Sunday, November 6, 2011

Training Rethought

Following Tough Mudder I was on a little bit of a high.  I felt awesome and I got a little relaxed.  This week I realized that I was falling behind in my training and I needed to kick it up a notch. I watched this video of some death race training and realized I can make just about anything I do a death race training tool.  Here's the video:

Death Race training incorporation step one.

Heather and I love to play disc golf.  It's a fun, moderately active time but I realized that I could make it more.  So... Heather and I set off the morning and went over to the university to play 9 holes of disc golf.  Here's how I kicked it up a notch.  I took a 20lb kettlebell and did overhead presses from the tee to each throw and then picked up my disc, threw again, and back to the presses.  By the end my arms were starting to feel the burn.  It was awesome.  Next time I think I'll take a cinderblock or something similar and throw it along the way. (Maybe a big river rock if I can find one!)

We had planned on a couple mile trail run after disc golf.  So, we ditched our disc golf gear and I filled my new military backpack that I found at a garage sale yesterday morning (for 10 bucks!) with all the stuff we had in the car.  (poor planning but it worked)  So...disc golf discs, a couple jackets, the kettlebell from before, a dog toy, a pair of cleats, a pair of waders, and Heather's softball mitt were stuffed into the pack, it came out to 36 lbs.  I strapped the backpack on and we headed out onto the trails for a run.

The added 36lbs  slowed me down quite a bit, but I still powered through two miles, barely faster than a walk...13 min miles. But, It felt great.  It's time to write some lesson plans for next week and watch some football!  I'm planning TRX for tonight followed by a 3 miles jog with Heather in the neighborhood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tough Mudder

What an amazing experience at Tough Mudder on Saturday.   The 12 mile course was further than I'd ever gone before, not to mention that the obstacles were much harder than the previous "mud run" obstacles that I'd encountered.  It truly was a Tough Mudder!

I was one of the vast minority of runners who didn't show up with a team.  Many of the obstacles were designed for the runners to work together to overcome the course.    Obviously this put me at a disadvantage, but luckily about 2 miles into the course I made a new friend, Rigo.

As Rigo and I met up on the trail I noticed he too was running solo.  "No team?" I asked.  "No team." Rigo replied.  "Yeah me either." I said.

And that simple conversation changed the whole experience of the event.  Rigo simply said, "Well, you have one now."  And for the rest of the race we ran and
conquered the obstacles together. 

Mile after Mile, through mud, sludge, logs, ropes, water (just thin mud really) and a variety of other obstacles we forged on.

We were by no means the fastest on the course, but we did manage to beat over 90% of our 11:00 heat.  We finished ahead of a large portion of runners from the 10:40, 10:20, and 10:00 heats as well.  We even beat a good number of runners from the 9:40 and 9:20 heats.

While we were out on the course, something I read in one of Johnny Waite's blogs a while back kept coming back to my mind.  What was it that was separating us from so many of the people we were passing.  People who were obviously in much better physical shape than the two of us.

At about the 5 mile mark and beyond nearly everyone on the course was walking.   With so many people around me walking it would have been easy for my mind to convince my body that I should be walking too, after all...I WAS really tired.  But my new friend was the perfect motivator.  I kept running, because he kept running, and I didn't want to lose my only teammate!

It was eye opening  to see how much longer I could push myself after I felt like I was really tired.

When I finished the race I felt amazing.  My knees weren't hurting like I thought they might after that distance.  My SI pain was actually less than when I had started the fact it was pretty much gone. (at least for then, it came back later)

All of that feeling good stuff ended later that evening - I was exhausted.  Totally drained of all energy!  So i slept :)

From Sunday morning until now I've been more sore than I ever have in my life.  Every muscle in my body is sore and on top of that the front half of my body is covered with nicks, cuts, scrapes, bruises and abrasions which hurt every time anything touches them!  I wouldnt trade it for anything.  I've never been this happy!

Reflecting on the event.  I definately learned a few things:

Number 1:  Although I've always had strong legs, that is no longer the case.  It was the upper body challenges that were easier for me and the running towards the end of the race that was killing me.  My legs are WEAK and I have so far to go to get them ready for the Death Race.

Number 2:  I was dead tired after the event.  It was a fraction of the length of the Death Race.  Again, I have so far to go to get ready.

Number 3:  I was so proud of how well I did, I can't wait to take it to the next level and do something even harder.

