Posted: October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

And that just about says it all…..

The World of Special Olympics

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

View original post 260 more words

A detailed training log for the week is here.

It’s a crazy time in our household right now. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for a run, but it always seems that a stretch out on the road is just the right trick to mentally relax and escape from some of life’s daily nonsense.

My wife started a new job this week; congratulations baby! I’m so proud of you.  Our kids are in the final trimester of the year, looking forward to their 3+ months of vacation starting the third week of November. But not so fast! Their weekend was interrupted on Saturday by the Cambridge English language evaluations. Students who pass this testing throughout their primary and high school careers will receive international certification of their diplomas that enables them to continue their educations in English speaking countries without having to repeat any course work. We are also in the process of trying to obtain financing to purchase a new home, in a foreign country.

On other entertaining fronts, the New York Yankees were promptly and decisively eliminated from the MLB playoffs, the Presidential debates kicked it up a notch and Lance Armstrong was all but asked to join Julian Assange in hiding within an Ecuadorian embassy.

This week I ran three times, an easy paced 5k plus hill sprints, a 5k time trail which I finished in 26:55, and a 7.3 mile easy pace run today, which I broke into segments based on the location of the first few aid stations in the ING Miami Half Marathon.

There are fewer than 100 days remaining before Miami, so my focus will change dramatically after November 11’s City Tour 10k.

If all proceeds according to plan I will have four runs in the coming week, in a 3, 4, 3, 6 miles format.

There were quite a few events this weekend but the race that caught my attention was the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational where Sara Baxter destroyed the previous course record. You can catch the entire 16 minutes of action here.

 

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Pacific coast of Costa Rica: 85 degrees, 50% humidity at race start

ECORUN 10K – Goals, Assumptions, Reality

Going into this race I set my goals on a sliding scale of reality and wishful thinking.  Finishing in under 1 hour was my most unrealistic and ambitious goal. Running a negative split was the more realistic goal, because I could ease into the race, completing the first 5k in whatever time I needed to, in order to feel like I still had something to offer during the second half. I finished the race in 1:08:10, my MOTOACTV watch clocking the distance as 6.37 miles, and also failed to run a negative split.  Pretty disheartening, no?

Well, yes and no. But mostly yes. Let me explain. The ECORUN’s website and registration page still listed all of the details from last year’s race, indicating that the race was on 100% asphalt. So it was quite the surprise when around 2.5 miles into the race we were steered out and onto sands of of the beach at Playa Herradura.  The giant sand trap lasted about three quarters of a mile and sapped a lot of energy from my legs as I tried to maintain a reasonable pace. The worst part was trying to get off the beach because it was a fairly narrow route leading back onto the roads and previous runners had turned the sand over so much it literally felt like it was sucking you back in as you attempted to run.  Back on the road finally, I relaxed and felt fairly comfortable as my watch ticked off the completion of the first 5k a few minutes later.

Having run a fairly decent 5k time (for me) and considering the terrain and heat, I decided I had the opportunity still to shoot for a negative split, so I gradually tried to pick up the pace, seeking to catch a runner 100 yards or so ahead of me.  Things were going well for a brief time, and then we hit the golf course. No shade whatsoever, completely exposed to the elements. And completely uphill. The timing could not have been worse. Right where I was planning to test my meddle by increasing my effort on the flats I was greeted with 1.5 miles of pure climbing and winding. The combination of the sun, slightly faster pace and hills proved too much and I was forced to walk several times during this stretch in order to avoid blowing up. This was incredibly demotivating because instead taking on a time trial challenge head on, I was now facing doubts about finishing without embarrassing myself.

30 minutes of elevation gain in an 85 degree cloudless sky knocked me off of my game plan

Full race data from the MOTOACTV watch is here.

SPLITS

Mile       Elapsed

10:36     10:36

9:56        20:32

10:14      30:46 

11:02      41:48

12:33      54:21

10:17     1:04:38

3:28       1:08:10

As you can see, after 4 miles I knew that breaking the 1 hour barrier would be next to impossible unless I could miraculously manage 2 sub 9 minute miles, something I have not accomplished in training yet.  But I was still fairly positive about the possibility of a slight negative split. Look at that mile #5 disaster: 12:33.  As ugly as ugly can be. At that point the run literally became about survival.  I bounced back decently with a 10:17 in mile #6, and the final .37 miles (according to my watch, anyway) were at 9:19.

CONCLUSIONS

Do not rely on website information or previous race data when planning or visualizing your race plan. If you have the opportunity nothing beats first hand knowledge of the course.

