28 January 2009

Riddle Answer: The Opposite of Progress...

If con is the opposite of pro, then what is the opposite of progress?

Run well, y'all,

27 January 2009

Should I or Shouldn't I...?

Should I or shouldn't I workout today? If you'ver ever come to that moment in your day when you have to decide, but you cannot, maybe this will help (click on the chart to see it full size and actually be able to read it):This chart is stolen from courtesy of Merry, co-blogger of Cranky Fitness, a humourous, often irreverent blog on matters more or less related to fitness and health. I've only reproduced the chart -- you really need to click on the link and go read the real thing. It's worth your while.

Run well -- well, just run -- y'all,

Virginia Blood Services is Way High Tech

When I saw this placard, today, I knew that I had to post a blog. I'll make Paul Merrill proud because this is the kind of thing he seems to have a gift for seeing.

It seems that the Virginia Blood Services has made a break-through discovery. Maybe they're located in northern Virginia and have taken advantage of their proximity to the CIA, Pentagon, and other government agencies. I wonder if donating blood online is more or less painful than donating via the traditional process? A process this advanced would have to have been developed on a Mac. Will it work under Tiger or only under Leopard? I wonder if there is a Windows compatible version? Does it require Vista? What happens if you get the blue screen of death during an upload? OK, enough.

Run well, donate blood, y'all,

26 January 2009

Track Repeats

Another day of track repeats. A couple of folks from my Wed/Sat running group joined me. That made the repeats more bearable -- I knew somebody else was suffering with me and we pushed each other a bit. Thanks John and Lynde.

The plan today was 2.12 miles to the track, 3 x 800m with 1 x 400m between each, 2.12 miles home. The target pace for the 800m intervals was 3:20. Here's the breakdown:

2.12 mi @ 18:01.32
800 m @ 3:33.27 (+0:13.27)
400 m @ 2:37.82
800 m @ 3:26.79 (+0:06.79)
400 m @ 2:46.32
800 m @ 3:18.73 (-0:01.27) (Av. 3:26.26 (+0:06.26))
2.12 mi @ 18:07.94

All in all, not too bad.

Run well, y'all,

25 January 2009

The Opposite of Progress...

Great joke/pun/whatever from the movie, Reservation Road, (and totally out of character with the serious and sad nature of the movie...
If con is the opposite of pro, then what is the opposite of progress?
Any answers or guesses?

Run well, and laugh often, y'all,

23 January 2009

25 Years of Macintosh

Tomorrow, 24 January, marks 25 years since Apple introduced the Macintosh. Though I've used Apple computers for 23 years, I didn't jump to a Mac until about 1994. Our first computer was an Apple IIe. We splurged an bought a whole megabyte of RAM and a revolutionary 3.5" disk drive. Four years later, we debated switching to a Mac but they were too slow -- processor speed and RAM hadn't caught up to the demands of the graphical interface. So, we stayed with the Apple II and bought an Apple IIgs. Each of those original computers was used for more than 10 years.

Since then, though, it's been Mac all the way. There are 4 in our house -- a non-working PowerBook G4, an iBook G3 that acts as a print server* on our wireless network, my 2006 MacBook Pro, and my wife's 2008 MacBook.

The Mac was introduced during the Super Bowl 1984 with this commercial -- a slam at IBM's everything-looks-alike corporate image:

Happy Birthday, Macintosh!

Run (and compute) well, y'all,

*I was surprised the other day by how cool this setup is. My wife had printed something, went upstairs to get the document, and came down with a database that she hadn't printed. I didn't recognize it at first. Then I remembered that earlier in the day, at my office downtown, I had tried to print a document and hit "Print" too quickly sending the document to the default printer, this iBook print server, rather than the one in our office. I thought it odd that that document wasn't stuck in my print queue but didn't think much of it. Turns out that the document had been sent via the internet to our house to that iBook. I had no idea that was possible.