Number 4:  Heather is awesome as a race supporter/photographer!

With Tough Mudder down, I'm looking forward to the Nov 19 Warrior Dash and Dec 3 Super Spartan and I'm probably going to sign up for the Tough Mudder on the coast Jan 28!

If you're at all interested in running with me at any of these races you're more than welcome!

Special shout out to Rigo - You absolutely Rock Buddy - I can't wait to run with you again!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Li (Death Race) fe

First and foremost this post is my excited announcement that I will be racing in Pittsfield Vermont  June 15th through the 17th? 18th? 19th? Who the 2012 Death Race.  The post has been a few days in the making, but as most of you know, that thing we call life is always getting in the way.  So let me catch you up there first.  

I've been truly blessed these past few weeks.  A month ago my close friend Jennifer and her awesome husband Eric came up to Tyler for a visit.  I had planned to cook dinner for them at our house, but a combination of a hectic schedule and my procrastinating personality left me with nothing to cook and no plan of what to cook the day they were supposed to be here.  Abort plan A and commence with plan B.

Here, I must digress for a second time.  Heather and I have been researching extensively food, nutrition, and healthy eating and living for a few months now, and as a result we have become pretty much vegetarian, but not quite vegan.  I'll still have some cheese or an egg here or there, but not too often.  In addition to that, we are juicing fruits and veggies daily and eating a large portion of our diet as whole-raw foods.  I have a whole blog post planned for that topic so I'll stop there for now and get back to the first digression from my original digression...dinner. (confused yet? I almost am!)

So where can a vegetarian go get something yummy to eat while still giving his non-vegetarian friends a tasty option?  We decided on Mongolian barbeque.  Which is how we found ourselves discussing cafeteria food at schools in Texas less than two feet from the table beside us.  As we are ranting about how ridiculous the food choices are and how wasteful the school policies are, one of the ladies at the next table over interjects her two cents into the discussion.

After a few minutes of discussion, she tells us that she works at a local elementary school.  We connect based on the fact that I'm a teacher without a job, looking for substitute work.  The conversation continues, she texts some people from my last school about me, and they of course tell her how awesome I am :)  She eventually reveals that she just doesn't work at a local elementary, she's actually the Assistant Principal.  She tells me about an upcoming long term sub job that I might be able to do. We part ways for the rest of the meal, and I don't really think too much of the whole encounter.

One week later exactly I get a call from the principal at her school.  They have an opening for a teaching position and she wants to know if I'm interested in interviewing for the it. I told her I was, suppressing my exuberance long enough to hang up the phone, before I lost it in excitement.  I interviewed for the job and got it.

I had two days to help move a teacher out of my classroom and set it up for my kiddos...not nearly enough time!  So...I'm now teaching 21 first graders at Douglas Elementary here in Tyler Texas!!! As I type this I can barely talk, my voice a casualty of my first two weeks of my new career.  I  don't think I could have gotten luckier in the whole deal and I don't just have any job...I've got a great class of kids, a very supportive administration and some pretty awesome coworkers!

All of that to say that life has been a whirlwind the past few weeks and that's why it's taken me a few days to write this important blog.  On to the original topic...Death Race 2012.

What is the Death Race?  It's a 48 hour grueling test of not only your physical endurance, but also and probably more so, your mental strength.  Here's a quick montage from this year's race if you haven't heard of it before.

If you've read any of my previous blogs you know I started this blogging endeavor after reading THIS BLOG written by Johnny Waite.  It's an account of his training sessions, preparing for the Death Race.  I was hooked.  I kept up with his training and his trip to the event.  He was one of only 35 finishers out of 235 entrants...80 didnt even show up and 120 quit during the race.

Fast forward to this past Saturday.  Johnny posts this on facebook:  

Death Race 2012 is June 15. As an alumnus, I can register one additional person at a significant discount. Who will commit to doing it with me. I am serious. It will be the best/worst experience of your life. Message me ASAP if you are interested. 

As you read down the comments you see things like "Let me be the first to say ....... No fucking way!!!!!!"(which nine people liked) and "I love that you had to add the 'I am serious' part just to clarify. lol" and " BTW. Asking people to join you in an outing wherein "you may die" is somewhat akin to handing someone a bottle and asking "does this taste poisonous?" Just sayin...."(which 5 people liked)  so naturally I commented too.  But instead of telling him how crazy he was, I told him how crazy I wanted to be too!

