Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on Sharing Races

We all have more than our share of stuff to worry about. Wouldn't it be wonderful to do a race at least once a year when you didn't have to stress over your finishing time. Sharing the experience with another athlete especially one doing their first endurance event can be a huge joy. Sometimes we forget to just relax and enjoy the experience.

We have plenty of stress with work, the economy, family issues, the list sometimes seems endless. Any time we can eliminate a stress and turn it to pleasure it's a good thing. To much of our life we spend worrying about something instead of enjoying it. It's easy to burn out when the PRs are hard to come by, sharing the experience can revitalize your love of the journey.

Yes it's ok to push yourself in workouts and races and there is a lot of satisfaction is finishing a race or doing a training route in record time. We need both the thrill of accomplishment and the occasional break form feeling like we have to go for it.

Exercise is like a marriage in that you have to receive as well as give. When you do a race with another you get more than just a finisher medal, you get a memory that will be with you always. I have done races where I've gone hard the whole time and I wouldn't even be able to tell you the route of the course. It was just a blur and a finish time, there was no memory of the experience.

I've stated the last few years doing the endurance races with others and it's so much more than just a finish time. To start with I'm not whipped out at the end and can enjoy the rest of the day instead of spending it in recovery. I remember the good conversation and the sights and sounds of the course.

Try it, share a race with a person doing their first one or just with someone who doesn't want to have to face it alone. It just may give you a whole new outlook on what sport is about.

Thanks for reading.

Sharing Panda

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No Princess will Race Alone

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sharing a lady's first really hot and hilly half marathon. In January I also had the honor of escorting a princess on her first marathon, another very hot race. The year before I brought my own lady across the finish line of the Goofy Challenge. We usually have several guys and gals doing their first half and full marathons at Disney.

When I go with a group doing their first ones I stay back with the last one in the group, which leaves the others to fend for themselves. So I asked around some of the other veteran guys and gals, to see if anyone else would be interested in escorting someone on their first race or someone who just doesn't want to go it alone. I have had good response from everyone I asked.

Most of us are not going to win the race and it's such an honor to be allowed to share the magic of someones first distance challenge. It also gives the escort good motivation to stay in training if some one is depending on them to see them to the finish.

I'm going to try to make this happen for the January 2010 Disney races. I've got this in work at DisneyRunning.com so our ladies there, "The Skirt Nation", will all have a racing partner if they need one. Maybe the idea will spread and there will be a new atmosphere of accomplishment at the races. Not just "how fast can I do it" but sharing the adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Marathon Panda

Monday, April 20, 2009

Becoming Free

Must of us are very particular about our look. Hair, clothes and accessories are all carefully chosen. Even the I couldn't care less look is often carefully planned and designed. So what happens to that perfectly trimmed person when we become athletes?

When we become athletes we go through a kind of metamorphosis where we strip off that person we designed and become more the person we really are. It's kind of a lost cause to worry about our hair when it's plastered to our head with sweat. Our sports outfits are pretty much like everyone else's. We can have different colors and designs but T-Shirt and shorts or exercise pants are all pretty much the same.

Something wonderful happens when we leave that artificially created person behind and show the world the person inside. We often surprise ourselves at how much more comfortable we become with other athletes. You can put two athletes together and they can talk for the long hours of a marathon, when normally they might be to shy to even speak to a stranger. Maybe that's the secret, when we become athletes we are no longer strangers. We are part of the brother and sisterhood of athletes.

When we arrive at a race, we may not know anyone there but before its over we will have had some good conversation and we will have encouraged and been encouraged by lots of new friends. When we lose our normal decorations and show our real self to the world, it makes us so much more approachable and easier to like.

But as important as the face we expose to others is the person inside we discover ourselves. We often become that person we made up and that becomes our reality. When we remove the bling and the "Look", we find a person we didn't even realize ourselves was there. We find a person we like and look up to as someone we always wanted to be and didn't know we were.

The athlete can put on a ball cap over his/her bedhead, throw on some sweats and your ready to do whatever, no other preparing is necessary. We become comfortable in our own skin and the made up layers of decorations don't seem so important anymore. Now putting on a look can be something you do for fun and not something you do to hide behind.

Thanks for reading.

Walking Panda

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pursuit of Happiness

We as free citizens have the rights to: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here lately it's hard to believe that the government is remembering that. The life and liberty are not the problem but the pursuit of happiness is getting harder to accomplish all the time. So why is it we let outside influences affect our joy?

We need to take back control of our happiness and our joy. Days and years spent unhappy are gone forever. The old saying, "Money Can't Buy Happiness", is that true or false? Can we have happiness when money is tight? We have to make some changes and some sacrifices but we can still have our joy. Can't we?

Money can take us to the movie, it can buy the newest video game and of course money is required for adventures. One of my favorite things is going to the theater, my lady's head snuggled into my shoulder and sharing a large popcorn. Does that become less special if it's only once a month instead of every week or to? We can spend a whole morning or afternoon doing a training walk together instead, we have had some of our best conversations during our walks.

