Posted on 30-09-2009
Filed Under (Inspiration) by Brian

Lately, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the recommendation of the headmaster of Alice and Wendy’s school.  It’s an interesting read with some pretty interesting studies on the factors that go into success.  In many cases, those factors might be initially unexpected (such as being born early in the year makes you a better hockey player), but when the reasons for the somewhat unexpected factors are examined, they suddenly become more obvious.

I’m only about halfway through the book, but so far the theories of Outliers confirm my overall beliefs about success in life being a lot like success at the poker table.  It’s a combination of luck, talent and hard work (Glenn will appreciate this, I’m sure).  There is no doubt that poker is a game of skill.  It’s also very obviously a game of luck.  The skill comes in minimizing losses during unlucky times and maximizing gains during periods of luck so as to come out ahead in the long term.

In life, we’re all dealt unlucky hands from time to time.  We’re also presented with lucky opportunities.  These things we have little control over.  It’s how we handle them that matters.  Opportunities come and go.  Many people don’t recognize these opportunities, or are too lazy to take advantage of them.  They’d rather focus on the unlucky times.  They’re unlikely to be successful.  Those who minimize their losses in the unlucky times, recognize the opportunities and work hard to take advantage of them are the ones who will be the most successful.

That’s really a brief and somewhat poor summary of what I’ve already read.  The book’s examples are descriptive and fun to read.  I’m sure that for every example Gladwell produces one might be able to produce a counter example, but it’s a good read nonetheless.

Sometimes when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I wish I would just win the lottery.  Then I could do whatever I wanted.  I could travel around the world, stay at the luxury resorts with the extraordinarily comfortable mattresses and the 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.  Then I remember a dream I had when I was in high school and Volleyball was such a large part of my life.

It was a time when vampires were popular in culture due to movies like the Lost Boys and Interview with the Vampire – much like the vampire buzz that now surrounds Twilight.  I dreamed that I was vampire.  It was a really realistic dream.  I felt it.  I was suddenly lightning fast, incredibly strong and I could jump as high as I wanted.  I was the king of the volleyball court.  In time I grew depressed.  I successful and kicking butt and nobody knew that I was a vampire – but I knew.  I knew I hadn’t earned my success and it was no fun.  In the dream I quit the volleyball team and spent my time watching from the bleachers wishing I wasn’t a vampire.  I woke up glad I was just normal Brian.

I guess my point is that the journey is half (or more) of the fun.  It can be hard to remember when you’re in the unlucky times – you’re injured, out of work, or just spinning your wheels – but a victory earned through hardship is so much sweeter than one that is handed to you by default.

(7) Comments   
Posted on 28-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

This week was a solid week and it felt very nice to finish it off on Saturday morning, even though that particular run was somewhat brutal at the end.  I had two good quality workouts and my longest run in over a year and a half.  Here’s how it went:

Monday AM: Threshold run + R pace intervals totaling 10 miles

Monday PM: 3 miles at 8:52 pace

Tuesday AM: 6 miles at 8:54 pace

Wednesday AM: 200, 1000 and 400 m intervals totaling 10 miles

Thursday AM: 6 miles treadmill with Richie (8:30 pace) + full body strength training

Thursday PM: 4 miles running to and from Alice’s cross country meet (8:02 pace)

Friday AM: 6 miles at 8:19 pace

Friday PM: 4 miles with Alice at 8:59 pace

Saturday AM: 16.8 miles at 9:34 pace

Total: 65.8 miles

So, I hit another new weekly mileage PR.  I thought I had gone faster on the long run, but I guess that last couple of miles really killed the overall pace.  It was good to push the distance out a little farther, though.  The speed will come later.

This week will probably be lighter since life has already gotten in the way a bit and I’ve got a race at the end of the week.  I’m in my last 2 weeks of 10K training and then I’m officially training for a marathon….and that’s just a little bit scary.

(3) Comments   
Posted on 23-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

If I hit the nail on the head during Monday’s workout, then I was just slightly off center today.  It was a great workout session, but didn’t go quite as planned.  The plan was 6×200 + 3×1000 + 3×400.  Here’s how it went:

6×200 m in 35,37,43,36,39,35 with 200 m jogs between

1000 m in 3:41 + 2 minute jog

600 m in 2:19 (was running into a headwind and just couldn’t get myself to go faster)

1000 m in 3:42

3×400 m in 83,83,85 with 400 m jogs between

So, I really only missed the middle 1000.  I was happy to be able to come back and hit the third one on pace then finish off with some strong 400’s.  I will admit that while my recoveries between reps were as planned, my rest time between sets was around 5 minutes today.  On Monday, I was much more on task as far as grabbing water and getting back to it.  On the other hand, when I started the warm-up at the beginning of the workout, I was so stiff that I felt about twice my age so I guess I should just be thankful I got through everything.

