The Give Team
We're all dying, and we knew today wouldn't be that day. But the effort we were making created questions in each mind about whether to keep pushing or to slow down. It was supposed to be a relaxing workout, but it turned into a competition. My chest was heaving and sweat burned my eyes as I finished the last lap and it hit me. The Give Team. Shanta Barton-Stubbs taught these boys much of what gives them the foundation they have today. One of those concepts revolves around gratitude and giving back. Her point, "No matter how little you have, you always have something to give." That line popped into my head as my heart rate pushed to the limit, and I pumped my legs a bit faster to make sure I was the first to finish the run.
It was another five minutes before the boys completed the last lap. I told them, "We renamed the team. We're now The Give Team. You always have something more to give, even when you feel like you don't have anything left. Keep giving. Give more. Push harder. Strive for greatness." The boys agreed with the change, and embraced it. For the rest of our workout as we did calisthenics and pushed ourselves to another level, I'd yell, "No matter how little you have!" and the boys would respond, "YOU ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE!" On the third set of thirty second "Hollow Man," with abs burning, and the voice in their heads telling them to lower their feet or their arms, they'd suck it up and finish the exercise. It was a good day.
We learned this week that BattleFrog is getting out of the Obstacle Course Race business. We made the decision to run The Spartan Race in Jacksonville in December. Since my Achilles is aching, I won't be running the half marathon in Baldwin Park and will focus exclusively on strength and competing in The Spartan Race, then will focus on the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February. The Give Team will get my attention between now and December, with my own fitness playing a big role.
The point of The Give Team is the same as The Sprint Team, with the underlying principle being "Life is a team sport, so draft your team accordingly." The idea is to know your "team," and work with them to find happiness through hard work and making good decisions. Find those who you want on your team, and get them on your team. Kick those off your team that bring you down or don't help get you where you need to go. The concept of "sprinting" is tied to accomplishing goals where you engage intensely in activities that get you where you need to be, and then take time to reflect and recharge before engaging intensely again.
The drive to IHOP helped dry the sweat before breakfast. We ordered breakfast and set our goals for the next four months. We'll be honing them over the next week, and then focus on plans needed to achieve those goals. The idea is very simple to get whatever you want. You merely need to do three things: (1) set a goal; (2) make a plan; and (3) execute the plan. And that's where we'll be focused for the next four months.
We have three team members today, two coaches and we're looking to add other coaches and team members. If it ends up being just those on the team now, then that'll be a great success and we'll have a blast.
The e-mail was well-timed. I ran 10 miles training for the Marine Corps Marathon the previous Saturday. It was a beautiful morning for a run, and it all started when the alarm went off at 3:50am. The dogs didn't care for the early morning activity and needed to be calmed so everyone else at home didn't wake up when I left. It was 5am before the door closed quietly behind me, and I started my jog.
The Achilles tendons on both legs were sore. They'd loosen up after a short while running, but they weren't where they needed to be, understanding the training for the Marine Corps Marathon was about to get seriously intense. I was running a 2:00 run / 1:00 walk cycle, and I'd take a picture during every 1:00 break. It was cool, not hot, and that's the whole reason I was waking up so early on a weekend morning. There weren't many cars on the road as I headed south on Mills Avenue then passed by Lake Highland Prep on my way to Orange Avenue. The skyline lit the sky as the empty street stretched south in front of me. Hitting downtown, the moss-covered trees lined the street with the buildings rising on both sides of the road. The sky was turning a dark purple as I hit the southernmost point of the run, ran around the lake just south of 408, then headed back north. The high point was Lake Eola as the sun was coloring the sky, and throwing light on the glass buildings. It was beautiful. I ran the next 3 or 4 miles with those walking breaks, and recovered for much of the rest of the weekend. Then both Achilles started really acting up. After resting, I'd do the "old man shuffle" while the legs warmed up. That's how every morning started that next week, and how walks would start after long sitting breaks. I knew I wasn't ready to keep things moving.
Then the e-mail came. It was an e-mail acknowledging "things happen." And things surely did happen. So I'll be deferring my Marine Corps Marathon entry for a year, and in its place I'll run the Race 13.1 in November through Baldwin Park, the neighborhood where I live. Looking at the route, I've run every inch of the route at some point over the past year. It's my "home course." I won't have to get up early to find a parking place and check in. I can just walk to check in and get ready. And I'll be focused on strength and mobility to make sure I line up uninjured.
