Saturday, December 31, 2011

Polar Bear Dip & Dash 2011

Today was the first race I've done since I have started this blog.  While I'm a little disappointed with my time I'm hoping that it will be a nice benchmark for all future races.

The Race
This was the Polar Bear Dip and Dash hosted by the NRCM (Natural Resources Council of Maine).  The race was in Portland, ME right on the water.  You can see the course here:

With better weather I'm sure this would have been a beautiful race; more on that later though.

So this is a 5K put on to raise money for clean energy support and global warming awareness.  I thought it was certainly a worthy cause and was happy to sign up.

Compared to other races that I've done the turnout was small, just over 100 runners, most of whom took the splash afterward.

Weather Conditions
Well at least it wasn't snowing?  I don't know, maybe snow would have been better.  The morning greeted all of us on the Seacoast with a healthy amount of freezing rain.  As we were driving up to Portland and I had the wipers on full blast I started to get cold just thinking about it.  Bad, BAD Ju Ju!

The first 2-3K of the race took place on a trail that hugs the bay.  Unfortunately most of that trail was covered with ice or slush.  As I wasn't wearing my spikes and instead had worn my Vibram Five Fingers (VFF's) that are best on pavement or smooth trails, I had to keep to the grass and the street on either side of the trail to keep from ending up arse-over-tea-kettle.  

The trail changed to a mostly paved trail and while there were still some patches of very slippery stuff it was mostly okay.

During the race the rain eased off to a constant light drizzle; much better than a driving rain, but still very damp and dreary.  It was that wet cold that just sinks into your joints and makes you feel more like starting a fire and drinking cocoa, not running around like a loon.

So here are the fine details on the weather which will directly relate to the next paragraph:
Air Temp: 31°F or -0.5°C
Wind: 5MPH
Humidity: 78%
Ground conditions: Mostly wet with patches of ice or sleet
Precipitation: Light drizzle

This may be useful for anybody considering running in similar weather:
Jacket: Columbia Titanium - this is a soft shell running/sporting jacket that is fairly weather proof, good for wind and light rain or light snow protection
Shirt: Generic short sleeve compression shirt
Hat: Eastern Mountain Sports nylon ball cap - this hat is great for keeping the water off my head but not over heating me like a knit skull cap
Gloves: Generic light weight running gloves - picked up some light weight gloves at Target a while back
Pants: No frills Adidas track pants
Shoes: VFF Komodo Sport with Injinji toe socks

Even though it was right around the freezing point, most of my gear was very light.  The only thing I would have changed out of all of it is my shoes and socks.  I would have chosen my VFF Trek Sports (better on changing terrains) and my wool Injinji toe socks.  My feet got very wet and the cool thing about wool is that even when it gets wet it still keeps you warm; at least warmer than cotton or synthetics.

By the end of the 5k I had taken off my hat (due to heat) and pushed up my sleeves on my jacket a bit.

So finishing 40th out of 111 isn't too bad, but I've done better with time on similar distances.  28:52 was my time.  Maybe I could have done better had I been working my core muscles during all the Christmas festivities rather than eating sugary treats...but that didn't happen.

Also, I got to the race without much time to spare so I didn't get much a chance to do any warming up.  My last race I had a decent warm-up and my time results greatly improved.

The Dip
In case anybody out there wanted to know.  The North Atlantic on December 31st is cold.  VERY cold.  Not unbearable (for a few seconds), but certainly cold.  I hope that this resolves any curiosity that anybody may have about this subject.

After the race, I took off my gear and put on my board shorts and waited for the count-down.  At that point a whole bunch of us ran into the water like complete idiots.  In the video that my wife shot, I noticed that a few people ran down TO the water and crouched real low to get themselves damp.  When I noticed this I was originally thinking "You wimps!  Seriously, I grew up in Antigua and I'm here jumping head-first into this."  After a few moments of rational thought I realized that these folks are probably a WHOLE lot smarter than me (but they're still wimps).

Enjoy the videos! I'm definitely going to be signing up for this one next year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How This All Started

I never liked running, EVER.  As a child and teen I preferred water sports and computer games. When I joined the Coast Guard I had no problem with any of the swimming trials, but I only just squeaked by on the qualifying run; something like 11:20 for a mile and a half.

