Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 18: Some Things Never Change

I was looking back at blogs I wrote over 10 years ago and realized how some things never change!  I wrote about knowing my body, dealing with stress, and all of the challenges that seem to be part of life.  At the time, it seemed that I was figuring these things out, but I look back and wonder if I was really paying attention.  Why? Because I seem to be figuring out the same things just 10 years later.  My wife says that I don’t know how to slow down, and she’s absolutely right.  I tend to have one gear, and that’s all in.  I will push until I can’t, and at that moment, I’ll crash.  Ironically, I remember metaphorically evaluating my bicycle crash in 2009 as a message that I needed to slow down.  I don’t want or need another bike crash to remind me of this.  And so I blog.  This may be one of the major positives of blogging regularly.  It is a way to get thoughts out onto “paper,” and hopefully remember them.

Today was an interesting day.  I’ve been intermittently finding myself anxious lately, which isn’t surprising as we’ve bought a new house, selling our home, figuring out what to do with my life, and training for Kona.  Some days I wake up feeling anxious or “off,” and today was one of those days.  Fortunately, I know what to do. Exercise!  I spent 90 minutes on my bike, focusing on relatively low intensity (I don’t need the added stress of intensity as I’m building my volume). I then ran for a half an hour, also comfortably.  This settled my nerves, but they acted up again in the early afternoon and I was able to go for a short swim before going to the accountant (tax time).  I finished up my training day with another 45 minutes on the bike.  Three days in the week and nearly 9 hours of training.  My goal for the week is 20 hours (last week was 15). Tomorrow and Friday will be a little tough as I’ve got meetings and lots of driving (my wife is right, I need to better pace my scheduling, as I have the problem of putting too much on my plate).  

So, some things never change.  In looking at my first blogs over ten years ago, I mentioned low back soreness. Wow!  I’ve fought this for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps my herniated disc will always make me susceptible.  Maybe my body needs an outlet to tell me when to slow down.  I don’t know, but sprinkled throughout the last 10 years of training and racing are my low back episodes.  Fortunately, they rarely last more than a few days.  I also wonder whether they’re an outlet for stress.  While my training has gotten back on track, I’m reminded that I need to add meditation to my daily routine.  One thing at a time.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 17: Writing

I threw down the gauntlet to the nursing home industry today. Having reflected a lot over the last few months I wrote an article that captured my major concern about how nursing home companies operate. I’ve dedicated my life to helping older adults and I’ve learned a lot over the years. I know what works and I know what doesn’t work.  I wanted to write something that could be utilized constructively to help improve the care of frail older adults.  It will be interesting to see the feedback I get from the article, so far it’s been very positive.

I also got a lot of help from friends and colleagues in writing the article.  I often say that everyday I learn how little I know, and so I wanted to get feedback from people I respect as I put this article together.  It went through several iterations, and I restructured it and cut out extraneous parts.  I had a lot to say, but in the end I realized it was better to save some things for future articles.  One of the best suggestions from a friend was to review each paragraph and eliminate things that weren’t consistent with the key message in that paragraph.  That was a great suggestion that really helped my article stay focused.

I’ve now had 17 days of writing, and the daily habit has been a good one.  I’m not overthinking what I’m going to write about, and let it come to me each day.  No pressure.  My training continue to go great and I had my weekly phone call with my coach today.  The next six weeks will be focused on increasing my cycling volume.  I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 16: A Busy Retirement

My wife and daughter tease me that I’m a very busy retiree.  It seems to them that I have meetings and phone calls nearly every day.  They’re right!  One thing I know for sure.  Keeping busy and maintaining purpose is critical to staying both mentally and physically healthy.  There are studies that show that purpose can stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease!  I know that this morning I woke up feeling a bit off emotionally, which happens to me every so often these days.  Ultimately, I just went for a five mile run along a five mile loop, which meant that once I got half way through it, I was committed to the whole 5 miles.  By the time I finished this easy run, the “off” feeling was gone, and I was ready for a swim.  I had a lunch meeting for a possible business relationship and then nearly 2 hours of phone calls related to a variety of projects I’m involved with.  I try to walk during my phone calls, which today led to an additional 6 miles of walking!  My legs were already fatigued from 15 hours of training last week, so the walking was good from a circulatory perspective, but also added some valuable volume of moving forward to my bodies training.  This is just Monday.  Hopefully, the beginning of another solid week of both life and training!  

