RUN THE YEAR!

HITTING 2021 RUNNING!

2021 is a whole new  year and now that we’re done putting a bow on 2020, it’s time to dust off the ashes of the old year and do what needs to be done to make 2021 a better year than the dumpster fire we all just survived. I don’t think that there’s a person alive today that will look back on 2020 with fond memories.

So here we are in this new year with another chance to start over once again. As I stated in my previous blog post, this year I’m changing the format of InstantCoffeeWisdom.com a bit.  New content will still be uploaded on Sundays, but only once or twice a month instead of weekly, and I’m shifting the focus away from finance and politics towards running and fitness. You may be asking yourself why. The answers are simple. Over the last three years, I have provided you all the tools and advice you need to get your financial house in order.  I’ve proven by my example to you that just as I am having a comfortable life free from the self-imposed monetary burdens that enslave many people, you too can free yourself from these chains. I have written over 100 articles on budgeting, saving, planning, and investing. I’ve provided you the keys, now you must open the locks and free yourself. You must do it yourself, I cannot do it for you.

As for the lack of discussions of politics, let’s just say that I’m done with politics for the foreseeable future. The results of the 2020 presidential election broke my heart, and I see dark days ahead for my country. Donald J. Trump was the president America needed. May God have mercy on our fallen nation.

As I have said many times in the past, your health is your wealth. Staying strong and healthy will shift the odds in your favor of a long and happy life.

I started 2021 by hitting the ground running. I mean this both figuratively and literally. The phrase ‘hit the ground running’ means to start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm. On New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2021 I did something again which I did last year. I got up early and went out for a run. Unlike last year though, this time it was a solo run, as well as a virtual race.

Last year when many of my official races were cancelled, I discovered ‘virtual races’. If you are unfamiliar with the term a virtual race is one when you sign up online and pay your entry fee.  Then you pick your own course and distance, and time yourself with your GPS runner’s watch, or phone. You upload the results and you get your medal in the mail.

Now I had signed up for not just one but TWO virtual different virtual races. One for just that day, and one that lasts the entire year.  For New Year’s Day, I selected a virtual race called ‘Run out of the 2020 Zone into the 2021 Zone’ because the finisher’s medal had a Twilight Zone theme to it. This race was sponsored by Goneforarun.com  I was only intending to run a 5K, but I got caught up in my enthusiasm and kept on running. I don’t know what I was thinking when I passed the 10K turnabout point and kept going. It was below freezing and I was not prepared for a long run. For some odd reason, the thought of running a half-marathon popped in my head, but by the time I had run 4.7 miles (7.6K) down the trail,  I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew and had to turn back.  The final 2 miles were a struggle, but another  runner who had passed me earlier was now heading back as well, and she was able to provide encouragement and conversation as we matched pace and ran back to the start.  It was a good thing Kris happened by when she did because I was discouraged and just walking at that point because I was cold and tired. I ended up finishing with a 15K (9.3 miles) that took 2 hours 38 minutes 46 seconds to complete.  The temperate was 24°F (-4°C)

What prompted me to press on beyond my initial intention of just running 5K (3.1 miles) was the OTHER virtual race I had signed up for. For 2021, I had opted to join the RUN THE YEAR CHALLENGE. This is a yearlong virtual race offered by runtheedge.com where you run 2,021 miles in 2021. It has a beautiful finishers medal that anyone would be proud to display.

Now how you run this seemingly impossible distance is entirely up to you. The key is to have a plan, and this is where the 6P Rule comes into play. Simply stated  the 6P Rule is: ‘Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance‘.  Memorize that phrase, learn it and live it. If you are going to be successful, you MUST plan. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Without a proper plan firmly in place at the onset, failure is inevitable.

When you divide 2,021 miles by 365 days you get 5.53 miles per day. That’s not a bad exercise goal to stick to for the year. I do not own a treadmill, there is no space in my apartment.  Running outside is far better, and it’s free. The problem lies with the weather. There are days when running outside is a miserable option, or even out of the question. As I said, right now it’s bloody cold outside, but I am managing to run about  20 miles a week despite the cold weather and the 60+hour work weeks I face at my day job. I’m trying to run distances of at least 7.5 miles at a clip. Sundays are my long runs, so anything up to a half-marathon is possible , weather permitting.  Last Sunday Jan 17th 2021, I ran a winter half-marathon for the 1st time ever. Temperature was 36°F. I chose the 2020 Dumpster Fire Half-Marathon from virtualstrides.com

Just like 2020 was a Dumpster Fire of a year, so was this run. To my credit, I did not give up despite the cold, but this was my worst time ever for completing a race of this distance. 4hours 26Minutes 55seconds. Normally I can run this distance in about 3 hours or less, but I have NEVER run this far in temperatures this frigid, so there is no sense beating myself up over this.

Last night I ran 7.5 miles, and it was a much faster pace.  So far this month I have run 50 miles. Today is Sunday Jan 24th 2021 and I’m going for a long run, probably a 15K again. As I RUN THE YEAR, I will continue to post progress updates as well as upcoming races where I can be found.

NEXT 2 UPCOMING LIVE RACES:

HumBug Bustle 5K Saturday Jan 30th 2021 Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K Sunday Feb 14 2021 Muhlenberg PA

When the weather gets warmer, I should be able to run further distances and more frequently.  I only have 1,971 more miles to run, and I have the strength and motivation to accomplish it. Perhaps my fitness journey will encourage you to pursue one of your own.  The year is still young. As always I wish you success and happiness!

PUTTING A BOW ON 2020!

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone!

Well, this has certainly been a very different and disappointing year for most of us, to say the least. Unless you were living under a rock,  you know that COVID-19 (or as I like to call it, The Snowflake Flu) struck mid-March shutting down most of the world for months, cancelling plans and pretty much ruining people’s lives.  The whole year flew by in the wink of an eye. Today is Christmas Day. It’s 30°F and there are occasional snow flurries here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year! In 7 days it will be 2021. Decades ago, television station WPIX 11 in NYC began the fun NYE tradition of running a Twilight Zone marathon. 2020 was not my favorite year, and I think many people will second that. I felt like I was living in The Twilight Zone, my only fun was running, and I ran my first marathon.  I found a virtual race for New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day that had a Twilight Zone theme that just fit this entire sorry excuse of a year. Add-ons included a Christmas ornament which was the very last one which I places on my tree, next to a door and a blue ball. The blue ball was from the first real Christmas tree that I had in my apartment. If you recall the intro to the Twilight Zone, (depending on which of the 5 seasons ) These is an eyeball, a door, or a spinning black and white cone. I think I captured the look.

Two weeks ago, our evil tyrant, state Governor  Tom Wolf shut down PA for the rest of 2020, forcing more closures, cancellations, and misery.

Last night was the 1st time in 20 years that I didn’t go to Christmas Eve service.  Stupid shut down and mask rules. So I worked 13 hours.  Today I slept in and did my virtual Kris Kringle 5K race. My last 3 December races were postponed to January,  or in the case of the Kris Kringle 5K went virtual.