19 January 2009

A Dream Come True

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. --Martin Luther King, Jr. (28 August 1963)
Martin Luther King Jr's dream hasn't come completely true but tomorrow, 20 January 2009, is a huge leap toward that dream.

Now, I don't agree with Barack Obama on a number of issues but wow! Tomorrow is an incredible day.

I'll reserve the right to disagree, just as I have disagreed with George W Bush. But, I will pray for President Obama -- that he will have wisdom that exceeds his experience, that he will have the courage to do the right thing, that he will seek God's will in every decision he faces, that he and his family will be protected both physically and spiritually.

Run well, y'all -- Govern well, Barack

17 January 2009

A Frigorific Run

I knew it was coming, but when I looked at my wireless frigorimeter this morning and saw that it was 5.4°F and 44% humidity, I knew it was going to be a frigorific run. But, I was prepared and pulled on my stuff and headed out the door to meet the group that was crazy enough to run this morning.

It didn't take long to recognize that I had overdressed. I had not run in temperatures colder than 12° and had been cold during those runs. Here's what I wore:

Layer 1:
Asics boxers
LS cotton-feel tech shirt
Lite wool socks
Lite wool gloves
Layer 2:
Under Armor Coldgear tights
Cheap poly-cotton sweat shirt
Balega Trail-buster socks
*Insulated gloves
Layer 3:
*Medium weight poly-cotton warmup pants
*Heavy fleece jacket
Acrylic knit toboggan cap with ear flaps
Etonic Jepara 2 SC shoes
Items marked with "*" are the things I would change. I think I would wear a light-weight glove -- maybe the convertible half-finger/mitten gloves. I would wear my light-weight wind pants rather than the knit warmups. And, I would go with my lighter-weight fleece. Yesterday evening, I tried to buy a head covering that would cover everything except my eyes but the VA State Police got to Dick's Sporting Goods before I did and bought all that they had (there were probably 75 of the coverings in the store on Thursday evening).

I had frost on my jacket before the end of the first mile. I think that means that my gear is wicking the sweat away from my body and that's a really good thing. When I finished and was cooling down, I passed some folks who were beginning their 10K training. One of the guys commented that I looked like I had been in the Arctic.

The run, itself, was pretty tough. My legs felt dead -- don't know if it was the weight of all the extra stuff or the short night of sleep or just one of those days. Ten miles is a long run but it's not like I don't do those on a regular basis. Our overall pace was 8:33 mpm, about what we were shooting for but it included 3 or 4 walk breaks for me. Oh well, it was still a satisfying run -- to do it in this kind of weather.

Run well, y'all, and stay warm,

15 January 2009

TIART -- 5K/10K

Runner's Lounge sponsors a Take It and Run Thursday each week, inviting lounge participants to contribute by posting on their own blog and posting a link on the Runner's Lounge site. This week's topic is 5K and 10K races.

When I started running again 5 1/2 years ago, my goal was to lose weight and get in shape -- I wanted to be more healthy. I wasn't particularly interested in racing except for one race. I had seen a blurb somewhere about a Candlelight 5K run in Greenville, SC. I grew up in Traveler's Rest, just north of Greenville and my parents now live in Greenville. The run was originally scheduled for early March and start time was 9 pm. The original course wound through the old, historic section of Greenville, through Cleveland Park, and was marked by candles in bags along the course. All in all, there was a lot of appeal for this particular race both in its uniqueness and its nostalgia. So, I determined that if I were ever in the US when this race was run, I would visit my parents and participate.

When we took a temporary position in Richmond, VA in May 2005, I knew my chance had come. So, I signed up for the 2006 race. When I signed up, there were only about 4 weeks remaining until the race and I had done nothing toward getting ready. I was participating in the Runner's World Beginning Runners' forum at the time and got some prep advice from others. They said the best thing I could do was to run 5 x 1km repeats at goal race pace. I made a beginner's mistake and set my goal for too quick a pace and couldn't maintain that pace for 5-1km intervals. Fortunately, the race was rescheduled for early June and I had some more time to prepare. Though I didn't hit my "Wow!" goal, I was pleased with my time (22:46), coming in 76th overall and 5th in my age group.