And that's how it came to be that I'll be Death Racing next summer.  I won't be the fastest or the strongest physically...But I'll be ready mentally and I plan to give myself incredible leverage...that's what will separate me from the vast majority of competitors who DNF every year.   

Here's an excerpt from a post Johnny wrote after his experience:   
As I looked around the church at the 35 finishers, I thought, "What is the difference between us and the 125 who dropped out, or even the other 80 who did not even start?" There did not seem to be an easy answer. It certainly wasn't just physical strength, as I watched huge, chiseled Marines quit. And it wasn't just conditioning either, as there were phenomenal triathletes who fell by the wayside too.  
The next obvious thing to consider was mental toughness, but we all seemed to have that at the outset, and I know that some of the people who were no longer racing would have never ever ever imagined not finishing. Obviously they had demonstrated mental toughness in the past.
Not being able to see inside anyone else's head, I turned my attention to mine. What had kept me going? Well, my fundraising for POGO. I had promised a beautiful young girl that I would finish. I said "If she and her family can survive three years of cancer treatment, then I can survive three days of racing." Plus the 60+ people who had donated over $5,000.00 to that cause. Then there were Jack and Katy. I actually posted on Facebook that I wanted them to be able to tell people "My Dad completed the Death Race" and not "My Dad started the Death Race but quit when it got hard."
Speaking of Facebook, by broadcasting my training and my progress and my commitments online, I now had thousands of people who would want to know how it went. I could not just sneak back into town in the night and never really mention it again.
So, as I realized, all of this was leverage. Leverage on myself. I had thrown my hat over the fence, as the saying goes, and now had to go get it. No matter what. Reading some people's blog posts after the race, I found that they had left themselves loopholes - where there was still room to call it a success for having tried. I don't think I could have given myself that credit. I had bet the house. I can, however, think of too many other ventures where that wasn't the case. Where I had quit long before I started and then went through the motions. What if I only started things from now on that I intended to finish, no matter what. How powerful a perspective would that be to live from?

So this begins my Leverage.  I will finish next summer.  I'm not leaving myself  any outs.  Hell, if anyone probably should have had an out last year it was Johnny.  Going into the race he had foot, shoulder, and knee injuries and had been on doctors orders not to run for many weeks heading into the race.  But he gutted it out anyway.

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how
far one can go."

-T.S. Elliot

Any and all of you are more than welcome to come to cheer us on this summer.  Hopefully I can even con a few of you into being my crew for the race! 

If you want to learn more about the race check out  The video there is a couple years old and the race is much longer now, but it still gives you insight to how it works.  Thanks for reading all of this (if you made it this far) - I have to write an essay about why I want to do the Death Race this weekend and I'm headed down to Austin for Tough Mudder, which seemed hard before, but now seems sorta puny  compared to what I've got ahead of me, but I'll try to post again next week!  Thanks again to Johnny Waite for changing my life last spring, and again this week.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Learning to Run and Having Fun

I recently read the book "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall.  I thoroughly enjoyed every page of the book...I couldn't put it down.  As entertaining as the book was, the story starts with a simple question.  "Why does my foot hurt?" 

I've been asking myself similar questions for a few years now.   Why do my ankles hurt?  Why do my knees hurt?  Why does my foot hurt?  Why?

This excerpt from his website pretty much sums up what I'm feeling:

". . . I’d abracadabra myself from a broken-down ex-runner into an unbreakable, unstoppable, ultrarunning dirt demon. I was at least partially correct: the secret to injury-free running isn't the proper shoe. It isn't stretching. It isn't even training mileage.

It's skill.

Like every other sport, healthy running is all about technique.

But why hadn’t I ever heard that before?

All I ever heard, over and over, was about shoes. Every podiatrist, sports physician, and running magazine preached endlessly about the absolute necessity of corrective footwear. I was never told what to do; I was only told what to buy. "

Imagine that.   I've been a sucker for marketing yet again.  I even wrote a blog a few months back about how many different shoes I had tried and how excited I was for my latest pair.  I eagerly strapped on those new kicks and started pounding out the miles, assured by my "research" that I had finally found the solution to my problems.  Two weeks later I had pounded my knees into such pain I  couldn't walk without a limp for over a month, and it was almost two months before I could jog again without my right knee killing me.

