Sunday, March 01, 2015

Seaside Half Marathon - 2015

Actually slept last night. Despite the foreign bed. Despite the pending race. We finished dinner, turned in early, and embraced the resulting silence. Which helped when the alarm started at five o'clock. Then the usual silence as everyone performed their pre-race rituals. Mine included: coffee, vitamins, KT tape, plenty of stretching, and the internal struggle over What To Wear. By six thirty, we were all ready and prepared to walk a block (ha!) to the starting line where 3,997 other racers were huddled in the grey air.


Found several people from The MS Gulf Coast wandering the crowd. IPA folks. Triathlon folks. And all our various handlers. Seeing so many familiar faces among the smiling racers helped take off the edge. The cold was a bit crispy, but everyone was in good spirits. Surprisingly quiet, well mannered. And eager to get started. Somehow, Allison & Nancy vanished, then Robin (fellow Ticking Tri Bomb) ended up next to me. Quick hug. Some chatter about pacing. And when the clock struck seven o'clock, the race gun sounded.

My plan to was to start close to the front, maintain a quickish pace at first, settle into something comfortable once the crowd thinned, and then cruise on the way back. That was the plan. Early into it, we went too fast, closer to minutes than nine. By the time the crowd thinned, nine minute miles were the norm. However my memory of a somewhat flat course was corrected around three miles into it when the rolling hills appeared. Nothing difficult, but they did not help. Nor did the slanting rise in the road at each curve. At the half way point, my watch showed my pace was BELOW the two hour point. Very happy! Much awesomeness. Made the turn, grabbed a gel, and prepared for the return trip.
Return trip did not go very well. By mile eight, my left knee (the one that died last year) began to protest. By nine miles it started to hurt to the point where keeping any reasonable pace was going to damage something. Barely beat my 10 mile pace from last week, but crept after that. Wanted to pick it up more and get it over with. Felt this gnawing desire to "push through the pain." But in the back of my head, ghosts of failed races from 2014 started to resurface.

Ended up slowing enough for Nancy to catch me. She was hurting, too. Her calf. My knee. Partners in pain. We finished the last two miles in shared suffering. Every couple of hundred meters one of us would say, "Almost there." Then we could see the finish line. Then the crowd was cheering. We held hands and raised them high as we crossed the line. Done at last. Her 25th half marathon. (Not sure of mine.) Both of us eager to get this one behind us. Didn't break two hours. Didn't PR. But finished in 2:19:50, which beat last year's time.

Things blurred after that. Drank a 30oz mimosa that didn't touch me. Allison finished her very FIRST marathon and gave us all a tear-filled hug. Returned to the rental house to get some more layers. Which didn't ultimately help. Had a free beer that wasn't great but went down quickly. BBQ was slightly better than last year. And ended up browsing the local stores rather than crash from the uncontrollable shaking that gradually threatened to overcome me.

Eventually, we all recovered our legs, shuffled back to the rental for some real beers, a shower, and a change of clothes. When we had caught our breath and made ourselves presentable, we went BACK out for Lunch #2. Chili dogs from Wild Bill's and a few more beers. Finally, felt warm and right and happy. And the world was beautiful once again.

Anyway. Another half marathon in the books. Not the prettiest. But it is done. And on to the next adventure...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meg At 13

What to say about Meg at 13? She enters her teen years nearly as tall as her mother, as crazy-talented like her brother, and far more creative than her father. She's moved past pink and My Little Pony and ballet to focus on theater and violin and her artwork. Sure, she gets moody and sometimes dramatic. But she is the music that keeps me moving and always brightens my day in the morning or after work. Thankful to have her in my life and continue to enjoy my time with her while she's still into hugging her Old Man.


Cindy put together Meg's party. All of Meg's favorites: Cane's Chicken, French Onion Dip, small cans of coke, vanilla ice cream, and (of course) cake. On top of putting all those pieces together and straightening the house, Cindy also made some crockpot lasagna that super double delicious.

Joined today by: My parents, my brother & Morgan, Cindy's parents, Cindy's brother plus Aunt Amy, Alex, and Tolar.


So now we have two teenagers. Liam's driving and trying to find his own edges. Meg's approaching high school and still trying her hand at as many different hobbies as possible. There are so many possibilities, for both of them.We're enjoying watching them grow up. It just happens too quickly sometimes. And has its prickly moments. But none of us are ever bored.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Road To Traditions - 02/22/15

 Sunday in South Mississippi finds us training and socializing. Supporting each other. Encouraging those around us. New triathletes. Old friends. Jim worked with the new folks. Going over drills and the fundamentals. Helping to get the beginners more comfortable with their form and the idea of swimming for distance. What most of the folks don't know is that open water is night and day different from the pool. My own experiences were full of struggle on ALL levels. It took me many months to find my own form, talking to myself non-stop in open water: "Be cool. Be cool! BE COOL!" Hopefully this next generation of competitors has a more pleasant experience.

At the same time, the intermediate and more advanced folks swam with Brian Harris. They worked on improving their stroke. Usually trying to maximize their "glide." Reaching. Twisting. Minimizing wasted motion. All tough stuff to master. But Brian knows what he's talking about and knows how to teach people. 

My training started much earlier. Sara Carter showed up and we swam 3 sets of 600 meters. A mile when you put them together. Odd how we both felt tight until 300 meters, then our shoulders finally relaxed. Sara's amazing. Her fourth swim in a decade (or more) and she is already doing a mile. Gonna be fun having HER chasing me down at the race.

