October
27
Posted on 27-10-2011
Filed Under (Gear) by Brian

Headsweats Race HatI’m not a big fan of wearing hats. I’ve always found them to be itchy and I hate the way they trap so much heat. They say 45% of body heat is lost through your head and I say, “good riddance!” The cooler you can make me while I’m running, the faster I can run.

As most of you know, however, I’m a bald man with a strong family history of skin cancer and I live in St. Petersburg, Florida -the sunniest city in the United States (according to the Chamber of Commerce). If I value my long term health, or at least the unblemished, shiny finish on my dome, then wearing a hat while I’m running is a necessity.

For years, I’ve been wearing hats of various technical fabrics. Some were solid and thin, others were thicker and made of a tight knit mesh. They’ve served their purpose and I’ve yet to develop a single blemish on my head. I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of running hat technology and I was satisfied to go on running wearing these same hats for the rest of my life.

Then, someone suggested I check out Headsweats hats. When my new Headsweats Race Hat arrived, I immediately knew it was different. I was struck by its feather light weight and I couldn’t wait to take it for a spin. After some adjustments to the sizing during cross country practice that day, I quickly forgot the hat was there. Not only is it lightweight, but the airflow through the shell kept me cool and dry. My other hats take hours to dry after a long run, but this hat remains pretty dry the whole way and it’s completely dry minutes after I remove it.

Me and my new favorite hat!The Race Hat is made of 100% Coolmax polyester fabric. It weighs less than 2 oz. The plastic rear buckle is secure, but easily released with one hand. The adjustable strap is durable and very easily tightened with one hand while wearing the hat. Loosening the fit can quickly be done with two hands while wearing the hat – or even with one hand and some focus.

The interior of the Race Hat features a thin Coolmax terry headband. This not only keeps sweat from dripping into my eyes, but virtually eliminates the itchiness I’ve felt with other hats. Just looking at this hat, I would never have believed that it would be so much better than anything else I’ve ever worn, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I haven’t worn any of my other hats since this one arrived.

Yes, that’s a little gross but because the Headsweats Race Hat wicks moisture away so rapidly, it doesn’t smell bad. It’s easy to wash too. I can refresh it with a gentle soaking in my bathroom sink, then hang it on the shower curtain and it’s dry in less than an hour. For a more thorough washing, I just throw it in the washer with the delicates and then let it dry on the drying rack.

At $20, the Race Hat is a bargain. It comes in a variety of colors and it’s highly customizable for all you coaches and race directors out there. I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who regularly runs or performs any physical activity in a hat.

Editor’s Notes:

1) The “45% of heat lost through the head” myth has been debunked. It was originally based on an army experiment where subjects in arctic suits spent time in cold weather. 45% of their body heat was lost though their heads because it was the only body part that was exposed.

2) St. Petersburg is the sunniest city in the United States only according to the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. Actual research shows that Phoenix, AZ is the sunniest major city in the United States, though nearby Tampa, FL is #11!

***Disclaimer: The Race Hat was complimentary, but the opinions are solely mine.***

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October
25
Posted on 25-10-2011
Filed Under (Inspiration) by Brian

This post has been a long time coming. Half a year ago, I lost my good friend Nancy to leukemia. I always admired Nancy in many ways. She was and still is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. When she left for Boston to get her bone marrow transplant, I hugged her and told her I’d see her in a few months. I never doubted that. I’d never seen anyone or anything beat her. Even when the calls from her husband indicated that things had taken a turn for the worse, I still never doubted she’d come home and throw a big party in her backyard.

Finally, in March when her backyard was filled with people gathered to remember her I still half expected to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” cranked up over the outside speakers and to see Nancy come dancing out of the house with her wine glass in hand and a big grin on her face.

She didn’t.

We had buried her that morning.

She was gone.

Nancy was a successful business woman. She joined a major company right out of college and worked her way up to a top executive position. I think she enjoyed working. I’m not sure if she liked the work itself or just the challenge of being the best. She was certainly competitive, but also gracious and organized. She kept a box full of birthday cards filed by month and she pre-filled them when she had time. Although she was deathly ill in the hospital, I received my birthday card right on time. My daughter received hers, signed by Nancy, two months after Nancy passed away.

Although Nancy was quite a but older than me, she died too soon. It got me thinking about my own mortality much more than the deaths of my grandparents in the last few years. I started to wonder what I’d do if I knew I had only a few months to live. Every morning, I’d wake up, lie in bed for a while then get up and look at myself in the mirror. I asked myself if I were going to die next week, would I want to do what I had to do that day.