Since that race, I've run in two 10K races and three half marathons. All of those were chosen because of something unique about them. Whatever success I've had in those subsequent races came as a result of what I learned in my novice preparation for that first 5K race -- the value of speedwork. As I've prepared for each 10K and half marathon, I've continued to do track work (either 800m or 1600m repeats) and longer tempo runs. Besides training my body and mind to run faster, I think one of the big benefits of speedwork is that it breaks the sameness of normal training runs that tend, at least for me, to be at a steady pace -- speedwork provides some needed variety. So, my advice to new runners who are getting ready for a 5K or 10K is to do some kind of speedwork during each week leading up to a race (except for a lower mileage rest week every 3-4 weeks).

Run well, y'all,

13 January 2009

Be Careful What You Chase ...

... you might catch it.

This is hilarious. In all my years (you don't want to know how many) of watching Road Runner cartoons, I had never seen this one.

Run well, and fast, y'all,

My Most Dreaded Workout -- I Won Today!

I'll make no secret about it -- I don't like track repeats. They're just plain hard. Basically, you run almost as hard as you can, jog slowly, and then do it again, and again. I'm now following a training plan to get ready for Richmond's Ukrop's 10K. I would really like to break 45 minutes. The plan called for a track workout session this week and today was the best day for that.

So, 5:10 and 28°, off I went to the track. I was supposed to do a 1 mile warm-up, 3 x 800m intervals at 3:20 each with a 400m recovery job between each, and end with a 1 mile cool down. I didn't want to do the warm up/cool down on the track (running in circles is barely tolerable for the repeats themselves), so I ran from home. My warm up and cool down were more like 1.8 miles each.

I surprised myself on the intervals:
800 x 3:22.05
400 x 2:31.63
800 x 3:19.42
400 x 2:30.06
800 x 3:16.25
The first 800m was a touch slow but the last 2 800m's made up for it. Hard but quite satisfying.

Run well, y'all,

10 January 2009

Running for Dollars (Zim Dollars)

[The picture comes from CNN's web site.]

A news snippet I caught on CNN this morning: the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate. Personally, I don't know how it can get much worse. The economy is in absolute shambles. Inflation is estimated at an unbelievable 231,000,000% (no, that's not a typo -- it's 231 million percent). That's totally unfathomable to me but this example helps. When the Zimbabwe government printed a new $10 billion note 3 weeks ago, it purchased 20 loaves of bread (if you could find bread). Now, it will purchase a half loaf of bread.

The government announced that it is printing a new $50 billion note (again, not a type -- that's a B). That will currently purchase about 2 loaves of bread. That note is worth US $2.00 today. At the current hyperinflation rate, within 24 hours after its release, the new $50 billion note will purchase a few crumbs of bread (1/316,438th of a loaf) -- a full loaf of bread will cost Zim $15,821,917,808,200,000.00 if the price of bread rises like everything else. That's almost Zim $16 quadrillion!! Sheesh!

[DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to have my figures wrong. This is so bad that I'm having trouble figuring it out.]

And that's just one facet of the economy. I haven't (and won't) even mentioned the political situation and all the horrible things that are going on in that country. Pray for the people of Zimbabwe. I honestly don't know how they are surviving. Some very courageous colleagues of mine continue to live and work in Zimbabwe doing what they can to provide hope to the people of that beleaguered country.

Running seems somewhat trivial when I think about the people of Zimbabwe. None the less, I did run this morning -- 11.7 miles at an average pace of 8:14 mpm. Great run in chilly (36°) weather.

Run well, y'all, and pray for Zimbabwe,

The Latest from Apple (thanks to The Onion)

According to this video by The Onion, the newest innovation from Apple is the MacBook Wheel -- What could be simpler? (Caution: language can be a bit coarse on The Onion's site.) I really like the predictive sentence technology.