So why did I start running?  Well after the military and on my second corporate America job I had noticed that I had gained quite a bit of weight.  As a matter of fact, both my wife and I had put on the same amount of weight when she was pregnant with our first child.  Then she had a baby....I didn’t.

When it got to the point where I needed to buy the next size up in pants I drew the line.  There was NO way I was going to be buying the same size pants that my father wears (sorry dad), while I was still in my 20‘s!!!

One of my co-workers would always go out run during our lunch break at the office and I thought to myself “well, he’s got a good idea here,” as I, like him, didn’t have a lot of free time before or after work.

Jack (my co-worker) was running around 3.5 miles 3-4 times per week.  So I decided I would tag along and see what I could do.  And what could I do?  Not much.  Not much at all.  There was nothing I could do to keep up with a man nearly twice my age.  My first run I think I made it about 1/4 of a mile and that was it, I was sucking wind.  I alternated between jogging and walking for the remainder of the distance.

Jack was relentless though and as soon as he realized that he had a quasi-running partner he was on my case every day he went running: “Did you bring your gear?  We going today?  How are the legs?  How are the lungs today?”

So I got better and after a few weeks at it I talked myself into signing up for my town's 5K.  I remember thinking, “Holy crap, does this make me a runner?  But I don’t even like running!”  When I shared this thought with my wife she half-joking, half-serious said “yeah, yeah, you’re probably going to want to start running marathons soon.”  I’m sure I shot this notion down, but this blog is yet another way in which she was right, and I was wrong.

Well, I ran that 5K and didn’t do too bad (or so I thought shortly after crossing the finish line).  I managed just over a 10 minute mile, finishing in somewhere around 31:12 I think.  As I’m enjoying the revelry  I started talking to this older gentleman who informed me that he was 68 and that he had just finished the 5K in 25:18.  This old guy was averaging between 7-8 minute miles?!?!  I think it was at that point that the running bug really bit me.  How could I possibly live with myself knowing that some retired old guy beat my time by several minutes in my own town?!  Truth be told there were a lot of people who were older than me and some that looked like they were in worse shape than I, crossing that finish line before me.

Moving On

After reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born To Run” I really started to feel like not only was I doing something good for myself by running, but that I had been missing out on something amazing that was always right in front of me, but I never saw it.  It is this feeling that has made me want to run an Ultra.

Why not just be satisfied with a marathon?  Well that’s just it, I don’t want to be “satisfied.”  I don’t want to get to that point and say, “Okay, I did it, I’m going to move on to something else now.”  By setting this goal I’m pushing myself beyond a normal and easily recognizable comfort-zone.

Why Running? 
I’ve been asked this before, and it’s really an easy answer.  Even though when I started I hated it, running is arguably one of the easiest sports to get into.  Lets look at the facts:

Supplies: You, shoes (optional), clothes (for the love of all that’s good NOT optional), outside (treadmill for inside).

That’s it!  What if it’s raining?  Snowing?  There’s a saying that goes something like this:  “There’s no such thing as bad running weather, just bad running gear.” 

You set your own pace, there are no strict rules, you don’t need a membership, you can spend as little or as much money as you want, you can do it just about anywhere at any time.

So there you have it!  The next post is probably going to be on Vibram Five Fingers and minimalist (natural) running.  There will be some cool videos and pictures to go along with that one!

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's this all about?

Well, that's easy enough.  I have decided to create this blog for several reasons.  So lets list them out:

  1. I wanted to create a blog to hold myself socially and publicly accountable for getting in shape, staying in shape and reaching my goal(s).
  2. To share with others the things I have learned on this journey; techniques, diets, products, etc.
  3. To give others an opportunity to learn from my experience and hopefully inspire others to set their own life goals, big or small, and try to reach them however possible.
So this is what I'm going to be putting up on this blog:
  • Pictures:  There'll be pictures of me running and other running related shots, trails, routes, and I may do that thing where I take a picture of my body once a week, or every day and come up with a rather grotesque montage.
  • Products:  I'll be posting about the stuff I'm using, where I got it from, why I'm using it, things like that.
  • Training Schedules and Results: So that'll be what I'm up to and how well I did it.
  • Perhaps the occasional randomness, and maybe even a video or two.
In the posts to follow I'll be going into some of my personal history and an outline discussing how I came to be a person who loathed running (we call these people "sane") to what I am today (sometimes I think sanity took a vacation).