This past week, I've stopped running and have been working on mobility, and strengthening my calves through eccentric calf drops on our stairs. I've been doing some lunges, but focused primarily on mobility. This coming week will get the aerobic base back by either using the elliptical, the stairs, or the bike in the community gym. I'll also work on lower body mobility through lunges, calf work, and side lunges, duck walks, lateral shuffles with straps, and one-leg bridges. I'll also be starting the Gymnastics Bodies training program that will focus on bodyweight and mobility. This'll be a good solid foundation for the half marathon, but also for what I'll need to prepare for BattleFrog in December.
So Boston 2017 isn't going to happen. Boston Qualifying in 2017 is a big stretch. But there'll be fun with running the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February, some 10Ks in the spring, and climbing Mt. Rainier in the summer, followed by running the Marine Corps Marathon in October. The thing I've learned over the past few years - the strength work needs to parallel the running. And if the mind doesn't remember to make strength and mobility a priority, the body will remind it.
Everyone has a plan until . . .
This is Mike Tyson as I want to remember him. No robe. No socks. Black trunks and black shoes. Muscle. Power. Relentless. Awe inspiring. Fights rarely lasted past the first round. He won his first 19 professional fights by knockout, 12 of them in the first round. He remains the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing.
Then came Buster Douglas and everything went downhill from there.
And life goes on.
The Sprint Team got off to a strong start at the beginning of the month, and we continue forward toward our paths to greatness. The boys have their plans and are executing their plans every morning with Move, Write, Prioritize. We're meeting next week to check in and see how we're doing toward our goals. Two of the boys are working toward a goal of doing a certain number of sit ups without stopping. One of the boys has a goal of doing 12 pull ups in a row. We've stayed in touch via video, text message and phone calls.
The marathon plan was a bit derailed this past week, and there wasn't a run logged. I nursed a sore right hip and a bruised ego while I focused on some career-related items. At the end of this "week long vacation," I realize it's all about rituals and routines, and that's part of the plan. And it's important to realize when faced with a challenge that poses a change, we have the options of "fight or flight." There's a third option that isn't addressed, and that's to do nothing. That's the equivalent of curling under the table in a fetal position and sucking your thumb.
Every decision we make is a competition between two voices in your head. On one hand, there's the strong voice that is confident you'll conquer the world. On the other hand, there's the weak voice that questions what's happening at that point in time and whether what's being done is what SHOULD be done because there are so many OTHER things that need to be done. It's a voice that's easily distracted by the bombardment of messages on a daily basis. It is continually questioning and rarely doing. The key is realizing it was the STRONG voice that put together the plan. So when the weak voice encourages you to hit the snooze button, it's important to be aware that that wasn't part of the plan. The snooze button is NEVER part of the plan.
The week ahead will be a great week in getting things back on track. I'll have the challenge of facing work-related tasks that will dominate the day while also focusing on strength. Three times this week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday at a minimum - will be dedicated to strength. Runs will be part of those days also, but there will be 5:00 of lunges each of those days. There will be 3 x 1:00 in lateral shuffles with a strength band. There will be 3 x 1:00 for push ups. There will be 3 x 1:00 for plank. If there's time after that (and the resources, since I'll be on the road Wednesday and Thursday of this week), there will be 5 x :30 for pull ups and 3 x 1:00 for deep squats and 5 x 1:00 for lowering calves (I can't remember what those are called . . . ). The streak will pick back up tomorrow for running.
Now it's time to start punching back.
able to accomplish. Selflessly, I want to do things that might inspire others. And that's the selfishly selfless reason I'm writing here. The boys in the picture are another reason I'm focusing on the Boston Marathon. They don't realize this, but they inspire me. I've known them for five years, and worked with them over the past year. We're ramping up a program over the next six months focused on setting and achieving great things. To that end, I want to run the Boston Marathon to show THEM that anything is possible. With focus and discipline, great things can be accomplished.