I am a confirmed Apple user. Our house has had nothing else for almost 23 years. We started with an Apple IIe, moved to a IIgs, then a Mac Performa, and a series of Mac laptops. While we have had our share of problems, usually they just work. Maybe my next Mac will be the Macbook Wheel (ROTFLOL -- NOT!).

Run well, y'all,

09 January 2009

Are You Fit?

Have you ever talked to someone who says, "I'm in pretty good shape" but in the next moment you see them walk across the room huffing and puffing from the exertion? I suspect that most of us wonder if there's an easy, non-embarrassing way to determine if we're fit or not. Sure, one could go to the local high school track, run a mile, and then compare the results to some fitness chart. You could go to the local YMCA or other fitness facility and see just how much weight you can lift. But, there's a problem -- I don't think most folks want to test their fitness in a public place because of the fear of what others might think. Whether that's from a fear of failing or just a basic self-consciousness is not really important. Wouldn't it be nice to have some simple things that you could do at home so that you could know if you have a minimal, basic level of fitness?

Well, Howard Schneider, fitness columnist at the Washington Post, thought it would be a good thing. So, he gathered some personal trainers in the DC area and asked them. He came up with a basic list and wrote about it in an article on Tuesday, Figuring Out How Fit You Really Are. (Read the whole article by clicking on the article title. You might have to register an account with the Post but it's free.)

Schneider came up with this list of things you can do at home or inobtrusively. HUGE DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician nor a certified fitness trainer nor even an uncertified fitness trainer. I cannot and will not take responsibility for what might happen if you follow the suggestions below. You should always get your doctor's opinion before beginning an exercise program. And, if you have a problem that would be aggravated by anything that follows, by all means DON'T DO THEM! Be smart about your health.

Check your aerobic capacity: Walk up a flight of steps and check your breathing at the top. Two or three steps aren't enough -- it needs to be enough steps to make it a test. Say, Schneider says, like the steps at the Woodley Park Metro stop in DC. Maybe a floor or two in your apartment or office building. If, at the top, you can carry on a conversation without gasping for breath, then you're in decent shape. If you have to stop midway or are breathless, then you need to make and stick to a cardio-fitness resolution.

Check your lower-body strength: do a wall squat. With your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart, slide down and move your feet out until your knees are at a 90-degree angle, with the hips parallel to the floor. Hold it for a minute and you have decent leg and glute strength. Use a support to get into and out of the position if needed. Don't aggravate a known knee issue by trying this.

Check your upper-body strength: if you can get your carry-on into the overhead compartment of a plane without assistance or you can carry your groceries up the steps without resting or you can lean over a sink to shave or wash your face without your back hurting, then you have at least minimal lower-body fitness. The one that I fail on is, Can you get out of bed without rolling to one side and pushing up with your hands? Maybe I can but I don't because I have had back problems and I don't want to aggravate my back. So, I roll to my side and sit up.

Check your flexibility: Can you touch your toes? Can you wash or scratch your back?

Check your balance: Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds and switch to the other foot for 30 seconds without having to hold on or put your foot down?

OK, I've just hit the high points. Read the article. If you do something you shouldn't do or fail to do something you should have done when you test yourself, I'm not responsible.

These are minimal and non-scientific standards. Just because you meet minimal standards, don't let that be an excuse not to do better. Better fitness is one component of better overall health.

Run well, y'all,

08 January 2009

Running Slow, Running Fast

It seems intuitive -- the faster, harder, longer one runs in training, the faster, harder, longer one is able to run in a race. Therefore, on a daily basis one should run as fast and hard and long as possible. After all, that's what we do with other skills -- when practicing to type, one types as fast and accurately as possible -- once one learns the keyboard, slow typing doesn't have any benefit.

Well, not so in running. It turns out that running slow helps you run fast.

