2015: The Training Awakens

Hi Readers

force choke

The Force has not been strong with this blog but I believe it was strong with my training in 2015.

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything on this blog (March 2015!!!). I just had a look at the stats and was surprised to discover that I’ve still had a few views despite the lack of activity. Thank you! I plan to blog more regularly this year and I also plan to focus the blog more on running, triathlons, fitness and martial arts and less on just general ‘remarkable’ topics. That’s a nice big clue as to what I’ve been up to in 2015 and what my plans are for 2016. 🙂

In 2015 I changed the way I approach my training. It started in 2014 already when I used my commute to-and-from work for my training runs and cycles. Instead of just having one workout or training session a day, I was now doing two on many days. It was tough to begin with and I struggled most evenings. However, as I stuck with it, things did improve. Then I started thinking about the training regimens that pro-athletes and elite age-groupers follow. These fit folks spend 6-8 hours a day training. Even with two sessions, I was still only doing 1-1.5 hours a day with longer runs on weekends. I reckoned that it was conceivable that I could up the daily sessions to 3 or 4. So towards the end of May 2015, I started doing 3 or 4 workouts on 3 or 4 days of the week. Again, it was tough to start with but it was manageable.

At that point, the training mix consisted of running, biking and martial arts. I started doing Kuk Sool Won twice a week for an hour. More on this martial arts system in a future post but you can find some insight into the practice from the point of view of another student (my lovely wife) in the posts on Junbi. The running was still mainly my commute and weekend long runs. I started cycling more often – substituting some of my runs with a bike to work and also going on weekly lunchtime rides with a couple of colleagues. As my body adapted to this increased regimen, I started seeing a general improvement in my endurance in particular. In June and July, I added 9Round training to my workout mix. This is a 30 min workout based on kickboxing where you move from one station to the next every 3 min. There are nine stations or rounds. It’s a high intensity workout and definitely boosted my fitness level. I feel that it took me through a plateau. I had bought a two month membership on a deal website and didn’t renew afterwards.

KSW family

It’s a family affair

In September I started crossfit of all things. There is a fantastic crossfit gym close to my home and they have a 5:30 am class – perfect for someone with a busy schedule trying to squeeze in a workout. I Will Crossfit has definitely taken my results to another level. I’ll write more about the classes but the workouts I’ve been doing there have benefited my running through heightened strength and endurance.

weekend iwc

Saturday Partner WOD – me in the Green Lantern Shirt

Event-wise, I took part in my first triathlon in the USA – the 29th Annual Tri For Real event held in Pleasanton. This was a shorter triathlon consisting of 700 yard swim, 19 -mile bike, 4-mile run. I also completed the Berkeley Trail Adventure half marathon course (the toughest half marathon I’ve ever done). Just look at the course profile!

 

BTA

After you’re done climbing, let’s climb some more

The California International Marathon held in Sacramento was my final event of the year and my first marathon since 2013. This, for me, was the true test of all the training I’d put in over the year. I had three goals depending on how the race progressed.

  1. A new PR (my previous best as detailed in my last blog post was 4h28)
  2. A sub-4h15 race
  3. A sub 4h race

I managed 1 and 2 – I finished in 4h11. My training came through – I managed to run the full distance (no walking) and I recovered faster than expected (I had a 1.5 hour drive home following the race but was nowhere near as stiff and sore as I expected to be). I definitely felt stronger.

CIM

We’re all wearing the same colours!!

So all-in-all, 2015 has given me hope for further improvements in 2016. I have entered the San Francisco Marathon  which promises to be incredibly scenic and incredibly grueling. I have plans to try a Spartan Race and/or a Tough Mudder and I’m eyeing the Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz. In crossfit this week we started with our baseline check. We were doing 1 rep maximum testing. It’ll be interesting to see our improvements in 12 weeks time. I’ll keep you posted. If I’m feeling brave, I may post some before and after photos.

I look forward to sharing my training journey with you.

What are you goals and events for 2016?

 

Greetings and salutations

010Ever since I was a teenager and went out on my first proper training cycle (i.e. cycling for the purpose of getting fitter and faster, as opposed to just riding around the neighbourhood on a Sunday afternoon for fun), I’ve been intrigued by the way other cyclists and runners respond to being greeted. On that Sunday morning in Cape Town, I was cycling along Newlands Avenue and Rhodes Drive on my way to Constantia and I was surprised by how many fellow cyclists shouted out a greeting or raised a hand as we passed each other. I loved it. It displayed a camaraderie, a shared experience. I remember thinking that I had been given access to a new group and was part of something bigger. It was like a club and all that was required to gain membership was to be outside training.

One recent Sunday afternoon, the weather was perfect for running – sunshine but not too warm. I headed out for a long run and it seemed that everyone in the neighbourhood was out too. There were other runners. There were cyclists and walkers. Just loads of people enjoying the good weather and doing some exercise. This meant that I was greeting quite a lot – a nod of the head, a ‘good morning’, a ‘hi there’ or a wave. What was fascinating was the varied responses. Many people waved or nodded or answered with a verbal greeting of their own. But just as many (maybe more) ignored me, looked the other way, increased their speed or became visibly uncomfortable until I had passed them.

