Sunday, June 9, 2013

Optimist or Pessimist....Half Full or Half Empty ?

Today I have come to ask you a question:  Is your running cup half empty, or half full ?  Is your race half over, or have have way to go ?  Is your performance better than it was, or not where you want it to be ?

Your performance.  That's really what it's all about, isn't it ?  And this goes beyond running, and weight loss, and trips to the gym.  This is about Life.  Is your Life where you want it to be, or a living example of where you have fallen short ?

Let's start with the running aspect of these questions. ( I'll address these in a running specific way, and let you make inferences about how these ideas can be applied to life outside of running )  You get up early, and bypass the snooze button that most people use.  You  have some carefully considered calories, when many pick up their breakfast at a drive-through, and you start pounding the pavement before most people have even taken their first glimpse of themselves in the mirror.  For the evening runner, you may have gotten to bed later than you wanted to get those few extra miles in, you may have skipped the night-out-with-the-guys, to make sure you got to the track for your speedwork, you might have missed dinner with the family so you could get some miles in before the sun went down. you are....striding away with your stopwatch judging you, and your playlist encouraging you, and you see yourself as falling short.  Your coworkers and friends are either still in bed, or already settled on the couch for the night, while you are hitting the hills to develop your quads, running intervals to expand your VO2Max, and racking up mile after mile in pursuit of your next PR, longest distance run, or victory over that person you've been trying to best for weeks, who may not even know you exist, and yet, for many of you, your successes are eclipsed by your shortcomings.

I think all people have that little voice of negativity and self doubt. For some reason, that voice is louder in runners. I don't know if runners have a propensity for negativity, or if people with inherent insecurities are drawn to running, but as a group, we, as runners, tend to see what we have failed to accomplish, rather than what we have accomplished.  When we have worked so hard to get our race PR below a nice round number simply because it is a number that is round and nice, we forget that not that long ago, our PR was just above a much larger nice, round number.  Our weight was higher, as was our cholesterol, and resting heart rate. Our endurance was lower, as was our speed, fitness, and over all feeling of well being.

Every day that you lace up your shoes, and log some miles is a day that you have accomplished something.  DO NOT choose to look at what you didn't accomplish.  It is counter productive and only serves to feed and strengthen that part of you that doesn't want you to succeed.  That darker side of your personality that manifests itself as insecurity and self doubt, that gets louder as you get tireder, that seems more logical as your runs go longer, that tells you that you should take the night off, when a little part of you knows you should run, that's the voice that we are running from.  That voice is the voice of everything bad we've ever felt about ourselves, and we can vanquish it on a daily basis,  by putting in the miles, and taking pride in our accomplishments.  We may not have run as far or as fast as we wanted, but dammit, we were out there, logging the miles, scoffing at the weather, and pushing ourselves to, and beyond limits that may exist only for us, and only in our mind, but they are just as real as the 4 minute mile was to runners in the 50's, as putting a man on the moon was to scientists in the 60's, and as portable computers were to geeks of the 70's.  Don't be limited by your own negativity.  Don't look at the time barrier you haven't broken yet, or the distance you haven't covered yet.  Think back to when you couldn't run more than a mile or so without feeling like death was a viable option.  Remember when running a 5k and living to tell the tale was your Everest.  You have come a long, long way, and need to remind yourself of that fact.  You are not the runner you were 3 or 4 months ago.  You have gotten significantly better and will never really give yourself credit for the improvements you've made.  Keep a log and flip back a few months every once in a while. Read about how you felt when you finished a run that was half of what you're doing now.  You are improving, and growing, and becoming more of the person you want to be.  Pay attention to that, and it will happen more for you.  You will thank yourself for it, and those around you will appreciate you for it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't Let Others Define "Success"

When you put your heart and soul into an endeavor, you want to feel good about it.  At some point you move past the "casual jogger" phase, and start calling yourself a "runner" and you want to think that all those early mornings, nagging injuries, runs in miserable weather, and all that money spent on gortex and spandex, should be generating good positive feelings of success, right ?  The problem is; what is success ?  When I started thinking about this question, the first thing that popped into my head, is my quest for a sub 4 hour marathon.  I've been trying to get that for a year and a half and haven't done it yet.  I lost almost 80 pounds, made a bunch of great new friends, got a huge boost in self confidence, and dropped 5 minutes off my 5k PR, and I could very easily say that my running has been "unsuccessful" because I haven't gotten my sub-4 hour marathon.  ( yet !! )  I have occasion to run with a group of people on a regular basis, and I've been treating these runs as tempo runs ( there's a slew of definitions for a "tempo run" but its basically a run at very close to your aerobic threshold, or at a pace faster than you can carry on a conversation at )  The other night when I was struggling to keep up with the group, I was over hearing some of the chatter, ( but unable to participate as my lungs, nose, mouth, and airway were fully consumed with the task of getting enough air into and out of my lungs to keep from passing out ! ).....and there were comments like "this is a good pace...I needed a nice easy run tonight"....and "I'm glad we're going slow tonight so I can be well rested for my track workout tomorrow".  Meanwhile, my internal dialogue is chanting: "just don't die......just don't die.....just don't die"  On this particular night, we were running a little faster than an 8 min/mile pace. When the run was over, I was pretty proud of the information that was reflected in the face of my Garmin GPS Running Watch.  ( so much so that I posted it on Facebook !! )  

