Friday, June 29, 2012

Who Says Running Is A Lonely Sport?

For me, running is a very solitary activity. I wake up, put on my gear, and head out the door. Sometimes I run on the streets and other times I run on the treadmill at the gym, but either way, it's just me. So why am I writing a blog about the importance of teams?

I may look like I'm running alone, but I'm not. When I'm clocking those miles, I'm doing them with the Marines who first inspired me to make healthier changes in my life and turn an overweight, unhealthy body into a steadily-improving work success story.

You may only see me out there, but I'm running with the Ragnar SoCal 2011 team that encouraged me to try something new, to join a group of strangers and experience an exciting and unexpected 36 hours of fun.

When I run, I'm joined by my Ragnar Del Sol 2012 team. Eleven running buddies that helped me understand that I am truly am a runner, I can hold my own in any relay, and I have earned my way onto any team.

Mile after mile, I run with the spirit of Marines eternal, those hard-charging Devil Dogs that sacrificed all in the service to this nation. The unimaginable courage and commitment that guided them inspires me to be more, to do more, to keep going as long as I can still draw breath.

You can't see them, but I am surrounded by my Ragnar Florida 2013 team. They are eleven of the most inspiring, motivating and encouraging people I have ever known in my life. Their support makes the difference for me when I'm dragging, when I want to quit, when I think that maybe I don't have it in me to finish. They know that I can, and their confidence and belief in me makes all the difference.

And as always, I am joined on my runs by family and friends who provide an endless outpouring of encouragement. From Facebook posts and comments to text messages to Spark posts to sassy cards and pictures, I receive more support from more people than any one person dares to wish for.

So, the next time you see me running, and it looks like I'm by myself, don't be fooled. I'm not alone. I'm surrounded by hundreds of powerful motivators. And you just can't beat a team that strong.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Write Stuff.

I'm a sucker for the right words at the right time. Instead of hoping they'll find me, though, I've decided to create my own inspiration. I'm calling this series "The Write Stuff," and they are each snippets of conversations I have actually had with myself.

I wrote this one yesterday:

And this is today's:

And with that in mind, I'm heading out for my run.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week 1 Recap - Summer of Run

Today marks the end of the first (abbreviated) week of my 2012 Summer of Run Challenge. Even with the four day week, I managed to hit all the marks.

  1. I ran each of the four days.
  2. I ran at least one mile each day at a less than ten minute pace.
  3. And I ran more than fifteen miles this week.
Here's how it happened:

And here's the challenge recap so far:

My plan for tomorrow is to run just one mile, to give myself a recovery day. And then on Monday, I'll be back for more.

I can totally do this.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Look Back - "John's 30 Day Challenge"

Two years ago, I decided to change my life. I knew I needed something to shock my mind and my body, and this is what I came up with. Looking back now, I'm feeling pretty happy with my plan. It worked!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

John's 30 Day Challenge
I'll be honest. I'm a "lots of energy upfront" guy who quickly loses interest or motivation. I struggle with taking a good idea and seeing it through to completion. And with physical fitness and a lifestyle change, that sort of stop-and-start undermines success. So, here I am with a plan.

I'm calling it my own 30 Day Challenge. The idea behind it is simple. I can do anything for 30 days. I just need to clearly define my goals.

For 30 days, I will get to the gym for at least one hour of cardio each day. It can be running, elliptical, or the bike, but it has to be every day and it has to be a minimum of an hour.

For 30 days, I will use the Spark People Nutrition Tracker to record my food intake.

For 30 days, I will drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.

For 30 days, I will not drink caffeine after 5pm.

For 30 days, I will not drink alcohol. The empty calories are bad enough, but when drinking, I often make poor eating choices.

For 30 days, I will eat portion controlled, nutritious meals.

For 30 days, I will get enough sleep to allow my body to recover from each day's exercise. I will not stay up too late. I need at least 6 hours each night.

For 30 days, I will make myself a priority. I will reset my attitude on physical fitness and health, and I will emerge on the other side of this with a renewed sense of accomplishment and a seriously improved attitude.

For 30 days, I will remember what it feels like to be the best person I am.

Should You Be Running Right Now?

I love this and thought it was too good to not share.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 0.45% Who Serve

A Marine buddy posted this on Facebook today, and I thought it powerful enough that I wanted to share it here. It was posted originally without an author, but a quick search showed it to be from an Army Ranger named Nick Palmisciano.

