Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Problem with Plan-B

The problem with having a Plan-B is that we often take it.

It's a fall-back plan.

To keep us from failing.

Or so we think.

The problem with falling back to "Plan B" is that we do just that...

We fall back.

Way back.

The actor Will Smith nailed this notion in an an interview:

"There's no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A. Being realistic (i.e. having a Plan "B") is the most commonly traveled road to's unrealistic to walk into a room, flip on a switch and have the lights turn on...fortunately, Edison didn't think so."

In last October's Denver Rock and Roll Marathon, there were 2398 finishers.

Yet there were 8957 finishers for the HALF-marathon.

Don't get me wrong, running a half-marathon is indeed no small victory.

It requires a great deal of training and discipline.

But when less than 25% of the Denver MARATHON participants actually run the MARATHON event, I wonder how many people short-changed themselves.

How many took the "realistic Plan-B" option of the half-marathon for fear of failing?

I think taking a "realistic Plan-B" is a strategy of playing aggressive defense.

It's managing the downside.

Instead of reaching for what we really want--and can do.

We play it in our running and in our lives.

All the time.

An aggressive defense chock full of "Plan-B's" will often prevent losing.

The problem is...

It also prevents winning.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food For Thought--Part II

Distance training will change the way you look at food.

In a big way.

As a non-runner, I saw food as a source of pleasure.

A social-facilitator when meeting up with friends.

And an indulgence whilst watching TV--especially a Bronco game. I mean, hey, nothing like snarfing an entire cheese-lover's pizza dipped in garlic butter and ranch dressing to satisfy the palette, right?

Distance training changed all of that.

Big time.

I have found pre-race snarf-fests like that will make for some truly miserable stops at the aid station porta-johns--assuming their are some.

Distance training DEMANDS we change the way we look at food.

The change begins not in the isles of the grocery store.

But in our heads.

Because first,  food must be viewed as more than a source of PLEASURE.

It must be viewed as a source of FUEL.

For our body.

And our mind.

To function at peak condition.

Especially when the course gets tough.

And it WILL get tough.

When we change the way we look at food, I think our shopping list changes.


And for the better.

Think about it.

If you view a Totino's meat-lover's pizza and 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew through the "lens" of good fuel or bad fuel instead of the "lens" of pleasure, I think the contents of your shopping cart HAS to change.

This is especially true after some hard lessons on the trails.

Lessons that include long runs involving bathroom breaks in the woods where there are no bathrooms--or toilet paper.

A result of carbo-loading on Bud Lites and smothered chimichangas the evening before.

But here's what's cool...

A great diet will begin to yield great performances....

And great performances will yield a great diet...

Thus a wonderful feedback loop begins.

Success breeds more success.

But there's more...

A killer diet to super-charge the training up those gnarly hills will spill over into your NON-running life.

Opting for hot cocoa over the Double Dutch Fudge ice cream after dinner will make for better sleeping.

Grabbing the Chobani pineapple yogurt over the Lamar's 12-inch maple doughnut means not "crashing" for your 1 o'clock class Accounting class.

I'm serious.

In other words...

Saying "bon appetit" to the right foods and saying "thanks anyway" to the wrong foods will not only help us push through and go the distance on the trails.

But help us push through and go the distance in LIFE.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Food For Thought

What are you putting your head today?

Are you feeding it a turkey sandwich?

Or a Wendy's "Baconator?"

The late, great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, often said that in five years we will become the sum of every book we read, and every person we associate with.

A profound statement.

With profound implications.

So, what are you reading?

And, who are you associating with?

Because as Mr. Rohn opined, we will arrive SOMEWHERE in five years.

In other words, who we become and where we arrive depends on what we "feed" our heads.

The books we read.

The friends we make--or don't make.

The TV shows we watch--or don't watch.

The radio shows we listen to--or don't listen to.

The people we help--or don't.

All helped determine how we arrived where we are RIGHT NOW.

And will continue to determine where we arrive, FIVE YEARS FROM NOW.

So perhaps it's time for a diet for some of our choices.

And time to gorge ourselves on others.

So we don't arrive at the wrong destination chosen by other people.

But arrive at the right destination chosen by us.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Run Like an Old Woman

Nothing like a good butt-kicking to instill humility.

I recently ran up Lookout Mountain with a running buddy I hadn't seen in a while.

I could barley keep up with him.

