Thursday, March 7, 2013

Discipline vs Hunger. What is the "Right Way", Anyway?

After finishing the Deca Iron last November, people asked, "What's next?" I work in a bike shop, so the question came almost hourly.

My usual response was that I was going to spend 2013 getting some speed back.
In January, I sat down and put some goals to paper. I was going to do it "the right way", and get fast. Periodization, incremental increases, etc. I trained like this many years ago, and the gains were OK...but I was different back then. More of a Type A personality, I thrived on "getting my workout in" around work and other life obligations, but that was then. This is now March of 2013.

Two months from that day I sat down to pen those goals, I am about as out of shape as I have been in years. It is very clear that doing things "the right way" is not going to work for me. Looking at a calendar, with workouts planned in advance is not enough to get me out the door. The discipline just isn't there.
But I don't want discipline.

I want HUNGER, and not hunger to have discipline. Discipline is dreading a workout and doing it anyway, to stay on task. When hungry, the feeling of dreading a run or ride isn't even there. You WANT to workout everyday and it's what is on your mind every minute. When you have HUNGER, you don't need discipline. Somewhere, I lost the hunger.

Maybe it's because I've spent the last 3 years working toward that penultimate goal of 10x Iron, and having achieved it, I'm lost with where to go next, but I don't think so. My fault is when I tried to plan things out. Maybe 12 years ago, when I first came into triathlon, telling myself I was a badass triathlete(which I wasn't), and sacrificing things, scheduling workouts might have motivated me.

Maybe there is no "right way"... Everyone is different. I think it's time to go back to what works for me. Mass volume, heavy lifting, little sleep, and adventures.

Time to get fit again. With the increase in daylight coming this weekend, I hope you find your mojo as well! Cheers,

For more on free-spirited training, check out my post on Training VS Adventuring over at Tentman.

Deca Iron Race Report

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Stone's Throw from the Asylum: The 10x Iron Report

It's mid-afternoon on a hot October day in Mexico. Hot for me, anyways. Apparently high 80s is temperate for the local folk here. I've been swimming for about 7 hours in an outdoor pool, and already the sun has scorched my back.

The nausea started 4 hours ago. Eating has been almost impossible. Nothing tastes good and everything makes me feel like unleashing the beast from within my stomach.

I come to the end of the pool, and stand up. Unsure of what to do next, I launch out of the water like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, and puke on the nearest tree.
The Deca has welcomed me early, in its own special way. Thanks?

Hopping back into the pool, I hope that's a one time deal, but no dice. I spend the afternoon swimming, trying to eat, and getting out periodically to stop the nausea.

The mileage melts away painfully slow. I'm burning off all the fat that I WORKED to put on in the last 6 weeks.. in the first damned day because I can't eat. Those reserves were supposed to help me out a week from now. Shit.

Late in the night, I'm somewhere around 15 miles into the 24 mile swim. I can't take the dry heaves anymore, and I'm spent from eating so little. I need to get out of the water. The temperature has dropped and my depleted body's core temp drops instantly. I look like a trembling wet chihuahua as my Dad throws towels and a sleeping bag over me. Sitting there in a lawn chair, watching my counterpart Simon of Great Britain swim with no issues whatsoever, I burp. And heave. And get more frustrated by the minute. My Dad knows I'm screwed up, so he just says nothing. The silence is accepted because my internal dialogue is doing all of the talking for both of us.

I want to quit.
But it's the first night of many. You're just getting started.
I can't keep going without food.
Your body will come out of it.
This sucks.
Don't forget you said you were racing to honor Adrianne's life. How would quitting at the first onset of adversity look?
Hey Kale, get in the fucking pool.

I jump in and freeze my butt off for the rest of the night, just plowing through mileage, and eating if and when I can. The sheer distance does not play a role in my headspace until the final 4 miles, which feel like I'm swimming through quicksand. Each stroke more tiring than the previous; each pool length mind-bendingly longer with each lap. I try not to think about the current pain...but try to start wrapping my head around the pain about to come: 1120 miles of cycling.

Finally...about 8 hours longer than expected, I swim my last lap. Sweet, sweet survival. I cannot explain how elated I am to be on dry ground for the rest of the event. In the quintuple, I was happy to have completed a 12 mile swim...but it was just a 12 mile swim. 24 miles is serious business.
It's longer than the English Channel.

It is 11am Monday, 27 hours into the event, I decide to not sleep after the swim and get right on with the cycling portion. I figure there's no time like the present to get on with cycling a distance equivalent to going from Maine to Georgia.

The day goes by fast, and before I know it, 36 hours have passed on the race clock. My Dad and I determine it's time for a sleep....and then starts what I have begun to call Bike Blur Time. Let me explain.

