Enjoy It While You’re Young

Dear Middle-Aged Man. I’ll enjoy this for as long as I live.

I was running the trails of Deep Run Park this afternoon as I passed a middle-aged man walking his dog. He had some gray in his beard, but I consider 60 to still be middle-aged. If you live to be 100, 60 is closer to the middle than the end.

This man smiles at me & says,

Enjoy it while you’re young because your knees won’t be able to handle it when you get old.

Dear Middle-Aged Man,

Your smile tells me that you didn’t mean anything by it. You were just being friendly… making conversation. Perhaps you were trying to give me a heads up for what’s to come.

While I do appreciate your kindness, as well as your concern for my running future, I say to you:

Sir, as long as I’m able to stand on these two feet, and use them to propel myself forward, I’ll enjoy this for as long as I live.

I can only hope one day you come to the same realization.

Running Wild,

It’s OK to walk

My 30-minute walk today was rather enlightening. It helped me realize how walking can play an important role in my training… even for ultramarathon training.

When I ran my first marathon, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to walk. And so I ran the entire way. Sometimes, very slowly, but I ran. I finished in 4 hours, 19 minutes… and my body hated me.

With my recent hamstring injury, I’ve thought a great deal about how I’ve been treating my body these past few years. I must admit, I haven’t been very nice to it.

Since running still appears to be more than my hamstring can handle, I decided to go for a 30-minute walk. 15 minutes forwards and 15 backwards. I covered a little over 2 miles.

Most ultrarunners would argue that a 30-minute walk does little, if anything, for ultramarathon training. Here’s where I disagree.

Walking is great training

Just because we’re used to running everywhere, doesn’t mean that walking loses its value as far as being a worthwhile exercise technique. 30-minutes of walking per day can keep a person healthy for decades.

Walking can be strenuous without being stressful

You can raise your heart rate, burn calories & keep your heart happy, all without putting stress on your body. While it’s true that running provides a greater heart benefit & burns more calories, you can’t deny that its exponentially more stressful on your body.

Where does walking fit into your training?

Here’s an idea: Once or twice a month, instead of going on a long run (20+ miles), go for a 3-hour walk instead.

  • You’ll be on your feet about the same amount of time
  • Your heart will get a workout, while your legs get a rest
  • It’ll feel unbelievably refreshing
  • Walk forwards & backwards, alternating every 10 minutes or so. Keep it interesting… and work both the front & back of your legs.
  • Bring a friend. Enjoy the conversation. No need to worry about pace.
  • Bring a couple 3lbs dumbbells if you want to work your upper body
  • Just take a deep breath and enjoy it. Remember that rest & recovery are just as important as your actual training.

5 minutes of foam

5 minutes every morning with the foam roller. It might hurt at first, but it will pay dividends down the road.

I don’t know what you were thinking, but I am talking about the foam roller.

Since I got injured, I’ve started a new morning routine. I spend 5 minutes with my new foam roller, massaging the front & back of my upper & lower legs. It’s quick. It increases blood flow. And equally important, it helps wake me up.

This self massage technique wasn’t new to me, but I had forgotten it’s value. In 5 minutes, I get my entire lower body going. And now that I’ve got blood flowing to the muscles in my lower body, I follow it with a series of stretches.

Just 5 minutes.

It’s a great way to wake up each morning. It would also be a good thing to do on an off-day, or when you’re recovering from injury. Just foam roll and work on flexibility. Let’s be honest. We all know you’ve been neglecting your good friend, Flexibility.

You can buy one online, at a running store, or even at Target.

I’ll post more on my entire 25-minute morning workout routine in another post. Until then…

Roll. Stretch. Shake. Let it go.

A forgotten cardio exercise: The punching bag

I’ve been looking for a good way to get some cardio in without using my legs. Enter: The punching bag. Here are 8 ideas on how to get a great workout with a punching bag.

And a bonus 9th idea that is guaranteed to make you laugh.

With my hamstring still resting — and biking & running out of the equation for now — I’ve been looking for a way to get some cardio. Swimming is good, and I’ve done some of that, but here’s one cardio exercise I forgot about.


I’m not talking about getting in the ring with Mayweather or sparring with the local gym rats. Let’s be honest. That’d be over in 10 seconds and I’d have a lot more than a hamstring injury to worry about.

