Friday, January 21, 2011

Help Needed for Ten Dogs In San Antonio

Is there anyone out there that can help out?

Dear Friends,

With this e-mail, I am sending ten photographs of dogs currently impounded at Animal Care Services Brooks City Base Facility. These photos were taken this afternoon by Rita and me. ALL are extremely friendly and SWEET SWEET dogs. ALL would make excellent and very sweet pets ... they're non-aggressive, get along w/other dogs, very people-oriented, etc. We also feel that all of these dogs are or were owned by someone. They are in good condition, healthy weights, sweet personalities. How they became lost and impounded is always a mystery, but they are there and need help.

The situation is this ... Animal Care Services is finally re-instating an ADOPTION CENTER at the main facility on Highway 151; however, to do this, the Brooks City Base facility will house only "bite observation" dogs and other dogs deemed not quite as adoptable for whatever reasons. There is not enough space at the Hwy 151 facility to hold those dogs and still have a designated "Adoption Center". Everyone agrees that a designated Adoption Center is direly needed there.

There will be a transition of approximately one week, where dogs currently impounded at Brooks need to get out of there ASAP or be killed. While the transition is underway, it will be impossible to hold dogs any longer than their required 72 hours no matter how adoptable they are :( The photos attached with this e-mail are of ADORABLE dogs who will be killed at 8 A.M. this Saturday morning (January 22)unless they are able to go to either rescue/foster care or adoption. So, if there is anyone out there in cyberspace who would be able to take in any of these dogs (either by rescue, foster care or adoption), you MUST contact ALL of the following people (listed below) on FRIDAY, preferrably before 6 PM, but just write or call PLEASE ... it would be a crime for any of these precious dogs to loose their lives just because there are not enough homes. Please contact Peggy below ... and BE SURE to include the ID# of the dog you are interested in ...

PEGGY BRINK - 210=313-3600





1After this e-mail, I will be sending out another identical e-mail, but picturing dogs that are scheduled to be killed at 8 a.m. on Monday morning (January 24)

Photographs of the dogs scheduled to be killed Saturday morning at 8 a.m. are attached, as well as imbeded below with small descriptions of each dog ... and they are ALL GREAT DOGS!!

1) ID#A152701 - Female, 2-year old Australian Shepherd mix - gorgeous sweet dog

ACS_A152701_Australian Shepherd female.jpg

2) ID#A152785 male, 2-year old Poodle (a CUTIE!!!) Helga's Grooming on Culebra Rd often does grooming free of charge for Animal Care Services so this might be an option on this adorable fellow ... he is very clean, but probably needs a simple haircut ...

ACS_A152785_Poodle male.jpg

3) ID#A152768 female, 2-year old Dachshund (mix?) oh my gosh she is a little sweetheart ... small and cute ...

ACS_A152768_Dachshund mix female.jpg

4) ID#A152833 male, 3-year old Schnauzer ... this sweet dog is just adorable in person ... such a love bug ... we believe him to be a purebred, even though his tail isn't docked ... his tail just gives more of him to love ...

ACS_A152833_Schnauzer male 3.jpg

5) ID#A152844 male, 3-year old Fox Terrier weighing about 15 lbs. He is smaller in person than he appears in his photo! He is a small dog. A precious sweetheart ...

ACS_A152844_Fox Terrier male.jpg

6) ID#152829 female, one-year old Australian Shepherd? mix. She is a smallish little dog and soooooo cute and submissive. She is truly a little sweetheart and very very pretty in person. Gorgeous coat.

ACS_A152829_Australian Shepherd mix female.jpg

7) ID#A152828 female, one year old Yellow Labrador Retriever (we believe she's purebred) gorgeous and very sweet young dog.

ACS_A152828_Yellow Lab female 3.jpg

8) ID#152837 male, 3-year old Flat Coated Retriever? mix (smallish medium in size) We aren't really sure of this sweet dog's breed mix, but suffice it to say, he is a gorgeous dog with a shiny black coat, thick, silky and wavy. Photographs do not do this sweet dog justice, so you must meet him in person ... HURRY PLEASE!! His time is up at 8 a.m. Saturday morning :( Don't let him die ...