Now you’re probably wondering what happened this summer as I was training for a (cancelled) marathon, and getting ready for a vacation at the shore. Suddenly without warning my weekly blog went silent without warning. I apologize for that. If you were worried about my health, I did get injured a couple of times, but nothing serious.  Also, my day job is considered essential, and because of COVID-19 we have been severely short-handed. I have been working mandatory 12 hour days six days a week, and training or racing on Sundays. Over the last 3 years, I have taught you everything I know about how to succeed. There is nothing new that I have to share about health, wealth, politics, religion, or attitude which I can explain to you. From this point on, your success is up to you. I have given you all the tools you need. If my advice has fallen upon deaf ears, there is nothing I can do.  Starting in 2021, InstantCoffeeWisdom.com will no longer be posting weekly. There WILL BE new blog posts, at least once or maybe twice per month, and the focus during the coming year will be on running. Hopefully my longtime readers will enjoy the new focus and format.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and there is always something to be thankful about  if you pause a moment and think. Maybe 2020 was a very bad year for you and you are one of those people who blames the year for your misfortune.  Find things in your life to be thankful about and shift your focus there. Attitude is more important than what is happening in this crazy world we are living in. Seize control of the things that you have the power to change and be the architect of your future success and happiness. One week from today you will have a whole new year. You can continue to wallow in self-pity, or you can choose to do something about it! Right now, I am home all alone on Christmas Day. What am I doing about it? I did a virtual race, I took pictures of Christmas trees, I looked at beautiful displays. I am posting a blog, one last time for 2020 to show you that happiness is a choice you have to make for yourself.  To show you that success is possible if you choose to pursue it. To prove to you that you can do ANYTHING if you are serious and do the work required.

So what happened with my running and the marathon plans?

The USA re-opened in July and REAL races returned by the beginning of summer. I signed up for every race available. I was still doing my Hal Higdon marathon training, and I was attempting to run my first 30K Trail Run in August when I fell at mile number 5 during the Double Trouble 15K/30K. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and severely slowed me down. As a result, I could only complete the first lap, 15K.  My bruises on my thigh took 4 weeks to heal.

I went to the beach for Jeep Week through Labor Day down in Ocean City Maryland, and ran 5 miles on the boardwalk in the early morning  several  times during my vacation. By September I was fully recovered, and on September 20th, I ran a solo 20-mile run completing my marathon training. As the Phily Marathon was cancelled, I was determined to keep training and stay in marathon shape until the time came. I ran a half-marathon every Sunday in October. Life happens.  I never gave up! Quitters never win and winners never quit! This IS attitude! This IS Determination! This IS how you succeed in the face of adversity! YOU DON’T QUIT!

I signed up for the LABOR PAIN 10 ENDURANCE TRAIL RUN being held on November 22nd . (This race normally is 12 hrs, and was postponed from its NORMAL Labor Day Weekend Sunday, as well as being re-located to French Creek State Park, all due to COVID-19 restrictions ) By shear co-incidence, this was now scheduled the EXACT SAME DAY as the Philly Marathon was supposed to have been held. I ONLY INTENDED to run 24 miles, that was my INITIAL GOAL. I figured, trail runs have dangerous and uneven footing in spots, so a slow nice 2.4 mile pace for 10 hours= 24 miles, and it would be good training for the future marathon, whenever it eventually happens. First thing Ron Horn (the world’s greatest race director!) asked me was “what’s your goal today Michael?”. When I said 24 miles , he replied “24? If you do that you’ve GOT to go for the marathon!” I just said “we’ll see”. 7 hours and 56 minutes later, I finished my 6th 4-mile lap. 24 miles, with 2hrs. 4 minutes to go on the clock.

THEN I GOT THIS WILD IDEA! If I can JUST run another 7 miles, I can pull off a 50K! I almost have enough time if I really haul ass, I thought to myself.  I could ULTRA before I marathon!  I only needed 1 more full lap, plus 1 out-and-back to the 50K turnaround sign. I took off at break-neck speed as I began lap 7 with darkness approaching. 1.22 miles into the lap, maybe 50 yards past the Marathon out-and-back turnaround sign, I tripped and slammed full force into the rocky ground! I hit so hard my Garmin Forerunner 945 ended my run to send off an emergency distress beacon! This ‘special feature’ sent out a text message to all my emergency contacts alerting them that I had an accident. It gave GPS co-ordinates and a live tracking map of where I was, just in case I am immobilized or unconscious.  I cancelled the alert, texted and phoned my emergency contacts that I was ‘alive and mobile, sort of’. Then I took a step, and my leg informed me that I was NOT finishing this lap, nor beginning an 8th. So I limped in pain back 1.1 miles in the growing darkness. It took me ONE HOUR to go ONE MILE. I had bruises on both knees, right thigh, stomach, scratches on my left calf, plus I injured my left iliotibial band which let me know with every painful step.  I finished my endurance run at 9 hours 21 minutes 43 seconds having completed 26.2 miles. I had not intended to run a marathon, but I had ‘accidently’ done so. I had pushed myself to new personal records for both time and distance.  My awesome running friends (all of whom ran 40 to 48 miles each) grabbed my gear and helped me to my car after we paused for our team photo.

I could not walk for the first 2 days after the race, and it took weeks to fully recover. If you want to avoid sports injuries, don’t do sports.  They go with the territory and whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. By  December 6th I was back at French Creek in Elverson PA  in time to do the Dirty Bird 15K trail run.  

My body heals much faster from injuries now that I am in the best physical shape on my life.

When 2020 began, I had planned to run just 25 races. By the time 2020 was almost over, I had run more than 50 races instead. When you push yourself to new and greater heights, nothing is impossible!

The way I see it, you have two choices in life. You can sit on the couch and become a mountain, or you can run up a mountain and become a MAN! I choose to be a MAN! Your health is your wealth, and you should spend every day of your life working on some form of self-improvement. If you think you’re perfect, you’re perfectly wrong. There is always something you can improve upon. I made a decision to do something about my weight three years ago when I began the odyssey of diet, exercise, and self-discovery which got me from couch potato to marathon man.   I did my research, I asked questions of expert runners, and I changed my entire lifestyle. I ate healthier, exercised more often, and got more sleep.  As a result I feel great and I am in better shape now than I was at 25.

Your life IS YOUR LIFE. You are responsible for you own wealth, health, success, and happiness. The world owes you NOTHING. It is your job to pursue your own personal path to success. It is out there. Opportunity abounds and the possibilities are endless.  You yourself have to do the work! No one is going to do it for you, and even if they did, could you truly appreciate it? There is pride in personal achievement.

 If you refuse to set an example and inspire others, then you become a cautionary tale. There are people watching you every day that you aren’t ever aware of.  Countless people I have met during my runs have told me I’m amazing and called me an inspiration. It is a humbling experience to be held in such regard. Everything that I have done to make my life better, you can also accomplish as long as you have the courage to make the necessary changes and the determination to tough it out to the finish line.

The caterpillar cries that the world is ending while the butterfly shouts the adventure is just beginning! You can fly too, but you MUST leave your cocoon behind. So as we leave 2020 behind, make the powerful and wonderful decision to take the steps needed to live your life to the fullest!  Choose to be the best YOU that you can possibly be. Don’t repeat the same year over and over and call it a life. Fly into 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and the determination to soar to new heights! You are not alone! God is with you always, and with God all things are possible! I wish you all the happiness and success that God has planned for you in 2021!      

