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Monthly Archives: January 2012

On the Go at the C&O

I really like where I live because it offers so many different outdoor options without being so far away from civilization that the Almost Wife goes nuts.

This is 1/2 mile from my front step:

Potomac at Weverton

The river is as high as I have ever seen it, short of flood stage, for as far back as I can remember.  The C&O Canal trail (also called the “towpath”) however is in great shape.  One would expect lots of washouts given the amount of rain we have had, but the path is exceptionally dry and level.  For those unfamiliar, the C&O Canal is a National Park that goes from DC to Western, MD.  It is simply one trail and the ground between the trail and the river.  There are many places to enter the park along its nearly statewide length, but the one with the “most parking to least people” ratio is at Brunswick, MD.  I enter the part just a bit farther West in a little Appalachian trail stop known as Weverton.  From here, it is about four miles to Harper’s Ferry and it is one of the less boring stretches of trail you’ll find.  When you hit the Harper’s Ferry area, you can walk up the steps of the foot bridge, cross into West Virginia, and try your legs on the hills of the historic town if you dare.  These hills are BRUTAL.

Yesterday was beautiful so I set out to run four miles, anything beyond that I would consider a bonus.  I felt great and ended up going eight miles, four out, and four back home.  In Harper’s Ferry, I noticed folks looking up.  I was confused at first until I realized there were rock climbers on the cliffs.  While I don’t like to speak in absolutes about things I may one day decide to do, something about a small piece of rope between me and imminent doom or damage BY CHOICE doesn’t seem like something I’ll ever do.  But then again, I said the same thing about running more than a mile not long ago!

As I ran I was reminded of how technology constantly replaces itself.  The old canal used to be the heart and soul of commerce in the region and a major contributor to commerce of the nation.  Now only ruins remain.  Nature has taken it back.  Folks with iPhones and iPods and Garmin watches now hike, jog, and bike along it.

Old C&O Canal lock

Entire industries and many people once depended on this.  Now it is just a ditch.

I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather.  We’re surely going to pay for this.  Now get off the computer and go do something!  You’ll FEEL BETTER!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Rest is GOOD (but frustrating)

No matter how many times I hear, “take your time, go SLOW”, I don’t listen.  This has been my modus operandi since kindergarten when every single piece of coloring I brought home had, in the teacher’s handwriting, “PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!”.  Coloring never interested me much though, so getting that crap done, usually in one color, and handed the heck in was fine by me.  My parents never forced the issue…..just like when that same kindergarten teacher told my parents at conferences, “He seems to have trouble skipping during afternoon activities.”  She’d play music and we’d have to hop, skip, jump, and what not around the room. My mother freaked out, “OH MY GOD HE CAN’T SKIP!” as if I had been diagnosed with MS or something.  My Dad, in his gentle but stern tone said, “Dear….do you REALLY want your little boy to skip around like a fairy?”

So I couldn’t color and I sucked at skipping.  When I am passionate about something though, I do it like my hair is on fire.  Running and age have quickly taught me that I CANNOT always go that hard all the time.  I cannot just add miles each week in ridiculous increments.  My knees say, “NOPE, TIME TO STOP DUDE” and stop I did.  After paring back the mileage, focusing on rest and ice, stretching better, and doing some strength training to help weak spots, I can feel things starting to come back.  Obviously, my goal is to add mileage.  The guy sitting down and signing up for a race at a new distance says, “Just finish, don’t worry about speed.”  The little fast coloring, non skipping devil inside of me says, “RUN 40 MILES A WEEK ON HILLS AND SPEND A DAY DOING SPEED TRAINING AND FINISH WITH PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE HECK THEY’RE DOING!”  I will listen to the more rational voice from now on, even when I desperately want to add mileage.

I could not have done this a short time ago.

My focus in the coming weeks is to get back on pace with my training, but to add an extra rest day.  I will RELUCTANTLY pare back the overall mileage but I will do my best to protect my weekly long run.  I will focus on my form and bio-mechanics to help my body adapt and learn the right techniques.  I may rest, but I will not QUIT.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Garmin Forerunner 610: A Review in Progress

I will do my best to update this as I go and learn how to use my new toy.  I literally just got the package today and opened it up five minutes ago.

After some research, I broke down and bought myself a Garmin Forerunner 610 off of Amazon.  I had some “company points” from my work (ie: non-cash bonuses that normally only have offers at places I’d never set foot in) coming to me so I figured I’d cash them in on an Amazon gift card (this is a new option for our point program and it is the first one I’ve found that makes a point worth a dollar….you know $200 = 200 points instead of for 400 points you can get THIS AWESOME TOASTER!).