ACS_A152837_Flat Coated Retriever mix male.jpg

9) ID#A152863 male, 2-year old Australian Shepherd with a docked tail! In his photo he doesn't look "aussie" but HE IS. What a sweetheart. You will love him!!

ACS_A152863_Australian Shepherd male.jpg

10) ID#A152825 male, approx 4-year old wire-haired Terrier mix weighing 32 lbs. This sweet dog is SO wonderful. All he needs is a trip to the groomer's (again, Helga's Grooming on Culebra Rd might be willing to help out) This sweet guy's tail just never stops wagging. He loves people and is a little lovebug. He has a bit of an infected anal gland and Debbie has him on antibiotics. He'll do fine, that is not a big problem and is quite common with some dogs.

ACS_A152825_Terrier mix male.jpg

Please forward this message FAR AND WIDE ... to anyone you think might be interested in any of these precious sweet souls who do not deserve to loose their lives.

Thank you SO much!

Monday, November 1, 2010

So, You Made Us Suffer for Two Miles. What's Your Point? (Repost)

OK, this is another exceedingly long post about stuff.

I sort of fear being challenged on some of this - I'm no scientist, and I prefer to geek out on physics, but I can give you a poor, but usable, explanation of my poor understanding of what our bodies do, with some of the more hazily remembered numbers culled from the Internet, that bastion of infallibility.

So, when a boy or girl reaches a certain age...

Wait, that's the other thing I have a poor understanding of.

Running. Yes. So, our physical ability to run is governed by several things, of course, but the key fundamental component is our ability to burn fuel, which involves our use of oxygen at the cellular level.

Yeah, you have to physically get oxygen into your lungs and blood vessels and to the cells, and there are variables and potential roadblocks along the way. But all those extraordinary conditions as they may be, it still comes down to your ability to burn fuel.

Two of the key measures of this ability are our VO2 max, and our lactate threshold.

VO2 Max
Your VO2 max is specifically a measure of your body's maximal, or best, ability to transport and use oxygen. There's a couple of different expressions of it, but for athletes, we usually talk about milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. It's generally accepted as the best measure of aerobic fitness.

Our VO2 max is largely genetically determined, but can obviously be affected by weight, and by training. The average VO2 max for untrained men is around 45 ml/kg/min, 38 for women. Decently trained athletes will get into the 50's and 60's, world-class athletes higher. Lance Armstrong? Reportedly around 86. Freak. A famous skier had an off-season measurement of 96. In the off-season, not at his training peak. Total freak. Interestingly, Wikipedia lists Iditarod sled dogs at upwards of 240 ml/kg/min.

Lactate, or Anaerobic, Threshold
So, VO2 max measures your ability to deal with aerobic training under maximum effort. At some point, though, your cells are burning at as high a rate as they can with the oxygen they're getting. Essentially, they burn through all the oxygen, and begin to rely on either creatine phosphate or glucose to burn for energy. This is anaerobic energy production.

There are certain byproducts of this new zone of energy production, including lactic acid. Up to a certain point, your body can reuptake it, limiting its build-up in your bloodstream. On top of everything else, Lance Armstrong has a freakish ability to reuptake lactic acid, meaning he can hold a higher level of intensity for longer than lowly humans, and recover faster. It's just not fair.

Once the demand for energy reaches a point and becomes even more inefficient, lactic acid production outpaces the body's ability to reabsorb it. Once it hits a certain level in the bloodstream, generally accepted to be, like 2 somethings per something else, you're considered to have hit your lactate threshold.

Very often, you hear people say they couldn't hold their speed or push more weight because of the lactic acid, which is technically wrong, or because they were lactating, which is completely wrong in almost every case.

Really, the lactic acid in the bloodstream is a symptom, not the cause.

Our higher-intensity workouts will push you just into the anaerobic/lactate threshold, which will help push it higher. And yes, this kind of training will benefit your distance running ability, as well.

