Friday, December 26, 2008

Five pounds.

That's how much body fat I've lost in 6 weeks with Dave. Five pounds. 3/4 of an inch off my waist, 1 inch off my chest, and little off my arms. (Legs stayed constant.)

All I can say is...


The ass-kicking workouts, the sweat-drenched slogs home, the aching muscles--WORTH EVERY MINUTE.

Over the past several years, I've felt like I was in pretty good shape, but (other than long distance running), I'd plateaued. I suppose it is good that my weight has remained more or less constant for the past 6 years, but, despite lots of running and consistent (but purposeless) weight training, I hadn't seen any gains in my physique.

6 weeks with The Body Firm and I've lost five pounds of body fat. Measured. Quantified. Verifiable. FIVE POUNDS. Holy sh*t.

And the measurements came at the end of the worst week of the year for eating. A sampling of my menu over the past several days:

  • Tuesday lunch: Chicken fried steak, gravy, mashed potatoes, butter-drenched "veggies"
  • Tuesday dinner: Cocktails, fried calamari, garlic butter bread, veal, pasta
  • Wednesday breakfast: Sausage and cheese bread, breakfast casserole
  • Wednesday dinner: Beers, jalapeno and cheese tamales
  • Thursday breakfast: New Orleans breakfast casserole (spicy sausage, Canadian bacon, smoked sausage, eggs, cheese, french bread crumbs, and other goodies), blueberry pankcakes, bacon
  • Thursday dinner: Homemade macaroni and cheese, olive-oil infused finger potatoes, brown-and-serve rolls, and beef tenderloin (2 servings... of couse)

So despite blowing the doors off any semblance of healthy eating, I still passed the body-fat-caliper-and-scale test.

What does it mean?

A good trainer is worth his weight in gold.

Or at least body fat lost.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Check out this photo from the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park Blog.*

Notice anything about this dude's singlet?

Hmmm... could it be...?

Yes, yes, I think it is....

That's a singlet from El Scorcho Dos, the 25k/50k midnight run Jballs, James, Jim, and I put on in July!

So... is this good or bad advertising for El Scorcho?

*Thanks, Kevin, for alerting me to the photo by posting it on your blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congrats to everyone who finished the 2008 White Rock Marathon. From what I've heard, it was a difficult day on the course with temperatures in the 70s and high winds with gusts of 20+ miles per hour. My heart goes out to the friends and family of Erin Lahr.

Reading my buddy Kevin's report reminded me of my 2005 meltdown in Dallas. I sent Kevin an e-mail after the race and, although personally-directed towards him and his efforts to break the four-hour marathon barrier, part of it seems general enough to paraphrase here.

As I was discussing my own failed (but ultimately inadvertently successful) year-long attempt to break the four-hour barrier, I noted how much my running enjoyment has improved since I started running distances beyond 26.2 miles. Rather than push for faster times, I've slowed down my pace but have increased the distances I cover on foot. Personally, it has been much more natural to concentrate on going farther as opposed to going faster. And I haven't had a running-related injury (other than a blister than I got at the 12.5 mile mark at Sunmart, and that didn't hurt my finish at all for the remaining 37.5 miles) since easing off the accelerator about a year and a half ago.

I'm at the point in my running these days where I'd rather finish with a slower time, but feel good during and after the run. I love being able to run 50 miles on a Saturday and feel good enough for a short jog (3-4 miles) on Monday with little or no discomfort. For me, that's ten times better than trying to qualify for Boston but being forced to deal with Achilles issues, shin splints, and cramps. Comfort on the long run has become a bigger accomplishment that speed.

But, ironically, my marathon times have improved. I can easily run 4:10 or better without thinking about it. And on at least 3 occasions* over the past two years, I've finished a marathon in under 4 hours, despite not really focusing on speed.** And, again, I haven't run a marathon since the 2005 White Rock where I've had any real discomfort.***

So what does it all mean? I don't know. I guess I just felt like running.

* 2006 Marine Corps, 2006 White Rock, 2008 Big D.