Surveys show that couples fight about: Money, sex and the children more than everything else combined. But perhaps it's because we don't communicate till we are ready to attack or defend our position on something. Believe it or not most people are doing the best they can even if it seems that their best leaves a lot to be desired. Our best one day may be light years from our best on other days. But one of the plus sides about not having the extra money to be entertained means we have more time to rediscover the skill of communicating.

Children, I have no answer for. I don't know why we have fire ants and killer bees either. I guess they are to remind us how evil we were to our parents. But the stress reliever benefits of exercise and the the communicating during walks/runs can help their also. If you can talk it our and come to an agreement on what action to take the outcome is usually better.

Adventures can be closer to home and more often if you look for the ways. Most of us do our training on the street but we probably life pretty close to an area like a national forest or large park that would give us a welcome escape. Just getting away from the hustle of life and getting back in touch with nature can help get your serenity back. We live a half hour drive from Mammouth Cave National park and some of the best hiking around and we haven't taken the time to go for a couple of years. I'm going to plan a day trip for the week after the Nashville Marathon that is next weekend.

I'm talking to myself with today's blog entry. It's so easy to get in a rut, especially when winter won't go away and life's endless issures can seem overwhelming.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Panda

Friday, April 17, 2009

Keep Your Priorities Straight.

I often make a comparison about how much the mind set of animals, athletes and warriors are alike. The end result, finishing the job is what's important not the details along the way. Even dogs know, " when it's your job to retrieve the duck there is no use worrying how cold the water is". Or if you don't get out there and catch food, you will starve, there is no other option. When the battle joins, you fight till it's over, there is really no other good option. When you choose to be an athlete, you have to look at finishing as your job, because that is what athletes do. It's nice to do great but to finish is the primary goal.

There are times that I forget that and stress the details to much. One of the details that I get hung up on and stress over is time. I have and a run/walk on a beautiful day, lots of interesting things to see along the way and generally just felt wonderful and then look at my watch when it's over and see that I was going slower than I thought and been upset. A perfect run/walk ruined by, as the saying goes, "Sweating the Small Stuff". Now most of the time when I log a training distance or a race I log only the hours and min. It goes down as, for example: 2 hr 33 min and change. Even trying to be exact about time in races can drive you nuts.

I bet if you do a hundred 5Ks and measured each one, you would find every course was a slightly different distance. So no course is the same, unless you are a track racer, then you have an exact unchanging distance. We are never the same for each race either. How well we have hydrated, how well we slept, how much we have eaten, ect.... makes us different each time we line up at the start or start on a training run/walk.

Your attitude on training or race day matters to. If you are focused on the day and doing well and warm up good you will usually have a better time than if you socialize right up to the start. We often need the socializing and feeling of belonging more than we need the fast race. Once we start we need to remember the primary goal, finish the distance to the best of our ability but working with what the day brings.

Some of the best advice I ever heard was a short prayer, "Grant me the serenity to accept what I can not change, the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference". I wear that prayer on a gold chain around my neck to remind me. Keeps me from slamming my self against an immovable object.

Find joy in doing your job as an athlete, finishing what you start. Don't get hung up on every time being the same or better, you got it done. There will be days you do better, and days where you will do worse.

Thanks for reading

Walking Panda

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sun Came Out Today

This year has been nuts with an unusually cold winter and now with more storms this spring than normal. I'm sure there will be a name for what we are going through, like EL Nino or something. That doesn't make it any easier to live with though. I went out Friday with threatening storms and ended up doing the last mile and a half in the rain and wind.

Today the sun came out and I took advantage of it. Being Easter most of the businesses were closed and because of that the traffic was much lighter than normal. I went down one of our main roads that is usually to congested to be walk/run friendly. It's very hilly but I enjoyed taking the new route. I don't train in residential areas since we have very loose leash laws and dog encounters are frequent.

I was able to do a really strong and satisfying 8 miler with, except for a stiff breeze at times, perfect weather. It just isn't the same training on the treadmill where 3 to 4 miles is about all you can stand. Today really recharged my batteries. Especially after a skunky race a week ago.
Often one day can turn a training season around for you. Even after a hard winter like we had just getting out in the sun again can remind us why we do it.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Panda

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to buy shoes

I usually bore everyone once a year with this but we have people new to our world every year so here it is again. Shoes have become so specialized that each fits in a catagory and if you are in the wrong shoe it can actually end your exercise career until you heal up and get in the proper foot wear. In addition there are jokers thrown. As your feet and body in general get in better shape and gain muscle mass while losing fat, your gait dynamics change. If that wasn't enough a shoe that you love will probably be discontinued or replaced with an upgrade that may not work for you at all.