FEEL THE HEAT!

Some LIKE it hot? NOT!

FEEL THE HEAT

Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on
Some feel the heat and decide that they can’t go on
Some like it hot, but you can’t tell how hot ’til you try
Some like it hot, so let’s turn up the heat ’til we fry

Feel the heat pushing you to decide
Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not

(Lyrics from the song ‘Some Like It Hot’ by The Power Station – 1985

You may have heard it said about a person that they were ‘not worth their salt’. This phrase refers to the practice of paying Roman soldiers partially in salt. Salt was an expensive commodity because it was scarce in the ancient world. This salt money payment given to the Legionnaires was called ‘salarium’ and our modern English word salary is derived from that.

Roman soldiers used salt to help prevent muscle cramps from dehydration, and this is why ‘some’ people still think taking salt tablets is a good idea. Maybe if you were living back in the nineteenth century or earlier.

The chemical name for common table salt is ‘sodium chloride’ but when athletes sweat during extreme exertion and in high heat conditions, what they are really losing in their perspiration is electrolytes. Electrolytes are types of ‘salts’ which include not only sodium and chloride, but potassium and calcium as well. They are electrically charged minerals and compounds that produce energy in our bodies and allow our muscles to contract. Physical performance is affected by both the loss of electrolytes AND water! Low electrolyte levels will cause muscle cramping. Severe electrolyte imbalances can cause serious problems such as coma, seizures, and cardiac arrest.

Electrolyte pills should ONLY be used by athletes during extreme workouts and  long distance runs, especially during periods of high heat and humidity.  

Likewise severe loss of water (dehydration) can kill you! Water is one of the seven vital nutrients that our bodies NEED to survive. 

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There needs to be a balance of the electrolyte and water content in our bodies.  This is regulated by our kidneys. The kidneys remove wastes and extra fluid from the body, producing about 1 to 2 quarts (liters) of urine daily.  

Urine should be clear or a lightly tinted yellow color. The darker the color of your urine, the grater the level of dehydration.

Summer Running

Athletes need to train in order to improve their physical performance. Training schedules need to be strictly followed to get the most out of the training effect . Bad weather can delay training by a day or two AT MOST, but skipping entire weeks will undo everything you are trying to accomplish.  If you are training for a fall marathon, you will be running 3 to 4 days a week, all summer long, probably in high heat and high humidity. At least one of those weekly run days will be your long run. Yes, it’s going to be hot during the summer. So logically, you are going to be hot, sweaty, tired, and thirsty towards the end of your workouts, and especially during those long runs. The average person sweats between 0.8 to 1.4 liters, or 27.4 to 47.3 ounces per hour of exercise. (That’s equal to roughly one to three pounds of body weight.) You need to replace that fluid loss!

The general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during runs is: Take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. Runners running faster than 8-minute miles should drink 6 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. You may need more, you may need less, but it is of the utmost importance that you listen to YOUR BODY! Everybody is different, and EVERY BODY is different.   

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Heat Exhaustion VS Heat Stroke

You may at some point experience some symptoms of HEAT EXHAUSTION, you DO NOT want it to become HEAT STOKE.  HYDRATION IS CRUCIAL!

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms

  • headache
  • dizzy or fainting
  • heavy sweating
  • cold, pale and clammy skin
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fast, weak pulse
  • weakness or muscle cramps
  • excessive thirst

What to do

  • Hydrate with water or sports drinks. No alcohol.
  • Move to a cooler, air-conditioned place.
  • Lie down.
  • If fully conscious, sip water.
  • Take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
  • If vomiting continues, seek medical attention.
  • Act quickly. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
  • Remove tight fitting clothing or extra layers.

Heat stroke – a medical emergency

Symptoms

  • headache
  • confusion or delirium
  • may lose consciousness
  • no sweating/dry skin
  • hot, red skin
  • nausea or vomiting
  • rapid heart rate
  • body temperature above 104° F

What to do

  • Call 911. This is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Use cold compresses to reduce body temperature.
  • Do not give fluids

The mind / body disconnect

It is very important to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I cannot stress this enough.  YOUR BODY is YOUR BODY. You know what works for YOU. You know what YOU need. Sometimes athletes push past what their body is telling them and force themselves to continue on by sheer force of will.  This is a mind/body disconnect where you are ‘in the zone’. You refuse to give up because quitters never win, winners never quit, and YOU ARE A WINNER! You yelled! You cursed! You prayed to God for strength! And you pushed your way through to the end with blood, sweat and tears. And hopefully you got stronger from the experience. Believe me, I’ve let out a primal scream or two myself as I forced my exhausted body and tired muscles to  up the pace as I charged towards the finish line in a mad sprint of speed.

There are times that I’ve beaten myself up because I’ve run at a much slower pace than I know I am capable of. The problem is that heat changes pace! The hotter it gets, the worse your pace becomes because of the added stress of high heat and humidity. Training is Summer is tough! Optimal running temperature is between 50°F and 59°F. Average runners add 2–2.5 seconds to their pace for every degree F above 59° F. Once you get above 85°F your speed is about 20-25% (or more ) slower than normal, so you push harder because you can’t understand why you are suddenly running like a snail on a course made of peanut butter!  It’s okay to do that, but it’s not okay to ignore your thirst in high heat and humidity.  Dehydration if left untreated leads to HEAT STROKE. Twice this Summer, I ran out of water 2-3 miles before I ended my long run. Believe me, it sucked!

Tired man lies in the sand next to a bottle of water

It’s better to heave water you don’t need than to need water you don’t have. On long runs, you need to self carry water, or pre-stash personal water supplies along your route where you know the will be undisturbed if discovered by passers-by. I use both methods. Last week I ran 15 miles for my long run using the Hal Higdon Training plan for marathons. I ran out of water at mile 12 because it was 92°F but felt like 100°F with the humidity added. Today I will be running 16 miles on a different trail, and will bring a lot more with me. Hopefully It won’t be as hot as last Sunday!

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As always I wish you success and happiness!

THE TRAINING EFFECT!

THE TIME  vs. THE TOLL

THE TRAINING EFFECT

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.– Isaiah 40:31

I have been in training for months now as I prepare to EVENTUALLY run my first marathon. I was originally planning to run in the Philadelphia Marathon, but it was cancelled this year. I am now HOPING instead that I can run in the Gettysburg Marathon, assuming it too, does not get cancelled. Unfortunately In my case two things have been affecting my training.

First,  my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article.  Sometimes I do not have time to finish and post these articles because I MUST go running.  

Second, we’ve been having a heat wave here in South Central Pennsylvania and working 10 to 12 hour shifts 6 days a week in 95°F heat with high humidity has left me drained and exhausted.  Last Sunday I barely was able to run 9.5 miles, and I had zero energy after work to go running all week. I work outside all day, and usually walk a distance of about 7 miles. Today I was planning on running 15 miles, and again on next Sunday, but it is raining! My training is suffering as a result, but as I stated in my opening paragraph I am currently unsure  when or if I will be running a marathon this year. I do have three very important upcoming races this month, so the lack of ability to train has me greatly concerned. I’m running the Thirsty Thursday Races on August 6th and 20th, as well as the Double Trouble 15K/30K Trail run on August 16th. Training for these races is crucial!

