Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fast or long?

"Oh baby, I'm not built for speed.....I'm built to go long!" -- Every male junior high cross country runner, ever.

Since throwing caution to the wind a few weeks back and deciding to suck it up and run on my injured knee, I've been on quite the endurance tear!  I'm running 2-3 times a week and am trying to get on the bike at least once or twice (usually once).  Now that I'm falling into somewhat of a routine, I can't help but ask myself: now what? Should I push my knee to its limits and see if I have another half or full marathon in me?  Should I focus less on distance and more on speed? Forget about goals and simply run for fitness? 

Right now I'm running 3-6 miles at my old long run pace, 7:30/mile. When I first started back at it, my pace was all over the place but I've fallen back into the comfortable rhythm of 8 miles per hour. The only difference is that while before I could sing the star spangled banner while running with Mariah Carey style gusto (and also with a Mariah Carey shaped ass, obviously), now it is all I can do to blurt out 3 word answers to my running buddy, Ryan.  But, I'm sure that if I keep at it I'll be belting out showtunes in no time at all.

But, moderate running success aside, I need a goal. On the one hand, I'm pretty certain that if I try to jump back into marathon training I'll hurt myself again.  On the other, I could probably train pretty successfully for 5K races with moderate but consistent mileage.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure what to do or where to take my running future. (Or, should it be a biking future?)

Hanging w/ my running buddy, Ryan
God I love "running"

While I know that I don't need to figure this all now, I'm a planner, so yes I do thank you very much. In all seriousness, I don't really need to figure it out for a few weeks, but it would be good to know if I should start looking at marathons again or if I should buy a pair of track cleats. I suppose if I go with the latter, I'll fit RIGHT in with all of the cross country boys and their sophomoric jokes!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I'm Running Again!

A lot of runners get really worked up about the wording of running. I learned long ago that the term "jogging" is a big no-no and that I should never call one of my races "slow". I could totally see where people are coming from but never shared the same passion for the nuances of verbiage.  So, it is with a slight wince at the risk of backlash that I say.... Well, I guess I'm SORT OF running again.

I've been pretty down in the dumps the last few months and as a result let one too many workouts slip away and one (five.... okay maybe ten) too many pounds pack on. The excuses aren't as important as to what snapped me out of the funk: a podcast.

Two Gomers Run for Their Lives is a running podcast about two normal mid pack guys who battle with the 20 pounds we all need to lose, watching a bit too much TV, and are generally as clueless as the next guy about how to go about running. (THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!)  Lately, the podcasts had been less about running and more about life stuff and TV.  Ultimately a listener called one of them out that he had totally stopped even caring about running and how he had a laundry list of excuses on why he wasn't active. Needless to say, the message was received and he immediately went out an ran 6 miles. Later the day I listened to it, I ran 5mi in the already miserable AZ heat - the first time I had ran (had run? did I mention the thing about the nuance of verbiage?) in over 6-8 weeks.

Oh god I was sore afterwards.  You would have thought I had just ran a marathon with a sumo wrestler on my back. Turns out it was just a food baby in my muffin top.  I honestly have been less sore after marathons.  It was humbling.  But, the speed was essentially still there (~7:30 pace), just not the endurance. I've since made sure to run 3x a week, 4-5 miles at a shot. So, not anything like I was before, but still running.

Completely unrelated kid pic from the baseball game on Saturday
Turns out I haven't been taking a lot of running pics

My knee still hurts like always, both during and after running.  If I push too hard it hurts more and I'll wince as I stand up from the toilet my desk chair.  If I go it easy with friends, it barely hurts at all. I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that marathons are likely something that I used to do vs something that I am training for.

The plan now is to slowly build up my mileage to see if my knee explodes or if it will tolerate a few more miles.....and then explode.

Looking back, I'm not sure if it was the podcast that got me back into running again or if it was the gut-check that I was so terribly out of shape.  The bigger question now is if I am "a marathoner" or if I am simply "someone who used to run marathons"?  I guess maybe all of us get caught up in our own nuances of verbiage after all!

Another unrelated kid pic - he can ride is bike without help!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Checking in

Long ago, in a land far far away, this blog wasn't a running blog.  Oh, it might have had running in the title and it might have mentioned that I went running in the past few days, but very little of it was about running. For one reason or another I haven't been running a ton lately.  BUT, that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy!