OK. So, like... what?
I've done the testing. It's humbling, and not entirely comfortable. You run on a treadmill, with a huge mouthpiece jammed in your grille that, because of the noseplug, is your only way to inhale and exhale. You get pushed to successively higher levels of exertion for periods of time, and periodically, they jam a needle into your ear for a blood sample to test for lactic acid buildup. It is unpleasant, though you do feel like Steve Austin for a while.

From your VO2 max and lactate threshold, you can derive with some accuracy your predicted potential paces for other distances.

Running the two-mile time trial (remember, that's what all this crap was supposed to be explaining) bypasses all that testing, and essentially works this process backwards. Running it ideally, you are running at maximal capacity for a distance that is long enough to get you into the anaerobic zone, and long enough to not just be something you can totally will yourself through, yet short enough to run without spending too much time in the anaerobic zone.

You run it, and in an indirect way, it measures your VO2 max and lactate threshold. I suppose that doesn't matter, because just running the time through a formula, you can still determine your ideal paces. But I think it's good to know why it works.

Whew. Still with me? So, here's what you do. I'll email you your times. Take your two mile time trial time to the McMillan Pace Calculator. It's a magical thing that will tell you with freaky accuracy what your paces should theoretically be for other distances. You'll use these paces for some of our workouts, and you can use them as guides for your pace in races. Also, please note the suggested long run paces.

A final note about this: these paces are ideals based on your body's most fundamental capabilities. They don't take into account terrain, headwind, illness/hangover, a bad day, a good day, or the other things that start happening to your body when you hit a certain mileage. It has predicted my times well up to the half marathon, and then it breaks down for me. Honestly, I have yet to have my ideal, or even acceptable, marathon. I'll own up to that. But I've had some great coaches in the past, and I'm confident of my own coaching. It's just something I need to deal with and overcome.

So, don't live and die by these numbers. They're just a guide. If nothing else, the time trial teaches you to push your limits of discomfort, and for that alone, it's valuable. More on that later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marshmallows and Marathons

My new job is such that I can turn out good numbers while listening to music, plotting running routes in my head, or finally catching up, after over a year, with podcasts of This American Life and Radiolab.

This morning, one of the Radiolab podcasts was called "Mischel's Marshmallows," and it told the story of a psychological experiment interesting not only in its scope, but its results. I don't want to spoil the story, but in short, this study started with some kids left alone in a room with something tempting like marshmallows, or, more effectively, I would think, Oreos. It tested the ability to delay gratification, a skill that supposedly starts improving at around age four. Where it gets interesting is when they revisited these same kids a decade later, and found dramatic and undoubtedly nonspurious correlations to SAT scores, GPA, and behavior.

So, I'm listening to this, as I hope you will (it's only 15 minutes long), and I was excited because it actually feeds into one of the main reasons I enjoy coaching and feel that running is good for us.

The kids in the experiment all suffered horribly from the temptation of the Oreos. Some kids, though, naturally used strategies to either dissociate or associate from the stimulus - they would distract themselves by making up a song, the boys would sit there and kick the table, or they would mentally put a picture frame around the the yummy, delectable sandwich cookies. These are the kids that did well, then and later in life.

The other kids could be taught tricks to help them delay gratification, and it would help them become "high delayers". Unfortunately, teaching a kid tricks to keep themselves from eating a cookie in a room isn't going to translate to every day, lifelong strategies, right?

In comes running. The doing of running, even showing up to do it, requires discipline, self sacrifice, delayed gratification. I've seen the varieties of those kids in the adults that show up in our group wanting to run a half marathon and marathon, and their success is obviously tied to their discipline and their ability to push themselves into discomfort or inconvenience. But I have alos seen people learn these skills in training. They take little steps, day by day, just getting that day's run in. They are encouraged by their teammates who are doing it with them, and they are boosted by the amazement and approval of their families and friends. Eventually, they find something within them that drives that effort to deny their own comfort and convenience, because they know there's something of value in it.

And while it may be a bit idealistic or megalomanical, I believe that something like running, more than yoga, more than basketball, requires so much repetition and commitment that it really reinforces those better qualities in us, perhaps enough that we carry those same stronger virtues into the rest of our lives. So, really, here's my grand evil plan - I want us to be better runners, but I want us to be even better people.

