Showing posts with label health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health. Show all posts

Goals for a New Year, 2017 Edition

Welcome to 2017!  

Word cloud of this post in the form of 2017

Despite the craziness on the global level, we've arrived at 2017.  Politically, 2016 was a rough year.  Personally, I cannot complain.  I landed a new job, I've made progress in my PhD program, I've lost weight, and I earned personal bests in my running, despite injuries.  Overall, I'm healthy, happy, and loved.  But it's 2017 and I need some goals (for those new to this, you can check out my 2016 goals and how well I did with them).  I feel like these should all be doable this year, but who knows.  In reality, I probably won't hit all of them, but enough of them that like last year, I find this a valuable activity to get me focused on how to progress in the year.  

Give It a Tri

We all know that I have taken to running over the last 5 years.  This past summer, I returned to bicycling as well when my IT band was giving me trouble.  I also started working at college that has a pool, which means I started swimming as well.  My brother and a few other friends have been nudging me to try a triathlon in the last few years.  I always made a point to say that I wouldn't do one because it would require access to a pool and I wouldn't get a gym membership because I don't like the gym (too easy for me to convince myself not to go).  But now that I've got access to a pool and am swimming regularly, I think it's fair to say I should definitely do a triathlon.  Now, they train hardcore for Ironman races, which is NOT what I will be doing this year.  I figure that a few sprints and an Olympic are well within my range.  I figure that I will got for 3 in total for the year and see how it goes.    

15,000 a day

This will be a bit of a stretch goal in that I'm not sure I will be able to do this everyday, but I believe in the aggregate I will be able to meet this goal.  Basically, I want to aim for 15,000 a day.  I do this pretty regularly but feel like making the goal of 15,000 makes it a bit more challenging.  Mostly, I'm curious to see how long of a streak I can maintain if I start with the intention of doing 15,000 a day.  My previous streak was somewhere withing the 50-60 days mark.  

And Another 15

I've lost 15 or so pounds with Weight Watchers.  I actually lost more but the fall semester and winter holiday season got the best of me.  My goal here is to get down to my goal weight and maintain it.  210 is the goal and I feel it's highly doable and of maintaining so long as I take to heart the ideas that Weight Watchers advocates.  

Stay On Target

I'm taking a break from having running goals for this year.  I still plan to regularly run and do a few half-marathons and such, but I feel like a break from the goals is a good idea while working on other physical aspects.  This past year, I hit two personal bests (under 40-minute 5-mile; under 1:55 half-marathon) that I never thought was possible.  I want to appreciate that and enjoy running this year without trying to outdo myself.  Call it a victory lap if you will, but just a year of enjoying running without a strict goal to work towards.  

Focus on the Breath

I've practiced different methods of self-awareness and reflection over the years and I feel like this year, I want to use what I've learned to focus on my breathing.  Much of the literature about mindfulness, self-control, emotional well-being, etc all extol the importances of the breath and I feel like it is speaking to me right now as something important to hold onto and focus upon as this year feels like it has the potential to get increasingly challenging given I'll be going soon into year 3 of the doctoral program and of course, the political craziness that is the US right now.  Working to take the time to notice and practice breathing can only help to center me more in the days to come.  

Less mindlessness

Whether it's eating without being hungry, ceaselssly scrolling Facebook, constantly checking email, etc, I want to take my focus on the breath and use it to help me to shift away from things that feel too unncessary or without direction.  That's not to say I'm giving up social media but just aiming to use it more systematically than I have in years past.  I want to work more to be in tune with what I need, what I'm trying to accomplish, and what I may be trying to avoid.  

Complete the book

So the Teaching History With Comics book still remains unfinished but I am working with the publisher to have a clear and direct plan to get it complete, which is good because I think it will prime me well for the project that will come next.  I feel like I have a good sense of how to move forward with it and will just need to keep myself on a steady production schedule.  

Figure out my dissertation topic

Yeah, this one.  I'm starting to get a sense of what my specific topic might be but feel that I really have to focus it this year.  So, I plan on journaling on it weekly to help me further flesh it out and hopefully be able at this time next year to more substantively say what it is that I'm doing.  

Read more books

I'm making a pack with myself to give up graphic novels for the year (unless they are the few that I subscribe to) in order to clear out the books that are in my to-read pile (and have been for too long).  I have to do a lot of school reading but I want to return to reading books for pleasure and personal interest, so I'm going to drop the graphic novels for a while.  Hopefully then, I can clean out some of my way-to-long- "to read" pile that I've been itching to get to over the past decade or so (maybe finally finish The Wheel of Time series or all of Sara Douglass's books!).  

Politically Activate 

The 2016 election still hurts.  It hurts because it seems to be an utter failure of a healthy and well-informed democratic republic; it hurts because so much of what the new administration represents is not only antithetical to what our country represents in its most idealized form (a nation that fairly and equally represents the interests of its entire citizenry), but because the identity politics war waged so hard and ugly by the right in terms of the people they were willing to disregard as not American and the ways in which they dehumanized so many different groups just boggles the mind of anyone who believes in equity, fairness, and equality.  The election was a wake-up call for many and I hope to be part of the change that will undermine or at least limit the damage that the incoming administration represents.  