With a focus on accomplishment, we've formed the Just Keep Pouring Sprint Team. The members above are Jeff (9 days away from being 16), Chris (12 years) and Lou Lou (8 years), with others who have been on the team in the past. Akim is a "coach" on the team in Miami this weekend and couldn't join us. Rob and Steve have been on the team and are Jeff's big brothers. Rob is the youngest member of the Computer Science PhD program at Auburn University and Steve is a freshman at University of Florida. That means for the first time, Jeff is the only kid in the apartment, and he's enjoying having the run of the home. The name of the JKP Sprint Team is based on the following concepts:
We met around 7:40am when I picked the boys up at their homes. We drove to my neighborhood and ran through the surrounding neighborhoods. Before we started, we talked about habits, and what it takes to get what we want. We talked about the GET UP AND MOVE program. As soon as they get up, each committed to MOVE, WRITE, PRIORITIZE, VISUALIZE and DO. When the alarm goes off, the boys will MOVE. Either they'll run, or do push ups, or do SOMETHING that gets their hearts going. Then after they cool down, they'll WRITE for 5 minutes. They were given notebooks to start the day, and they'll write in those books every morning. Then they'll PRIORITIZE by writing down three things they want to accomplish that day, with a focus on things that'll help them realize their goals. We didn't spend time discussing VISUALIZING, but did focus on DOING.
We took off with the puppy, and ran through the park and into the neighborhoods. Remember . . . one other "purpose" to my running is to run the puppy into the ground so he sleeps the rest of the day when we return. As I mentioned above, the plan was to go 5 miles. The focus on effort level was tough because I was talking with the boys. The heart rate monitor kept yelling at me, saying the effort was a bit too intense. I slowed to a jog, then to a walk - knowing if I didn't I'd be flirting with injury with how tight my hips, feet and calves have been. I was walking fast enough that the boys would fall behind, then run to catch up. About 3 miles into the "run," Lou Lou came running up next to me in bare feet and his shoes in his hands. "What's up, buddy?" I asked. "My feet hurt. My shoes are too small." And I first noticed he wasn't wearing socks. His shoes were youth size 13, and his feet require a size 2. He'd been running about a half mile with no shoes. Yikes.
We cut the route a bit short for the sake of Lou Lou's feet. When we hit the St. Augustine grass of the neighborhood, Lou Lou's face lit with a huge smile and a sigh, "Ahhhh. That feels SO good." Poor kid.
We took the dog home, did some stretching, then went to IHOP for breakfast where we committed to our main goal as a team: Complete BattleFrog in December. I put a time goal down (5 miles in an hour - understanding it includes 20 obstacles), and the boys committed to finishing it. Then we each set goals for the month of July. Chris is targeting 15 pull ups. Jeff and Lou Lou are targeting 50 sit ups without stopping. I want to do 20 pull ups without stopping. We'll see how it goes.
And life goes on around us all. While we can accomplish ANYTHING, we can't accomplish EVERYTHING. In the meantime, there's a team to inspire me that includes the boys above, and my family. And I'm working to inspire them.
New Habits = New Experiences
to go run. That means keeping my streak alive. From yesterday, focus on the process, not the product. THINKING before MOVING does me in, so once the alarm goes off, BAM, the feet need to hit the floor. If that doesn't happen, I get sidetracked and justify doing something OTHER than getting out the door. I thought, "But it's Sunday. I'm already a couple miles over my weekly plan. I got this. There's PLENTY of time today." That last point is a problem many of us have. We think there's PLENTY of time. The reality is the only time we have is right now. And if life is merely a series of habits and experiences, then what we're doing right now should either be an incredible experience, or a habit that'll take you to one of those experiences.
So it's 10:52am on a Sunday. One pup is laying on my lap. The other is on the other side of the couch. And to change the energy in this room, all I need to ask is "Wanna go for a run?" and the tails go from zero to 60 in .25 seconds. Again, life is nothing more than a series of habits and experiences. So I need to make those habits intentional and make those experiences amazing. And those habits need to create those amazing experiences.
Time to run.
Running Like a Dog
And that's where the running comes into play. This week I was able to hit the road every day. That's the theme for the "marathon program" - run every day. Not intensely. If I've learned anything as I've run over the past few years it's that my old body can't handle consistent intensity, but that my old mind needs consistency to keep with it and realize success.