So, please, listen to the podcast, and give it some thought - what are your strategies for delaying your own gratificaiton, and staying committed? And what is your payoff - why are you doing this? Feel free to comment...

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Nerdy Essay On Hills

Working with the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, I've heard a lot of whining about the hills on our courses, mostly from wussy flatlanders from places like "Dallas" or "Houston", which are clearly lame, in addition to being flat. I also hear some occasional whining from people about the hills we run on our long runs. In response, I usually challenge them to construct any route longer than seven or eight miles that has no hills, and doesn't involve running back and forth across a parking lot.

The thing is, you're better for running hills, whether your goal race is hilly or not. Arthur Lydiard, arguably the greatest running coach of all time, realized it, ran his runners on crazy hills in New Zealand, and brought hardcore hill training to the coaching world. So, blame him, not me.

Personally, I like hills. Living, biking, and later, running here in Austin, there was no choice, so I decided that if I could be a good hill runner, that would give me an advantage over other people in my quest to join the lower middle of the distance-running pack. Hills can build strength and stamina pretty quickly, and you can do better than a lot of other people simply through proper form and some knowledge.

I should also point out that I am a tremendous geek, and when I'm running, I'm thinking through all this stuff, and how best to try to explain it. So... here ya go.

Running Uphill
It helps to think about the physics of hill running, which starts with some geometry. Think about the geometry of your body in relation to the ground - you've got a triangle formed by: the imaginary line from the top of your head intersecting the ground at a 90 degree angle (side A); the line along the ground from there to your front foot (side B), and the line from that point back to the top of your head, which is the triangle's hypotenuse (side C).

Now, think also about the vector of gravity's pull... on a hill, it's not perpendicular to the ground, right? It's straight to the center of the earth (let's stick with Newtonian physics and ignore more recent modifications of it). Hence the suckiness or coolness of running up, or down, a hill.

Ideally, on a hill, you maintain the same upright, hips under you form as you do when you're on flat ground. Of course, your ability to do that depends on the steepness of the hill.

So, once a hill hits a certain level of steepness, the geometry of our bodies makes it impractical to stay perpendicular to the ground, because you'd fall back on your butt. So, we increase forward lean. This makes Side A, in front of our bodies (top of the head, perpendicular to the ground) shorter, and lengthens the hypotenuse, which is from the top of your head to the foot pushing through the strike behind you. Because of the way our legs bend, and because of the way we're best able to exert force for maximum traction and power, the lean forward makes sense.

The big problem is that most people get their lean by bending at the waist. First of all, as we've talked about on flat ground, this angle between the hips and leg is biomechanically inefficient.

Next, the butt starts falling out behind you, changing your center of gravity, and distorting the geometry of your body. Once that happens, people tend to hunker their shoulders, which is often also a result of people dropping their heads down.

The result - an inefficient, tiring, difficult-to-breathe, and not-attractive running posture. No bueno.

The answer is in your hips, shoulders, and head. Keep your head up - be looking at the next point on the hill that you're aiming for. Keep your shoulders relaxed, but back, allowing a good, unobstructed flow of air. Finally, keep your hips under you. On steeper hills, it helps me to imagine pressing my hips forward into the hill.

Move your arms. Their relation to the body will change on hills - they'll be moving a bit more in front of your shoulders, but still not crossing the front of your body. When your legs are failing a bit, focus on moving the arms, and the legs will follow.

A lot of people just strike with the foot and lift straight up. On hills in particular, they're missing out on a huge bit of strength, just in your foot and calves. So, strike, and roll all the way so that when you're taking off, it's off the front tip of your shoes.

Finally, break the hill into manageable chunks. Find a landmark, and just focus on getting to it, then pick another and get to it. If you try to look up the 8th street alley, or some of the other hills we'll be running, you'll end up trying to find a tree and a bit of rope to hang yourself.