When swimming, a person is engaged. The mix of having one's face in the water and the nonstop personal checks of technique keep a person alert. While running, especially at the ultra distances, there's very little "zoning out" because every step hurts.

On the bike, however, things are different- especially at these distances. You simply sit there and move your legs. It is possible to drift away mentally to a faraway place(good or bad), especially on a 1 kilometer course, where after only a few hours of riding, you know every bump, turn, and hazard by heart.

Of the bike, I remember certain key events, and only those events. The five and a half days I spent on the bike all blend into one major mix of extreme physical pain, fatigue I have never seen, and mental torture.

During the first couple of days riding, Simon and I sided against common sense, and slept as little as possible. Why did we do this? Simple. To literally beat the piss out of each other for every waking hour, for days on end. Too hot in the afternoon? So what. Too tired to keep going? Oh, Simon's still out on the course, so no sleep allowed tonight. At one point, we had amassed 300 Kilometers in 10 hours...suicide pace on that course, at those distances.
It was fun when I was on high points, and incredibly dreadful during valleys. People in the other races were telling us to stop. We couldn't. We both knew the damage we were inflicting upon each other, but neither of us would break.

One particular night after we had been ripping around the course for about 5 hours RACING, Simon rolled up to me, and we both just looked at each other and started laughing. We knew were being stupid. At that point, we called a truce. The truth was that the bike wasn't even close to the START of this thing. 262 miles of running is no joke. Anything could happen and probably would happen.

This wasn't the only time Simon and I would have a mutual moment on the bike. At one point we were riding together, and I had recently hit 1,000 miles. We were both thinking aloud about how amazing it would be to finish the bike. It seemed so impossible just a few days ago, and here we were, within a half-day of getting it done. I couldn't hold it in. I just lost it, and he did the same. 2 grown men crying like little kids. I'm sure when we rolled by our crews just minutes later, they were wondering what the hell was going on out there on the course.

I also recall the Friday night before I finished the bike.. I was making a late-night push to get extra mileage in. I had been making shitty time all day, and I did not want to see a Sunday morning sunrise while I was still on the bike, so I went to the well and dug down deep. Around 2am, my Dad stopped me, pissed off.
"Hey, were you just sleeping on the bike?" Apparently I had dozed while going down the small hill on the course.

"No, I was just listening to my MP3 player on the backstretch."
"That has nothing to do with what I'm talking about."
"Whatever, I'm fine."

I pedaled off, swearing like an irrational demon. 2 laps passed, and it hit me. I could not, for the life of me, remember what had happened between my Dad yelling at me, and the current moment. No recollection whatsoever of those last 2 laps.
I elected to go bed, only to wake up a couple hours later, and live the same nightmare that I had gone through the last 3 days.

On Saturday night, I couldn't take it anymore. I was turning myself inside out to average 10 miles per hour...and the bike finish was a stone's throw away. The fatigue was so much that even the prospect of finishing the bike couldn't move me faster or keep me awake. My dad and I went to bed around 10pm. I awoke at midnight, feeling much clearer. Dad was so tired that I chose to let him sleep...a decision I would later regret deeply.
Once I got on the bike, all I could think was FINISH FINISH FINISH FINISH. It consumed me like nothing ever had before. Ever. I pedaled my ass off for 4 hours. Alone. It was weird to me at the time, but I couldn't understand why. All I knew is that I was finishing. Soon. The final beep of the computerized lap counter came through my ears, and I stopped, just across the line.

The nightmare had come to an end. It was a strange feeling, and now that I look back on it, I know why. I had just biked 1120 miles, and the only person to see the end of this major achievement was the timer. Not Simon. Not Pete, Simon's crewman. And most importantly, the guy who helped me do it, my Dad. I did a lap of the run course and decided I was going to sleep again for a long while, because I was not right mentally. When I came into our room where the tent was set up, Dad was just getting up. He thought I was getting ready to go out on the bike and finish. Rightfully, he was very upset when he learned that I was already done. I was thinking about him when I let him sleep longer that night, but I failed to realize that he would've wanted to see the end of the bike. I felt and still feel terrible about that. I can't stress enough how skewed a sleep-deprived mind and overworked body can be. Logic of a mid-race deca athlete is not the logic of a normal person.

The Run.

4 hours later, I crawled out of the tent, energized. A 262 mile run is hardly the "home stretch" of a Deca, but it is a small pinpoint of light at the end of a very long tunnel. I figured it couldn't be much worse than the mental torture of having a bike seat shoved up your ass for 5 days.