Too often, the answer was ‘no’.

So, I made some changes. Unless the task I “had” to do and didn’t want to do was absolutely 100% urgent, I didn’t do it. Instead, I used that time to do something I did want to do, or something that would get me one step closer to living a life where I could wake up, ask myself the same question and regularly answer ‘Yes!’

Recently, after Steve Jobs died, his famous Stanford commencement address was broadcast repeatedly through all social media channels:

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At about 9:25 in that video, he says:

“…for the past 33 years, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ and whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

Wow! I’ve never been a huge Steve Jobs fan, but that hit home. Everyone’s commenting on how profound that is and I’ve been doing it for months! Score one for Brian! I wonder how many people who’ve posted that video on their Facebook or Twitter accounts aren’t really happy with their jobs or their lives, were inspired by that video, but have yet to take one step to change their own lives. I don’t mean to take a “holier than thou” attitude, but really the universe is always going to throw you some unlucky times and some lucky times. As in poker, I think the trick is to minimize your losses when you’re unlucky and maximize your gains when you’re lucky. It’s not about the cards you’re dealt. It’s about what you do with them.

So, I’ve been putting more effort into digitalrunning.com and it’s been fun. Because of it, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things I love to do and I’ve been able to call it “work”. One thing I do know now is that when I wake up in the morning, sit next to my wife in the driver’s seat of a 12 passenger van full of runners eager to run 200 miles relay style, look at myself in the rearview mirror and ask myself if I’m going to die today, do I really want to do what I’m about to do, the answer is most definitely ‘Yes!’.

What would you like to change? How are you working toward that goal?

 

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October
05
Posted on 05-10-2011
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I didn’t feel horribly prepared for this race. Where previous half marathon training plans had me comfortably getting up to 15 miles several times, I failed to get past 12 miles this time around and I was completely drained at the end of both those runs.

So, I showed up in corral A at the ESPN Wide World of Sports with low expectations. I had a few good runs with the kids on the cross country team during the prior week, but those were only 3-4 miles. Based on the 12 mile runs, I was just hoping to get under 2 hours, but cool air came in Friday evening so I thought I might be able to squeak out a 1:45. I decided to run the first few miles at an 8:30 min/mile pace and see how things went from there.

When the fireworks went off, I jogged across the start line just behind Sandy. I had instructed her to go out with 10 minute miles and a few yards down the road, I surged through an opening and left her behind. I didn’t bother to look at my Garmin. I was perfectly comfortable traversing this start since I’d run it twice before in the Race for the Taste 10K. When I reached the 1 mile mark, it read 9:47. I quickly guessed that it was the wheelchair time and glanced at my Garmin to see that I had completed the first mile in 7:47.

“Too fast,” I scolded myself but another voice kicked in and told me I could break 1:40. Conceding that it was too early in the race to start thinking about that mark, I slowed down and decided to just run a comfortable pace for the next mile. I’ll admit that I was a little thrilled when I came through the 2 mile mark in just under 15 minutes. I hadn’t been paying much attention to my pace. I was just running comfortably, but I had sped up in the second mile.

With thoughts of 1:40 in my head, I calmed myself and slowed down. Instead of 8:30 miles, I began to allow myself the goal of 8 minute miles. When I passed the 3 mile mark, I had slowed down, but I was still well under 24 minutes. I focused on putting up a nice 5K split for my text update and Twitter fans. I came through in 23:39 and it was then that I allowed myself to go for 1:40.

Shortly after the 5K mark, the course made its way through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and into the park itself. The entrance was lit by large lamps that looked like tusks on either side of the course. African music played as we wound our way through the jungle like entrance toward the tree of life. The atmosphere had a calming effect and I was able to take several deep breaths and relax. I could feel my pace quickening.

Looking like and animal at the Animal Kingdom. The lady behind me is not amused.

The four mile mark bought me into the Asia section of the park, which was quite dark. Spooky music played in the background as I rounded a corner to see Everest lit in the distance. It was eerie, but cool and I was most definitely enjoying myself. We exited the park through Dinoland USA and traversed some backstage areas before emerging back into the Animal Kingdom parking lot where the course erupted with music and sound at the relay exchange point.

