Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On Attempting to Find a Voice




            About six years ago, I made a point to write on a daily basis, and with this fixation came a voice. I had one, it was obvious, honest, a bit jaded and sardonic, but it existed. I could send people a piece of fiction blindly and they would know it was mine—not by the content, but the stylized voice I had developed. But back then I was a mid-twenties, searching for purpose and meaning, lost in the cliché of my own existence type guy. Movies such as Almost Famous and Garden State captivated me (in many ways they still do).  Then poof, life intruded, the dream of being a writer danced into the back of my brain, hid, and took a long time to return.
            Today, as I have renewed my focus on writing and pursuing my dreams, I have been going back through my material. I want to know if there is something there worth working with, or if I should dump it and start anew. The unpublished stories are laced with the same ideas as the two movies mentioned above, the same conquests of self-discovery, the constant the dead end to said quest, and the overplayed personal melodrama such moments bring. Perhaps why they remain unpublished? At 25, working full-time, newly married, one always wondered and considered the purpose of it all. The mortgage could not be the life dream. The vacation could not be the goal. The odd moments spent walking, running, or perusing social networks, the moments where one felt alone, isolated, and unwanted, could not be what defined life. Yet, as I read the work of a man in that age group, that apparently was life.
            I remember when I consulted some of college professors about the prospect of applying for an MFA in Creative Writing. They all had the same message: get out there, live life, have experiences, and then, once you are a real person start writing again. Let that person, a person who has something legitimate to both say and share, decide if they need an MFA and if they want to be a writer. Now, looking back, I find that this advice was spot on. While I like some of my old stories, they scream of the MFA story. No one wants to read them. No one wants to wander through the halls of lost existence, especially those that are lost.
            Today, after nine years of a professional career, eight of marriage, and three of parenthood, life seems different. I have things to say and I am not sure I need an MFA to do it. Thus, as I look for a literary voice, a new one not divorced from the past but evolved from it, I am trying to find the honesty in humanity, the sense of who and what I am, and how I see the world. This post exists as the first of many on the subject. What this voice is and where it will lead is the question.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Training Week: April 21-27



Training Week: April 21-27

Distance: 36.19 miles, Pace 8:40, 6 Runs, 2 Rest Days

I started to amp the mileage back up this week, making a three week transition into 50 mile weeks again in preparation for two July marathons (shorter training cycle due to life this time). Did one last track workout and inserted in a double duty day. Time to kill the body, time to get serious, time to take recovery runs easy when they come.

April 21: Walt Disney World with my daughter. Time for cuteness and walking in my Skora Cores.
Rest day from running.

April 22: Last track workout of the season. Time to transition back from being coach and training partner to being a runner for a couple months. Ran with the girls team, 1200m warm-up, then 800m, 2x400m, 2x200m at 3200m pace mostly. Hit the intervals okay, pacing with the girls so they hit their times (2:43, 75, 75, 34, 34). I did a quarter mile after the 800m, then 200m after the 400’s. We stood between the 200’s for a minute. Felt good, felt fast, loved the workout in my Skora Cores. I then completed an extended cool down to add mileage, running about the last .75 miles barefoot. 5.06 Miles in 41:32, 8:12 pace.

April 23: I strapped my Skora Forms on (really rotating shoes again), and ran 5.08 miles in 41:48. Ran with the only boys distance runner to make the state meet (he finished 8th in the 3200 at the meet) and had a great conversation inspiring another post. Clean, calm day, worked the soreness out, before running .83 barefoot to close out the run. It caused a lot of nostalgia.

April 24:
            Run 1: Ran before work, transitioning to early morning running once again. Took the Altra Ones for a 40 minute run—no overall mileage goal, just an out and back, not worried about pace, just gathering some distance before an afternoon workout. Hit the run, executing 4.17 miles in 40:01. I then did a core workout and a series of lower body exercises.
            Run 2: Speed time. Went with the goal of executing as many 1:00 intervals as I could where I run a minute hard at around 110% 5k pace and then a minute right on marathon pace. The plan is to hit them as long as I can, ending the workout when the rest period begins to tail off of my goal MP (looking at 8:00 min miles this time around). Ran a mile warm-up to a park, and did the intervals on the grass. I hit about 10 before I started to tail, opting to stop at 12, before running home, my wife biking with my daughter at my side. I saw a few rabbits during the workout and my Skora Cores felt great, but my feet were a bit sore at the end of the run. Doubling up beats you up and it had been a long time. Ran a total of 5.68 in 47:30, the cool down mile was well, a cool down and a half.

