Monday, January 19, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Marathon, the New Year and New Goals

In looking back at the year leading up to New York, there were really two separate training pieces.  There was the lead up to San Francisco and then San Francisco to New York.  It’s easy to say that the twins took away a lot of my time but I had a reasonable training schedule during the first half of the season.  I hit the gym, I lifted weights and I ran a bunch of hills in White Plains all while having twins.  The second part of my training, I didn’t do as much of those things and had twins.  Clearly, the twins were not the determining factor although as they got older, they required more attention which made it harder to get out to train.  The thing to remember though is that there will always be something going on that will prevent you from getting into or staying in shape.  Some of those reasons will be very legitimate reasons but it’s a question as to whether or not you want to get into shape.  If you want to, you can find a way.
I could tell that “getting in shape” was slipping away from me.  There are a lot of times when you wonder how you got to a certain place but usually it’s pretty easy to figure out.  I look for avoidance.  In terms of weight loss, you’ll notice that you’ve stopped weighing yourself.  In your mind, you spin it thinking that “I haven’t gained weight” but the truth is that you don’t really know.  You haven’t weighed yourself so your mind keeps saying that you weigh X but the truth is, you weigh X + 2, X + 40 and so on.  Avoid the avoidance and keep stepping on the scale. 

I also created a calendar from a template that I found online.  I added races that I was participating in so I would know to prepare.  The calendar in itself was awesome.  I color coded my days using highlighter.  Green meant that I had worked out that day.  Red meant I’d skipped a workout.  Blue meant that I skipped a workout but it was ok because it was a rest day.  I’d write an edited version of the details of the workout in the box.  On the bottom of the page, I wrote my personal bests by distance with the intentions of crossing them off as I set new PB’s.  I’m so proud of this calendar that I would love to show it to you but I lost it.  April, May, June and July were filled mostly with Greens and Blues although more reds started sneaking in as I got closer to the San Francisco Marathon.  August had a lot of blank spaces.  Occasionally there would be a color coded day but there was an awful lot of white.  Not only was I not doing my workouts (red), I wasn’t even logging my days.  I’d love to show you this calendar and the stark contrast but I lost it.  Yup, I lost my work out log.  If there is a clearer indication that you aren’t getting done what you are supposed to, I don’t know what it is.

I also bought one of those marble notebooks we all had as kids to keep specific details on my workouts.  Lifted this much, spent so much time on the treadmill, ran 5 miles outdoors.  As you can see below, the most work I probably put into the notebook was the extensive work I did writing 4:59:59 on the outside and also the last page where I kept track of all of my splits.  I wanted to have them written here so that I could write my splits from 2014 on the next page and see by how much faster I ran.  From the blank pages from the front to the ’13 splits, it’s no wonder I didn’t beat them.  Heck, I don’t even have time entries from most of the markers in ’14 because I fell behind the truck. 

One of my favorite things that humans do is look at a situation, note a coincidence and call it a correlation.  For instance, you’ll frequently hear your football analyst say on Sunday, “In games where Jones rushes for 100 yards, the Fighting Newts are 21 and 1” meaning that when Jones hits a certain yardage marker, the Newts are almost unbeatable.  But it’s not necessarily Jones’ rushing that’s doing this.  It depends on when Jones earns his yards.  In football, when most teams take the lead they will rush the ball because it’s a safer play than attempting a pass and because the game clock continues to run at the end of the play.  If the QB throws an incomplete pass, the clock stops and gives the opposing team more of an opportunity to make up the deficit.  So when the QB for the Newts throws for three touchdowns in the first half and the staunch Newt defense scores another td on a pick-6 and the Newts are up 28-0 to start the second half, their wise coach puts in Jones and calls run play after run play.  After 25 runs for Jones, he hits 100 yards and maybe throws in an additional touchdown.  BUT he did it after the game was safely in hand.  So did Jones get his hundred yards?  Yes.  Did the Newts win?  Yes.  Was the announcer correct?  NO!  Because he is stating that the reason the Newts win is because of Jones’ dominant play.  Jones’ play had little to do with the victory at all except that maybe he helped the Newts hold on to the lead.

So while me not keeping a better calendar or workout log didn’t make me unprepared, it was a pretty good indicator that I was unprepared.  The question then becomes did you really need a calendar to make yourself aware that you weren’t working out?  Not really.  But it does help.  It’s too easy to sweep those thoughts under the rugs in our mind; the idea appears and is forgotten as soon as it comes up.  And the calendar helps you notice that it’s not that I didn’t work out today, it shows I haven’t worked out since last Thursday.  You can notice patterns like I can’t seem to work out on Tuesdays because of my schedule so I shouldn’t ever take Mondays off because most likely I’ll be out the next day.

The final indicator was this website.  I love writing in it.  Love it.  Sometimes people even tell me that they like it too.  They make me smile when they say that a post made them want to get exercise and even happier when it made them want to get exercise so much that they did get exercise.  For those of  you who have never written a blog about running a marathon in under 5 hours, you definitely feel like a fraud if you are not training.  One of my least favorite types of leadership is the “Do as I say, not as I do” style.  So while I’m telling you to get your blood moving, mine is congealing into that sticky glaze on your kitchen counter that just spreads across the formica when you wipe it.  I’d feel like the chick from Millionaire Matchmaker who can’t keep her own relationships going.  I definitely don’t want to feel like that chick.

