June
30
Posted on 30-06-2011
Filed Under (It's all about me) by Brian

This morning, I woke up in Chattanooga, TN after a wonderful night’s sleep in a Travelodge. I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I booked the room through Expedia’s new deals feature where you see the price and the star level, but don’t see the hotel until after you book it. I was having buyer’s regret once I started reading the reviews of the Travelodge.

Fortunately, the staff was very friendly, the room was clean and the bed was quite comfortable. That’s all I ask for $44.

The finish line is somewhere behind all those buildings.

After leaving Chattanooga, we headed to music city where we drove right through without stopping. We took a brief look to our left as we passed downtown, toward the finish of the Tennessee Ragnar Relay, though we couldn’t actually see the park because it was behind a bunch of buildings. Cut us some slack, we’ll be taking this route on foot come November. Speaking of which, if you’d like to join our Ragnar Relay team for the run through the beautiful fall foliage from Chattanooga to Nashville, you can do so here. The price goes up on July 15th. If you’ve never done a Ragnar Relay before, it’s totally fun. We’re not ultra competitive. We just like everyone to do their best on their own legs and have a whole lot of fun getting from point A to point B in the moving party that is an overnight cross country running relay.

My parents have lived in St. Louis all their lives and never been to the top of the arch. I've been up once.

But I digress. After blowing a fuse and losing our radio, then replacing said fuse in Kentucky and regaining our radio, we ultimately arrived in the town where I spent the first 22 years of my life: St. Louis, MO. Although I feel very much like St. Petersburg is my hometown now, there’s always a good bit of nostalgia that creeps in as I cross the Mississippi river and drive past my old stomping grounds: St. Louis University, St. Louis University High School, Forest Park, the Science Center, the Galleria and just the stretch of Interstate 64 where I spent so much time in traffic during my high school years. Lots of things have changed, but so many things are still the same.

One thing’s for sure: it’s as hot and humid here as it is in Florida. Alice and I are going to get up early for a 6 mile run before Raffi and I head up to Chicago tomorrow.

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June
29
Posted on 29-06-2011
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing...I could be sleeping.

Greetings from Interstate 75 in Georgia. I’ve managed to get out of the driver’s seat for an hour or so. I’ve got the laptop tethered to my cell phone and the speed isn’t horribly slow! It is a wee bit cramped, though.

My last few days have been spent in the frenzy that always occurs before and after a vacation trying to get work done. I’m glad that part’s over and I’m very much looking forward to the next 12 days. In a way, the travel to a vacation is the best part. You can begin to relax, but all the good stuff is still ahead of you.

On the running front, I haven’t been sticking to the plan I drew up for the Disney Wine & Dine half marathon very well. Still, I’ve been getting one day per week of speed work in and my mileage is consistently around 30. I won’t be setting any personal records, but I should easily be in shape to come in around 1:45. In the end, I’ll probably end up pacing a group of team members to 2 hours.

My latest speed workout on the treadmill was 8 x 400 m in 1:30 with 400 m recoveries in 3-4 minutes. I was tired at the beginning and felt somewhat fatigued throughout, but the last 400 felt the same as the first and I managed to focus on maintaining a pretty good form. So, mission accomplished I suppose.

Do you think vacation will mean more time to blog? We’ll see.

 

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June
21
Posted on 21-06-2011
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

Okay, for those of you who remember my post about dreams a few weeks back, I won’t go into that kind of detail. Last night, however, I dreamed I was playing in the snow with a mailman and we decapitated a snowman. Analyze that.

Today, I hit the treadmill for the tried and true 4 x 1200 m workout at 6:40 min/mile pace. It was a stressful day and I just wasn’t feeling the 1200’s. Even during the first one, I noticed my form kind of sagging and I didn’t have much desire to do another one – certainly not three more!

Still, I made a lazy attempt at #2 and got through 800 m before I decided it was time to reboot. I knew I had some angry bursts of speed in me and I knew that would lend itself well to working on my running economy. So, I walked for a while to recover my breath and then hit a 400 m interval at 6 min/mile pace. I focused on keeping a smooth stride, a fast turnover and deep relaxed breaths. It worked out well. I recovered by walking 100 m, jogging 200 m then walking another 100 m. I did 5 of those and completed each just as easily as the first.  It felt good.

