Crazy/Normal

I’ve had some realizations lately – 

and I can sum them up quite simply:

People suck.

OK, that’s the harsh, short, exaggerated version. But… there it is.

So why would I think that?

Person A:
“I want to run a marathon!” /  “Let’s go do a 5K!” / “I signed up for an obstacle course race!” / “Wanna come with me to the gym?”

Person B:
“You’re nuts.” / “That’s crazy.” / “You have fun with that.” / “Yeahhhhhh….no.

…I have a problem with this. And you should too. This is a symptom of a bigger problem.

“A bigger problem”?

Think back to “Person A / Person B” and allow me to elaborate on “we suck”:

We reject that which we can’t comprehend/envision for ourselves.

It’s pretty plain to see, I think. Anything outside of our comfort zone…it all falls under the umbrella of “crazy”. People, when offered a chance to step outside their comfort zone and participate in something unconventional…usually don’t even take it seriously and give it thought. A quick dismissal is often the best you get. But it gets worse.

The dreamers are stifled.

All too often this rejection of the “crazy”…the disdain and reproach that is given as a response to these relatively big dreams…is delivered in such a way that “Person A” feels stupid. Feels discouraged. No longer wants to try.

My question to “Person B” is simple.

What are you so afraid of?

Sorry to get all “hippie” on you, but who decided what “crazy” and “normal” are, anyway? Who’s the “crazy” one, really – the guy who takes charge of his life, loses 100+ lbs and eventually runs a marathon? Or the guy that spends his free time turning the couch cushion into a mold of his less-than-firm ass?

Get out of the way. 

There is no room for negativity and roadblocks in this life. We are getting lazier, less ambitious, and less adventurous as time goes on. I have a message for “Person B” – get out of the way of people who want to reach higher. Just because you have gotten too comfortable with “normal” doesn’t mean others can’t break out and do something “crazy”.

And y’know what, “Person B”? Get out of YOUR OWN way – WHO SAYS you can’t go run a 5K? WHAT’S SO BAD about going to the gym? After you WORK YOUR WAY THERE…is a Marathon really so outlandish?

Join me. I dare you.

I am stepping off the deep end, and I dare you to do the same. 2016 is officially the Year Of The Ultra. I will be running:

– 5 Marathons
– 2 6-Hour Ultramarathons (shooting for 30+ miles)
– 1 8-Hour Ultramarathon (shooting for 30+ miles)
– 1 50 Mile Ultramarathon
– 1 30-Hour Ultramarathon (shooting for 100 miles)

Yes. I’m going to attempt to run 100 miles in one whack. Yes, prior to that I will run 50 miles in 12 hours or less (that’s the time limit). Those marathons? The 6-Hour and 8-Hour races?

Honestly…I’m supposed to run 20 – 30 miles those days anyway as part of my training…so I might as well get a medal for it. Hah. Yes, 5 marathons and three 6+ Hour Ultras will be TRAINING runs for me next year.

This plan is going to beat the crap out of me. I’ll be running 50, 60, 70 miles per week. I’ll be cross-training in the gym to stay strong to handle these runs. I’ll need lots of fuel all day long, and Cape Cod Nutrition Corner is going to be coming up BIG for me in that department (they’re sponsoring this whole adventure). But in the end…I think I can tackle it. And if I don’t hit 100? Well, at least I tried. And damnit…I’ll try again later. One way or another, I will finish a 100 mile ultramarathon.

Pretty much everyone I tell about this calls it “crazy”. Know what I say? There is nothing crazy about this. “Crazy” is an opinion. So is “normal”. 

It’s all relative.

“Normal” is simply another way to say “this is where I’m comfortable”. We don’t grow by staying “comfortable”.

Three years ago I had never “gone for a run”, and now I’m staring down over 2,500 miles in 2016. If I had never gone for that first run a 5K would still seem pretty out of reach. If I never started this fitness journey I’d probably be looking at me sideways too. I’d never have known that seeming “far off” and being “impossible” are not the same thing. I’d never have realized that there is no ceiling.

Maybe, just maybe… we should learn to appreciate the bold, daring choices of our peers. Perhaps we could learn to look at these chances people take as a level of bravery we should aspire to. As hope that we, too, can one day achieve something so great.

Maybe, just maybe… if we can all be a little more open…try a little harder…and always take that next step…

we might just accomplish some amazing things.

What’s so crazy about that?

The Marathon

They say The Marathon changes you.

Just over three weeks ago I finished my first marathon. 26.2 miles. For 5 hours, 12 minutes and 5 seconds I ran, jogged, walked, and struggled. But in the end, I crossed that finish line. I finished. And at the finish line…I wasn’t really sure what to feel. Finishing that marathon…achieving such a feat..it really made me take a hard look at where I’m at and how far I’ve come.