After, the swimming clinic, Allen & JG went over transition preparation and fundamentals. Once again: minimize, minimize, minimize. An abundance of secrets and experience shared by those guys. Once the weather is sure to be cooperative, the group will move to the actual race site and we'll put those skills to the test.

Won't be long, now. Then the REAL training begins.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bay-Waveland Beach 10 Miler 2015

Needed a tough training session leading up to the Seaside Half Marathon next weekend. Signed up for the Bay-Waveland Beach 10 Miler. Along with about 155 friends of mine! Camaraderie, oddly non-cold temps, and a 20 mile per hour head wind. What more does a man need? Oh yeah, we'd run in on a concrete seawall. And there would only be a couple of rest stops. So if we could survive this bad boy, we could survive anything. And since there are few OFFICIAL ten mile races here in the Great State of Mississippi, it was an opportunity for the fast people (which excludes Your Humble Narrator) to get onto the record books if they had a good showing. (Spoiler: many people did!)

Unfortunately, mostly due to my poor planning, things did not go too well for me. Failed to hydrate the night before. Failed get my apparel correct. Did not wrap my right pinky toe correctly. And wore thick socks. As a result of those mistakes and the effort of running into the wind, the five mile midway point during this race felt like the 10 miles point last month in New Orleans. Then my thoughts wandered too far DURING the race and forgot to fuel properly until my tank was already down to fumes. And finally, my right toe abraded so badly that every step after mile six rubbed it raw. Contemplated walking the last three miles. But didn't. Changed my gait into more of a shuffle and managed to finish with a pace faster than this time last year.

Still managed to get into third place on the podium. (My buddy Jack placed first and now owns the fastest 10 mile  race for our age!) A bit awkward to admit, but at forty something, it was the first trophy of my life. Despite the pain and discomfort, finally getting a trophy of my own turned it into a Very Good Day. And overall, my bad personal performance made 55th out of 155 people. Almost the top third. With better planning, that would have been top 25%. But, live and learn. Won't take so many things for granted, next time.

Afterwards, a bunch of folks met at Shaggy's in The Pass. Drinks and food and comparing notes and talking about plans and remembering previous adventures.Typical stuff among the local fitness folks. Good times with good people. What more does a man need?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Road To Traditions - 02/15/15

Another adventurous trip down The Road To Traditions today. Our second such gathering of the year. Maybe twenty participants getting support from two local coaches. Several brand new folks. Some seasoned veterans. And many familiar faces. Always good to be around people smiling and training and helping each other and trying to be healthy. The rest of the Deep South was off doing Mardi Gras, especially D'Iberville & Pass Christian. Lots of beer, King Cake, and Moon Pies. But the rest of us were spending our afternoon swimming laps. Crazy, but true.


Started off swimming solo. Thirty six laps. 1800 meter A mile for AquaNerd. Been trying a new stroke that Dean M. suggested. A radical departure from my form of the last two years. This new one is all about a high turn over with the arms, pulling stronger with forearms, and NOT reaching or gliding. So far, much harder to do and tougher on the cardiovascular system. But this was my third attempt and have gotten up to 500 meter stretches at a time without dying. The real test will be open water swimming. And can AquaNerd maintain the form for 2.2 miles without gassing out. Not long before we find out if it works, or we fall back to the old plan.

Speaking of new, my Crossfit coach, Sara Carter, is making her first attempt at a triathlon this year. She is doing the Road To Tradition with us and has done nothing but impress me, so far. Of course she's already in GREAT shape (owning a gym and all) plus she used to be a sprinter on the swim team, in college. She's been getting in some biking and her quads are already helping push her through workouts that most folks don't try the first year. If she can run and string all three activities together, she'll give me a run for my money!

Doesn't bother me, though. BRING IT!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ghosts In Their Head

Painful and sad to watch somebody breakdown due to the ghosts in their head. That crippling feeling of helplessness in the face of another person hurting. One moment smiling. The next, no longer able to contain the tears.

"It's okay. It doesn't matter," they feign.

No. It is not okay. You're crying. It matters.

And silence. Awkward, uncomfortable silence. Occasionally broken by sniffling. Then those tense, bitter minutes spent cramming the pain back into its hiding place. Along with the memories. And ancient specters.

"I'm sorry."

Nothing else would matter from me, anyway. Not within my power to do anything. Anything at all. Trying would only make it worse.

These ghosts. The pain they carry. The lies we spin to try to numb ourselves. So many decades later. They still hold power over us.

And despite knowing all of this, we can't bear to let our ghosts go.

They're okay. They don't matter.

And back to pretending neither of us saw that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - FINISHED!

At long last, on his second attempt, after months of sweat and toil, Your Humble Narrator has officially completed Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Body "5K to 50K" program! (Which Tim Ferris himself has never finished.)

My original theory was: the "5K to 50K" is not only virtually impossible for most folks to complete, but Tim makes impossible claims about the results of the program.

For those folks who did not follow my entire journey, just GETTING STARTED required several months of training to get familiar with the exercises used in the program. And all of the exercises are within the realm of modern Crossfit training. So just to begin the program, you would need in-depth knowledge of Crossfit as well as an incredible fitness base. My own adventures started just a few months after finishing my first 70.3 Ironman. And even then my fitness base wasn't anywhere near enough.

The training program itself started off difficult, but didn't require as much time as you might think. Many days the training was less than 15 minutes. (For perspective, your typical Crossfit workout usually lasts an hour, including stretching and warming up.) About mid-way through it became apparent that the training was working, making me stronger and faster. And the final weeks breezed by, with lots of progress and many personal records.

