Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little Red Corvette.....

10 miles today at a brisk pace while listening to The Best of Prince

..... I'm feeling so funky.

Genius. Sheer musical genius!

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Feeling like crap...and let me introduce you to the 'Sarge'

I hate being sick - especially when it's that 'just crappy' type of sick.

One minute you feel like a million dollars, like late afternoon Saturday when I headed out for a run up in Boulder before a Christmas party at some friends up there. Then, halfway home from the party, it happened. You know what I'm talking about - that feeling out of the corner of your mind that something isn't right with your body.

Sure enough, I tossed and turned Saturday night and woke up feeling like garbage on Sunday morning. Not terrible enough to stay in bed mind you, but rather that general crappy feeling that tires you out quickly and robs you of your breath. A general ache throughout all of my joints. (and no - I didn't drink all that much or engage in too many h'ors d'oeuvres that I should have known better of to avoid. I was 'good' for the most part on Saturday!

I debated running Sunday (I was scheduled to do 15). I finally headed out and decided I would run an easy 10. It actually made me feel a little better (as running often does). Even did 8 or 9 wind sprints towards the end up a steep hill, which felt good. But the endorphins only lasted so long and by evening I was feeling lousy again. At least Monday was a day off.

Today (Tuesday) I was supposed to run 8 (it's a recovery week) - but I was having trouble rallying and finally made a call that it would be better for my body to have one more day of rest to really kick this thing.

Now that is a sound decision. Any coach would have probably told me the same thing (I worked a full day today too and was up late last night watching the lunar eclipse). I had no business further stressing my body and risking letting this thing take hold. But that doesn't matter to the 'Sarge'.

Let me now formally introduce you to the 'Sarge'. But first hide the children. Shed yourself of any self-doubt. He can smell guilt. When you are hunched over, dry heaving your innards out after a particularly tough hill repeat, he'll hover over you, growling in you ear that, "... perhaps on the next repeat there dumpling you might try skipping like a 5 year old girl. Because anything would be faster than that last little pathetic attempt was. My god, at one point I thought you were actually going backwards."

The 'Sarge' is my inner drill sergeant voice. He's a mean SOB, and happy to play that role. His tenor and demeanor are consistent and unforgiving. He would make the character Clint Eastwood played in Heartbreak Ridge cower and cry.

So true to his nature, after ransacking my self-worth for deciding to miss a workout, the 'Sarge' looks for other moments to deride me throughout the day. Like this evening when I was considering eating a Hershey kiss from the Christmas candy stash.  No sooner to I put my hand in the bag than The Sarge growls, "Absolutely not fat boy. You don't deserve it. Put it back immediately and leave it for you wife. Unlike your sorry excuse for an athlete, she made her swim workout this morning"

I took my hand out of the bag and slunk away.

Now of course I can psychologically work through it. My brain doesn't truly believe the inner antagonist (in the end). But it's effective. It ensures I'll get to sleep early tonight, and drink plenty of fluids so I can get out and do an easy run tomorrow and start getting my feet back under me.

He's an effective training tool - the 'Sarge'. A habit borne out of many years of cycling and running when the weather outside was less than ideal, or the day was wearing on me mentally. He'd listen patiently to the pleading voice, "It's too hot, too cold, too rainy, too dark. My body is too stressed. One day off won't hurt... blah, blah, blah" - then, after scrutinizing the validity of every argument he dutifully barks,

"OK, listen up Daisy. If you're quite through whining like a puppy trying to dislodge his squeaky toy out from under the couch - haul your sorry ass out of bed, throw on your gear, and get out there and put in a solid effort - you sissy little jack wagon!"

And that generally does it. 15 minutes into the workout and I'm glad for the 'Sarge'. He has saved me many times from slipping into a excuse ridden progression to being a squishy couch potato.

Yes, I know. All of Sarge's scathing synopsis of my manhood and worth as an athlete aside - I know that fitness isn't borne out of one workout. Rather, fitness is a wall of workout bricks, layered one tier on the other, the recovery 'mortar' binding them together.

And in the fairness of it all - one missed workout and the wall doesn't collapse. It persists. And that thought gets me over the shame of missing a workout and let's my body rest when that's what it needs.

Sarge however is sulking in the corner just shaking his head in disgust as I write this. I can't hear his mumbling over my rationalizations, but I am catching bits like 'maybe I should take up checkers' and 'tomorrow would be a good day to go out shopping for box of Ding-Dongs and some fat-pants'

It's OK, he's purposefully designed to be one dimensional like that. That's his bag.

Mine is to log off, get some sleep, and not disappoint the heartless curmudgeon tomorrow. Or there will be hell to pay, and yet another dainty girl's name bestowed upon me. Which would hurt less if I wasn't a guy.

Bastard.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back 'in-country'

Sorry for the dearth of posts last week. I was actually in China (my job takes me there several times a year). Our office is in a beautiful city called Hangzhou. It is about 2.5 hours southwest drive from Shanghai. The city is someplace to see if you've never been. The centerpiece of this city is West Lake and surrounding tea gardens - an absolutely great place to spend a weekend day walking around. Lots of shops, attractions and wonderful things to see.

