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2011 Racing Report – Coming Soon

December 20, 2011

The 2011 racing year is coming to a close. Personally, It was a year of races from 1 to 100 miles.  I had some successes and new experiences along the way, and I would love to share them with you! So, in the next few days I will be positing “Part 1: the 1 Mile Race”, to this blog.

In the meantime feel free to check out the blog in its current format. And feel free to subscribe.

Thanks!

-Jim

DoubleDogDare and the Leadville 100

May 6, 2011

Hello Friends and Family,

Please support me and the Angelman Foundation during my 100 mile Ultramarathon!

I am taking on the Leadville 100 on August 20, 2011. You can support me and the fight to cure Angelman Syndrome by donating through their site, or taking on my Double Dog Dare Challenge!

Please contact me with any questions, and I look forward to taking on the Challenge :)

http://www.angelman.org/DoubleDogDare/

Old Things, Reconnecting, and the Simple, slow beauty of it All

February 25, 2011

Email???? What’s that??!!!

Its no secret that the society and World that we live in is so fast paced. In fact, this very statement is so cliche that I almost want to let out a big groan about it! However, its pertinant to this post.

In 1993 when I was a sophomore at Oswego State University, I remember taking CSC 101. My ongoing assignment over the course of two weeks was to send an “electronic message” to my professor. I had a complex set of directions, with which I was to go down to the computer lab and attempt to send this message to the professor. This took me about 3 tries, and each try lasted over an hour. I remember a strong feeling of struggling to remember what the point of all of this was.

After I had finally successfully sent the message, which was as simple as the word “hi” (or something like that), I still did not quite understand what I had done. I found out that this was a new way of communicating with people. When I found this out, I was incredulous…why wouldn’t I just go up to the person I was trying to speak to and say hello, or just call them on the phone??!!!

Of course, what I had sent was my first email. Unbelievable at the time. Now of course I’ve probably sent 40,000 (literally). Also, I recall my friend Steve once telling me about an office communication that he had had with one of his office mates. This said office mate mentioned to him that he should have ” just emailed the message” instead of getting up and walking over to him. This seemed unbelieveable again! What was going on here? What was happening to the connection between people?

Digital age with running:

It also has struck me recently how the digital age has come to affect our workouts as well, and more specifically our running. More and more I see people running with music. I’ve tried it a few times, and it just hasn’t worked very well. This is really ironic, considering that I’m a classically trained musician. I just have found that my running rhythm gets messed up if I listen to music from an external source like an iPod.

Some of my runners can’t believe that I can go off on a 40 or 50 mile run and not listen to music. When I heard this, I started to think more and more about what was going on? Why was this such a big deal? I began to delve more into what’s up with this notion.

Music and breathing:

One of the most common things that I hear from people who run with music is that they need it because the sound of their breathing really freaks them out. Upon hearing this, I became alarmed because being able to hear your breathing is one of the primary indicators to yourself as to your exertion level, in particular when running a VO2 max type run. It also helps them disconnect a bit from the experience.

While this is alarming to me, in a sense, I get it! There were several times when I would embark on a 6-8 hour run last year (in training for the Oil Creek 100), in which I would be running very slowly up the Westside Highway with my running partner on my back (my Manta 25…see gear review from last year), and I would see the George Washington Bridge looming FAR off in the distance. It was approaching (or I was approaching it…whichever way you want to look at it) at a very slow rate. This would drive me crazy sometimes!

Why is this? Because I am pretty much just as connected to the internet, cell phones, and the need for instant update information almost as much as the next modern person. You mean I won’t be able to check my email for 8 hours??!!! I can’t turn on the tv right now and figure out what is going on, or go do some frivolous spending? I’ve commented that it was good that it took me 28 hours and 8 minutes to run the Oil Creek 100, because I didn’t spend any  money….so I actually saved  a bunch of cash that day!

Old Things and Slowing down:


Its a plain fact that people want instant gratification today. I see it in people, and myself, when we can’t get what we want right away. Running is completely contrary for the most part, to this notion. It’s ancient, it’s simple, it’s primeval, and yes, most importantly, sometimes it takes a long time to do it.

I will now be racing my third Boston Marathon, but it took me 7 marathons to get there. During that time I would train diligently for 6 months, race a marathon that I was sure would get me qualified, only to fall short again and again. After each Marathon attempt, I would somewhat begrudgingly start training anew for the next one.