WHAT IS TRAINING?

Athletes are often ‘in training’ for upcoming competitions of one form or another. Training is NOT the same as ‘working out’. Simply going to the gym a couple of times a week is just a normal part of being physically fit. Some type of regular exercise is needed to be healthy, there are just no ‘if, ands, or buts’ about it. Exercise can be anything from walking to riding a bike riding, lifting weights, or just going push-ups and sit-ups.

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Training is a programmed series of exercise routines of increasing duration and frequencies, conducted over a period of several weeks or months, the purpose of which is to take the athlete to a higher level of personal physical performance. It is a battle against entropy. It is how a 40-something can beat a 20-something in a race. It is a way of maintaining that peak level of health and strength that the young take for granted.  The harder you train, the better you are.

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Most runners use the Hal Higdon marathon training program, or some variation of it.  Hal Higdon is a writer, coach, and former marathon runner. He has run over 111 marathons and written 34 books on running. His proven training methods have stood the test of time.  The basic training plan is a 20 week regiment of speed training, cross training, and a weekly long run of increasing distance, followed by a rest day.  It can be found online for free. Although the information is readily available, training does have a cost. Time and commitment!

 If you do not stick to the program, you will not achieve the desired effects. You MUST do the exercises, and you MUST put in the time. An ‘accountability buddy’ can help you stick to the plan, so find a friend and go run!

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Skipping one week of training can undo two or more weeks of progress. Your muscles start to stiffen up and your body enters a reverse mode where it heads back to its normal resting point. Likewise it is just as possible to maintain the physical level achieved at the end of the training program by continuing to do those activities. This is why some highly competitive athletes are ALWAYS ‘in training’ and tend to be in the top spot for a very long time.

UNFORTUNATELY, the difference between the professional athlete and the amateur is that for the professional their sport IS their JOB, whereas the amateur must still try to fit in a full-time day job to pay the rent.  A profession athlete can achieve amazing, even super-human achievements if they have someone else providing them with a constant source of revenue.  

THE MARATHON OF HOPE!

In 1977, Canadian distance runner Terry Fox lost his leg due to bone cancer. He was walking again in just three weeks and soon began an aggressive 14 month marathon training program. In 1980, he sought sponsorship and donations to fund a bold attempt to run the entire length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness.  Starting on April 12, 1980 Terry Fox began running the equivalent of a marathon EVERY DAY for 143 consecutive days, with an artificial leg! He had to abandon his 5000 mile quest on September 1st 1980 because his cancer had spread to his lungs. He ran a total of 3,339 miles. Nine months later he succumbed  to the disease and passed away on June 28th, 1981 at age 22. He is considered a Canadian national hero and there are statues, parks, roads, and buildings named in his honor.  His effort raised $1.7 million for cancer research.

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500 Marathons in 500 Days! (And then some…)

Ricardo Abad Martínez is a Spanish ultrarunner and holds the Guinness World Record for most consecutive marathons, 607!  Originally the plan was 500 Marathons in 500 Days,  but upon completion of the goal on  February 12, 2012, he upped the ante and proclaimed he would attempt another 500 bringing to proposed target to 1000 marathons in 1000 days. Unfortunately he failed to secure funding to finance his endeavor and he abandoned his plan after he ran his 607th marathon.  He was 42 at the time. More impressive was the fact that he did while working a full-time job at a factory. In some cases, he even ran two marathons in less than 12 hours depending on if he ran after work, or before his shift began.    

In my case, my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article. I apologize to my regular readers if it’s been hit or miss lately,  but I’ve been a tad overwhelmed by everything. I’m hoping the rain stops at some point today so that I can at least do a short run. As always I wish you success and happiness!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

The importance of training!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” — Hal Higdon

According to legend, Pheidippides was a Greek messenger who ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory in the battle against Persia in 490 B.C. He said to the king of Athens, “Joy to you, we’ve won” and then he immediately died on the spot. This is depicted in the famous painting Pheidippides by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869.  

Phidippides

Twenty weeks from today, on November 22, 2020 I will be running my first marathon.  The modern marathon was named after the famous run by Pheidippides, but it is by no means a death-sentence.  According to a medical review conducted in 2016 the risk of death during or shortly after running a marathon is between  .6 and  1.9 deaths per  100,000 participants.  According to cardiologist Dr Lim Bee Chian  marathon runners often collapse near the finishing line because the build-up of lactic acid in the blood during the run triggers abnormal heart rhythms. In addition, they also suffer from exhaustion, emotional stress, dehydration and heat stroke.

On average, approximately 40% of participants in a marathon are first timers like myself. In many cases the marathon is their first official road race, which is a terrible idea. There is a very old saying that goes ‘You need to learn to walk before you try to run’. On New Year’s Eve 2018, after being inspired by long distance runner Nathan Maxwell, I began training to become a runner. I was not training to run a marathon first, I was training to run a 5K race that was months away. On Sunday April 28th, 2019 I ran my first ever 5K. A few months later I ran my first ever 15K, and a few months after that on September 7th 2019 I ran my first half-marathon. The following month I did it again and ran my second half-marathon.  The important takeaway point I am trying to make is that the training was essential. It was consistent and methodical.  In 2019 I ran a total of 11 officially timed races, this year I had planned to run double that number.  

Long races which are officially timed have support stations along the race course for runners to grab water, Gatorade, or little packets of glucose gel to enable you to keep going. Shorter races such as 5Ks often provide water and snacks at the end. The average time for a 5K race is 30-40 minutes.  10K runs average 50-70 minutes. Good times for half-marathons and marathons are 2hrs and 4hrs respectively, and involve maintaining a 9min per mile pace. I cannot run that fast yet, but I am getting better. Longer faces have cutoff times. Typically 4 hours for a half-marathon and 7 hours for a full marathon. So basically if you can run at a consistent pace of 15min per mile, you can still finish the race before the cutoff time, but you have very little wiggle-room.  I average about a 13min mile, and I am still considered a new runner. I only ran my first official race 14 months ago, so I am just two months into my second year of running, but I am definitely faster than I was a year ago.

Then mid March, the coronavirus shut down all the gyms and cancelled almost every race I had lined up for this year as part of my training regiment.  This in and of itself could have thrown off my entire marathon training plan. Fortunately  Gina,  a member  of a run-club I belong to shared a virtual run series that spanned 12 weeks. Last  Sunday was the final race. During the series I ran 37 races, all timed with my professional runner’s watch, a Garmin Forerunner 945. If you add the 4 races I got in before the virus that shut down the world struck,  I have run 41 races so far this year and am at nearly 4 times as many races as I ran in 2019, so I know what I am doing. A runner runs, and I am a trained professional now. I created an info-graphic depicting the 37 races I ran for The Un-Cancelled Project over the 12 week series.

