Tag Archives: Navy SEAL

From Couch Potato to Hustler

POP QUIZ: What’s the hardest thing for a runner to do?

(Hint: It isn’t running fast, or running long.)


ANSWER: Nothing.

That is, the hardest thing an active guy like me can do is be inactive. And just how hard it is manifested itself today.

Now, the term “active” can mean more than lacing up and going out for a run or bike ride. For me, the term includes useful work at the office, doing needed upkeep on the house, financial and life planning, and creative writing. “Inactive” to me is sitting or lying around watching TV, reading, or taking a nap.

You have no idea how hard this is.

You have no idea how hard this is.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling listless and a bit rundown. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with being up until 2:00 a.m. playing Dungeons & Dragons.) Even so, I slept in until 9:00, on a day when I usually get up at 7:00 to go running. But this day was my final race of the year – the Holiday Hustle in Dexter – and it didn’t start until 4:30, so I had the entire day to rest up before hitting the bricks for a hard and fast 5K.

As the day wore on, I was not feeling better. So I lay down to take a nap and read. And all the time I was doing that, my mind was nagging me: Hey there, slug – why don’t you haul your lazy butt out of bed and do something useful. You’ve got several hours before the race and stuff you could be doing. Like reassembling the treadmill, for instance.

It didn’t help that this was the book I was reading;

Living With a SEAL book

So I’m lying there like the proverbial rug, reading about how this guy is running six miles followed by 200 pushups at any hour of day or night, basically whenever the SEAL tells him it’s time to train. And he’s doing it, much to his surprise. (Hint: If you don’t want to feel guilty about sitting around doing nothing, read a different book.)

Bonus: Learn more here about Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur and ultrarunner who decided his life was “drifting on autopilot” and wanted to shake things up a bit. Good Lord.

Finally, about two hours before race start, I got up, changed into running gear, and had a bite to eat. With the temperature around 60 degrees (in December!) I would wear short sleeves and shorts. Usually at this race, there’s ice on the roads and it’s a battle to keep warm until the race starts.

Santa's alternative mode of transportation.

No snow? No problem. Santa has alternative modes of transportation.

In a form of penance for all that idle time, I rode my bike the four miles from my house to the race, with the added benefit of not having to park a half mile away. By the time I arrived, I was warmed up and my energy was back.

As for the race, it was typical of my Holiday Hustle experience. In the first half mile, I convince myself I don’t have it today and will probably keel over. At one mile I’m feeling a little better, which allows me to slog out the second mile. I get a second wind for mile 3, which is mainly downhill, and go hard to the finish.

This year wasn’t a PR, but I was again able to sneak under 20:00, and just a couple of seconds behind last year’s result. Not bad for wondering earlier if I shouldn’t just jog it.

Remember when you didn't need any motivation to run?

Remember when you didn’t need any motivation to run?

After some recovery and the awards ceremony (3rd in my age group), I biked back home, feeling surprisingly good. Legs weren’t even sore or stiff. Maybe this occasional inactivity thing has its advantages. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if a bit more training intensity would also benefit me.

“I hope you’re not planning to have a SEAL live with you for a month,” my wife said.

I assured her I wasn’t. I figure I need at least three months.

Richmond 13.1: The Other 60 Percent

One week before the Nov. 14 American Family Fitness half marathon in Richmond, I went out for my regular Saturday group run. Since I was tapering, I kept it to ten miles at a moderate pace.

On Sunday I knew I was in trouble.

The run had taken more out of me than usual. I felt drained and weary, and did not bounce back the next day like I normally do. And this was after a week of cutting back. Since I was going to attempt a PR (new best time) in Richmond, this was not good. So – what to do?

Against every instinct, I decided to rest the entire week,  cancelling my Monday gym workout and Aikido class, and skipping the Tuesday night run. A short bike ride on Wednesday was all I allowed myself.

Resting? What a crazy idea!

Resting? What a crazy idea!

Finally, arriving in Richmond on Friday, I felt my energy returning. But was it enough to run 13.1 miles hard and fast? When I got tired, would I have the physical and mental fortitude to keep going and set that PR?

Then I came across an article about Jesse Itzler, an ultrarunner and entrepreneur who’d be considered an overachiever by 99.9 percent of the planet. Not Jesse; he decided he needed to “shake things up,” as he put it. So he hired a Navy SEAL to kick his butt for a month. In the winter.

You can read about that crazy month in his book, Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planetor go here for the CNBC interview. Along with ice water soaks and night runs, the SEAL gave him lots of advice, including this: “When your brain tells you you’re done, you’re only 40 percent done.”

Well, when a Navy SEAL says that, I believe him. Anyone who survives a year of that training, including the infamous Hell Week, ought to know. Could I use this little gem of wisdom to get me through the tough part of the race, when my brain would be strongly suggesting it wasn’t my day and how about we slow the hell down? I hoped so. Even tapping a little of that other 60 percent would be a plus.

Sure, *you* go ahead and tell this guy he's full of it. I dare you.

Sure, go ahead and tell this guy he’s full of it. I dare you. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Race morning was sunny and about 38 degrees, good conditions for a fast race. I warmed up with a jog of a mile or so, with some short sprints at the end. I felt ready to go and lined up near the front of the first wave to ensure I could get out of the gate and into stride quickly.

Anything under 1:33:49 would be a new personal best.

I’d decided on an unorthodox race strategy. Instead of trying to hold my target pace of 7:00 per mile for as long as possible, I would run sets of two miles at 7:10 and two at 6:50. I hoped the varied pace would keep my mind engaged and provide some recovery time at the slower pace.

The first four miles went exactly to plan – two at around 7:08, then two at 6:50. I didn’t recover as much as I hoped on miles 5 and 6, but I hit the 10K timing mat at 44:00, right on schedule.

Then we entered a park and began about two miles of gently rolling hills. I struggled to hold my pace and was breathing hard. With over six miles left, I felt fatigue set in, and the mental chatter changed accordingly:

Well, looks like a week off wasn’t quite long enough. What did you expect? You ran a 100K not long ago and it takes time to recover. How about we ease off a bit? Just not your day. No big deal, right?

Fortunately, I was prepared for it. I played the trump card.

Hah! We’ve only reached the 40 percent mark. Let’s press on and see what we have left, shall we?

With that, I relaxed, took some deep cleansing breaths, and pushed through the final inclines and out of the park.

Digging into the other 60 percent.

Digging into the other 60 percent.

The remaining five miles were by no means easy, but the worst was behind me. At mile 11, I surged to catch up to a couple of other runners and stuck with them, trying to match their stride and cadence. Together we hit the final half mile, a wide, sprint-inducing downhill packed with loud spectators on both sides. Richmond bills this event as “America’s Friendliest Marathon” and based on what I saw, I can’t disagree.

As we passed the cameras at mile 13, I looked at the finish line clock. 1:32! With a downhill-assisted 6:40 final mile, I finished in 1:32:43, a new personal best by over a minute!

Also taking part - daughter Tori (center) and Jess, her SO, finishing the 8K..

Family fitness! My daughter Tori (center) ran the 8K despite a bum foot. her SO Jess (right) also finished the 8K. Great job, ladies!

And even better, I’m feeling good again. Yesterday I ran ten snowy miles without any trouble, then went home and shoveled my driveway clear – twice. Guess what I was telling myself out there?

Mr. SEAL, wherever you are, thank you very much.

Yesterday's snowfall in Ann Arbor.

Yesterday’s snowfall in Ann Arbor. Thank goodness I have my energy back!