Entries in Gear (11)


February brings new Challenges

On Saturday, I went out early for a Long Run with my running partner Mike. At 6am, it was dark and chilly but there we were, on the Prairie Trail, heading out for an 8-mile run. I was hoping this would feel 'right' and let me know that I am still on track fitness-wise (even though I took that week off).

But before we even got started, Mike had found a woman's purse on the trail that had clearly been rummaged through. So we decided to call the police so that perhaps they could reunite the purse with its owner. Since the purse had keys and other contents strewn around the path, Mike was certain the owner would be worried. I thought the purse looked as if it was stolen (maybe a 'snatch and grab') so we agreed calling the police was worth the delay in our run. The police came, did their investigation, and we went on our way.

The path was nice and clear of any snow or ice, and the run started out very smoothly. Of course, we talked along the way, which is a good way of making sure we kept to a steady, easy pace. We both had our headlamps lighting our way as we ran, looking like two coal miners with running shoes. We went about 4 miles before it was light enough outside to turn off the headlamps.

On the way back, we saw a group of ducks swimming on a lake to our left. I made the comment that "Ducks were God's original triathletes: they swam, ran, and flew!" He took the photograph and we kept on moving. When we finished the run, we both remarked that running together was a good thing. We keep each other on task, strengthening our resolve to complete the run. It is good to have someone who understands how running makes you feel and shares the drive to improve and push yourself to do more. I am going to need that support this year!

Our final mileage was 8.7 miles! I was very pleased with that! My final mileage for the week came to 20.3 which was about where I wanted to be for the week.

On to new Challenges!

Today I started two new challenges. The first was signing up for the LifeTime 90-day Challenge, a weight loss challenge the club launched where you set a weight loss goal for the next 90 days. I signed up for a 15 pound weight loss goal, and did my initial "weigh-in" with my coach Meghan.

During the next 90 days, there are many free classes and programs you can take to help reach your goal. At the end of the program, there is a 5K race followed by awards given to those who lose the most weight.

I did this program last spring and had great results. I hope to be able to check out many of their exercise programs during the Challenge because they make many of them free to participants. It is a good chance to do things that you might not otherwise try due to cost or lack of opportunity. I am looking forward to the 2012 challenge!

The second thing I did today was to start an experiment with Natural Running by testing out a new pair of running shoes I ordered from Altra Running. They are called "The Instinct" and are a new breed of shoe marketed to be the step between a regular running shoe and a minimalist shoe.

The company was started by a couple of running shoe designers from Nike who started their own company. The shoe has cushioning similar to a regular shoe, but a minimalist heel to toe ratio (called a "zero drop" heel). Because male and female feet are different, they have different models for men and women to ensure the best possible fit. I first heard about the company during an interview about their shoes on The Marathon Show and since my current shoes are due for replacement in another 100 miles (4-5 weeks), I figured now would be a good time to check into a new pair.

The 'experts' say it takes 4 weeks or so to get your feet and calves accustomed to running in minimalist shoes because they encourage a mid-foot strike and engage your calves and arches more than regular running shoes do. Taking things too fast could lead to potential injury and I want to avoid that.

So today, I took my first step into the Natural Running world. To take things slowly, I decided to run 3x400m in them (with a 400m warm-up walk and 400m cool-down walk). That means 3/4 mile of running and 1/2 mile of walking in the new shoes.

The good news? They felt great! I had no problems running in them, partly because I am more of a midfoot striker (and I walk in socks whenever I am home). I ran at a 12:00/mm pace for 2x400m and at 10:30/mm for the third 400m. And I didn't experience any discomfort at all.

So I think I like these! I am going to wear them for one run each week, adding 1/4-1/2 mile each time until I can do a 5K in them. Then I will have a better idea if these will be a good fit for me, and if I should try them out on a Long Run. My main concern is that I am a heavier runner than most who go 'minimalist', so I will be paying close attention to how my feet handle it.

Not sure if I will want to run in these for a HM, but, we will see how this experiment goes. At worst, they can be my casual 'tennis shoe' if I choose not to make them a primary running shoe, right?


Stress, Motivation, and Props to Fleet Feet!

This week has been up and down for me.  Work has been busy with challenges, servers going down, project issues, etc.  It was definitely more stressful than usual.  And I have been somewhat unmotivated this week to do my Cross Training, and a little frustrated at myself on the weight loss front.

I missed both of my cross training TEAM Fitness sessions this week.  I hadn't planned on missing them but on Monday, I slept through my alarm (or it never went off).  And on Wednesday, work issues required me to be online when I would have otherwise been at the club.  What bothers me, however, is my seemingly 'whatever' attitude about missing them.  I like the program but I think that with Disney so close, I am less interested in prepping for it and more interested in just getting down there and running my races!

