forget the Resolutions: Make #TheCommitment

     It's been a while since I've blogged. I've thought about getting back into it many times but never followed through on my desire. But now I'm back. I have a lot of things to say and as much as I enjoy using social media on a daily basis, there are just some things that need more that 140 characters to be expressed.

     As we rapidly approach the New Year, it's easy to be overcome with the excitement that it promises. And with that excitement comes the promise of a "start-over'. The opportunity to make right all of the things that we've done wrong over the past year, or even several years. So we hastily make Resolutions that, if upheld, will magically transform our lives into the wonderful, happy existence that we yearn for them to be. But I've learned, as many of you have, that Resolutions are usually nothing more than empty promises that we make to ourselves.

     So this year, I've resolved to make no Resolutions. Yes, that was irony. I hope you enjoyed it. But seriously, I don't want my life to be based around these empty promises that I make each year. Instead, I want to make Commitments.

     With that in mind, I decided to start what I call #TheCommitment (note the use of the hashtag--did I mention how much I love social media?). And I'd love for all of you to join me in this commitment to make this year the best year ever. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well.


     (1) I Commit to loving myself even when I don't feel that I am worthy of being loved,

     (2) I Commit to loving others around me as I love myself,

     (3) I Commit to doing the best that I can to change the things in my life that I wish to change,

     (4) I Commit to taking small steps to make those changes in my life rather than trying to change
               everything all at once,

     (5) I Commit to thinking positive thoughts, speaking positive words, and doing positive actions
               on a daily basis.

     So I invite you to join me in making #TheCommitment. Life is a wonderful thing and we should enjoy it to the fullest. And when we work together to help one another we are well on our way to doing so.