Week 3: Train hard. Live hard?

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  Everyday I struggle between being a stoic Spartan warrior and a campaigning politician.  I love to be social, but I also love to train hard and get enough rest.  It’s June 1 and it is time to get serious. The last 2 to 3 weeks I’ve been living life and enjoying myself.  I won’t deny that I have slacked on my diet.  Saturday, I ran a 5k road race in Bogalusa. A few good friends ran it with me and we had a good time.

Even Ru had a good time

Although i did not change anything about my training in order to run well, I still should have run faster than 17:44.  Even though this race did not matter one bit and I really didn’t push too hard, I should have been able to go sub 17 easy.  It is time to get serious.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about the thousands of excess calories I consumed in the last few weeks. I realize that it is necessary to find a good balance between living well and working hard.  I am looking forward to a good summer of training and good friends to following me on bikes when they aren’t running with me!

Mark being a good coach

Play time is over now and I have my goals.  I plan to run the Blue Berry 5k on June 13th and go sub 17.

Mileage for the week:

Monday- 8 miles, strides

Tuesday-  4 miles

Wednesday- 6 miles, strides

Thursday- 4 miles

Friday- 7 miles

Saturday- 8 miles including 5k

Sunday- 8 miles, bombed long run but did a good leg workout

45 miles total


Week 2: The Transition

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Morning coffee on the front porch
I had so much to do this week but I have not hit the big mileage yet so it was definitely easier.

I had finals, all-you-can-eat wings at Applebee’s with the boys, end of the year party, Taylor swift concert, and a lot of visiting with friends and family when I got home on Saturday.
Sunday was the busiest, but the most fun.
Unfortunately, I cheated on my diet too much.
It felt justified because it would be rude not to except food and dessert from friends and family that don’t understand your struggle.
“Oh you will just burn it off tomorrow”
If only it was that easy but ‘m trying to live a little before the the serious training starts.
 Monday- 8 miles, strides
Tuesday- 4 miles easy
Wednesday- 8 miles, strides
Thursday- 5 miles, swim
Friday- Drove to Baton Rogue for the Taylor Swift concert
Saturday- 12 miles
Sunday- 4 miles
41 total

Riding in Paw Paw's Jeep
Riding in Paw Paw’s Jeep
Next week, I plan on getting in the 50’s.
I have a 5k in Bogalusa, LA planned for Saturday and I will use that as a tempo.
“Swamp Road”


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Covington High Cross-County 2010

A teammate occupies that grey area somewhere between a friend and a work colleague.
At the same time, a teammate can be more than a friend.
There is something unique about a group of people who suffer together for a mutual goal. Just being on a sports team exposes you to people that you would not be mixed with under normal circumstances.
In my sport and other endurance sports, I believe that the bond between teammates runs deeper than traditional sports.
I ‘m qualified to talk about the importance of teammates because I know what it is like to not have any. My freshman year of high school, I was the lone-runner of Covington high school’s Cross-country team. It was hard to believe that a 5A school with over 1500 students had only one cross country runner.
At the same time, the school across town (St. Pauls) had over 50 guys.
I was truly jealous.
At the starting line I stood by myself while the other teams did their group warm ups and pre-race huddles. Some of these teams were so big that they had a large cheering section during the race while my mom and coach stood by drowned out by the masses.
Eventually, I found some teammates.
Covington High Cross Country never achieved the numbers of the nearby schools but we had a team. Most years we had barely enough to score.
My sophomore year, half of the team would have probably been better off in other sports but we made it work. I made it work through my senior year and made a handful of lifelong friends that I still talk to on a regular basis.
Being part of a team and training with teammates is one of the most appealing parts of my sport. In addition to wanting to run faster, feeling like I missed out on a team-experience is part of what made me want to run in college.

Latech XC 2011
Latech XC 2011

My first year at Tech, I had high hopes for asolid team-experience. A combination of my decision to red-shirt (sit out a year) and the number of seniors lead to a disappointing experience.
I didn’t give up.
My sophomore year (my first year of competition) we were joined by some new faces but they did not stick around for long.
That winter, I got injured and missed my first indoor and outdoor season with Tech. I stopped hanging out with the guys and all at once it seemed like most of the team either got injured or quit.

The following year everything seemed to come together.
Anthony and Tor transferred from Iowa Central, me and Tom were finally healthy and wehad Taylor returning. Along the way we scooped Josh up off the street and then we had a solid group.
This was the first time at Louisiana tech that felt like I was part of a team. We had our moments but we were definitely a team.

Latech XC 2013
Latech XC 2013

At the end of that year, we moved into the infamous “XC House” and the rest is history.
Now, it’s the end of the year and half of the guys in the XC House are graduating or out of eligibility. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I have high hopes for a good team experience next year.
We have a solid group of freshman returning and I know they will contribute to the team in their own way.

For my senior teammates, I know this isn’t the end.
Tonight we will have our last fun time together in the XC house.
The team will thrive without you but each of you brought a unique dynamic to the team that will be missed.
Next year, Taylor won’t be around to be the warm-up king, Tor and Anthony won’t be talking smack constantly, and Josh won’t be around to balance out the immaturity.
You will soon cease to be a teammate and join the growing number of friends that I made while being part of this sport.
It was a good run and I will miss you guys.

Before I get too sentimental, I better stop here or else you guys will give me a hard time tonight.

Taylor, Tor, Josh, Anthony & XC House
Taylor, Tor, Josh, Anthony & XC House

Week 1 “A single step…”

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

– Chinese Proverb

I decided to make my summer training public for accountability (for all 5 people that read this).
Maybe I will get more detailed with pictures and interesting anecdotes, or I might get lazy and forget to post.
Either way, here it is!

