Trails and Technology

Twenty years ago I checked the time on the stove clock, and set out for a quick paced 8 mile run. After running around town I raced back to check the time. I was ecstatic; my diet of ice cream and popcorn has paid off: I was blazing fast! I anxiously waited for my parents to return home and begged for them to drive my route so I could find out the exact mileage. This drive quickly resulted in the realization that my judge of distance was just as bad as my diet!

Now, many years later, the frustration of driving a route or only going on trails with marked distances has been replaced with the agonizing 30 second wait for a GPS signal lock. Bulky discmans have been replaced with barely noticeable MP3 players connected via Bluetooth headphones. As humorous as watching runners slap large boards covered in Vaseline and lathering it on along the race route was, they are all but gone and replaced with a much more discrete and comfortable body glide.

Over the years running technology has improved and became mainstream. During my run I can tell my pace, distance and duration of the run. Each mile is signaled with a vibrate. When I am done my phone is loaded with data about my run, my cadence, elevation, heart rate and a bunch of other information. I’m probably a lot like other runners, I need this information and whenever a better watch is released that can give me more information I need that! Of course, I explain in great detail to my wife about how this new technology is necessary for me to become a better runner.

But, to be quite honest: the truth is, I don’t need that information. I do like knowing I have it but I don’t want my running time being spent analyzing every detail of my run. The best way for me to become a better runner is to spend that time more productive, running or stretching. I use my watch more as a double check. Rather then focusing on my watch while trying to maintain a specific number, I focus on an average pace and each mile I use my watch simply as a double check to ensure I am on track. When the data isn’t ideal I try to identify potential causes such as increased wind or even an insane hill!

Technology, racing and fueling have changed a lot since I was a teenager toeing the line of my first race. In many ways it is great! I love being able to go back a year or two and compare runs to see just how much my hard work and dedication has paid off. Consider this: cover up your watch or leave it at home all together for some of your runs. You may find yourself enjoying your run even more by looking at a beautiful trail, forest, river or listening to the sounds of nature more then staring at numbers on a watch face and jamming out to *NSYNC.

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The Long run

The weeks have been flying by, as each week passes we are finding each long run getting longer and longer. This can become difficult, the time requirement increases. The need for a good diet, sleep and hydrating becomes much more important.

This last weekend I did the Preava Training run and got up a little late and forgot to eat breakfast. It left me suffering, feeling weak and a little sick by the end of my run. My intentions were to do a few extra miles but, if I would have tried to run those extra miles, nothing good would have came out of that attempt.

Training for a marathon takes planning. What are you going to eat, when, drink? I personally don’t like carry water with me so I need to plan a route ahead of time and place water.

The long run can also be scary and intimidating. Understanding the purpose of the long run can ease your fears. It truly is not about speed. It is about building endurance. Getting the miles is much more important then the speed that it’s done. So make your plan. Load up your music, audio book or just take in the sights and take it easy and enjoy your run.

How many shades of gray?

Training for a marathon requires months of dedication and hard work and although it may look easy at times, it most definitely is not. For me, running has become a lifestyle and it affects a lot of my decisions; some I can control (food intake, sleep routine), but others I cannot!

Wisconsin winters in particular can make it increasingly difficult to stay motivated; we have less daylight , frequent cold to insanely cold temps and of course, flu season. For me, perseverance and creativity is key. I try my best to stick to my running routine but continue to make adjustments by trying new things in order to keep it interesting! Never be afraid to switch things up!

Sometimes, simply making my way out the door is the hardest part of my run! I prefer to complete my runs first thing in the morning, so 3:30am is my customary start time. It’s not easy leaving a nice warm bed to venture out into the freezing cold. Luckily, after many years of my alarm clock going off at the wee hours of the morning, my family has mastered the ability to complete block it out and they are seldom disturbed by me and my morning routine. These days, at most, I get a brief “ugh” from my wife as she puts her pillow over her head!

As soon as my alarm goes off I try my best to immediately get out of bed and changed into my running gear which is always set out and ready to go. Not having to search for my stuff is a major time saver! Most mornings I complete my pre-run routine (warm-up stretches) outside; however, I will opt for the living room on days when the weather is unforgiving. Regardless of how motivated I may be to start running, it is inevitable that on the insanely cold days I will end up waiting outside for my running buddy Sven, an Australian Shepard, to find the perfect spot to go potty. It is during those bitter cold moments that seconds feel like minutes as I can feel the cold riveting through my bones. These are usually the most difficult part of my run, aside from the initial getting out of bed, because I am outside, barely moving, and freezing!