So those are the goals for 2017.  Tall order?  Probably.  But that gives me plenty of opportunity to hit, miss, and improve.  I've also decided that one way of staying more on target will be to actually update the blog bi-monthly with where I am with things.  Let's see if I manage to do that, right?  

What about you?  What are some of your goals for 2017?  What would you want to see accomplished by 2018?  

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

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About Those 2016 Goals....And the Year in General

At the end of each year, I take some time to look at and consider what are some of the goals I sought out for the year and what have I actually accomplished.  I did this with 2015 and set my goals for 2016.  My goals for 2016 were a mixed bag but my achievements for 2016 went well beyond what I set out in writing.  

Let's first look at what I set out to do:

Giving Thanks

Yes!  I totally nailed this one with a daily practice of giving thanks to different aspects of my life.  I will be writing a longer post on this but I definitely hit this one between the daily practice of acknowledging things to be grateful for and then also writing a letter once a week to thank someone in my life.  

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a thumbs up.

Finish the Book

Well this was flubbed and is part of 2017's goals.  It just didn't happen and I should have prioritized it a bit more than I did.  Here's hoping 2017 isn't a repeat of 2016 in this regard.

Running Goals

So I didn't cross the 1500 threshold as I had an IT band issue that plagued me for months until I had to give up my Vibrams (still sad about that).  However, my two other running goals were totally accomplished.  I not only ran a 1:52 half-marathon in June (followed by a 24:30 5K two weeks later), but I also broke the 40-minute mark on my 5-miles, coming in at 39:59 on the annual Wild Turkey Run on Thanksgiving.  That win was particularly amazing after not running for a few months because of my injuries.  

Write more

I have gotten about half-way into a short story but have not done as much writing as I had wanted to--though given how much writing I'm doing for my PhD, that isn't entirely surprising and might be a bit of a pipe dream until I complete the dissertation.

Perform more

This didn't happen and like the writing, may not happen in the next few years for the same reasons.

Other Accomplishments

So the following are accomplishments that I didn't set out to do at the beginning of 2016 but picked up along the way.  

50 push ups

After creating a daily reminder towards the end of 2016 to do 10 push ups a day, I slowly increased it by 5 every couple weeks and now can (almost) effortlessly do 50 push ups.  Not a huge goal, but that I have never been able to do this before, it's something I certainly appreciate.  


In taking a new job at a school that has a pool, I've taken to swimming and have been able to build up to swimming freestyle for 1/2 hour which I've never been able to do before as well.

15 pounds lighter

Ok, we'll have to reassess this one after the holidays for sure--hahaha.  But I started Weight Watchers in April and it has been quite useful.  I got down about 20-25 pounds and came back up to the 15-20 during the fall semester and winter break and will resume to a normal routine once life is back to a normal routine.  But it has been a great adaptation that has been quite helpful throughout the last 8 months.  

Most of my accomplishments this year were of a physical nature, which is not entirely surprising in that, it's the one with the most flexibility.  My intellectual goals are largely focused on the PhD program.  However, I am glad that I did manage some emotion goals with regards to learning to be more thankful and appreciative of the things in my life.  My achievements for next year will hopefully be a bit more balanced!  Regardless, I am glad that I was able to accomplish the things that I did and see those that I didn't as just something I need to reconsider and reconfigure to determine why these goals didn't happen this year and can I make it happen for next year.

What about you?  What were some of your goals and achievements for the year?  What are you setting up for 2017?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness

The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness by Anthony A. Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This lecture series from the Great Courses series is a great primer for understanding nutrition and fitness. Goodman provides good clear explanations about why it's benefitial to pursue certain types of exercise, habits, and dietary preferences. He's clear about what is validated through research and what is merely myth. Anyone looking to just get clear and simple advice and understanding about their own nutritional and fitness choices would do well with this short (about 3 hours) worth of listening.

View all my reviews

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Running Update

So I've been rather quite on the running front of late.  The last I posted on running was way back in August when I was talking about my recovery.  I continued running through the fall and completed the Baystate Marathon, though came in around the same time as the year before, which was disappointing but there wasn't much I could do about it.  However, I have been running pretty consistently since then and am looking forward to another season of running.

Monthly Running Mileage.
Monthly Running Mileage.
I'm mostly itching to get outside and start running.  I've been running for months but it has been all on the treadmill.  I've learned to tolerate the treadmill pretty decently, so long as I had Netflix to get me through it.  January and February were less than stellar.  I blame that mostly on moving in late January coupled with the start of the semester and of course, blizzard season. March has me in much finer form and the forthcoming months will be more successful in this regard.