A punching bag is a great cardio workout you can do while resting your legs. Your arms & core won’t know what’s going on, and as long as you push yourself, you’ll make your heart happy as well.

Many gyms have punching bags, but they are often hiding in one of the fitness rooms, or just a dark corner somewhere. Ask around. Someone will know.

Locate a punching bag. Put on some gloves. And start punching.

Here are a few ideas to make it worth while

Please, please, please, don’t forget to warm up. If you’re not used to hitting a punching bag, and you wind up and go for broke, you will hurt yourself.

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified trainer of any kind. I learned some technique from taking Cardiobox at the YMCA, but take that for what it’s worth. I’m no expert.

  1. Vary your punches
    Mix it up. Different punching styles work different muscles. Throw in some hooks & uppercuts and you might be surprised how sore your core is tomorrow.
  2. Switch up your stance
    Lead with both feet. This will force you to throw each type of punch with both hands, working both sides of your body, instead of favoring your dominate side.
  3. Create your own signature combo
    A combo is any two or more punches thrown in succession. Try a few different ones. Whichever one you like best, make it your signature move. Mine isn’t very creative, but my core goes nuts. It goes something like: R hook, L hook, R hook, L hook…
  4. Keep your hands up
    So the bag doesn’t punch you in the face. And your shoulders will thank you tomorrow.
  5. Bob & weave
    Pretend your girlfriend is watching you work out, and you just told her those jeans make her butt look big. Then follow these instructions.
  6. Do intervals
    Punch hard for 90 seconds. Get your heart rate up. Go at about 80-90% effort. Then rest. And by rest, I mean…
  7. Work your core
    In-between sets, do a 90-second plank. Or crunches. Hold a leg lift, or do flutter kicks. Or maybe your girlfriend is actually punching you in the stomach (see #5). That works too.And my final piece of advice…
  8. Let it all out
    Hit it hard. Whatever frustration you might have built up, let it out. Talk to the bag. Let him know you’re pissed off. Tell him how he makes you feel. Talk smack… and back it up. Growl. Yell. Sing a song. Tell yourself a joke.

Oh, and one bonus tip. Treat yourself to a killer playlist. It’ll make #8 so much more entertaining. (For me, when “Land Down Under” came on, I said to the bag, “Oh, I’ll give you a vegemite sandwich.” Vegemite sandwich turned into knuckle sandwich… you get the idea. See, it’s a lot more fun 🙂

If you try it, please let me know how it went in the comments.

P.S. – A vegemite sandwich looks nasty! Has anyone ever tried one?

Injuries without pain are the most frustrating

The most frustrating part about my hamstring injury is the fact that it doesn’t hurt. You might consider this a good thing, but I don’t. I don’t care about the pain. All I care about is being able to run again. I just wish I could recognize when that might be.

For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been sidelined with a hamstring injury.

I want to call it a minor injury, mainly because it comes with no actual pain. I can run (3-4 miles) without any pain at all. No pain when I wake up… at my job… sitting… standing… stretching. It’s just not painful.

But does this really make it a minor injury? I say no.

Truth is, I don’t care if it’s painful. In fact, I’d rather it be painful. As an ultrarunner, I think I speak for many of us in saying that we actually like pain. We welcome it, embrace it, and often times actually seek it out. Pain is what we love about our sport. It’s part of what separates us as ultrarunners.

If my injury was painful, it would be much easier to tell when I’m fully recovered. Pain goes away… time to start running again.

See, all I really care about is being able to run again. The frustrating part is – I don’t know how to recognize when that time comes.

Volunteer for a race when injured

I know it sucks to be injured. And you probably don’t want to watch hundreds of people doing the thing you love, but are unable to do because of your injury. But you owe it to your sport. And more importantly, you owe it to your fellow athletes who I’m sure have volunteered (and maybe even saved your ass a few times) for races that you have run.

Here’s a recap of my volunteer experience for the Rockett’s Landing Tri in Richmond, VA.

When you’re injured, volunteering for a race is a great way to spend your weekend. With a bum hamstring, I decided to put in some serious hours this weekend with the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon in Richmond, VA. It always feels good to volunteer, but this time I learned quite a few lessons along the way… and am very motivated now to be a race coordinator next time.