Earlier this week, I came across an interesting article on the Runner's World site, Slow Down to Speed Up. The journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise published a study that was done to determine how hard competitive endurance athletes train and how that relates to their running performance. As a group, the runners in the test trained 71% of the time at a low intensity (60% VO2 max or at heartrates <140 bpm), 21% of the time at a moderate intensity (60-85% VO2 max or 140-171 bpm), and only 8% of the time at a high intensity (>85% VO2 max or >171 bpm). The results were interesting:
...the runners who had logged the most time training in the low-intensity zone fared the best. The reason why low-intensity running yields such great dividends is that it is aerobic conditioning at its best: It improves heart and lung function while it puts less stress on the ligaments and tendons that are vulnerable to injury at higher intensities.
I'm using a Runner's World Smart Coach training plan to get ready for the Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K at the end of March. This week's plan, the first week of 12, calls for these miles and speeds -- a rough correlation to the training patterns (not the speeds) of the fast guys and girls:
• Monday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Tuesday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Wednesday: Tempo run -- 1 mile warm up, 3 miles @ 7:26 mpm, 1 mile cool down
• Thursday: 4 miles @ 8:53 mpm
• Saturday: 9 miles @ 8:53 mpm
It's hard to run @ 8:53 mpm. OK, yes, and it's hard to run @ 7:26 mpm, too. My most comfortable and natural pace is somewhere in the 8:00-8:20 mpm range. Every single person is different so what feels comfortable or hard for you may be faster or slower. The article was a great reminder of the value of making myself run in the lower intensity zone even when my body feels like stepping it up.

By the way, because of weather and schedule, I changed up the days a bit on the training plan. I did the tempo run today (Thursday) after having run 4 days straight. My 3 fast miles averaged about 7:36 mpm -- not my target but considering a 14+ mph head wind and the fact that I haven't done any speed work since October, I was pretty pleased:
• 1.00 x 08:47.43
• 1.00 x 07:56.54
• 1.00 x 07.41.12
• 1.00 x 07:11.52
• 1.26 x 10:18.29
Run well, y'all, and slow down sometimes,

06 January 2009

The Button

I like having a treadmill available to use for mornings like this morning but I don't particularly enjoy running on the treadmill. At 5 this morning, it was 36° and lightly raining. I wasn't interested in being wet and cold (I don't mind cold and I will run in wet and warm) so off to the YMCA I went. Little did I know that I would find yet another reason to dislike the treadmill. My plan, changed when I realized it was raining, was to do a relatively easy 4.5 miler. Even though I was watching and listening to the local news, I get bored on the t'mill so I started at 7 mph, bumped it to 7.2 mph after 1 mile, then up to 7.5 mph after 2 miles.

Well, watching the news, I wasn't paying quite as close attention to my running as I otherwise would have done and I outran the treadmill. That's normal for me but I usually notice. Not today -- I ran right up into the front rail. Well, you know what's right in the middle of that front rail, don't you? Yes, the Emergency Shut-off Button. Right, the one that when hit, immediately stops the belt dead in an attempt to throw you off the front -- and which then resets, erasing all your data.

I hit The Button! I managed not to get tossed off into the elliptical machines in front of me but for a split second I could not, for the life of me, figure out what had happened. What a pain. I had just glanced at the mileage so I knew that I had run 2.93 miles but I had only the vaguest of ideas about the time (though I think I can figure it out). I pushed Start and nothing. Oh yeah, the thing has to reset. So, there I stand, huffing and puffing, waiting for it to reset and let me run again. What a pain! Give me the outdoors.

The only good thing was that, in the few seconds that it took to reset, I got my second wind and was able to finish a total of 4.6 miles feeling pretty good.

The predictions are for rain again in the morning. So, I may get another shot at The Button tomorrow. Joy!

