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3 Marathon Movies and today's run.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

In the last week or so David and I have watched three movies about marathons. He's been a good sport about it, really. I was never so good about watching movies about his girevoy sport! Two were serious and one was just for fun.

Running the Sahara is about three top marathoners who were already good friends, who decided to run literally across the Sahara desert, from Senegal to the Red Sea.

It took me 7 days to drive 3400 miles the last time I crossed the United States. It took them 111 days to run 4400 + miles across the Sahara. It is hard to imagine. We got hot and cold in our pickup truck and camping in tents on the ground (we didn't use hotels because we traveled with goats, ducks and dogs but that's another story...) We showered four times and thought we stunk. These guys barely showered, endured very cold nights and 140 degree days for 111 days! It's just mind boggling.

The leader of the group was a hard drug addict less than 2 decades ago, but cleaned up and was addicted to running. It was his entire life. He got sponsors and doctors and pushed the project through. He weedled, badgered and coached. He is the one who made it happen. You love him, hate him and admire him. How could you not?

One of the men - from Taiwan - was a born athlete, and had been running from the age of ten. He had the love and support of his countrymen but worried about danger and was lonely during the trip since he had no cultural or language similarities with the crew. He did speak some limited English. He also suffered severe dehydration for part of the trip.

Another runner was literally a smoker and drinker TWO years prior. One day just decided he was not doing himself or his family any favors by living the way he did so he just started running. He was just an average athlete by his own admission. He was dogged by aches and pains, but he had incredible heart. He was my favorite. He loved his wife and he just kept plugging away. How could you not admire a guy like that?

All along the movie, you find yourself thinking: what am I doing complaining about 80 degree heat and 90% humidity? What am I doing complaining about a tiny little blister? Or a stuffy nose? Gee whillikers! Have I got it easy!

But then the men run through some absolutely beautiful scenes and you feel envious of them, too... and for a moment you want to trade in your treadmill or high school track for some of what they are seeing... until they peel of their shoes or have to get an IV to take care of their dehydration... and then you remember that maybe the high school track is pretty dang awesome, after all.

The second marathon movie is a joke, really... but it also reminds you that maybe 80 degrees and tiny little blisters aren't so bad.

Run Fatboy Run! is about a man who ran away from his pregnant fiancee on the wedding day... and after than avoided exercise whenever possible except lifting beers and chasing shoplifters during his job as security officer. When a hot new man proposes to his ex... and he finds out this hot new man is going to run in the London Marathon, our protagonist also says he'll run the marathon to win her back, not realizing at all what he is saying. The rest of the movie follows his very painful and laughable training. And you will find yourself going, "No, no don't DO that!" and covering your eyes, hoping he'll avert a disaster right before he gets into yet another one...

I won't spoil it for you. You'll just have to rent it yourself to see if he gets the girl or she goes for the hot marathoner.

The Spirit of the Marathon follows multiple people as they train for and finally run in the Chicago Marathon. Two of them are hurt during training. One of them you can completely predict will be sidelined... he was in denial about how much he was eating, how hard he was training, how much the odds were stacked against men, etc... The other one was a surprise. But watch how they handle their injuries.

You also watch other marathoners, some of them young, some old, some repeat contenders and some running for the first time. By the end of the movie, David and I had definite favorites. Again, I won't spoil it for you, but we knew who worked hard and really deserved to finish well...

There was one Kenyan, though, we felt kind of bad for. He was competing among an elite group of Kenyans, and among such a group, it is hard to train to be number one. We really feel it is a mistake to announce one will be a winner among such a group... that is like angering the gods or tempting fate or something... The reality is, it is easy to train to not be in the back of the pack, or to not be in the middle of the pack, but how do you train to shave off one or two seconds? How do you know how the other guys are training?

While I was running today, it was Running the Sahara that floated in and out of my head. I struggled a little at the beginning of my run. But after the time when I usually feel like I need to stop and walk for three minutes or so and then have to push myself to get to 3.1 miles, I just ran. Not fast, but I ran for a straight mile. Now, I'll never get across the Sahara that way... but for a wheezing geezer, it's a start. I finished in 42 minutes including a 5 minute warm up.

Most of the time, I feel better on the second half of my run than my first half. My head seems to clear up - not mentally, but of allergy clogs. It takes at least 20 minutes. If I give up because I feel terrible, I never experience the feeling of relief and gratification and joy and pleasure that I get when I can breathe and I know I'll finish my 3.1 miles.