If I’m too shy to make a phone call or ask detailed questions during packet pick-up I don’t deserve to run a good race.

Goals are great, but don’t let unpleasant surprises break you down mentally. Be stronger than the elements, if not faster.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. I was secretly sizing a few people up during the pre-race routine and I don’t even know why. Maybe I didn’t like their shoes, gear or loud personalities. Maybe it was my way of getting psyched up for a competition. I don’t know. But it was a pointless waste of mental energy and is a negative vibe to avoid. Plus, all three of them finished ahead of me. Time for some humble pie.

Every run will not be a great run.  I ran 13.1 miles two weeks ago and was overconfident today, believing that the distance was no longer an issue and my only concern was how fast I could finish.  Some runs are going to throw the kitchen sink at you and if you don’t adjust quickly and decisively, you may not like what happens next.

My experience as a runner and my fitness level still do not allow a great difference between my relaxed pace and a ‘race’ pace.  There is still so much work to do in training to address both my aerobic endurance and my race pace stamina.

Sharing a get-away weekend with my wife, running a 10k together, regardless of finishing times, is a great bonding experience and if you aren’t an elite or pro runner don’t ever let yourself get caught up in a disappointing result so much that you lose perspective of how great things really are.

Me and Nery Brenes, Costa Rican Olympic sprinter and 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championship gold medal winner, 400 meters.

My medal is a turtle: very appropriate considering my finish time.

A great way to wash away the post race blues.

The marina at Los Sueños Ocean & Golf Resort by Marriott

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Every once in a while during your training it’s recommended that you back off of the mileage and or intensity in order for your body to adapt to the recent stresses and recover properly before pushing it to new limits again.  Somewhat more by necessity than by design, I am taking this week to do that.

Two weeks ago I doubled my longest run ever and in a single run hit my long term goal of 13.1 miles.  There were a few walk breaks mixed in here and there, but mentally I was so relieved to get that distance out of the way.  Instead of thinking ahead, planning and being smart, which would have required me to reduce the mileage the following week so as not to blow myself up, I replaced the mileage with several days of interval training.

In retrospect, I believe it would have been ok if my intervals were limited to mile repeats and 800s, but the 400s were a bad idea.  My technique, experience and fitness level right now don’t call for 400s, and the increased impact from those almost out of control sprints really took its toll on my body. While nothing felt injured, my shins and knees were definitely a bit tender and I took two consecutive days off to make sure everything was working properly.

Yesterday was my first run of the week, an easy pace for 4 miles, to shake out any cobwebs and get back into the swing of things.  During the first mile I could feel a strange, dull ache on the outside of my left foot’s arch. Nothing debilitating mind you, but a new and unwelcome visitor to the house of pain.  All day yesterday after the run, while walking around the house and grocery store the pain remained.  My foot is not sensitive to the touch. I can rub and squeeze it, as well as stretch my foot and calf without duplicating the sensation. But the act of walking or running immediately brings it back.

So strange and untimely.

Thursday I am going to run an easy 5k.  If I add any surges or not will completely depend on my foot.

Saturday is the ECORUN 10k which I am running with my wife.  That may turn into a survival course instead of a fitness test.

For one reason or another this week’s training  is significantly reduced in mileage and effort.  Let’s see how it plays out.

 

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photo credit

 

A detailed training log for the week is here.

Like many people who become involved in a new activity I love to research and read all the information I can get my hands on. Where I often fall short, however, is in translating my enthusiasm and new found knowledge into action.

From too many different sources to list, all respectable, qualified and accomplished in both endurance training theory and real world results, I have learned that my easy day runs must be just that: easy, slower than normal pace, and within roughly a 60% to 70% window of my maximum heart rate.

Surprise. Surprise. After almost 3 months of training, I really have not been applying this to my own running.  I made a concerted effort last week to make this happen and as a result I ran my first half marathon distance.

While you really don’t need to hear it from me, her goes: most people run too hard on their easy days and too easily on their hard days.

Make your training count! Have a goal and purpose for every run that you do, and recite that goal aloud before taking your first step.

Reward your efforts with quality food and your body will thank you.

 

Red Meat or Tofu? It Probably Doesn’t Matter

In a classic example of the fighting the wrong battle while the war rages on elsewhere, many of us are often caught up in the arguments for and against eating meat, vegetarianism, vegan lifestyles or even the fruitarian viewpoint. While we slug it out with one another in the trenches, belittling each other’s choices and creating an ever greater divide among us as consumers who like to pretend we are making more informed decisions, the government, politicians and agribusiness giants are busy raking in millions, laughing all the way to the bank, and potentially poisoning all of us, while forever altering the genetic code in ways that evolution never intended.