Running Downhill
The general rule is that uphills and headwinds are harder than downhills and tailwinds are easy. But make no mistake, downhills run properly and patiently can give you a good deal of time back. However, they can also wreck your legs in a longer race.

On the downhills, the temptation is to lean back and let gravity carry you. This is actually not good.

Think back to the geometry thing. When you lean back, you feel more in control because the hypotenuse is intersecting the ground at an angle that matches the vector of gravity's pull - in other words, you don't feel like you're going to fall on your face. The problem is, leaning back also stretches that hypotenuse out - to connect with the ground on each stride, your body has to get longer in front of you. To accomplish this, two things usually happen. First, you lengthen the front part of your stride by stretching the leg out, straightening the knee out and striking on your heel. Because you're also shortening side A of your triangle (the imaginary back line), and lengthening side B (the bottom), gravity gets to accelerate you a bit longer on each stride, resulting in higher speed and greater impact.

Bottom line - bad for your knees, ankles, hips, spine... hell, everything. It even makes my teeth hurt.

Meanwhile, if you're also trying to move your feet faster over a longer distance (side B), you might actually be working harder and getting your heart rate higher than when you're on flat ground. Also dumb.

The answer is to run downhill with the same form and angle as you run on flat ground, and uphill. When you do it, you're going to feel like you're falling forward. This is why you want strong quadriceps muscles, and a quicker, but not too quick turnover. This is a matter of just getting the right feel running downhill.

I try to get to a point of turnover where I'm still striking midfoot, but immediately rolling forward and through the strike. There's a split second between the initial strike of the foot, and the point at which your shoes and joints compress, and you get the sudden, sharpest moment of impact. That's what you need to minimize. Rolling forward immediately helps dissipate some of that energy.

The cautionary warning here is that on a long, very hilly course, like the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, slowing yourself too much will wear out your quads and increase the odds of them cramping up later... So, it can be a fine line.

Everyone wants to bank time running downhill. But even if you're being conservative and patient, you're just gonna pick up some speed. Side B of your triangle (the travel along the ground) is going to naturally lengthen a bit when you factor in that you're still falling downhill a little, making each stride, even at the same cadence, cover a little more ground.

More importantly, managing a downhill gives you a chance to recover. In the Capitol 10K, or the Austin Marathon or Half Marathon, managing the course is everything, and will make or break your day.

So, that's a lot to absorb, I know. The point here is to think about the physics and form involved in running hills. Stay conscious of them, remember the few rules about form, keep working on building strength and stamina, and you'll be kicking butt on the hills in no time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Running Log

For three years, I have recycled a mention of Running Log, the great Native American track and field star. I still haven't written that legend out, though.

Instead, this is about the importance of logging your runs and workouts and what-not.

I really recommend that you keep track of your running. Most obviously, it helps you develop a picture of how often you're running, and what kind of mileage you're putting in every week. Most people think it'll make them feel bad when they miss a workout - actually, that's not a bad thing. But it will also give you an appreciation for how much you're doing. When you miss a workout, but you still see that you ran six or nine or (eventually) 20 miles that week, it can prevent that Stuart Smalley shame spiral where you decide it's all hopeless, and you go grab the peanut butter, a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, and the largest spoon that will fit in the mouths of both jars, and go to town, washing it down with successive Lone Star tallboys, the tinge of aluminum made slightly salty by your own tears.

It happens. Or so I hear.

So, check out the training log. It's fun to do, and you can also track your other activities, like yoga, cycling, swimming, and your weekly pickup jai-alai games. It'll also track your vitals, like your weight.

A training log is also good because it helps you track the mileage on your running shoes, which we call "tennis" or "tenny" shoes in Texas, but which the British, apparently being masters of the obvious and explicit, call "runners."

Now, if you'll look to the left over there, you'll see a link for the Nikerunning website, which contains a free training log. There have long been rumors that they were going to discontinue the site, but it hasn't happened yet. It also uses Flash, and won't work on some mobile devices. So... that kind of sucks. I just haven't been entirely thrilled about any other log application that I've seen. Many of them don't track shoes, or allow you to enter other types of workouts. So, for now, I keep using the Nike one.