(1) Comment   
Posted on 21-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

I’ll preface this with a note that there was no puking today.  So, while today’s workout was far more exciting for me, it won’t be nearly as fun for you to read about.  I headed out to the park with a tough plan in mind.  I felt good, had positive thoughts and was determined to push through it on my own.  Here’s how it went:

2 miles warmup

3 miles in 20:16

3×400 m in 83,85, 85 with 400 m jogs between

2×1 mile in 6:35,6:34 with 1 minute rest between

1 mile cool down

First off, it’s been a while since I’ve done as much as 3 miles at 6:45 pace outside of a race.  So, that was a bit of a victory in and of itself.  The 400’s were definitely tough, but getting through 3 400’s isn’t all that intimidating.  It was the last 2×1 mile that I really didn’t want to do.  I had to really psych myself up for those.  As it turns out, 6:35 seems almost slow so soon after doing the 400’s at 5:45 pace.

So, I finally finished a quality workout as prescribed by Dr. Daniels himself.  It’s been a while and it felt really good.

(2) Comments   
Posted on 20-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

This week featured a nice barf session, some frostbite, my first group run and a distance PR.  Here’s how it played out:

Monday AM: 10 miles of T pace and I pace intervals with Richie

Tuesday AM: 6 miles treadmill with Richie + full body strength training

Tuesday PM: 4 miles Easy (8:39 pace)

Wednesday PM: 6 miles Easy (8:21 pace)

Friday AM: 9.5 miles Easy (8:30 pace)

Friday PM: 3.5 miles Easy (8:56 pace)

Saturday AM: 14.64 miles with group (9:02 pace)

Sunday AM: 8.36 miles Easy (9:10 pace)

Total: 62 miles (2 miles more than my previous weekly PR)

You’ve read about Monday’s puke session (and if you haven’t you really need to).  Wednesday, I went to the doctor for a physical.  I had him check out a number of things, including some little bumps I had on both feet.  I assumed they were warts and would have treated them with the standard salicylic acid band-aid things, but I figured I was going to the doctor anyway and may as well get a professional opinion.  It turns out they’re corns.  The doctor pulled out his can of liquid nitrogen and sprayed away, leaving me with frostbite on both feet.  I did 6 miles that evening and felt okay, but I was limping around Thursday morning so I took Thursday off.

Richie convinced me to get up at 3:45 am so we could drive up to Clearwater and meet a running group at 5:00.  We arrived just in time and the group set out almost as soon as we pulled into the City Hall lot.  The first round was about 6.5 miles as a warmup.  We arrived back at City Hall around 6:00 in time to meet some other people.  Then, we all set out for various distances.  Richie, his friend Brett and a woman from the group set out for 14 additional miles.  I stuck back with the rest of the group and ended up finding a nice young German woman named Layla who wanted to run 8 miles.  We ventured across a long bridge to the beach, then ran on Clearwater Beach for 2 miles before crossing another bridge to Sand Key.  We hit the bathroom/water fountain at a Marriot.  Layla and I bid farewell to a couple other runners who were heading for longer distances a turned back.

On the way back, we passed Richie, Brett and Beatrice.  They were still cruising along rather well.  The  final bridge at 13 miles was a tough climb, but we took it nice and easy and made it back to City Hall.  Layla looked at her watch.

“7 minutes faster than last week,” she remarked.  I wasn’t sure whether to say “I’m sorry” or “you’re welcome”, but she looked pretty happy with it, so I just said “Good job!”  We stretched and Layla left as a few more runners trickled in from various distances.  The City Hall fountain was looking mighty inviting, and when another runner jumped in, I followed suit.  It was nice and cold from an evening rainstorm – a perfect post run “ice bath”.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I got close to 15 miles, Richie got 20 miles and good practice for the hills of New York and a good time was had by all.  As an added note, Richie ran a local 5K the next morning and won in 16:27.  So, he’s in pretty good shape.

(4) Comments   
Posted on 15-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

I had a true Jack Daniels workout planned for Monday morning:

2 x 2 miles at threshold pace with 2 minute jogging recovery

3 x 800 m at interval pace with 2 minute jogging recoveries

3 x 400 m at repetition pace with 400 m jogging recoveries

As I was headed to the park, Richie called and asked if I wanted company.  He met me at the park and we warmed up for 2 miles as he described his previous weekend’s adventures in racing (a 39:47 10K).  Then we hit the intervals.  Here’s how it went:

2 miles in 13:42

2 miles in 13:30

I was true to form with a 400 m (2:20) jogging break between 2 mile efforts.  I had planned a 7:00 minute mile pace and beat that easily in both intervals.