Percentage who actually have served their Country in the military:

I remember the day I found out I got into West Point. My mom actually showed up in the hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out of class. She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my admission letter. She wasn't crying because it had been her dream for me to go there. She was crying because she knew how hard I'd worked to get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be an infantry officer. I was going to get that opportunity.

That same day two of my teachers took me aside and essentially told me the following: Nick, you're a smart guy. You don't have to join the military. You should go to college, instead.

I could easily write a tome defending West Point and the military as I did that day, explaining that USMA is an elite institution, that separate from that it is actually statistically much harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that serving the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men should at least consider for a host of reasons, but I won't.

What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that attending West Point is going to be bad for his future then there is a dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many Americans have no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing. 

In World War II, 11.2% of the nation served in four years.

In Vietnam, 4.3% served in 12 years.

Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War on Terror.

These are unbelievable statistics.

Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered more and more of the burden and it is only getting worse.

Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10% veterans with only one person having a child in the military.

Taxes did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were not sold.

Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts.

The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath to defend this nation.

Those who serve - You stand there, deployment after deployment and fight on. You've lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme conditions, years apart from kids you'll never get back, and beaten your body in a way that even professional athletes don't understand.

Then you come home to a nation that doesn't understand.
They don't understand suffering.
They don't understand sacrifice.
They dont understand why we fight for them.
They don't understand that bad people exist.
They look at you like you're a machine - like something is wrong with you.

You are the misguided one - not them.

When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political science teachers that discount your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because YOU WERE THERE and can't understand the macro issues they gathered from books, because of your bias.

You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at that. Your Congress is debating your benefits, your retirement, and your pay, while they ask you to do more.

But the amazing thing about you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay back what you've given up. You know that the populace at large will never truly understand or appreciate what you have done for them.

Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than normal for having worn the uniform. But you do it anyway. You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775 - YOU SERVED. Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.

"Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." Winston Churchill

Thank you to the 0.45% who have and continue to serve our Nation.


This Ranger has put into words the exact things I have been thinking for years. Our nation is not at war. Our servicemen and women are at war. Our nation is at the mall.

What will it take for our nation to once again value the military and its members? What will it take for us to be willing to do more than put a red, white and blue magnet (made in China) on our cars? What is it going to take for us to recognize the true sacrifice of military service?

I don't have an answer. But at least today, I am happy that someone else has so eloquently explained why I'm asking.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer of Run 2012

For one hundred days, I was ultra-focused on my marathon training, all tracked and documented here in Project One Five. Since then, though, I've been hit and miss. I've slumped, rallied, run, and stalled again.

I'll admit it. I struggle. I lose focus in the day-to-day routine. I need big moments and bigger goals to keep my attention. And as of today, I have that goal. It's specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. In other words, it's a SMART Goal that will help keep me on track.

Welcome to The Summer of Run. There are ninety-four days between now and September 22, 2012, the First Day of Fall. And I plan to run every single summer day. Here's how I'm going to do it:

  • Ninety-four days in a row
  • At least one mile at a ten-minute pace each day
  • At least fifteen miles per week
  • A minimum of 201.2 miles total
Why these rules? I'll explain the idea behind each one of them.
  • My 100 Day Marathon Project felt like just the right length of time. It was long enough to make a difference but not so long that I lost interest. 94 days will be the same.
  • I know I will need recovery time, so I have to allow for those days. A single mile at a ten-minute pace will be enough to meet the challenge while still giving me time to rest.
  • The weekly minimum ensures that I don't get lazy and run single miles days back to back. I will need more to make the fifteen miles each week.
  • 201.2 miles in 2012. Seems right. Plus, it will challenge me to push myself throughout the project. With only 94 days to run, those single mile days will really mean extra miles the rest of each week. 
There it is. Runner12's Official 2012 Summer of Run Project. And now, it's time to run.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Running Day

What a difference a couple of years can make. Two years ago, I had no idea there was such a thing as National Running Day, let alone a reason to celebrate it. Running was what people did if they were late for a plane.

But look at me now. I've run two full marathons, eleven half marathons, several adventure runs, relay races, and more miles on the streets of San Diego than I can count.

More important than the miles is the change in the my confidence. Running a whole mile intimidated me before. Now, I can lace up my shoes and run six miles without any prep or training.

I'm also finding ways to work running into everything I do. At last year's Marine Corps Reunion, I talked a couple of buddies into running a mud run with me. Later today I'm off to Vegas for a this year's Reunion, and I will be running a half marathon with a couple other Marines on Saturday morning. And if I can pull it off, at next year's reunion, I'm going to fall in with a unit of active duty Marines and join then for a formation run.