Big shout out to Ginny for keeping me company for 7 hours on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t have been half the fun without someone to share it with.

Below, you can read about my experience this weekend at the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon, or jump on over to my separate entries about tips for volunteers at an aid station & tips for coordinating volunteers during a race.

Saturday before the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon

I was assigned to ride with the bike coordinator, Mike, while he drove the bike course Saturday morning. We marked the course with spray paint. Mike took down some notes on where to place volunteers with flags, and noted where he could get away with fewer than the recommend amount of volunteers (because we were running low in that department). We even swept the course with a broom.

Sweeping the bike course before a triathlon

I had no idea someone was actually responsible for doing this. In theory, it’s a great thing to do. However, for the detail-oriented, anal-retentive people, it’s probably not the best job. I think Mike and I swept many more pebbles than what was necessary. The course was clean, but it took us 2 hours to ride 26 miles… in a car.

Sunday at the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon

We arrived just before 5:30am. Of course, we were ready to go. But you can’t always count on having something to do right away. We waited around for 20 minutes before anyone really told us what was going on.

The rest of the day was a blur. We drove around for a while and helped setup the other stations. Then we arrived at our station, got it setup, and waited. Once the first runner came through, chaos ensued, and 5 hours went by in a flash.

How volunteering made me a more conscientious runner

  • It’s easier to pick up cups that aren’t smashed, so if you must throw them on the ground, do it away from the running area
  • You never know if/when the aid station might run out of cups, so if you can, refill the same one instead of using 3 or 4. The runners behind you will love you for it, especially on a hot day.

I’ll leave you with my favorite comment of the day…

Said a woman somewhere near the middle of the pack, and I quote, “I’ve never put a sponge in so many inappropriate places in my entire life.” Yeah. It was that hot.

Don’t forget about tips for volunteers at an aid station & tips for coordinating volunteers during a race.

    A letter to my injured hamstring

    Dear Hamstring. First off, let me start by saying I’m not mad. For years, you have continued to be amazing, and this past June, you failed… no… I failed you for the first time. I’ve been nothing but selfish, and for that, I apologize. Let’s start over and get it right this time.

    Dear Hamstring,

    First off, let me start by saying I’m not mad.

    I’m a little frustrated… and confused, but I’m not mad.

    For the past 3 years, you have continued to impress me. From the first 10k I ran back in October 2006, to my first marathon in 2007, to my first ultra in a tropical-storm-state-of-emergency-declaring-flood run, to my most recent 50-miler where you helped me shave over 2 hours off my previous PR. Truly, you have been amazing.

    This past June, you failed me for the first time I failed you for the first time. After all the great things you’ve helped me achieve, I neglected you.

    For months, you’ve been trying to get me to listen. You’ve provided all the warning signs, and I ignored every single one.

    For 3 years you have put up with my selfishness. I’ve run race after race after race without proper training. Not once have I warmed you up properly. I’ve never cooled you off when you were overheating. And all those years you were trying to impress the ladies, not once did I take you to the gym to hit the weights. I’ve treated you poorly, and for that, I’m sorry.

    Let me also tell you, Thank You. Thank you for bringing to light a few important things I didn’t realize until now.

    • I love running even more than I thought
    • Stretching, flexibility & strength training are important
    • You and I must get along. Just like any good relationship, it takes time & commitment.

    I’m sure this isn’t fun for you either. Let’s agree on one thing. I don’t want to be sitting on my ass all day, and you don’t want me sitting on you.

    I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish these past few years, but I’d like to put those times behind us. I propose a compromise.

    I will (finally) give you ample time to recover. However long you need, you just let me know. And when you’re ready, I promise to take you to the gym. I’ll get you in the best shape of your life.

    What I’d like from you… is exactly the same as what you’ve been giving me all along. Gutty performances. And a light tap on the shoulder when you need a rest.

    As long as we stick together, we’ll make it through this.

    So… I think we got off on the wrong foot.

    Hamstring: “Hi Dave. Please allow me to introduce myself (again). The name’s Hamstring.”

    Dave: “Hi Hamstring. It is nice to (finally) meet you.”