The Marathon did change me…and the nugget of knowledge I gained? It’s one I will never let go of.

It’s amazing to realize what you can accomplish in just two years. Really…March 2013 I “went for a run” for the very first time ever – 3.25 miles…it hurt…and now…just over two years later…I finished my first MARATHON. 26.2 miles…and I felt fine.

It’s…incomprehensible.

Or is it? I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more…it’s truly amazing what the human body will do if you give it enough time, training, and fuel. There are people that successfully run Iron Man triathlons – they cover 140.6 miles swimming, biking, and running. There are people who run ultramarathons covering as much as 100 miles (maybe even more!) ON FOOT. There are countless examples, but the lesson is the same:

Your body will go the distance.

Despite what you may feel right now, your body will do it. Your body yearns for the challenge. It wants to be treated well, maintained, trained, fed the right foods and asked to move in ways you might not have moved in a very long time. If you train and fuel correctly your body can and will do what you will ask it.

And so it becomes a mental game. Do you have the heart, the spirit, and the mental toughness to outlast the forces that are working against you? In The Marathon you’ve got 26.2 miles of unforgiving pavement and the forces of Nature – sun, wind, heat, humidity, cold, rain…you’re battling the Earth itself to achieve your victory (and as far as I’m concerned there is nothing more pure).

But what about in your own journey?

On a daily basis, you fight against much more. Self-esteem. Peer-pressure. The fact that healthy food and gym memberships are SO expensive, but that McBurger with fries is just $2.99 and hey, my favorite show is on!

You’ve got to win the fight. It’s life or death. Battle back and say “NO, it’s NOT ok to just sit there and rot on the couch.”

“NO, I WILL invest in myself…because a gym membership now costs a lot less than my medical bills will later. If I eat out one less time a month…there’s my dues! I shouldn’t even be having that platter of nachos anyway.”

“NO, you will NOT make me feel stupid for going to the gym when I weigh 300 lbs…because I’ve got news for you pal, I’m NOT going to weigh 300 lbs for much longer…and won’t you look silly when I’ve got a 6-pack and you’re still rockin’ the ‘dad bod’.”

The Marathon taught me a lot of things about myself I never expected to learn…but quite possibly the most important thing I learned…is that there truly is no limit. It’s something I’ve believed for a long time, but there was a nagging suspicion somewhere in the back of my mind that there was, in fact, a ceiling…albeit a high one…and eventually…you would find it.

But now it’s been made crystal clear to me: there is no ceiling. There truly is NO limit to what you can achieve. As long as you set your goal, make a plan, train, fuel, and believe…you really can achieve anything. It might be hard to believe right now, sitting where you’re sitting…but I was sitting in a place very similar not too long ago…

Don’t lose faith in yourself. You can do it. Whatever “it” is.

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard we try and how well we plan…It simply doesn’t matter. 
If the universe has decided it’s going to flip your day upside-down…guess what. That’s it. And that’s precisely what has happened this past month here in good ol’ New England.
Massachusetts has had a “historic amount” of snowfall since late January. So far, something like 5 feet has been dumped on the city of Boston, with the rest of the state seeing similarly devastating snowfall. We live in New England…snow is not show-stopping. This, however, is a bit much. 
So much, in fact, that it’s completely thrown off both normal life and marathon training…for me AND others…But this isn’t the first time somebody’s plans have ever gotten thrown off.

Today’s theme? Adapt or die.

Planning is CRUCIAL.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Planning is absolutely CRITICAL to success. The bigger the goal, the more important the plan. EXAMPLE: I decided, 9.5 weeks prior, that it would be a great idea to run a marathon. Given the immense task ahead of me, it would literally only be possible if I planned well and followed that plan. I mean…I was basically going couch to marathon and banking on muscle memory to get me halfway there.

Having a plan, I find, is ALWAYS important for me. I have to have a schedule, a plan, a timeline…I have to have that plan so I have something to stick to. Without it…it’s so easy to just…not.

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft’n go awry”- 

Whatever the reason, sometimes things just don’t work out how we plan. Honestly, it’s inevitable. This…however…I did not see coming.

SERIOUSLY?

Just shy of 5 feet of snow…in just over 2 weeks.

That much snow in that short a period of time is a snow-removal nightmare. Town, City, and privately contracted snow removal “troops” have had a hell of a time dealing with it all. It was just…so much so fast… And ever since that last blizzard…

We’re running out of room to put the snow.

The snowpiles and snowbanks are enormous. If you don’t live in New England or, I don’t know…on a mountain somewhere…you probably can’t comprehend quite how large some of these snow piles really are. Schools were closed for a full week, some towns even slightly longer!

Why?