The vastly different opinions of the same outcome from different runners got me thinking about the definition of a "good run" or when do you consider your run a success ?   Here I was running hard enough that conversation was difficult, running side by side with someone who considered it akin to a rest day or a recovery run  !!  That is one of the many wonderful things about running.  We can each define our own success.  The problem is, that we can also each define out own failure, and runners tend to be overly self-critical, and very hard to please.   You can do everything right:  Skip the deserts, go to bed early, hit the track, stretch, eat the latest superfood, and still have a run that doesn't meet our internal definition of success.  You finish the run, glance at your watch, and exclaim  "WOE IS ME...WHERE DID I GO WRONG ?!?!?"  Where you went wrong is setting some arbitrary numerical definition of success !!  How is it that a 7:59 pace is acceptable, and an 8:01 pace is a failure ???  IT'S NOT !!
Running is a simple sport, but you are not a simple creature.  There are many things that go into determining how your body will respond to a certain situation. Some you can control, and some you can't.  Heat. Hours of sleep. Hydration. Stress. Humidity. Nagging injuries. Whether the attractive neighbor is out watering her lawn.  The level of animosity towards your boss.  All of these things will affect the pace that you run.  What really matters isn't what's on the stopwatch, it's the level of effort you expended.  If you gave it all you had on that particular day, you are a STARK RAVING SUCCESS !!!!  There will be days when it takes a Herculean effort to hit a certain pace, and there will be days when you can just go through the motions, and still hit that pace without even thinking about it.  A "successful" pace will vary from day to day, person to person, workout to workout....even hour to hour.  Half of it is just showing up.  If you get your running shoes on, and get past the end of the driveway, you're well on your way to a successful run.  Don't crucify yourself if you can't hit the pace that you did last week, month or season.  You're out there working on it.  As long as you're giving it all you have that day, you're good.  You can return home, shower, and conduct yourself with that little, internal smugness that says "I am a runner, dammit"  While others sleep in, or bemoan the weather, I pound the pavement.  I give my all.  I leave my heart, soul, frustrations and troubles out there on the course, and am a better person because of it.  Don't measure your effort by someone else's standards, and don't let your definition of success be represented digitally or numerically.  Run your run, and ask yourself if you could have run any better on that day.  You know.  The little voice inside you knows.  That's all that matters.

Thanks again for reading, and.....

Just don't stop running.....

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I've signed up for the next one......

So I've gone and done it again.  It was just a matter of time.  I've renewed my quest for a sub 4 hour marathon finish time, and the next chapter in that pursuit officially began 10 minutes ago when I registered for the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA on October 20, 2013.  ( It really started back in October, but wasn't official until I registered this morning )

Why I think I'll succeed:
 My first marathon time was 4:20, and my second was 4:09.  If I can make the same kind of improvement on the next one, I should be under 4 hours.  This theory breaks down when you carry it forward a few more times.  If I could take 11 minutes off of every marathon I ran, in 5 or 6 races I'd be challenging Ryan Hall's time for the fastest marathon ever. ( it's around 2:04 !!!! ( yes, that's more than twice as fast as my PR !! ) )

Experience....each time I do this, I should get better at it.  Not necessarily better at running physically, as that's obviously based on the training I put in, but mentally I will be more prepared to face the challenge of running 26.2 miles.  This may be hard to believe, but conquering this distance is very much a mental exercise.   Sure, covering the distance is a huge physical task, but the mental aspect of it is HUGE, and can't be overstated.  Your mind will go places, and do things that will surprise you when you are pushing your body close to the limits of your physical capability.  It's kind of like an acid trip.  It can be a very positive or a very negative experience ( or both ! ).  You will find yourself in long, passionate negotiations with the darker elements of your psyche that don't reveal themselves very often.

