Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Born To Run

After Sunday's 40km run in 2:48 I was feeling really good about my progress and my ability as a distance runner, then I read about the Tarahumara. Amber ordered a book from the library called "Born to Run" and was gracious enough to let me read it first. I've only covered the first couple chapters but it's a story about an ancient Indian tribe in the Sierra Madre of Northern Mexico. They are legendary runners and have apparently found the secret to health, happiness, longevity, and peace; running.

The book tells a story about Lance Armstrong in his first New York Marathon and the fact that he called it "the hardest event he's ever done" and he is probably the greatest endurance athlete in the world. Well the Tarahumara practice "persistence hunting," if you've never heard of it don't worry only the Tarahumara can do it. Basically if you want to hunt a deer you run after it until it dies of exhaustion or it's so tired that you are close enough to kill it. There have been stories of Tarahumara running for three days hunting or competing in traditional races. To run the equivalent of 12 marathons without stopping is something a Tarahumara will do to migrate or hunt. They have shown up at some American races like the Leadville 100 to race for food when their people were starving of malnutrition, they were promised their village would be fed by an American sponsor if they competed. In 1992 a 52 year old Tarahumara runner named Victoriano Churro came in 1st, followed by his 41 year old team-mate Cerrildo in second. These people are simply the toughest runners I'd ever heard of, they don't have fancy runners, they don't get hairline fractures, achilles tendionitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, torn hamstrings or any other problem that they rest of us suffer from. What is their secret?

Well there really is no 'secret' they simply start their lives running and continue until they die. Most of us are told, don't run too much you'll damage something, your knees, your ankles, you'll get arthritis. I think our society has become so unable to deal with pain and discomfort that we drown ourselves in medications and therapies that don't help. Now I'm not saying that running will solve all medical issues but could you imagine how much better life would be if everyone ran. There wouldn't be a strain on the medical system, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved in health care costs, our seniors would have the attention of the medical establishment they deserve and preventable medical problems (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks) would be minimized. I think the Tarahumara are on to something.

I'll try and capture the spirit of the Tarahumara 12 days from now and remember that a marathon is just a warm up for the real race, life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mental Prep

Thanks to my wonderful wife for reminding me of the importance of preparing "mentally" for any goal you're striving for. Lately I've been a little too consumed with the day-to-day minutia results of training and I know that training to reach a peak does not occur in a linear manner. I tell my clients everyday, "if you look at your investment statements every month and expect it to go up, your bound for disappointment. However, if you trust in the plan you've set in place and have confidence in the process that in the long run you will do extremely well, then it will happen." Time and time again I see clients selling their investments when they're down 10, 20, 30% and none of them make those losses back. No wonder so many people have lost faith in the market. I have never sold any investment at a loss and 2009 is proving to be one of the best investment markets in the last 30 years! Unfortunately not many clients realize that and it's only because they haven't prepared themselves mentally for the inevitable ups and downs that they are going to experience.

There are definitely ups and downs in training as well, I have days where I feel like a 5km run at a snail's pace feels like I've just done a 1/2 Ironman. Then there are days where I can run light and easy for 21- 30kms and I'm just flying along. I've been trying to keep reminding myself that the ups and downs of training are normal and gains do not occur in a linear manner. I think most triathlete, type A personalities expect things to progress better and better and never see a plateau but I know my body doesn't work like that.

Mentally preparing for a race or for anything in life is so important that it almost outweighs the physical prep. It reminds me of a run I went on with my friend Chris when I was helping him prepare for Ironman Austria a few years ago. We had been doing long runs every Sunday for a number of weeks and I was feeling very light and fast. At that point I could run about a 37:45 10k and about a 1:25 half-marathon, I was feeling so good and both of us were running very well together. We were going to do a 2hr brisk pace run that Sunday and Chris told me that a friend of his was going to join us. He said he hadn't been training in a while but he'd run with us for as long as he could. When we met at Eau Claire I was greeted by a slightly paunchy guy in his mid-40s and I immediately thought "this guy is not going to last the first 2k. What is he doing here?"