I took the breakup from Laura pretty hard.  And, while it has been nearly three months, I'm still employing the "keep very busy" strategy to keep my mind occupied. A man with a cold stone heart, I am not. I think staying busy has saved the internet from way too many emo posts. Think of it as a public service!  You're welcome, world.

To that end, here is a peek into what I've been up to:

The thing that I've replaced running with the most has been hiking. It is somewhat easier on my knee as long as I am taking it slow - which I rarely do, obviously. Before catching a terrible respiratory virus, I was going on a long hike about once a week and was trying to hike after work at least once as well.  I've been trying to get around the valley (the Phoenix metro area) to see what is to be seen, but I'll admit there are a few areas that I have been going back to more and more.  Camelback mountain being one of them:

Almost down from Camelback mountain looking over fancy Scottsdale

I have a few work friends who are into hiking which is really fun.  Normally, I'll go hiking on my own and listen to podcasts, but it is super fun to get together with someone and talk about anything and everything (and rarely work). PLUS, I've heard that hiking promotes a good butt.  Win/Win. Again, you're welcome world.

Looking out over the javelina jundred course (I think)

Selfie in the WINDY pass!

Burning things!!!
I've posted about this before, but as of late, my son and I have taken to having lots of bonfires.  Essentially, any weekend night that we're together we light something on fire in the driveway,  I have a beer and he eats Smores.  I've found that it is a great way to unwind after a long day and is a great way to hang out with the neighbors.  (I'm sure having 5 homebrew beers on tap in my garage doesn't hurt either.)

Coloring in front of the fire - possibly my most favorite pic in months

Unfortunately though, the bonfire days are likely coming to an end pretty soon.  The summer heat is on its way and no one wants to sit in front of a fire when it is 95 degrees at 9pm.  Of course, that likely won't stop me from trying it at least one or two times before I give in.

Fire and wine. As if I needed anything else (I don't)

Another gorgeous sunset in Arizona

Ostrich Festival
I feel like every town has their little 'quirk'.  Chandler Arizona's?  The Ostrich festival.  This is an entire weekend dedicated to massive birds with the brains the size of walnuts.  Are there ostriches in Arizona?  WHO KNOWS!  But we're for damn sure going to celebrate them. There are equal parts: carnie rides, people showing too much skin with too many tattoos, carnies showing too much skin and having too many tattoos, and fried food.  Basically people watching heaven.  I've been meaning to go for years and a few weeks ago my son and I finally got there. Believe me.  It did not disappoint.  Of course, there were rides:

Going though the obstacle course type thing

Basically terrified of the roller coaster.  
Chip off the old block...the boring fam doesn't "do" roller coasters

BUT, the main attraction were the ostrich races.  That is when 3 less than 140 pound guys (they pointed that out...strange) grab a massive bird by the neck and hold on for dear life. Believe me, it was just as entertaining as you would have expected it to be..... and my son LOVED IT.

"Oh yay, riding an ostrich seems like a GREAT idea"

"I regret everything"

"Maybe if I get up SUPER fast no one will know I fell"

LOL, but then he was about ran over...which was great

Meep meep

San Diego
Finally, San Diego.  A few weeks ago, for an entire week, I was in San Diego for work.  Only a 5.5 hour drive from my house, San Diego is probably one of my favorite places in the US.  It is beachy, but not super laid back and annoying, there are still lots of fun non-beach things to do, and it is still cheap enough to be able to have fun without feeling like I need to sell a kidney to afford it (looking at you, Hawaii...).

The training was fun, dare I say life changing, but the real fun was the weekend after.  I sipped on local coffee, had a few nice dinners, and went to more than a few breweries.

Sunset in La Jolla

While the training had a bunch of executives (which I guess I am one of now?), lest I get too full of myself....well, I'll let the picture speak for itself:

#1 gangsta.  Do people still say gangsta?

One thing that I completely forgot about was is at the beach.  If you ever need motivation to get into shape, go to the beach. Nothing like a few thousand 22 year olds to make you question that second scone at the coffee place (I had the second scone, obviously).

Since I was alone, I went off of my normal beaten path on this trip.  I hiked in Torrey Pines park, I went to neighborhoods that I had never been to, I ran along new beaches, I stumbled upon nude beaches..... Yes, you heard me right... a nude beach.