I'm also itching to get another crack at a half-marathon and beat the 2:00 mark.  I'm so close and I feel like I have a solid strategy and comfort level with the half-marathon that I will do it this year.  Meanwhile on the marathon front, I just hope I get in enough long-runs that I can get under the 4:20 mark come this fall when I tackle the Baystate Marathon for the third year.

Anywho, for those interested in the runs that I'm signed up for, here they are!

Moose on the Loose Half Marathon

Nashua, New Hampshire
Sunday, April 12

Maine Coast Marathon

Sunday, May 10

Triple Threat Half-Marathon

Sunday, August 2

Half Marathon by the Sea

Sunday, September 27

Baystate Marathon

Sunday, October 18th

So what races are you signed up for?  What are some of your running goals this year?

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Getting Back on Track: Recovering to Running

So my last post on running was a while back and I was discussing an injury.  The final diagnosis was a herniated disc with a pinched nerve.  Fun times!  May was a hard month, especially coming off my personal best of running a half-marathon in 2:03.  

I was able to start running in June but I had to take it easy.  For the first half of June there was pain that accompanied the running.  Additionally, June was just a very busy month for work and having to do the doctor shuffle only added to it.  July was also busy with work and teaching.  However, in both months, I managed to do over 80 miles, so I'm happy with that.  80 miles is still a distance that there are upwards of decades where I did not accumulate that much running--so I'll take it!  

Image of Train Tracks.  Source:
Getting back on
them tracks!
After the diagnosis in late June and a regiment of physical therapy that went on over June and July, the doctor gave me the go-ahead at the end of July to return to training.  During June and July, I did not do more than 6.5 miles on most occasions.  I went up to 7 once or twice.  However, now that we're gearing up to see if completing the Bay State Marathon is possible, it's back to training for me.  I talked with Dave, my coach at Breakthrough Performance Coaching and we started up slow--trying to get me back up to the longer distances I was used to before.  

This past weekend I had my first real long run in a while:  a 1.5 hour/9 mile run.  In some ways, it felt intimidating because it had been so long since running it, but in other ways, it felt like an old friend.  In fact, while I took the first six miles at a light pace, just trying to endure, I decided to push myself the last three miles of it and found that I actually managed to do under 9 minute miles.  Given that I had been happy with anything under 10 minutes, I was ecstatic to see the mileage ringing in around the 8:50s.  

It's 9 weeks or so until the Bay State Marathon.  I believe I will be in good enough shape to complete it but I'm not sure I will be doing anything better than what I did last year.  I'm slightly frustrated by this because given all that I've been putting into running, I feel like not being able to improve upon this is somehow a failure.  I know it's not, but of course, my Doubt Demon loves to prey upon such insecurities.  

Regardless, I'll continue to slay the Doubt Demon, get back in my Vibrams, and keep running.  After all, any miles complete is a victory.  I'll keep you posted as I continued with the miles.  And speaking of which, even if I do not accomplish my 4 hour marathon, or 2 hour half-marathon (though I've damn close!), I'm within 300 miles of hitting my 1000 miles for 2014.  In terms of mileage, I'm close to where I was last year at the end of the year and I've still got 4 good months of fall running!  

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Tales of Running: Vibram-Gait (Get it?)

About a month ago, I across several of my feeds that Vibrams had recently settled a big lawsuit.  Now, we all know here that I'm a big Vibrams fan.  They are a shoe for all seasons as far as I see it.  So when I found out that they had settled a lawsuit, I was pretty surprised, initially.  

Not giving them up any time soon!
They lawsuit did not have to do with injuries incurred by the users but by the health claims associated with Vibrams.  They claimed things about their product that were not scientifically proven and someone called them on it  Fair enough--no company should falsely represent itself in such a manner.  However, I noticed that a good amount of people have used the loss to gloat, laugh at, or validate their belief that Vibrams are bad.  I get why they have done so but of course, as someone who has made a fundamental lifestyle change (that is, became a runner) that was a direct result of Vibrams, I feel I need to speak to what the lawsuit does and doesn't represent for me.  

Vibrams settled and therefore, did not lose the lawsuit.  There is a distinction worth noting here.  They are not guilty but recognize the overstretching of their claims.  This translates into they cannot prove their claims as of yet but that's not to say the claims won't eventually ring true.  There has been limited research on this topic and with mixed information.  

The limited results don't sway me against Vibrams because they aren't robust enough.  In order for real proof to be acquired about this, you would need the following groups to study:

  • Group 1:  Do nothing--not even run (essentially, your control group).
  • Group 2:  People who already run with regular shoes (and continue to do so; a control regular group, so to speak)
  • Group 3: People who already run with Vibrams (and continue to do so; a control Vibram group).
  • Group 4: People who take up running with regular shoes.
  • Group 5: People who take up running with Vibram shoes.
  • Group 6: People who switch from regular shoes to Vibram shoes.
  • Group 7: People who switch from Vibrams shoes to regular shoes.
  • Group 8: People who stop running altogether (having run with regular shoes)
  • Group 9: People who stop running altogether (having run with Vibram shoes)

As someone who did not run at all and first started running with Vibrams, I know my experience is likely to be profoundly different than the person who makes the switch from running with regular shoes to Vibrams and I think this is where researchers explore for more clearer results.  Unfortunately, I think some will take the lawsuit as shorthand for the idea that the shoes are dangerous or injury-inducing and therefore, avoid them or encourage others to avoid them.  