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If there is one thing I have learned in my 14 months as a runner, it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s both the pace, and dehydration.  Since most races currently are virtual, there are no water stations so I need to self-support. As a Clydesdale (a heavy-weight runner) I require more water than the average racer, especially during these hot summer months. Dehydration is a killer. (So is carrying all those sport bottles of frozen endurance fuel!)  As I start gradually increasing my distances according to my running plan,  the water needed may become a problem.  So far I have run 4 virtual half-marathons in the past two months alone.  I underestimated my water needs for the 1st one May 2nd. So I ran out after 11 miles with 2.1 miles remaining and the hot sun beating down on me.   Fortunately Steve, another member of my run-club was able to bike out to me with a water bottle. This is why I carry my phone while running.  This is also why it is important to run with a group, but as our schedules don’t always mesh, lately I have been doing a lot of solo runs.  Over the next  5 months I will be running 4-5 times a week and following a custom training plan which I derived from several popular marathon training plans including the Hal Higdon plan. Always remember you plan to fail, if you fail to plan! As always I wish you success and happiness!  

WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION?

Carrot or stick?

WHATS YOUR MOTIVATION

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.– Jeremiah 29:11

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Wishes and dreams are very nice things to have, but they remain just that unless you set plans in motion to accomplish them. This is why we must have goals in life. The human spirit cannot thrive without hope. It is hope that allows us to make plans and set goals for a better future. It is hope which provides us the impetus to strive to achieve those set goals. However, If we TRULY wish to achieve those goals, we must believe that they are absolutely possible. The moment we say to ourselves “I can’t”, or “it’s impossible”, we have defeated ourselves and we are done! Despair is a dream killer. A positive attitude is fuel for the soul when you are running  on empty.

The Cake is a lie!

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The phrase “carrot and stick” is a metaphor for the use of a combination of reward and punishment to induce a desired behavior. There are some people that for whatever reason cannot ‘self-start’. They sit idle in a vegetative state, unable to take that initial step on the path towards their goals. When someone else is dangling a carrot in front of you while threatening a stick for punishment, they are motivating you to do their work. You are accomplishing ‘their’ goals not ‘yours’. For just a moment, think of this concept at your place of work. The ‘boss’ tells you to get to work, you do your job because you don’t want to get reprimanded or fired (the stick). So you work either willingly or under duress, and you earn wages or bonus pay (the carrot). Now ask yourself, who is getting rich off  ‘your labor’? This is why you have to find your own carrot! It’s out there waiting for you. Probably gagged and tied to a stick in the forest of despair.     

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Motivation is self-motivational!

Once you learn to become a ‘self-starter’, starting is easy. Like the Nike mantra, you “Just Do It”! Habits both good and bad are easy to form, and hard to break.   When I started running at the beginning of 2019, I had a lot of bad habits. It’s very easy to be lazy. I had set a personal goal on New Year’s Eve 2018 that I would start distance running in 2019 with the goal of eventually running a marathon. I was still fat although I had been dieting for over a year at that time. My goal for the first official 5K race I ran was not to be last. I wanted to finish, I knew 1st place was IMPOSSIBLE even with roller-skates and a rocket-powered backpack. It just was not going to happen. So I contented myself with the goal of finishing the race, any place except last. A runner runs, and I wanted to be a runner! On April 28th, 2019 I ran and finished the Beat Beethoven 5K race at Alvernia University in Reading PA, and I was NOT last! Moreover, I received a plethora of compliments from complete strangers that for a first attempt  I ‘did great’. I now knew it was possible to run that distance, that people were rooting for me, and that next time I would do better. I was a Clydesdale ( a heavy-weight runner) and I had found my ‘carrot’!

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Life throws  curve-balls!

After the first year of running, I had set goals in place to run twice as many races, more than two dozen with the big race being The Philly Marathon on November 22,2020. This would be my first marathon ever and the coveted Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal would  be mine! Running a distance of 26.2 miles was no longer an impossible dream, it was a developing reality that was growing from hard work and determination.  Also I had made new friends in the running community, and we had formed a make-shift running club which I dubbed ‘The Pack’.  And then mid-March, COVID-19 AKA the virus that shut down the world cancelled all my slated races in Spring, Summer, and possibly even some in Autumn as well. Now, here’s where being a ‘self-starter’ and having good encouraging friends comes in handy when you’re running down a dream.       

Gina, one of the more competitive runners in the group stumbled upon a virtual running series from Run The Edge which was called The Un-Cancelled Project. When the information about the FREE series was disseminated  to the group, I was a little skeptical. Joining a FREE series wasn’t going to cost me anything, and besides, with all the official races cancelled, it was the only game in town. It also convinced me to finally purchase a professional runner’s smart-watch,( a Garmin Forerunner 945) so that I could record my time and distance during these virtual races.  

Each week had a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

Initially, the series was set for 6 weeks, with 5 races a week. Two ‘beginner’-5K and 10K, one ‘intermediate’- a half-marathon, and two ‘advanced’- a full-marathon, and an ultra-marathon. Due to both the popularity of the free series, and the continuing coronavirus lock-down, the series was expanded to 12 weeks, and two additional races were added to accommodate the beginners (a 8K) and intermediates (a 15K). Also added was the ability to purchase an optional series t-shirt and finishers medal.

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Considering that most races cost $30 and up anyway and did come with t-shirts, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to purchase a series t-shirt and medal so that I had something to show for my hard work. I mean we did get free ‘virtual bibs’ for each race that we could customize with pictures and print out, but t-shirts are nice conversation starters and medals look great hanging on a trophy wall.

Speaking of the virtual bibs- a runners ‘bib’ is the paper number they wear pinned on the front of their shirt while running to identify them during a race.  With official timed races, a record is kept by the race officials of each runner and their time. After the race is done, many runners like to keep their bibs for posterity. So the virtual bibs that you could customize lack a runner number and show the distance instead, but you could add a picture in its place. I did that with a few of the 33 bibs I earned thus far.

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GRATITUDE WEEK was a before and after body shot showing how much weight I’d lost my first year as a runner.

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COURAGE WEEK was my first virtual half-marathon and friends who ran it with me.

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JOY WEEK was a collage showing my personal bests, courses, and the friends I ran with that week.

PERSERVERANCE

PERSEVERANCE WEEK highlights my fastest 15K ever!

I must say that these last 11 weeks have been awesome, and Monday June 15th, 2020 marks beginning of the final week of the series LIFE WEEK. Once again I plan to run FIVE races 5K through half-marathon like I did during JOY WEEK, and possibly break at least ONE personal record doing so. And that is the importance of having a goal! Quitters never win, but winners never quit and EVERYONE loves a winner!

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As always I wish you success and happiness!

THE ‘TRIPLE WHAMMY’!

It’s a cruel, (cruel), cruel summer!

THE TRIPPLE WHAMMY

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head–Lyrics from Summer In The City by The Lovin’ Spoonful 1966

 

wham·my

  • /ˈ(h)wamē/
  • noun
  • INFORMAL
  1. an event with a powerful and unpleasant effect; a blow.

“the third whammy was the degradation of the financial system”  

      2. an evil or unlucky influence.