I am a runner. I never thought I would say that. But two years, countless miles, and a wall full of finishers' medals later, I finally believe it.

And today, to celebrate National Running Day, I ran 6.6 miles in 60 minutes, at 6:06am on 6/6. Fun, right?

So, what's your running story?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Anatomy of a Slump, Part II.

Or, How I Battled Back From The Brink Of Disaster And Lived To Blog About It.

Yesterday, I blogged about my post-marathon slump. It's not really something to brag about ("Ooh, look at me and my epic failure!"), but I feel it's important to share my struggles as openly and honestly as I share my successes.

Slumps. Funks. Binges. Spirals. There are many names for it, but the basics are the same. A poor decision or two leads to more, and the bad choices fuel a descent into madness. Life becomes a series of anti-healthy moments, with skipped workouts and poor eating leading the way. And as bad as that sounds, it's only the beginning.

There are two very important things to understand about slumps. First, the longer you are in a slump, the more difficult it is to find your way out. They are self-perpetuating.
I feel bad about not working out. And since I feel bad about myself, I don't have any motivation to work out. Instead, I'll sit home and over-eat. And now that I over-ate, I feel bad about myself, so I'm not motivated to work out.
Second, the true power (and danger) of a slump is how it separates you from the tools you need to end it. The things that normally help you feel better - a healthy meal, a good workout, interactions with your support system - are no longer a part of your day. When you most need to rely on your tools, you don't have them.

In this respect, struggling through a slump is like being in a relationship with an abusing control freak. For those who haven't been in that situation, I'll explain the similarities. Control freaks attack a person's support system ("She isn't a real friend to you, you should stop hanging out with her."), isolating them from the very group of people who would help them break free. It's like taking your keys away and then berating you for being locked out of your house.

Think about that for a moment. The very things that could help you - motivation, inspiration, encouragement - are the things that seem lost.

So what do you do? How do you break out of a slump? It's easy. And it's difficult. It's easy because it just takes a single action, just one, to break the cycle. It's difficult because we've stopped believing we have the power to do it.

My lowest moment was Tuesday, May 29th. I had skipped my scheduled half marathon the day before (#EpicFail), and I let that be just the first of many reasons I beat myself up.

  • I paid to register and didn't run. Way to waste money I don't have.
  • Oh, look, here's the bib I would have worn. It's trash now, isn't it?
  • I wanted to run 12 half marathons in 2012, and now I have to find another one. Why, because I skipped this one like an idiot.
  • What's this? Oh, it's an email from the race asking about my experience. Thanks for the reminder that my only experience was to sit on my butt and not run.
  • Look, more emails from friends asking about my half marathon. Yep, get to tell them I'm a loser, too.
It all seems hopeless, right? And yet, I'm writing this blog about breaking out of a slump, so you know that something amazing happens to change it, right?

Yes and no. Something happened, but it wasn't all that amazing. It wasn't dramatic or major or much of a big deal at all. But it was something.

As I sat there wallowing in my gloom, one thing stood out. I had a plan to run a dozen half marathons this year and now I had missed one of them. If I still wanted to accomplish my goal, I needed to find a replacement event. So I started looking. Turns out, there was a half marathon scheduled in Las Vegas for the very same weekend I was going to be there for my Marine Corps Reunion. What are the odds?

I posted a link for the run on our Marine page, and immediately another Marine buddy said he wanted to run it, too. He registered us both right away. (And since then, a second buddy has signed up, so three of us are going to run it together. Flight of Fire Half Marathon, here we come!)

See what happened there? I focused on one specific goal, my desire to run a dozen half marathons this year. That provided a course of action: find another race.

"So I started looking."

Me, after running the 10k at the gym.
That action connected me back to my support group, the very same Marines who first motivated and inspired me to change my life two years ago this month. Breaking the cycle by seeking out a new run helped me engage my support system, too.

Once I was signed up for the run, other pieces fell into place. The next evening, I packed up my gym bag and workout gear and set it out so I would be ready to run the following morning. And I did. It was a 5K at the gym, but they were the first miles I had run since the marathon. And they felt great. I actually ran 3.28 miles in 30 minutes, so I was at a 9:08 pace.

