Another Year, Another Marathon Fail

Running Fail

I’m not happy that I’m writing this post right now but hey, that’s how things go sometimes. For the third time in four years (here’s last year) I didn’t end up running the San Francisco Marathon I was training for (so much for this post). To be honest I’m not sure if I’m ever going to run a marathon. My body seems to be telling me that it’s not the best idea and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a runner, it’s that I should be listening to what my body’s saying.

So why did I miss it? I was getting towards the end of my training and ramping up my mileage but an ankle sprain took me out of my groove a few weeks ago. I’m just now getting back to running in the mornings, which is awesome, but it’s slow going (and I’m ok with that for now).

Failing and not following through with something sucks but it’s also when I learn the most about myself. Looking back at my failed marathon training here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t Rush Training

From the beginning I was pushing it to ramp up my distance for the marathon. I ended up cutting a full training schedule in half to accommodate the time I had before the race, which wasn’t very smart. Pushing my mileage to the level needed for a marathon takes a level of time and attention that I wasn’t giving it. This isn’t what knocked me out but it played a part.

Don’t Change A Running Gait Halfway Through Training

I’m not sure what I was thinking with this one. Sometimes I do the dumbest things. For some reason I decided to change my heel strike to a mid-foot strike right in the middle of my training and the first time I made the change was on a 10 mile run.

My calves were so sore I couldn’t walk right for the next week and I’m sure I did more damage to my body than I’ll ever realize. After talking to a doctor who knows much more than I do about running he would have made a more gradual change to get me to where I needed to be.

Warm Up Before Running

My buddy Smitty is a triathlon maniac and one big thing he taught me was that warming up before going for runs is really important. I’m not talking about doing a few stretches, this is a focused 15-20 minutes of stretching and warmup exercises before the real running begins. I’m almost always in a rush to get out the door in the mornings so this is a hard one to make happen but it’s something I need to do every time. It’s better to take more time warming up and running a shorter distance than running farther and potentially getting hurt. I want to be able to run for a long time so I need to do the things that will keep me healthy.

I’m sure I learned even more but these are the three main things that came to mind. Running, especially as I get older, requires more time and attention than I’m used to giving it. I need to make sure to stay on top of these things if my 33 year-old body is going to keep moving into my old(er) age. It’s not going to get any easier.

 

Stopping My Heel Striking By Changing My Gait

running gait

Now that I’m training for another marathon (that’s in less than a month) I’m starting to get back up in mileage. I’m running around 20-25 miles a week right now and my long runs are over 10 miles. My runs during the week are getting longer, too — I went out for 7 miles this morning before work, which is just under an hour of running.

Getting to double-digit mileage in one run is a big change compared to going out and running a few miles. The longer you run the more you start to notice the need for good form, a good warm-up and good nutrition. Neglecting any of these can result in some type of weird injury that will stop anyone from running.

I say this because after running this much there’s one thing that’s become clear — I’m a heel striker. It’s not the worse thing in the world when you’re running shorter distances but as I ran more and more I could tell that things were hurting that shouldn’t be. My gait is way off and it was causing some pretty serious pain.

These weren’t muscles that were hurting, they were knees, hips, IT band, arch of my foot and top of my foot. All things that can kill any hopes of running a marathon faster than I can eat a tub of hummus.

For the past week or so I’ve been figuring out a way to battle these types of pains I’ve been feeling but it never hit me that my heel striking was the root of the problem. After thinking more about it and talking to one of my buddies who is a running maniac I put it all together and decided to do something about it. I decided to completely change my gait and go from heel striking to mid-foot strike.

I didn’t really think about the fact that changing my gait is a big deal and that my muscles were going to hate me for it and I just went and did it. On my longest run so far. Yeah, that wasn’t the best idea.

For the next 4-5 days my calves were as sore as they’ve even been in my entire life and I was a little worried that I had done some serious damage. But, after time went on they healed up, became less sore and at this point I’m back to my old pace while running without much, if any, heel striking.