That being said, if you have invested in a pair of Vibrams as a direct result of my encouragement or it was one of the things that influenced you, feel free to get your refund from the settlement at this website.  The form is easy to fill out especially if you've bought only one or two pairs.  

I will continue to run and purchase Vibrams as I have had amazing success with them and believe they are a useful shoe (when used correctly). 

Tales of Running: The Injury Edition

While such things are bound to happen when one engages in athletic training (or rather just in the course of life), it is still a major disappointment when one ends up with an injury.  Thus rather than regular updates about my runs during May such as the marathon and the half-marathon I had lined up, I'm writing about my injury.  To pour salt on the literal (though not open) wound, I sustained the injury while not running.  For many athletes, that's the pinnacle of disappointments when it comes to running (Ok, I can't really say this with any certainty but it would seem that injuring one's self while doing the thing you love to do is somehow more acceptable.  

No Running sign:  Image source:
Several days after I did my personal best half-marathon, I was running.  I ran about 13 miles that day and was doing things around the apartment.  I had a crick in my neck from the night before and was doing some rigorous work around the apartment when I felt a my whole left shoulder and neck area flair up in pain.  It was pretty nasty but tolerable in the moment.  Over the next few days, the pain didn't really subside and by the weekend, it was clear that I couldn't lift my arm more than a foot from my body.  

So off I went to the interwebs to investigate and it seemed to align with a torn rotator cuff.  I contacted and made an appointment with my primary care person who seemed to think it was something along those lines and sent me to an orthopedic doctor.  His thoughts varied from what else was said.  He believes it's a scapula tear of some sort with leakage that has caused a cyst (of liquid) that is putting pressure on the nerves.  Because it was just speculation, he sent me off to get an MRI and will follow up with an appointment with him next week.  

Whether it is a torn rotator cuff, a torn scapula or something else, I am out of the long-distance running game for a couple months.  Since much of it is likely to require surgery and recovery from that will be 2-3 months depending.  Given that said surgery is at least a month away from today (as in, it hasn't been planned yet), that's going to kill this year's prospects of hitting my running goals.  That, of course, is quite disappointing and while I know it's a minor set-back in the big picture of life (after all, I am hugely grateful that I have healthcare to cover the various procedures and costs as well as a workplace that doesn't demand much physically), it is still frustrating (never mind the continued pain I feel day-to-day).  

Up until this week, I had not run for 3 weeks.  I had waited until I saw the orthopedic doctor to find out if running was going to do more damage to the injury and then, However, the doctor said that running was going to be ok so long as it didn't hurt.  I chose to relax most of the weekend, recognizing that the injury has taken a mental and emotional toll on me.    I finally decided to go for a run on Monday, followed by one on Tuesday and Thursday.  All the runs were hard to some degree.  It was clear my legs were itching to run but I noticed my breathing needed some time to get back into rhythm and also that my arm cadence was a bit off.  My feet too needed to re-toughen up (that is, I have a few blisters from not having worn the Vibrams in 3 weeks).  I think my arm was ok with the swing but that I was just overly sensitive to any and all arm movement because of the shoulder.  Overall, it felt wonderful to be back running.  I know I will only get to do this up until I have surgery and I limit myself to the 3-5 mile range but I'm still relieved to get in what running I can.  

Injuries are tricky things.  They remind us of our limitations and fragility as humans.  They challenge a great many things we take for granted about ourselves and our bodies (e.g. lifting your arm) and can be humbling.  The injury has been a good reminder about challenges and limitations others face regularly as a result of injury, disability, or even age.   Several weeks of constant pain and I'm raw and extremely vulnerable.  I cannot even fathom what it would be like for that number to be months or years but it does help to give me a glimmer of understanding.  

The prospect of being down for several months is a challenge.  As running has become a central part of my life and routine, I find it's temporary loss sad and worry about how recovery will be and how I might get back to where I am know.  I'm sure it will all work out but that doesn't keep the mind from wandering.  So I guess for now this is the last of my running updates for a few months.  

How have you dealt with injury and recovery process?  What advice do can you give?  How do you keep perspective?

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

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Tales of Running: A Tale of Two Half Marathons

Image: Lance Eaton - Fools Dual Number 24
So as some might recall, I'm into my most ambitious phase of my running for the year at least in terms of races.  In just a month, I've run a Half Marathon (Plus 5K), a marathon, and another Half Marathon with another marathon around the corner.  I've already talked about the first marathon but I never got the chance to talk about the first half-marathon (and 5K) because April was super-busy.  But after today's half-marathon, I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about the challenge of that run and the success of today.