So, as it turns out, if you're hiking Torrey Pines, get down to the ocean, and start running south along the beach, you'll run into the nation's largest nude beach - Black's Beach. When I mentioned this to a runner buddy, Chris, that I met up with while there he straight faced said "oh yeah, Black Beach.  Lots of naked dudes on that one".   Indeed he was right. As I was running along, I felt less and less like I was running along the beach and more and more like I was in a men's locker room.  The kind of men's locker room where the old guys let it hang fancy free. For the record, naked women count: 1 (she was like 65 years old) naked man count: 3945848394857.




Torrey Pines hiking

Of course, those are just the highlights of the last month or so.  If you follow my daily instagram posts, you'll find that I'm up to all SORTS of boring stuff!  Hopefully my next blog post isn't a month from now. But, if it is, reset assured that I'll be keeping myself busy (mostly by burning stuff in the firepit)!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Three Things Thurs: Hiking, Target, and San Diego

While I'm eyeballs deep at work, I'm finding myself with lots of free time at night.  You know what that means....more blog posts!  My loss is your gain!!

This weekend I went hiking again BUT I DIDN'T GET LOST!!  Hooray! Thanks for everyone's kind thoughts on my previous post (calling me an idiot mostly, I assume). Fortunately, the massive blisters on my feet are finally mostly healed and the sunburn on my nose is all gone.

This time I went with a friend and coworker on an easy 7.5mi out and back course. The thing I love about hiking with him is that we didn't talk about work until about mile 6.  The downside? EVERYTHING is in bloom in Arizona.  Flowers and trees are all shooting off sprouts made more terrible by El Nino which means I am in a constant state of sniffling due to all of the pollen.  It took me a few years to get used to the Arizona seasons - that is, we're basically 3 months ahead of everyone else...where instead of winter we just have 9 months of spring and fall with 3 months of the 5th ring of hell.


My son and I are still having as much fun as ever. Ask the people at Target, they'll tell you. He is starting to put together letter sounds into full words. Seeing his brain click is basically the best thing in the world.


Finally, I'm headed to San Diego next week.  I've said before that San Diego is probably my favorite place to go in the continental US. I love the ocean, the laid back culture, and the beer selection is pretty top notch.  To say that I am excited would be like saying unicorns are "kinda cool".  I'm in pretty hard core leadership training all week long, but the weekend after I'm going to stay and see the sights solo. Obviously, by "sights" I mean "breweries and beaches".  If they offered showers at the breweries, I wouldn't even need to rent an AirBnB!

In all seriousness, I'm really looking forward to running along the boardwalk. I really want to get back to running vs all of this getting lost other stuff - no better place than along the beach!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lost in the Superstition Mountains...Literally

Since hurting my knee and the surgery not really going all that well, I've been searching for something else to keep me busy.  Thankfully, work has been oppressively busy which has been a nice diversion on multiple fronts.  But, when I'm not doing that, I've been trying really hard to get into solo hiking.  

I love the outdoors and love working out, but for some reason I can't seem to get past the fact that hiking is basically....walking.  Don't get me wrong, I love to do it with other people (it is one of my most favorite things) and it kicks my butt almost every time - literally. But, for some reason whenever I do it I feel like I should be doing more.  I think that is probably why I try to jog as much as I can while I am out there.  Little did I know, I was about to bite of WELL more than I could chew.

Last weekend, Crap, two weekends ago.... work has been BUSY.... I had the weekend to myself. I had the normal mid 30s bachelor things on the agenda.... Laundry, cleaning, Netflix (no chill :(, and spending as much time outside as possible.  As such, I spent a bit of time earlier in the week planning out a longer hike in the Superstition Mountains.  I was going to hike in the Superstitions for 12 miles - I figured it would take me around 3 hours as long as I was able to do some running.  That seems to be my normal average speed.

Looking out over the Lost Dutchman valley

So, first thing on Sunday morning, I got up at dawn and headed to the trailhead that also doubles as the start of the Lost Dutchman Marathon.  (Which, I didn't know until I got there!)  It is situated among all of the saguaro cactus and rising mountains so it is no wonder that the Lost Dutchman is regularly ranked as one of the most pretty. While I've never run the full, I have very fond memories of it from years past.