Better allergy weather is coming to the Oregon valleys soon - in July.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IFDEEVARUNS2 6/5/2013 3:01PM

    Loved Running the Sahara, but man, they are nuts!
Another favorite is the Hood to Coast movie.

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OWL_20 6/2/2013 7:01AM

    Thanks for the movie recs *checks netflix for the Sahara one*, have heard only good things about the "Sprit" one, too. Some of my favorites: Saint Ralph, The Jericho Mile and there's one with Michael Douglas (back in the day) as he becomes a runner. P.S. Glad your 3.1 went great! emoticon

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PHEBESS 6/2/2013 1:23AM

    Wow, I can't even imagine running across the Sahara!!!! I'd love to drive it - but run it? Wow!!!!

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    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Training - 5/28 Kettlebells and Running and 5/29 Running

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yesterday I did a short set of intervals with a light kettlebell and walking on the treadmill. I also did some other things, like skipping, skater squats, wall pushups, bicycle crunches and reverse crunches, but it's the kettlebells I want to talk about, because Spark featured an article about 'bells with links that about gave me a tummy ache.

I love Spark, but I worry about slides and a short paragraph describing complicated moves. Kettlebells are NOT dumbells. They are intentionally unbalanced weights. Much of the calorie burning awesomeness is due to the fact that the moves are done at explosive speeds, with these unbalanced weights swung from behind to in front to above to in front to back behind you. The weight, due to gravitational forces, becomes in turns significantly heavier, lighter, and heavier - and it also shifts in your hand, causing further weight stresses!

I tutor anatomy and physiology so let me be a smarty pants for a moment. Here's a little picture of the spinal column.

Below the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae (in the torso) are the only ones that are designed to allow both forward/backwards and side to side twisting motions. The lumbar vertebrae (larger, below them) are only supposed to move forwards and backwards, but may be accidentally twisted during sudden or ballistic weight lifting movements. This causes lower back injury, sometimes with disc herniation that requires surgical repair. So be careful, ok? At least seek out a video by a truly qualified instructor and go very slowly. Better still, seek in person instruction and go slowly. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but I would not go to a fitness instructor, whether they were "certified" or not. I would seek out an IKFF or IKSFA instructor as my first choice. If neither of them were available, then a WKC or AKC instructor. These men and women live, eat, drink, sleep and tour girevoy sport. They have seen it all. (At the very bottom there is a link to an introductory video by Valery Fedorenko. No, I am not being paid.)

If you feel really compelled to try it alone, at least start with a two handed swing and a light bell. Master that, then move on.

That said, if you are properly trained and do not have overstress any weak links in your own body, you can make significant fitness strides very quickly with kettlebells. I personally, because of worn vertebral discs, weak wrists, poor knee cartilage and not the best lungs in the world, only use them for a few minutes at a time, despite proper training from a bonafide expert. I do not intend to injure myself. But I do like the intense calorie burn. So I use them for 4-8 minutes at a time maximum, then move to the treadmill, then return to the bells. I never work to exhaustion because that's how injuries happen.

I'm going to touch on a couple of details that I don't think were adequately addressed, but with my own personal notes. I keep my back straight to prevent compressing nerves. Although many gireviks look straight ahead, I personally cannot do that because of cervical disc damage so also align my neck with the rest of my spine. In other words, I may be looking at the floor or straight ahead at any given second. That might make others dizzy, which would be a very bad thing while swinging heavy weights around, but having lived with the nerve damage for some time now, I am used to it.

Competitive gireviks do not squat low. You can't adequately pass the bell between your legs if you go too low, and there's no point in excessive knee strain. The goal is to squat just low enough and uncoil your knees and tighten your glutes simultaneously, which help to provide significant momentum for the bell swing. If you let your arms do all the work, you'll be seeing an orthopedic or hand surgeon in your near future. Let your lower body carry much of it.

If you do it right, you don't have to be a spring chicken. Here's a link to my husband competing at Arnold in 2010. I originally posted another one that was more current, but felt bad for a very nice fellow we know who put down his bells next to my husband and gave up. But I don't know the guy who gave up next to him in this video, so I don't feel bad at all! Heh, heh.

My husband is 67, almost 68 now. He recently retired from competition due to injury, but he was #1 in the US for years. He still uses bells, but lighter ones. I was sorry he hurt himself, but he recovered beautifully. (Unlike me) he still looks mighty fine and his cardiorespiratory health is tremendous. We're exploring what we can do together. Hiking? Running? Him biking beside me while I run?