The first 5 or 6 hours of the run were bliss, just riding the high of the bike finish, but the bliss was tempered by the 100 degree afternoon, and the start of my largest run issue: the shits.

The heat during the days on the run was at times unbearable. The original goal was to sleep during the hottest part of the day, but that went out the window when I learned that I simply COULD NOT stay awake from 4-6am. I had to sleep sometime, and unfortunately my body was too hardwired for those hours. This meant sucking it up and dealing with the heat. I dunked a shirt in cold water and wrapped it around my head, spending the afternoons staggering across the shadeless backstretch of new pavement. Some afternoons, the heat reflecting off the pavement had to be 120+.

The heat would come and go, but my bathroom issues were around the clock. I found myself carrying toilet paper around the course, stopping sometimes 2-3 times an hour to expel what I had eaten just an hour ago. It was madness.

While I dealt with heat and diarrhea, Simon was dealing with blisters. I knew those were coming, so I just plugged the miles away and tried to take care of beginning blisters the best I could: shoes and socks off, slit and drain, duct tape, shoes and socks back on, GO.

Around 150 miles, the pressure of the upper part of my shoe was too much: my feet were swelling. It was time to fish out the Big Boys from my luggage. Size 13 running shoes...I normally wear size 11. Instantly the relief amazing.

200 miles in, the real blisters started...not the ones in between or on your toes, or even on your achilles. Those are nothing. The REAL blisters that can ruin your entire life are the ones on the balls of your feet. Every footstep misery.

At one point, I had to get out of my shoes. My feet were wet with sweat and that wasn't helping the blisters at all. I had a pair of thong sandals that I had worn to the race. I ripped off the thong part and duct taped the sandals to my foot. Within 2 laps, the blister on my right foot had exploded. It is not normal how much fluid came from that. My whole foot and sandal was soaking wet, but finally the pain and pressure was gone. Shoes back on.

Somewhere around mile 220, I was wrecked. I had just watched Simon finish, and I really couldn't go anymore. Feet: unbelievably sore and in pain.
I didn't want to stop, but had to. I was too tired. Stopping was easy, but getting going again was another story. Every time I stopped, it took 2 miles of absolute hell to move normally again.

When I woke next, I decided that I wouldn't be stopping again until I finished. I couldn't bear the prospect of getting started again. I just couldn't do it. I went to work. I ate on the run. I drank on the run. I forced myself to only use the bathroom once an hour. I didn't care if it killed me.

70 kilometers later, on that Friday afternoon, I was running with my new friend Caleb, and was less than 5 miles from the finish. He was a local guy who worked outside the park we were racing in. A marathon runner of 25 years of age, he had come out on his lunch break and run with me for the last couple of days, and I was very lucky to have him. Every time he showed up, I was in the mental lows, and every time, we would chat about his culture, our similar music tastes, and life in general. It was a welcome reprieve from the race itself. My Dad told me to slow down.

I didn't understand why. I was almost done. He explained that all of the racers from the other events were headed to the course to watch my finish. I chilled out and walked a few laps. On the start of my last lap, I came through the arches and saw them all there, cheering. The last week and a half, all racers had an unspoken agreement to stop their current race and hang out at the finish line if someone was about to finish another race. It's a small part of the camaraderie we share.

Grabbing the American flag, I began the last lap, running up the steep hill that I had walked 419 times before. I got to the sauna of a backstretch and started crying. I had to stop and stand there in the heat because I couldn't catch my breath because I was so emotional. In just 5 more minutes, this insane journey would be over. The cold, pukey night of the swim seemed like a lifetime ago. The mind-bending bike ride didn't even seem real.

All that WAS real was each footstep during that last kilometer. I didn't feel the pain in my feet, the cramping in my stomach, or the fatigue that had me staggering just hours ago. As the finish line came closer, random memories of the whole race flashed before my eyes:
-the time Wayne Kurtz and his wife forced me off the bike to eat 2 massive chicken sandwiches.
-riding and chatting with all of the other participants in the other races and watching them cross their finish lines
-the stray cats tearing the bird apart, and the mystery mammal rodent armadillo beast that some of us saw.
-the strange, strange workout routines of some of the locals every morning.
-the terrible food, but incredibly nice kitchen staff

All of it was finished. I came through the arches one last time, and stopped, unsure of what to do. Beer was poured on me. I shook hands with the Race Director, hugged the other athletes and my Dad, without whom I would not have finished this race. He put himself through the ringer to get me through this. Bad food and no sleep, scary taxi rides, and a language barrier were just a few things he had to face, and no one could have done it better.