The Fool's Dual as it is called is a half marathon and 5K.  Some people sign up for one or the other.  I did the crazy thing and signed up for both (because clearly, I'm a fool.).  The 5K came first and I treated merely as a warm up.  I didn't pay attention to time and just eased into it, looking get the benefit of a respectable warm up before diving into the half marathon.

Image: Lance Eaton's Time on the Fool's Dual Half Marathon 2014: 2:12:47
When I originally was thinking of writing a post about this run, I was going to name it, "The Fools Dual, or The Hills of Gloucester Have OWWS!!!"  This was a very hilly course and it felt like every time I was coming off a hill, there was another one.  While was I ready for a half-marathon, I don't know that I was ready for a half-marathon.  I went into the race, thinking that I would definitely at least get close to my last best from the fall, about 2:05 or so.  I thought it was in the bag until the I was a few miles into the race and clearly realized it wasn't going to happen.  I struggled through this race and while I ultimately made good time for my first complete half-marathon of the season (2:12:47), I was still a little bummed that the race took such a toll on me.  Again, by contrast to last year's first half marathon (which was in July and had me coming in at 2:41), it was a major success and despite the hills, I managed to complete it strong, particularly the last mile.

By the end of the race, my legs were dead weights for sure but there was some other things I noticed from the run.  The first was that while it was almost perfect weather (50s and sunny), I didn't realize how much the sunny would drain my energy.  However, it was early spring and there were no clouds.  What this mean was that there was no actual shade on the route, it was just sun the whole time.  Towards the end of the race, I could feel the effect on my face and head of being in direct sunlight for two hours.  That's just not something I had thought of as an issue while running in the cooler weather.

Image: Lance Eaton - Wallis Sands Half Marathon's number: 315
With some disappointment from this race because I wasn't closer to my 2:05 time when I ran the marathon last October and some disappointment because the marathon from last week was a bit rougher than I anticipated, I had a week of contemplation as I geared up for the  half-marathon this weekend (or rather let myself recover from the marathon and try to get in some running for this event).  I've been putting in the hours of running (averaging over 30 miles a week since March and about 130 a month for March and April).  My legs at this point, particularly from the knees downward look two massive tree trunks.  I knew I needed something in today's race to pick me up from propel me forward as I approach marathon #2 next week.

The Wallis Sands Half-Marathon was exactly what I needed.  It's a pretty run with a good chunk of it along the coast and small towns in New Hampshire.  More importantly, it was a largely flat course with a few inclines but nothing I faced in the prior two runs.  The weather was perfect at the start and throughout, being sunny and in the 50s with a good breeze (though that sometimes was a pain--particularly at the end).

Lance Eaton at the finish of the Wallis Sands Half Marathon with Finisher Glass.
I arrived about an hour before the race as usual.  I got my number, pinned it on (with not body piercing--win!), and relaxed in my car for a while as others showed up.   There was a good amount of people at this event--over 900 runners and walkers as well.  Rather than one herd release, they were doing timed releases so I was in the third group which was about 10 minutes after the start of the race.  I gave myself time to stretch, hit the bathroom (and wait through the long lines) and was ready at my time.

I instantly took up two strategies that I found extremely useful in getting through the marathon that I had not used as much in the past.  The first is I worked hard to breath in through my nose and out through my nose or my mouth.  Typically, I've been a mouth-breather because breathing through my nose is annoying as it is often runny during the races.  I grinned and bared with and brought a snot rag.  The other method I worked hard to hold onto throughout was to focus on the ground in front of me.  I have found that when I do this, coupled with the breathing, I am able to pick up speed.  I move faster without necessarily feeling like I am moving faster.  The two things just allow me to focus my energy and attention.

So I held as best as I could to these two tactics, though occasionally, they would be derailed.  I needed to look up to figure out where I was going or to work on maneuvering around people.  The breathing would be interrupted by having to blow my nose, drinking liquids or eating food (ok, gel packs are not food but you get the point).  Ultimately, they paid off.  I landed my best half-marathon time yet:  2:03:07.

Lance Eaton's finish time at the  Wallis Sands Half Marathon: 2:03:11
Though I was really hoping for under two hours, I knew by about 1:45 that it probably wasn't going to happen.  My muscles were ok, through it was clear that my quads were solid rocks.  More pressing was that my feet were feeling the effect of the hard run on top of three previous days of running (a 4 mile on Thursday, 9 mile on Friday, and 3 mile on Saturday).  They were already in tough shape going into it.  However, they struggled on and got me to a personal best.

According to the results, I came 347 out of 922, which is to say I came in among the top 40%.  In general, these placings never really matter much to me.  Everyone that showed up to run busted their butts and other body parts to get to that finish line.  However, I am proud that I finished in the first half for probably the first time in any of these half-marathons.  I also supposedly came in 3 among the Clydesdales (our of 14) but am not sure how accurate or relevant that is.

So there's the win that I was looking for.  Next week, I have my next marathon which is essentially five 5.08 loops.  I'm actually very curious to see what effect this will have on my running and my conceptualizing of the the run.  If I can think of it in strict terms of 5 loops, can I somehow do better overall?  I guess I'll find out!