Run well, y'all,

My Review of Etonic Jepara Running Shoes (For Men)

A couple of years ago, one of the Richmond running stores, Runner Bill's Sports, recommended I try the Etonic Jepara SC. At that time, I had used about 3 pair of Brooks Adrenaline ASR's and was going through them very quickly (250-300 miles). They always felt great for the first few miles but then the cushioning compacted or something and they felt hard and stiff. I found that the Jepara SC was heavier but had GREAT cushioning in both the heel and forefoot. Over the next couple of years, I used 4 pair and got 700+ miles out of them. Then, Etonic changed the shoe and replaced the Jepara SC with the Jepara 2 SC. Bad decision. The new shoe feels longer, stiffer, and seems to have less cushioning. But, the original Jepara SC seemed not to be available anywhere in my size. Over Christmas, however, I looked again and found them in my size at Sierra Trading Post for about $56.00 -- I snatched up 2 pair. I would buy more but am concerned that they would deteriorate some just sitting on the shelf. Sierra Trading Post asked me to write a review (as I'm sure they ask all their customers) and I did. That review is below with some slight editing. By the way, my one purchasing experience with Sierra Trading was an excellent experience -- they delivered exactly what I ordered and did so on time and with no hassle. They even included a return shipping label just in case:

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

Closeouts . Rated best shoe for motion stabilizing by the Running Network, Etonic's Jepara running shoe helps keep the foot on a neutral plane while maintaining ample cushioning and breathability as you transition from heel strike to toe off. Perfect for mild over-pronators Microfiber and air...

Etonic Jepara SC (NOT J2SC)

By AllenKenya from Richmond, VA on 1/6/2009


4out of 5

Sizing: Feels half size too small

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Absorbs Shock, Stable, Comfortable, Durable

Cons: Need better arch support, Slightly heavy

Best Uses: Endurance Training, Pavement, Running

Describe Yourself: Competitive Athlete (Well...not exactly but the next choice down was casual/recreational runner -- I'm somewhere in between -- maybe a competitive running enthusiast.)

Arch Type: Low Arch

I buy a full size longer and 1 width narrower than my street shoes (my street shoes are Rockport ProWalkers and are 11EE; I buy Jepara SC in 12D). Great cushioning in heel and forefoot. Durable -- I get 700 miles out of these versus 300-400 out of other brands, even though I'm at the break point between being a "normal" and "heavy" runner (180#). I have flat feet and think the Jepara SCs need a bit more arch support. The Jepara SC is far superior to the new Jepara 2 SC in both fit and comfort. A tad heavier than other shoes but cushioning and durability make it worth the weight.

Etonic Jepara SC (men's)


Tags: Picture of Product


03 January 2009

Totally NRR: SUMO Paint

I was lazy on the 2nd 3rd day of this new year and didn't run. (Apparently I was so lazy that I didn't even know what day it was!) Well, OK, in my own defense, I stayed up too late playing a game of Carcassonne (and lost, no less). So, this is totally and completely not running related.

Reading a technology blog this morning, I found a reference to an online image editing program, SUMO Paint and checked it out. No one accuses me of being an artist but I decided just to fiddle around with the program and came up with this:

Yeah, I don't think I'll quit my day job but it was fun to play around with for a few minutes.

BTW, I'd recommend Carcassonne, too. It's a good combination of light strategy, lotsa luck, and a reasonably quick play.

Run well, y'all,

01 January 2009

Establishing the Exercise Habit

I wonder how many people have made a New Year's resolution that includes starting an exercise program or, more specifically, that includes starting to run. I would guess it's a pretty large number. I haven't been to the YMCA for a while, now, but in the last 3 New Year's that we have celebrated in the US, the number of people in the Y balloons in early January only to taper off sharply by February or March. Lots of people make that resolution but it seems that most don't stick with it.

That's been my personal observation but a blog and an article that I read today both confirm my observations: a blog on Diet Blog, Making Exercise a Habit, and John Bingham's article in the current Runner's World magazine, Up and Over. Ali Hale, in today's entry on Diet Blog, says that three times as many people join a gym in January as in December ... and lots of them won't be back again after the first of February. She goes on to give some excellent suggestions on how to transform a desire to exercise into a habit of exercise.

Bingham talks about a tipping point in a beginning exercise program -- a point at which you can't imagine not lacing up your shoes to go out for a run. He says that the failure rate for beginning exercisers seems to be very high. They start with faulty expectations and unrealistic goals, and they fail miserably and give up. They don't stick with it long enough to get to their tipping point.

