Category Archives: Uncategorized

Everything Is Cancelled and I Feel Good

To the surpirse of few, the 2020 Victoria Marathon was cancelled earlier this week. I now have no race plans.

With every large public gathering of any kind suspended for the beyond-foreseeable future, I don’t foresee organized races happening again anytime soon… certainly not in 2020, and possibly not anytime early in 2021. Even seeing a race held in the spring or early summer of 2021 would be a bit of a surprise.

If you’re of the mindset that you’re looking forward to races resuming this fall or next spring, you probably need to change your mindset, and (if your life revolves around group workouts and/or training for races) probably need to re-evaluate your life and goals going forward. Life has irreparably changed, at least in the foreseeable future and relative beyond.

If the old reality is going to come back and stay, it likely won’t be back to stay for at least another year. Even if everything re-opens, chances of a 2nd spike in coronavirus cases forcing another lockdown by the fall or winter are very high.

And no, I don’t believe it matters how much or how little we are locked down in the present. A 2nd wave is probably going to happen even if we had handled everything perfectly. So don’t hand-wring about people going back outside or to other public places now. If anything, getting some exercise and sunlight is better for their health and immunity than staying inside.


Now, all of that said, this worlwide lockdown hasn’t really bothered me much at all. I’ve briefly mentioned adjustments I’ve made, and that the closure of almost everything has calmed down and simplified my life a great deal.

There’s no fear of missing out, because nobody’s able to do anything right now. Everyone and I are in the same situation, regardless of economic or cultural status.

I had already shut down all training for a few weeks in April, and had just began ramping my running back up when I found out Victoria was cancelled. Now that there’s no need to train for a race, I can now finally focus on training in some way other than running.

After my CPT training, I knew I wanted to spend some quality time strength training. Strength training is a lot harder to do when you’re running a lot, so I wanted to work on it when I had a long break from run training. And now, with no need to seriously run this year, I now have plenty of time to focus on it.

My work schedule also shifted to more of an afternoon/evening swing shift, and my days off are now during the weekdays. It’s a slight bummer on the running front, only because this would have made a running schedule so much easier, but now there’s no races to train for.

However, the schedule is still great for strength training as well as being a much more relaxing schedule. I can sleep in as needed every day (though I still get up early; habits die hard after 20+ years of early rising).


Also, my weight finally began to consistently slim down. Of course, I cut my calorie consumption quite a bit once we went into lockdown, since obviously there’s little opportunity to move around. I’ve intermittent fasted almost every day. Without having to balance the calorie needs of run training, I’ve been easily able to consistently maintain a calorie deficit. And my weight, having plateaued around 178-180 with about 20-21% bodyfat, is finally down to about 170-171 at 18-19% bodyfat after a consistent downward trend.

I want to diet down to at least 15% bodyfat (it’s actually best to diet down to a good target weight with basic daily activity, before beginning a serious exercise plan) before beginning a 12-16 week bodyweight or weight training program.

I don’t want to “cheat up” through a “body-recomposition”, aka seriously adding muscle while trying to burn fat and lose the weight. I find it can actually dissuade some stubborn fat from burning off (note my prior training stagnating fat loss), and the dietary balance you need to strike to avoid muscle catabolization or excess fat retention/gain is too delicate to be worth the trouble right now.

I also want to get my weight as reasonably light as possible because it’ll be easier on my organs long-term to build muscle mass from a fundamentally lighter body weight… and currently without the continuous hormonal stress of running a boatload of miles every week.

My projected goal is to get to around 165 lbs before trying to seriously add any muscle, if I even want to. I’ll have started on a stabilization -centered fitness plan before this point, so any mass-building strength training will be a function of naturally progressing from stabilization training anyway.


This 4/6/2020 post seems quaint. “It will be weeks, possibly months, before we can resume what we previously knew as normal activity,” is particularly cute. “Weeks, possibly months.”


Obviously, with gyms closed and scalpers having bought up all the free weights on the open market, I’m probably not doing any serious weight lifting unless gyms happen to re-open. Even then, if a 2nd wave requires a lockdown, I would lose that gym access again. Depending on how robust of a bodyweight/home program I can develop, I might even give up my gym membership entirely if things break right.

The plan is to devise and develop a suitable, progressive bodyweight workout routine that will sufficiently challenge my muscles and produce growth and/or athletic improvement.

It’s probably best for the long term either way that my long term goal be to develop a gym-free routine, since my long term focus is on being an endurance runner and coaching endurance runners (… should road races resume being a thing in our future society). Plus, many people don’t ever have access to a gym for various fundamental reasons, and a safe sustainable no-equipment-required exercise program would be helpful to countless people.


Meanwhile, I’m working out some adjustments to my current living situation that, once final, will free me up immensely and allow me to start work on some of these ideas. Until then, I’m waiting along with everyone else.

Vancouver 2020 will not happen

The Vancouver Marathon was officially cancelled Friday night.

I don’t have issues with cancelling the race. Restrictions or not, if people are not comfortable with running it, then it’s best not to do it.