I will stop posting my training in the Fall when we start Coach’s secret training plan.
Just kidding!  I’m only posting summer mileage because I will turn in a summary sheet to coach and his opinion is the only one that matters during the season.

Week 1:

Monday- 8 miles, strides
Tuesday- 4 miles
Wednesday- Swim/workout
Thursday- 8 miles, strides
Friday- 4 miles
Saturday- 5 miles
Sunday- 5 miles
Total: 34 miles

No long run this week because life is hard and finals suck. Saturday long run turned into Saturday-5 & Sunday-5.

Struggle Before Fulfillment

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This is my second blog so if you read my first piece and came back for round two then I am very grateful! I spent the better part of my weekend casually thinking about what I wanted my next blog to be about. Naturally the blog had to revolve around my race in some way so I figured a lesson could be learned despite the outcome.

IMG_1398So here it goes:

You cross the line, catch your breath and look up at the clock. Damn.
You may have known all along, or you may have found out at that moment.
Either way, it hurts- sometimes more than others, but for now it is the one of the worst things you have ever experienced.
That feeling may be amplified a thousand times more when one or more of your teammates has posted a personal best.
You may or may not have watched them finish from the other side of the track (unfortunately this has happened to me before).
You may want to cry, but you don’t because you’re too tough for that (and those guys will never let you live it down).
You might even be mad for a while and go pout under a tree while avoiding eye contact with your coach.
I ran a terrible time today.
I didn’t see the official time but I could honestly do without knowing for now. Anyone that has done any type of competitive running on any level knows the frustration of running a bad time. All the Tech Cross-Country guys are in a group text together, and I’m sure most of us would admit to having been annoyed (and maybe slightly ashamed) when we’ve had to send out our times.
Today is one of those days.
Right now, I have a strange combination of disappointment and optimism.
I’m disappointed for the obvious reason of running a terrible race. It is also my last race for the season with Louisiana Tech. The next meet for Tech is the conference meet; my season best in the 1500m would probably have a hard time fairing in the first 1500m of the 5000m in our conference.
I’m optimistic because I’ve recognized what has been holding me back and I know how to fix it. In an attempt to avoid explaining an overly complicated runner problem, I will condense it down to muscular imbalances and small issues with running mechanics (form). These problems can be addressed by incorporating a good strength and conditioning routine (i.e. weight training) as well as form drills.
Maybe I will dive deeper into this rabbit hole in a future blog, but for now I will take my bad time and let it be fuel for the motivational fire that still burns.

I’m a senior with one year of eligibility left and I’ve barely run faster than I did in high school.
I’m a complete walk-on for Tech, which means I’m not a high-dollar scholarship athlete.
I will log hundreds of miles this summer and throughout next school year in addition to dieting.
In the end, even if I run much FASTER than my goal times, I won’t be a national qualifier.
That being said, I will still keep chasing my goal.

In the words of Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

Hungry Lion Hunts Best

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I’m standing in the checkout line looking nervous as hell. k2-_91897ae6-dbec-4d3f-a9db-308ededc49cf.v1
Why should I be nervous?
I’m not doing anything wrong. Hell, a dollar and 98 cents was a steal so I’m definitely not doing anything wrong.
The line moves along. “You find everything ok?” the checkout girl asks. I nod and pay before I walk eagerly to my car. After I put the groceries in the back seat I look around again.
Why do I keep doing this?
I sit and contemplate my next move. My hunger is growing with every second as I think about what is in the back seat.
I look around one more time.
Just one scoop.
I turn around and pull out the small jar of crunchy peanut butter that has been marked down to $1.98. I turn the lid slowly as I think about the consequences of what I’m doing.
I have big dreams and I’ve come a long way.
Just one scoop.
I fight the urge for a few more seconds before I open the seal and gouge out a big glob of crunchy goodness.
Pure Heaven.
The feeling is short lived and I quickly have an urge to eat more.
Instead, I close the jar and put it in seat next to me to start the shameful drive home.

I shared this story of Wednesday’s trip to the grocery store in order to illustrate a harsh reality.
Dieting is HARD.
For me, it is a necessary part of training. I have a bigger build for a distance runner and love food.
Naturally this makes for a terrible combination.
Although I weigh roughly 160 pounds and run between 50 and 80 miles a week (depending on the time of year) I still struggle with weight.
“But you’re not fat!” says my Grandparents and other relatives.
True, but every pound adds up. My coach always offers to bring out a 10 pound plate for anyone to run around with for a few miles if they object to his suggestions to lose weight.

This season I decided to make a push for getting down to a good weight. I opened my season with a terrible 1500 meter time and after talking with my coach it became clear that I had to make some drastic changes. The last time I had made a big push for weight loss was in high school. From my junior to senior year I went from 172 pounds to 158 pounds. This resulted in some really nice PR’s and a trip to the State Track Meet.

It has been a struggle like no other. That being said, it has also served as a valuable learning experience. I now have great respect for anyone that is making an honest effort to lose weight. It doesn’t matter if you are 300 pounds and trying to lose a lot of weight, or a wrestler trying to drop a few pounds to make a weight class.
Dieting is hard any level.
Another positive side effect is my new appreciation for good, healthy food. I already have a healthy diet but my track season diet is more about cutting calories than changing the type of food.
As made evident by the opening story, my kryptonite is peanut butter. Unfortunately, my beloved peanut butter is dense in calories and full of fat and sugar.
The night of the grocery store trip, I had to leave the peanut butter in the car to avoid temptation. I came in and told some of the guys my story and we all had a good laugh.

I love peanut butter but you know what I love more?
Running fast.
I would give it up for 8 more weeks if I knew it would bring me closer to my goal.

My next race is at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday and I’m hungry. Not for peanut butter, but for something more.