After 5 1/2 years of running, I think I have the habit established. While I enjoy my planned days off, if I miss running on a day on which I would normally have run, it's rarely a good thing. I think there are lots of ways to get the habit established. Hale's 4 suggestions are excellent:
Fit exercise into your day
Make it regular
Keep track
Involve other people

Those have been the things that have helped me make running a habit -- well, those and my natural obstinacy.
Fit exercise into your day: Early, early morning is the best time for me. There are no meetings scheduled for 5:15 am, I don't get caught in the office at that time of day, I'm not generally mentally or emotionally exhausted at that point. The only downside is that I have to either get to bed at a decent time or run on less than optimal sleep.

Make it regular: This is where my pig-headedness works to my advantage. I made up my mind that I was going to run and I just do it. Regular doesn't have to mean sameness. I have made running a regular part of my activities -- I run 4-5 days per week, sometimes 6 -- but I try not to run the same route twice in any given week. I normally don't run the same distance on any two days in a week. This week, for instance, I ran 4.6 miles on Tuesday, 9.2 miles on Wednesday, 8 miles today, and will likely run 10 miles on Saturday -- no two routes are anywhere close to being the same. I'm always looking for a new route or a new twist to an old route so that I don't get too settled or bored. I probably have 150+ bookmarks for various running routes in Short Pump. On the other hand, some people like to run the same route or a small number of routes every day. They don't have to think about it -- they just get out an run.

Keep track: Again, I've been pretty obstinate about this but I keep a pretty meticulous record of my running -- distance, time, pace, weather, route, brief notes, monthly totals, annual totals, totals since I started running seriously (again), averages, etc. For the last 2 years, I have used an online Google Sheets spreadsheet to keep my records. Before that, I had designed and used a ClarisWorks/AppleWorks spreadsheet and an Excel spreadsheet. This allows me to see my progress and is a real motivator.

Involve other people: I've done that in various ways. There are a few people who at least act like they are interested in my running. I talk with them about running (I try, more or less successfully, not to talk about running with those who really don't care). There have been a couple of people over the years with whom I have run occasionally but in the last year, I've joined up with a group of runners in the Short Pump area of Richmond and that's added a wonderful dimension to my running and has helped me gain some new friends. For a couple of years, I participated regularly on the Beginners' Forum in the Runner's World forums. I got a lot of encouragement from that and was able to give encouragement. Over the last 2-3 years, I've participated, more or less regularly, in the running blogging world. This blog, though initially started so that I could record those non-running related thoughts and contemplations that I have while running, has become my external accountability for running. It's as much for me as anything else but writing about my running is a motivator.

Those things have helped but I don't think they're enough to keep the average beginning runner going. They would not have been enough for me. Bingham, I think, has hit the nail on the head. Most people start running (or any other fitness or weight control program) with unrealistic expectations and faulty assumptions -- they don't get to the tipping point.

I think that one thing most people either don't realize or forget is that exercise is not fun at first. Those of us who have made exercise a habit talk about it in glowing terms -- I love running; I feel so energized after a run; Man, the feeling you get when you hit the "runner's high" is awesome!. Professional athletes make it look easy -- we see the end results, not the very hard work that they do to get to that point. We're bombarded by the hype of infomercials about instant results without any effort. Then, when we start exercising we find out that it actually takes effort. While I almost instantly liked the results of walking/running, it took a full year of running before I could say that I liked and enjoyed the running itself. Health and fitness are not pursuits with instant gratification.

Running is hard. Sometimes it hurts. Lifting weights or swimming or the elliptical machine or the stationary bike or aerobics or Pilates or eating right are hard. Sometimes they hurt, often they're inconvenient, usually you have to give up something else that you really like in order to do them. Even eating right is hard -- loading up on HFCS-laden soda, eating a bag of chips, eating chocolate cake, fast food all taste good (OK, there might be some argument about some fast food but I think Taco Bell's Crunch Wrap tastes really good) -- and at first, when you cut calories, you sometimes get hungry and just want to eat something you know isn't good for you.

