Sunday, May 6, 2012

Been Lazy

It's been over 2 weeks since the last time I ran. I really don't have any excuse; I've blamed the weather, my schedule, anything I could. Reality is I've been lazy. And although I already regret not getting in some runs over the past couple weeks, I know that I'm really going to regret it on Saturday, May 26 when I run the Soaring Eagle 50K Trail Run. I am just not trained up for this long race, and it's really too bad because the relatively flat course is conducive to a PR. I use to tell myself that the way to be certain I kept running was to keep signing up for races, I guess that no longer works. I need more than just races, I need real concrete goals like last year when I set (and succeeded in completing) a goal to run 1000 miles.

When the weather is less than ideal, when the schedule is not conducive, when I'm just not feeling like it, that's when I need to just force yourself to get out there and run. Like everyone says, you'll never regret the run you went on.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Practice Run in Chicago

Just got back yesterday from a few days in Chicago for work. This is my second visit to the second city, and I really enjoy visiting that town. Amazing places to eat, beautiful parks, incredible museums, and as major world cities go, it’s actually really affordable to visit. Last time I visited Chicago it was also because of a work trip, but I decided to stay over the weekend and do as much tourist stuff as I could. One thing I had intended to do, but just didn’t do was to go for a run in the city. However on this trip, knowing that I would be coming back to Chicago for a longer trip in October for the express purpose of running the 2012 Chicago Marathon and doing all things touristy, I took my free time on this trip to go on a good run. Turns out you can’t really run the marathon course, since it is literally down some of the city’s busiest streets (which are obviously closed down for the marathon). It took me a while to get the short 1 mile distance from my hotel to the shore Lake Michigan since I had to stop ever tenth of a mile for a street light, but once I got to the lake I really enjoyed running along Lakefront trail heading south. At some point I figured I would need to turn around since I had plans to meet up with some people for dinner, that’s when I found what the challenge is with running in Chicago. As I had been running south I was running with a decent wind to my back, when I turned to head back up north an ice cold wind was blowing right in my face. I still enjoyed the remainder of my run eventually making my way back up the lake and in along the river and back to my hotel.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Good Day

Funny about what makes for a good day. There are lots of things that can give you a positive kick that just puts you in a completely positive mood all day, but today I was surprised what did it for me. Today I had a good doctors visit. Maybe I'm getting old, but going to the doctor and having him totally happy with how healthy I am has kept me on a high all day.

Like most of my family, I have had issues with high cholesterol. For the past couple decades I've tried various things to try and bring down my cholesterol, including Niacin supplements which require a rather large dose to be effective at bringing down high cholesterol, and have some really nasty side effects if you don't very carefully build up to those doses. In more recent history my doctor has prescribed statins for me. In recent years, statins seem to be really popular means for controlling cholesterol. Some doctors I know take statins because they believe its beneficial even though they don't have high cholesterol. However more recently I've seen more information about the negative side of statins, at least if you don't have heart disease or have suffered a heart attack. Statins can be very hard on your liver, and some people (such as myself) can suffer some very unpleasant side effects from statins.

After experiencing negative side effects with my second statin prescription, I decided to try an experiment an just quit my statin. I didn't tell my doctor about this and didn't plan on telling him until our next visit, nearly 6 months after I quit the statin (for what it's worth, I don't recommend anyone ignore their physicians recommendations ever. In hind sight it was probably a bad idea on my part). I was worried my doctor would prescribe a new statin, or more so I was worried that I wouldn't fight for my own opinion and tell my doctor what I wanted to do, and I wanted to see if I could get the cholesterol down myself.

Generally you hear that if your cholesterol is too high you need to try diet and exercise, and if that doesn't work try a statin. But I wondered, how many typical American's REALLY try dieting and exercise at the serious life changing level. Unrelated to my issues with high cholesterol I had taken up a rather drastic change in lifestyle, going from a coach potato to a runner. As I increased my running distance I found that with running came a change in diet (I found I couldn't eat a giant cheese burger and then go run ten miles). Originally, I had taken up running because as I was turning 39, and I was being hit with a bit of a mid-life crisis, and I wanted to climb Mt. Rainier before I turned 40. I took up running as one of the ways of getting myself in shape for the exploit. Ultimately I successfully summited Rainer, but I really took to the running. Later that same year I ran my first marathon, the next Spring I ran my second marathon, followed by my first 50k, and then a three day 93 mile run around Mt. Rainier's Wonderland trail, followed by another marathon and another 50k this past February. As I was running more and more, I was also working on changing my diet. Less meat, especially red meat, more fish, more fresh vegetables and whole grains, less processed foods. I wanted to see if all of these changes would make any difference in my cholesterol. My fear was that genetics outweigh everything else, and that my cholesterol would be super high after taking 6 months off of any statins or any specific medicine or supplement to bring down my cholesterol. The good news is that although my cholesterol was slightly higher than my last visit, it was definitely low enough for my doctor to believe my experiment had been successful; no new medications!