If you find something you like much better, let me know. In the meantime, make sure you do something to keep track of what you're doing - I think you'll be pretty pleased with the results.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ditch the Headphones

I love music. I love music far more than running, truth be told, which, in summers like this one, isn't hard. And, I am big on wanting to block things out in certain situations - in grad school, I took almost all my exams with headphones on, back in the days when even recordable CD's were not commonplace. The one time I was asked to remove the headphones, I was lost, and couldn't focus. Having not gone to that class at all may have also figured into the negative experience, but I really felt I was better off writing about immigration law with Tanya Donnelly's sweet voice in my head.

In 2007, USA Track and Field made personal music devices verboten at sanctioned events. The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, as required, banned headphone use in 2008. Prior to that, lacking an enforcement mechanism, the marathon went with just strongly discouraging their use.

Many large marathons, including the Marine Corps Marathon, immediately, and probably eagerly, complied. The Twin Cities Marathon warned people headphones were banned, but people ignored the warnings, or perhaps couldn't hear them over the Justin Timberlake rattling in their skulls, and 176 runners were disqualified. It was not enforced in Austin, and headphone use in races is increasing exponentially.

The flap from the average headphone-wearing runner crowd pushed the USATF to reconsider, and within a year, they backed off, largely due to the incessant whinging (not a typo, Cindy) from people who want to say they can run a half marathon or marathon, but claim they can't do it without their headphones.

Shortly thereafter, the Austin Marathon reluctantly announced that it changed its headphone policy in accordance with the caving of the USATF, even though they've seen, time and time again, in every race, the high frequency of irresponsible headphone use and the problems it causes, but they probably just got tired of the complaints from people who probably went on to organize and be the loudest people at Tea Parties. The amount of whining they'd gotten at the marathon office about the headphone ban has quite frankly been pathetic, and has included ridiculous arguments about blind or deaf runners, claims about "big government", and many people saying they are disgusted and will just run some other race, to which I personally say, "good riddance, break a leg."

In large part, the USATF enacted the rule to conform to the policy of the International Association of Athletics Federations, which is mainly concerned with the use of two-way radios in competition.

For most races, though, the main issue is safety. I can't think of the last race where I didn't see a number of examples of people being completely oblivious to their surroundings because they were wearing headphones. I've seen people not able to hear the sirens of support vehicles passing them, a half marathoner in Dallas not able to hear the large, honking Hummer pace vehicle behind her or the runners around her yelling at her to move so the elite marathoners could pass, or the shouts of "wheelchair up" when a wheelchair racer needs to be able to pass. We've all seen that when moving through a not-too-thick crowd, a runner will usually hear you come up and often move over just a little to help you pass through a tight spot. Runners with headphones tend to be in their own little world, though.

One year, at the Turkey Trot, Michelle from Conley Sports (the folks who put on the Austin Marathon) was blowing past me just as I was trying to say hi to someone I knew. He was wearing headphones. I called his name from about 20 feet away. Nothing. I got closer, at one point just about five feet behind him, and yelled his name. Nothing.

This year, at the Zooma Half Marathon, we had a major problem with the turnaround. I hopped on the back of the course manager's Harley (please... don't picture it, we had no choice), and he took me down to the turnaround point. On the way, I shouted instructions, mainly to blank stares from the runners, almost half of which seemed to be wearing headphones. One woman was running up a hill with her head down (a problem in and of itself), and couldn't hear the large hog approaching her, or the yelling from us or the other runners, until she almost ran right into us.

I also believe (pause for effect) that headphones have a deleterious effect on running form. Yeah, that's right. I'm tempted to submit an article on "iPod Assymetry Syndrome" and submit it to a medical journal, except that I'm lazy.

I first started thinking about this while watching an avid marathoner I know that would wear her iPod on her right arm. She also wore her long hair in a ponytail, and many times, running behind her, I could see the ponytail didn't swing evenly. You could trace the asymmetry to her shoulders, and to... the arm with the iPod strapped to it. From there, you could even see the slight imbalance in her stride. She even had some issues in the leg that ended up getting the shortened stride, which could be due to any number of factors... but you had to wonder.

