10 Thoughts on My Run 1-30-15

1.  Of all things, I am currently addicted to “House of Cards” on Netflix.  It’s the strangest thing, and even makes me feel a little grimy.  Truthfully it’s everything I dislike about human interaction, but I guess that proves (at least on some level) we (or I) have a little animal left in us.

2.  Never eat Taco Bell before a run (or anytime, really).  Though, this article points out it may not be as bad as I think.  The meat is actually 88% beef and 12% “signature recipe.”  I was too scared to look up Caramel Empanadas.

3.  I always say I’m gonna wear a Garmin simply to keep my pace “comfortable,” but it’s almost impossible to take an easy run when I wear that demon.  I hear that “mile beep” and look down with the anticipation of Christmas morning.  Sometimes I get a Chipotle Gift Card, other days it’s a lump of coal.

4.  Exhaling on the seven stride is my comfort zone.  This is a strange, but important key to my endurance.  If I exhale while my left foot hits the ground, then exhale again after right, left, right, left, right, left, I know I can keep that pace for days.  Once it creeps inside there, I’m “pushing.”  The more relaxed I am, the more I can keep that breath at a faster speed, which led me to this next thought . . .

5.  Now, I realize this may sound kind of obvious, but I never take anything for granted in triathlon.  In one of my last posts I was talking about the importance of “the catch” and turnover rate in swimming.  If we catch and pull the same amount of water, but you turn your stroke quicker, you will be faster.  It occurred to me the same theory applies to running.  If our strides are equal length but I churn quicker than you, I will be faster.  In biking, the catch or stride equivalent would be the gear.  If you’re in a bigger gear and we have the same RPM (assuming same weight, bike, etc) you will be moving faster.  I’m not sure what this means or if it proves anything, but it seems like the more analogies I hear, the better the chances I will understand and improve.

7.  I can’t neglect speed training.  While thinking about the above concept, I decided to add 6×30-second sprints toward the end of my run.  They weren’t “all-out” blasts, but about 80% with a huge focus on relaxing.  I’ve always recognized the key to improvement as breaking thresholds by slowly getting comfortable at faster speeds.  If I’m normally an 8:30/min guy and can stay relaxed and in control for a while at a 7 minute pace, holding 8 minutes doesn’t mess with my head as much.

8.  Thank goodness for hills.  I’ve said it before, but I’m really glad I started running in East Nashville.  The “flats” around here are hillier than a lot of places.  Just like the speed example, the more hills you run, the more you don’t even notice them.  (This one’s for you, Corey).

8.  Less coffee, more juice.  I could just trade that second coffee for a fresh carrot/celery/parsley juice every morning, I think I’d be a lot better off.  The dehydration trade-off alone would be worth the excruciating cleaning process.

9.  I couldn’t help thinking about the trail run I missed this morning.  My Nashville Running Company training group car-pooled over to Cookville and ran Bear Waller Gap Trail.  The pictures everyone posted are incredible and make me cringe in envy (or give me another reason to quit Facebook).  I guess that’s what happens when you’re up until 2:30 watching “House of Cards” and the convoy takes off at 7:00.

10. Speaking of guilt, my iPhone text message situation is totally whacked and I am starting to wonder if anyone likes me anymore.  Apple has been under fire for this, but it does nothing to soothe my ego when friends don’t respond to my messages.  Usually, it goes like this:

Me:  Some super-sarcastic remark.
Friend:  No Response.
Me (somewhat regretting the message): “Hey, man . . . you there?”
Friend:  No Response.
Me:  “Come on, you know I was just jacking you.”
Friend (two hours later):  No Response.
Me:  “Hey, I mean, you’re one of my best friends… I’m sorry!”
Friend (the next day):  No Response.
Me:  (looks sadly at phone… goes to Taco Bell).

 

 

Slow Down To Get Faster

When I started drumming, I wanted to be an instant rock star.  I sat at my kit and played as fast as I could.  But of course, I sucked.

I asked a lot of questions and every drummer I talked to told me to practice as slow as I could.  And you know what, going slow was really hard.

But going slow in practice builds good technique.  It also teaches you to stay under control.

I’m sure you’ve heard an athlete say, “The game is starting to slow down for me.”  My interpretation of that is, “I’m learning to relax when I’m going fast.”

The road to relaxing at peak performance starts with drilling the fundamentals.  Let’s use swimming as an example.

Most of us trudge to the pool with hopes of making a major break thru, but time after time we see our 100 splits stay about the same or start slipping as we get tired.  We do this for years on end with seemingly no real gains in speed.

We can think it’s about strength or endurance, but with swimming, those assets don’t matter as much.  You can be bursting with Crossfit strength or marathon endurance but sink like a log in the pool.  The number one way to get faster is mastering technique.