April 25: Wore my Altra Ones, which I’m treating as a road recovery shoe. Steady run. Initial plan was for a recovery pace. So, with my with and daughter biking besides me, I went out slow. Then I turned, said what the hell, I feel like having fun, and I unleashed the speed on the way back. I started singing, started moving, and held a sub 7:30 pace the way back, at one point seeing myself drop sub 6 as I took it home. No clue why I did this, was kind of a dumb move, but it was fun either way. 5.00 miles in 40:44.

April 26: Rest day, watched my athletes make the final preparations for the state track meet.

April 27: Long run on the UNF trails. Plan was to go 10-12 and stop feeling okay. Resisted the urge to add speed in, just wanted to get my legs good and tired and run long again. No really long, but I’m heading that way. Was a gorgeous early morning—you know the weather is nice when people are on the trails with you all of a sudden at 7:00am. Executed 11.2 miles in 1:42.15. Nice and easy, not overly taxing, just the way it should have been. This coming week shall be a bit of a killer. Ran in my Skora Forms.


Current Goals:
Guana last year via Speedy Banana
  • Break 20:00 again in a 5k. Last time I did this was high school. My recent PR was a 20:06 in February. 
  • Drop my marathon time in two stages:
  • Run my first Ultra, a 50k, on December 1, 2013. The Guana 50K Trail race.
Skora Cores

Current Shoe Rotation:
  • Skora Form for recovery and length 
  •  Altra One for recovery and length
  • Skora Core for speed and shorter distances 




Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Running Goals

In an earlier post, I tacked on the following date, first my current goals, and second my rotation of shoes. In order to hold myself to this standard, I am sticking these out there independently. Attack my goals, call me on them, challenge them.

Current Goals:
Guana last year via Speedy Banana
  • Break 20:00 again in a 5k. Last time I did this was high school. My recent PR was a 20:06 in February. 
  • Drop my marathon time in two stages:
  • Run my first Ultra, a 50k, on December 1, 2013. The Guana 50K Trail race.
Skora Cores

Current Shoe Rotation:
  • Skora Form for recovery and length 
  •  Altra One for recovery and length
  • Skora Core for speed and shorter distances 

Skora Phase (the shoe I'm begging to have)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Skora Core Shoe Review

Skora Family.


As a Skora Ambassador, I have been looking at photos of their new line for quite some time and salivating at their two new models: The Core and The Phase. Expanding the Skora line to four models (adding to The Form and The Base), the shoes, both extremely light weight and highly flexible, create a more natural, evolved experience that their predecessors. I’m quickly falling in love with The Core (if planning to buy the shoe, click the link to for a 10% price break).

Out of the box.
First off, the shoes look awesome. They have a great leather build, a futuristic look, and they hold up to their web appearance. When people see this shoe I get questions, lots of them, and interest. The curb appeal is high and I couldn’t wait to put them on and my wife couldn’t wait to play with them. Once I pried them from her hands, I went for a walk in them barefoot, and the ground spoke to me. My other Skora models have ground feel, but The Core, with a stack height of 11mm, hugs the earth. The insole, a meager 3mm fit, provides comfort without masking your foot’s sensations. You feel pebbles, bumps, and cracks in the concrete. Plus, when a headlight or flash hits the shoe, the outline of the shoe glows, a feature that provides a nice touch of safety for a mostly nighttime runner.

That said, I’ve used the shoes for both speed work and recovery. My first workout, a series of 300m intervals leading my middle school girls, felt fast and fleet of foot. The shoes grasped the ground and I felt more secure driving my legs off of them than in the Forms. Most of this sensation came from the flexibility of the shoe—it moved where I wanted it to at all times and grabbed the track with ease. Yet, I did notice the lack of padding in comparison with my everyday shoe, the Form. After about five miles, I detected some tenderness in my forefoot, something that will abate with time as I acclimate to the new ride.
Since then, I’ve taken the Cores off the track, hitting the road and the grass. On the grass, they outperform any trail model I’ve ever touched. They still feel fast, and at times I thought I was barefoot and actually was shocked when I noticed I was wearing shoes. Such thoughts only made the workout more fun, pushing me through my intervals. On the road, you miss the thickness of the insoles found in Skora’s other models, but in terms of an easy or recovery run on the road, they are perfect—you are forced to confront and work on form while stepping lightly.