The next day, I was shaky. I was feeling good about the day before but wasn't quite feeling like I was "back in the groove." I skipped the morning workout and felt crappy about it all day. Finally, late in the day, I decided to stick to what had made me feel better. I went back to the gym for another run. And this time, I ran a 10K in 54 minutes at an 8:45 pace. I was crazy fast!

Since then, my eating is back under control, I have continued to run and workout, and I am blogging and checking back in with my Spark Buddies and my Facebook Fitness friends. I did get on the scale last week and I am just under 189, so my ten days of gluttony and sloth added 4 pounds. But so what? I can drop those in no time.

More importantly, I feel like I am once again in control of my actions. I am NOT the mistakes I made. I am the culmination of two years of hard work, and that means I am powerful enough to battle back through any slump or down cycle.

A shirtless picture? You bet. I earned it.
If there is one take-away here, it's that life is not an all or nothing situation. It is a series of small choices that, added together, define who we are. That means that breaking out of a slump can be as easy as ONE good decision.
  • Drinking eight glasses of water today will make you feel better.
  • Feeling better will inspire you to make a better food choice.
  • Better food choices will fuel you to take a 15 minute walk.
  • Walking will motivate you to get on your bike or go for a run.
A slump doesn't happen overnight. It is one bad choice after another after another. That means that turning it around is just one good choice away.

I made my choice. Will you?

Coming Out Chevy?

Yeah. So this happened. And it's pretty funny.

Well played, Chevy. Well played.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Anatomy Of A Slump

It happens to the best of us. One day, we're running our miles and lifting our weights, and the next day, we just don't. It's not just a day off, it's a missed day. And then another. And maybe we eat a bit more than normal and then another day goes by without a workout and we eat a little more and... and... and..

And just like that, we're off-track. And not just a little. A lot. Days, weeks, even months go by, and we're out of our groove. Our once-essential workouts are something we mean to get back to, but we don't.

We are in a slump. And it's a bad thing. By the time we realize it's happening, we can be so far in a downward spiral that we can't see a way back.

If you're a lifelong athlete, you are used to these down times and you know that you can turn it around. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who have spent more of our life overweight and out-of-shape? For us, the fear that we have become that person again! can be overwhelming. Worse, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I speak from experience.

On May 20, 2012, I ran the Pasadena Marathon. I spent 100 days focused on my training and preparation. I blogged each day, every day, and chronicled 500 different actions to help me get ready. I raised money, gave interviews, ran countless miles, and prepped myself in every way possible for a successful marathon. And it worked. I ran it in 4 hours, 40 minutes, nearly nineteen minutes faster than my time for the Marine Corps Marathon this past October.

As part of my training and prep, I even made post-marathon plans to ensure that I stayed on track and didn't succumb to a funk after the big event. Unfortunately, I underestimated my ability to become my own trainwreck.

It started less than an hour after I crossed the finish line. We were driving home from Los Angeles and we missed the exit to our freeway. We got off at the very next exit, and right in front of us at the light was a McDonald's restaurant. My hunger went into overdrive and I insisted that we stop. Did I get a salad or a healthier chicken sandwich option? Oh, no. I went to my old standby, the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large order of french fries.

I didn't run the next day because I needed to recover from the marathon. Fair enough. But I didn't need to eat dinner at Wendy's Restaurant. Or lunch the next day at Jack In The Box. The entire week was one fast food joint after another, culminating in my eating a ten piece variety pack from Taco Bell. Yes, a ten pack. I polished off four regular tacos, three soft tacos, and three bean burritos. They were the smaller items, but seriously, I ate ten of them. That was the day I realized I had totally lost control again.

I slowed down on the fast food, but I still hadn't worked out. Not one minute. Nor had I run a single mile. I made halfhearted attempts at getting myself back on track, but it just wasn't happening. I had a half marathon scheduled for Memorial Day, and I went so far as to drive up to Laguna Hills and pick up my registration packet. But Sunday afternoon, I decided to hang out at a barbecue and drink beer and sleep in the next day, instead.

It was a poor choice. Bailing on the half marathon just made me feel worse. I skipped more runs and more workouts and continued my streak of craptastic eating. I was literally coming apart at the seams. I let one poor choice lead to another and another, which led to a series of them, all of which left me feeling like I hadn't changed at all from the guy two years ago who was sedentary, morbidly obese, and standing at the sidelines of his own life.

And that, folks, is how easily a person can go from feeling like he is on the top of the world to feeling like a total failure in just ten days.

Tomorrow's blog entry? Battling back. It's as hard - and as easy - as you think it is.