Body position and less resistance play a part, but moving through the water faster is mainly about propulsion.  Are you catching correctly and pulling with optimum resistance?  The only way to get there is to consciously learn those sensations.

The key is to slow down and think about what you are doing below the water.  Imagine reaching out with your arm and pulling yourself over an imaginary wall.  Feel the pressure against your forearm, wrist and hand.  Pull with your lats, not your shoulder, engage your core and do it all in a continually smooth rotation of both arms.

There have literally been books written about this one topic, so while it seems easy, it takes a lot of repetition to get it right, and for most, that means taking steps backward.  In order to get faster you have to build the right muscles and adapt to your body’s potential.

For some this may mean shorter strokes with a higher turnover.  For others, that means a long reach and a longer pull.  Either way is fine, but you’ll never get faster unless you slow down to perfect a relaxed and efficient form under the water.

 

 

Creative Workouts For Triathlon

Our coaching staff is continually thinking about ways to make training more effective and enjoyable, so Crushing Iron will now be adding creative workout ideas if you feel like breaking up the monotony.  We only have a couple now, but hope to add one or two a week for each discipline.  They can be found under the “Workouts” tab at the top and broken out by sport.  Here’s an example for the pool:

Band On The Swim

Warm Up
200 easy cruise
100 kick with board hard

Main set:
400 pull/paddles high tempo
3 x 100 BAND around ankles
200 t-shirt swim AND clenched fists high tempo
100 SPRINT

: 45 rest throughout

2 rounds – Beginner swimmer
3- rounds- intermediate swimmer
4 rounds total – advanced swimmer

200 Warm Down

 

What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Ironman

When Steve Jobs started building computers in his garage, he was hungry.

A few years later, Apple was a powerful brand and Jobs faced a whole new set of challenges.  The Board of Directors was more concerned about how Apple’s perception, but Jobs couldn’t stop thinking about its soul.

The Suits ran Jobs out of town, so he took his youthful passion to Pixar and NEXT. Apple may have been his baby, but he never lost sight of his purpose.

Eventually, he went back to Apple with real influence.  He re-trained the culture to focus on basics and ultimately changed the way we live.

Jobs was a little nuts, but what genius isn’t?  Who in their right mind would think they could accomplish the things he did?  And what person in their right mind would think they could complete an Ironman?

Somehow Jobs overcame resistance and made huge sacrifices to stay true to his mission.  Say what you want about Jobs, but his story is a good lesson for training.

For my first Ironman I was a hungry entrepreneur sharing the message with anyone who would listen.  I genuinely felt like I was moving toward a higher plane of consciousness.

Then came Number 2, and I was a more comfortable with the shape of “my business.”  The product worked, it was just a matter of consistency.

In year three I have become a little complacent.  Automation is taking over, but that’s no way to be great.

Racing is far more than hanging an award on a hook.  Being great is a process and it helps to remember why we wanted this in the first place.  For me it was to be alive, test my limits, and become a better person.

That is why I train.  That is why I sacrifice.  That is why I push my body to places it doesn’t voluntarily go.

It always comes back to today, to the process, to the growth.  When we start chasing symbols, approbation, and medals . . . we lose.

medal-cropped

Back to the Trails

Here’s a little video I made this morning on our trail run.  Yes, I was smelling the roses/snow and really enjoyed it (there will be a post about this later).

This was our third weekend (of 10) for trail training and we’ll hit seven more parks in Tennessee before it’s done.

I’m using a new edit/conversion system, so make sure you up the quality to HD . . . much better.  Oh, and be sure to stop by Nashville Running Company for all your trail running needs.

Trail Shoes vs. Street Shoes

You’re probably getting ready to run this weekend, so here’s a quick little video to help you navigate the wilderness if you plan on hitting trails.  Ultra runner, Steven McNeal, shares his take on whether or not you need trail specific shoes.  Video provided by Nashville Running Company for Crushing Iron.

Also, if you’re in striking distance of Nashville and want to do a great trail race, don’t forget about the Dry Creek Marathon and Half on February 22nd.

My First Training Mistakes of 2015

Remember that time when you were craving sweets and reached into the snack drawer to break off off the corner of a cookie then walked away after a small nibble?  Yeah, me either.

Yesterday I was craving a trail run.  It was a little cold, but the sun finally came back, so around 3:00 in the afternoon, I laced them up.

In an effort to top my cookie with 2 inches of frosting, I decided to run with music for the first time in months.  That was my first mistake.

It’s odd to think of running with music as a mistake.  I mean, it’s music!  Probably the best invention God has rolled out in a long time. But for some reason it always pumps me up just a little too much.

My rule for exercise is always “ease into everything.”  But Eminem, AC/DC, and Grandmaster Flash rarely encourage you to chill.

