Running – seriously this time

For years, a full marathon continues to sit at the top of my bucket list. I get the feeling that this will be much more achievable next year if I get a half in this year and substantially build my base. It is my agenda to be moved by mid spring to a home much closer to one of the best trails in the state. Living less than a half mile from it will remove excuses to get out there both on my feet when running and on my bike for excellent cross training opportunities. While I have used this trail a dozen or more times for good bike rides, it is a 25-30 minute drive from my apartment so not ultimately convenient. Living 1/2 mile from it takes that excuse off the table. One of the issues I have with my current apartment is that to run, I need to run through an area that is not the safest area. To address that, I could get in my car and drive but I’ve found that to be the reason I’m not running.

As 2016 starts, I find myself joining the hoards of people headed back to the gym after a long absence. The thing is, I haven’t been absent that much. I have pretty much skipped the mid-week workouts and only have been hitting the gym on one of the two weekend days. My intent this year is to get back to running consistently. I have been doing a Runner’s World 45 minute treadmill workout for most of my runs. It allows me to run without killing my knees and, generally, feel good when I’m done. The one thing about that workout is that it starts with 5 full minutes of running – and I find that difficult to do when not properly warmed up. But, I work through that and move through it. There is a 4-minute run, followed by a minute of walking, then a 5-minute run. Those about kill me, but it’s time to set hitting them as a goal over the next month or two.

One concern I have regarding running both a half and a full marathon is that I plan on doing the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. Finding a group for long runs will require that I find another group using similar methods. But whe running o. My own, using my gymboss timer is challenging at times because I cannot hear it or feel the vibration at times, and it is set to a solid number of minutes in and with the intervals. That said, in the gym, the timer works very well. I have no idea how the Galloway method works with group long runs. I guess I’ll figure that out!

Air Line State Park rail trail ride

While not my first ride of the year, this was my longest. A co-worker (George) and I took off from his house and drove to the start, about 20 miles away. We headed south on this beautifully maintained trail (there are always a few spots with exceptions). We took our time and enjoyed the late afternoon ride. We didn’t hit the trail until almost 4:30 which allowed the weather to cool a bit. The biggest challenge was the shaded part on the return trip, especially where it was wet. Riding this with a road bike left no room for error when negotiating the ruts that were occasionally present. The shadows were becoming longer so the sunglasses came off to better see the road vs. the shadows.

Air Line Trail

Rail trail in Air Line State Park

Thanking a coach

I haven’t played football since the tenth grade. I started playing when I was in the fifth grade, and pretty much played continuously through tenth grade. When I first started playing, I was pretty good, relative to the other scrawny kids playing. I was bigger and I was stronger than many boys were at that age, probably because of where my birthday fell which drove me into being older brother than mostly younger boys. In addition, it likely had to do with the fact that I was outside practically every minute I could be, from morning until night, other than for school. I spent a bit over four years living on a farm, where I had acre after acre to roam. Being outside with my dog, or by myself was just what I did every day.

So in the fifth grade, after playing baseball for a few springs, it was time to add a fall sport to the mix. I was already a fan of the game, and was a fan of the Baltimore Colts long before they moved to Indianapolis. I loved the game, and loved the scrappy play that fifth graders could dish out. Both the first and second year I played, I was elected by the coaches to the all star team. After sixth grade ball, I went on to play during all three years of junior high before high school.

To level set, my high school played football with some of the best schools in Pennsylvania. We were among the largest schools (AAAA), and this was back when Pennsylvania was the dominant state for football. It was only natural for anyone who played to continue playing into high school, so I played again in tenth grade. Back in the ’70s, we had three years of kids at the high school, rather than the four that are normal today. But, with three junior high teams feeding two high school teams, there was lots of talent making up the high school teams.

Our coach, Steve King, was a high school English teacher. He was a gentle giant, with a big, loud voice, but cared for his players. As I look back, he was actually smaller than I am today, but a giant in a tenth grader’s eyes.

Coach King was a good coach. I remember him being fair and equally tough on all of his players. While it was long ago, calisthenics and leg lifts were part of the daily routine. When I look back at those practices, I remember the physical exercises followed by practice of the basic moves. Coach followed the style of Joe Paterno from Penn State. The methodology was basically to practice and execute the basic moves better than your opponents. Move the ball down the field a few yards each play, then score. It was a simple plan that worked for PSU for years.

Over the years, I have talked about the coaching style of Coach King, drilling the basics into us over and over. We paid little attention to the fancy plays, but could execute hose basic plays better than anyone else. Basic blocking, basic tackles, and basic running plays. Most plays were good for 3-4 yards at a minimum, enough to get that first down with each series of downs. Did we win every game? No. But I remember a good season with players trained on the basics and ready to make solid contributions on the varsity team the next year.

While many people remember their high school sports with memories of a special game or special victory, I remember the experience of playing and the true leadership of Coach King. Those lessons have served me well throughout my life, and have been shared many, many times.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Coach King through Facebook. I loved sharing the memories of his lessons and the value they have delivered throughout my life. I’m thankful that I could pass that along, and thankful that I could let him know that he made a contribution to my life. It’s not often that you can tell someone that from so far back in your life, so when you get the chance to say thanks, jump on it. They deserve to know.

Last one in the gym is a rotten egg!