Another part of this whole thing is the fact that I have been somewhat stagnant in my weight loss.  For the past month, I have been pretty much maintaining my weight rather than losing.  It is good that I am not gaining weight, but I am also not losing any.  I think I know why.  Partly, it is because I am not being as consistent as I have been with making good food choices.  I have been 'indulging' more with the holidays and choosing to eat more tasty delights than I should.  I need to regain a little more of my discipline!

The other part is that with all the working out and running that I am doing, my trainer says I am gaining more lean muscle mass and losing fat -- based upon the fact that I am losing inches but not losing weight.  So this is still a sign that I am technically losing fat, but the muscle gain is resulting in my not showing any weight loss.  So, I can be happy about losing inches and being able to wear better fitting clothes.  But I still want to see the weight dropping off.  My motivation wanes a bit when the scale is not moving downward.

So thankfully, I have had several positive experiences to help balance things out.

Training Continues: The weather has eased up a bit this week.  I did my Tuesday morning speed work with it only being 35 degrees outside.  I had a good session!  1/2 mile fast segments run between a 9:20-9:40/mm pace, with my fastest pace being 8:57 for a part of one run segment.  I did all my intervals in 3.80 miles that day and everything seemed to fall into place.

(Tuesday was also a wardrobe first for me.  I usually wear running shorts over my compression pants, mostly because I felt kinda weird just wearing the compression pants.  Well today, I decided 'what the heck' and I just wore the compression pants -- like many other runners do.  And guess what?  It was just fine, and no one called the cops on me for being inappropriately dressed. LOL)

On Thursday, I went out for what turned into a Tempo Run for 3.50 miles at a 9:40 pace.  It was 45 degrees so I went out wearing just running shorts, a long-sleeved tech shirt, a cap, and gloves.  It was windy but it still felt great!  This would be perfect weather (minus the wind) for the Disney races.  We can only hope for the best on that one!

Saturday will be my last 'long' Long Run before Disney - a 12 miler.  I am planning on running it with my friend Mike.  I am actually looking forward to this last long run -- it will help cement my confidence in the upcoming Half Marathon. And hopefully, this run won't be done entirely in the rain like my last Long Run was. Haha

New Gear and Fleet Feet: So this week I did something that I know is always a bad idea for my budget.  I went to the running store -- Fleet Feet to be exact (there is one 15 minutes from my office -- not good!).  I needed to pick up a new armband thingy for my iPhone (I lost my other one somehow), a "Stick" for rolling after the Half, and some more GU gels.  I also picked up some CEP Compression Calf Sleeves.  For those who may not know what 'The Stick" is, it is a device that helps you roll out your muscles after a workout/race when you can't bring your foam roller along.  I know that I am going to need to work on my legs and glutes after the race at Disney, and I want to make sure I am in the best condition for the Half Marathon I am running 'after' Disney (the Polar Dash) on the 14th.

Speaking of Fleet Feet, I have to give them some 'props'.  Back in September, I bought a pair of compression pants (Zoot Knickers) from the Fleet Feet in downtown Chicago.  They were great and I wore them for almost every training run and about four races, when all of a sudden they started to tear!  They were brand new so I figured it was likely a defect.  I emailed Zoot about it, and they said to return them to the store where they could either be replaced or sent to Zoot (and Zoot would send me out a new pair).

I have been really busy since they tore in late October, and getting to the Chicago Fleet Feet store from my house was going to require a special 3-hour trip.  I finally had the chance to do it today (it is only an hour round-trip from my office).  I was skeptical given that I bought these things 3 months ago.  So I get to the store, show them the pants, the tear, and the email response from Zoot.  They immediately said "No problem! We will get you a new pair!"  I was so happy!  Of course, while I was there I got a cool Brooks running vest which was on sale.  I got it for $20!  So I walked out with a new pair of compression pants and the vest for my trouble.  Score!!!

Having an impact: I have had several discussions with friends, co-workers, youth/young adults about my running, exercise, and weight loss journey.  I have been doing youth ministry for almost two decades and working at my current employer for over 21 years.  So these are friends who have known me for a long while, and have seen me at my worst in terms of my weight and overall fitness.  And now, they are witnessing my slow transformation to a healthier 'me'.  I have been so encouraged by their positive comments and 'at-a-boys'!  I am not even sure they understand how much their support has meant (and continues to mean) to me!  They are such a help when my energy/drive to keep going begins to fade.

And I have been even more touched by how many people have started journeys of their own because they have seen what I have been able to accomplish.  To be a source of inspiration is still kind of strange for me because I do not always feel like I am worthy of that.  But I also know how much I have been inspired by others -- my coach, my 'running muse' Beth, my friends Mike R and Mike H, et al -- who fill me with the desire to keep moving forward.  So if I can be that spark for another person, then I am honored.