“I’ve come to put the whammy on them”

Last weekend was Memorial Day in the USA. It has long been regarded as being the ‘unofficial’ start of the summer vacation season. But we are now living in a new reality because COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world has put a major damper on summer fun this year. Like many Americans, I work, save, plan for, and eagerly await my summertime fun. Often it is a mix of several events spread out over  June, July, and August, and extending just beyond Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately this year will be a ‘cruel, cruel summer’ because many people will be forced to spend their summer at home, unable to afford a fun summer vacation. Their vacation plans will be washed away like a sandcastle on the beach.

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around
Trying to smile but
The air is so heavy and dry
Strange voices are saying
(What did they say?)
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got
Right out of hand

It’s a cruel, (cruel), cruel summer
(Leaving me) leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, (it’s a cruel), cruel summer
Now you’re gone –lyrics Cruel Summer by BANANARAMA 1983

I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones. As I am considered an essential worker, I have been gainfully employed during this nearly three month (so far) COVID-19 shutdown. I have also managed to escape a financial ‘Triple Whammy’ that has befallen many ‘non-essential’ workers at shuttered ‘non-essential’ businesses.  

I have NOT:

  • lost my source of income
  • lost my life-savings
  • racked up past-due, and mounting debts

This triple whammy affects not only many individuals, but many businesses as well! All of these shops that have been closed down since mid-March have still been racking up business debt. Rent continues to be changed whether you are open or not as long as you have a lease. Monthly utility bills must be paid. Payments on business lines of credit must still be made. Many of these businesses will NEVER re-open, and their employees will have no job to return to as a result.

The only real inconvenience that I have been facing is the reality that some of the things that I really wanted to do this summer may not be possible.

My favorite kayak rental place DELAWARE RIVER TUBING is not expected to open till possibly mid-June.

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I sincerely doubt I will be going horseback riding this summer.

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JEEP WEEK in Ocean City MD is still slated as of this date, and hopefully will not be cancelled at the last moment.

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Some of my summer races are now in jeopardy, and they may be cancelled for this year.

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Although all of my ‘official’ races since the shutdown have been cancelled up to this point, I have managed to replace them with virtual runs. I’m running more now than ever before, but it’s just not the same. I miss some of my fellow runners that I only see at the official races, and I am thankful that I have my small group of running friends that meet up several times a week for a ‘fun-run’, and food.

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I am a runner, and a runner runs! I MUST keep running on a regular basis, as I am in training for my FIRST EVER FULL MARATHON. I have run five of the past seven days! I have done a 5K, 8K, 10K, 15K and even a Half-Marathon! I WILL NEVER GIVE UP! The 2020 Philly Marathon is still slated for November 22nd at this time. This event is very important to me. Over the past three years I have been working my utmost to improve my life, and I can honestly say that I am in better physical shape now than I was in college.  

Where is GOD?

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  – Psalm 107:1

As I have previously stated, I have managed to escape all of the devastating effects of the coronavirus, physical, social, and financial. No one in my family, or in my circle of close personal friends has died from the disease, or even contracted it for that matter. Atheists and cynics might claim that it’s very easy for someone in my fortunate position to praise God. All things come from God. God has a plan, and from a human view point it is often hard, and sometimes downright impossible to determine. That is because the mind of man is finite and God is infinite.

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I am absolutely positive that there are God-fearing Christians all around the globe who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Maybe they lost everything, including family and even their own lives. Yes, people are dying. People die every second of every day and have been dying for thousands of years. Our lives are but a vapor, and this world is not our home. When we tragically lose a loved one to disease, an accident, or natural causes, it is sometimes easy for us to ‘forget’ that God gave his only begotten son Jesus to die a horribly painful death on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him may be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and God is always to be praised, and is always good. God does not give us anything that we cannot overcome.

Consider the story of Job. Job was a righteous man, blessed with wealth, sons, and daughters, who lived in the land of Uz. Job lost everything including his children but continued to give thanks to God and to praise and worship him throughout  this entire ordeal. Painful boils covered his entire body.  His close personal friends could not comprehend why this was happening to him unless he had done something wrong. His own wife advised him to just ‘curse God and die!’ But it was all just a test and Job passed and he was restored to health, wealth and lived to see his children to the fourth generation.

I could not have accomplished all the things I have done, or received all the blessings in my life had it not been for God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I became a Christian back in college, and I could not be the man I am today without God. Hopefully you too feel the same way as I do, because God is real, and God is good, ALWAYS! As always, I wish you success and happiness!     

THE FOREVER QUARANTINE!

What are we waiting for???

THE FOREVER QUARANTINE

The  Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup 
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up; 
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;— 
It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized. 
 
They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;         
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees; 
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope 
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap. 
 
In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears; 
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;   
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand 
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band. 
 
There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play; 
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day; 
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—   
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

poem Strictly Germ-proof by Arthur Guiterman  (His poem was published in the Woman’s Home Companion in 1906 and poked fun at the growing obsession that Americans seemed to have with trying to keep things clean.)

I cannot speak for other countries, but I am seeing a growing frustration with this seemingly endless shutdown. COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world is by and large the top health topic of 2020. Everyone, everywhere is affect by this stupid virus in one way or another. It is impacting health, finances, and religious activity. I like a large group of American citizens feel that the timing of this shutdown and its impact on the nation during an election year is highly suspect.

It seems that there are two camps right now, each firmly entrenched in their own beliefs. Disagreeing with a member of the ‘other camp’ will not change their mind, it will only bring down a storm of wrath and hatred upon you.

The two camps are:

  • those who seemingly believe that COVID-19 is the worst plague in the history of the world and is destined to wipe out all life on Earth unless we shut everything down and quarantine everyone for an ‘safe’ period of.. oh say, maybe a decade?
  • those like myself, who feel that this ‘killer plague’ is nothing for healthy individuals to be concerned about, but that the ramifications of shutting down the economy are far worse than any super-flu.

The country needs to go back to normal TODAY! You quarantine sick, elderly, or infirm people to protect THEM. Forcing healthy people to stay locked-up takes away their freedom and their rights.  This is tyranny, and people need to rise up.

If you are an ‘essential worker’ or have a monthly income, sitting at home is a minor inconvenience. Small business owners stand to potentially lose their life’s work and savings. Furloughed employees in many cases have NO income and cannot feed their families. They MUST get back to work FAST or their children will starve. When this lock-down fist occurred, it was supposed to be temporary. A couple of weeks. Two weeks in March stretched to first ALL of April, then ALL of May, and now PART of June, but maybe longer, and watch out, there might be a ‘second wave’ in the Fall. This madness must end. Just this past Friday there were protests at the State Capital calling for the impeachment and or resignation of Gov. Wolf because of his handling of this crisis.   

