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Scott Jurek

March 30th, 2012 No comments

I was invited by Brooks to see Scott Jurek speak last night at REI in Denver. In addition to his training philosophy, Scott spoke about his ultrarunning adventures, Western States, Badwater, Hardrock, Spartathalon, and Copper Canyon. His love for the latter was evident as he showed many slides of the people and culture of that region. He disclosed that his thoughts were with his friend and guide in the Copper Canyon, Caballo Blanco, who had just been reported missing in New Mexico.

Apart from the amazing pictures from his journey, Scott had a lot of advice to offer about training. His advice in pursuing goals, while maintaining balance between training and life, was inspiring. He encouraged runners to run with and learn from other runners, volunteer with the community through races and trail work, and train with purpose and drive. My favorite quote from the event was Scott referencing the Zen saying, “When you chop wood, chop wood.” His point was to focus your attention on the task at hand, whether that is running, recovering, or living your life.

Scott also discussed some of his design efforts with Brooks, and touched on his nutritional regime. Scott is vegan, but his nutritional tips were not targeted at specific protein sources so are widely applicable. He has a book coming out this summer called “Eat and Run,” which he will be touring for, giving talks across the country. Keep an eye out for him!

Locally, the team from Brooks will be in the Denver metro area REI stores this weekend, REI Denver on Saturday and REI Boulder on Sunday, from 10-3 offering fittings and gait analysis.

New Possibilities

March 27th, 2012 No comments

What is possible? Do we ever really know what we are capable of? Even if we try something and fail, that only tells us that our approach was wrong. Further attempts may yield success. One of the best things about life is getting to find out that something we once thought was impossible is not.

Yesterday in Colorado we were faced with one of our characteristically strong wind events. Every spring (and to a lesser extent, summer, fall and winter) we get strong winds blowing down from the mountains into the “bowl” that is the Denver metro area. These winds often range in the 30-50 mph sustained, 80-100 mph peak, gusts. They almost always blow in from the south, southwest.

One of the biggest challenges of my bike commute is this wind. My commute is due south, uphill, and brutally difficult at the end of a trying day. It is painful with even the lightest 15 mph wind. I was faced with the choice of riding home into a 30 mph headwind, easily stronger than anything I’ve faced before. I was not even sure that I could handle the crosswind on some of the exposed sections of my ride, I had visions of blowing over in a strong gust. My commuter bag is anything but aerodynamic.

Somehow I found myself standing over my bike outside my office, and with the snap of clipping in to both pedals I was committed. I had no aspirations of speed, with each section riding into the wind I just fell into the drops and ground it out as best I could. I must have looked ridiculous to the cars going by, teeth bared in effort, the silent scream of exertion, barely moving, pushing against an unseen barrier. “He must be drunk,” they must have thought as my front wheel wobbled against the crosswind. Isolated in their 2 ton bubbles they would have barely noticed the torrent I was facing.

My steepest climb faces exactly southwest. It’s short, but difficult on even the best of days. It’s near the end of my ride, when I am at my limit. I sat in, trying to minimize my effort on the long slope leading to the steepest section, and then was brought to almost a standstill as I turned into the wind. Getting out of the saddle I was almost jumping on the pedals to keep moving forward. It felt like the wind was blowing even stronger, as if it knew this was its last chance to make me succumb. With every muscle screaming, I finally turned away from the wind and tried to recover on the gradual slope leading to the next climb. Mentally, I knew I was finished, I had made it through the worst of it, survived my battle with the unseen enemy.

There is nothing like a challenge that you meet head on to put you in a great mood. Bike rides doubly so. The physical exertion puts the thrill of success over the top. Yesterday I did something that I wasn’t sure was possible, and today I am a better cyclist because of it.

Categories: bike, commute, motivation Tags: ,

The Long Road

March 19th, 2012 3 comments

I’m ready to admit it; I’m out of shape.

I’m not “Biggest Loser” out of shape with hundreds of pounds to lose, I’m every-man out of shape. I’m carrying a few extra pounds around the middle, I sit at a desk all day, and while I can walk up stairs easily I usually choose not to. So I’m staging an intervention.

I’m committing to get back in to doing something active every day. It doesn’t have to be the most intense workout of my life, but it does have to take at least half an hour. I’m also making a commitment to bike commuting more often. Riding my bike to work keeps me healthy by doing something that I have to do already, it’s free exercise time! Running is part of the plan too. I can get a better cardio workout from a 30 minute run than I can from a 30 minute bike ride, and it’s weight bearing, working a different set of muscles than I would on the bike. Finally, pushups are in the mix. I can work in a set of pushups anywhere I happen to be, no gym required.

Seems so simple, yet I know how difficult it can be to stick to. I’ve fallen off the wagon for almost 6 months, and now look where I am. No one would ever tell me I look out of shape, but I know it’s true. I think we all know when we are not doing enough with our bodies, it’s just hard to figure out where to start. And it’s a long road, with no end in sight. Because “stay in shape” isn’t a goal, it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s not a 5k in September, or a charity ride in the spring. It’s getting out there every day without any other reason than it’s the right thing to do.

And doing the right thing is always hard.

Categories: motivation, opinion Tags: , ,

The Joy of Running

November 4th, 2011 1 comment

My motivation to exercise has been severely lacking lately. I haven’t been riding my bike to work, and I rarely put in more than a couple of runs a week. It’s like I’m hitting the off-season hard, without an on-season to speak of.