We took it easy at the start but up'ed the pace in the first 5kms, we were averaging about 14-15kms/hr and I was feeling the effort of such a hard run very early on. Paunchy guy was right there, breathing like a racehorse giving it everything he had but not losing one step on us. I couldn't believe it! I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I was hurting and this guy was still right there! What's going on here? He wasn't in better shape but he was one of the toughest guys "mentally" I'd ever met. He stayed with us step for step the entire run and everyone was exhausted by the end. He didn't look as exhausted as I did but he taught me something that day, being mentally tough can take you far, far beyond what you thought you were capable of. At this stage in my life I'm well aware of how important mental preparation is. Sometimes I just need a little reminder and that's when I recount the story of the paunchy guy with a herculean running effort during a cool April Sunday in Calgary.

It was only later that I learned that this guy used to race with the Canadian national team for the 800m. Figures!

Check out Amber's post on mental prep, it's a great reminder.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

36 Kilometers and 2hrs and 32 Minutes Later



Okay so I know the toes are not the most attractive but I run about 50kms/week and this week will be about 80-100kms so imagine what your toes would look like.

Yes it's true, 7lbs lost after running 36kms this morning, that's 4.12% loss in 2 1/2hrs. I know most of that is just due to dehydration but it got me thinking about finding my optimum weight leading into Vegas. I went down to the gym in our basement and grabbed a 7lb medicine ball and I was shocked to see how large and how heavy 7lbs actually is! At the beginning of my run I was carrying around this medicine ball in my muscles, fat and tissues. That's a lot of extra weight when you are trying to prepare for a marathon. For the average ahtlete an extra 7 to 10lbs is not a big deal, if you are in shape and you've done the training, you'll still finish. However if you are trying to set a PR (like I am) any extra weight can't really slow you down.

Trying to find my ideal weight is a tough balancing act; I need to insure I'm eating enough to keep up with some of the hard training days to come and not eat too much to put me over the edge and slow me down. Right now I'm a little on the heavy side but in four weeks I'll be ready.

Today's run was very, very hard, I just got back from a work trip in which I didn't get a lot of training time. Harley was pushing me very hard at the start, which isn't unusual but today I just wanted a nice steady pace. I knew it was going to be a long day and I didn't want to use up all my energy in the first 21kms. My breathing was labored, I always had the feeling like I just wasn't getting enough air. There is something about running in the cold that makes me feel like there is no oxygen in the air, I think someone should do a study on that. I remember feeling the same way when I was training for Boston in March. Fortunately it turned out to be my best Marathon ever but I really paid for it out on the race course and it took me weeks to recover. I'm willing to make the same sacrifice on December 6th in Vegas but I still have some work to do, I'll get there 4 weeks to go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Congrats To My Friend Colin and his Family!

If there is one friend in my life other than Amber that I can say has been with me through a lot it's definitely my bud Colin. We met in Junior High school and we were both very athletic and had a lot of energy that needed to be directed in a 'healthy' way. We both played hockey, soccer (although for different teams), ran x-country, track, did well in school (although he didn't have to work as hard at it as I did) and we were inseperable as kids. It wasn't until the first year of University that I realized how much of a positive influence my buddy Colin brought to my life. He went away to play Junior Hockey in Saskatchewan and I started University, we stayed in touch for a while but eventually started to follow our own paths in life.

When he came back to Calgary it was like old times, we hung out at University once again, played soccer for the team(s), U of C had 5 mens soccer teams. Hit the weight room together to "pump it up," went to some of the same lectures and generally had a good time together. Eventually I started a career being a travelling bum and he went to California to be a chiropractor. We stayed in touch off and on and I even visited him in San Jose for a little while which was a lot of fun but I missed my good friend. I was determined not to let us drift apart even though our lives had gone in different directions. I made the promise to myself to keep in touch no matter where I was or where he was every April 20th (Colin's birthday) and I've kept that promise for over 8 years now.

Colin has been a true friend and has been beside me through a lot of turmoil and I can definitely say that we will always be great friends. We both have our own families now and are very happy with the direction we've taken. I can't say we both have the same philosophy, he's a bit more of a risk taker than I am, but we both respect eachother's differences and admire what we've achieved so far in life. He welcomed a new edition to his family this week and Amber and I are very happy to see he has a happy and healthy family. Congrats Colin and Nichole we know Daymond and Evangeline are some of the lucky kids to have parents like you.

The Chala Family

Proud Dad

Ready to go!