How frustrating! Or is it? If we take a look at the old things in this World that endure, you may notice a few things. For example, if one stands at the base of the Empire State building and looks up, they may notice that the base is huge…in fact it takes up almost an entire City block. It eventually tapers at the top at its spire. In addition, the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is entirely true and has a lot of meaning. Having been to Rome, I discovered that many of the ancient buildings were constructed 2000 – 3000 years ago. Yes, some of the tops are missing, but many of the foundations remain. Take the Coliseum as an example. The foundations of those structures are rock solid. They’re wide, constructed of hard material, and have stood the test of time.

 

 

 

And so it is often with running, our lives, and the relationships that we’ve built. If we look at those things that endure in our lives, we see that they’ve been built over long periods of time. Our real lasting friendships are our friends who we’ve known for years and years, not our Facebook friends. I had the good fortune to visit Los Angeles last month, and I found myself surrounded by a multitude of good, solid friendships. These were built over a span of 10 years, and are the result of a patient, trust-building process. Similarly, many solid careers are built over a lifetime of practice. And it is also with our running careers as well.

Upon further review, we may also see that these enduring things have a very low tolerance for disruption, “tuning out”, or distractions. In this way, tuning out is the enemy of deep connection. A successful running career cannot be built off of the basis of a quick fix, like many fads and trends out there try to get us to believe. Using technology that helps us learn our pace more is great! However, I’ve seen an ad that proclaims you can get the benefits of running by running in their specially designed shoes, that allow you to increase the benefits by “running less”. Apparently they mimic running in sand. Wow! Really???!!! Yikes! What about getting the aerobic benefits of running for a few hours? In the end, it is our bodies that dictate our current abilities.

It is in the act of running where our modern lives and our ancient yearnings do battle. If you allow yourself to deeply connect with yourself, you can feel the modern part of you kick and scream..”What about your appointments?” “You need to check your Blackeberry!” “What about your email?!!!” “You need to tweet how your feel right now in the middle of your 12 mile run…OMG!!!”

But give it time and practice on the run, and eventually these trivialties will fall away. The pace of running is so often so much slower than life, and this is a good thing…this is natural….this is ancient. In actuality this is who you are.

Building a foundation for success in running can actually be great practice for creating foundations for successful things in life. It may seem to be painstaking, but taking the time to build a solid foundation will allow you to have something to fall back on should setbacks occur, whatever those may be. Its just like a solid foundation with our relationships.Build them in a slow and steady manner and you can have a great things to fall back on should arguments, disagreements, or difficulties arise. It also provides an awesome platform for celebration and joy!

Done properly, this foundation is one that requires you to tune into your own rhythms and slow down.  As a result, you can tune into your life and body, and this pays huge rewards during the process, and in part can become the essence of your total being.

VO2 Max Intervals, Fear, and Courage: Building Excellence from Frightening Places

February 21, 2011

“A thousand fearful images and dire suggestions glance along the mind when it is moody and discontented with itself. Command them to stand and show themselves, and you presently assert the power of reason over imagination.” - Sir Walter Scott 

 

Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.” – Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. (1921-1944)

 

“When you’re going through hell keep going!” – Winston Churchill 

 

Intervals and Fear:

Blogging has made me more attuned to the thoughts I have as I challenge myself with my workouts. Often times these thoughts come to me as I am about to begin a workout. 

Last week I was about to embark upon a VO2 max interval workout. 6 repeats of 800 meters at approximately 2:45 each. This was to be a very challenging workout. As I began my workout, I suddenly felt a pang of uncomfortable anticipation. Striving to understand, the words came out in my head: “I am afraid”. This was very profound to me. I don’t usually express my fear of things, but the truth is in my life that I have been afraid of a lot of things. Experiencing this verbal, albeit in my head, admission of my fear warranted deeper exploration.

 

What is Fear?

What stops us? How is it that somehow in running, as in life, we are sometimes able to break through barriers, and yet other times we are stopped, and consequently frustrated that we weren’t able to achieve our goals?

The first thing to look at is to understand what fear is, and how it plays a role in stopping us:

In my posts about Distance and Effort Perception, I made mention that the limits that we place on ourselves are largely a result of the memories we have of a certain activity or effort level. To achieve something new, we don’t have an experience of it yet, so the only thing we have to draw upon is anything in our memories that we can use to somehow create a context of what this new experience is like.