The running skill that I’d really like to develop is the pacing aspect.  Being a former football player actually hurts me on this one.  Think about it: break the huddle then use as much energy as you have for 4 seconds.  Now we will stand around for about 20 seconds before doing it again.  If a marathon was about three blocks, I’d be all set.  Unfortunately, marathons are a touch longer and I can’t get ten other people to stand in a group while we wait for someone to tell us what to do.  Henceforth, I shouldn’t come sprinting out the gate.  I need to remember control and patience which is generally something I don’t have.  I need to save that last kick for when it’s just me and the Kenyans in a struggle to finish. 

I had thought a lot about posting closer to New Years but I don’t believe in resolutions.  For the most part, I feel like resolutions are kind of quick-fixes.  You state something with conviction as the ball drops and hope that your timing will make it more likely to come true.  After a few weeks (or days), the newness wears off and it becomes just as difficult to do whatever the resolution was as it was before.  What I’ve found with resolutions is that because of what we understand them to be, we only have one chance.  Once we break our resolutions by eating a cookie or not going to the gym, they are gone.  Then we go back to whatever it was that we were trying not to do.  It’s like once we fail, we can’t try again because we’ve attached this word “resolution” to it. 

On the other hand, I do always ask people what their resolutions are because I find it interesting to hear what it is people are trying to do more or less of.  Like I said, I don’t really believe in the concept of resolutions but I do like to set goals for myself.  This way, I can continue to work on them and only at the end of the year do I score myself.
So I have set two for 2015.  The first, of course, is to run a marathon in under 5 hours (my goal for the following year would be to get a new name for the blog).  The second goal is a very modest one.  Do 1 pull up. 

Some people reading this will be thinking “What a stupid goal.  Why don’t you just say your goal for 2016 is to breathe or go the bathroom?  Who can’t do 1 pull up?”

Short answer: Me.  Probably a bunch of other people, too, but let’s talk about me here.  I can’t do a pull up.  Never have been able to.  I’ve come close twice.  The first time was in 8th Grade.  We had been training in certain basic Phys. Ed. Classics: Push up, Sit up, Pull up, Throw up.  Every gym class for the first 10 minutes, we practiced these exercises gearing up for the test portion of the class.  Every class I would walk over to the pull up bar, grab the bar with both hands and mostly just hang from it.  Occasionally, there would be a slight bend in my arm.  As the semester went on, the bend began approaching a right angle.  When I say approaching, I mean close like when they say that an asteroid 500,000 miles away “came close to hitting Earth.”

The day of the test came.  The gym teacher was walking around and I grabbed him and dragged him to the pull up bar.  I declared “I will now do a pull up.”  I grabbed the bar, took a little bit of a hop-step and pulled my chin above the bar.  I released the bar, dropped to the ground and rubbed my biceps to prevent soreness and muscle pulls from the exertion.

“OK, let’s see it.”  The gym teacher looked at me. 

“That was it.”

“You need to do it from a dead hang.  That doesn’t count.”  I grabbed the bar again.  “Arms at full extension.”  I bent my knees and hung from the bar with elbows completely straight.  I pulled myself up a few inches but that was as far as I got.  I dropped from the bar and walked away.

The second time I almost did a pull up was in 2003.  It was the summer and I had been working out about 5 times a week with Pops.  While I wasn’t particularly training to do a pull up, I was doing a lot of general strengthening of my upper body (read: skipping a lot of leg days) and had been doing lat pull downs and curls which are two important exercises for pull ups.  Once a week, I’d walk over to the machine and attempt a pull up.  It wasn’t a pull up bar exactly.  It was just two bars that jutted out of the side of the machine with hand grips on them.  I found that to be particularly bad ass.  So every time I went over, I actually made progress.  My elbows bent.  My head got closer to the hand grips.  One night, I think it was a Wednesday, I gripped the bars and from a dead hang, pulled my eyes even to my hands.  Another couple of inches and I would have done my first full pull up.  Then, like usual, my workout schedule started falling apart.  I showed up less and less and started to avoid the pull up bars.  That was the closest I got.

So, perhaps a modest goal but an achievement that would be a first for me: Do 1 pull up.  Part of the inspiration was an issue of Men’s Health which highlighted a group of men who do workouts on jungle gyms using their body weight as resistance.  This appealed to me, partially because I have an abundance of “resistance” but also because I’ve gotten into a point where I am very interested in functional strength. 

I ran a “Mud Run” in 2012 and was surprised that I felt so beat up afterwards.  I haven’t been as sore for as long as I was after that run.  The climbing over fences and pushups and rope ladders kicked my ass.  I don’t know if I will ever do a Mud Run again, I probably will at some point, but still want the strength to be able to.

Side goal: write much more for this blog.  If I do the other two things, the writing part should be easy.  My next run: 1/25 Fred Lebow Half Marathon in Central Park.  Not in shape for this.  Not in shape at all. 

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