I can tell that putting the pressure on my calves instead of my joints is the much better way to go and ever since changing my gait I’ve had no other types of pain that I need to be worried about. I can tell my calves are still getting used to me running on my mid-foot but it’s only a matter of time before they’re used to it.

I’m really happy I made the change to my gait and if you’re heel striking you might want to think about changing yours, too. Just take it easier than I did and change it gradually. Your calves will thank you for it.

 

I’m Running The San Francisco Marathon (For Real This Time)

Golden Gate Bridge during the SF Marathon

I’ve decided to run the SF Marathon this year and I have two months to train for it (that’s enough time, right?). I’m hoping that the third time’s the charm since the last two times I had intentions of running the 26.2 I ended up getting hurt before I could actually run the race.

One year it was my shoulder and last year it was my poor, little pinkie toe. Both times I was just a couple of weeks away from the race but I never made it to the start line. I’m sure it’s possible for me to run a marathon without hurting myself beforehand but there’s really only one way to find out.

So yeah, I just spent $145 to basically run myself to death which I guess makes sense if you’re into this kind of thing. I’m feeling pretty good about running a full marathon at this point but I’m not gonna lie — the fact that I only have nine weeks to train is freaking me out juuuust a little bit. Although saying nine weeks does sound a lot better than two months. Hey, every little bit helps at this point.

The good thing is that I ran a trail half marathon a little over a month ago and for half of that I was literally running up a mountain. I finished feeling good and it didn’t take that much out of me so that gives me hope that I can get myself into the kind of shape I need to be come June 16th. I can totally do this, right?

So you heard it here, kiddos — I’m running a marathon and training started today.

 

Getting Back Into Working Out? Take It Easy On Yourself.

It's hard to be patient

I’m going through one of those times when it’s hard to get back into the groove of a routine I want to do. That routine for me is getting up in the morning and running and it’s been tough for me to make it happen.

A year or so ago this situation would have really taken a toll on me mentally. The mornings I wouldn’t run would consume my day and give me an excuse if I didn’t feel like doing something. “I didn’t get my run in this morning.” would become my catch-all for being irritable and for not getting as much stuff done during the day at work.

In situations like this I also used to go to my backup plan of not getting my run in — drinking more caffeine. That would give me a temporary fix of the natural energy that running usually provided but it didn’t last long and I would end up drinking more and running less. Not good (which is why I quit).

Now I have a much more easy going attitude toward getting back into my morning running groove. I look at it with more patience and less pressure on myself in bouncing back into where I was before I got off track. For instance, I was out of town for most of March and even though I got some runs in here and there I was totally thrown off my normal schedule.

Now that I’ve been back for a couple weeks I’m starting to get back to where I was but I know it’s going to take at least a month to get back to running consistently. My entire schedule was thrown off and I’m staying up much later which means I’m not getting up earlier and not running. But, little by little I’m getting back there and it’s going to happen, I just need to keep chipping away at it.

So on one hand I want to always be running in the mornings and doing it consistently. Deep down it’s what I love to do and it gets me ready for the 60+ hour workweek I put myself through on a regular basis. But I also need to cut myself some slack when I know I need some time to get back to where I want to be.

Running and working out consistently is a mental game more than anything and the last thing I want to do is go through unneeded and self-inflicted mental pain while on my way to physical gain. I just keep moving forward and soon enough I’ll get to where I need to be once my mind, body and schedule is ready. So take it easy, you’ll get there.

I Never Heal Fast Enough


I did this to myself over 9 months ago. My poor, poor pinkie toe. 

It’s surprising how long it takes to come back from an injury. In June of last year (which is almost 9 months ago) I was training for a marathon and ramping up the distance of my runs to the point to where I was running for 18+ miles without any problems. Those long runs were tiring but I guess that’s expected when running for 2.5 hours straight.

So Much For Running A Marathon

Just a few days after going for one of those long runs I broke my pinkie toe in probably the most ridiculous way possible. This not only killed any hopes of running my first marathon but it also stopped me from moving any faster than a really slow walk (limp) for the next month or so.