I decided to experiment a little to see if there was a pattern. I varied my greetings:

  • Louder or softer verbal greetingssafari 1
  • Verbal combined with a wave or nod
  • A big smile combined with verbal and a wave or nod
  • A neutral expression combined with verbal and a wave or nod
  • Sunglasses on/off

What did I conclude?

  • Later in the run, fewer people responded. I was struggling to maintain my pace and feeling quite exhausted. Perhaps physically I just didn’t look like someone people wanted to greet – sweaty and slow. Alternatively, the other early birds were generally happier and more pre-disposed to greeting that the late starters.
  • There was a greater likelihood that groups of 2 or more people would respond. Do lone runners feel threatened or unsafe? Do they think that if they respond to a greeting might also be perceived as an invitation to a chat or to become life-long training buddies?
  • Although it surprises them initially, the surprise of being greeted loudly seems to make people respond automatically. So saying ‘good morning’ with a bit more strength and volume makes people jump and wave :-).
  • People have an amazing capacity for focus under the right conditions. Although I think it’s easier to just nod or wave, there are many others who practice their focus as someone else approaches. I’m not sure what suddenly becomes so interesting on the footpath ahead of them or if they’ve spotted a particularly big carp in the stream alongside, but clearly whatever it is takes all their attention. A loud ‘hello’ doesn’t even break their concentration. Truly astounding and remarkable.
  • A smile does help. More people responded to a smile combined with a greeting than a neutral expression.
  • Sunglasses also make a difference. If people can see you’re looking at them, they are more likely to respond. Also, many non-greeters and most of the ‘focus-on-the-footpath’ group were wearing sunglasses.

My main takeaway is that I greet automatically and that it bothers me when there is no response. What I’ve decided to do is to continue greeting but to not be bothered when I don’t receive a response. I enjoyed the experimentation and will likely continue that as well. I haven’t given it a try while out on my bike yet. It will be fun to see if I have similar results. So, if you spot a tired, slow guy running or cycling around Dublin, California just smile and wave. He’s harmless.

Hair today, gone tomorrow!

To shave or not to shave? That is the question. It’s one that I’ve pondered from various angles for many years.

As a kid, I was fascinated watching my dad shave. From the start of the  process when he would apply the shaving cream with his little brush to the end when the Old Spice was dabbed onto the freshly shaven chin. I used to watch him often and always with the same sense of wonder. I’d then copy him with soap and my toothbrush handle.

I was around 17 when my mom decided that she didn’t like my beard and it was time for me to start shaving. Up until that point, I had not touched the teenage beard and moustache. It wasn’t a pretty picture. My dad always made it look so easy but my acne and lack of razor skills resulted in a bloody mess. The response from my schoolmates the next day also didn’t help  – laughter and snickering abounded. This was a turning point for me. Up until then, I had viewed shaving as an important step towards manhood. A rite of passage. Now it became a task. One which involved significant loss of blood nearly every single time. Decades later, I still don’t enjoy shaving. I’ve been through a few phases where I wore a goatee but that involved more shaving rather than less because constant trimming was the only was to maintain the style. Most recently I took part in the Movember fundraising efforts along with a number of my work colleagues. We raised a fair amount of awareness and cash (~ $5,500) for men’s health. And I amused a number of people at the office.

Earlier today, Stephen Amell, TV’s Arrow posted the photo below. Aside: Arrow is a really cool series based on the DC comic book hero, Green Arrow. A billionaire playboy turned bow and arrow wielding vigilante (think modern day Robin Hood). But more on my love of superhero comics in future posts.

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I had never heard of a ‘Speedo’ let alone a ‘Manzilian’ – my eyes were watering just from the thought! What do guys and girls out there think? Is this necessary? It seems to be that body hair is not that popular anymore. Chest hair is no longer a sign of masculinity (has it been replaced by abs?) and waxing for men is becoming the norm. Hair below the neck line is out. But beards seem to be growing 😉 in popularity. Lumbersexual is now a thing (Google it). I must confess, I’m not sure what to make of it all.

Years ago, when I was cycling more regularly, my cycling buddies convinced me that it was important to shave my legs. All the cyclists do it they said. It’s better for aerodynamics, it means you don’t get as hurt if you fall because the hair won’t get stuck to the tar and rip your skin open as much and it’s easier to rub the Deep Heat/Massage Oils in. Peer pressure masquerading as good arguments for another disaster! I have extremely hairy legs. Shaving them was not without further blood loss. And the hair grows back. Slowly and in as itchy a fashion as possible. I didn’t see any speed improvements – my main motivation. But it was definitely easier when applying Deep Heat. Also, post-shower toweling off was much quicker. I had no idea how much water leg hair can retain. This musing about my itchy shaved legs reminded me, however, that a study has been done with a pro-cyclist where it was proven that there is a performance boost when your legs are hair-free. The details and findings of the studying are discussed in this YouTube video. I’ll leave it for you to decide. I have a feeling that I’m not fast enough for shaving to make much of a difference. Probably better to get stronger and fitter.

Anyway, for now I’m going to continue shaving my beard around 3 times a week. Not on weekends if I can help it. I’m also going to leave my hairy legs hairy. And I’m definitely not going to be trying a ‘Speedo’ or ‘Manzilian’ on my unmentionable regions.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried either one.