The crowd noise gave me a huge amount of motivation and I surged past several runners toward the 5 mile mark. I started to feel the effort and glanced at my Garmin to see that I had dropped below 6 minute mile pace. I quickly slowed back to a more manageable pace and grabbed some water on my way out of the parking lot.

Back on the roads, I focused on putting up another good time at the 10K mark. A few people passed me near the 6 mile mark, but I just assumed they were fresh runners who had just started out of the relay exchange. I held my pace consistent and crossed the 10K mat in 46:24. I was well under the pace required to break 1:40 for the race and that had most definitely become my goal.

I took a moment to think about the situation. I had bonked in a half marathon back in December because I went out with too ambitious a pace in the beginning. I was afraid of making the same mistake now. I thought back to how I felt at the 10K mark of that race and realized that I was feeling a lot of strain in that race before 6 miles. Tonight, I was just cruising along. I decided that I wasn’t going to bonk, but vowed to remember to get a gel at the fuel station.

I enjoyed the music and watching the slower runners on the other side of the road through 7 miles. Eventually, I passed the back of the race and an overpass where I was able to see how far ahead the leaders were. I figured I was just over a mile back from the leaders as I approached the 8 mile mark and that felt pretty good. I made a swift left past a few runners and headed down an overpass toward the 8 mile mark and the fuel station.

In the darkness, I was unable to see what people were handing out and nobody was announcing flavors so I grabbed the first gel I could. Luckily, it was vanilla – a flavor I can handle. Without time to open the gel, consume it and grab some water, I just held it in my hand as I climbed an exit ramp, made a right turn and headed into the Disney Hollywood Studios.

Focused on the trip through Hollywood Studios with gel in hand.

Through 9 miles, I was below 7:30 minute per mile pace and feeling good except for a twinge in my left knee. I’ve been battling tendonitis in that knee since trying to out sprint one of my high school cross country runners at the end of practice one day. I was starting to get worried the knee would give out on me like it did in the Gasparilla 15K back in February.

I made it through 15K in 1:09:16 a faster time than Gasparilla and crossed my fingers that the knee would hold up for 4 more miles. The pain really kicked up as I passed a few runners in the tunnel next to the wardrobe department of the studios backlot tour. I ignored it and adjusted my stride slightly, but had to focus on an upcoming water station. I thrust the gel into my mouth and ripped it open a little too low, spewing gel all over my hands and my face. I squeezed what was left in the packet into my mouth, then licked my hands and as much of my face as I could.

Who's having a good time? That guy!

I grabbed a water as I sped through the water station and sloppily threw it into my face, both hydrating myself and washing my face at the same time. I felt like a mess, but I was feeling good. Through 10 miles, I was still under 7:30 pace and growing more and more confident in a sub 1:40 finish. I sped through the studios, past Darth Vader and into a backstage area near the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I grabbed another water near the 11 mile mark and used it to get the rest of the gel off my face.

My knee in pain, I followed the runners in front of me across the front of the park and out the main entrance. I coached myself through the pain as I maintained my pace.

“Nothing drastic,” I thought. “Steady pace all the way to the finish”. I squeaked by a couple of runners and onto the narrow pathway between the Studios and the Boardwalk resort area. I kept pace with the runner in front of me down the path and hit the 12 mile mark without any increase in pain.

With my confidence surging, I climbed the bridge next to the Swan and Dolphin resorts, then back down onto a boardwalk lined with spectators. Their encouraging yells propelled me forward past a few more runners and my face became like stone as I focused on the runner in front of me.

We traveled around the lake and up an incline near the International Gateway to Epcot. I knew it would be the last hill I’d have to climb and I gingerly made my way down as the course wound into a backstage area behind Epcot. I began to increase my pace.

Putting on the brakes at the finish line

The theme from Rocky played and I could not help myself. I began to kick up my pace significantly and started passing runner after runner. I cruised over a sign that read “400 meters to go” painted on the ground, then past the 13 mile mark and wound around a few corners right across the finish line in 1:36:44 – a pace of 7:23 min/mile. So much for 8:30’s! I was 108th overall and the 98th male finisher.

Although I only beat December’s time by 3 seconds, I felt so much better about this race. It’s all about perspective. That day, I did worse than I was hoping to. This time, I did better. That day, I started fast and finished slow. This time, I sped up throughout the entire race. I was jubilant at the finish. I grabbed water and a Powerade, then headed straight to medical where I thanked my left knee for holding out with 20 minutes of ice!

Happy and ready for some ice and a cold beer!

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