That fact catches people off guard -- it surprises them -- they can't figure out why it's so hard, why they are exhausted after a run and not rejuvenated, why they are huffing and puffing so hard after just a few dozen yards. They then conclude that running (or eating right or something else) must not be for them and they quit.

If you have resolved to get in shape this year, go for it! I'm with you. Just stick with it long enough to get to the tipping point. That means taking the long view -- it may take a year before you can say that you like _____________ (you fill in the blank with whateer you've resolved to do) so hang in there awhile. Once you pass that tipping point, you'll be glad you did.

Run well, y'all,

Starting the New Year Right

New Year's Eve at the Allens' house is usually pretty tame, and last night was no exception. We watched TV, switching back and forth between the networks to see Times Square through various eyes. As midnight approached, we broke out the fizzy grape juice and went to bed shortly after. I wanted to run today, but decided to just let my body decide how much sleep it needed.

I woke up about 7, then again at 8:45, and finally got up at 9:15. It was too late to get in a morning run because I knew I would be really hungry before I got very far. So I made chai, peeled a grapefruit, and fixed my bagel and neufchatel cheese and sat down to have a quiet, leisurely morning. I really figured that a run was out but that was OK.

Well, after reading some blogs, seeing on Facebook that several friends were getting in their first run of 2009, and then reading a couple of articles in Runner's World, I couldn't stand it. I had to get out. It was chilly (32°) but the sun was out so I decided that my normal 32° weather clothes were too heavy and changed. Good decision. The wind was blowing and it was pretty cool, but I wasn't uncomfortable at all.

I felt like I was running at about a 8:30 mpm pace. However, at the end of what I thought was 3 miles, my watch hit 24 minutes on the nose. Hmmm, I thought, it doesn't feel that fast. I was running a slightly different route than I had ever run so even at the end, when my watch said the total run was 1:02:27, I figured that, at best, I had finished at a pace of about 8:05. After cooling down and getting a shower, I plotted the run and it was 8.0234 miles (according to Gmaps Pedometer). That made it a pace of 7:47 mpm.

I'll take that for a first run of the new year.

Happy New Year and run well, y'all,

Christmas Hills

Yes, I know it's a week after Christmas Day but, with traveling, I just hadn't posted this to my blog. Watching Clemson beat Nebraska (at least 1/3 of the way through the 3rd quarter), I have time to blog. [Hmmmm. In the time it's taken to write this blog, Clemson has gone from being up 21-10 to being down 23-21. Not good!]

We arrived late to my parents' house in Greenville, SC on Christmas Eve. By the time we got to bed, it was midnight-thirty so, even though we were doing Christmas late (breakfast at 8 and gifts at 9), I "knew" there was no way to get in a run Christmas morning. That was OK. But, I woke up at 5:15 and couldn't go back to sleep. So, off I went.

I only wanted to run 4-4.5 miles. There are lots of hills in Greenville and my normal 4+/- miler included some pretty bad ones. So, I used Gmaps Pedometer to plot a 4.8 miler that avoided the hills -- or so I thought. I hit mile 2.5 and had an Uh-Oh! moment. (The picture shows the middle 1.3 miles of the run -- the part with the Uh-Oh! hills.) I turned a corner and was unexpectedly facing a steep downhill. I may be dumb but I do know that what goes down has to go back up. Sure enough, about a half-mile later, I turned the corner and was facing a mountain! If that wasn't bad enough, I had a bit of a downhill after about a quarter-mile and then another mountain! It turned out to be a total climb of about 100' over a half mile -- @70' up over 0.2 miles, @35' down over @.1 miles, then @73' straight up over 0.2 miles.

So much for avoiding hills. Man, I was breathing hard after that half mile! I should have checked the elevations when I plotted the run.

Still, I got a good workout on Christmas morning -- an unexpected gift. I hope your Christmas run was good.

Run well, y'all,