Sometimes the memories we have are fearful. Some of you whom have read my blog may notice that my last entry was over a month and a half ago! Why is this? Well, quite frankly I was stopped by fear……more specifically, the fear that I wouldn’t write very well, I would use words that were nonsensical or not officially “correct”, or that my blog just wouldn’t stack up to other blogs. This is total honesty…..and this even after many of you mentioned that you enjoy my writing and my blog!!!!! :) I see that this follows a pattern of mine sometimes…do something that’s good or great, then kind of back off due to ……….due to……..due to…..????????

Due to not knowing what is out there in the distance! For example, what if people enjoy my blog even more? Or, consequently, I don’t know how it will be taken by others = criticism I’m not ready for.

So, why am I writing this? The point is that fear can be tackled, beaten, and the experienced transformed, by using courage, into a new realm of excellence and achievement.

How to do this:

The first step, as in engaging in Distance and Effort Perception, is to take things in steps:

1.) Often times, visualization can help. For instance, there is a common take with fear that you should swallow it, forget that its there, and then keep going on. However, in my experience, if one does this, fear just keeps coming back! Its like a sneaky enemy that, if avoided and “forgotten about”, will just wait until its at its strongest to strike. So admit it! Its ok to do so.

2.) Admitting that your fearful, now brings that very frightening thing out into the forefront. Honesty is key here! Its like two armies of old engaging each other on a wide open battlefield, no where to run, no where to hide. This goes for you, but it also pertains to the Fear as well. Now it has been exposed!!

3.) Once it has been exposed, now you can take it apart piece by piece for what it really is. Your weapons here will be:

(1) honesty with yourself, and, very crucially,

(2) knowing the steps you can take to start breaking down the Frightful thing, ultimately to defeat it. The good news is that your main ally is the awareness that it is YOUR fear, so ultimately it can be controlled by YOU.

Example:

Going back to my original fearful act in the beginning of this post, I was faced with the daunting (at the time) prospect of 6 x 800 meters in 2:45. Using the steps above, I:

1.) Admitted my fear. 

2.) Was honest with myself…why was I afraid? I’ve done this before? Was it because I was tired? What else is going on in my head? Answering these questions now had taken away some of the power from the Fear.

3.) I broke the workout down into steps. Instead of thinking of 6 repeats, I would do two sets of 3 repeats. I would only think about each set when I was doing them, and not how overwhelming 6 of them would be to do, when I was in the middle of my 2nd repeat.

The Result:

I almost quit after the 4th one, due to slippery conditions, and the overall difficulty of the workout. But I told myself I would do “one more”. And then, after I finished that one (the 5th interval), guess what? I found myself on the starting line for my 6th and last interval, which I finished.

The Point of it All and a New Context:

The great lesson and result about this is that on the “battlefield” between me and my Fear of doing 6 repeats, I had vanquished the enemy, and all that was left on the field was me and a blank space. There was no fear, and I was free to create whatever I would like in that space. For me, I created a new context of Excellence for doing VO2 max interval repeats.

The Conclusion:

This method can also relate to other areas of life: relationships, work, and also other types of athletics pursuits. The key is to not run from Fear, but have courage, recognize that it is an imposed memory of something, onto what you are trying to accomplish. Then, be honest with yourself, and pick away at your Fear by using a series of steps, which you can create for yourself.

I hope this was found to be useful! I look forward to continuing to work in my new context of blogging and sharing my ideas with you :).

 

 

 

“End of 2010″ Shoe Review

December 27, 2010

“Your gear must not fail you”.

This was my mantra as I searched for the right shoes and apparel for the Oil Creek 100 ultramarathon. I know it sounds uber-dramatic, but I basically had to focus on the following scenario:

Its mile 85. I’m rounding a bend in the course and all of a sudden I’m faced with an open plain. The temperature suddenly drops 20 degrees, the wind is now in my face, and it starts to rain. The open plain I’m about to run across extends for 5 miles.

Again, I know uber-dramatic, but I actually almost faced this “perfect storm” type of situation at the Oil Creek 100, so I was glad I had tested my gear like a crazy man :).

This situation above also describes what the Leadville 100 may be like. In a word, I had to mercilessly critique my gear, because the right gear was going to make a difference between getting through or DNF’ing. If it didn’t pass the test in practice runs, out in the garbage/donated it went. Also, having shoes and gear that can stand up to harsh environments like this, means that they will do the job for runs of any distance.

As a result, I am happy to have found shoes that successfully got me through the OIl Creek 100. Following is a review of shoes that can be found at Urban Athletics stores in Manhattan. They extend beyond the trails and describe road shoes as well. Enjoy!