I can remember how long it used to take me to limp over to the train station from my apartment ever morning. When I’m healthy I can give myself 8-10 minutes to walk there but after breaking my toe it took me over 25 minutes and every step hurt more than the last. I looked pitiful and there was nothing I could do about it.

No More Running For A While

I went from running 117 miles in May and over 80 miles in only half of June to not running over a mile again until the middle of July. In July I only ran a total of 17 miles and it took me many months after that to find the consistency I had before breaking my toe.

The end of running as we know it.
So that happened. 

It was hard during those months of getting back into the swing of things. Getting to the point to where I was waking up early to run again was tough but even after failing over and over I kept trying and eventually it stuck.

I’m Running A Half Marathon In Two Weeks

I didn’t really start getting into my groove again until last month (January 2013) and now that it’s February I’m feeling great about where I’m at and I’ll be running my first half marathon in about two weeks. It’s a trail run in Woodside, CA which means I’m going to be running up and down hills in the mud while looking at some amazing scenery. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Me and a friend usually take on the same trails for our Saturday morning runs so I know what I’m in for and I’m pretty excited to see how it goes. I haven’t run this far in a long time but I feel like I’m ready for it.

It Takes Time To Get To Where You Want To Be

I guess the one thing I would say about this whole experience of getting hurt, healing and finally being back to where I want to be is that it never happens as fast as I’d like. Going through something like this took patience and more time than I wanted to give — it’s been nearly 9 months since I broke my toe. Si yeah, I would have loved to bounce back faster that I did but going through the struggles, slowing down and dealing with the reality of the situation has made me a stronger person along the way and I’m thankful for that.

It’s not always easy to understand this while I’m going through it but having this type of perspective once it’s over only prepares me for more struggles that are bound to happen sooner or later in life.

 

Using A Foam Roller To Stretch Out Your IT Band

Rolling out the IT band
Feel the pain of rolling out your IT band. Aw, yeah. 

A month or so ago I was having some issues with my hip. It didn’t hurt when I was running but it felt really weird for a little while after I was done. I wasn’t really sure what was causing it but thanks to having awesome medical insurance at Kaiser I never wait too long to find out. I love having a co-pay of $20 and believe me, I take full advantage of it. If anything feels a little off I set an appointment online, drive less than 5 miles to the hospital within thirty minutes I usually have an answer.

So I made an appointment with my doctor and he gave me a referral to the Sports Med department. When I met up with the doctor I was relieved to find out that she was an active runner who also happened to be tall (we’re not exactly built to be runners).

After chatting with the doc and having her examine my flexibility (awful), running technique (not too bad) and my hip for a few minutes and she told me something that has completely changed the way I feel before, during and after running. The amazing yet simple thing she told me about was the foam roller and if you’re a runner and don’t know anything about it, listen up.

The foam roller is that longer tube-looking hard foam thing that’s usually sitting in the corner of where people stretch in a gym. I had seen one a million times but I never knew what it was used for. I also had never seen anyone else using it either so I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a clue. Now I know just how awesome the foam roller is and what we’ve all been missing out on.

A foam roller can be used on all different parts of your body but the main thing it does is use your own body weight to roll out tension and other stuff that’s built up in your muscles and tendons. The main thing that the doctor told me to work on was my IT band (iliotibial band) which is a thick and strong tendon that connects your hip to your knee that provides your leg with stability.

IT band
Meet your IT band. 

Apparently over time runners who are increasing their distances put a real beating on the IT band and sometimes it gets a little angry and becomes injured. This is not something that you want to happen as a runner. Not only can the IT band itself become sore but pushing it too far without taking care of it can also cause other injuries to your knees and yep, you guessed it — your hips. (One other thing is that sitting down all day keeps your IT band tight, too so I am basically giving mine a double-whammy).

Your IT band is nearly impossible to stretch so really the only way to work on it is to use your body weight and a foam roller to loosen it up. The first few times I used one of these foam rollers I felt really awkward and rolling it up and down my legs was pretty painful. But, like with anything else, I figured out how to best roll myself on top of it and I now welcome the temporary pain in exchange for knowing it’s keeping me healthy long-term.