As 2014 came to a close, I was the last one in the gym at my apartment complex. It was 9:15 or so and I did a 45+ minute run/walk workout from Runner’s World (and Jeff Galloway). It’s a workout I do often, although have problems running the full 4 and 5 minute segments in the later part of the workout. But last night, I successfully did both of them at 6.1 MPH. My slow run is 5.6 (2 minutes) followed by an easy run at 5.8 (3 minutes). A minute of walking, then 2 minutes running, walk for 1, etc. Eventually, it gets up to multiple 3 minute runs followed by a minute walk, then the 4 minute run, 1 minute walk, and 5 minute run. It ends with 2 minute and then 1 minute runs, each followed by a minute of walking. All in all, it’s 45 minutes if you stick to the plan. Yesterday, I kept going to take it above 50 minutes with the last few minutes of running at a much faster pace. Then, a brief cooldown and a cold walk back to my apartment. All in all, it was a great way to end 2014 on a high note!

100 pushups

Today was my first day of the 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups plan. I started with 8 pushups, waited 30 seconds, did 8 more pushups, paused for another 30 seconds and then did a total of 12 pushups. I am supposed to do this 3 days a week, following the specifics in the book. Tomorrow, my arms and pecs should be sore – and even more on New Year’s Day.

Let the abs, chest, back and glutes sculpting begin!

Hiking with my sister


My sister came to visit last weekend so we took the opportunity to find a new place to hike. She is in good shape so the hike wasn’t an issue, no matter whet we ended up going. I had always wanted to visit this tower which is a landmark in the greater Hartford area.

Finally back on the bike

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

I finally got things settled enough with my new apartment that I took advantage of the beautiful, late summer / early fall weather and went exploring on my bike on Sunday. The bridge pictured here is about a mile from my new place, and takes you from the eastern shore of the CT River to the western shore. While a busy road, it has a nice bike path on the side (separate) that has a path into the parking lot for the Windsor Locks Canal Trail.

Once in the parking lot, you cross through a small gate, over the canal and onto the path that runs between the canal and the river. It is just under 5 miles in length, so not too long, but run really close to the river in many parts. The river is mostly calm at this point, and there are are a few spots with benches that allow you to sit and watch the river and wildlife. A friend from work told me that they close the trail for a few weeks each year while the eagles nesting near there are sitting on their eggs or after the eaglets are born – presumably in the spring.

There were not too many people on the trail, surprising given the gorgeous weather – I guess many were home sitting on their butts, watching other people do athletic things (AKA watching football). When all was said and done, I rode 19 miles – not bad after a long stint of not riding at all. Now my legs are a bit sore, and I’m paying for weeks of inactivity. But, I loved the ride and pushed myself further than I thought I would The bonus was finding this trail which I will use for some upcoming fall runs – at least until they close the park for the winter!

Once again, I was happy to discover such a gem of a place practically in my backyard!

Sitting on my butt

I am so seemingly unmotivated lately. You see, I am in the process of moving out as part of a divorce (mutually agreed upon), but have been trying to figure out what the heck to take, where to put it, and how to get it there. I have a new apartment that comes with a full gym and indoor lap pool, open from very early in the morning (4:30) until late each evening (10:30) – seven days a week. I will no longer have an excuse for not making it to the gym, once I am actually sleeping in my new apartment.

Yesterday, I figured out that I have no place to put my workout gear without moving the shelf that I currently use in my laundry room to the new place. The problem is that either it is too small for my stuff or I have too much workout gear (say it isn’t so!). I am also moving my bike up there either today or tomorrow, trying to figure out where to put that as well. I have to be careful of not getting dirt on the new carpet, so will need to put something under the wheels.

The one thing that I am both looking forward to yet fearing is swimming. I know that swimming laps is great exercise – zero impact, go at my own pace kind of exercise. With that, I am not looking forward to figuring out exactly how poorly my form is. I never really learned to swim other than to keep from drowning. I can definitely swim some, just not with any form. So, I will get in the water and simply try to figure it out. Maybe some fit person will see me flailing around and offer a word or two of advice. After a while, I will try to find someone to work with to improve my form. But for now, it’s just up to me to get myself into the pool a few times.

Who knows, maybe a sprint Tri is on the future agenda?!?

Making the switch to fitbit!

I have used my Nike FuelBands for about 18 months now. I say Fuelbands because during those 18 months, Nike has replaced the band twice. I purchased my fitbit flex at Costco for $95, so the cost was significantly less than the original FuelBand ($149).

One of the reasons to switch to a Fitbit is the number of integration points with other apps. For example, the MyFitnessPal integrates beautifully with my stats from fitbit. The new fitbit app for my iPhone also works with the GPS integrated into the iPhone to provide closer approximation to where you walked when outside. I have yet to try this since it is a recent update, but will try it over the upcoming 3-day weekend.

Another reason to switch is that it was reported this spring that Nike will exit the wearable tech business. As a lifelong technologist, there is just no reason to stay tied to a company where there will be no further development on the platform you use. The closed technology environment and lack of integration with other platforms always bothered me and I failed to listen to my own gut for staying away. I’m just sorry I talked my youngest into the same platform, although she is more aware of her activity and can use that in time display mode to get away with wearing it at work (watches only are allowed, no other jewelry).

Among my friends, many more have fitbits than Fuelbands, so it’s way easier to challenge people I know. Among my co-workers, almost none had even heard of a Fuelband – and many know about fitbit. And finally, among people living in my part of Connecticut, it’s a no-brainer – fitbit is king (at least between Nike and fitbit).

So I’ve made my switch and will track metrics for a while. So far, I don’t really understand the lights but do use my iPhone to turn on and off sleep mode (for tracking sleep) and for managing the silent alarms that buzz the fitbit on my wrist so I can get up without waking up anyone else.

For a review and images of the Fitbit Flex, click here!