I know when I run with an iPod on my arm, it's easy to get caught up in cord management (pardon the pun). Watch runners, and most of them carry their music-bearing arm differently. I've already seen some of you compromising your running form to accomodate your headphones.

As we've all figured out by now, the high repetition of the motions of running means that imbalances and eccentricities have consequences, and will likely be mirrored elsewhere. Everyone should, by now, be feeling and seeing the link between the way you move your arms, and your stride.

When you shorten the travel of one arm, it's likely to play out in the stride, because you're essentially throwing yourself out of balance. There's also the added tension in the shoulder from carrying that arm out slightly. Over any appreciable distance, it all translates to "no bueno."

When I do take the iPod on a training run, I use a little Shuffle and attach it to my waistband - it doesn't move through a range of motion, so the cord stays stable. Even then, I make the the cord short enough or run it through my shirt so that I don't have to move the arm on that side any differently to clear it.

Finally, and most importantly to me, I don't want to race or even train much with music, because it's a crutch, even a cheat. Clearly, we want to run with music because it benefits us - it keeps us from getting bored, it motivates us. There's a reason the Nike+ iPod system has a "Power Song" feature. Hell, I want to add a Nano to my ridiculously complete Apple audio product lineup just so I can push the button and immediately go to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells".

One whin- sorry, "runner", in one article said, "I need my music to get me through it. A marathon is a mental challenge and if I don't have my music to keep me motivated, it just isn't fun."

Well, guess what? Remember that we do this precisely because it is not "easy", and it is not "fun" in the same way as, say, Whack-A-Mole, or taunting Aggies. You've all learned or will learn how important the mental component of distance running is. The thing is, we're not all running to challenge the winning time in a race - we all run to challenge our own limits and abilities, and that's ultimately a mental challenge of your ability to deal with discomfort and pain, and to continue to push yourself. Whether you are physically capable of running a 2:20, three-hour, four-hour, or five-plus hour marathon, it all comes down to your ability to push yourself, not just physically, but primarily mentally.

If you say you get bored, or need the distraction, and music helps you, then that music is a crutch. The mind is a powerful thing - I completely believe I could run a faster race at almost any distance with the "Rocky" theme pounding through my head every step of the way. I'll do some of my short runs with music, but I don't wear headphones for long runs or races, exactly because music is such an effective crutch.

That state of being alone in your head, is one of the difficult, but essential, parts of distance running. The challenge is not just to move your body over the distance, but to move your mind and your will over that distance. Can you keep your mental focus over the miles, and over the time you need to complete those miles? Music can help you dissociate, which is a perfectly acceptable method of dealing with pain and boredom. But again, it's external, it's not a skill or a layer of toughness you've developed. You're just taking it away. You might as well be racing on painkillers, or high. Numb your mind with headphones, and you have failed to accomplish an essential component of the challenge. If you can't live with your own mind for the distance you're running, then you can't really claim to do the distance.

Music is a crutch. It's a cheat. I want you to be able to depend on yourself to get through the race.

There are going to be helpful distractions out on the race course. We've got 40 bands on and around the marathon course, far more than the "Rock 'n' Roll" marathons in San Antonio and elsewhere. There'll be great crowd support, you'll have friends out there running with you, and, if you're not wearing headphones, you'll be surprised by how many people you'll talk to on the way. Every year, I see and chat with Steve Boone, this older guy with long, stringy grey hair. He's run every Austin Marathon, and runs over fifty marathons a year (in 2009, he ran Austin the day after running one in California). He doesn't run with headphones. But all those things are part of the race experience itself, not something extra and unnecessary you bring into the race to help you get through.

I'd hate to think of what I'd have missed wearing headphones in races: the little kids in Chicago's Mexican district yelling, "Si, se puede!"; my friend Tom telling me about his kids, including the newborn son that didn't make it, as we plodded through 20 miles; or the company of good friends for our first half marathon. Those were all hard races, and maybe headphones would have helped. But I wouldn't have the experiences and memories that made running those races meaningful.