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.
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Tales of Running: Marathon #2: Ok, At Least, I Finished!

Lance Eaton - Earth Rock Run 2014
That's my "Oh God, It's Finally Over" look.
Trademarked, 2014
So I ran 26.2 miles yesterday for the second time in my life.  Interestingly enough, it was much harder this time around mentally and physically.  This is interesting because I feel like I've been training more properly for this race than I may have for the first marathon that I did.  I completed the run and feel I did accomplish something but that my time was nearly 15 minutes slower than my first marathon and I feel in much rougher shape today than I did the day after I did my first is a little disappointing.

I ran it in just under 4:50.  With my last 1.2 miles, being done at a 6 mile per hour clip (that is, 10 minute mile speed).  I feel some victory there in being able to still do 10 minute miles at the end of this run.  I also think this course was significantly different from the the first marathon in that it had a lot of hills and some steep ones for sure.  The Bay State Marathon had hills but they were gradual inclines for long distances.  The Earth Rock Run had hills.  It looped as well so I knew well enough what was coming up in the second half of the race.  Besides the hills, the weather was a mixed bag.  It rained throughout the first half and was in the 40s.  While there was no direct sun which prevented energy drain, the cold did its share a wearing on me too.    Besides sore muscles, I didn't get nearly as much physical ailments from this race as I've discussed before.  I made proper use of Vaseline which helped a lot.

Watch Reading - Earth Rock Run 2014:  4 hours, 49 minutes 40 seconds
While overall my running has been going well, I've been averaging lower-30 miles a week and the last two months I've cleared 130 miles in a month.  I've been impressed with how much more running I am doing.  However, there were some indicators that this race wasn't going to be my best.  Two weeks ago, I ran the Fools Dual Half Marathon (5K and Half-Marathon).  I ran the 5K portion nice and light to loosen up.  However, the Half-Marathon I was hoping for something along last year's season ender (within the 2:05-2:07 time range) but came in at just over 2:12.  This was a hard and hilly course that I definitely was struggling with to maintain focus.  The two weeks in-between I was distracted with projects at work as well as going away for 5 days (and getting engaged!) and though I got in some runs, I was still not quite back to where I wanted to be with runs.

My next marathon is in 2.5 weeks.  It's a 5.2 (or close thereto) mile loop that you complete 5 times.  For some reason, I think mentally, this could be an easier race to pace and strategize than some of these others that are either 2 big loops or one long distance, but I guess we'll find out. Before that, I have another half-marathon next weekend that I'm hoping will be able to improve upon what I've done thus far.

Even though it's not where I'd like to be at this point, I feel like it's still further than where I have been before so there's that to appreciate and recognize.  It also sets a nice low bar to start the season with and mark accomplishments.

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10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning

Let's set the scene.

Here's me on Sunday, September 16, 2012.  I'm in the midst of running my first 30K Race.  That's right, I decided that what better way to spend the weekend just after my 33rd birthday, chugging over 18 miles on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Keep in mind:

  • There were no zombies chasing me.
  • There was no grand prize for coming in among the last 1/3 of the herd.
  • I had plenty of other things to do that Sunday.
  • I paid to be here.
Now, let's go back 15 months to June, 2011.  There are no pictures of me running.  Because up to that point, that is, the first 31 years and 9 months of my life, I did not run.  Let me rephrase that I ran only when ultimately forced to.  You know, like at gun point.  The fact is for 31 years, 9 months I had a HATE-HATE MORE relationship with running.  It didn't like me and I sure as hell didn't like it.  Like the student in class I repeated to myself and everyone that would listen, "I'm just not meant to be run.  I'll stick with other things."

But that clearly changed.  Indeed, last year, I ran a marathon and this year, I'll run several more.  Along the many miles I've run over the last few years, I learned to love running a whole lot to the point that I've spent thousands of hours running and thousands of words writing about running.  

In this evolution from non-runner to enthusiastic (almost obsessive, I'll admit) runner, I realized that there is a lot that I've drawn from running that helps me think about learning because somewhere along the line, I learned to run in a way that worked for me.  Here are the 10 ways that running reminds me of the challenges of learning.  

1.  I started slow and I am still slow and that's ok.

I have to run at a pace that works for me.  I can't worry about how fast other people are running.  Sure, I can sometimes look at it as motivation to speed up a little but the focus must be on me and what my body and mind are telling me.  This rings true for learning.  We are often disenchanted with our progress because someone else gets a subject matter much better than we do because it's not our forte or we don't have the right background to approach it as skillfully as others.  

2.  I had to figure out what worked for me.

There's lots of different methods to approach running out there.  Prior to my experience, people told me all sorts of ways to do it.  But I had to figure out what worked and what didn't work for me.  This meant a lot of trial and error.  In fact, this is where many people will abandon running because they can't seem to find the right way to approach it that works for them personally.  In this vein, I think learning is quite similar particularly around certain subject matter.  How some people learn a subject matter is going to be dependent on trying and finding different ways to approach the subject.  

