Category Archives: Running & Cycling

Plan for 2018: Keep Moving, Keep Improving

It’s 2018, and as usual, I have no New Year’s resolutions. More accurately, I’m not changing anything I’m doing just because it’s a new year.

Yet while I’m not a fan of artificial “resolutions,” I am a strong believer in continually improving myself and the world around me. I try to live in that spirit every day, and I also set goals and then train and work to achieve them. Having a purpose, and something to look forward to, helps me focus on what’s important in my life and spend my time and energy there, as opposed to just ‘running in place,’ as it were.

And because I like to balance repeating favorite activities with trying out new things, 2018 will be similar to years past but with some twists and even leaps out of the ol’ comfort zone. And I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Here are some things I plan to keep right on doing:

Running. No surprise here, I hope. After ten years it’s become a part of how I define myself. In addition to keeping me healthy and fit, I use running to step away from the everyday noise and restore a sense of perspective. Whether it’s concentrating on a training assignment or easy coasting for a couple of hours, it’s a great way to clear the mind of mundane chatter. And I’ll continue to compete in races, too. In an upcoming post I’ll share what I have planned so far this year. (Hint: they’re not getting easier!)

Here’s a hint. (Photo courtesy of the Vote Charlie blog).

Supporting sustainability. I don’t talk much about my Zero Waste business on this blog, but Happy Planet Running had a terrific first year. In 2017 I worked 30 events and helped divert over seven tons of waste away from the landfill into more productive use as compost or recycled materials. And at every event I get thanks and compliments from the runners. It’s a passion of mine and a true labor of love.

2017 Firecracker 5K – holding the total trash with two fingers.

Lifestyle makeover. Last year we got a serious start on long-overdue updates to the house, getting rid of stuff we don’t need, and re-evaluating our diet. A sustainable lifestyle isn’t just about recycling; it’s all about reducing our imprint on the environment while improving quality of life. Some of this I’ve posted here, and I’ll continue to do so.

Little indulgences. Coffee and chocolate in particular are two of life’s little pleasures that I will happily continue to cultivate. Any changes to diet are not going to include reduction in either. Moderation? Save that for other things. Life is for living, after all!

Enjoying the good life in Richmond visiting my daughter.

And in the spirit of balance, here are a few things, popular as they may be at present, that I firmly intend never to do:

Cold showers. Yeah, I get that they are stimulating, help the body recover, blah blah. You know what I hate worse than being cold? Being wet AND cold. When I’m done with a workout, even a race in the summer, when I get under the shower, I want it hot. I’ll happily stick my feet into a cold lake after an ultra, but the rest of me is just fine being warm and dry, thank you.

From one of my few triathlons. The swim part was as much fun as it looks.

Faddish foods for runners. Raw eggs? Nope. Green smoothies? Looks like something from a primeval swamp. And even coffee isn’t exempt from questionable shit being added to it. The latest? So-called “bulletproof coffee,” which is perfectly good coffee with butter and coconut oil dumped into it. If I want saturated fat with my coffee, I’ll dust some bacon with espresso powder. Hey, that actually sounds good. I could start a whole new trend.

Give up on humanity. Given our current political environment, it’s hard not to get cynical about our leaders and our society in general. Sure, I don’t like a lot of what’s going on. But to me that’s an incentive to me to get more active and work for a world I want to live in, and not stand by and let other people make those decisions. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can change a little part of it and help it grow.

So I’m looking forward to a healthy and positive year, and while there are no guarantees, I’ll be doing my best to make it so. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go join my club for the Saturday long run. Happy New Year!

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Postscript: I finished this post before my club run, but am publishing it afterward. It was ten miles at 10 degrees. But with coffee and chocolate afterward, life is good. (It was good during the run, too, but you know.)

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Lifestyle Makeover: A Runner’s Dietary Analysis

My eating habits have improved since I started running, but exceptions remain. I have a fondness for pastries, and no desire to curb my enthusiasm for dark chocolate. But I can pass up fast food, white bread, and sweets of lesser quality without a qualm.

My “willpower” amazes people at times.

“What are you worried about?” they ask me. “You run so much, you’ll burn it all off anyway.”

Runners hear this a lot. There’s an element of truth in it, but it’s not the entire story. Sure, I burn a lot of calories. But the quality of those calories is just as important as the quantity.

Case in point: the photo below shows what we ate at a D&D session recently.