What was the final result? As noted yesterday, the program helped me CRUSH last year's Rock & Roll finishing time. My previous effort was 2:30:XX. After the 4HB training program, my time was 2:09:50. More then 20 minutes faster, and a new personal record. That is a 15.4% improvement. By my measure, that's a success! So the program definitely has benefits. My results are clear proof. And my money says many athletes would love to achieve a 15.4% improvement on the times.

Benefits are good, but they are not enough. There is simply no way the program prepared me for anything more than a good half marathon. And it could not take your average 5K runner to 50K in 12 weeks. (Not even a 42K (ie: full marathon!)) Sure, somebody COULD "finish" an event out of spite or raw determination. But they will not finish with any sort of reasonable time or being in reasonable condition when they finish. The program simply does not provide any sort of experience beyond two hours of running. It was perfect for a half marathon. But the average runner will not be prepared to run for three to five hours doing a mile every nine to ten minutes. The average runner will hit an enormous physical wall that the training does not prepare them for. And the average runner will have to deal with an enormous mental burden that the training does not prepare them for. My own longest run was 10 miles. Adding another 16 (for a full marathon) to 20 miles (for a small ultrathon) without any sort of physical preparation is not (NOT!) going to happen.

In addition, my experience suggests that even completing the program (regardless of your results) is absolutely impossible without access to a very knowledgeable (and encouraging) coach in a well equipped gym and you are willing and able to push yourself to extreme levels you've likely never reached before. Need an example? Can you do hand stand pushups? Can you jump rope so that the rope passes under you TWICE with each jump? Can you squat your bodyweight? Can you deadlift twice your bodyweight? All of those are part of the program. Can't do those? Can't do the program. Even if you lower the weights written into the program, you still have to master the moves themselves and doing them incorrectly could result in serious injuries.

In conclusion, the program will absolutely deliver results in a relatively short time. It prepared me for a half marathon. It improved my run times. It also helped improve my biking and swimming abilities. And my physical conditioning has NEVER been better. But even if you find a good coach in a good location and physically push yourself to new limits, the program will NOT take an average runner from 5K to 50K. Maybe a high level track star coming out of college or high school could do it, but not an average person.

The program is far harder that Tim suggests. It delivers results below what Tim suggests. It will make you bigger, stronger, and faster. But the program will not make most people "effortlessly superhuman," as Tim Ferris writes.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 10

Realized there is going to be a missed week. The holidays screwed up the schedule and set me back slightly. Not really a problem, though. Week 12 (the one that will be missed) is mostly a cool down and missing it is no big loss.

So this week (Week 11) will be the last full week of training on the 4HB 5K to 50K program. Next Sunday is my graduation ceremony: Rock & Roll Half Marathon: New Orleans.

Feeling strong. Feeling healthy. Feeling comfortable and confident and ready to see what kind of improvements can be made over last year's times.

This week's workouts included:
  • Monday - Touch & Go cleans + burpees
  • Tuesday - Pub Run 
  • Wednesday - Push Press + Box Jumps
  • Thursday - Thrusters & Pullups
  • Saturday - Race

Monday, January 12, 2015

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 9

Moving into the final stretch of the 12 week program and feeling GREAT! Trying to stay healthy. Injury free. Frequently visiting the cold dip & hot tub for therapy. Chiropractor every couple of weeks. Making smarter choices for food. And SLEEPING much more. God forbid, but this could be the first year in almost two decades that has seen me sleeping on something akin to normal levels.

This week's training included:

  • Mon - Snatch Balance, Hanging Power Snatch & 200m sprints
  • Tues - Pub Run
  • Weds - Deadlifts & Rows
  • Fri - Back squats
  • Saturday - Racing

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Decompressing

There are never enough hours in the day. Few opportunities for actually decompressing. Today for example. Up at 0700. Provide technical support for the church. Drop Meg off at theater. Groceries. Order new swim goggles. (Which turned out to be complicated due to the severity of my vision!) Organize the accumulated debris in my room. Pack. Plan. Write. And STILL never reach the end of my tasks...

Wrapped up last night by taking Meg & Liam to Mugshots for dinner & drinks. Cindy had a headache. Daddy had two Angry Orchard + Mystery Romps. Toasted and thought of and sent good karma to all my friends in Disney, preparing to wrap up their long weekend of running. 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon.

Godspeed, friends, you're in my heart & thoughts!

Maybe IronNerd will be there, next year...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Frosty Kroc 10K - 2015

Perhaps it was the near-freezing temperatures. Or the road conditions. Or people wanted to sleep late. Or maybe the fast kids were in other places, working on other races. Whatever the reason, today marked only the second time a medal has been placed around my neck for any sort of race. With a time of 53:XX, IronNerd earned second place in the Men's 34-44 age group!

Something of a sloppy event. Volunteers at registration weren't too insightful with spontaneous questions such as, "Where does the race start?" The city of Biloxi was in the middle of a major overhaul of many of the surface streets making race conditions somewhat sketchy in places. The lone water station was technically staffed, but the person there wasn't handing out water or offering any words of encouragement. And the organizers decided to wrap up the race with TWO loops around their running track. But the after party was good (at least the chicken biscuits were!) and the Kroc Center itself was quite impressive.

My average pace was just under 9min/mile, which included stripping off a jacket and multiple walks to catch my breath. Still fighting off self-destructive thoughts and a constant desire to quit. But average running pace is approaching 8min/min and few (if any?) of the other runners passed me, even as we were approaching the finish.