After the 2nd 2 miler, I took a walking/jogging/water break and continued with the 800’s (planned at 3:00)

800 m in 2:59 (dry heave as I finished)

I walked around for a minute or two and then Richie paced me through the 2nd.  I got about 700 m before I started to dry heave again.  At 750 m, I was spewing a little breakfast.  I tried to finish, but I was full fledged puking before I could reach the marker.  I had to lean over a tree as I emptied my stomach of the morning’s breakfast.  Meanwhile, Richie had somehow gotten behind me.  It was a clever move on his part.  I think he heard the heaves coming and just got the hell out of the way.

“Hey, hey!” he was yelling, “welcome to the club buddy!  You’re a real runner now.”  I was smiling as I was puking.  It felt kind of good to be a “real runner” and a good hearty barf is always an allowable excuse for skipping the rest of a workout, eh?

“What did you have for breakfast?” asked Richie.

“A small bowl of cereal,” I replied.




“About 7:00”.  That was a lie.  It had actually been about 7:30 – a mere half hour before the start of the workout.

“No sympathy,” he said shaking his head, “you had breakfast an hour before a hard workout?  That’s two stupid things you’ve done in one week”.  He was, of course, referring to the “walking in a 5K” incident.  Technically, that happened last week, so I’m still averaging one stupid thing per week.

“Alright,” he said waving me back to the starting post, “have some water and let’s get back to it.”  I downed a swallow of water and lined up behind him.

“Let’s get it over with,” I said.  I was already feeling pretty crumby in the first 200 m.  He sensed I wasn’t going to pull off another 800 and stopped it at 400 m (1:32).  I walked.

“I want you jogging,” Richie said, “even if it’s a shuffle.  I’ll give you a goal.  If you finish the next two 400’s in less than 1:30 you’re done.  If not, you do another.”

“Fair enough,” I thought.  The 400’s didn’t seem so bad.  We jogged back to the start for the next two 400’s:

400 m in 1:24

400 m in 1:23

Nailed those with plenty of time to spare.  We immediately went into a cool down and rounded the whole workout off for 10 miles total.

Puking during a workout is not fun, but it did actually feel good that I pushed hard enough to get to that point without my head getting in the way – even if it was stupid to have a bowl of cereal so close to the workout time.

(6) Comments   
Posted on 14-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

This week was going to be a short week anyway with the race on Thursday.  I was out of town for the weekend attending a Bat Mitzvah and I ended up taking both days off.  Here’s how the week panned out:

Monday PM: 4 mile fartlek run at 7:29 pace

Tuesday AM: 6 miles at 8:19 pace + upper and core strength training

Wednesday AM: 4 miles at 9:43 pace

Wednesday PM: 4.31 miles with Richie at 8:40 pace

Thursday PM: 5K race at 6:39 pace

Friday AM: 9 miles at 8:20 pace

Total: 30.41

(2) Comments   
Posted on 13-09-2009
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

It was supposed to be one of the coolest days of the week on Thursday when Alice and I ran the Charger classic.  The forecast called for a high of 83.  I knew we were headed far beyond that when I drove by a bank at 10 am and the sign read 87 degrees.  By the time 4 O’clock rolled around, it was in the nineties.  The humidity was high and there were few clouds in the sky to block the unrelenting sun.

I waited until the girls’ race started at 4:00 and warmed up on the track while keeping an eye out for Alice.  She came through the first lap of campus and the 1 mile mark running 4th place in 7:15.  There were three girls in a lead pack and Alice was leading a chase pack of 4 about 20 yards behind.  Based on her performance in time trials at earlier practices, I figured a top 5 finish here would pretty much guarantee her a spot on the Varsity squad for the opening meet.

I did a few more strides and waited for the girls to come around again.  By the time they did, the lead pack had been shattered by an 8th grader who had a healthy lead.  I counted the girls as they emerged from behind a hedgerow and onto the track.  Alice was now running in 7th place, but the two girls in front of her were reachable.  I encouraged her to finish strong, but I could tell she was in some pretty serious distress at that point.  When she finally finished in 25:25, she had fallen to 9th.  She said she had some dry heaves in the third mile and had to walk for a while.