3.  I set a range of goals to indicate levels of success.

Run!  Or even "run a marathon" are way to big for me to tackle.  I had to chunk them it all into manageable pieces.  When I started out and just wanted to get to be able to run, I found a place I could run at (Lake Quannapowitt) and set markers for running such as
  • Run for 10 minutes.
  • Run until you make it to this marker.
  • Run as far around the lake as you did yesterday and 100 feet further.
As I made progress, I set new goals and made sure to have a range.  That might include having a range within a race (my low goal is 30 minutes, my high goal is 25 minutes) or a range over a particular season (run at least 6 half-marathons or longer and 1 full marathon).  The goal was to make sure I had different ways to measure success.  This was helpful because it connected with #2 in that, I needed to see what goals were more motivating for me.  Similarly with learning, if you set to task, "I'm going to learn math."  You're setting up a massive goal.  So why do that or at least consider it a large goal with a long-term plan composed of smaller goals and objectives.  What are the smaller goals that can be stacked to get you to the larger goal?

4.  I set time aside to both think about (write) and do it (run).  

It goes without saying that you need to set time aside to achieve the goal.  That was obvious--though not without its challenges.  Eventually, I went the route of buying a treadmill so that in the harder weather I didn't have to rely on going to the gym and such.  It saved time to have easy and unlimited access to it.  Besides setting aside time to do it, I also made sure to think a lot about the running.  Visualizing myself running the race at top speed in perfect form has contributed to some great breakthroughs in my performance.  For learning, this means you have to set time aside and that time can't be the very last minute.  You have to incorporate it in some clear ways into your life's routine and you also need to think about it.  You shouldn't be thinking about "I need to do it" but you should be engaging with the content in your head--even when you don't have to.  This is where learning can take place through reinforcement.  

5.  I kept track of my progress because nobody else would.

I initially kept track of my runs on my Fitbit monitor but then moved into DailyMile, which has been fun and adds a nice social element to it as well.  I also continued to keep track of progress on this blog of course.  Keeping track is important because so often, we are looking forward and seeing the end goal still rather far away, but we need to look back and appreciate how far we have made it.  It's also important because if I'm trying to get somewhere, I have to know where I am within the big picture, right?  With learning, looking back is also important because it can provide you with a means of reflecting and appreciating where you are within the subject matter and how much progress on the subject that you've made.  

6.  I hit walls; I asked for help.

I most definitely hit some walls and places where I needed help.  I asked for help.  I had no shame in asking for help and encouragement from my friends and social-networks.  My friends and family want me to succeed and want to help me if they can.  The same holds for learning.  When you hit walls (and you will hit walls), reach out for help from friends, family, or people more versed in the subject matter.  Largely, people like helping others--especially if it is something they are vested in.  

7.  I was overwhelmed at times by it all; I wrote about it.

There will always be times when I think about running and am overwhelmed by it.  Overwhelmed by what I've done, overwhelmed by what I'm trying to do, overwhelmed by the mere idea that I am doing it.  Hell, I could even brim with tears at times.  That's all good!  That's a reflection of investment.  If you're so vested in learning something that you're emotionally moved; that's not a bad thing.  It shows how important it is to you.  For me, writing about it helped a lot because it allowed me to sort things out and to stay on focus.  Writing may not work for you (especially, if you're trying to learn writing), but find an outlet to channel the emotions and ideas about the subject matter.

8.  I talked about my running (sometimes, quite excessively).

If running was important to me, then I should be talking about it just like other things that are important to me.  This served two purposes.  
  • It had me talking about running--which is something runners do.  Talking about running reinforced the fact that I ran and was continuing to run.  I had never thought of myself as a "runner" but sure enough, I found that I was.
  • By sharing with other people in my life, it became a point of conversation.  We would talk about running or friends would ask me about my most recent race.  The most amazing moment of talking about running came when people started asking me for advice or told me that my actions were inspiring them to run.
When it comes to learning, the more you talk about and engage in the topic, the more likely you are to think about the subject matter and even gain mastery over it.

9.  I owned my accomplishments and gave room for others to acknowledge them too.

I took pride in what I was able to do.  I won no races, but I had victories at all of my races.  Every time I had a personal best or was just damn happy I showed up, I made note of it.  I blogged about it, I posted in FB and Twitter about it.  I celebrated my progress.  In sharing my victories, many others also provided congratulations which added to the positive feelings I had about running.  I also made sure to give thanks to those who helped.  You need to celebrate the victories that you make--regardless of where others are in their learning.

10.  I valued the experience for the internal value; not just the external benefits (though they were nice).  

I came to recognize that running provided me with many internal benefits that were useful.  The mental health benefits of running are many to count.  The better health reports I get from my doctor are also important.  The respect and admiration I get from friends, family, and colleagues--that's nice too.  I run for me--but that respect and admiration has proven a powerful tool to get me to that point.  For learning, this is the big challenge: the crossover.  That is, the moment when learning the subject is internally valued (you want to learn because it helps you understand your life more) more than extrinsically valued (you want to learn because you want an A on the examine).  