Sadly - I often find my schedule pretty jam packed while I'm there (working two time zones), but I usually get in on a Saturday night and get to go for a long run on Sunday as well as many morning runs throughout the week. And of course I get to spend a lot of time working with and having meals with my colleagues over there that I've come to know as great friends.

This past week the weather was absolutely the nicest I think I've ever experienced. Cool, sunny and clear. Very pleasant running weather all week - especially on Sunday!

The travel time and time zone shift (+15 hours from MST) is less onerous to me than most people would think. Probably has to do with this being somewhere around my 10th trip there over the years. I arrived on Saturday at my hotel - right around 5:30pm or so. Got checked in and headed to the hotel gym. Ran 3 miles on the treadmill just to shake off the 24 hours of sitting around it took to get there. Tried doing km/hour conversions to minutes / mile pace in my head and gave up. Too much fog in my brain. Just enjoyed an easy run in an empty gym. Went back to the room, showered and ate some dinner. Then hit the hay at about 9pm or so.

I generally sleep really well the first night and in fact usually only have one day where I feel a little tired at around 2pm. Other than that, going eastward in generally pretty easy for me. All your points of reference (meals, light of day, running) I think help. The worst thing you can do actually is try to stick to your previous time zone schedule or get out of bed at 3am to check eMail. Time zone tip - if you wake up, just lay there and enjoy the quiet mediation time - soon you'll be as right as rain.

On Sunday I worked a little in the morning and then headed out for a 16 mile run at about 10am. There is this awesome cement boardwalk that follows the river about 8 miles in either direction. It actually goes further than that, but you'd have to brave some dicey road sections - and yeah, I don't. Traffic is very different in China. I once described it to someone as stepping into the business end of a particle accelerator. You know - the part where the hyper-charged particles all slam into each other and scatter in completely unpredictable directions and velocities). My peripheral vision has improved over the trips, and I am good at knowing when someone is going to stop vs plow me over. One steadfast rule - never step in front of a bus (they have the right of way over pedestrians) or a taxi cab (they will act as if they do).

But my route keeps me out of harm's way so I can mostly just focus on the run and the scenery it brings. During my whole Sunday run, it was so nice out that all the families were out on the boardwalk and in the couple of parks I run through. The little kids reminded me of my kids - smiling and waving and laughing. People are also very interested in watching me run by. Westerners aren't nearly as common in Hangzhou than in Shanghai or Beijing. While recreational running has become more popular in the last few years, I'm sure it's still pretty interesting enough to watch a 6'1" American run by at a good clip.

side-note: Unlike in the US, I've never been heckled running in China.

The one park near the 5 mile mark has these two very cool giant dragon boat sculptures. They stand a couple stories tall and are very imposing. I'm sure there is an interesting story about them, but I don't yet possess it. They are in the middle of a large cement park by the river with structures that for some reason remind me of the village architecture in the old computer game 'Riven'. Large 'clock' oriented looking structures and gazebos. I really love running through that park.

On the way out and back I pass several bridges that connect the downtown 'proper' area to the district we are in (which is more technology park oriented) across the mile wide Qiangtang river. I've wanted to make a route that crosses one of the bridges and do a loop around West Lake - but I never seem to have the time. Plus, I'm happy with my routes and the sights along the way.

I often listen to my iPod while I'm running out there. My playlist sometimes casts some funny contrasts with the sights I pass. Passing a few older fisherman on the warf while High Plains Drifter by the Beastie Boys is playing, or some folks practicing Tai Chi by the pond to the tune of Where is My Mind (Pixies) makes me smile a bit. Some collages such as Lose Yourself (Eminem) or Comfort Eagle (Cake) are perfectly matched to some of the more industrial sections I run though (the other way down the river). Or they can overcome a little self-consciousness that can sink in when I stop at an intersection, waiting for the particle accelerator to clear - and 5 or 6 Chinese folks are staring straight at me the whole time. They are just interested and I don't take it as impolite (culturally) there. But it's a little unnerving. Nothing a little Trent Reznor can't help with. And it's nice to have those visuals replay like a minds-eye slideshow the next time I'm listening to each of those songs. It passes the time on long runs on routes here in the US I've done a million times.

After my run, stretching (and shower) I took a 2 hour nap - no 3 year old to tend to. Then got up, and
headed to Starbucks. The one mile round trip actually makes for a nice recovery walk. The rest of the day was cranking through a bunch more work related stuff. Overall - a very productive day - personally and professionally. Got to bed a little late, but slept like a stone.

I really like running when I travel (both domestically and internationally). I've run I think in 7 countries (counting the US). I like the simplicity of it and the way it connects you with your surroundings. You get to see things that most tourists don't see and experience a city in a more personal way than from a car window or with a tour guide dragging you along. I like the solitude and the company all at the same time. I have really terrific memories that make me feel lucky for the opportunities I have to experience the world and the people in it. It also helps with jet lag, keeping in shape while traveling, and allows you to sample more of the local food in a guilt free way. And it beats plopping down in front of the TV just to burn through those hours between your arrival there and the trip home - especially when you are really missing your loved ones.

Travel is a gift I would wish on anyone that would value it's receipt. And running is the perfect way to accessorize your travel - no matter where it takes you.