The package arrived today and I opened it up carefully.  I got the heart monitor package so inside we found the watch, the charger, the USB ANT stick, books, a CD, the heart monitor, and the strap.  Everything is tightly packaged and individually wrapped.  I like that because when you open something and there are 400 pieces all mixed together, it makes for a not so fun assembly process.

Next I opened up the quick start guide and read up on the charger.  I’m kind of old school so I had never seen a charger with a separate North American adapter prong thingy.  You can take the prongs on and off for use in different countries but the short little nubs on the chargers AC adapter kind of confused me until I found the piece that clips into those nubs for North American outlets.

After that, you have to “clip” the charging mechanism to two little holes on the back of the watch.  This was a little tricky to do, but the engineer in me figured it out after several tries.  When the watch lit up and made a noise, I knew I was in business.  The watch, which has never been turned on, is now at 41% charge after about 12 minutes.   The heart monitor snap buttons (like on your western shirt or your old coat back in elementary school) to the strap and then you adjust it to fit snuggly around your chest.  Wearing something around my chest will be an adjustment for me.

updates to come

I took off for the gym at about 7:30 and came back around 8:30 to find the Forerunner 610 completely charged.  This took just over an hour for the initial charge up.  The manual says the watch will run for one week using the Forerunner 45 minutes per day with Power Save Mode on the rest of the time.  The watch automatically kicks into power save mode when not in use.

I picked up the watch, took it off of the charger, and began to go through the setup.  It was easy.  You just go through and it asks you language, height, weight (not the time to lie about it, this is YOUR watch), miles/kilometers, age, etc.  The touch screen takes some getting used to.  It is very counter intuitive to me to apply my fingers, with any level of pressure, to a $400 watch. At first I thought the screen wasn’t working or wasn’t activated, but once I got firm with it, the screen changed accordingly.   Next, the watch buzzed and asked to pair with the heart rate monitor sitting on my desk.  I did not have to do anything accept hit “ok”.  I put the monitor on my chest and watched as the watch caught up with and displayed my heart rate.

Next I began the ANT Stick and Garmin Connect setup.  Again, it was pretty user friendly.  You just go to the Garmin Connect site, setup your account (easy, they ask for NOTHING personal but an email), install the software, and the watch does the rest.  It takes a few seconds to sync after coming out of sleep mode, but all seems to be working well.  I clicked, “start” on the watch, then stop, hit and held “reset” to end my first fake workout, and then my computer toolbar icon for the ANT stick said it was transferring the data.

So far so good.  I have yet to do any actual running with this watch, but I am excited to see how it fares and how quickly I learn the various functions.  I’ve never had a device of any kind that setup so easily right out of the box.  No phone calls, no secret codes, just hook it up and let it work.  You also don’t have to set the time, the satellites do that for you, just like your car GPS.  I used to hate digital devices because they’d get all out of whack or on military time with no way of changing them.  The Garmin setup is way easier.

update 1/26/12 First Use

There is nothing fun about running in the rain in January, but I had to try my new toy out tonight.  It kept its signal despite being under my sweatshirt, which should not be a surprise given auto GPS units can find and maintain a signal through metal and glass.  I ran a quick two miles, out and back as the rain got harder and harder.  I could see the display fine under street lights and on darker spots, the LED light button was easy to hit for a quick check.   Every mile, the watch would vibrate.  You can change this setting, but for now, miles are fine.  The heart monitor was barely noticeable once I got going, which was a pleasant surprise.  When I reached  home, I hit “stop” and then held the reset button to save my workout.  Before I could get in the house, out of my shoes, and up the steps, the ANT stick had successfully transmitted and logged the workout data.  The amount of info, even using only the most basic of the watch’s capabilities, is pretty darn impressive.

So far, I have to give the Garmin Forerunner 610 and its devices and software two BIG thumbs up!

Update 2/8/12

After about two weeks of use, I’m sold.  I have used only a handful of the functions, but the functions I wanted most: mapping, distance, pace, heart rate, and time are working great.  I ordered the Foot Pod separately and it arrived yesterday.  The Garmin Foot Pod allows you to use the unit indoors to measure speed and distance.  If you plan to run inside, you will want this accessory.  The Foot Pod clips easily onto your shoe (easier than tying a D-Tag).  The watch automatically detects its presenc and pairs with it. 

Once you are on a track or treadmill, simply go to the calibration menu, hit start, and run the calibration distance (800M or 1/2 mile).  I did this on the treadmill and, assuming my treadmill is accurate (I am confident it is), the foot pod stayed right in time with it.  Adding the foot pod also allows you count you steps per minute (cadence) which is helpful if you are working on a more efficient stride.