Ok, enough about yesterday, kettlebells and my hubby.

Last night was another bad allergy night, but today, by the time I was free I had cleared up and felt pretty good.

Unfortunately, I had to stand in line for a long time waiting for immunizations for school and then when it was my turn, I had been daydreaming. I told the pharmacist I wanted my second Hep A and B and Meningitis. Du'oh! I meant MEASLES! Those dang M words! Meningitis was on my list, too, but I needed Measles first. Dang it. Now I need to see who I can convince to give me another shot even though I just had all those done, if I can convince anyone.

I decided to go to the gym right after my shots. Yeah, yeah, I know you're supposed to wait and make sure you don't have a reaction, but I was breathing pretty well and I had to get home soon so I wanted to get on with it!

Unfortunately, I was wearing the New Balances I bought a few weeks ago and they aren't very comfortable. (However, I LOVE my Nike Frees. They are extremely light and the tongue is hardly noticeable.) And although it was 70 outside, I knew it would be at least 5 or 6 degrees warmer in the cardio room, which is upstairs. But I was breathing, and that's important! And besides, according to Hansons Marathon Method (when you see my time below, it will be a joke that I am reading this!) you can build up heat tolerance if you keep working in it. I sure hope so because I am hot ALL the time.

I ended up doing 2.9 miles in 40 minutes, which includes my 4 minute warm up, several 1 minute walk breaks and a longer walk break in the middle. Then I slowed down for my cool down until I hit 3.1 miles. Actual run/walk time (rather than warm up/cool down time) was about 13 min/mile.

I'm in the 5k your way program and have decided if I still need this longer walk break in the middle, I'll just repeat week 3. (I just finished week 2.) I think I can probably give up some of the 1 minute walk breaks, but I'm not sure that it won't lengthen my recovery in the middle. In any case, my legs are ready to run straight through, but my lungs are not. And they're just a wee little bit important.

Below is a link to an introductory video about how to use kettlebells from Valery Fedorenko, a true girevik from Russia. (My husband trained with him in St. Petersburg. He is the real deal.) This video goes into incredible detail and if you watch it carefully and apply its advice, it may save you some pain.

I also re-copied the link to Arnold because it didn't seem to be working for me earlier in the paragraph above unless I cut and pasted it right onto Google. So here it is again:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 5/30/2013 11:28PM

    I saw the video. very impressive! There's a strange phenom on spark people with some links--they come up empty because they create an https:// at the beginning. I just delete the "s" at the end of http and then they will always work.

Good luck with the measles shot!

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THE_SHAKESHAFT 5/30/2013 3:24AM

    Great information. Thank you so much!

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Today's less pleasant run put in perspective with Korean soldier's runs

Monday, May 27, 2013

Today was not such a great day for me. Last night my allergies were so bad I had to sleep on the wedge, which isn't very comfortable, but it's better than not breathing. Hot flashes woke me up several times, too. So I knew when I got on the treadmill this morning that I might not perform very well. I was armed with tissues, an inhalant and my wet rag. I had all the windows open.

Yesterday morning I made a plan for today and I thought it was quite brilliant, but yesterday I felt good. I PLANNED to walk 3 laps for warm up, then to run a lap at a 12 minute mile pace, walk 1/2 to 1 lap, run another lap, walk 1/2 to a lap, etc... until I had gone 3.1 miles.

However, this morning I started my warm up honking and snorting and sneezing and blowing. I almost immediately realized that today was NOT the day for anything resembling interval training, sprints or any other kind of foolishness that required breathing. Today I would just focus on form. I am using my treadmill time to keep my feet low to the ground and my foot fall light. I am a heavy girl and I don't have good knee cartilage. I learned to walk quietly a long time ago from a friend who fancied himself 1/2 Lakota, but who may have been half loco. Now am I learning that running quietly is good for knees. (Another 20 pounds gone would be even better for this lacking cartilage. Interestingly, my knees never do hurt when I run. Only when I walk up stairs.)

I did check my blood pressure and pulse immediately before and after. Despite my enormously red face, my numbers were quite good for me. 131/90 and 80 before and 129/83 and 125 after. (My blood pressure is always good, but my pulse is usually higher before and after.)

I ended up running and walking whatever the heck I could run and walk. I was hot. I was congested. My inhalant turned out to be empty. My dog kept trying to get on the treadmill with me. I did 3.1 miles in 51.52 minutes.