We won’t find out the teams officially until Monday, but I suspect she’ll be junior varsity.  That’ll be good for her I think.  She’ll have the chance to run near the front of races and will contribute points to her team.  If she starts putting up some really low times, she might even climb up to varsity by the end of the season.  She’s still young, though so it’s really no big deal.  I know she’s disappointed, though.

Richie showed up just before the girls’ race started wearing knee length basketball shorts in school colors that he dug out of his son’s drawer (his son graduated from the same school last year and he has another in pre-K there too).

“I guess you’re not running,” I remarked.  He shrugged.

“We’ll see.”

As I was warming up during the girls’ race, we was jogging around the outside of the track, giving the girls encouragement the whole way.  When the boys lined up, he lined up with us in the back of the pack.

The whistle blows and we’re off.  Aware of a typical fast start with high school runners, I hold back as much as I can.  Knowing that Richie is in much better shape than me, I’m just waiting for him to pass me.  I would be surprised at how long this would take.  I settle in to a fairly comfortable pace and pass a few runners as they adjust their paces from the initial sprint.  I’ve still got a good view of the race leaders not too far ahead and my legs feel pretty light.  We make a weird right turn into some tress and up a very steep berm.  It takes about five or six steps to climb and would be more of a wall if it was any steeper.  It’s a small wrinkle in an otherwise flat course.

We emerge from the trees as we accelerate down the berm and run along a sidewalk at the front of campus.  As we turn back toward the rear of campus, I can hear a familiar voice coming from behind.

“No parents out in front, boys.  No parents out in front”.

Shortly after, Richie passes me.  He’s running easily and almost nonchalantly picking off runners one by one.  We’re about 1200 m into the race.  I maintain my pace and watch him work his way to the front of the race.  We exit the south campus road and round a small pond behind the baseball field.  A quick right turn through a break in a hedgeroe and we emerge back on the track.  200 m later, I’ve completed 1 mile in 6:06.

Richie in front and me trailing

Richie(yellow shirt) in front and me (blue shirt) trailing

At this point, some adjustments occur.  I pass two more runners on the track and place myself right behind a third as we exit the track through the middle division parking lot and back toward the trees.  I follow him through the grass, and over the berm.  He rounds the outside of a stop sign and I go inside as that’s where the arrow painted on the ground points.  He glances at me and I back off.  I kind of recall one of the race leaders pointing out that we should go outside of the sign during the first lap.  I tuck in behind him again as sort of a penalty.

As we cruise across the front of the campus, he’s slowing significantly.  I pass him now with a pretty hard acceleration of about 20 yards.  It puts some distance between us.  I’m not feeling very good myself, though.  We continue down around the pond and back onto the track.  I know he’s not far behind because his teammates are cheering for him.

“You can catch him!” they yell.  I realize I’m the villain as I’m running down the back stretch of the track.  I pass the 2 mile mark in 13:00.  Wow!  I’ve slowed a lot in that last mile.  It sure doesn’t feel like it, though.  I’m pondering all of these things and I’m afraid this 6th grader behind me is going to catch me.  I hate being “re-caught”.  It says that the acceleration I’ve made previously was tactically a bad move and now I’m hurting.  I’ve developed a small stitch on my right side.  It’s very uncomfortable, but I’ve worked through worse.  I stop to walk anyway.  I’ve told myself this kid is going to catch me and in the moment of discomfort, I want a plausible excuse.  The stitch is it.  It takes him almost ten seconds to pass me.  My lead had been so much larger than I thought it was.  I could have just backed off my pace a little, recovered and been perfectly fine.

I’m surprised that’s it’s another 30 seconds before another runner passes.  Finally a kid runs by and offers some encouragement.

“Hey, keep going.  You can make it.”

I chuckle at my own stupidity and pull myself into a jog and then back into stride.  Feeling bad about it, I pass the kid who offered the encouragement almost immediately.  I’m back over the berm and in full stride.  The rest of the way seems so short now.  My mantra during so many training runs has always been “You can always make it one more mile”.  In this case, I literally had one more mile and I mentally choked – amazing how much pressure I allowed an 11 year old to put on me.

I reach the track with no chance to catch the guy in front of me and a comfortable lead on the kid behind.  My pace picks up a little and I finish in 20:37 – just over a minute slow on my PR.  Richie claps as I cross the finish.  He keeps jogging around the track and offering encouragement to everyone who’s finishing.  He effectively runs about 4 200 m intervals in the process of jogging back, then pacing them all to the finish line.  Many think he’s weird but most appreciate the encouragement.

I find the kid who offered encouragement to me and thank him.  Then I find the 6th grader who I let into my head and congratulate him on a nice race.  Finally, I find Alice and tell her I had to take a walk break in the third mile.  Daddy is human too.