I guess it’s a bummer to train only for no race to happen, but I have other training goals I’d be more than happy to continue with. I was only halfway through my training plan, and while I was progressing I wasn’t quite making the progress I wanted.

My hotel is only lock-rate reserved and can be cancelled with no penalty. I imagine WestJet, who is already relaxing cancellation policies to accommodate travelers during this whole thing, will extend the courtesy to May flights if in fact the Marathon is cancelled and I want a refund. Right now they’re only offering to transfer or cancel March flights, so I have to play the waiting game with them. Worst case scenario, I can pay to defer the airfare and use it for Victoria in October.

VIMS basically had to pocket the 2020 entry fees, only allowing a slight discount on 2021 entries (they’re trying to negotiate something higher than 20%), or allowing you to use your paid entry towards a fall race (none of which are a marathon) if they happen. They’re also doing a ‘virtual race’, which isn’t any real consolation for those traveling.

I guess that’s a bummer, but I’ve thrown away paid entries for other reasons (I DNS’d a half marathon earlier this year, for example) and this would not be a huge deal for me.

So in some ways it works out. I can now work on some fundamental training and then start training for Victoria within a couple months.

 

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My best marathon training cycle

Right now, training and weight wise, I’m not where I want to be. I’m executing most of my scheduled weekly workouts, and made dietary improvements over even my best running days in Chicago. But I’m not creating the results I had during my better training cycle just a couple years ago.

Once again, I looked to the past for answers. Despite hiccups derailing my 2018 Chicago Marathon effort (which I finished with substantial difficulty), that summer had probably been my best marathon training cycle and (until the hiccups struck halfway through) I had run the race fairly well, feeling physically capable of finishing strong… if not for the whole being unable to breathe properly thing.

It was ultimately some stupid decision-making with nutrition that derailed me. I decided to use a thicker protein-based recovery drink for fuel, despite not having trained much with it. My stomach and epiglottis likely flipped me the bird because of its relative nutritional thickness.

Never mind the problems with using thicker nutrition as race fuel. I made the cardinal mistake of doing something in a race that I had not worked on in training. So, it was not the training that derailed the race. In fact, given my condition at mile 13, and even how good my bones and muscles felt in the later miles despite my plight… the training beforehand had been sound. So, what I did during the cycle is worth reviewing.


I took a look at that cycle and noticed several key factors. Sure, I built up to a pretty solid 40-50 weekly mile volume and was running without injury. I was able to hit goal paces in key workouts leading up to the race. But there were some other not as obvious factors that helped me enter that race prepared.

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An update on new endeavors for 2020

Recently I started a new job, and after a couple of nebulous months it actually feels great to lock back into a workweek routine.

Even with work to do, I find the workdays strangely relaxing. It certainly helps with recovery that I once again need to sit at a desk for hours each weekday. And, of course, it feels good to have a predictable income once again.

During this coming year I plan to study and train quite a bit outside of running. After years of developing my nutrition knowledge through self study, trial and error, and a legion of research… I decided to make my knowledge “official” and study for Precision Nutrition’s L1 Nutrition Certification. This fills in a lot of gaps, and codify (with sources!) a lot of the knowledge I’ve carried over the years. Plus, as nutrition certifications go, Precision Nutrition is considered among most the best of the best.

I’ve also decided to elevate my running knowledge by becoming certified as a personal trainer. Starting next month I will study with Life Time Fitness at their Academy to earn my NASM CPT certification.

Does this mean I will scale back my running work? Absolutely not! If anything, a key goal in these two projects is to make my running work more robust. Coaching from the certified knowledge of a nutritionist and personal trainer will make my work more complete.

Many runners and coaches only operate from a thin, general idea of nutrition and other physical training. Again, I want to fill in the gaps and be as complete a runner and coach as I can. I want to go beyond generalities when discussing nutrition. I want to go into depth on quality strength training, knowing how much a runner can and should handle, and (runners or not runners) get specific with work that will fully develop an individual’s health and performance.

And, of course, I’m still training for marathons. All of this is part of a larger study in utilizing nutrition and outside strength/conditioning work to maximize my health and development for Vancouver 2020 as well as Victoria 2020.

So, there will be more to come on that front. I will also write more going forward on concepts and lessons I study from the two training programs, with thoughts on their impact on not just my training but how it impacts training of others.

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It’s Really Easy to Write A Book. It’s really hard to write a book.

I’ve worked on and off on material for a book on running. I’m generally not a fan of writing a book to write a book. I decided to write one knowing I have and follow a unique approach to running that others don’t teach, and that can serve runners in ways that other approaches do not or cannot. So I know I can write a book of value.

Before life changed and got crazy this year, I intended to finish at least the raw manuscript this year. Alas, I ran into pressing work and life needs that became more important than pounding out pages. Work on the book frequently got pushed aside during the past few months. Only in this past month did I seriously resume work on the project. I still plan to finish a manuscript, but probably more like early next year than before the end of this year.