So what's the secret? Well, I'm no doctor, nutritionist, athlete or health expert, (basically I don't know what I'm talking about) but what I've come to believe is that in the past half century Americans have become a bunch of lazy, complaining whiners, who eat crap. I believe the typical American eats food where they don't even really know what's in it. We sit at desks all day long, then sit in our car for a long commute home, then sit in front of a television, before going to bed, and then repeating the whole thing again. Maybe there is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise completed in a heated or airconditioned gym to interrupt an otherwise sedentary life style. It doesn't take much thought to realize this can't be good. However, I know it's really hard to change out of that lifestyle. For me, I couldn't make a small change, I had to go overboard about it, and then keep pushing further away from that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lord Hill 50K Trail Race

Last Sunday I ran the Lord Hill 50K Trail Race; my second trail race and my second ultra marathon . With nothing planned for the start of the year I needed some encouragement to kick start my running in the New Year. In the first few months of the year there are very few organized races, but the Lord Hill race at the end of February seemed like a somewhat aggressive but attainable goal, and despite the fact they offered a 5 mile, 10 mile, 20 mile and 50 kilometer race, I figured I might as well sign up for the full thing and do 50K. I was surprised to find out my wife signed up shortly after me (but for the much more reasonable distance of 10 miles). The course was a 10 mile course with the 50K races doing the 10 mile course 3 times, then a small 1.1 mile loop at the end.

Immediately I discovered my training schedule was going to be very limited with Tuesday’s devoted to City League ski racing and Saturday’s devoted to taking my daughters up skiing for lessons. I tried to get in as many runs as I could with my usual 6.5 mile maintenance and a longer weekend run when I could pull it off. By the time of the race I had only managed 2 runs on trails, and only one run over 10 miles in length. Add to my severe lack of training, the weather forecast was calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow between 10 AM and 4 PM on the day of the race; this would be exactly the time I would be running. I knew I was in trouble.

As the day of the race came around, I tried to reassure myself that I wasn’t trying to set any records with this race, and that I wouldn’t push myself too far and I would drop out if it was no longer prudent to run. On race day I awoke to pretty much blue skies in Seattle, and I figured my concerns about the weather were unwarranted and the forecast (as always in Seattle) was wrong. We drove on out to Lord Hill Park near Monroe, WA but as we neared Monroe the skies suddenly were filled with clouds. Upon arriving at the start of the race, one of the parking volunteers commented that he hoped we had really good mud shoes, and that the race was going to start with a river crossing.

A pre-race briefing was provided to the 20 mile and 50K racers at 8:15, then the 20 mile and 50K race was to begin at 8:30. However, just before the race was to begin it started snowing. As the race kicked off we ran about 100 yards, before crossing the previously mentioned “river”. The river turned out to be little more than a creek that could easily be jumped over; however I found out that as I did my second and third loop of the course the creek became increasingly more difficult to jump over.

The small creek was the least of my worries during the race. After about half a mile the course turned sharply up “Oh Lord Hill”, a steep series of climbs, straight up a hill on a narrow muddy single track trail. The hill was steep enough so that pretty much everyone just walked it. After “Oh Lord Hill” the rest of the course was a beautiful (albeit very muddy) single track course winding though woods, along creeks, and past a large pond. There was an aid station at the 4 mile point on the 10 mile loop, which worked out to be a great spacing as the majority of the effort was put into the first mile of the course as you climbed “Oh Lord Hill”. The first loop was interesting with snow falling and the course receiving a little dusting of snow, but by the second loop the snow had stopped, and by the third loop the sun was out. I now had no excuse not finish this race.

At the end of my third loop I was greeted by my two daughters and wife (who had time after she completed her race to drive an 45 minutes, pick up my daughters, have lunch with them, do some shopping, then drive back 45 minutes to the race course, and wait 45 minutes before I finished loop 3). After thanking them for meeting me I headed out for the final 1.1 miles (and the most difficult 1.1 miles I’ve ever run).

When the race was over I ended up finishing in 7 hours and 29 minutes and coming in 39th place out of 55 racers. Not a ranking that is going to win me any prizes, but one that I am proud of anyways. And now with a couple of days to recover and some time to contemplate the race, I find myself looking on the internet trying to find the next race and a little bit surprised by the fact that I can’t wait to run my next 50K.