Those are my top 10 ways that running reminds me of learning.  What about you?  How else does running remind you of learning?

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The Black Cat 10 Miler--WIN!

The winter has been a pain in the ass for those of us trying to get in our running mileage.  I've been treadmill bound for almost two months and I'm getting antsy about it.  Granted, I've been getting through some good shows such as Shameless Season 3 and even the Thundercats Season 1 remake (they really should make season 2--I was impressed with the reboot), but it's been hard to deal with the whether. 

 I have made considerable progress since last year and can comfortable run in weather in the 30s and tolerate weather in the upper 20s if it is a race.  However, the cold is only one part of the equation.  The other issue is snow, of which we've had a lot and much of it still lingers which makes running on sidewalks quite problematic.  Is it April yet?  

Anyways, this preamble is mostly to say that despite these conditions, my running is going pretty good.  I had my first race this past weekend and I am happy with the results.  Technically, it should have been my second run, but the weather for the first run included a potential heavy snow-storm and I wasn't going to deal with that. 

Thus, my first run of this season was the same as my first run from last season, The Black Cat 10 Miler (I was originally going to do the 20, but more on that below).  The run went quite well.  I maintained just over a 10 minute mile pace for the first 6 miles.  My time at the 6 mile mark was 1:01.  The next three miles I was able to complete by 1:29, which means I did about a 9:20 mile.  However, the finally mile was the victory:  I did it in just over 8 minutes.  I came in at 1:37:16.  That's 2 minutes less from last year, but also, I felt I ran the race better overall.
Black Cat 10 Mile - Medal and Number 2014

It felt like a victory because my Doubt Demon was awfully strong with me that morning as I rolled out of bed and saw that the temperature outside was in the teens.  I had not run in this kind of cold and was anxious about my ability to endure, particular because I wear the Vibrams.  

So what contributed to this success?  I did something in January and early February that with some encouragement, I realized was a really good idea.  I found myself an endurance coach.  I have set an ambitious amount of running goals for this year and while last year, I did well in building up to the marathon, I did it mostly in the dark, figuring out stuff through trial and error.  That's not a bad method per se but I feel I lucked out in not injuring myself.  So I decided to go with Dave Sek, at Breakthrough Performance Coaching.  A significant reason for going with Dave is because I have known him for most of my life but also because I have been following his adventures in the last few years and saw the level of skill and training that he was bringing.  I figured if I was going to improve, he's probably a solid bet to get me there.  In meeting with him and figuring out realistic goals for the next year, we set forward with training schedule (that updates regularly as I move towards different races). 

Overall, the training has been going great.  I managed about 70 miles in January but have moved up the mileage in February (a month with 3 less days) to 93 miles.  I anticipate March will also be high in numbers, which is good because my next race is 20 miles, so I'll need to be ready for that beast.  For some reason, I think I will be.  

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Tales of Running: The 2014 Line-Up, or OMG, Are You Insane?

I started signing up for my 2014 races.  This list only goes up to July as many of the later summer and fall races are as yet not available for sign up or haven't confirmed a date.  As I mentioned elsewhere, I want to run 4-6 marathons this year and get myself ready for doing a double-marathon next year.  I'm also looking to get under the 2 hour mark for my half-marathon and the 4 hour mark for the marathon (though that one I think is a bit of a reach).  That's a lot to ask for in a single year but I'm up for the challenge given how well last year went.  

This is the time to beat!
I need to shave 35 minutes off.
If you're a runner, feel free to join up with me for any of these races--I always appreciate the company!

Old Fashioned 10 Miler and Fast 5K (OFTM)

11:00AM on February 16, 2014 (Sunday)
Distance: 10 MILES
35 Neponset Ave Foxboro, MA

The 4th Annual Black Cat 10 & 20 Miler

9:00AM on March 1, 2014 (Saturday)
Distance: 20 MILES
Bentley School, 25 Memorial Drive, Salem, MA

The Eastern States 20 Mile and Run for the Border Half Marathon

Mar 30, 2014
Distance: 20 MILES
Portsmouth, NH

Fools Dual Half Marathon (5K and Half-Marathon)

April 6, 2014 (Sunday)
OMaley Middle School, 32 Cherry Street , Gloucester, MA

Earth Rock Run

April 27, 2014 (Sunday)
Distance: MARATHON
North Andover, Massachusetts

Wallis Sands Half Marathon

May 04, 2014
Wallis Sands State Park, Rye, NH

Granite State Marathon

May 13, 2014
Distance: MARATHON
Mine Falls Park, Nashua, NH

2014 Twin Lobster Half Marathon Challenge 

Jun 01, 2014
Gloucester High School, Gloucester, MA 01930

Mad Marathon

July 6, 2014
Distance: Marathon
Mad River Valley, Vermont

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.