Nowadays, technically, it’s actually very easy to publish a book. Gone are the days you had to submit a product to a publisher and hope they gave you a chance. Now, literally everyone with internet access can publish a book direct. Once you complete a manuscript and design a cover, you can e-publish the book on Amazon or other channels right now. You could even host a PDF of the book directly on a website of your own, and charge whatever you want for it using a paywall. Nowadays, the hard part of writing a book is the writer’s own lack of a work ethic.

… or, as I’ve discovered, finding the time. Writing a book is a deep work task. You can’t multitask, or fit it in while washing the dishes or running other errands. To work on it at any time requires a dedicated focus.

That, more than anything, kept me from working on the book. I know my subject matter. Even given the vast scope of the topic, I can at least write on everything (leaving editing and revision to sort it out later). The only writer’s block I had was other pressing matters: Moving out of Chicago, sorting out a change in career, the logistics of all of the above, not to mention any training I’ve needed to do and maintain.

Only now, with more time on my hands in Las Vegas, do I see the importance of available time and bandwidth in writing a book. As long as you have consistent writing habits, the actual process of writing the book should be the easy part.

So, you’re probably asking… what IS the book that I’m writing?

Well, let me actually write it first!

Quick update: Moved on, returned home

I’m going to drift off topic for a bit and discuss my work situation, which I abruptly ended last week.

I took a traveling position in August, and traveled to Michigan for my first assignment. As challenging as it made running and working out, I was reportedly doing good work, and I felt okay about the situation… until everything came to a head during last week. By last Wednesday night I was convinced that I could not continue. After a few conversations, I resigned at the end of the week and returned home to Vegas. It was purely my decision. It’s for the best.

So I’m home. More below the jump:

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Bulking up in Vegas

After a somewhat surprising three weeks in Vegas (my employer and I expected to deploy me sooner, but fate intervened)… I fly out tomorrow on assignment to Michigan for a few weeks.

Much of the last three weeks were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I didn’t really settle into a desired routine, knowing it would be completely disrupted once I was deployed.

Instead, I ended up inadvertently settling into a “routine” of eating a lot of good home cooked food, and sitting around when not at the gym cross training or outside at 6am for a hot desert, brief-out-of-necessity run.

I gained a somewhat astonishing 10 pounds. Granted, the stress of my move led to losing a few pounds right before I left Chicago, so I had some weight to gain back. But I rocketed past my previous 167-168 pound baseline within days, and spent much of my Vegas time in the 173-174 pound range. This despite a couple hours in the gym doing various moderate aerobic cross training and strength exercises most days of the week.

I imagine some of this is water weight from the new food, plus restocked muscle and glycogen lost during the Chicago move. But calorie wise it hasn’t been all that different from living in Chicago. But consider the dramatic (expected) shift in my lifestyle once I arrived in Vegas:

In Chicago (according to my Fitbit data) I averaged anywhere from 650-900 minutes per week of tracked physical activity (anything from 10+ minutes of walking on up), plus about 3000-3500 calories burned per day. Rarely did I finish a day having burned fewer than 3000 calories. Often I burned in excess of 3400-3500.

In Vegas I’ve averaged 500-550 minutes of trackable exercise activity per week, and maybe 2600-2700 calories burned per day. I’ve had perhaps 3 days total where I burned more than 3000 calories since arriving on August 26. That’s a substantial drop in burned calories.

The difference as expected was the amount of walking. Chicago required no less than several minutes of walking to get basically anywhere. In Vegas, you need to drive doorstep to doorstep since very little of the city is walkable in general, not just from sprawl but the extreme summer heat.

I’ve technically exercised more here in Vegas than I did in Chicago. The big difference that produced my weight gain has been the vastly diminished everyday activity.


I’m not terribly worried about losing the weight back. Once I’m on the ground in Michigan, have to walk facility floors for work everyday, and get more chances to run (the Michigan suburbs have decent sidewalks, plus the warm humidity, is far better for daytime running than the extremely hot Vegas desert)… my excess fat and water weight should peel right off. Plus, without home cooking, I’ll regain full control of my diet and be eating cleaner.

Was it okay to bulk up like that? Of course. Especially considering that the summer basically became my offseason. I’ve decided I prefer winter and spring running, and my primary goal race for 2020 is at the end of spring anyway. It wasn’t imperative that I begin training before January. I’ve remained however active I could.

The key is that I restored some lost glycogen and muscle mass. The latter is very important as you age, and having trained as a runner regularly for the last few years I haven’t really given my muscles a chance to regain much lost mass. This was probably the first serious chance I’ve had to do so. Plus I’ve gotten to do more strength training than I could in Chicago: Along with more available time, the gyms in Vegas are bigger and strength machines aren’t busy all the time as they were in Chicago.

Even though I haven’t run as much, I’ve maintained much of my aerobic conditioning with several hours of easy to moderate cross training each week, using not just the ARC Trainer but the new gym’s rowing machines, plus Joe LoGalbo’s Anabolic aerobic approach on the spin bike to get more bang for the buck out of the typically too-easy stationary bike. Occasionally, I’ve used the treadmill, though since the recent hamstring injury I’ve been careful about doing that too much.

So, I’m looking forward to not just the new job assignment but a chance to run regularly in a new place. More to come on that.

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