I love to share that this is my third attempt at retirement, and that I’ve “failed” the first two attempts.  The key is that we never truly retire, we just adjust our focus.  In fact, having something to focus on is the key!  If you don’t have something to focus on, you’ll tend to feel lost, or at least I do.  I am finding that my ironman training provides a great base of daily activities that I can focus on.  I’m in pretty regular touch with friends and colleagues talking about the things that matter to me.  Plus, I have some ongoing projects to focus on.  With all of that said, my major purpose will continue to be my grandson.  There’s nothing like having a grandchild, and we will soon be moving to within 5 minutes of him, which will make it easier for me to spend time with him most days.  I want him to know that his grandpa will always be there for him!  That beats anything else I can do in retirement.

Journey to Kona Day 15: Adaptation

The human body is remarkable.  Three weeks ago, I was doubting my ability to fully recover from the 100 miler I did over New Years. I knew that my heart rate was higher than usual, and that running at a slow pace, and cycling at a low wattage, brought my heart rate up.  My coach also talks about how years of base training really help, and I believe that is true.  The body’s ability to adapt is remarkable, especially when it has something to fall back upon.  So, here I was, putting in nearly two hours on my bike to conclude a 15 hour training week.  My legs were tired, and my glutes were sore from yesterday’s uphill and downhill hard run.  Despite that, after  a good warm up on my bike, I was able to go thirty minutes at wattage that is close to my ironman wattage, all the while keeping my heart rate at a relatively reasonable level.  Significant progress in just three weeks, and with Ironman Boulder still 16 weeks away, lots to work with.  I followed up my bike workout with a short 2 mile run to keep my daily run streak alive.  While slow, my heart rate also stayed down, which may have just been due to fatigue, but I’ll take it.

It’s also important to recover from workouts, and Saturday was a pretty solid run day, hence, overall, I tried to keep today pretty tame.  One of the interesting challenges that I will have is that I really want to get in training every day, and in fact, must train every day if I’m going to run every day no matter what.  With that said, training doesn’t mean pounding on oneself.  I’ve found easy cycling to be healthy and I’ve also found walking to be incredibly productive, while at the same time maintaining  a low level of exertion and muscle stimulation.  Finished the day with my grandson and his mommy and daddy, which is a joy!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 14: Ironman Legs

I decided it was time for a longer run today, and ultimately realized that I had an opportunity to run on what I like to call “ironman legs.”  After 3 weeks of solid training, my legs actually are feeling better, but after a 2 mile warm up, I did a hard uphill and downhill run on a one mile hill with 8-10% grade.  The uphill is just hard aerobically, and the downhill is pretty brutal when run hard, which I did by going under 7 minute pace.  I then was able to put an additional 4.5 miles on tired legs that had some soreness to them. That’s what I’m talking about when it comes to “ironman legs.”  It’s really the thing we strive for since the run portion of an ironman is where you can lose the most time.  So, if I can pound on my legs and make them tired and somewhat sore, then realize that I’m running right around 10 minute per mile pace, I’m pretty happy.  That’s what I did today.

I’ve also realized that I really need to get more runs in this year right after biking, the so-called “brick.”  I’m not sure anyone really knows what the term stands for. Is it that your legs feel like bricks, or that doing these workouts are like building a brick wall that will be strong during the run portion of an ironman?  Either way, there is no question as to the value of such workouts in terms of training ones body to be able to keep running at the end of an ironman.

In my quest to always look for the life metaphor in my ironman training, how does today’s workout relate?  Practicing running with your legs are tired and sore is not unlike practicing living ones life when things aren’t going perfectly.  That’s pretty much a constant, because rarely do things go perfectly.  I’ve had my own struggles the past few months, and I think I find my best outlet with hard workouts and training.  It also keeps me focused on a goal that I can get my head around.  Having been in Kona this past October to cheer my friend Robert on, and to have had the opportunity to run on most of the course, I can start visualizing how it will feel on race day.  Visualization works best when you can simulate how you’ll probably feel.  And so it goes.  