I am extremely satisfied with this watch.  The ease of use has been excellent.  The touch screen is a little tough to get used to as Garmin didn’t want to make it overly sensitive given the fact that a user could bump the screen and screw up their settings, but once I figured out the right amount of pressure to apply, using the touchscreen became much easier.

Update 3/15

Aside from the watch buzzing every ten seconds as it goes into power save mode, I love the 610.  To me, the primary reason for buying it was for tracking and recording distances and routes.  It does that well, but that is only about 20% of what the watch does.  My rule for buying gadgets is, buy it for the one feature that will make your life or a task far easier.  The GPS mapping does that.  I am slowly beginning to use other features like “saved routes” “return to start” and “virtual training partner” and they are nice extras.  Totally worth the money.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tempo Run and that “ALIVE” Feeling

Today was a gray, lonely, quiet day.  I think I took three calls at the shop (total), talked to a few regular walk ins, and pretty much reorganized my reorganization all day.  In my world, cold, wet days (unless it is snowing of course), in January just seem to take forever.

After the quitting whistle blew, I got on the treadmill for a thirty minute tempo run.  I started out slow and just ticked up the speed every minute or so.  When I peaked, I was well below the speed I would like to run.  Then I backed it back down and cruised on in.  I envision the speed on these runs as a bell curve, with the end a little higher than the beginning.

All I can say is, 30 minutes made the whole dreary ten hours beforehand just go away.  I feel alive after I run even if I’m totally out of breath from sprinting to the finish.  I ask myself, “why did you spend so many years not exercising?”  I think the answer is two fold:  1) we don’t realize our bodies are changing in our youth, and then 25 rolls around and things start deteriorating at a more rapid pace.  Then we try to do things in the gym on the first day like we did when we were 20 and we burn out.  2) A person just forgets how good it feels to be active. 3) (yeah, I know I said 2) I didn’t have the focus or patience for this when I was younger.

I am glad I caught the running bug when I did, because I needed to be excited about working out again.  Mentally I am more focused in all aspects of my life thanks to running.  I go into each day with a more detailed plan than used to BECAUSE I want to make sure I get my workout in, so my work is better and those I work for are served better.  My significant other even made the comment that my moods seem more even (I have a generally reserved but explosive personality that to the uninitiated can be scary).  Physically everything just feels better.  I don’t feel fatigued or winded and I know my heart rate and blood pressure have come down without even having to check them.

I am basing these observations off of how I feel after 30 minutes.  55 minutes total if you count a two minute round trip commute, a warm up, a cool down walk, and some stretching.  That is all these changes take out of one’s day.  Amazing.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Post Holiday Depression (at the gym)

First and foremost let me say I 100% encourage people to exercise regularly.  However EVERY year these folks show up at the gym in January and slowly dwindle away until March.  Again, I encouarage exercise, but man I hate seeing my gym get crowded this time of year.  My normal three open treadmills will dwindle to none (occupied by walkers no less) and there will be lines for popular weight machines.  (I always feel bad for the shoulder press this time of year, he gets no love)

Again, I want to see folks working out.  I think if more folks focused on and took responsiblity for their health we could end a lot of other debates, particularly those regarding healthcare.  However, I like my space and I like my routine, so alas, I am forced to share it until the lack of progress and same old same old attempts by a large percentage of the population wears off between now and March.  A long time ago, back when I was still training for high school and collegiate sports, I intentionally would switch my workout time and routine around this time of year to deal with the increased gym traffic. 

1.  Go in with a flexible plan.  There is more than one way to cook a chicken.  If the machine you just HAD to use is backed up with newbies and regulars, find a variant.   Your body needs variations anyway.

2. Do not wait in line even if you absolutely have to use a particular machine during your workout in order to be happy.  Seriously though, don’t stand and wait.  You’ll just get annoyed while Tommy Tits takes his good old time on the bench press.  Go find something else to do, even if it wasn’t in the original plan.

3. Hour earlier, hour later.  The normal gym peak times are out for me this time of year.  Either I go at 4 or 5AM or I go at 7PM or later.  24 Hour gyms like Anytime Fitness are great for this.  The bottom line is, if you try to go in after the stay at home mom’s have dropped off the kids or around dinner time, you’ll find the gym is pretty packed.

4.  Don’t be a trainer.  You’ll see people doing things wrong more so this time of year than any other time.  Unless you know them or they ask, leave them to their own devices.  You don’t want to be “that guy” or gal at the gym….even if it costs someone an injury.

5.  Get outside and do something different for a while.  Sure, it is tough to get outside in some climates this time of year, but it won’t kill you.  Plus you’ll be able to make better use of your time since the gym will be crowded.  Running, biking, kettle bells in the back yard (the neigbors will think you’re nuts, which is fine with me).