I later found out that Richie in just over 19 minutes.  He pulled up on the track and let the high schooler win.  He claims he could have passed him at 2.5 miles.  I’m inclined to believe him.  I know he’s in damned good shape and certainly capable of a sub 18 performance.  I told him I took a one minute walk break and received some much deserved criticism (and almost 9 miles worth the next morning).  I think it ranks up there with the stupidest things I’ve done in a race.

I might run another 5K or 10K before the Race for the Taste.  I just want to run something without putting any pressure on myself to get the bad taste of my mental collapse out of my mouth.

(3) Comments   
Posted on 09-09-2009
Filed Under (Inspiration) by Brian

It’s been another stressful week at work.  I had a difficult “easy” run this morning that was supposed to be 6 miles, but wound up being only 4 miles.  Richie ran 16 this morning and was a little disappointed at not getting a full 20, so he hit me up for 4.  That was good for both of us as I might have skipped my afternoon run otherwise.  We took it slow for 4+ miles and chatted the whole way.  When I got home, I opened up my Napster account, put on some Jimmy Buffet and Beach Boys tunes, then cooked up some Tilapia in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  I was trying various rum based shots while cooking which isn’t necessarily the best thing to do the night before a race, but the race is in the afternoon so I’ll hopefully be okay.

In any case, the Beach Boys tunes took me back to my high school years when I was playing volleyball.  I used to listen to the Beach Boys’ “Made in the USA” album on my Walkman religiously.  My favorite tune was the remake of the old Mamas & Papas tune, “California Dreamin'”.  At the time, I was obsessed with volleyball.  I started playing volleyball in the 5th grade, which was a rarity for a boy living in Missouri.  I’ve also been 5’10” pretty much since the 6th grade.  So, I was one of the few good volleyball players in the greater St. Louis area at the time.  I traveled around the Midwest with a club team and when I got to high school, I was a backup on the varsity team during the state tournament my freshman year.

As I progressed through high school, my teammates and opponents grew up around me.  I went from middle hitter to swing hitter to opposite hitter to setter through my high school career.  My senior year, I went back to opposite hitter and made first team all district.  I dreamed of moving to California, majoring in Marine Biology and playing volleyball.  If Men’s college volleyball were as prolific as, say, Men’s college track and field then I might have had a college scholarship somewhere, but I settled for majoring in Physical Therapy and playing intramural volleyaball at St. Louis University (we did win the intramural championship).

This evening, under the influence of some Captain Morgan, I was reflecting on those Beach Boys tunes.  While I didn’t move to California, I did ultimately move to Florida (still warm and beachy) and I got a Ph.D. in Oceanography (sooooo much better than marine biology).  The life isn’t quite as I imagined in high school, but it ain’t so bad.  In high school, I envisioned my destiny as a volleyball player.  Now, I know I’m really a runner.

So, on the eve of my next race that will be contested mostly against high school runners, I had to smile just a bit at the long circuitous path that has led me here.  I often wonder what life would have been like if I had realized I was a runner in high school.  How good could I have been?  On the other hand, if you’re happy with your life, you can’t complain about what go you there.  You can’t change the past anyway.  So, it’s onward and upward.  Maybe I can take down a few high school runners tomorrow.  We’ll see.

(3) Comments   
Posted on 07-09-2009
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

Wow!  What a crazy week.  My grandmother had a stroke at the end of last week and passed away on Monday morning.  So, I was off to St. Louis on Wednesday morning for her funeral.  The weather in St. Louis was absolutely beautiful and I was able to work in some very nice runs between family events.  All in all, the week wasn’t too shabby considering the interruption to the normal schedule.  Here’s how it went:

Monday AM: 7 miles at 9:10 pace

Monday PM: 3 miles at 7:48 pace

Tuesday AM: 6 miles at 8:12 pace + full body strength training

Tuesday PM: 4 miles at 8:10 pace

Wednesday PM: 4 miles at 8:13 pace

Thursday AM: 10 miles at 7:48 pace

Friday PM: 4.76 miles at 8:00 pace

Sunday PM: 3 miles with Alice at 9:01 pace

Total: 41.76

The mileage this week will likely be fairly low as well.  I’m running a 5K on Thursday with the cross country team at Alice’s school.  Then, I’m out of town for the weekend again for a Bat Mitzvah.  I know I’ve been slack in my comment on all the other blogs.  I apologize for that.  I hope to get back into my normal commenting groove this week.  Thanks for all your continued comments here!

(2) Comments   
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