Overall, still very happy with my improvement and increased conditioning. If only my stupid brain would cooperate!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Do It!

This evening's workout included: 5 rounds of 7 hang cleans, 7 push presses, and 7 front squats. My weight was 85lbs. The program called for 135lbs. Part of the set was predicated on doing everything with the same bar. Have never tried 135lbs on hang cleans. Could do the squats. But definitely could NOT do the additional fifty pounds with my shady shoulders. One previous injury was enough to keep me cautious. So went with 85lbs. Which turned out to be challenging, but not difficult. As anticipated, the push press took the most effort.

Which brings up a very important reminder for the 4HB Challenge: The program is based on Tim Ferris' strength, not mine. He's clearly younger and stronger. So the program has to be adjusted DOWN to my strength level .Most of the time it feels like minimizing my abilities. But Tim is a strong sumbitch. And anyone reading this and considering the same program needs to make sure they consider the difference between their abilities and Tim's!

As an aside, the notes on the mat are my own invention. A bit of personal inspiration that gets written right before the workout begins Today's battlecry: Do it!

And it was done.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 8

Week 8 was something of a mirror of Week 7 due to the holidays and the unfortunate passing of my Grandmother. Did not stick to the plan exactly, but did work out aggressively and picked harder workouts if there was an option.

Running continues to get significantly easier. My times and endurance continue to improve. Very little doubt that all of my improvements are attributable to the program. There is much (MUCH!) happiness with the results.


Some of the highlights of Week 8:

  • Monday - Power cleans, pull-ups, and hand stand push ups
  • Tuesday - Front & Back Squats + Double Under Practice
  • Thursday - 12K run & polar bear plunge
  • Friday - Opted to do the WOD at the gym
  • Satuday - Sprint drills
Aside from working on my own improvements, a major goal of this experiment was to try and determine if the "5k to 50k" training program was fact or fiction. Can anyone reasonably achieve a goal of 50k? While my own abilities are improving, the validity of the program is still in question. Only 4 more weeks to find out for sure.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 7

Week 7 took two weeks. Holidays and what not. Did not adhere to the plan rigidly. Instead, if a WOD (workout of the day) at the gym was harder than the WOD on the program, we went with the gym's prescribed workout.

Several items of note, thus far:
  • Still not sure if this plan could actually get you to 50K. That's 31 miles! And there are very few runs of even HALF that distance in the plan. At least so far. Plus, there's a mental aspect of pushing yourself that far and that long. And there's no discussion at all about fueling before, during, or after long runs. Such knowledge only comes from extensive experimentation. None of which are touched in the program.
  • Despite my reservations, my pace is enormously improved. Averaging around 8:45/mile without significant effort. Pushing the pace drops it right at 8:00/mile. But slow and steady is a better choice!
  • Did a 10K race (Pass to Bay) and had TWO personal records. 6 miles in 53 minutes and 10K (6.2 miles) in 54:24! Previous 6 mile record was 54min and previous 10K (6.2 miles) was right at an hour! Very VERY! happy with those results.
  • Strength and conditioning is a little tricky because my thinking is constantly: don't get hurt, don't get hurt! But after finishing the workout, my thoughts become: should have tried hard, should have done more weight! Frustrating. But the goal IS to remain healthy and injury free.
  • During sprint work, it doesn't even feel like running with my own legs. Feels like somebody else's form. Somebody else's legs. Wow!
2/3rds the way through!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pub Run - 12/16/14

An easy 5K to test the knees and ankles. Multiple slow moments when some shady characters appeared in the distance and the lady runners were behind me. Still managed to finish a few seconds short of 29 minutes. Non-stop would have dropped it into the 27min range. No REAL suffering. Minor pinch in the RIGHT knee. But that is likely due to compensating for the right ankle. Played it smart: slow and steady. Happy with the results. That's enough, for me.

Afterwards, the usual folks at the usual drinking spot, but an unusual meal. Ben, owner of Irish Coast Pub. was kind enough to share a portion of his Mother-In-Law's home-made kimchi. Her being a native Korean who buries her creations in mason jars in the ground for up to a year, it was infreakingcredible stuff. Almost TOO hot. Pushed my personal limits on spice. Nearly crossed into "Oh my God, this hurts!" territory. But beer soothed the pain and it was one of the most challenging meals Your Humble Narrator has had in many moons.

Only in South Mississippi can you run 5K with your friends, then enjoy Korean BBQ tacos in an Irish Pub!


Monday, December 15, 2014

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 6

My last attempt at the 4H Challenge was effectively over mid-way into Week 6. And this week proved to be just as challenging! Work and short term injuries colluded to slow my progress and all the previous disappoints briefly flickered before my eyes. But actually turned out fine and were it not for some isolated soreness, things would be great right now. Very happy with the progress and looking forward to the second half of the adventure! Only six more weeks and the final adventure should be the Rock & Roll in New Orleans, in late January.