Beyond running, the shoe is great for casual wear. I’ve already found myself wearing them in place of my Vivobarefoot Dharma when outside of work. My first such go around came at our regional track meet, where I sported the cores for over twelve hours without the calf and leg pain I had wearing old Nikes the week before. I felt great standing around and had no problem running across campus to deal with issues as they came up. After such a day, the Cores were nominated to walk across Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Winding through fantasy craziness, I never once thought about what was on my foot, instead enjoying the day with my daughter (minus the afternoon rain).


Pros:
  • The toe box is amazing—wide, open, and perfect to allow your toes to spread out. You will not get blisters in this shoe, because your toes will not rub together.
  • You feel everything, with or without the insole. You can walk and run the way you are intended to walk, with full sensation. 
  •  Flexibility. These shoes bend every which way, and they do so with little to no effort.
  • This shoe is sexy. Foot candy and I cannot say it any better. The leather looks and feels awesome. 
  •  The heel is fixed. On the Form, it tended to sag at times, now it is a bit more rigid and hangs where it should.
A wide toe box versus a narrow.
Cons:
  • You feel everything. I love this fact, but many people may not. Understand that Skora’s motto is run real. You will run real in this shoe. 
  • Padding. This is an elaboration of con one. If you want to run on a pillow, don’t buy this shoe. If you want to run real, it has sufficient padding for speed workouts, trail runs, and road runs around the 5-7 mile range. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coaching Nostalgia



First off I consider myself lucky. I coach on the track I ran on in high school. I report to the man who coached me in high school. Not many people can say they have these rights. That said, today was a special day. It was not that I was able to run, I do that nearly every day, but I was able to run with my runners today who normally leaves me in the dust. He is a junior and I have redacted his name, but he is the last of our distance boys. Our girls team is well represented, but our boys fell apart at the district level. On Saturday, April 27, he will run the 3200m in the state meet, he is seeded 11th based on season bests, but recent results put him in the running for a podium finish in a tactical race.

He was not always this good. I remember him as the awkward freshman that could barely finish a race, much less break 20:00 in a 5k (he runs in the low 16:00’s now). Pain was not his friend, pain was his crutch, his reason not to run. But he grew. The first time he broke 20:00 came on the beach, in a 5k I dragged him to in order to help pace me on a Mother’s Day morning. All he decided to do was win the thing, barefoot. So, we used to run together with little problem. Today, we only do so when he needs to go slow and I want to pick the pace up a bit, meeting in the middle on days where it meets our goals. Today was one of those days, a day where he wanted to recovery from his last speed session of the year and needed some company.

Before I go farther, I didn’t make this runner, in fact I’m not sure any runner is ever made—he made himself. Sweat, determination, and a growing immunity to pain have crafted him into the man he is. But for the last three years, I have been his sounding board. We discussed minimalist running together, barefoot training, and he now runs exclusively in the style, wearing Vivobarefoot Evo, New Balance Minimus, and Skora Form (often he will run workouts sans shoes regardless of the surface). He throws nutritional plans at me, personal training regimens for the offseason (he is famous for going outside our training plans), strength work, and seeks out inspiration. His questions keep me moving, digging, and searching for answers. Over the past few years, I’ve watched him change and grow, and even though we speak daily, the running part has become a distant past.

Today I was able to learn where he is, what he plans to do in his race Saturday—we literally discussed every lap, situation, scenario, and goal. More importantly, he has committed to guts. He wants to run on guts and determination, not just Saturday, but every day for the next 365 days, until his senior season comes to halt at next year’s state competition. Lofty summer mileage goals (700+), time commitments, team goals, and well a lifetime of running mark his mind. He wants to instill the idea in his teammates, to create a program based on want and power as much as natural talent. In his mind, the sky is the limit. Thus the nostalgia—I’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow. I have the pleasure of running on the same track I ran on high school, working for the same man that coached me. Hopefully, it doesn’t change, hopefully this runner reaches his goals, just as I aim to reach mine.

Current Goals:
Guana last year via Speedy Banana
  • Break 20:00 again in a 5k. Last time I did this was high school. My recent PR was a 20:06 in February. 
  • Drop my marathon time in two stages:
  • Run my first Ultra, a 50k, on December 1, 2013. The Guana 50K Trail race.
Skora Cores

Current Shoe Rotation:
  • Skora Form for recovery and length 
  •  Altra One for recovery and length
  • Skora Core for speed and shorter distances 

Skora Phase, a mesh version of the Core.