Use your headphones on your solo runs, and let it help drive you. Let some music or podcasts, or whatever noise you need help you get those weekday runs in. Listen to some relaxing music the night before the race. Crank the tunes up in your car on the way to the race, and get pumped.

But don't use headphones in races. And, if you make that commitment, don't wear them for your long runs - that's where you're going to need to develop the mental toughness that will get you through your goal race.

In the end, it's about safety, and it's about not selling yourself short, not cheapening all the work you're putting in to this. Don't fail to truly meet the challenge you signed up for and are training for. Don't miss the very real support and inspiration that your teammates and the race itself is going to offer you. Leave the headphones at home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hard. Core. Good.

I know, I know - as if the running and the yelling and flogging weren't enough, I'm making you do core training. WTF?
  • Core training helps keep the pelvis aligned. A misaligned pelvis leads to injury as far down as the Achilles, and up into the lower back.

  • The stronger your core, the more solid you remain on strike, reducing the need for unnecessary stabilization, allowing you to be a more economical runner.

  • Glistening abs, just like in those Shake Weight commercials (one Spiridoner owns Shake Weights. Let the speculation begin).
So, we're going to do these every week after our workouts. You're gonna be a machine. Rest for 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise. After completing the whole circuit (also known as a "superset"), take a three-minute break, and repeat the entire series. Try to do this routine three times a week.

Bicycle 60 seconds total
  • Lay on back
  • Place hand beneath small of back. Your low back should not lift off of your hand nor should it push down into your hand.
  • Knees and hips bent 90 degrees.
  • Slowly bring your left foot down towards the ground while you keep your left knee bent. When your left foot is approximately one inch off the ground, stop and hold this position for 2 seconds before bringing your left leg back to the starting position. Repeat with your right leg.
To make the exercise more difficult straighten your left leg as you bring your foot towards the ground and hold your leg approximately four inches off of the ground before bringing your leg back to the starting position.

Plank (prone core stabilization)
60 seconds total
  • Up on knees and forearms, or toes and forearms
  • Keep a flat back, don’t let hips sag
  • Lift left leg four inches, hold for two-count. Repeat with right.

60 seconds total
  • Start on back with arms laid back above head and weight balanced on shoulders and heels. Knees at 90 degrees.
  • Straighten right knee. Hold this position for two seconds and then switch legs.

Side plank (side-lying core stabilization)
30 seconds on each side
  • Start on knee and elbow, or side of foot and straight-arm it, if you’re a bad-ass.
  • Lazy arm on side, or straight out, if you want to look like cool.
  • Keep straight
  • Maintain a posterior pelvic tilt by pushing the bottom of your pelvis forward and the top of your pelvis back.

Fire hydrant
Hold each pose for four seconds, run through sequence three to five times with each leg
  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • A. Maintaining the 90-degree angle of your left knee, lift your left leg until the thigh is parallel with your upper body, without arching your low back. All the movement should come from your hip. Hold for 4 seconds, and then lower.
  • B. Repeat the same motion, but continue it by adducting the knee and thigh as far to the left as possible (like a boy dog at a fire hydrant). Hold for 4 seconds.
  • Repeat A and B, but press the knee and thigh as far as possible to the right, crossing over your body's midline. Hold for 4 seconds.
  • Movement in all three directions constitutes one rep.
  • For added difficulty, lift your opposite arm off the ground.
  • Repeat with the right leg.

Supine stabilizer
  • Lie on your back with your legs fully extended.
  • With your elbows under your shoulders, lift your entire body onto your forearms and heels.
  • Keep your legs, hips, and back as straight as possible.
  • While maintaining this position, lift your left leg four inches off the floor. Hold for four seconds, then repeat with your right leg.
  • Repeat both sequences three to five times.

Ten to 20
  • Feet hip-width apart
  • Toes into ground, not flexed
  • Hands slightly wider than shoulders
  • Tighten your quads, glutes, and abs
  • Push up
  • Toes stay pointed!
Too hard?
  • Curl legs up from knees
  • Do the negatives – use your knees to press up, then get on your toes, and lower yourself down.