“We have a saying in the movement that you can’t trust anybody over 30.” Jack Weinberg activist, in an article printed on November 15, 1964

It’s funny how the hippies back in the 1960’s used to say don’t trust anyone over 30. Once they themselves finally ‘grew up’, their tune changed to ‘don’t trust anyone under 30’. It’s ironic how things come full circle. I believe the most dangerous part of this society today is how these young people, the so-called ‘millennials’,  are so quick to get information and affirmation from peers or viral internet memes, rather than seeking timeless wisdom or expert opinion. It’s as if any bit of information that didn’t occur within their lifetimes does not exist. It’s hard to blame them in some cases because the signal to noise ratio is so vast. When I was a very young boy, the internet didn’t exist, we had seven TV channels and there was no such thing as DVD’s or streaming content. If you missed it, you didn’t see it unless there as a re-run.

Today, with the full sum of human knowledge in the palm of their hand, people choose what facts the want to believe,  and ignore anything that doesn’t fit their narrative. Again, who can blame them? There is so much content being generated each day that it would take a lifetime just to read, watch, and listen to everything created that day.  Now you miss it because it becomes buried in the miasma emanating from the internet.

I AM THE BUNNY OF DOOM! FEAR ME!

Lately I have been focusing on the past.

The poem Strictly Germ-proof has been running through my head for the better part of the week.  Especially the last two lines of the first stanza. When people see me walking around refusing to wear a mask or gloves, I see their loathing. I am ‘the bunny’, but I refuse to let THEM freeze me in a freezer cold as banished hope!  This bunny has teeth and will lash out in self-defense if you attempt it. I have had co-worker who practically accused me of attempting to murder their entire family because I refuse to comply with these CDC recommendations. If you think a mask and gloves will save your life, YOU wear them! If you feel I am some asymptomatic ‘Typhoid Mary’ stay as far away from me as you feel safe. Go take a long walk on a short pier, it might do me some good. And as you sit in self isolation,  maybe you should watch the 1931 film Laughing Gravy, it’s one of my favorite Laurel and Hardy films and should be available to watch online somewhere.  As always I wish you success and happiness!

REALITY IS VIRTUAL!

(At least for now…we hope!)

reality is virtual

As you well know by now,  in mid-March most of the USA, as well as nearly every nation on Earth began shutting down EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE that was deemed non-essential due to the world-wide pandemic COVID-19,  AKA the Wuhan coronavirus, sometimes shortened to just corona.

It is now nearly two months later, and most of the fun things in life remain shut down. You cannot go to a movie theater with your friends, dine in at your favorite restaurant or pub, and any large gathering if severely frowned upon by people who INSIST that the virus that shut down the world will wipe out all life on earth if you get within 6 feet (2 meters) of another person, or if you don’t wear a face mask, or if you don’t wear rubber gloves, or if you don’t bathe in hand sanitizer. When this began, we were told that these small sacrifices would be temporary, then the weeks turned into months,  the rules went from voluntary to mandatory, and still there is no end in sight.

People are so afraid of dying from Covid 19, that they remain locked-up at home and instead contract Covid-15! What is Covid-15 you may ask? Covid-15 is the new name for a health disorder contracted by first-year college students who would gain 15 lbs by eating unhealthy foods and not exercising. All joking aside, your best defense against the coronavirus is to have a healthy immune system. You get a healthy immune system by having a healthy active lifestyle, and eating healthy foods.  Sitting on the couch glued to the TV for hours a day, munching on Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew is probably the fastest way to wreck your health during this lock-down.  

For people who just go to the gym to exercise, this shutdown has cut off their only outlet for exercise. Unless they have fitness equipment at home, or can improvise make-shift weights, they are out of luck. Or are they?

I can make you a new man!

Charles Atlas  (October 30, 1892 – December 24, 1972) was a bodybuilder in the 1920’s  who developed a no-equipment exercise program called Dynamic Tension almost a hundred years ago. He began offering his free program by mail in 1929. In the Charles Atlas exercise program, you use your own body to provide resistance and are able to exercise weight-free. You can do these exercises virtually anywhere. These are far more effective than isometric exercises, another equipment-free exercise method.  No gym required. So if you’re determined to not step one foot outside until this ‘exaggerated’ crisis is over (probably five or six years from now), you can find all of these dynamic tension workouts online. There are countless YouTube videos . And best of all, they are still FREE! Like the late Charles Atlas proclaimed, give him 15 minutes a day, and he will make you a new man!

GET OUT AND RUN!

Forcing sick people to stay at home is called quarantine. Forcing healthy people to stay at home is not only wrong, it’s tyranny! Many healthy people are frustrated by this lock-down, and they are demanding that the various states in which they reside be re-opened. Again, the doomsayers proclaim that if the ban is lifted, death and all the miseries that plague humanity will come out just like opening Pandora’s Box. I say poppycock! A runner runs! Without access to a treadmill, either at a gym, or a home unit, a runner needs to hit the open road. Since the shutdown, all the remaining races of March, as well as every race in April and May have been cancelled. Now races in June and July, possibly even August may be cancelled as well. State parks have been officially shut down, as have some trails. Again I am thankful that this virus struck in 2020, not a year ago in Spring 2019. I was training at the gym in March and April last year as I prepared for my first ever official timed race, Beat Beethoven at Alvernia University on April 28th, 2019. My first race ever, and six weeks of training leading up to it would have been obliterated. I probably never would have run again.

Fast forward a year later, and now I have a group of amazing friends to hang out with every weekend.  Originally before COVID-19 struck, several of us were planning to run in the Gettysburg Half Marathon to celebrate my one year anniversary of running.  Since the fixed date moves, I now recognize the last Sunday in April as my anniversary date. I was then going to follow up with the Ocean City MD Island to Island Half Marathon.  But as I said, officially timed races are all on hiatus for the immediate future. I, like many runners MUST keep training for upcoming races, pandemic or not! I will be running my first ever FULL MARATHON in Philly on November 22nd,  just over six months from now.

The ONLY thing left for the professional runner to do is sign up for ‘virtual races’ and watch it themselves to clock the time and distance using their runner’s smart watches.  Virtual races are where you register for the race online, then you run that distance anywhere, alone or in groups, on the trails and streets, or even on a treadmill IF you have access to one during this insane quarantine.  Fortunately RunTheEdge.com     has been offering a FREE series of virtual races so my running friends ‘The Pack’ and I have been doing many of these either alone or on in smaller groups during the week, and in much larger groups of six to ten on the weekends. There are also pay-to-run virtual races that will provide you everything from a bib and T-shirt, right up to a finisher’s medal. I personally believe that every time I run a distance of 13.1 miles  or more, I DESERVE a medal.  If you are interested in swag, do a search to see what virtual races are out there and what they offer. Many of them donate a portion of their profits to charities, so you get to do some good for your fellow man.   

Since the last Sunday in April got rained out, a large number of The Pack got to together and ran various distances up to our abilities on May 3rd, 2020. Felicia, Steve, Lacey, me, and Gina ran Virtual Half Marathons (VHMs) together.

uncancelled

I will caution people that running long distances solo and unsupported is a bad idea. IF you are going to run a VHM or further distance, run with a buddy of equal ability and try to set up water stashes along your route. 13.1 miles is a long distance to run without water, and although we all made it,  we won’t make that mistake again. I was the ONLY one to carry a personal sport bottle, and I ran out after ten miles.  I am the slowest member of the group so my run took an extra hour. Fortunately the faster runners were able to bike out to me with a water bottle by the last mile of my run.