New Balance 101:

I used the New Balance 100 (the predesesor to the 101) during the race.

Although its a racing flat, this line of trail racing shoes from New Balance are tough as nails! It took whatever abuse the technical trail threw its way, plus the torsion effects of me falling on my face :0, and held up: Sticks, rocks, roots, uneven forces…plus I didn’t blister at all!

The 101′s (shown above) are roomier, which is a nice update. The rock plate underneath does a great protection job, and the padded toe is a God-send when rocks and roots try to make their aquaintance with your toes.

For a trail race that has some paved sections, these are it, hands down.

Adidas Rocket:

This is the penultimate road racing shoe, with very classic styling. The fit around the heel is super comfortable, and there is no heel slip at all as a result. The wrap around the foot is super comfortable as well, and it seems to conform to the foot better than many other racers out there. The semi-rigidity in the midfoot provides a lot of response.

Plus, these shoes are super tough! For fun I took it out on a 40 mile road / trail run, and not one tear or structural weakness showed up.

A great road racing shoe for many distances!

Asics Nimbus 12:

I wore these for a month after the Oil Creek 100, as I needed a lot of cushioning under my arches, as they were really hurting. This shoe is super comfortable. Its perfect for a person who wants a traditional neutral gaited training shoe. Plus, it has a touch of support for people who slightly over-pronate. The Nimbus is on its 12th update, which says some great things about the longevity and popularity of these shoes among the general running population. Its a perfect high mileage road trainer.

Saucony Kinvara:

This is Saucony’s initial entry into the minimalist market. When I tested it out, it felt great right away. For me, its a great higher mileage shoe as I’m used to training in minimal shoes.  It would be a good partner shoe to beefier training shoes, for people who want to break into the more minimal approach. It has enough cushioning to use every day or every other day, and is also light and responsive enough to use as a racing shoe.

In addition, one of the color schemes (shown in the photo) is a high-visibility orange color for safety, which is a huge plus for night time running.

So those are some of my favorite shoes. I hope that this helps some of you who are looking for your next pair. Enjoy the last week of 2010!

Improvement: Effort Perception (Part 2)

December 16, 2010

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

“What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come.” – Emil Zapotek

(“The secret to letting go is recognizing it is hard work hanging on.”)

Letting Go

To move on, you must let go. This is the first step in moving your perception of effort from a barrier to a context.

Consider where you are stopped. What areas of your life seem like hard work? If you go back and see what is happening, you may notice that you have perceptions of those areas that have formed your foundation of thinking in these spots. Remember, from Part 1, that perceptions are based on memory of something. These memories, and resulting perceptions of how things are, may seem to sometimes play out like a broken record.

For myself, I can take a good and hard  honest look at myself and my relationships in my life. Perhaps some of them need improvement! I can look to see what it is that I keep doing that keep these relationships from moving forward. What have been “effort perceptions” of these relationships? This can also extend to other parts of life, like your career and health.

In these areas, and in running, in order for my perceptions to change from one of a difficult effort to one of successful context, I need to “let go”. To address the quote above: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

If I look closely at these areas, and in my running, it is only so far that I can go until I start repeating things. It is here that I will be stopped.

You must be honest with yourself and recognize when you are no longer moving forward. This recognition and honesty begins the process of “letting go”. It may be accompanied with a palpable feeling in your body…probably one of relief! :) You can begin to see the specific areas in which you need to improve. This is the game changer…this is the part where your perception begins to shift!

How to do the shift from barrier to context of success:

____ + ____ = 4

What is this? It is a problem!

How is it solved?

Yes, one of the answers is 2+2=4. But, how did you LEARN that that was the answer?

Most of us learned that there was a series of steps in solving the problem above. First, you must place the number 2 on the first line. Then, step 2 is to place the number 2 on the second line. So, this problem has two STEPS.

In order to shift our perception, we need to work in a series of steps. Think about how you first learned to walk. You realized that crawling just wasn’t good enough! :) You tried and tried., and eventually you had the strength and balance to stand and move forward. Trying out your balance and strength, and subsequently falling down before you got it right, were the steps you took to shifting your perception of walking from one of a hard effort, to one of a context of success, in that you could now walk! Pretty good, and good for you! ;) Essentially, you broke the process down into smaller parts, or chunks.

Applying this to Running:

If you read my last post, hopefully you’ve thought of a workout or race that has proved challenging to you to excel in, and that you want to improve on.