One key is to love the process, not the product. That's stolen from Inky Johnson who is a wonderfully motivational speaker, who lived in poverty as he grew up, earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Tennessee, and was projected to be a top draft pick in the NFL. Then he experienced tragedy on the field where he almost lost his life, and lost the use of his right arm. His story revolves around falling in love with the process, not the product. He fell in love with the hard work, the discipline and the effort it was going to take to make it to the NFL. He didn't fall in love with playing football, and what it meant to be a top talent. And he's been able to build off that love of hard work and effort to build a new life for himself helping motivate and inspire others.
Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, says the same thing. In order to be really good, you need to focus in the INTRINSIC elements and not the EXTRINSIC elements. That's another way of saying it's important to fall in love with the process, not the product. Fall in love with what it takes to get on the road every day, not with the fact that you're "training to run a marathon." One defines you, and the other is merely a label.
Focusing on the process, I love running with the dogs. I also like pushing myself during workouts. I'm ready to do the first one, but not yet ready for the second one. Right now, the focus is on getting the dogs tired. The puppy needs to relax during the day, but he's a puppy. Running for a few miles helps slow him down. At least for a little while. With the process will come results.
Being results-oriented, I took a calendar and backed up from October 30th, the date of the marathon. The "training programs" online start this coming Monday. Most online programs for beginners focus on running 4 days a week. My approach for the first couple months will be to run every day, but at a particular heart rate level. My target heart rate is 135. Right now, my fitness level isn't good enough for me to run consistently at 135. I have to slow down to a walk. So I'll warm up for 5-10 minutes with a fast walk and some dynamic stretching. Then jog easy focusing on form - running tall, pushing my feet into the ground underneath me, and launching - until my heart rate hits 135. Once there, I'll slow to a walk until my heart rate lowers to 115 and then begin running again. This morning's run carried me through Winter Park, past the 9th Grade Center, to Rollins College, along Lake Virginia, then back home through Blue Jacket Park. The pace slowed the second half as I was able to keep my heart rate above 115 by walking quickly.
The dogs carried themselves well. Apollo (8 months old) ran like a puppy, and had his tongue out the last half. Hank (8 years old) stuck with it and kept his pace. Both tired toward the end, which turned out to be 6 miles. That's the farthest I've been on the road in 2016. I won't claim it's the farthest I've run because there was as much walking as running. That'll change over time.
And I finished listening to Presence on this run. Finally. I highly recommend the book. Cuddy does a good job presenting the connection between body and mind, and how you can influence your reactions and strength by how you carry yourself. Well worth the time.
Yesterday was smooth, and I ran nearly the entire distance. It was rainy, but it was a strong run. The results were acceptable and my heart rate governed the pace ensuring I wouldn't go too fast. Overall, an adequate run. I felt energized. My feet were a little sore, and my calves were a bit tight. All normal and to be expected.
Today was a different story. Beautiful and sunny outside, it was a little cool. Perfect weather for running. Since my wife and daughter arrived home from their spring break trip late, this morning started late. The workout began with strength training. Not much, but a bit. It jacked up my heart rate, then I hit the road. I couldn't get 200 yards before the heart rate monitor was beeping, announcing I'm over my threshold. I used the same strategy as yesterday - slowing down to slow my heart rate, and shifting to a walk if the thing beeped three times. I couldn't stabilize under my target while running. No matter how slow I ran, I'd hit the high end of the range. So I walked, focusing on form. It was a fast walk, but still. A walk. The focus right now is building the base, and knowing it'll improve. This is the beginning. Day 2. But to think this morning when I woke up I was thinking about Boston.
As I woke up, I was excited to get going. I looked up a training program online to see when I'd hit 13 miles, and see if there's a half marathon to run in the area around that time. Then thoughts wandered to Boston and "wouldn't it be great if . . . " thinking. The reality is I am SO far away from a BQ time that to even THINK about entertaining it in 2016 is a monumental stretch. Impossible. Regardless, the Marine Corps Marathon is after qualifying times would be taken for the 2017 Boston Marathon anyway. With all that said, the "Boston 2017 or Bust" is shifting from RUNNING Boston in 2017 to QUALIFYING for Boston in 2017. Starting with MCM on October 30th, we'll see how close I can get. Who knows? Perhaps I can break 4:00:00.