When I’ve been at my best (running-wise), I haven’t always completed every workout as planned, but I have always completed every workout. It would have been easy to tell myself I wasn’t going to get it done today and just quit at 2.5 miles. Instead, I adjusted to a workout that was still challenging, but better for the day. I completed my planned mileage for the day and I worked on my running economy…which apparently needs the work. Most of all, however, I left the workout feeling better. Instead of the workout adding to the stress of my day, I felt I accomplished something and that always de-stresses me!

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June
14
Posted on 14-06-2011
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

It’s been a stressful few days! Raffi is in New York, so I’ve been playing single dad. The car was in the shop, work has been crazy and to top it all off, my computer got a virus and went totally whacko last night. The good news is that I slept like a rock last night. I needed that.

Orange Saucony Pro-Grid Fastwitch 3

These old friends have seen some miles since I first blogged about them 2 years ago!

I opted to wait and do my speed workout in the late afternoon and I was looking forward to it all day. Once again, the plan I designed called for 1 mile warmup, 4 x 1200 m (3/4 mile) at 6:40 min/mile pace with 400 m (1/4 mile) recovery jogs in between, and a 1 mile cool down. Since I came up a little short the first two times I attempted this workout, I decided to call on a some special friends to help me out today. I laced up my first pair of racing shoes. These orange Saucony Fastwitch 3’s carried me to my personal records in the marathon (3:23:27) and half marathon (1:29:11) and also accompanied me over the 7 mile bridge in this year’s Florida Keys Ragnar Relay.

Lacing them up gave me a comfortable familiar feeling and I stepped on the treadmill with confidence. During my warm up, my legs were turning over quickly and comfortably. After a mile, I bumped up the speed for my first interval. My form was efficient and my breathing stayed nice and steady. I even cracked a satisfied smile as I finished it.

I recovered quickly from the first interval and eagerly awaited the second as my 1/4 mile jog came to an end. The second interval was a little tougher, but I strode through it easily. When I slowed to a jog, I got a fatigued feeling in my lower back that made me want to walk, but I resisted it and jogged the whole quarter.

The third interval took some mental tricks to get through. When it was finished, I walked half of my recovery. The fourth interval was very tough and I was sucking some major wind in the last quarter, but I made it through, completing this workout for the first time on this training plan!

I’ll claim it as a little victory and I’m very satisfied with it. It’s nice to complete a quality run like that. I’ve got a long way to go to get back in that 1:29:11 half marathon shape, but I know that putting together lots of small victories like this will lead to the bigger goal.

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June
13
Posted on 13-06-2011
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

On Friday night, Meredith and Scott invited Raffi and I to go sailing with them. I’ve always wanted to sail and we jumped on the opportunity. Every Friday night, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club has a race. It’s pretty low key and there’s beer involved, so how can you argue with that?

Raffi and I basically served as counterweights while Scott steered and Meredith and DJ (wo)manned the lines. It was a great time and we finished 2nd in our class – mostly thanks to the master tactics of Scott and DJ, but I like to think my hard core leaning played a minor role at least. On the way back to the dock, Scott let me steer!

Me sailing

It almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

This weekend was the first run with a group that I organized on meetup.com. I was expecting 9 people and 6 showed up. I thought that was pretty good for a meetup.com group. There’s definitely been flakiness with Meetup groups in the past and flakiness tends to increase when the Meetup is at 6 on a Saturday morning. Scott was one of the people who flaked. Apparently, we stayed up too late and had too many beers after sailing.

Meredith showed up and so did Sandy, who’s on the Disney Wine & Dine 1/2 marathon team. I brought Alice and two other guys I had never met before (Gabe and Adriano) were also there. We set off at a 10 minute mile pace and cruised pretty well through the first 1.5 miles. Sandy fell off the back because of shin splints and Adriano appeared to have some knee problems – most likely because he was running in basketball shoes!

I convinced them both to turn back for a 3 mile run, then worked hard for about a half mile to catch the rest of the group. Gabe was jamming out to his headphones while Alice set an ever faster pace. Meredith and I ran in silence, just trying to recover from the previous night. We ended up finishing in about 55 minutes – nothing special, but a nice easy run on a beautiful morning!

 

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June
10
Posted on 10-06-2011
Filed Under (Digital Running) by Brian

Digital Running Logo on a stickerRaffi had a few extra credits with Vistaprint left over from a Groupon she bought, so she made me some wicked cool Digital Running Club bumper stickers. I like the overall size, but the logo itself is a little small. I think a die cut sticker in the shape of the logo would be even better, but these are great considering she put them together quickly and they didn’t cost anything.