For my first VHM I chose one that offered a medal I craved, TheCrushCorona, a depiction of the dread virus being stomped beneath a runner’s sneaker made me very happy. This was my third half marathon, and my best time yet.  

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As for the rest of The Pack, Allison who suffers from exercise-induced asthma  ran an 8K. Two of the Spartans, Justin and Steph ran a virtual endurance challenge called the  Yeti Ultra 24 Hour Challenge. They had to run or walk 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours.  It was a real party, a total celebration with good friends and pizza! We had a blast!

thepack

Unfortunately, a few members of The Pack got backlash from germophobes who felt the need to scold and insult us for our reckless behavior, and for partying while ‘people are dying’. Newsflash– life is for living! No one in the group is sick! Even the two weakest members of The Pack are stronger than the ‘Iowa Couch Potato’.  We support each other, and the strength of  The Pack IS The Pack! We are healthy BECAUSE we LIVE HEALTHY. Your best defense against COVID-19 is a strong body and a healthy immune system.

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This weekend, The Pack decided to mix things up. We drove to a new trail, planned to run 7 miles, followed immediately by what I thought was supposed to be a 14 mile bike ride. At least that was the plan. First, it was an unseasonably cold day. As we were unfamiliar with the terrain, we overshot the bike part by 5 miles, extending the journey to a total of 24 miles. 

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My biking ability is not YET up to a 24 mile trek, especially after running 7 miles in under 90 minutes. 14 miles MIGHT have been doable for me, but the extra mileage did me in so I had to wait a few minutes for rescue once I could pinpoint my location to an intersection at a road crossing. Again, this stresses the importance of the buddy system (and carrying a cellphone) when running or biking long distances.  You do NOT want to be injured and alone in an unsupported race.  

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So if you TRULY desire to live your life to the fullest, get out there and run and enjoy yourself! If people feel the need to tell you how to live YOUR LIFE, ignore them! Haters gotta hate! It’s who THEY are, and what THEY do. YOU are better than THEY ever will be, YOU are amazing! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

WATCH IT!

Another record broken!

watch it

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ —Henry Ford

Stopwatches in one form or another have been around since before the USA was even a country.  The very first stopwatch was called a “physician’s pulse watch” invented by Samuel Watson 1695 as a custom project for surgeon John Floyer. It was able to measure an accuracy of 1/5 of a second.

In 1816 Louis Moinet  created the “compteur de tierces” (1/60 second counter), which looked remarkably like a modern stopwatch, and could be reset at the touch of a button.  This personal scientific instrument was way ahead of its time (no pun intended). It would take another century before a more precise stopwatch would be produced. In 1916 the Heuer watch company produced a  stopwatch accurate to 1/100 of a second.

Since the nineteenth century stopwatches have been an essential tool in  the racing circuit. By 1881 they were joined by the ‘photo finish’ invented by photographer Ernest Marks at a track in Plainfield, N.J to determine winners of  horse races that were ‘too close to call’. These instances where the outcome was to ambiguous to be determined by the naked eye used to be referred to as ‘dead-heats’. In the result of a dead-heat, officials had no choice but to declare the result a tie. Now in the current day improvements in technology, including digital super-slow motion replay, computer tracking,  pressure-sensitive digital timers,  and chip timers have rendered dead-heats all but extinct.

In 1962 science fiction author John D. MacDonald wrote the novel The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything. In the novel Kirby Winter inherits a remarkable stopwatch that can literally stop time for everyone and everything, except for the person holding the watch. Kirby uses this incredible watch to change his life for the better.   

Last month I brought an incredible watch to change my life for the better too, although it’s not as awesome as the watch Kirby Winter had in the aforementioned novel. It was an anniversary gift to myself was I was coming up to the one-year as a runner date.

Just over a year ago I started training for my first  ever race. The event was called Beat Beethoven and held at Alvernia University in Reading PA on Sunday April 28th, 2019.

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The event was timed by Pretzel City Sports, a local race-timing company owned by Ron Horn. I was both excited and terrified. I finished the race and made by goal. I vividly remember being told I did great by a woman who I later found out was Helene, Ron’s wife. My second race was a 15K the Chobert Challenge, also timed by Pretzel City Sports (PCS). My first half Marathon was the Bird-in-Hand Half on September 7, 2019. Although PCS was not timing the event, Ron and Helene were in attendance and again gave great encouragement.  All in all I ran nearly a dozen races last year, picking up tips and making many friends along the way.

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Two things I noticed about my fellow runners, besides the encouragement.

  1. Many of them wore these long socks.
  2.  Many of them had special runner’s watches.

In 2020 I planned to run two dozen races and compete in my first ever full marathon. Then  COVID-19 struck and the virus that shut down the world closed all the gyms and then began cancelling one race after another.  To date all my official timed races that had been slated for April and May have been cancelled or postponed, and June is now looking iffy too. As I had been relying upon timing results and marked distances from these races to chart my progress, this became problematic.  You don’t know how far you’ve come unless you keep accurate records to chart your progress. I don’t even have the treadmill at the gym right now due to this stupid virus!  A runner runs and I refuse to let some  virus  derail my marathon goal!         

Fortunately I have good friends to run with, marked trails to run on, and I was using my smart-phone to keep time, more or less. If you’re going to do any job well, you need the proper tools. Most of my running friends have runner’s watches. So I bit the bullet and made the purchase. (This watch cost more than any of my first 3 used cars!)

I decided to purchase the top-of-the-line tri-athlete Garmin Forerunner 945. Garmin makes one other even more expensive ‘total’ sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, but as far as runners are concerned it’s the Forerunner line, and the 945 is the top!

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There are many players in the sport-watch field, but Garmin is widely believed to be the industry leader.

Most runners have the discontinued Forerunner 235 that came out years ago. This is Gina’s 235:

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My 945 has many features that earlier models do not have, as well as all the common features that  runners have come to rely upon. After using my watch for just one month, I have seen a definite improvement in my performance.  For a more detailed list of feature specs on the watch, this is from the Amazon listing:

  • Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
  • Download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer (may require premium subscription with a third party music provider)
  • Performance monitoring features include Vo2 Max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude Acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make convenient payments with your watch so you can leave your cash and cards at home
  • Full color, onboard maps guide you on your run so you never get lost during your workout
  • Safety and tracking Features include incident detection (during select activities) which sends your real time location to emergency contacts through your paired compatible smartphone
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. Display resolution – 240 x 240 pixels

I haven’t  yet mastered all the features as I am still in the learning phase, but this is definitely the king of sport watches, and I have never been more happier with a purchase of a wearable tech product.

The watch tracks and records  all my runs via GPS. It lets me know when I make a new personal record!

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It monitors my heart rate and oxygen levels.

It has a coaching function.

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It makes predictions based on my performance.

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I can download maps!

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It  has a compass!

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Oh, and it can tell time.

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Because of the expense of this item, I highly recommend purchasing an extended warranty, and investing in a screen protector like I did to keep the watch face from getting scratched.  If you are a serious runner, you want to protect this invaluable tool for as long as you own it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!