First step…let go! Let go of the preconceived notion that it is too hard, or difficult. In addition to learning to walk, remember back to other areas of your life, including your running, in which you accomplished something that you previously thought was “too difficult” or “no way, can’t do it”. You did it! You might also want to let go of any defeating thoughts, if you have any. Remember, thinking the same thoughts over and over and trying to improve fits into “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Next step: break it down! Remember the example of walking for the first time. You can apply this to any workout or race. The key is to break things down into very manageable parts.

But, like when you were a baby, you may have to experiment with different chunks until you get it right. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work out the first time! Just don’t repeat your mistakes. For example, it took me a few marathons until I had the race broken down into several distance markers or ‘checkpoints’ that helped break the race up into easy pieces that I could wrap my head around. Workouts are the same.

Applying this concept to my present training for the 2011 Boston Marathon and 2011 Leadville 100:

So, the first step is to be honest and let go. I realize that I am maxed out with my current gait and stride. This was tough to admit to myself, because I thought I had it 110% correct these past few years. Mind you, much of my mechanics are efficient.  However,  I can only go so far and so fast with the way that my mechanics have been. So, I need to “let go” that I can improve much by using much of the same mechanics over and over, and expecting to get faster.

Step one is to recognize the aspects of my mechanics that can improve. I detailed these in my post about Propulsion Systems.

I plan on following steps in improving my form and thus having a huge impact on my efficiency and speed.

The result will be a shift from me thinking that (in Part 1) I can only run a 2:55 marathon, to a context of the possibility of running faster than I ever have.

Summary:

In order to improve in running, and in other areas of life, we must first be willing to let go of repeating actions or thoughts that keep us in a stagnant cycle. This is done by the notion that we cannot get a different result out of repeating patterns. Its virtually impossible.

Once this is done, we are open to the steps that need to be taken to improve upon those areas, and ultimately move forward in running, and in life! :)

Improvement: Effort Perception (Part 1)

December 14, 2010

Here are my three PR’s for some common distance races, rounded to the nearest hour and minute:

Half-marathon (13.1 miles): 1:23

Marathon (26.2 miles): 2:55

50 Miles: 9:42

100 Miles: 28:08

Race times have occurred in the past. This may be a “no kidding” moment, but this fact is crucial when taking into account the subject of this post: Effort Perception.

I remember telling many people that I could possibly run a 2:45 marathon if I trained my butt off. But, wait a minute! Why 2:45? Why not faster? And why would it be so hard?  What are the barriers holding me back? In fact, what about my other distances and times…..could I possibly run faster in those distances as well?

The answers lie in my perception of the effort involved in achieving faster times across all race distances and workouts. As a result, the answer lies in my Effort Perception of these races and workouts.

This will be a two part post, and in it I will explore my concept of Effort Perception, and how it, like Distance Perception (my last post), can go from being a barrier to a context for success and continued improvement.

Some Definitions:

To understand what Effort Perception is for a runner, and also for anyone attempting to achieve a goal, its important to break down the phrase, and understand the real meaning of both words:

Effort:

noun: Something done or produced through exertion; an achievement: a play that was his finest effort.
Perception:

(in Psychology) Recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory .

Memory is based in the past. Therefore, shifting our perception from a barrier to context of success and improvement, ultimately takes place across three (3) planes of experience:

  1. past
  2. present, and
  3. the future

Our race or workout performances are in the past. Our memory of these workouts and races provides the basis of how “hard” or “easy” a similar race or workout would be. Then, we have our experiences that are in the present, or where our fitness is now, and consequently, how efforts feel “today”. Finally, it is important to look at our how to change our effort perception from a barrier to a “context” of how we want to perform in the future. Remember though that perception is memory, so the shift to a context gives us a new memory of how the effort feels ONCE the runner has achieved their goal.

Some workouts to think of:

If you’re reading this and have subscribed to my blog (or if you haven’t, please do ! :), here are some workouts or races that you may want to think about before reading Part 2 of Effort Perception.

Pick one that you have a particularly strong memory of, in which you’d like to improve. Think about how you felt. Don’t judge your feelings of it! Stick with it, and maybe write those feelings down:

  • Tempo Run
  • VO2 max intervals
  • Sprints
  • 5-k, 10-k, half marathon, marathon, ultramarathon races
  • Cross training

The next post

In the next post (part 2) we’ll look at methods as to how to change your perception of a challenging workout/race, into a powerful new context for improvement within that particular workout or race.


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