Here's an overview of Week 6:


  • Monday was an unscheduled rest day, primarily due to work. Didn't help that my posterior felt bruised from a ride the day before!
  • Tuesday was pretty brutal. In the morning was some back squats (3 sets of 5) then a series of power cleans and burpees (21/21, 15/15/ 9/9.) And the evening held a 5 mile run, pacing with Amber. She really pushed it at the end and we averaged right at 9m/mile even with 2 or 3 brief walks.
  • Wednesday was 300 jump ropes, 50 box jumps, 50 hand release push ups, and 50 knees to elbows. I think we started off by practicing push jerks and split jerks, too. (Should NOT have done most of that based on the next day's training.) 
  • Thursday was 10 mile trail run! Notable mainly for actually doing it and for multiple falls, including once rolling my ankle and hearing an obscenely loud POP than still (5 days later) is acutely painful at certain angles of movement. 
  • Friday? Oh yeah, very much a rest day! But soaked in the hot & cold tubs. 
  • Saturday ended up being just a brief (Occam's Protocol) workout with Liam plus some more soaking.
  • Sunday ended up being ANOTHER rest day due to too many projects. And much rest was needed.
Week 7 promises more of the same. But we're half way done, now. Onward and upward!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

One Long Endless Sunday

My weekends are never entirely my own. Not for more than two decades. Fortunately, they keep me entertained. And, truth be known, most of my long training events occur on the weekend. So a busy schedule keeps Your Humble Narrator happy and healthy,

First adventure? Bit of electronic skulduggery at My Parent's House. The "security light" in the back yard recently gave up the ghost. It needed to be replace. Who is going to do it? My 68 year old father? My 66 year old mother? Liam? Nay, nay friends. IronNerd gets to shamble up the slender pole and try his luck.

It unfolds like this: My narrow butt (weighed down with tools and climbing gear) scaling a ladder. My father bracing said ladder and offering advice about securing myself to the pole (God help me!) as well as pseudo-racist electrical instructions ("Black to black, white to white...") for wiring the new light. My son wandering around investigating what's what, shuffling up the ladder to hand me tools, and standing by the breaker box ready to flip the power when Paw Paw Mac yells, so that his father (me!) doesn't get cooked atop a fiberglass ladder from the 80s. Two bungee cords around my waist. And a frayed, ancient rope, too thick to be properly knotted, pretending to bind the ladder to the pole. Not a pleasant process. Much damage done to the blood pressure. Most of the process done one-handed, breath-held, a prayer threatening to come out. With vertigo and an illusion of being far too high commingling in my imagination to obscenely affect gravity in unfamiliar ways. Dad yelling up encouragement. Liam asking how much longer. Dogs swirling frantically. And this is a LOT OF DAMN WORK just to light up a back yard. But eventually, it got done. Then there was much rejoicing and hugs and thanks and reminders of why we moved back: for moments like this.

Second adventure? Getting Liam to drive from the Winn Dixie parking lot to Murky Waters, for lunch. For those not intimately familiar with the route, it is a straight shot with only a couple of stops and two short turns along the way. Much like His Mother / My Bride, Liam likes to make everything much more complicated than it has to be. He thinks there are rules for everything and needs reinforcement that: everything is okay, he is doing well, and (most importantly) we aren't going to die in a fiery explosion if he makes any small mistakes. But, joking aside, we lived, he listens well, and (with lots of positive reinforcement)  he does fine when he relaxes. The resulting lunch was (as usual) in-freaking-credible and the Burnt Ends sammich from Murky Waters is without a doubt one of the top three in the world. Three word review: delicious, delicious, delicious. And that's without washing it down with Mystery Orchid. (Coffee stout + Hard Apple Cider!)

Third adventure? Rescuing Meg after a long volunteer effort at Lynn Meadows. Took Molly as my wingman. (Or is it wingdog?) Slow roll over to the show. Find an illegal parking spot up front. Roll down the window. And wait. Molly sniffing the air. IronNerd tethering his tablet to his cell phone (NERD!) and working on his blog. Oh, the terrible slings and arrows we suffer these days. It's all one long endless Sunday...

...and here comes Meg!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On The Trail With IronNerd

Last year, Week 6 of the 4HB Challenge signaled a major turning point in my life. For the first time, things felt GREAT during a run. Lighter. Faster. Stronger. Would the program be a game changer? Would my efforts and determination be rewarded? It all felt great going into the halfway point of the training. But the first significantly long run of the Challenge was also my last. After breaking THREE personal records that night, my 2014 season was unofficially over before it began.

Today marked a cautious return to that same training plan. No PR's though. (Not gonna happen again!) Slow and steady on The Tuxachanie Trail. Unfortunately it was a solo event as my wingman (LUKE!) tore up his own knee on a run this past weekend (on the same trail!) And the length of the adventure cost me a vacation day. But it was well worth it.

Several lessons were learned during this adventure:

  • If you are going to do a 15k+ trail run at 1PM, you should eat more than a protein bar for lunch. 
  • Never trust the MS Gulf Coast weather to stay cold for very long. Long sleeve running weather can turn into near-shirtless running weather quicker than you'd imagine.
  • Nature has an evil trick on trails: holes are easily covered with pine straw. (At 3.5 miles into the run, my right foot found one and something popped in my ankle. Walked off the worst of the pain. But it was sore the rest of the way!)
  • The forest isn't full of wildlife like you see in movies. Aside from a lone armadillo sullenly enjoying its lunch, nothing crossed my path or appeared to lurk in the distance. 
  • Last, but more importantly,you should NOT do hundreds of jump ropes and box jumps the night before your trail run!
Anyway... Turned around at the 5 mile marker.  58:47, including a 10min walk after the first 5K. Felt PRETTY good. Significantly under my 10K pace. But glad to be half way into it.

Word of advice. Trail running isn't street running. You get beat up on the trail. Back. Knees. Ankles. Calves. They all suffer. Mightily. So my complaints came as no surprise. Around 6.5 miles, my left ankle started acting up. Fortunately, it wasn't horrible. And left to its own devices, my brain would frequently shutup and my body would pick up the pace.