Yikes.

I can indulge on occasion but not regularly, even if I ran marathons three times a week. Food like this is dense in calories but low in nutrients. So most of what I eat is high quality, with lots of fiber and micronutrients.

Yet I wanted to know if I couldn’t do even better. Was I lacking some key vitamins or minerals I needed as a distance runner? And was I taking in enough to maintain weight without losing muscle? So when my wife signed up with a local nutritionist, I signed up too.

The results were surprising.

We began by discussing my goals and training. The nutritionist is familiar with runners and with my gym (Body Specs), so she understood the type and intensity of my physical activities. Then she gave me a food diary to fill out for three days. Everything I ate and drank, the precise amounts, and the date/time of consuming it. Oh, joy.

The three days included a D&D gaming session, but I figured it would balance out since another day was a Saturday long run. Except it was a home football game, and one of our club runners has a tailgating station. I indulged in what I liked but restrained my portions, helped in part because I’m not usually hungry after a long run.

The carrot balances out the nutrition, you see.

I turned in the food log, figuring that was that. Not quite; she asked me for more information. A sample:

On Thursday can you let me know how much cereal you had. 2.5 cups? How many pecans, and about how much milk and type? What brand of pumpkin ginger bar? On Friday what type of breakfast muffin was that?

This was going to be more detailed than I expected! I provided what I could, including a recipe for the muffin (Morning Glory) I found online I hoped was close enough.

Here are the highlights of her analysis. First, the quantity:

  1. I need an average of about 3,100 calories per day to maintain body weight. This was higher than I’d expected. According to the USDA, an active 55-year old male needs 2,800 calories per day. I must be “super active” then.
  2.  My average intake? About 3,100 calories per day. So without any scientific dietary plan or calorie counting, I’m covering my caloric needs exactly.

This explains why my weight remains consistent, varying only about five pounds from peak race season to recovery periods.

What about the quality of the calories? Going in, I was supplementing vitamin D, but also calcium/magnesium/zinc, figuring I might not be getting as much as I need. Here’s what she found, based on my food log:

Turns out I’m doing just fine with most nutrients. So what did she recommend I change? Not much, actually. Keep supplementing the vitamin D, and add fish oil to get more omega-3 fatty acids.

And as for the pastries and chocolate? Here she surprised me once more by telling me her “80/20” rule: We need to eat well, but also enjoy life. So make 80 percent of your diet high quality, and the remaining 20 percent can be treats.

No arguing with my nutritionist!

Coming up: I mentioned my wife also got a nutrition analysis. She’s okay with me sharing her results on this blog, so I’ll share it with you. Interesting similarities and contrasts. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Estes Park

One hundred yards into the run, and I was already fatigued.

It wasn’t a huge climb, and I was walking it. I was fully warmed up. And yet I felt like I’d already run 20 miles. When we got to the top of the rise and began running down into the canyon, I caught my breath and fell into a groove. Until we began climbing again.

Are we done yet?

I knew what was wrong, of course. And despite the struggle, I was having the time of my life.

I just returned from five awesome days in Estes Park, Colorado attending the U.S. Trail Running Conference, an event I’d looked forward to since February.  I attended presentations and panel discussions, networked with race directors, and tried out some pretty cool products, all of which I’ll talk about in upcoming posts.

And, of course, got in some running. I went up and down (and up) the gorgeous Black Canyon Trail, climbed 1,500 feet over two miles to Gem Lake, and ran loops around Lake Estes. All of this in sunny, cool weather which calls to trail runners like chocolate calls to – well, everyone.

I came back convinced that every trail runner or hiker should travel at least once to Estes Park. Here’s why.

Mountains.

For some of you, such as my daughter living in Denver, ‘nuff said. (“Mountains” is her TL;DR why she moved there from Michigan.) I don’t share her deep and permanent love for them, but I was continually struck by them during my visit. They’re a continuous reminder of just how small and insignificant we are.

The trails included some incredible overlooks at the larger, snow-capped mountains farther away, and valleys and plains below. During group runs, many of us stopped at them just to take in the scene for a few minutes. (That’s my excuse, anyway.)

Gaining a new appreciation for breathing.

I’m not out of breath. I’m just taking in the scenery. Yeah.

After several years of training and racing, it usually takes a pretty good effort to get me breathing hard. Not so above 7,500 feet. Experiences vary: one runner described it as, “trying to breathe through a straw.” I had no trouble breathing fully, but fatigue hit me on any climb whatever, even at the start of a run. My first day 5-mile run felt more like 10, and even walking uphill was a slog.