Data:   I've looked at my last two attempts and can see where I have been lacking.   This should help me target my training to specifically address those shortcomings.  For me, it's primarily an endurance and stamina issue.  I'm by no means fast, but my goal doesn't require speed.  I'm only looking to run at a 9:09 pace.  I may try to go a little faster if my training works out well, but for now, my goal is 3:59:59.  In each of my first 2 attempts I was able to hold my pace until about the 21st mile, and then I faded.   It's hard to train for running miles 22-26, since most training plans don't have you running more than 20 miles, and even that distance you only do 2 or 3 times.  I'm going to have to alter whatever plan I chose to add more long runs, and make them longer than I've done in the past.

Why I might not succeed:  
Random influences.  One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change
The courage to accept the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference

There are some elements that will impact my time that I can't control and I have to know that and accept it going into this challenge.  The biggest is the weather, but there will also be some things that interupt my training, like sick kids, work obligations, family issues, etc.  I have to deal with them as they come up, and still do the best I can to prepare.  My own injury situation will play a major role.  Some of this I can control by training smart, but injuries happen, and I have to expect it, and deal with it.


So, I hope you all come along on this journey with me.  My goal is still to chronicle my attempts to become a better person, parent, and husband through training for a marathon, and I'll be filling you in on all the interesting aspects of the process.

I'd love to hear feedback, recommendations  etc from anyone and everyone, so post a comment, drop me a line at;, and tell your friends about the blog !!  And...of course....

...just don't stop running....


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I've been running, just not blogging...

So....It's been a while but I'm back at the keyboard tapping away to protect my sanity, organize my thoughts, provide some motivation and, hopefully, entertain those of you that are kind enough to check with my blog.  When I started all this my main goal was to run a marathon, which I did about 18 months ago.  I also had the goal of breaking 4 hours, which I didn't do, so I signed up for another marathon about a year ago.  I did better, but still didn't break 4 hours.  So I decided to pick a race a year out and train like mad for it for 12 months, and give it another shot.  I started last October ( I'm writing this in May ) and started slowly building miles.  I wasn't too worried about speed, but wanted to build a solid base upon which to start a training cycle 16 to 18 weeks before my next run at the 4 hour goal.  That plan was going well, until some unforseen events sidetracked me for a few months. I had just gotten up to 40 miles per week when I had to spend some time addressing some other issues, and running went on the back burner for about 8 weeks.  I'm currently at 30 miles per week again, and was able to get 35 miles in a few of those weeks ( but also had many weeks that were less than 25 )  While the interuption may have been a slight set back in training, I was able to make great progress mentally and physically and will be both a better runner and person as a result of  that time.

 So, I haven't signed up yet, but the race is going to be The Baystate Marathon on October 20th, 2013.  The race is small and local for me so it's easy to get to, and eliminates all the travel stress involved in a destination race.  My first marathon was Miami, which was too far away and much, much too big for me, but was my first one and I didn't know what to look for in a race.   The other thing I like about my chosen race, is that it's an area that I used to spend a lot of time in a few lifetimes ago.  It's where I went to college the first time....but that's a story for another day.  My life has followed a pretty wandering path, but it's gotten me to where I am now, so it wasn't all for naught.

I hope you weren't expecting a neatly organized blog post after being out of the game for so long.....My mind is jumping all over the place, so I'm taking you with me...

I recently read an amazing book on running, ( and life ) that got me itching to get back to this blog.  It's called  Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past One Marathon at a Time.  by Caleb Daniloff.  It's about a guy who's trying to fight an addiction by running races in the areas he used to go as an addict.  Here's a link to an interview and some discussion about the book if you're interested:
It's a quick read but definitely worth it.  You can only spend so much time running in a day, you might as well spend some of the rest of it reading about it !!  The other running related book I'd recommend without reservation is Born To Run, which is well written, fascinating, educational, and enlightening, and happens to deal with running.  If you haven't read it you should.

If you've got any favorite books on running, post them below, and I'll check them out.

Thanks again for reading, and whatever you do.....

....just don't stop running.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Plans and goals.

A while back, I wrote about goals and how I had set one and didn't get it.   ( Click here to read the post: Why I didn't hit my goal ) I had one at the time that I went all in for, and didn't achieve it.  I put a lot of effort into it, spent a lot of time thinking about it, really, really wanted it, and still didn't get it; but I don't regret the process for a minute.   For me, goals are both a focus point, and a distraction.  I know that sounds like two opposite things, but it's really true.