He's about ten years older than I.

While choking and gasping, I recall him lamenting his "disappointing" time at a marathon he just finished.

He ran a 3:10 time.

Humble pie ala mode.

This experience made me reflect on a section in Chris Mc Dougall's book, "Born to Run", where he insightfully points out how human  physiology is turned on it's head when it comes to distance running--particularly distances beyond the marathon.

He points out that the winners of many ultra marathons are women, not men.  And that the top finishers are often the 40 year old school teachers, not the 20 year old freshmen.

In other words, what we lose in SPEED as we get older, we gain in DISTANCE. 

In other looks like it's EXPERIENCE that matters.

Looks like EXPERIENCE trumps youth and talent when going long.

ESPECIALLY when going long.

Sounds like a metaphor for life.

I think experience trumps youth and talent--in MANY endeavors.

Running a successful business.

Being a great teacher

Flying a plane.

Raising good kids.

So the next time I am out for a run, and I find myself heckled by the occasional loudmouth motorist for "running like an old woman," I'll try not to get upset.

I might even try to smile.

And know that "running like an old woman" is exactly what I should be doing.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's What You DON'T Need

Training for the Leadville 50 has been race training, part science project.

And I'm the mouse.

Playing amateur scientist in search of the outer limits of human physiology, psychology and nutrition has been a bit tiring.

But also very insightful.

Interestingly, what I have found thus far is that there are far more things an athlete DOESN'T need to successfully train for a big race than he / she DOES need.

Here is my list of FOODS you DON'T need:

  • Power bars
  • Power gels
  • Power gus
  • And any other food that comes in a wrapper or box. The fewer human hands that have touched the food, the better.

Here is my list of DRINKS you DON'T need:

  • Any drink with the word "power" in it
  • Any drink with the word "recovery" in it

Other NON-ESSENTIAL items:

  • IPods
  • Heart-rate monitors
  • GPS devices
  • Heart-rate monitors that are ALSO GPS devices
  • And any other device that velcroes to your body besides a simple watch
  • Cell phones--especially cell phones!
  • Health club memberships. 
  • Treadmills--although they can be a good location to hang your shirts.
  • Personal trainers.
  • Exercise videos.
  • "Breathable" shirts and shorts.  Let me be very clear here.  There is NO such thing as "breathable" clothing when you're sweating like a hog in heat going up the mountain.  No matter how "breathable" your clothing is, and no matter how many logos you have on your shirt and short, you are going to sweat and get wet if you are really putting forth effort.  Period.
So what DO you need to successfully train for a big race?

Here is what I have discovered you REALLY need:

1.  Shorts, shirts and and a couple of "hoodies" from Walmart--not the fancy running store.  Make sure all are comfortable, loose and CHEAP. You want to be ready to discard any of the above when the weather and your body begin to swelter.

2.  Decent shoes--an $80 pair of shoes should last a few years.  That's right--a few YEARS.  Only replace when a hole develops in the sole--and no sooner.  The notion of replacing shoes  every 500 miles is the same snake oil we were sold by the oil change companies telling us to replace our oil every 3,000 miles--it simply isn't true.  Read Chris McDougall's book Born to Run and read the section that talks about the running shoe scam.  You'll want to throw your Nike's through the television.

3.  Water bottles--filled with WATER.  That's right, WATER. Want flavor?  Add a lime.  Leave the sports drinks and sugary crap at home--it will only make you puke at mile 20.

4.  PBJ sandwiches.  I know, not very sexy.  But here's the deal:  look up the nutrition specs for this good old fashioned stand-by that mom used to serve us when we were  kids.  It kicks the ass of any "energy" bar.  Looks like mom was right.

5.  A $40 Timex Ironman watch.  If you spend more than this, you are wasting your money.  These watches have a stopwatch, the date and the time.  And they last longer than the wristband.

Here is one last observation I have made in my training training.  Besides becoming a "less is more" guy in my training, I have found myself adopting this philosophy in other areas of my life.

Do I really need a house with THREE Garages--and TWO air conditioners?

Do I really need 400 TV channels?

Do I really need a cell phone with 200 phone rings?  In I really need a cell phone?

I think distance training forces a person to "peel back the onion" so to speak and examine what is really important.

So maybe, just maybe this Leadville 50 training will not only change the way I approach training for races.

But change the way I approach the bigger issues.

On and OFF the trails.