Since I started training for ironman 10 years ago, running on tired, “ironman legs,” has always been one of my favorite workouts. As I prepare for Boulder in 16 weeks, and Kona in 34, nothing has changed in this regard.  Approximating the feel of the run leg of an ironman is good training, but even better visualization!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 13: Transparency

One of my friends and colleagues once told me that I can be scary transparent. I have a tendency to be honest to a fault.  People see this transparent honesty as genuine and sincere, as they should.  The scary part, as I understand fully is that this level of honesty and transparency is not always easily to handle.  Not everyone wants to deal with the truth, and not everyone is ready for it.  When I was younger, as in just a couple of years ago, I think that I might at times be too straightforward in sharing my unfiltered thoughts, which could have it’s downside.

In the late 1990’s I was President of GeriMed, a geriatric medical management company.  We were discussing a deal with Humana, which would have had us bring our geriatrics model to some of their Medicare managed care markets.  We met in their corporate office with one of their executives, Bruce Perkins.  I told him that single disease state disease management programs were worthless (which, by the way, the were), and that the proper approach to disease management in older adults was the geriatrics model.  What I didn’t realize was that he was the person behind all of Humana’s disease management programs.  Needless to say, our development person didn’t talk to me for weeks, as I lost any chance of making a deal with Humana due to my honesty.  

On the other hand, being honest and transparent has helped me be a successful leader.  People who work for me know that what I tell them is true.  When I empower people, they know that it’s real.  Like everything, there are good and bad aspects to this.  I realize that having confidence in people who work for me can give them confidence.  That’s wonderful, but if somehow my confidence is misplaced or inaccurate, I can be leading folks down the wrong path.  Of course, that’s life, and we can’t be responsible for all of the unknowns in life.  

One thing that I know for sure.  When you have confidence in people, and you share that confidence in a sincere and transparent manner, those people will follow you anywhere!  Of course, they might follow you over a cliff.  Or, they will follow you to the top of the mountain.  There is one thing that is certain.  When you’re honest and transparent, people know who you are and what they’re getting.  I’ll take that over any alternative consequences every day of the week.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 12: Habits

My father taught me that doing something for 21 straight days builds a habit.  I had a busy day today, so it took some effort to get my 1 mile of running in this afternoon.  I’ve now run for 18 straight days.  I’m doing this for a few reasons.  From a training perspective, there’s no rational benefit of running every single day.  But that isn’t my purpose or my goal.  Running has ultimately been my challenge at the end of an ironman.  Not a huge challenge, as I usually finish an ironman in about the same place as I’m in when I start my run.  My last two races are exceptions based on illnesses and training, but if I’m adequately trained I don’t do too bad on the run.  With that said, I want to do better.  Since I know I can run long, and mentally I’m good with that, it just seems that getting the idea of running every single day locked into my brain might be helpful.  Hence, my daily running streak started 18 days ago.  I’ve committed that between now and Kona, I will run at least one mile every day.  Today was one of those “test” days.  

In running only one mile on a day like today, which for all practical purposes was a rest day for me.  Everything I did was light and easy (walking and a little easy spin on the bike).  I didn’t want to “just” run one mile, I needed a specific goal and purpose for that mile.  I’ve been working on my run cadence, which used to be about 160 foot strikes per minute, and I’ve been trying to increase that number to 170-175.  The science behind that has to do with having less time with one’s foot touching the ground.  Plus, most elite runners are closer to 180.  

I tend to struggle keeping my cadence up when I’m running slow or easy, so today, having only time to run a mile, I focused solely on having more rapid turnover.  I succeeded.  I ran my mile at about a 9:30 pace, but managed a cadence of 184 foot strikes per minute.  My breathing was higher than usual, and if I wore a heart rate monitor, I’m sure my HR would have been higher than what I’m used to when running at this pace.  That’s because I was doing something that my body wasn’t used to and was uncomfortable doing.  But that was kind of the idea.  It’s always good to do things that take you out of your comfort zone, and it takes work to change ones form, which is ultimately necessary if your increasing your cadence at lower paces.  

I few years ago, I worked on increasing my cadence and had some success, but my lack of training in the last year really caused me to slip back in to my more slogging habits.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been steadily increasing my cadence closer to 170.  Today was the first time I’ve every gone about 180 while running relatively slowly.  It will be interesting to see what comes of this.  

More importantly, I motivated myself to my 18th straight day of running.  Three more days and my habit will officially be locked into place!