Which brings me to the book I'm listening to on Audible. I downloaded "Presence" after hearing Amy Cuddy's TED Talk. So far, so good. During most of my run, she addressed the concept of Imposter Syndrome, which is when people don't feel like they deserve what they've earned, and feel like others will "find them out" and deem them an "imposter." It resonated with me, and it would with everyone based on the research done for the book. In particular, I remember thinking that way about the Chicago Marathon - before, during and after. And I remember thinking that way last year as I threw out the lofty goal of wanting to qualify for Boston, and finishing third in my age group in the BattleFrog obstacle course race and the Lone Sailor / Wounded Warrior 5K. I remember making excuses for why I finished as well as I did, and that somehow "I wasn't that good." The reality is I WAS that good. Am I as good as I COULD be? No, and I wasn't as good as I could've been at either of those two events - but I can't change that. And even if I could, I still finished THIRD IN MY AGE GROUP. And that's a good place to start - if I didn't take the last several months off.
So for now, I've run a Chicago Marathon (however unimpressive the time), and a few other races between here and there. I've learned a lot along the way, in particular that consistency is key. No surprise here, but if you want to run a long distance, you need to be strong. Put in the work, get the results.
+1 With a Purpose
It's Saturday and the alarm went off at 5:30am. I turned it off and went back to sleep. It was a seemingly inauspicious start to my attempt at consistency and discipline as I prepare to run the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon. But when my week is spent burning days in a stress-induced and sleep deprived environment, the thought of a little more sleep seemed like a good idea. I figured I'd be back up around 7am, perhaps 7:30. My eyes opened at 8:00am. Late.
Then my head started filling with all that needed to be done and I wandered around doing this and doing that while thoughts flowed about what I should be doing and what needed to be done. Meanwhile, nothing of significance was getting done. The first priority was picking up the dogs before the kennel closed, then there was a bunch of other stuff, so I settled at the kitchen table and wrote it all down. Then I put a time to it. And then the mind cleared and the day opened up in front of me.
The barrier in the past has been consistency, especially during travel. Compared to Chicago, I know so much more about what to do, and how to do it. This time will be significantly different, but only if I practice what I know. The strength isn't in the working out, it's in the discipline to get out there and work out. Simple. Nike said it over and over. Just do it.
It was raining when I arrived home with the dogs. I took them around the block, and the puppy was particularly spastic. I dressed in my workout gear, put on my Garmin and hit the road with the pup. In the past, he fought the leash for the first mile. Today he did much better, and stayed with me the entire time. Today's focus was to log 45 minutes keeping my heart rate around 135 bpm with a focus on form. The Garmin would beep when I hit 136 bpm, and I'd dial back my pace. Once I hit a third beep (consider it a third strike), I'd slow to a walk until my heart rate dropped to 125 bpm, then back to running. I didn't set any land speed records, but it was about wearing out the pup and getting a good base.
April will include a focus on consistency and strength. I'll be on the trail every day if all goes well, and make sure the heart rate doesn't go above 135 bpm. Strength will play a role 3x a week, and let's see how well the month goes.
Today's run I went out for 45 minutes and covered 3.3 miles. No land speed records were set, nor any PRs, but that wasn't the point. The point is to avoid injury and enjoy the journey.
The goal - to be measured 5/1 - will be to run 4.5 miles in 45 minutes by the end of April while building a strong base. For strength, the goals is 20 pull ups, 75 push ups and 100 body weight squats.
Marine Corps Marathon 2016
I learned this evening my number was picked. I'll be running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th of this year, training permitting. My brothers Chris and Ron entered also, but neither had their names selected, so I'll be running solo.
It's also the beginning of a new quarter. Looking back on the first three months of the year, the goals set were not achieved because they were not made a priority. I tell the kids that life is nothing but a series of habits and experiences, so make your habits intentional and your experiences amazing. The habit of health didn't stick in the first quarter, but now there's a new mission. There's a new motive. And there's a new energy around maintaining consistency. EVERYTHING BEGINS physically. I've always believed fitness and nutrition are foundation elements for anything successful. Now it's time for me to practice what I preach.
Strength and aerobic work will start tomorrow, building the foundation that will carry me through a summer of long runs in the heat of the Florida summer. As I compare now to where I was when I ran Chicago, I've learned SO MUCH about how my body works and what I need to do. Now it's time to do it.
Ready or not, here I come!
Run On, Sentences follows the path of the author as he evolves from a lackluster inaugural marathon time to pursue a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Along the way, he'll deal with the challenges of a short attention span, growing older and the chaotic calendar of a husband, father, corporate executive, and active member of the community.