If we don’t have room for the SNOW…well, trickle-down effect that ends with lack of safe places to walk and run. In many places there STILL aren’t sidewalks. Where there ARE…they often ice up due to the near-constant sub-freezing temperatures. Some days it’s even single-digit/sub-zero!

All of that has made running outdoors damn near impossible most days. But do we give up? No.

Adapt or die.

Things aren’t always going to work out how we plan. Hell, we’re lucky if it works out like that 50% of  the time. If we just give up whenever things don’t go quite right we will never get anywhere…and I’d still be 300 lbs. ADAPT. Know what that means?

Figure it out

Can’t run outside? Hit the treadmill. Yeah, not the most attractive option, but hey, at least you’re still running. The same goes for whatever your plan was. Sick kid and can’t get to the gym? Do a bodyweight workout at home. Hitting a plateau? Make a change to your workout or nutrition.

There is always an answer. There is always an alternate way to achieve your goal. Giving up and throwing in the towel is never the way to go.

I was SUPPOSED to be running a 10 mile road race tomorrow as my last “big” training effort before the marathon next weekend…

Aaaaaaand it’s postponed. Excellent.

Fine, Universe, I’ll adapt.

So instead, I’m going to do 10 miles outside TODAY, before the snow hits.

FINE.

So I’ll just hit the damn treadmill. Just try and stop THAT.

Mission: 26.2 – 2.22.15

Wow.

The Year Of The Conqueror indeed…

So I’m beginning 2015 in the most epic of fashions…running my first marathon –the Hyannis Marathon – February 22nd 2015. I’ve run a lot of races this year…but most of them happened pre-injury while I was in my physical peak. On its own, a marathon would be hard enough…But Now…now I’m out of practice and have lost some of my endurance and speed.

It’s gonna take a lot to be ready for this thing with just 9 weeks to train. But it can be done. And if I can do it…hell, ANYONE can. (Not that I’d advise that…)

So how, exactly, do I envision this being possible?

In Order To Succeed At Anything

planning is essential. I said it in The Year Of The Conqueror and I’ll say it again…planning is essential. I DO have a plan, and for the last 3 weeks I’ve been (mostly) sticking to it. Moving forward… I’m going to have to be a lot better about making time for each day’s workout…

In figuring out my plan I used a little Google-Fu to see what was out there for training plans. I ended up finding out…the shortest widely-available training plans were generally 18 weeks. Oh, good… that means my 9 weeks must be highly advisable…but regardless…

A Plan Is Necessary.

And I figured one out.

Essentially I did a modified Hal Higdon Novice 2 program. I took the Hal Higdon program (a very highly-regarded, successful program) and chopped it down from 18 weeks to 9. I cut out the early weeks where distance builds and progressed the middle weeks a bit faster.

It’s not all about the mileage though-

Stretch and flexibility are hugely important for runners…ESPECIALLY distance runners. I added the (strongly recommended) option for Friday’s rest day to instead be stretch or yoga. Stretch vs. Yoga, how long or what style…that’s all dependent on how I feel that particular Friday. Either way…again…I STRONGLY recommend a whole day be dedicated to this.

Runners can lift too, y’know…

Runners NEED to strength-train! It’s unfortunate how many runners don’t realize this, but it REALLY is important. Some low-weight high-rep strength-training is important to help build up leg strength for those long runs. Another area most runners don’t think of – Core. Your core is stabilizing you throughout your run…it would be in your best interests to strengthen it to better handle the load. Your upper body is important too – your arms swing to help keep your momentum, balance, and stride in line – 26 miles is a long way to keep that swinging going. To this end I added in a light leg day and core work on Tuesdays and an upper body strength circuit on Thursdays.

Rest is not laziness – 

It’s actually REALLY important! Your body needs time to recover from all the hard work you’re asking it to do. It may seem like a wasted day or laziness…but trust me…it isn’t.

In the end, I’m convinced you can run forever…

I follow a lot of people that run ultra-marathons…and I’ve picked up on something. As long as you’re putting in the work and doing endurance training…You can reach the point where you can run ANY distance. The key is…the farther you go, the slower your pace. Sure, I can do a 7:30 min/mile pace in a 5K…but when I’m running 26.2 miles I’m shooting for 10:00 – 10:30 min/mile. As long as you do a complete training program and figure out the right pace, you’re golden. (Supplementing properly helps too – handy that Cape Cod Nutrition Corner is my sponsor for this race!)

Don’t worry…you’ll finish.

You can’t ever be upset with your finish time the first time you do a particular distance. Focus on the finish and celebrate the achievement. Sure, I’d like to finish this marathon in 4:30…but I’ll be happy to finish PERIOD. Once you’ve got your first 5K/half-marathon/marathon under your belt…then go for a better time. Don’t ever diminish your success just because you didn’t do it fast enough.

So… What are YOU training for to kick off The Year of The Conqueror?