Cactus for DAYZZZ

The trail was rated "extreme" Or "moderate" or "idiots only" or something like that.  Either way, this isn't a trail that you'd see that one old guy wearing jeans and a 20z bottle of Aquafina. You know the type, he is the one who is wearing a gold watch instead of a Garmin.  It was mostly single track, mostly rugged, and super remote. In fact, as I set off, I headed in the opposite direction as everyone else.  Hmmmm

Starting up - spring has sprung! Lots of desert green

The first few miles were up and over the front range of mountains and then down into a gorgeous valley.  There were boulders as far as the eye could see.  In fact, the park that I was hiking in has miles and miles of trails.  Something that I would all too soon become familiar with.

Shade in the valley, sun up above

Single track in the foliage

The thing that I was looking forward to the most with hiking in the Superstitions was how remote they were promised to be. The last handful of weeks have been pretty tough on me and I was hoping to get a chance to clear my head.  Let me tell you - they WERE remote!  I saw 4 people for the first 6 miles - all of them with very large packs.  I was feeling a little bit of pack-envy, but I kept reminding myself that it isn't the size of the pack that matters, it is how you use it (something I am well versed in doing).

The trail isn't well traveled at all. In fact, I was using Cairn (those stacked rocks) to navigate more often than I would like.  The trail would seemingly dead end in a washed out riverbed and I would have to hike up and down it until I found the stacked rocks and eventually made it back onto the trail. It was honestly exciting at first, but after a while it was a bit nerve wracking.

Looking back at how far I had come!

Weavers needle.  Looks more like Weaver's nob to me....

About 2/3 of the way through my 12 mile hike, I was starting to get tired.  It was starting to get hot and I had things that I needed to do.  I actually thought to myself "Boy, I really wish that this hike was 10 miles instead of 12.  I'm ready to get home."  LOLZ, oh Adam... you're so silly.

Part of the issue was that very little of the hike was runable.  Each time there was a flat spot or a spot that was remotely clear, I'd come upon a really rocky technical part.  The only exception to that was the last 2-3 miles of the 12 mile hike.  By that point I was tired enough that I just decided to speed hike.  Overall, I was averaging about 3 miles / hour, so I was pushing the pace pretty hard. (Or, at least hard enough.)

All smiles in the shade!

Not so much smiles 10 miles in

So, about 4 hours in, I was starting to come upon more and more people.  Great! I thought aloud to myself. That means that I'm on the right track and nearly complete.  I had even started to make a mental todo list of things to do when I got home.  Before I knew it, I rounded the bend and found myself in a parking lot!!  I stopped my garmin and looked around for my car.  My car wasn't there.  MY CAR WASN'T THERE.  The reason? Because I was at the wrong trailhead.

In the picture below, I was at the red point the lovely park ranger is pointing at.  I THOUGHT that I was at the furthest southern point marked by a red square at the bottom of the map.  I made a terrible wrong turn. The distance between the two trailheads? 12 miles via trail, 40 miles via car.  Shit.


After a slight moment to be frustrated at myself (mostly, just like kicking dirt once or twice), I started to weigh my options.
-- Option 1: Hike back to the point of my wrong turn (I missed a sign) and get back on trail.  12 more miles of hiking. 4.5hrs or so.  Pros: Free.  Cons: I might die.
-- Option 2: Call a taxi to take me the 40 miles by car from one trailhead to the other.  Pros: Minimal risk of dying. Cons: Expensive.

Obviously I choose the free option.

I had filled up my 3L camelback all the way up before I left and it was probably 1/2 full or maybe a little under when I realized my mistake.  (Ironically, I had thought to myself around mile 11 "wow Adam, you really need to not pack so much water next time. This is heavy!")  So, I had enough water..sort of.  The park ranger didn't have enough to spare anyway.  Thankfully, he did have some sunscreen that I was able to put on.  My hike was supposed to only be 3 hrs in my head, so I didn't think to put any on.  (Lesson learned...)

With that, not wanting to dilly dally too much, I left a message w/ Laura that I was lost but okay and was off.  It was only going to get hotter the longer I waited.  The thought that my hike was now going to be 24 miles weighed HEAVY on my mind.

The sign I missed.  BLAH - it isn't even all that easy to miss!!

The first few miles were flat and totally runable.  So, in spite of wanting to conserve water and not tire out my legs, I ran.  I should really be keeping a tally of dumb things that I did before/during this hike.  Add one to the list - running.  My thought process at the time was that if I could get a few fast miles under my belt, I could walk a bit slower and still finish before it got too late.

Smiling much much less

The trail that I had wanted to hike made a big loop around the Weavers Needle rock.  In hindsight I should have known that I was off course when I started to go away from it.  Another lesson learned.