** Okay, that's a half-truth. I probably start pushing it around mile 20 when I realize that sub-4 is within my grasp; but I never set out to run that time.

** Admittedly, "discomfort" is a relative term. Perhaps I've just become accustomed to the punishment of running long distances.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Bandera 100 km is 4 weeks away. To get us ready to run the toughest trail race in Texas,* the race directors sent us an e-mail about our upcoming trek through rugged hill country. Here are some excerpts:

Welcome (Back) to Bandera,

We are gearing up for the 7th annual Gathering of the Tribes (ie: a trail run party) in the Hill Country State Natural Area near the Cowboy Capitol of Texas (Bandera).
. . .
It is out intention to help you get to the finish line. Oh, it won't be easy, but we will do the best we can to help you along.
. . .
Any rude or unwarranted behavior to my volunteers will get you booted out of the race and maybe every race I direct. I will place Whiner's Time Out Boxes here and there, so maybe if you are having a really bad day, maybe you should put yourself in for a time out.
. . .
The course is rugged, rocky, and difficult--as it was intended to be. I made this course as difficult as I could, while using the parks trail system.
. . .
There is a mat ONLY at the finish line and it is used only for finishing and the end of lap one for the 100km runners. we do not need you to cross the mat at the start. We dont care if you start an hour late. Your time starts at 7:30am regardless. We do not extrapolate the difference to be used as a Boston Qualifier. Boston would not understand.
. . .
The weather in Bandera is as would be expected, unpredictable. It has been very hot and quite cold, and sometimes both in the same race.... A rainy day in Bandera is the worst weather. The mud is pretty bad on the flats when it is wet and the rocks are very slippery. We have had a few very nice years, but who knows.
. . .
Anyway... you are in & thanks for coming. We look forward to seeing all of you.
joe & joyce

Sound like fun?

* The claim that Bandera is the "tougest trail race in Texas" has been confirmed by numerous sources including, among others, a guy I've never met who is a member of the Hill Country Trail Runners, Wikipedia, and me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ever have one of those workouts where you collapse on the floor of the gym in a pile of sweat?

Well, I hadn't until yesterday.

Thanks, Dave.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Didn't I just run 54 miles a few weeks ago? Whose idea was it to schedule another 50 mile run? We reap what we sow, friends. Thankfully, the crop yield was sufficient.

I arrived in Huntsville, Texas last Friday afternoon wondering if I was ready for round two of The Quad. I checked into the EconoLodge (which lived up to its name), dropped off my overnight bag, and began the vile commute to the Houston airport to pick up my race packet. Apparently, rush hour begins around 2:00 p.m. in Harris County.

After my white-knuckle drive through Conroe, Spring, and The Woodlands, I was relieved that packet pickup was so easy. And the swag. Wow. Sunmart hooks you up. I got a very nice gym bag, a long sleeve technical shirt, a runners hat, sunglasses, gloves, some sort of Body Glide-type product, a nail kit, a journal, a stuffed animal, a poncho, and a polo shirt. Impressive.

I opted to get skip the pasta dinner and got back to Huntsville around 5:45 p.m. My stomach led me to El Chico, where my pre-race meal consisted of chicken fajitas and lots of water. I laid out my gear for the morning, and turned the lights out by 8:30 p.m.

It would appear that one must carry/wear a lot of stuff to run 50 miles:
I woke up at 5:00 a.m., suited up, and drove to IHOP for my traditional pre-long run breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon. I chatted with a couple other runners who had also chosen to start the day off right with a hearty meal.

At 6:15 a.m., I arrived at Huntsville State Park and was truly astonished at the number of folks milling about. I had not expected to see hundreds of runners at the event.

After securing a nice spot for my drop bag, I ran into Mark, a speedy Welshman who is also going for the Texas Trilogy. We chatted for a few minutes before the start, and he asked me if I had any time goals. "Nah, but I'm guessing it will be somewhere between ten and ten and a half hours," I said. Quite prophetic.