Walked most of the last mile. Still finished just under two hours. Surprised at my pace towards the end. Was rarely struggling to keep breathing. Wasn't really tired. Mainly just sore in the ankles. But NOT in the knees! Thankful for that.

Overall, fun excursion. The trail was great. The weather held up. And so did IronNerd. Though waking up in the morning might reveal a different story...

Monday, December 08, 2014

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 5

Tough week. But stuck as close to the plan as possible. Some of it clobbered me. Some of it was a touch easy. Still getting stronger. And runs are getting easier. Approaching the half way point. Approaching the week that caused me to tap out. Nervous in one moment. Eager in the next. But never bored!

Here's the breakdown of Week 5:

  • Monday - Back Squats (3 sets of 5) then Front Squats & Pull-ups 21/15/9.
  • Tuesday - 5.5 miles in 50 minutes!
  • Wednesday - 5 rounds of 300 single unders on the jump rope + 25 burpess (44:44!)
  • Thursday - 5 rounds of 10 hang power snatches + 30 x 24" box jumps
  • Friday - Didn't go right, with work, and ended up being a rest day
  • Saturday - Light workout with Liam (Occam's Protocol) 
  • Sunday - Scheduled Rest Day
Next week, the 15K revisited!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

IronNerd's Office

My fifth favorite passion (aside from: family, fitness, reading and food:) is technology. Counted among  my many blessings is being able to earn a living by literally playing for hours with all manner of digital geekery.

Today, for example, my day was spent getting a new workstation (far left) online. At one point, my desk had three PCs (with three different versions of Windows) straddling SEVEN screens. All controlled by just a single mouse & keyboard. For bonus Dork Points, my convertible laptop and much-beloved tablet are included in the group photo.

For the techno-curious:

  • Top two monitors (currently) work off my oldest PC, barely visible as a silhouette under the phone. Something like a Dell 520, from 2005. Runs Windows XP. 4GB of RAM. 70GB drive. Usually handles non-corporate adventures and has Office 2007 for helping users running that version. 
  • Bottom four monitors currently work off an oldish Dell XPS system, the silver tower under my tablet. Probably refurbished around 2012. Quad core, 64bit, 8GB RAM, 200GB drive, Windows 7. Monitors the data center, handles all corporate adventures, and has Office 2010. 
  • Currently squatting on the left, under the sad lonely screen, is the New Baby. Sweet little Inspiron with an quad core i7, 16GB of RAM, smoking fast 512GB SSD drive, and (finally) a functional DVD burner. Took me HOURS of updates but it is finally running a fully patched Windows 8.1 with Office 2013. It will replace the Windows XP box and serve as a heavy lifter to do some VM work. Especially a virtualized Windows 10. (Gotta stay ahead of the curve.)
  • The laptop is a Dell XPS One that has stolen my heart. (Typing on it right now.) Also runs Windows 8.1. Also has an SSD. And boots from a cold stop to fully logged in within 5 seconds. Love it, love it, love it! Mainly use it for working remotely, and typing out my rants on Tales From The Eye. Great for watching videos, too!
  • Of course the tablet is a 2nd generation Nexus 7. This thing will completely change your digital life. Only reason to get on my home PCs these days is to play a video game. Almost everything else done on a regular basis is done on the N7. Ultra portable. Ultra functional. This thing is a game changer.
  • Tying all the Windows devices together with screen/keyboard/mouse sharing software: Synergy. Allows me to move across all the screens seamlessly. Could probably run it on the tablet, if needed, since Synergy has a Linux client. 
  • A keen eye will spot my favorite coffee up lurking amid the packets and LCDs. Something old, something new. 
Combine it all together, and you have the modern IronNerd. Welcome to my world.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ron's Nuts

First present and first Christmas card of the year turned out to be something exciting and unique: Ron's nuts. My buddy, Meinsler, sent some  Pennsylvania Black Walnuts. Straight from his back yard to  my front door. Ron warned that his nuts were unusually hard. They could wreck a normal nut cracker. So he included special instructions for getting into his nuts. Something involving a hammer plus a steel plate. And Ron warned that his nuts had a very distinct taste. They not something you just immediately try to devour. You have to get to know them. Slowly. And take your time with them. They're very special nuts, and Your Humble Narrator is very happy to have a friend willing to share them with him. Plus, Ron beat everyone in the race to share their love with me! And that goes a long way in my book.

So, thanks, Ron! Your nuts were well received at my house! Even the dog has been enjoying a good sniff of them.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - 2nd Try - Week 4

Week 4 fell upon the long Thanksgiving Holiday Week. The program is starting to pick up steam. Presenting more challenges. On time and scheduling and recovering. Sticking with it as close as possible. Only a few minor strays and those were close to unavoidable.