I use my foam roller almost every day now — both after running and after my Muay Thai/boxing classes. It’s done wonders for keeping me running pain-free and I haven’t felt anything from my hip in weeks. If you run or if you’re active I highly recommend getting yourself a foam roller, too. It’s the best $30 bucks you’ll ever spend.

If you’re wondering now to use one of these foam rollers head over to YouTube, there are a ton of videos like this one that will help you future it out in no time.

photo credit: RunningRules.com

 

Progress Over Perfection

It's all about progress

Now that I’m into a few weeks of following my early running schedule I wanted to share a little somethin’ somethin’ that has kept me on track. By no means has it been a smooth process. There are times I have overslept and times I’ve gone to bed way too late. There have been times when I didn’t have enough time to run in the morning before catching the train. There have been ups and downs and that’s all ok.

When you’re teaching yourself something new or when you’re getting into a new habit there’s usually a feeling that you need to be perfect. I used to feel the same way all the time and it’s very counterproductive to think like that. This need to be perfect is natural and comes from the observations of those around you who seem to be so much farther along. You see where people are at and how far of a gap there seems to be between where they are and where you want to be and it seems nearly impossible to get there.

Even though this is a very natural feeling to have you need to get it out of your head and don’t ever let it creep back in. It’s only going to cause a sense of frustration and envy and will kill your motivation. Once you set the expectation that you’re not going to get to where you need to be overnight you can then start focusing on what will actually help you get there.

Instead of focusing on perfection what you need to focus on is progression. This means you’re not going to spend your time and energy wondering why you’re not as far along as this guy or that girl. You’re going to shift your thinking into focusing on how you (not anyone else) are doing and how you (yes, only you) are progressing toward your goal. This way you don’t beat yourself up when you don’t follow your plans exactly how you’re supposed to and you focus on the fact that you’re consistently moving in the right direction.

When I got back from my trip to Indiana over the holidays I was way off my game. I skipped runs, I slept in and I was in a major funk. I felt terrible and hopeless but I kept getting better little by little every week and about a month later I’m now back in the habit of the running schedule I want to be on. After the first couple weeks I felt frustrated that I wasn’t following what I had planned. But instead of focusing on my unrealistic expectation of perfection I shifted my thoughts to how I had ran more the second week than the first and that it was only getting easier to wake up earlier.

By only allowing myself to think in terms of progression I now find myself at the end of a week where I’m not only back on my running schedule but I’ve also been able to throw a little Muay Thai in there for good measure. I know I talk a lot about things in terms of working out but these ways of thinking also translate well into other parts of my life. Work, relationships and other things will also benefit from this progression mindset. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

 

image credit: KK.org

The Big 3-3 And What This Last Year Has Meant To Me

Happy 33!

First question, when did I hit 30? Second question, am I really 33 already? According to my Facebook wall, random texts from Congo and future phone calls from friends and family it’s true so who’s to say otherwise? Ok, I’ll admit it — I’m creeping into my mid-30s. I guess the only thing that’s good about this whole “getting older” thing is that this past year was most likely one of the most positively transitional times of my life. Meaning, even though there was plenty of struggle for me in the past 365 days (you have no idea), last year was amazing to experience and I feel more blessed now than ever. In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m in my prime.

So what are some of the thing that have made my last year so valuable to me? I’m sure I could write a million things and go page after page but none of us really want that. We’re all busy people with limited time, which is why I’m happy to give you a Cliff Notes version instead.

To all of my friends and family who have been there for me over the past year, you’ll never have any idea what your love and support has meant to me. I love you and I hope you already knew that without me having to tell you in a blog. Moving on…

Learning what loving someone really means. There are plenty of ways to show that you love someone but the most powerful way is by doing what you know is right and fighting for what you believe. Always keeping someone happy isn’t loving them. Being honest, sacrifice and never letting go is love to the fullest.