It was clearly the fact that I had bought the wrong shoes.  Yep, of course it had nothing to do with me, only those damn shoes!

Then Chris McDougall had to bring reality crashing in on me.  It wasn't my shoes, it was me.  Like so many other runners out there I was running wrong.  My cadence was too slow and stride far too long, resulting in some serious heel striking going on.  Naturally when I switched to my new minimalist shoes that I thought were the solution to my problems, my heel striking form crushed my lower body into oblivion with the lessened cushioning of the shoes.

After finishing "Born to Run" I really started reading up on proper form. 

This is a good starting point, pretty much where I started a couple weeks ago.  Over the past two weeks.  I've run consistently almost every day.  I've really focused on my form and nothing else.  What I found is that I haven't had any pain at all, none. 

Another thing I've noticed is that I'm actually faster taking shorter faster strides landing on my midfoot than I am with a longer stretched out stride (thanks high school track coaches for constantly encouraging to "stretch out my stride"). 

It's definitely not an easy transition, and the longer I run and the more tired I get, I can feel my body trying to slink into my old lazy form.  I really have to focus hard at those times.  I'm training my body how to run all over again, and its refreshingly fun.   Three weeks until Beachpalooza, Five until Tough Mudder!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tough Mudder Incoming

Less that 6 weeks until the Tough Mudder and I'm seriously behind on my training.  With the move and job search I've been slacking lately with the workouts.  Heather and I got up this morning and jogged a quick couple miles, but that's the first run in a few weeks (sad I know)...Sooooo less than 6 weeks till Tough Mudder and I've got to kick things into high gear.  I'm still doing well weight wise - down 21 lbs since I started this blog back in April.  I'd still like to lose another 10 or so before the race.

We'll be doing the Beachpalooza in Galveston at the end of September as a warmup - its a 3 mile obstacle race on the beach in Galveston and it should be a blast. 

I'll be posting at least training recaps from now till then to help keep myself accountable!

On a different note, I had a great interview today so maybe things will be turning around soon on that front.

Finally - I posted this video a month or so ago on Facebook but if you missed it check it out!

Monday, August 22, 2011


While I was living in Ohio this summer I often rode my bike past a house on hwy 84 that was covered in writing.  In addition to the writing on the house there were signs in the yard and the van parked in the driveway was also covered in writing.

Obviously someone was trying to make a statement.  It turns out the guy that lives there is in a 10+ year litigation regarding his brother.  I don't know near enough details to even begin to form an opinion on the matter. 

What I do know is that his brother got in trouble with the law, there were supposedly two separate automobile crash sites, both of which were the spot where his brother had wrecked his car.  According to the guy who lives in the house, there are all sorts of conspiracies upon conspiracies that make this ordeal more and more of a mess.  Throw in a few crooked lawyers, dirty judges, his mother's will and some unscrupulous friends and this guy has become obsessed.

Or maybe he's just passionate?  Anyway - here are few shots from his house - quite an interesting guy, quite an interesting place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life Moves On

"Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such."

~Henry Miller

I've been so busy since I got to Ohio in June that I've barely had (or made) the time to stop and smell the roses.  And's moving on at a blistering pace.

First of all, Heather and I reached the worst financial place we have ever been in this past month.  You'd think that having finally finished my degree I'd be making more money now than before I had the coveted diploma...wrong.  Thanks to budget cuts school districts are scaling back in a huge way and as such, I still haven't found a job for the fall as a teacher.  But, the bills have to be paid and since there isn't any substitute work in the summer I needed to do something to help out.  Heather was able to get me in at Avery Dennison with her.  It's a factory job, I operate a couple huge machines that cut 10,000 foot rolls of paper into sheets of various sizes.  Sounds fun right?

As boring as it sounds, I actually really enjoy it.  I just enjoy being active and having a full day...and there is no lack of work in the factory.  All good things must come to an end though and in 2 1/2 weeks we will finally be headed back to Texas.  I can't wait.

As usual after a couple months of great eating and working out, things slowed way down up here.  It started with the knee injury before I got here and that just sorta faded into everyday life.  I have actually been riding quite a bit but up until this week I hadn't run in a month.  I got back on track yesterday though.  I got up at 5 both yesterday and today and logged a quick 3 miles before heading to work.   It feels great.

It's late and I'm headed to bed, but more tomorrow on the changes I've made with food.  It's amazing.