Here's the breakdown of Week 4:

  • Monday - 400M sprints in the morning that were terrible because of my efforts to shift to the Pose Method of running. Front Squats and Deadlifts in the afternoon that weren't so bad.
  • Tuesday - Only one workout with the deceptively difficult Hang Squat Cleans & Push Presses. 
  • Wednesday - 5 mile run. Not as bad as the 10K the other week. Fairly slow and easy but still managed just over 10min pace.
  • Thursday - Couldn't really train but did "play football" with Liam & Tolar & Stewart after lunch. But of a workout with the running and jumping. And Your Humble Narrator actually scored three touchowns!
  • Friday - Missed the run (2 x 1mile) but caught the WOD: Power Snatch + 200m rows followed by 600 single-under jumps.
  • Saturday - A "Linda" workout that only got half finished. Gym weights handle differently than Crossfit weights and Saturday's workout was awkward and perhaps a bit excessive. But, got it done.
  • Sunday - Needed to recover. Felt rundown and fought off headaches. 
Still feeling good. Feeling much more comfortable with the weights and workouts than the first attempt. Hoping that is a good sign. Approaching the halfway point. And Week 6 includes a 15K trail run!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Change Of Plans

First change of plans: today becomes a rest day. No training outside. Too cold. Too rainy. Freak arctic front pushing down to our humid shores. Low temperatures are one thing. But sprints in the rain? Not conducive to healthy knees or ankles. So, rest day it is.

Second change of plans: Dad did not need me & Liam to help move the 'fridge. Took off a smidge early. Picked up Kidd Maestro Then, no go. But Liam made the highest school on his Advanced Science test today. So he got to pick dinner. Wanted brisket. Instead, he gets burnt ends! Finest BBQ in South Mississippi. And he finished his sammich first. Of course he didn't have two pints of local brew. But who is counting?

Third change of plans: Work from home. (sigh) Director from the office asks for a favor. Can't really say no. And once more into the breech. Might as well. There's no rest for the weary.

But we had a great meal. And it was good while it lasted 

Life is good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Unexpected PR

The Program. The Program. Haunting all my thoughts. Today it called for some posterior chain work. Back Squats at 80%. Two each minute, for 10 minutes. Then Deadlifts at 90%. One each minute, for 8 minutes.

Started with Coach Aaron and a warmup circuit. Three rounds of: 100m sprint, 10 box overs, 10 kettlebell swings, and 10 ring dips. Then Ollie stretches. Some PVC work. And hamstring stretches with the bands. Cobwebs removed. Ready to work.

Hit the prescribed exercises. 165lbs on the back squats. Bar heavy across sore trapezoids. Focus on breathing. And form. Felt great for 80%. Lots of strength and room to grow. Could have done more. But protecting my spine. Risk adverse these days. No race or reward worth permanent damage.

On to deadlifts and an unexpected PR. Used the lifting straps to take pressure off Frankenthumb. Standard grip. Worked up to something like 265! A record for Your Humble Narrator. And Sara said there was room for at least another forty pounds. But a PR is a PR. More in the future. See above, re: risk aversion.

Very happy. Very excited. Couldn't do these weights last year. Now they're comfortable. Consider that a victory.

Stay healthy, Jon. Stay. Healthy!

Monday, November 03, 2014

The 4HB "5K to 50K" 12 Week Program - Second Attempt

For the newcomers, The 4-Hour Body is a book from Tim Ferris that focuses of maximizing personal improvement with a minimum of time and effort. In it, he offers up a 12 week program to take you from 5K (3.1 miles) to 50K (31 miles) with far less training than you would ever imagine. For additional details, please check out my first post, my initial warnings, my prep work, or my first week of results. Lots and lots of background and insightful information there.

As a reminder/spoiler, my first effort to complete the 4HB 12 Week Program was cut short in the 7th week due to my own over-zealousness. Powered too aggressively through a 15K training run and my knees were ruined for the rest of the season. It was a difficult, painful lesson. Very demoralizing and the low-point of the year.

But now we're back and better than ever! Plenty of strength and health and personal wisdom. Won't be any knee-shattering endurance events, this time. Also incorporating daily stretches, chiro support, and hopefully some yoga days into the program. 

As with last time, the goal is to increase my running speed, quality, and duration. The final week will conclude just before the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans. Then we proceed to eventually attempting a full marathon and a full Ironman by the end of 2015. 

So join me again, dear friends. Once more into the breach! And we'll see if Tim Ferris is right, wrong, or something entirely different.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Thoughts Linger

Plunging a toilet clogged by somebody else's... um...  issue...  is a terrible, maddening experience. Trying to avoid looking at the obvious while eagerly anticipating the telltale swirl of success. The odd dance of force plus delicacy required to avoid splashing. Praying no hint of funk slips past the shirt clutched maddening up over your nose. Time dilates. The bowl grows to enormous proportions in your vision. And nearly every beat of your heart brings you closer to either abandoning the effort, puking, or both

But what are you going to do? It must be done. And you're the best resource for it. Will anyone know you did it? Would anyone care you did it, if they knew? Will you get the slightest bit of appreciation or thanks for your efforts? Can any reward be worth the hideously foul effort? Likely, no to all of those.

But you do it. You suffer. You receive nothing. Aside from a place to safely pee. Nobody asks. You don't tell. And other than one or two infrequent readers of your obscure self-therapeutic blog, nobody in your life is aware that you plunged that nasty toilet.

That, my friends, is love.

(Or you have to pee, badly.)

But then a rare moment of clarity: How many people in my life have plunged toilets on account of my issues without my knowing or my thanks or my appreciation?

(How many people in yours?)

Such thoughts linger. Long after the bowl clears.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Jason & Sara McDougal

On a beautiful Autumn day, November 1st, 2014, my brother and his beloved fiance, Sara Earl, were married in a sunset ceremony, in front of dozens of their friends & our family, at Grass Lawn, overlooking the beach. It was my honor and pleasure to be his Best Man. Helping to herd the cats, so to speak. And do my best to keep him calm while avoiding any accidental meetings between the Bride and Groom. (Mission accomplished!) A fun, laid back adventure throughout the whole process. Couldn't ask for better conditions or happier, more attentive people to be involved in the event.