Studying the Bible. I’m a strong believer that if I’m going to put my faith in Jesus Christ then I had better know what I’m signing up for. The Bible is the center of following Christ and although I feel a strong spiritual connection I didn’t feel like I knew enough about the word. To learn more about it I’ve been going to Bible Study Fellowship in SF for the past few months and it’s been a great way to dig deeper into my faith.

Becoming a morning person, for real. I’ve never been a morning person but as I got older and had more responsibility I felt like getting up early was the only option for squeezing in everything into one day. It’s been tough and I don’t always stick with it (like when I was in Indiana for the holidays) but I’m not well aware of the amazing benefits getting up at the crack of dawn and it’s becoming more of a habit every day.

Meeting Mo. Wow, what can I say about Mo other than the fact that he’s been one of the biggest blessing’s I’ve ever had in my life. If you would have told me that becoming friends with someone who’s homeless would end up shaping me into a man more than everything else in my life combined I would have called you crazy. The work that God is doing on Mo is nothing short of a miracle and how the relationship has challenged me personally isn’t too far behind. Of course, the fact that our story went viral all over the world was pretty crazy, too. That’s still hard to believe.

Realizing the value of real relationships. My entire life it’s been really easy for me to become friends with lots of people. What hasn’t always been easy for me is creating strong, personal and meaningful relationships with the people in my life who really matter most. This past year of my life I’ve focused on taking the time and making the effort to show those who mean the most to me how much I love them and all I hope is that they’ve noticed.

My connection to Congo. I’m really not sure how it happened but somehow, someway I’ve developed an amazing connection to Congo and the amazingly beautiful people who live there. Traveling there for the second time last year was an incredible experience for me and the time I was able to spend with my Congolese brothers and sisters is something I hold very dear to my heart. If you haven’t seen me dancing while in Congo I suggest you take a look, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I have a feeling my story with Congo isn’t close to being over and I can’t wait to see where God takes it next.

Seeing isocket grow into a real company. A little over three years ago I was the first employee at a small, unknown online advertising startup called isocket. I had no idea what I was doing and I knew nothing about the online advertising world but for some reason I felt like what we were doing was important and that our fearless leader, John Ramey knew exactly what he was doing. A couple rounds of funding and about fifteen more employees later we’re building a business that’s leading what’s predicted to be a multi-billion dollar market.

Killing caffeine. I’ve tried to kick the habit of downing Big Gulps full of Dew, brewing K-cups and heading to Starbucks but I always came back. A month or so I ago I decided for the last time that I’m done with caffeine and this time I’m sticking with it. When I’m in shape I don’t need it, I don’t like feeling dependent on it and it only makes me more anxious and over-energized anyway. If you know me you already know I’ve got plenty of energy to burn so cutting out caffeine was really the only option for me.

Dedicating time to writing. I guess this is becoming more apparent as I write more posts like this one you’re reading right now but I’ve been writing more than ever over the past year (and especially over the past couple of months). It’s a great way for me to get my thoughts together and I’m a believer in the power of sharing experiences with others as a way to help them with the things they’re dealing with in their lives. We were never meant to go through things along and getting my thoughts and experiences out to the world can only help.

I’m sure I missed some stuff but these are the handful of things that immediately came to mind when thinking back at all of the awesome things that have happened to me during my thirty-second year on this crazy planet of ours. I’m feeling great going into my thirty-third and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you have anything you would like to share with me on my birthday, I’d love to hear from you. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop in and spend time in my little corner of the internet and I can only hope that your past year was as fun and fulfilling as mine. Happy birthday to me and we’ll catch up soon.

 

photo credit: heartfish.com

 

The Second Week Struggle Of Getting In Shape

You're almost there

Last week was both awesome and tiring for me. I finally got back into the groove of going to bed early, waking up early to run and I even threw in my first Muay Thai lesson to mix things up a bit. All of that madness combined with work, relationships and everything else I’m doing during the week resulted in me being exhausted by the time the weekend arrived. But I’ve done this long enough to realize that this feeling isn’t going to last and that the amount of mental exhaustion I felt last week is going to be matched by physical exhaustion this week.