But today is Memorial Day and I've known several soldiers who wanted to serve in WWII who have passed on - and one who still lives. I also have served and still serve a number of solders who were drafted into Korea. They did not want to go. They left good jobs, families they loved, nice beds (who cares about my wedge... at least I have a real bed!) Only one of the soldiers I work with actually wanted to go to Korea. The same soldier also served in Cambodia and Vietnam, willingly. If he hadn't been so badly injured that he couldn't serve in a 5th war, I think he would have kept serving. But he is rare. Our politicians like war. Our soldiers, it turns out, almost never, ever do. Go figure.

There is nothing I can experience here on my treadmill or on the streets of Oakland or on the technical trail I found (even though the hill looks to me like it never ends) that can remotely approach what those men experienced.

I will not have to slog through waist high snow. I will not lose three toes on one foot. I will not get shot. I will not have to march to a "mailbox" to receive communications from the enemy that turn out to be cartoons making fun of my mother. I will not have to try to stay awake in a fox hole when all I want to do is sleep, but sleeping means almost certain death. I will not have to carry packs through 110 degree heat. I am unlikely to get malaria even once, much less two or three times. I do not have to eat strange brownish, unidentifiable glop or go to bed hungry.

Whatever I do today - or tomorrow - is voluntary. No one drafted me to do it. This is my choice.

Many of the men (and women) who served in Korea and Vietnam were drafted. Those who signed up voluntarily were often made big promises that we would take care of them - and their families. We promised many of them the best medical care. Some of the veterans living in major cities may, indeed be receiving it. I don't know. I only know what I see here in rural counties. I also know that Korean vets are often ignored and Vietnam vets are often stereotyped. Let's properly care for those who live and properly show respect for those who have passed on.

And today, at least, while it feels like my head is plugged up with tube socks, let me remember that my suffering is nothing.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KATELOSS2009 5/28/2013 9:55AM

    Amen. Thank you for this. I had a lot of the same thoughts as I was working out yesterday... it was hot. and humid. and I had bug bites. and my water bottle was heavy....... and I was able to feel it all and go home whenever I wanted, unlike them.

perspective changes everything.


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IFDEEVARUNS2 5/28/2013 9:37AM


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MIRAGE727 5/28/2013 8:05AM

    AS one who has been in the VA system since 1975, I can tell that it has become a lot better in the last 20 years.I do agree with you that most in rural areas have to travel distances to get service.

I would suggest that you be very careful when running with situations involving the respiratory system. When I started running, I brought on and actually ran two 5Ks with pneumonia which put me in the hospital for 5 days! Just continue to listen to your body! Stay strong & focused. All the best...

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OWL_20 5/28/2013 6:02AM

    Aw, such a great blog. My Pop was drafted in WWII at nineteen then stayed in and served in Korea, too. I think the Korean vets are the most forgotten. **Glad you powered thru the workout, you may not be in the service, but you have tenacity that can be admired.

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HICKOK-HALEY 5/28/2013 3:25AM

    Twilight makes me laugh. My allergies have been acting up as well. Not as bad as yours though. I hope tomorrow is better for you. emoticon

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ADAGIO_CON_BRIO 5/27/2013 11:39PM

    I do hope that you feel better quickly. It is a very moving blog and I know that what you say is true. The Vets have been treated, in general, quite deplorably. The VA is badly broken. Congress does not seem to care. It is lamentable indeed.

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FELINEBETTER 5/27/2013 10:09PM

    Wow! a very touching blog! I hope you're feeling better soon. Take care. emoticon

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Today's run - much better!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I slept reasonably well last night, ate breakfast and showered this morning before my run. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but my aim is to be cool.

I went to the gym with wet hair to use the treadmill. (I tend to breathe better there than in my gym at home, which still smells a little after the water damage repair we had done this winter.) I did a 5 min warm up, 10 min cool down, 40 min run/walk. I hit an overheat zone at minute 19 of the 40 minute run/walk, but was prepared with a wet cloth. I slowed to a walk and ran that cloth all over my face, neck and chest. I walked about three minutes, decided I was fine and started running again. No nausea, no exhaustion, no other problems the rest of the run. None of my other walk periods were more than a minute. I didn't try to push my speed at all after I reached this overheat zone; I kept it about a 12.8 minute mile or so and was comfortable, not huffing and puffing.