Some mornings are definitely harder than others when it comes to finding motivation; those are the days that a million excuses rush through my mind and I need to remind myself that I’m stronger than the voices telling me to return to bed!

Everyone has their reasons for running, and if you read my previous blog, then you know mine! I’ve had plenty of mornings where I’ve second guessed whether I should put off running for another day. I’ve not once ever regretted going for a run, but on the rare occasion when I’ve succumbed to the temptation to stay home, there has always been regret.

There used to be mornings where my running routine would start to feel mundane and I wasn’t looking forward to my runs as much as in times past. I downloaded new music, and that momentarily helped, but new auditory jams weren’t, and still aren’t, always enough to keep me intrigued for a couple hours. When you run so early, in the dark, there is very little outside stimuli to interest you. At first it was fascinating to learn the neighbors habits; I’ve caught glimpses of my neighbors enjoying late night snacks, some stumbling home from who knows where, cars parked overnight at homes they probably shouldn’t be, and my all time favorite: someone consistently watching workout videos on their TV from the comfort of their couch! (Don’t worry Jenny, that can be our secret!)

Then, about a year ago I started listening to audiobooks while I run. I only have two rules for my audiobooks: I can only listen to them when I am running (which increases my overall mileage) and I will do a little research on the book prior to selecting it. One of my earlier book selections was chosen solely based on the title. Lets just say that it is difficult to run when you are feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. When I told my wife about my selection mishap she agreed that best selling books aren’t always the best option for me, regardless of how many “shades of grey” they may be!

Whether you are a morning runner, an evening runner, or anywhere in-between, just get out there. Persevere. And, when it gets a little boring, don’t be afraid to try new things.

See you Saturday at the Prevea Training Run!

When am I a Runner?

“When am I a runner?”  Runners World routinely poses this question and the generic rhetoric is usually, “When you take that first step” or “When you determine you are a runner.”  I don’t have the answer to this question because I think it is individual to everyone, based on their experiences and perceptions. I have known people that I considered a runner months before they concerned themselves a runner, and vice versa. Honestly, it took years for me to figure out not only what it meant to be a runner, but what running meant to me.

My first real running memories date back to when I was 11 or 12 years old. My dad had put on a few pounds over the years and decided to take up running to improve his physique. My first thought was: well, if he can do it, I can do it….better! As he was walking out of the house preparing to go run, I informed him that I would be joining him! I remember running down a country road, alongside my dad, feeling like I was going to fall over dead at any given moment. I finally succumbed to the pain, and began to walk. My dad smiled as he ran up ahead of me and continued home with me trailing in the distance. That was the longest quarter mile I had ever ran!

I’d love to say the next day I was out there ready to go, but that wasn’t the case.  Several months passed before I decided to try running again, but each time I ran I slowly increased my stamina and distance, and throughout the process my dad and I became running buddies.  We quickly progressed to running 10K races and were fiercely competitive with one another.

Ask anyone about my dad and they will tell you he was a runner.  He was that crazy guy running around town all the time, any time of day, in all types of weather! Back in 2000 my dad ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  It never made sense to me why anyone would want to run 26.2 miles. I was certain it was nothing short of pure insanity! Fast forward to the present day and it all makes sense to me.  I truly feel that running makes me more calm.  I am a better husband, a better father, and just a better person because of it.  Now I am that crazy guy running around town all the time.  My dad passed away in 2001 and most of my memories of him involve running! I would give anything to turn back the clock and be able to share just one more run with him or to experience the excitement and humor of us racing out of the Bellin 10k porta-potty lines because the starting pistol went off!

Since childhood, running has been a significant part of my life. Now, as a father and a husband it has continued. And, as much as my family may sometimes say otherwise, we are very much a running family.  My son Griffyn has ran high school track for the last 2 years and I help as the assistant coach. Sometimes, if I am lucky, he will even join me outside of track for some weekend races. My middle child, Maddelyn is a huge racer……depending on the style of the shirt. What can I say, she brings a new meaning to being “fashion forward!” My youngest, Lillyn, is fiercely competitive! On her first race she placed in her age group and threw up as she surged past another runner just before crossing the finish line.  As foreign as 6am may be for my wife Kate, she is always up and there to support me! Kate has attended all of my races with a gleaming look of pride on her face that is always so amazing; she is by far my biggest cheerleader!

Running is woven into every sense of my being. Running is what helps me stay connected to my past while forming new memories with my family.