Jason, as you might reasonably imagine, grew nervous as the predestined time approached. The music started playing. Folks standing everywhere. Ever chair filled. We were ensconced in our designated position, talking with Pastor Wayne, when the first hint of panic fell upon him. "Okay, there goes my heat rate." We practiced a couple of deep breaths, pretended to straighten his outfit, had him straighten mine, and the distraction worked. The mothers were seat, and off we went.

Sara was as cool as penguin's bum in winter. Incredibly beautiful and poised even in the light of the pending adventure. It was my honor to bring up the wedding dress and help position it for the photographer. Helped with some of the Bride's Maid's requests. And stole a quick picture before things got hectic. Very proud to have her in the family and I think she is a wonderful influence and parent for my adorable niece, Morgan. Welcome aboard, Sara. We're thrilled to have you!

The service went off without a hitch. Morgan brought the rings straight to me then behaved very professionally. The three of them performed a sand ceremony to unite them as a family. Then the couple performed a rose ceremony and followed up with the more traditional vows and promises and merriment. The wedding party exited. Pictures. More pictures. Finally drinks and food and good times had by all.

One of the highlights of 2014, for me. Thankful to have been a part of it. And looking forward to seeing more of the newest member of the family!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Previously Unimaginable

If you do not have any sort of background in physical fitness, doing even the shortest triathlon (a Sprint) is a major undertaking. When you're standing at the beginning of that race, it is most likely the single biggest physical challenge of your life. In the back of your head, you know there are bigger races, other distances. But such things are unicorns to you. You may never find them. And at that movement, the thought of finishing a full Ironman event borders on inconceivable.

Four years after starting my first Sprint triathlon, the previously unimaginable has become a reality: Your Humble Narrator is registered for the 2015 Ironman Chattanooga. Full distance event. One year away.

As previously noted, 2014 was a wash for triathlons. But 2015 will see new goals and new training methods. The current plans include:

  • Returning to the 50K training that went TOO well last year.
  • Continuing to stretch very aggressively, including daily exercises and yoga multiple times per week. 
  • Continuing to rehab sore muscles with sauna and cold bath therapy.
  • And focusing on improved running form, most likely adopting the pose method
A year will go by quickly. Thankfully, my base isn't bad. Just need to enhance the good stuff and make positive adjustments to the bad stuff. Eat right. Sleep right. Train right. And get the job in 364 days!

Simple as that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

10Q - Day Two

For the second question, on Day Two, 10Q asked:
Is there something you wish you had done differently this past year?
My answer:
Tough to narrow down the selection! But one of my frequent challenges is waking up early At the house, things do not get done as easily when the family is awake. So my productive time is when they're asleep. But that often isn't until 10P. And on the weekends, even later. If my schedule shifted to the morning, things like running and Crossfit would work better. But hitting that snooze alarm is sooo easy. As turning off the alarm all together. Changing my sleeping to maximize my productivity is high on the priority list. But equally high in difficult. So it keeps getting pushed back. Year after year.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

10Q - Day One

10Q started their second year of questions this week. The sight was inspired by the traditional 10 days of reflection that occur between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of time that’s long been considered an opportunity to look at where you're at, where you've come from, and where you're heading.

Their first question was:
Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
After giving it some thought, my answer was:
2014 started with new inspirations and a new, untested training program. Having been a poor runner all my life, the program focused on improving my weaknesses. Halfway into it, a long run was scheduled. 15K. Just over 9 miles. For the first time in (literally) decades, a sense of strength and certainty overcame me. My legs felt powerful. My chest wasn’t struggling for air. And there was no slowing me down. It turned into my fastest training 5K ever (though there were faster ones at official races) but it was also my fastest recorded 10K and my fastest 15K. Everything was glorious and magical and things were going to change for the better! 
Until the next morning. My knees were shot. Especially the left. It felt as if somebody were sliding a knife under my kneecap with each step. Walking was difficult, at best. Training was impossible. And the disappointments were just beginning.   
The new training program had to be canceled. My first triathlon of the season resulted in a significantly slower time than the previous year. My first half Ironman had to be canceled. And every race after that was either canceled, or slower. 2014 turned out to be my worst season since starting. A total disaster. 
The end result was less time with my friends. More feelings of doubt and uncertainty. And a renewed sense of depression that hadn’t been felt in years. It was a huge personal and emotional step backwards. 
The experience was less about physical pain and more about personal disappointment. But perhaps it taught me a lesson about pacing myself. And instilled a new sense of caution. In this world there are different types of mistakes. Good ones that we learn from. And bad ones that we repeat over and over without ever realizing the error of our ways. Hopefully this was a good one. Only time, and next year's racing season, will tell.
One down. Nine more to go. Thank you, 10Q for the adventure. Perhaps a few of my friends will take up your gauntlet, too!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Choices

"We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us."
-Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

Driving her to school this morning, Meg asks: Do you believe in destiny, Daddy?

My answer ran something along the lines of:  I believe in choices, BabyBear. I don't think we should ever accept to be victims of circumstances. We should work to be products of our decisions. I believe that between what happens to us and what happens next is our choice. The trouble is that good decisions  come from experience while experience often comes from bad decisions. But we shouldn't let fear or anyone else decide our destiny for us. I think we make our own destiny. And where we are now, good or bad, is the result of all our previous choices.

Probably more than a twelve year old needs to hear before 8AM. Blaming the coffee. And reading too much Shakespeare. And being a long-winded nerd.