Special thanks to him, as well as my other family and friends for all of the support the last few years. That one night on the run when I checked my messages, I was blown away. It took a week to catch up, and because of you all, I had a mental boost whenever I needed it. All I needed to do was check my Facebook. Thank you, thank you.

Also, please check out the sponsors next to this post on the side bar. I wouldn't have even been able to get to the start line without Meineke Car Care Center in Laconia, NH, MC Cycle of Laconia, or Northern Physical Therapy in Presque Isle, ME.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Upping My Meds

I'm sitting here in my apartment, sweating.
Dishes in the sink. Laundry on the floor.
The cats, usually flying around the apartment this time of night, are spread out on the floor hoping to find the last piece of cool flooring.

There's coffee in the cup next to me, and I'm watching Youtube videos trying to get my ass motivated. The heat does nothing to help this. I'm inside two weeks until the 24 Hour run and tonight is the last big night of training. I wont be stepping foot outside until the sun does down.

I can't wait for the race. I've had a couple days to myself, and it's given me some time to tap in to my mental status and see where my head's at in relationship to not only the 24 Hr run, but the Deca as well.

Training is good, but I haven't taken time to sync my mind and body to learn the patience of a race this long, and that's what tonight's about. Settling into a rhythm my head, there is nothing. When I mean nothing, I mean absolutely hollow. Complete mindlessness. The mileage and hours blend together and you actually forget everything that's happened over the course of hours.
This past october, I did a Triple Iron for which I was grossly under-trained. After a 7.2 mile swim, 336 mile bike, I made it 40+ miles into the run before things actually needed focus. That's the mindlessness I crave and the reason I do this. To say these events are about fitness would be a blatant lie. I take distance and pain the way a junkie takes heroin.

This mental training is my favorite, but has been neglected this year. I've really strived to get my fast twitch fibers going this year. Fast twitch and zoning out don't exactly mix. When you're going hard, you're much more focused.

So now it's time to throw the shoes on. Headlight batteries fully charged. Food and water in a small pack.
Minutes bleed to miles. Miles bleed to hours... and the darkness of the night overpowers the heat of the day.
Time to take my medicine and defocus.

thanks for reading,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pirate Tri Weekend 2012

Had a great time this past weekend at the Pirate Tri on Sebago!

Took a sweet ride from the shop and biked towards Maine. Biked illegally(unknowingly) on a highway to get there, and as Murphy's Law would have it, I flatted. I also had no deep dish 80mm tubes. So, after getting a stern talking to from a NH State Trooper, I ran to the next exit with my bike and full pack on.

After about 4 hours of running and walking, my buddy Troy of Northern Physical Therapy picked me up. Went to bed late, and woke up early for the race.

Because of the heavy pack I was carrying, I opted for no wetsuit. Bad choice. The water was so cold, I couldn't stop hyperventilating. I haven't swam that slow since my first triathlon. Awful. 140th "fastest". Always a bad sign to see everyone's bike already gone when you get to transition after the swim!

Onto the bike. I was happy to have a road bike instead of a time trial bike on the crazy hilly course. I passed just about everyone on the course, and when I hit the transition area, I was the first to rack the bike on my group's rack. Always a good sign. 8th fastest bike. Time to run.

I found that spot just below wanting to puke and stayed there. Passed a handful of people and just rolled along. Not sure where I pulled out a 19:40 5k(6th fastest). Not that a 19:40 is super fast at all, but I've only done one speed session, and certainly nothing in that pace range. Speed isn't exactly a priority when training for the Deca. Nevertheless, I was happy with my race at 14th overall and an age group win. Kind of kicked myself for my swim. It cost me a top 5 finish overall, but that's ok. This was nowhere near a priority race, so the turnout was way better than expected.

After a beer with Troy, I got my pack on and headed back to New Hampshire, arriving just before dark. Awesome weekend.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

To Run

To run is to flip the middle finger to the world.

The trend is fat and sloppy.
The norm is to work yourself to the bones and buy the next new thing.
The next new thing will always be "EASIER, BIGGER, BETTER!"
The next new thing will always yield the same or worse result.

Society wants to make you lethargic about life and stressed about obligations you've created just to fit in with them.

To run is to be free of it all.
They can't catch you out there. They're too weighed down by it all.
They hate that you have your own mental space. They can't touch it or take it, or find their own, and it makes them crazy.
They call you a "fanatic" because you have a passion outside of their cubicle world.

You have seen a place where all that exists is movement and food and water- and this is all that matters... all that should matter.

To run is to simplify.
To run is to live.