I gradually acclimated, and running got easier. At Lake Estes on my final day there, I felt nearly normal and was able to enjoy an eight mile run on a mostly flat path. Not ready for those 14ers yet, though.

Getting away from everything.

One of the overlooks on the Gem Lake trail.

What they saw.

Estes Park makes you want to throw away the cell phone and submerge yourself in nature. Although I spent most of each day at the conference, I made sure to get outside. Each morning there was a fun run on the trails, and the sessions started late enough to not feel rushed. A long walk during the day was also a must, either after lunch, after the final session of the day, or whenever the hell I felt like it.

Or how about a nice climb?

I spent the morning of my departure packing up, staring out at another beautiful day. I just couldn’t leave without one last run. So after checkout I headed down to Lake Estes and ran the paved path around the lake. I had just enough time to sneak in two loops, about eight miles, before driving to Denver for the flight home.

Just enjoying running.

Training is part of my weekly routine, and there’s a temptation to just push through it as necessary preparation for my upcoming race or races. But racing isn’t why I run. I started running longer and harder because I wanted to. Because I came to enjoy it.

And while I try to appreciate each run while it’s happening, it’s much easier to do so away from the routines of home. Last week I could just go out and run for the sake of it, and enjoy the company of those who share the passion for the trails. No one cared how slow or fast you were, how far you went, how hard you worked. We were running trails, and that was all that mattered.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor, nature and water

The payoff: reaching Gem Lake (elevation 9,000 ft.)

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(BTW, next year’s conference is in San Luis Obispo, CA, home of the Race SLO series. Just in case you’re interested.)

Running and the Costco Cat Food Syndrome

Q. What do cat food and running have in common?

(Hint: the answer has more to do with shopping habits, not the actual products.)

This had better not be more slander about us.

The recent swallowing of Whole Foods by Amazon had Chicken Littles everywhere proclaiming the impending death of large retailers, including my wife’s favorite haunt, Costco. So I visited my favorite investing website. Did they think Costco was in trouble? One commenter didn’t think so.

“Cat food at Costco must be really expensive,” the poster wrote. “Whenever my wife goes there to pick up some cat food the bill ends up being $150.00.”

Uh-oh. My wife had just been there, and for the same reason. Was the cat food just as expensive at our Costco? See for yourself:

Now I could get snippy about this, but it’s not worth it for two reasons: 1) I do not like sleeping on the couch, and 2) it would make me a hypocrite. For I suffer from the same syndrome, just at a different store.

Last fall we visited our daughter in Richmond and as usual we wound up in Carytown, a shopping district loaded with specialty shops and restaurants. My wife and daughters got sucked into the kitchen supply store, and when my tolerance for the place ran out, I told them I was heading to the nearby running store “just to look around.”

Which I did. And talked running with the staff. And tried on some shoes. And bought a pair. They didn’t cost as much as the Costco cat food, unless you throw in the other stuff I got. I blame my family for leaving me in there so long. But I did need those shoes. For some race or other. I forget now.

For the Love of Chocolate – another Carytown store with black hole-like gravity.

So you might think that local running stores are safe from the online competition that plagues other small retailers. Well, kind of. And kind of not. Although the number of people running continues to grow, sales are flattening out, and small independent stores are being acquired by larger chains, although many try to preserve that small, local atmosphere. Read more about this here.

While I’m a bit intimidated inside a Costco, a running store feels more like a club to me. I much prefer to “try before buy” with running shoes and gear, and I appreciate the staff’s knowledge (and that they’ll talk running with me). It’s also fun to try out new shoe styles or concepts; it’s where I found out I liked the ultra-padded Hoka One One, and don’t care for Newtons, with their convex soles.

So I get most of my running gear at stores rather than online. But ultimately, quality of the experience makes the difference. Do they have a good selection, reasonably priced? Are they willing to take the time to find something I like? And how well do they know what they carry?  The day I get the attitude of, “I don’t know, this is what we got” (think Radio Shack’s last years) is the day I find another store, local or not.

So my wife came into the running store eventually to find me, and I rather sheepishly showed her the shoes I’d purchased. We ended up there a bit longer while she picked out some socks.

If Costco ever decides to sell running shoes, I am in BIG trouble.