After a few days of rain, the trails were a quagmire and the lyrics pumping my brain assured me this was a minor obstacle.  I ripped into shin deep puddles with reckless abandoned.  I was “Cleaning Out My Closet” on the “Highway to Hell.”

I’m not sure how much harder it is to run in mud, but by the time I realized I was 4.5 miles away from home I was a little beat up.  I refilled my water bottle and contemplated the next move, and for me that’s typically, keep running.

I turned up the music and went about retracing my steps.  Six miles was plenty, but after flying through a miniature lake at mile seven (and wrenching my ankle pretty good) I finally stopped at 8.

Still two miles from home I decided I should practice my Ironman-tempo-walk, and that’s what I did.  There were a few attempts at running, but it hurt.

For some reason, running with music throws me off.  It takes me away from my body, breath, and rational decisions.  I pushes me like that 10th beer can give you confidence for the 11th.

My second mistake was running too far.  When adrenaline is pumping, it’s easy to do.

But the fallout was exhaustion and frankly, that’s not my motivation.  Last night was worthless and this morning wasn’t much better.

I guess the lesson here (and I have no idea how I keep forgetting this) is that moderation is the key to life (even when training for Ironman) and must be accepted.  Just when running was becoming fun again, I fucked it up.  Don’t let me do that again, no matter how many people would be impressed by a photo of my Garmin.

Trail Running Has Me In Its Grip

 

30+ Trail Runners Prep for Bowman

30+ Trail Runners Prep for Bowie

This morning I joined 36 other runners for Nashville Running Company’s Tour of Trails and confirmed a new addiction.  Under blue sky and over frozen earth, we gathered at Bowie Park to explore. It was our first journey together, and . . . we won.

The 6 mile loop is challenging, but fair.  Roots and rocks keep you honest, dicey climbs test your will, and calm flats let you escape.

Like most trails, it was as hard as you wanted to make it but pace groups stayed together and enjoyed the frost-covered scenery at a comfortable pace.  Conversation was there if you wanted, or unchained if you preferred to hear yourself think.

In the past I have proclaimed that I am “not a runner” which makes it even harder to explain why I’m falling in love with trail running, but it must have something to do with these factors:
–  The cushion of the earth and crunchy leaves are undeniably more pleasant than pavement.
–  Trail running forces you to pay attention which is a welcome change from the Zombie-land of road running.
–  I feel a greater sense of peace when I’m surrounded by nature and every corner offers a surprise.

Trail Running Customs

Because this is a training group, we have guides to lead the way and answer questions. Phil ran alongside me most of the loop and I’m sure he sensed my inquiries building.

Beth with proof that Phil made it

Beth with proof that Phil made it

I’ve always been curious about the running tradition of warning others what’s ahead.  On the road it’s typically things like, “Car up!  Car back! or Curb!”  And yes, they all come with exclamation points.

Often this practice gets way out of hand and the entire gaggle of runners crow the first thought on their mind while pointing wildly in the direction of a potential hazard.

“Stray cat!  Beer can!  Snicker’s Bar!”

As it turns out, trail running has a few customs of its own, but when the entire path is decorated with rocks, stumps, and gravel patches, incessant warnings would drive you to the loony bin.  Yet the danger is real.  I saw one face plant and many others come close.

Phil told me he warns of upcoming hazards occasionally, like if he runs through a tree branch that has potential to snap back and scar the next runner or if there happens to be a well disguised cliff on the horizon, but for the most part it’s every man and woman for themselves.

He also strongly believes in courtesy telegraphs for poisonous snakes, quick sand, or wild boar.  Unless of course, it is a race, then all bets are off.

The Power of a Group 

Sign in and sign out so no one's forgotten

Sign in and sign out so no one’s forgotten

The common theme this morning was that most who ran in the frigid conditions believe they would not have shown up on their own.  Me included.

If it weren’t for positive people and group training I doubt I would have started running in the first place, and never in a million years finished an Ironman.

While I haven’t put my finger on why, there is something about trail running that feels more evolved.  Treacherous paths are a great equalizer and there’s an unspoken bond that seems to say, “Sure, we can run as fast as we want, but nature always wins.”

I’ve played team sports all my life and there is something about endurance that makes it easier to pull for your competition.  Trail running takes this to a new level and, even though we completed our run, I sensed a universal desire to decode our sensations by talking about the trail, our dreams, or life.

That thought consumed me for the 45 minute drive home.  How can I make that feeling last?  Running further is obvious, but for the first time I’ve started craving a running vacation.  A group of people, a rented cabin, and an endless canvas of trails.  Seems like great practice for living in the moment.