6. If you use the gym, focus on making your workouts efficient for yourself and those around you.  You don’t have to get all three sets in or all 12 miles in during one sittng.  Go do something else so others can work in or come back (this may lead you back to #3 or #5)

Tonight th’ Almost Wife and I plan to do some gym work.  I have found that Mondays in January are the absolute busiest.  January is busy for the aforementioned resolutions and Mondays tend to be busy because everyone sat on their butt all weekend.  We will combat this by going in a little later than usual to get done what we plan to get done. 

Now get off the computer and go do something!  You’ll feel better!

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Finally got some fresh air!

As convenient as running on the treadmill can be, nothing beats getting outside and beating the streets.  Last night wasn’t as bitter cold and windy as it has been, so I took off on a quick two mile run around town followed by some strength work at the gym.  I don’t know what I will do when the day comes to move out of my current house.  The gym is so close and the proximity to safe streets, roads, and trails makes it hard to beat for running. Today is a scheduled off day for me, but I plan to get a good 6 to 8 miles in tomorrow as the weather looks really good for January in mid-Maryland (54 degree and sunny).

I have been using Hal Higdon’s (www.halhigdon.com) training outlines since day one.  I am currently working through his intermediate 10 miler/15K program.  I like the increased focus on strength training and speed work.  I may have to build in an extra rest day here and there, but otherwise, I’ve found his programs effective in the short time I have been using them.  The main thing I like is that his website is laid out simply and the “printer friendly” versions of his programs really are printer (and browser) friendly.  Format and accessibility are so critical to whatever you’re selling or sharing on the web.  There is nothing worse than clicking dead links or needing to upgrade software programs just to get whatever it is a link leads to. 

My plan is to run in the Tim Kennard 10 Mile River Run http://www.timkennard.org/ down in beautiful Salisbury, MD on March 4th. The ten mile start is at the same time and place as the 5K start which my wonderful wife to be will be running.  This is her first race so I plan to start with her, pace with her for awhile, and then hopefully take off for a strong finish in the ten miler.  The timing and location of this race couldn’t be better for where I am with my training right now.  Any sooner and I’m not sure I’d be ready for a 10 miler, any later and it would get to close to the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon in May.  

If you haven’t been to Salisbury, it is a nice old college town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  While I love my mountains out here in Central, MD, you can’t get that brack water out of my veins that easily.  Returning to the shore will be nice…..plus it is REALLY FLAT over there which should make for a good first race experience for my significant other while giving me a good test at a new distance.

This first week of increased training has been solid.  I bumped my intervals up to 4×800 (from 400) and I am anxious for a pretty day for a long run on the roads tomorrow.  Hopefully you’ll get out there too!  Trust me, you’ll feel better if you do!

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Resolutions? Nah, just my regular goal cycle.

My goal setting strategy for the past two years has been very simple.  Regardless of what aspect of my life I am setting a goal for (business, finance, health, hobbies, personal) this is how I break them down.

I am going to skip all of the “measurble, attainable, specific” type of stuff you read in every self help book and blog known to man.  That info is not new, so I will not repeat it.  One thing I think that goes overlooked is that goals need to be broken down into short, mid term (I view this as three to six months) and long term (six months out or more).

Every month I write down my goals and check on the progress of previous ones.  At the top of the goal category I have short term goals, followed by mid-term, followed by long term.  I often make notes on how I will achieve each one.  Sometimes I have to make adjustments, but I find this simple process typically keeps me on task and focused.  It is critical that you put your goals somewhere where you will refer to them regularly.  I used to email my goals to myself.  They would then get so buried in my inbox that I would forget them or lose track of them.  For me, nothing works better than 3×5 cards or half size legal pads that stay on the desk where I blog and do paperwork every evening.

I know I’m not doing anything ground breaking here, but if you don’t have some method of managing your goals they tend to be like fall leaves, they just blow around in the wind.  Finally, no matter what you want to do or what the time horizon is, you must ask the following:  “What is it I want to do?”  “How long will it take me?”  “How much am I willing to pay?”  Remember, “how much you are willing to pay” can come in many forms and there ARE NO FREE LUNCHES!   No matter what it is you want to do, you will give something up to get it.  If owning a house in a certain neighborhood is a goal, there is a dollar cost.  If running a marathon is your goal, you will pay in time and effort.  If you want to start a business, you’re going to have to put in the hours and risk the capital.  There ARE NO FREE LUNCHES.

In other news, my wife to be started http://www.halhigdon.com ‘s novice 5K program today while I knocked out a half hour on the treadmill today.  I am very happy to have her at the gym with me again.  I am anxious to get back to running on the road but given the holiday time constraints and ridiculous weather, I am thankful I have an uncrowded gym just up the road that always seems to have a treadmill open.

Happy running!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Uncategorized