"The thing I treasure most in life cannot be taken away
There will never be a reason why I will surrender to your advice
To change myself, I'd rather die
Though they will not understand
I will make the greatest sacrifice
You can't predict where the outcome lies
You'll never take me alive
I'm alive"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shoe Review: Skechers Go Run

As many of you know, I recently started a job at an outdoor outfitter. And while I peddle gear, I am not a "gear guy". I don't like having tons of stuff. I don't get excited about new technology. I commute 30 miles each way every day on a 1993 Trek 1100, with a plastic messenger bag I got for free at a convention 7 years ago. The zipper is broken, so I use a trash bag on rainy days. Just some background.

On my first day, I met Nate Sanel, an ultrarunner and motorcycle shop owner. We chatted a little bit about running and shoes.
He brought up his ties to Skechers, and I stared blankly at him, totally unaware that the company had even considered breaking into the running industry.

Nate was adamant that these things were the real deal. To be honest I was skeptical, given Skecher's history of such inventions as the Shape-Ups "toning" shoe. He mentioned that they had sent him a test pair of a design called the Go Run that was a tad big for him...and that size just happened to be mine.

A couple weeks later, Nate dropped the shoes off for me. I immediately tried them on, interested to try a pair of shoes that hadn't hit the market yet, and curious about the rocker design.

First thing I noticed was an uncomfortable lump in the middle of my foot. Second thing I noticed was how unbelievably light they were. I spent the last few hours at work analyzing just what in the heck the purpose of the lump was.

On my first run, I figured it out. The Go Runs are not meant for standing around at work. They are meant for running. That lump is nonexistent while running, as the shoe's design forces you into a more efficient running style- not just landing mid to forefoot, but landing under the hips.
I am a midfoot striker already, but what I found is that while wearing this shoe, my turnover increased. As you may or may not know, fast leg-speed is much more efficient and leads to faster speed overall.

I generally do not wear socks while running, so I also found the the super-soft upper material to be a plus.

There is very little structure in the mid-sole, other than the lump I referred to. The rest is soft foam, and the shoe has no torsional rigidity to speak of. Think old-school Nike Waffles.

Bottom Line: I believe in the biomechanics of the foot and the body, but am skeptical of most minimalist shoes. However, the Skechers Go Run is a shoe I can hop on board with... at this time for shorter distances of marathon and under. Runners accustomed to the minimalist experience would be able to go long in this shoe. I would recommend using them in speed workouts and tempo runs, and gradually working them into longer runs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Resolution Proposal for the Original Gangstas of Fitness

We're merely weeks away from 2012.

January 1.
New Years.

Soon, the gym you know will not be the same.
You'll enter at the normal hour, and the treadmill you always use at that time will be occupied.

Flustered, you look over towards the stationary bike you sometimes use, and are frustrated to find that again, someone has dominated your usual machinery.

Glancing around the gym, the scene is the same: sweaty people fumbling with buttons on the cardio machines, constantly adjusting equipment, eyes darting around self-consciously.

Ah, yes. Resolution Season is almost here.
And this is where I throw you off.

I've been participating in endurance sports all of my life. I cannot help but notice that the further I continue on this journey of fitness, the more jaded I become. I think this happens to anyone who experiences too much in one particular area.
Been there, done that, becomes the attitude.

Most Original Gangstas in the fitness community can't help but look at the Posers with disdain and disgust.
It's not because of their weight or their appearance, it's just drastic perspective difference. People that LIVE the fitness lifestyle look forward to and enjoy their training. Resolutioners look at their workouts like a chore, and value their workout about as much as they value cleaning their toilet. This is why they last until about.... mid February at best. As long as the thought of a workout as misery prevails, fitness will not.

Maybe it's time for a change of perspective for the OGs in the fitness world. It's so easy to be a prick, sitting there glaring at the people struggling to bench a bar with no weight on it.

Instead of counting down the hours and minutes until another Resolution dream is crushed, why not look at the influx of new people in the gym as a chance to create new recruits to the army of the fit?
I think most give up because they have no idea what they are doing. Ignorance is not bliss in the gym.
Why not give some tips? Exchange email addresses if the encounter is good, and hold them accountable.

I'm not saying make a new workout partner, but shooting them an email asking how their workouts are going once in a while is enough to keep some people going...maybe enough even to get over that mid-February hump.
One winter, I did something like this, and started a running group for beginners. Some of these people are now very good friends of mine.
To see some of them now running ultras and becoming serious athletes is more rewarding than my own accomplishments.

We OGs have this foundation of knowledge from years and years of living and breathing and dreaming fitness. Why continue on this odyssey by selfishly withholding information that might otherwise make something click in someone?
Of course, motivation cannot be coached, and some people just don't want it bad enough.
However, some do. They just don't know where to start.
That's where we come in.

Happy Holidays.
Thanks for reading,