The speedy Welshman (Mark) and me at the starting line:
A little past 7 a.m., the air horn sounded, and we were off. The weather was perfect--low 30s at the start, warming up to low 60s by mid-afternoon. Things looked good.

Sunmart consists of four 12.5 mile loops throughout the park and around Lake Raven. Because of Sunmart’s reputation of being a premier trail run in the United States, the I.A.U.(International Association for Ultrarunners) had elected to hold the I.A.U. Trail World Challenge at the race. So, I was well-prepared to get lapped several times.

Morning fog off Lake Raven during the first 12.5 loop:
Attempting to look cool and tough on the first loop (and failing miserably at both):
I hooked up with a tall, goateed dude named Bill early during the first loop. Bill is a two-time Ironman finisher and badass triathlete. Sunmart was his first trail run and first time to go farther than 26.2 miles. Welcome to the party, amigo.

Bill and I finished the first loop in about 2 hours, 31 minutes, which felt like a good pace. Unfortunately, however, I discovered a pretty nasty blister already beginning to form on the outside of my right big toe. I told Bill to keep moving while I tended to my (potentially debilitating) minor injury, liberally appling Body Glide to my toe (and the rest of my feet). After changing socks, I motored on.

The second loop took me a bit longer to finish, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours and 40 minutes. My toe was hurting a bit, but I didn't want to take my shoe off. Out of sight, out of mind. Keeping my head in the sand. Maybe not the best strategy, but, hey, what choice did I have? I was going to ignore it unless and until it crippled me.

My spirits got a lift when I met up with Bill again. Pretty soon, we also running with Miles, a buddy I've run with in Waco. The three of us gutted out loop three, but it wasn't pretty. Quite a bit of walking, and nobody was too enthused about another loop. My toe was throbbing, my quads were aching, my shoulders hurt. I was tired and spent. We finished the third loop in 2 hours and 45 minutes, just 30 minutes before the 3:30 p.m. cutoff. (If you haven't started your fourth and final loop by 3:30 p.m., you're done.)

With about as much excitement as an NPR broadcast, we trudged along slowly. The three of us figured that if we could at least walk 3 miles per hour, we could finish under the 7:00 p.m. limit.

As the sun started to descend, however, something strange happened. I started feeling good. Really GOOD. Maybe it was knowing that this was the final loop and that every step was bringing me closer to the end, but for whatever reason, the pain in my toe suddenly subsided and legs felt fresh.

I actually started running, even some of the uphills. I could see Bill and Miles were still struggling a bit, and I didn't want to leave them hanging, but they gave me permission to cruise along.

And so I did. I don't know what the hell happened, but I ran that last loop in 2 hours and 24 minutes--faster than ANY of the previous loops. Heck, I even sprinted the last couple hundred yards. I felt FANTASTIC. It was awesome.

My final time was 10 hours, 24 minutes, 18 seconds. Good enough for 93rd place overall, and 7th in my division (males 30-34).
After crossing the finish line, I was presented with a cup of cold water, a finisher's medal, and a very cool finisher's jacket. (Seriously, the swag for this race is incredible.)
And then I was ushered to the food tent, where I was given my choice of brisket, smoked turkey legs, hotdogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, sodas, gatorade, iced tea--you name it. (Who are the folks running this race? They are amazing!)

I ate my chow and waited for Bill and Miles to finish. We had run too far together for me to just take off. And soon enough, there they were.
The Three Amigos (Bill, me, and Miles) after 50 miles:
Oh, and the blister? Well, it wasn't too bad. Back at the hotel, I finally peeled off the shoes that hadn't been removed for 37.5 miles (since discovering the issues with the toe). So just in case you were wondering, here you go.

One down, two to go for the Texas Trilogy, and half-way through The Quad.

Next up, Bandera. Ugh.

Quick Sunmart 50 mile results (full report to come)

Finishing time: 10 hours, 24 minutes, 18 seconds.
Pace: 12 minutes, 29 seconds per mile.
Overall place: 93rd.
Sex Place: 67th .
Division (M 30-34): 7th.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Get a trainer. Seriously. A good trainer makes a world of difference.


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