A goal is a focus point for me within a certain topic.  It can be finishing a project at work by a deadline, getting something done around the house, or hitting a certain time in a race.  In that way, it allows me to keep from getting "off task".  If I am planning a run, my goal will force me to say " will today's run get me closer to my goal" ?  In running, if you run 4 or 5 days/week for 30-40 minutes per night, you're only spending 2 or 3 hours per week on your running.  That means you can't just go pile on the "junk miles" and call it training.  By keeping your mind on The Goal ( I've now capitalized it because it is a specific and important item ) you will have to do each workout with an attribute in mind.  Will tonight be a hill workout to build some leg strength and stamina; will it be a track workout to improve your speed and leg turnover rate, a tempo run to work on your cardio-vascular conditioning, etc.  By keeping your Goal in mind, you will make the most of your training time, and maximize your running ability.

A goal can also be a distraction.  Knowing that you have a race in 3 or 4 months can be something to think about when you're doing mundane and tedious tasks to make your day go a little quicker.  Stuck in traffic ?  Think about why your goal is going to be difficult, what are the biggest obstacles to attaining it, but don't stop there.  That would be a negative mental exercise and counter productive.  Once you identify an obstacle, you  develop a plan to overcome it.  ( I'm keeping most of my references and examples here running related, but they don't necessarily have to be )  If simply covering the distance of your Goal is what you worry about, you  decide to build mileage during the training phase so that you remove that fear.  Identifying your perceived obstacles has two benefits.  One is the actual benefit of finding your weakness and addressing it.  The more significant benefit is to remove the mental aspect of the obstacle.  When you get pushed to your limits, your dark side will mess with your head.  When you're 75% of the way through a race, your dark side will start to tell you "You can't do this", "You're not good enough", "This distance is too far for you".  Your training reinforced "light side" will now have a valid response. "Yes I Can, I can do this because I've trained for this"

Every challenge is a series of obstacles, and by thinking about them in a positive and constructive way, you can come to the realization that they can be overcome.  It might not be easy, but you break it down into manageable steps, develop a plan to overcome each step, and then execute that plan.  Of course you have to  maintain a healthy sense of realism.  If I set a sub 3 hour marathon as my goal when my PR is 4:09, I am probably setting myself up for failure.

So I went for my goal and didn't get it, but the process was beneficial.  I also know that particular goal can be revived and shot for again, and I may do that.  My pursuit of that goal was an invigorating and enjoyable process.  This is probably a topic for another day, but just about everything in life has a controllable element and a random element to it.  You can only worry about the controllable things.  If you do that well, you might still get beat by the random element, but there's no shame in that.

As always, thanks for reading, and let me know what your thoughts are.  And whatever you do.....

...just don't stop running !!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Baseline.... here we are....  I ran my local 5K Fun Run last night in 21:47 and it just about killed me.  My weight is currently at 180 ( a week ago, it was at 185 so that has already started to improve .... )

That will be the starting point and basis for any improvements.  I'm not giving that out as any kind of thing to be proud of, just as a testament to my credibility.  If I'm slower and fatter in a few weeks, you shouldn't take anything I have to say regarding running and weight loss very seriously.

Stick with me....this will be educational, healthy and entertaining at least.....

I appreciate your eyeballs.



I had to change my name a while back and now I can't change it back.  I'm listed as "Have a Nice Day" and google is giving me a hard time about getting it back to just "Greg".  I'll get there though.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm Back !! that may be a little presumptuous of me.  [ for those that didn't get the reference, that was the press release that told the world that Michael Jordan had returned to Pro Basketball ]  I have no illusions that I'm blogging's equivalent of Michael Jordan, or that the blogging world has been anxiously awaiting this event, as the basketball world was waiting for Michael, but I'm looking forward to writing again.  I've read some of my past posts for inspiration, been through a few life changing experiences since I last published regularly, and think I have enough material to keep you mildly entertained, reasonably informed, and somewhat distracted from the day to day monotony that tends to drag us down from time to time.  

My weight is up and my running is down, so my running focus will be primarily on those areas, and I'll be reviewing races to sign up for shortly as that always helps to have a specific goal to train for, rather than just saying "I want to get faster".

My weight is obviously easy to quantify, and my running ability will be tracked by an informal 5k race/fun run that I run semi regularly.  This week I'll be running that at a race pace to determine my baseline, and then I'll periodically post my times in that as well as my weight.  I figure anyone who's reading my opinion on running and weight management should know if I have any clue what I'm talking about, so I'll post the results for you all to judge for yourselves.

I am always grateful for your attention and feedback and would welcome any suggestions for future topics, feedbacks on previous posts, or just a general shout out from time to time.  Let your friends know about the blog if you find it interesting, and if you don't, let know why.   I was glad to see I still had some regular followers.  Thanks for sticking around during my hiatus.

Whatever you do, just don't stop running !!