Go to a running specialty store. If there isn't one in your town take a day trip and go find one. This is a necessary trip, YOU CAN NOT FIT YOURSELF WITH THE PROPER TYPE OF SHOW UNLESS YOU HAVE LOTS OF EXPERIENCE.

Go to the running store, Finishline and Foot Locker are not ruinning specialty stores they are fashion stores, they carry what sells and way more people are concerned about fashion that performance. They may carry a shoe that will work well for you but it's rare to find a person in one of these stores that is a trained by a shoe company to analyze your needs and gait.

The trained shoe expert determines your proper shoe. You can help him by bringing your current shoes that have wear or at least an old pair that has wear. He/she will watch you walk or run and also look at how your feet are shaped and the arch. Then they will recommend a catagory of shoe. They will usually bring out several that will work for you.When you get the shoes spend some time in each one, walk and or run around the store in each. You will find one or two that will feel the best. Insure they are not to tight in the toe box. When you exercise your feet swell so if they are snug in the store they will be to tight when you exercise.

Shoes come in different catagories, Motion Control, Stability and Netural Cushion. Then there are racing flats, and now even shoes designed for forefoot strikers. You need that shoe expert to ensure you are in the right shoe. The shoe types are sesigned to correct gait concerns but if you are in the wrong type it magnafies the problem by forcing your foot to do whatever it's doing wrong to do it worse. I'm a race walker so I have special needs. A "Walking" shoe is horrible and designed for people to stroll slowly around the mall and give them plenty of support if they have weak ankles and calves. I wear racing flats with a low heel and very light weight.

Once you have a shoe picked out write down you #2 choice also. The shoe you like best now may be discontinued by the time you are ready for your next pair. The shoe companies love to do that to us and it's good for business because we end up having to buy more shoes.I recommend for first time athletes to go to the running store every 6 months for a couple of years because your body and gait change as you get stronger and more efficient. Once you are fitted and have your shoes you can buy them on line and save some money but it's worth the extra cost every 6 months to get the professional help. Our favorite online store is he Runningwarehouse.com and DisneyRunning.com members get a 15% discount.

Hope this helps.

Happy Feet Panda

Monday, April 6, 2009

Babies Happen

One of my co-workers told me something that kinda put the baby news in prospective. She said if most of our parents and waited to have a baby till they could afford one, most of us wouldn't be here. I suppose that is true, I remember getting through having my own children and looking back I wonder how the heck I did it. I was poor and trying to find what work I could in a depressed area. That was during the Nixon era. For anyone who was around then he froze wages so if you were just starting out like me you had to stay at starting wages. He froze prices also but that didn't help my situation.

I joined the Military doing this time because it was the best way to keep the wolf away from the door. Turned out to be a good decision since I had a very rewarding and successful career. Having had a rough time of it myself made it easier for me to help my troops over rough spots in their lives.

I was also fortunate to have discovered exercise to help keep me sane. There were times that I relied on the road to be my therapist. I went for a run to make peace with sending my troops to Iraq during the first gulf war. I ran to come to grips with the World Trade Center buildings being destroyed. On the other had I went running, now race walking, to celebrate the good things that happened also. It's easier to find the energy to soar when your heart is already flying high with joy.

Today I did my running in the pool. I needed to have a good long workout on auto pilot and the pool is perfect. I usually come away from a pool workout totally exhausted and starving but feeling wonderful.

Now if winter would ever go the heck away life would indeed be good.

Thanks for reading.

Training Panda

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Finding the love.

I had a wonderful walk in the wind at dawn this morning and along with it a chance to have a chat with myself. It was time to reevaluate and rediscover why I train. I had the talk and came away with the answers. I train because I enjoy it. But I don't enjoy pushing the pace and going hard all the time. Training hard has to be something you are ready to do not something you should force yourself to do.

I had a relaxed 4 miles this morning and felt wonderful. I didn't try to force the pace but even more important I didn't give myself a guilt trip for not pushing it. I had rediscovered that it wasn't the training to win races that I loved but the training to live and be in motion, a part of nature.

Training to do your best in a race has it's place but first you have to find the joy in just training for pleasure. Then when you feel it's time and your body is ready you can turn up the heat. I make the mistake about once a year usually about this time of pending spring weather, I start training with guilt as my motivation instead of just wanting to enjoy the effort.

When I start feeling soreness all the time that doesn't go away with a few good nights sleep and a day off then I'm probably pushing to hard. I especially notice it in my quads when I do a squat type motion to do something. If getting up form a squat is difficult because I'm sore it's time to back off. Being sore all the time doesn't mean you're improving it means your over doing.

When I realize what's going on a rest day and a week of cutting back the effort will take care of it. Sometimes a couple of rest days are called for. Switching to another activity, cross training, is good but it's not a substitute for rest.

Knowing your body is a good idea since your stuck with it. Learn to recognise what it's telling you. If your hot or cold that's easy to pick up on but if your slowly wearing it down that's harder for most of us to catch. We always think more is better even when we know better.

Thanks for reading.

Resting Panda