Last night, there was a 4 mile “social run” that left from Ferg’s, a local dive that butts up against Tropicana Field. I had a particularly frustrating day writing code and didn’t feel like going, but Raffi convinced me that it would be a good idea. We grabbed some Digital Running Club business cards and headed out to meet up with a few other friends.

At the bar, I met Cary who is a marketing coordinator for the Ragnar Relay Series. He’s not to be confused with Carrie, who is the Ragnar Florida Keys race director and his fiancee. Anyway, Raffi handed him a card and he chuckled. Apparently a few emails had been going around the Ragnar office about us and the team we’re putting together for the Tennessee Ragnar Relay. They like the concept, but they’ve been getting emails from people I’ve contacted wondering if we’re a legitimate company and they don’t really know how to handle those.

I certainly know where they’re coming from. They don’t really know much about me, so it’s risky for them to put their brand name on the line in telling people that we’re legitimate when in fact we might not be. We certainly are legitimate, but the scammers will tell you they’re legitimate too.

At least now, one of the Ragnar staffers can put a face to the emails going around the office! I had a lot of fun talking relay races and relay culture with Cary. It sounds like there may be Colorado and Texas Ragnar Relays coming our way in the not too distant future!

The rest of the evening at the bar was kind of lame. They raffled off some $18 water and there were some drink specials, but I left my wallet in the car and didn’t feel much like hanging around anyway. I was pretty tired.

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June
08
Posted on 08-06-2011
Filed Under (Inspiration) by Brian
Plush Broccoli Toy

That's some cool lookin' broccoli

My older brother is visiting Walt Disney World from St. Louis, so we drove over to spend the day with him and his family at the Disney Hollywood Studios. There, I was reacquainted with my childhood friends, “Broccoli Balboa” and Mr. Tomato. These were characters in the Kitchen Cabaret in the Land pavilion at Epcot. Broccoli played the drums and I think Mr. Tomato was a Frank Sinatra style crooner. I’m not sure why I fell in love with the broccoli, but it was my favorite plush toy for years despite the fact my brother used to use it as a boxing glove and my face as a punching bag – hence the broccoli’s cinematic name. The Kitchen Cabaret was later replaced by “Food Rocks”, which was then demolished to make way for “Soarin'”. I thought I’d never see broccoli again, but there he was inside the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream attraction at the Hollywood Studios.

 

Plush Tomato toy

Mr. Tomato is quite the lady's man I hear.

I was struck by a quote I spotted on the wall. It was something Walt said, reminiscing about his time in Kansas City, I think shortly after his animation company went bankrupt. He said he used to go down to the train station and watch the trains leaving for California and he would cry because he couldn’t afford a ticket. Often, I think when we look at successful people, we forget what they had to go through to become successful.

So, in a way that’s refreshing. I’ll be honest. When I sit down and look at the work I primarily get paid to do, I sometimes want to cry. It’s nice to know that Walt felt that way too. People tend to think he was born, went to school, pooped out Mickey one day and it was all blue skies after that.

The exhibit also reminded me of something Guy Kawasaki says in his book, the Art of the Start and this blog post:

Don’t worry, Be Crappy. An innovator doesn’t worry about shipping an innovative product with elements of crappiness if it’s truly innovative. The first permutation of a innovation is seldom perfect–Macintosh, for example, didn’t have software (thanks to me), a hard disk (it wouldn’t matter with no software anyway), slots, and color. If a company waits–for example, the engineers convince management to add more features–until everything is perfect, it will never ship, and the market will pass it by.

I tend to think things through a lot and sometimes that causes me to miss opportunities. A great example would be the first time I kissed Raffi. I was standing there calculating multiple scenarios of what might happen if I tried to kiss her and trying to figure out the perfect timing without realizing that if there was a perfect time, I was doing a great job of missing it. Fortunately, she said “Do you always think about things for ten minutes before you do them?” and that was all the prodding I needed. More than 16 years later, we’re still together.

As these things and other events of the weekend went through my mind in the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit, a three word phrase popped into my head. It’s a little vulgar so I won’t share it here, but it’s a simple way of kicking myself in the butt and redirecting my thoughts to the present instead of worrying about which of a million different futures will materialize.