New on Crushing Iron

Photo courtesy Jennifer Eberle

Photo courtesy Jennifer Eberle

Stephen McNeal, one of our training leaders and recent 100 mile finisher, spoke about the difference between road and trail shoes before we took off.  I will post the video soon and we plan to continue this as a series of trail training tips for the next 10 weeks.  They will be available both here and on the Nashville Running Company’s website.

And speaking of Nashville Running Company, you may have noticed their ad in the Crushing Iron sidebar.  We’ve created a little content sharing partnership and I’m pretty pumped.  NRC is where I started running and it’s a great store with even better people.  They have anything you need to get going with trail running along with what may be the best running-store-pint-night in America.  Make sure to tell them you saw their ad on Crushing Iron.

They have blogged about me, too.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Dry Creek Trail Marathon and Half - February 22nd near Nashville.  I did this race last year and it was quite the adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

Voices in My Head

Not many variables in triathlon are more important than believing in yourself . . . but self-doubt can be relentless.  Over the course of my athletic career I have come to the conclusion there’s only one way to change self-defeating voices in your head, it’s called: Diving In.

Facing fear has never been easy, but it always makes me feel alive.  If you’re afraid to talk to a stranger, go for a dream job, or sign up for an Ironman, do it . . . now.

When you think about it, fear is what makes life interesting.  It forces us to think, adapt, and grow.

Other than actually completing long training swims, rides, and runs, the next best thing for my confidence is writing.  It’s therapy that leads me through the event before it happens.  It’s problem solving in advance that settles in my subconscious.

Life is about learning and writing let’s me visualize every stage of the game.  It hasn’t always been perfect, but my race “visions” and results have been pretty consistent with my writing forecasts.

I just read an article by Chris Bagg for LAVA magazine that gives some ideas for keeping your head in the game during training and races.  After a “prolonged shuffle through the filing cabinets of his athletic past” he finally (I think) got to the point of his piece with this:

I hope to make a point today about mental toughness: how easy it is to have it when we have no knowledge of it, how devastating its absence can be to any kind of athlete, and how difficult (yet possible!) it is for any of us to regain it. I should say, here, that I am indebted to Jesse Kropelnicki at QT2 Systems for working with me on my mental game, and to the United States Olympic Committee’s excellent handbook on the subject: Sport Psychology: Mental Training Manual. Essentially they focus on two key elements of mental strength.  

It all honestly took some mental toughness to read the piece, but here’s what I took away:

Use positive affirmations, relax, and try to approach races like they are practice.

You can read the entire article here.  

Flying Monkey Nashville

Whitney battles the infamous Flying Monkey.

The Courage To Be Yourself

One of the hardest parts about having a blog is consistently believing in what you write.  I can assure you I have been writing, but none of it seems to make sense.

Sometimes I get into these “What the fuck are you talking about” phases and this is certainly one of them.  This was only compounded the other night when I was watching one of the many Stand Up Comedy shows I’ve been devouring on Netflix.  I can’t even remember who the comedian was, maybe Bill Burr, but he said, “As I get older, I realize how full of shit I am.  You never see it when you’re young, but now I start talking and it’s like I can literally watch the bullshit flying out of my mouth.”

In the lifecycle of my triathlon career, this suddenly feels like the maturity phase.  It’s like a condensed version of my eduction.  I’ve finished college, spent two years fucking off, now I have to think about the cold reality of working.

Frankly, I’m not a fan.

So, I’ve decided not to think of it like that.  The reality is, I still don’t know shit about triathlon and should approach it with the zeal of an infant.

For instance, I still have an insatiable urge to be really good in my age group without always being in pain.  And when I say pain, I mean that stupid limp around the house the next day pain because your ankles and hips hurt so much you feel like you just spent the night in the basement of a Quentin Tarantino film.

What is the point of that in training?  I say, save it for race day.

The reason I’m thinking that way is because I have been doing some strength training and running between 5-7 miles at a safe and comfortable pace for a few months now.  Most of that running has been on trails and while it’s hard not to put the hammer down, I’ve been good about not killing myself.  And you know what, it’s kind of enjoyable.

And so is writing when fear of pleasing the readers isn’t holding me back.  I’m always trying to remember the first thing my writing “mentor,” William Zinsser taught me, “Write for yourself.”

They say we become what we think about and I have no reason to doubt that.  I’m convinced that writing about my training helped me understand it better and gave me confidence going into my races.  It’s like I have been there before through visualization.  And all of these posts prepared my mind for what was ahead.  It seemed familiar.

The more I watch, read, and think about sports (or life), the more I realize it comes down to preparation.  Race day results happen long before we toe the line.  And it’s really not even about the race.  It’s about enjoying the process.

So, I am back and I will not claim to know anything you don’t, but I will not fear my thoughts.  I will respect my experience and discuss life’s challenges with exuberance.  Hopefully some of it will resonate, even when it’s complete bullshit.