I’m not really sure why this happens but there’s really no getting around it when you’re building up your mind and muscles to get into shape. The first week is exciting, fun and more tiring that you’re used to. When you’re just getting back into shape you struggle more with the mental than the physical. Finding the time for working out and getting up early/following your schedule is the hardest thing to get used to in the beginning. The physical side is just along for the ride and runs on the endorphins and excitement that comes along with following through with your workout plans. It’s an amazing feeling.

Once you make it through the first week you’re going to feel tired but accomplished. The first week is over and you did what you planned to do, which feels amazing. But then comes the second week, which is where it’s easy to fall out of the habit that’s not quite started yet.

When you workout for your second week it’s going to be a little bit easier to handle the mental stuff like going to bed on time and following your schedule like you’re supposed to. The physical side of things aren’t going to be so easy. Your muscles will be sore, you’ll feel more achey than usual and just overall your body isn’t going to feel like keeping the workout train moving. This isn’t going to last long and it’s like your body’s last way of really making sure you’re in this thing for the long term. Your body wants to be in shape but it’s not easy on either of you and this is it’s way of keeping you in check.

How serious are you? Are you going to push through the second week? That’s all your body really wants to know and if you answer yes, you’ll find that the third week and beyond will only get easier. You’ll be pushing yourself harder and farther but you’ll be ready for it and your body will keep up with whatever you give it. The human body is amazing that way and before you know it you’re up to the magic 5 mile mark and after that you’ll be running half marathons with no problem. Personally, week 3 can’t get here soon enough but I need to make it through this second week of struggling first. But the good thing is I know it’ll be worth it and now I hope you now realize that, too.

Keeping My Emotions In Check

 

I should never be complaining about anything. I’ve got my health, an amazing wife, good friends, a great job, a growing relationship with Christ and a Pug that’s about as awesome as they come. But, for some reason that doesn’t stop me from getting down on myself sometimes and feeling like I’m doing it all wrong.

I don’t even know why and how it happens, but it does. In my head my emotions are telling me that I’m not doing enough, that other people are doing things that are better and that my relationships should be something different than they are. It’s hard to stop these thoughts from getting into my head and unfortunately it’s a reality that I have to deal with.

Depending on what’s going on in my life sometimes my emotions can be better or worse, higher or lower. One day my emotions can motivate me and another day they can make me feel worthless. My emotions can be all over the place and I guess the thing I’ve learned is that they’re always going to be changing. I think this happens to a lot of people and it’s a major driver why so many people are on antidepressant or other mood-altering meds (which admittedly I was on a few years back).

Here are some things I do to keep my emotions in check:

– I make sure I’m getting the sleep that I need for the week. The number one way for me to get in a bad emotional mess is lack of sleep. This might be different for you but you need to learn what you need in your life and what you don’t. Here’s some more detail about how I set these types of boundaries in my life.

– I share how I’m feeling with other people as much as possible. This is something that’s new for me and it still doesn’t feel natural but it always helps. No one likes to seem like they’re vulnerable but letting someone else know how you’re feeling is the first step in healing.

– I make time for prayer as much as I can. As a follower of Christ I rely on prayer and it’s not always easy to make the time. I’m working on proactively making time in the mornings for some silent prayer time so that I’m able to get my day started with some quality time with my man Jesus.

– I exercise a few times a week and now that my toe is healed up after breaking it I’m starting to get to the point to where I can crank out some decent morning runs. I run in the morning because it’s when it energizes me for the rest of the day and I don’t have to squeeze it in later, but that might be different for you.

– I’ve started to plan more things on a proactive basis instead of just hoping that they’ll fall into place. I’m all about being spontaneous, but nothing will cause more problems than not planning out your week and workdays at least a little bit a little in advance. You don’t have to get too granular, but at least know what’s going on at a high level.

I could keep going on but this should give you a good idea of the amount of time and effort it takes me to keep my emotions in check (and sometimes they’re still really hard to deal with). I just never want to be in a situation where I feel like they’re getting the best of me. That’s how larger problems get started and it’s all a downward spiral from there.

Listen to what your emotions are telling you and do your best to understand them, but don’t let them control you.