After about 18 total miles I started to conserve water.  I could feel that I was starting to run low both by the weight and by how warm it was starting to get.  I'd take little sips every few minutes vs big gulps.  This is when I started to get pretty worried.  I hadn't seen any other hikers in 3-4 miles.  I knew that I was on the right trail, but still worried that I had much further to go.  By this point my legs were burning, my fingers were starting to swell, and I was just flat out tired.  I'm not one for dramatics, but I was starting to have the sort of thoughts that you have when there is super bad turbulence on an airplane.  No one likes to have those kinds of thoughts.  "Oh god, I hope someone clears my internet history."

Weavers Needle (Nob) From the back side

(I actually don't remember this pic... oops)

It was almost frustrating how gorgeous it was based on how miserable I was!
Let me count how many clouds there were... one...opps, nope - zero

The rest of the hike was simply an exercise in my own stubbornness. I wouldn't let myself slow down and would only stop to change podcasts or take pictures.  I did end up running out of water with about 2 miles to go.  But, by that point, I had started to pick up lots of touristy hikers which put me at ease. If worst came to worst, I could ask one of them for some water and a piggypack ride to my car.

Finally, 9 hours and 24 miles after I started, I was finished.  When I got home I was down 4.5 pounds.  I drank 150oz of water over the course of a few hours.  Crazy!

It is interesting what a real struggle will teach you about yourself.  I found that in spite of immense challenges, I'm able to rationally power though.  That, and I need to do a freaking better job of planning my hikes! But, that said, I'll be back. It really was one of the most gorgeous hikes I have done in Arizona, possibly ever. Well, that and I never really learn my lesson.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Turning the page

I've been in a strange place lately.  I feel like I'm in that weird state between wondering if I'm in a dream or wondering if I'm actually awake.  Specifically, for a number of reasons, I can't decide if the next phase of my life is going to be another chapter in a book that I've already started or if I'm going to start a completely new book.  What lies beyond the next page?

For 2016, I gave myself a number of very cliche new years resolutions.  Read more, get a handle on my budget, twerk less, exercise more, drink less, bike more, be more present, love and be more caring, lift weights.......seriously, I'm not sure if they could have been any more "resolution 101". But, they all come from a good place of improvement and forward momentum.  All of that said, even though I'm working a plan for almost every aspect of my life, I'm having a hard time committing to what my new "fitness" life looks like.

Over the years, I've had a lot of good times with running.  Some of my fondest memories I associate with spending time on the road.  It was something that I was good at and something that allowed me to clear my head. It sounds silly to say given all the alternatives (biking, swimming, lifting weights), but I miss running more than I can explain.

As such, last weekend I decided to throw caution to the wind, hire a babysitter, and go on an extended trail run. I've recently gone on 4 mile hikes that included 2 miles of running, but this was going to be much more than that.  It would include more than 8 miles of running with thousands of feet of elevation.  Not exactly what the surgeon ordered, but at the same time not exactly what he forbid, either.

Pretty sure I see the Oregon Trail in the distance

Last weekend was the first time that I've run over 4 miles in nearly a year. It was an amazing feeling to feel the ground beneath my feet and the air rushing into my lungs.  It was not an amazing feeling when I started to walk after only 2 miles because the first 2 miles are all all uphill.  Marathon shape I am not, but I could see the faint glimmer of running glory of yesteryear.

As I ran along the trail, it became less and less "friendly" and more and more technical.  The first few miles were mostly mountain bike friendly, the next few were easily double wide runable, where as the last mile or so was all single track. The variation in elevation and surface I THINK afforded less pounding on my knee - but it still throbbed when I got home.

Not too shabby for trails

Today on the other hand I ran 6 miles on the roads averaging around 7:25/mi.  It was much more non-stopped with breaks only coming for stoplights or road crossings. (To be clear, at the turn around, I huffed and puffed while getting a drink for 60 seconds.) It was a TOUGH run, much tougher than I would like to admit it to being.  My knee is still sore, but no worse than the 10 mile run the week before, so I think that a long-ish run on the weekend will be the norm going forward.

I wore a long sleeved shirt and therefore ROASTED in the Phoenix heat

Is this post entirely about running?  Eh, probably not. Do I miss it more than I can ever imagine? You betcha.  The nice thing about my fitness journey is that it is still evolving. I have lots of blank pages to finish my story - all I need to do is start writing!