I made use of it many times on the treadmill yesterday. Since we stayed at Disney World until 11 PM and had to drive back to St. Petersburg afterward, I opted out of morning speed work. Between the scorching heat outside and the boredom of the treadmill, I hoped the treadmill would be the lesser of two evils for my 1200 m workout. My knee was a little wonky, though I have no idea why, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

After a 1 mile warmup at a 1.5% incline, I was aching to go fast, so I popped the treadmill up to 9 MPH and hit my first 1200 m interval. It hurt, but I recovered pretty quickly with 400 m at 10 min/mile pace.

During the second interval, my thoughts drifted to last week’s speed workout and how I quit during the second interval. I quickly squashed the thought with my three word phrase and focused on quickening my stride.  I pictured myself on the home stretch of a track, heading toward the finish line. Though I was breathing heavily, I actually smiled. Bam! Another 1200 m down.

The third one was tough. I pictured myself on the track, knocking off the laps. As I passed the finish of each lap, I thought of the three word phrase and quickened my step. After the third lap, I walked 400 m, then cooled down with an easy mile. The knee actually felt better during the run than it did before.

It felt nice to hit three solid intervals. I know I’ll nail 4 next week.

 

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June
02
Posted on 02-06-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

[youtube]Cdk1gwWH-Cg[/youtube]

I hope everyone had a great National Running Day yesterday. I celebrated with a 4 mile run downtown on the water and by announcing the Digital Running Club’s Tennessee Ragnar Relay Team. As part of that launch, I spent the afternoon contacting the list of runners looking for a team. One of those runners happened to be Ragnar Tennessee Race Director, Leslie Keener. She said she’d love to run with us, but she’d be a little busy during the race. That’s absolutely understandable, though I wonder why she was on the list in the first place.

Anyway, she’s very nice and brought up a good point (which I have to admit I’ve thought of a few times myself). Here’s what she said:

I would love to chat with you a bit more about some ways to make sure that the people that you are contacting can be assured that you are legitimately trying to put a team together.  Please know that I do not think you are running a shady operation at all…I think it is really cool what you are doing.  I have just gotten a few emails already from runners that received an email from you asking if I knew if you were legitimate or not.

Obviously, the best way is for her to just tell everyone we are legit, but how does she know? I mean her credibility and the credibility of the relay series itself is certainly on the line if she vouches for us and we turn out to be scamming people. If we are scamming, then each person who signs up is out a few hundred bucks.

Does anyone out there have any ideas? How can we inspire confidence in potential team members? Should we take a lesson from MC Hammer and name the team “Too Legit to Quit”…or the even trendier, “2 legit 2 quit”? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.

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June
01
Posted on 01-06-2011
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

The red, sweat soaked faces of the distance runners on the track team are still vivid in my mind from this past season. One workout, sets of 1200 m (3/4 mi) intervals with 400 m (1/4 mi) jogging recoveries, was particularly brutal on the first hot day of the season. I stood at the finish line recording times as each runner clocked slower and slower laps while the workout dragged on. At first, I was disappointed when a couple of runners begged to be let out of the last interval, but after every single runner failed to hit their goal time despite their best efforts, I began to realize that perhaps I had asked them all to dig a little too deep on that day.

Yesterday was my turn. For the first time in months, I returned to my familiar park with the 1.1 mile path around a lake and mile markers at every quarter mile. My goal? Four 1200 m intervals with 600 m jogging recoveries. I was dreading the workout going in. I honestly can’t remember when I last did any kind of speed workout. During the warm up lap, however, I convinced myself that this wouldn’t be so hard. After all, I ran a half marathon at an average pace of 6:47 min/mile, so how hard could it be to run Four 3/4 mile intervals at 6:40 min/mile pace with jogging recoveries in between?

Path alongside a lake

Where the magic happens

As it turns out – pretty hard. As always, I started out too fast in the first interval, finishing it in 4:47 (goal was 5:00). So, I started more slowly in the second, but after the first half mile I knew I wasn’t going to hit my time, so I stopped. It was a pretty feeble attempt. To my credit, I at least finished four miles at a brisk pace in the low 7’s, but I was still disappointed.

I’ll have to chalk it up to being my first speed workout in a long time…that and the Memorial Day beer fest. I’m not too discouraged. I think there’s a good chance I’ll nail the same workout next Tuesday!

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