Genetically Modified Organisms and Foods (GMOs GMFs) are escalating at an alarming rate, entering our food production and distribution chain without the slightest pretense of legitimate testing or oversight. Despite corporate and state claims to the contrary, just recall any memories you may have about the tobacco industry’s scientists and attorneys when you weigh idea of fair, balanced or objective scrutiny and safeguards in relation to this industry.

Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives is a great primer on the topic if you’re interested. The film is a production of the Institute for Responsible Technology and can be viewed online. However, you can also order a dvd copy which brings additional bonus footage and four additional mini presentations on related topics.

An excerpt from the film’s website:

When the US government ignored repeated warnings by its own scientists and allowed untested genetically modified (GM) crops into our environment and food supply, it was a gamble of unprecedented proportions. The health of all living things and all future generations were put at risk by an infant technology.

After two decades, physicians and scientists have uncovered a grave trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock, and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stop eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improves.

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially among children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future.

 

My latest running gear purchase arrived on Friday: a pair of Skechers GOrun. Like many, I was very skeptical of purchasing a ‘serious’ running shoe from Skechers, a brand more commonly associated with fashion, casual and lifestyle shoes.  After having read several very positive reviews from online resources that I respect, however, I decided that the GOruns would make the short list of potential future purchases.

I was debating between the GOruns and a pair of either Brooks PureFlow or PureConnects. My final decision was based on the following two factors: I have read reviews of the Brooks from online retailers, running magazines and retailers like Running Warehouse and Amazon. The reviews I read regarding the Skechers GOruns included several semi-pro runners, coaches, and enthusiasts so I felt I was getting slightly more personal feedback.  Reason number two, to be completely honest, was simply price. I have already invested a lot of money (for me) in this experiment and an opportunity presented itself where I could purchase the Skechers for about $30 less than either Brooks model. Done deal.

Maybe you’re wondering why I needed or wanted another pair of shoes if I’ve already made a few purchases. Especially if I want to save a few dollars, the easiest way is just not buy anything!  True enough.  I rotate several pair of shoes during my weekly runs, which include the Reebok RealFlex, Inov-8 Road-X 233, and Inov-8 F-Lite 195.  Each pair has its pros and cons, the Reeboks serve as an everyday casual shoe, as well as pulling duty on many of my longer runs where their extra cushioning is appreciated.  Having said that, I can at times feel a little lost in the Reeboks, my foot moving a little too much as the foam compresses and rebounds. The Inov-8 F-Lite 195 are my most extreme minimalist shoe, giving me immediate, unbiased, and unforgiving feedback.  I use them now mostly for my shorter, recovery runs, 5ks and also for cross training. My favorite shoe of the bunch is the Road-X 233. Minimal but not extreme. Flexible but with a little stiffness in the sole that I appreciate when pushing the pace or trying for a few extra miles.

The GOruns are just enough of what you need without anything more.  They are the perfect shoe to slide into place between the softer ride of the Reeboks and the precision handling of the Road-X 233s.  The uppers are incredibly light and with a roomy toe box the shoe almost feels like you are wearing a sock with a sole underneath.  The sole of the shoe is slightly curved, with a cut away or ‘missing’ heel.  When you stand tall, erect and with your feet close together you can actually fall backwards with the slightest lean since there is no heel to stop the momentum. This design also really seems to guide your foot into a mid-foot or forefoot landing, compared to other minimalist shoes that are still all too easy to heel strike in, if you are determined to do so.

Today was my first run in the blue and grey pebble crushers and I can say without reservation; all systems go.  I ran a 1 mile warmup, followed by 2 x 800 @ half marathon pace with 800 recoveries, 2 x 400 @ 10k pace with 400 recoveries, and wrapped things up with the run home of approximately three quarters of a mile.  No hot spots, no friction, just nice, care-free propulsion and landing without anything interfering with my perception of the foot strike and heel pull.

If you’re in the market for a light weight trainer or racing shoe, give the GOruns a spin. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

P.S. I purchase many running shoes one half size larger than normal to allow my toes to spread out, as well as accommodate any swelling that might take place during long, hard runs. The toe box on the Skechers is generous enough that I did not find this necessary and have a great fit with my normal shoe size.

 

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