But the light at the end of the tunnel appeared yesterday. It had snowed on Wednesday, and Thursday was due to be sunny, so I knew that I wanted to get out and enjoy the crisp temperatures with the warm sun. I headed out with a couple of friends up towards Boulder Canyon. We reached the end of city maintenance and were greeted with deep crusty snow, with a thin icy trail tracked out up the canyon path. The runners ahead of us had all turned back at this point, but I saw it as a challenge. We forged ahead, slipping backwards almost as much as running forwards our progression was laughable at times. I could have walked faster, but for some reason the feeling of dancing over the chunks of ice felt so much better.

Our efforts were rewarded as we emerged from the shade of the canyon into a lone sunbeam shining down through the pines on Mt. Flagstaff. All of the trees were draped with heavy snow, and the result was a scene right out of a Christmas card. Breathing the cool air as I took in the amazing sight, I was filled with joy for the moment! This is not something you would experience sitting at a desk at work, or cramped in a car seat. This was a treat that the effort of running had brought.

Before we turned around to pick our way back down the icy path I realized the joy that had been missing for the past few months. It’s moments like these that make us runners, or more appropriately, that keep us runners. Without the moments of joy, the default is to plod through the miles day-in and day-out, or worse, to do nothing at all. It’s important to savor runs like these, and remember them when it’s tough to get out the door.

Categories: motivation, running Tags: , ,

A Fragile Balance

March 17th, 2011 2 comments

A couple of weeks ago I rode my bike to work 4 days in a week. I ran 2 days that week too. Final tally: 125 miles self-powered in 5 days. I felt great, and happy to be getting back into shape, but then it all turned around.

I don’t know whether my exertion that week had anything to do with my getting sick, or whether it was inevitable with a co-worker spreading it wherever he went. Regardless, having avoided getting sick all winter suddenly it was my turn. My energy from the previous week turned full circle and suddenly just getting out of bed was a challenge. Feverish and weak I spent my days sleeping, my body needing every ounce of energy to fight off the invaders. Even after I recovered enough to make it back to work I was still faced with a problem: there was no way I had recovered enough to make the bike commute.

So for two weeks now, while this vile disease has run its course and relapsed and run its course again, I have been relegated to sitting on the bus. That has given me a lot of time to think about what I have lost, even if just for two weeks, and how much I take my health for granted. What do I lose if I get sick or injured? I lose my ability to get myself to work. I lose my mid-day escapes. I lose my time with my friends. I lose the ability to play with my kids. I can’t even be a loving husband to my wife. In that sense a sickness that strips me of my energy hits me at the very core of my being. I can’t even be me when I’m stuck lying on a couch.

While this time has been tough, it has made me thankful of what I do have when I am healthy. There are many people who live with crippling diseases that rob them of strength every single day. Their strength of spirit carries them through challenges that I can’t even fathom. And yet some days I don’t run because I don’t feel like it. Some days I don’t ride to work because it’s windy. These seem like cheap excuses when you take into account that I am lucky to be able to run or ride my bike at all.

The cliche is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but it’s true. We don’t see the value of being able to lace up our shoes and run 5 miles until we can’t even walk around the block. I hope that you take a moment to realize what you would lose if sickness or injury took away your ability to move. Then get up get out there and get moving, because there are no excuses, only regrets!

When Do You Make the Call?

February 19th, 2011 No comments

I struggle with motivation to workout. I love doing it once I start doing it, but getting started is a whole other issue! That goes doubly if the weather sucks. I’ve listed the most useful tools in my arsenal for getting out the door in these situations.

The first involves having some level of commitment before the workout is due to start. This could mean contacting a friend early to make sure you are on schedule for a workout. When I go for a run at lunchtime, I am much more likely to get out the door on time if I know I’m meeting someone out there (Thanks BFish!). Somedays that even means making the arrangements as soon as I get to work before I get swamped with the day’s activities.

When weather could be an issue, I always make sure I pack more than enough running gear so I can’t make excuses if the weather is worse than I think it will be. You can always leave gear behind that you don’t need, but not having something you do need is a deal-breaker. Occasionally I end up being overdressed for a run, just because being comfortable when I start is the only thing that gets me out the door. I can always shed layers mid-run if necessary.

If you can’t workout with someone else, accountability can be a good tool as well. Having a friend make sure you got your workout in, or encourage you, helps a lot. Sites like Dailymile.com can be great for having friends help with motivation, but anyone can keep you accountable, you just need to ask them!

A final tool that I use probably helps me most of all. I make an appointment with myself, either earlier in the day, or even the night before. I call this “making the call.” It is a point at which I tell myself, “it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are at this point in the day, I am going to workout!” The other day I made the call to ride my bike to work. I setup the coffee maker to brew an extra cup, which I don’t usually have time for if I’m taking the bus. I knew that whatever happened, I was committed to get on the bike to ride to work. When I woke up that morning the wind was howling outside, had I not made the call the night before I would have never chose to ride in those circumstances. It turned out I had a great ride, and even with leaving myself an out for the return trip, I still chose to ride home that night.

In the end what works to motivate you is personal. You need to find what works to get yourself out the door, whether it’s to the gym, or to a snowy cold ride. When do you make the call?

Categories: motivation Tags: , ,