I felt pretty good! When I got home, I took a sponge bath... and now I'm off to work! emoticon

Edited to add: after work I went to look at the location of a technical trail I found about 18 miles from home. There will be a race there this July. I didn't have time to run it today (due to more math, dang it) but I will check it out in detail this week and if I think there is even the tiniest possibility I can do it, I will sign up. Looks somewhat intimidating - lots of cow poop, and a hill that goes on forever, but it's also very beautiful, passes a pond and goes through a lot of trees.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

OWL_20 5/26/2013 1:25PM

    Woo-hoo on the run--that's wonderful! You're really doing great! And oh boy, that trail sounds like fun, wish we had something like that around here.

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PHEBESS 5/26/2013 4:52AM

    You might also look at what you had for bkfst - I find that makes a huge difference in my workouts.

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MARGARITTM 5/25/2013 6:34PM


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FELINEBETTER 5/25/2013 2:29PM

    Good work, Girl! Great management on your part! Have a great weekend!

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LINDAKAY228 5/25/2013 1:52PM

    Great job! I have a big problem with tolerating heat, and sometimes when I hike I carry a very light weight jacket or long sleeve t-shirt that I've wet with water and put in a plastic bag until I need it. Then I put it on and it really helps me.

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Started incorporating some plyometrics

Friday, May 24, 2013

I decided to introduce a few plyometric moves into my routine. My knees have iffy cartilage so I can't do a lot of "ballistic" moves, like a P90X video. However, I've felt very little muscle fatigue from any of my activity - just a general, pleasant burn on a couple occasions. So I feel like it's time to add some dimension to my program.

I am still very sleepy, and I've had bad allergies and asthma the past couple of days. The overheating/hot flashes haven't gone away, but I really don't expect them to. However, I am pleased to report that my nausea has been better the last two days, which is amazing because I've been snacking and drinking coffee constantly to try to stay awake while plowing through the statistics homework that is piling up on me.

I feel very strong physically. I took a before picture for the BLC and stared at it for a bit. I don't look as flabby as I feel. I have a coating of fat all over that makes me look shorter than I am but my head has not really adjusted to the fact that I lost my saddlebags and am unlikely to find them again. And I can see that there is muscle under that fat. (Especially in my right forearm. I want to sing Popeye's theme song about now!)

Today I did:

Plies - true plies, feet turned way out. I need to stand against a wall for these or I lose my balance - 2 minutes
Wall squats - sinking slowly so my butt is at a 90 degree angle to my knees - 2 minutes
Skater squats - 10 each side, alternating sides for total of 20
Jump squats (plyometric squats) - start with arms straight out in front and squatting with butt below knees. Jump. Repeat 20 times. (Yes, the last 2 weren't any fun!)

AB WORK - all on back with head to floor and arms under hips because of cervical disc degeneration:
Lying Straight Leg Raises - Sets: 4 Reps: 20 for a total of 80
Reverse Crunches Sets: 2 Reps: 20 for a total of 40
Bicycle Crunches - 20
Bridge ups - 2 minutes

And I hesitate to mention:
Side Plank - 1 pathetic, quivering minute broken down into multiple second reps

Wall Pushups - 80

Exaggerated skipping (plyometric/cardio/make the dogs laugh) - 5 minutes
Walking 25 minutes

By the way, I got some good hints to help me work through my recent discomfort. Owl20 suggested I could possibly be dehydrated, which is a possiblity considering my morning runs after nothing but a mug of coffee (and then I'm gasping for the water I've got with me.) IfDeevaRuns2 suggested I up my caloric intake despite the plateau to deal with the exhaustion. And LisainMS suggested I wear a heart rate monitor, which I feel stupid for not doing. I have a chest strap type that is very good, but I'm not wearing it. I've had tachycardia all my life. It's possible the nausea is due to a spike. When I get off the treadmill and sit down and measure my blood pressure and heart rate, of course they read about where I expect them to. I need instantaneous readings.

Due to the math homework piling up problem and some issues at work, I haven't done a serious run in a few days. But I'll do one tomorrow or Saturday and incorporate these suggestions and see if I feel better.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

OWL_20 5/24/2013 8:22PM

    I love the math picture because it figures in every math class I've been in, d'oh! Plyometrics are hard, have only tried them once then was mega sore the next day. But wow, you are doing great! Let us know how the runs go, hopefully the nausea dragon will be kept at bay.

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PASCAL921 5/24/2013 11:29AM

    I love it. The math picture is hilarious. And your workout is impressive. emoticon

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