Saturday, July 16, 2016

Slam Dunk

I have my sights set on breaking the world record for the Renaissance Mile. It is a multifaceted race that consists of six events, all of which are timed and totaled.

Technically the event was conceived and never officially claimed according to, the source that maintains the records. It is rumored to have been completed in just over 29 minutes; however, no supporting evidence was rendered making the claim nothing more than that – a claim.

The six events required to complete the Renaissance Mile as follows:

1. Run 1 mile
2. Solve a Rubik’s Cube
3. Drink 40oz of Malt
4. Dunk a basketball on a 10’ rim
5. Play Chopin’s Minute Waltz
6. Eat a pint of ice cream

They can be done in any order, but the clock is ticking from the start of the first through the final event.

A quick mental assessment tells me that running a mile will be the easiest event for me. Currently I log 15-20 miles per week. The only question regarding running a mile will be the pace depending on where I place it among the other events.

To be completely honest the event that intimidates me the most is eating a pint of ice cream. It may be easy for most people but it will wreak havoc on me. I don’t consume dairy not to mention eating while being physical poses other challenges as well. I don’t doubt whether or not I can do it though, but I am predicting that it won’t be pretty.

Drinking 40oz of malt should not be too difficult. Again, the question will simply be placement within the other events.

So that leaves the most challenging events: playing Chopin’s Minute Walt, dunking a basketball on a 10’ rim, and solving a Rubik’s Cube. These events will require a physical assessment to determine how much work is required so I can start training appropriately.

I plan to do a complete assessment of these three events in the coming days. All attempts will be documented. Stick with me and be entertained as I forge ahead. A sense of adventure and, and a sense of humor required!

-LM Out

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Renaissance Mile

Attempting to broaden my horizons in my never ending quest for continuous improvement I stumbled across something referred to as the Beer Mile by those who dare to seek out new and original challenges. Not exactly an Olympic event yet; however, a title just as coveted by those of us plugged into the underground running community as being a gold medalist.

For those of you unfamiliar with the event, the beer mile is where a participant must drink the entire contents of a 12 oz beer then complete a single lap running around a standard running track, 400 meters or ¼ mile, then repeat until 4 laps and 4 beers are complete. The event is timed, fastest time wins. One last detail, there is a one lap penalty for puking during your attempt.

In 2014 the 5 minute beer was broken by James Nielsen, which is as big of an achievement in the rogue running community as the first person to breach the 4 minute standard mile. Much the same fashion, once the barrier was initially breached others from around the globe seemed to follow suite with the knowledge that it was physically possible.

So where does that leave me? Rest assured I have little chance of ever breaking a 5 minute beer mile or being the world record holder in such an event. To date my fastest mile time is 4:58 and that is without consuming 4 cold beverages along the way. Granted there are age adjusted – or master’s categories - and even a grand master category, both which I think with the proper motivation I could potentially threaten. But those would likely be temporary as someone would come along at some point and take the title, just as I had done. No sir, I want my world record to stand the test of time. Or at least as long as possible.

As I scoured the internet for beer mile records I came across the official website for this unofficial event. I stumbled onto a lot of great stories, videos, and attempts to break this record. But then most unexpectedly I found a video of someone claiming yet another title: the Rubiks Cube mile. Lo and behold it dawned on me. Perhaps there is a world record that I could attain?

The person who claimed the Rubik’s Cube mile at that time was certainly not a runner. He was simply a guy that knew how to solve the cube who also happened to realize there was such a record and no one had ever properly laid claim to it. Yes, does require proof to review each attempt prior to posting claims to any titles and apparently no one had submitted such proof. So he plodded along a field in the dead of winter, on a snow covered track, completing 4 laps after solving the cube 4 times, and the rest is history.

Sure I used to solve the Rubik’s Cube around the inception of the game. I was hardly a math genius who created my own method, but I did have access to a book that taught you a method that worked in less than 5 minutes. Clearly that isn’t going to bode well these days. Search for Rubiks Cube videos and you will see people solving the entire cube in less than 1 minute.

I continued to look for a world record more suited for a person of my abilities and lightning struck. That once- in-a-lifetime find. A record that appeared to have been created for me. If not me specifically, then someone like me:

The Renaissance Mile.              

Perfect for a man with my diverse skill set. As you know a renaissance man was believed to be a clever person good at many different things. I immediately began to look at the requirements, evaluating how difficult it would be to complete each task.

In all there are 6 events necessary for claiming the Renaissance Mile world record. I plan to systematically work on the events, beginning with the event I deem most likely to require the most training first, adding in the events that require less training. I will document and detail each event along with my progress for this particular event over the coming weeks.

Please join me on my vision quest. My swan song. My attempt to aspire to greatness. I can promise you it shall be entertaining. If someone like me is capable of becoming a world record holder, dare to imagine what someone like you is capable of doing?


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Hundred Up Challenge - Week 1

Perhaps the first update should be titled “Weak 1.” For such an innocent looking drill I must admit I find it surprisingly difficult. To make matters worse, my ten year old watched in disbelief as I explained “it’s harder than it looks” only to have her knock out the same workout I had just completed, apparently with less effort.

Let’s face it, the human body has the extraordinary ability to adapt to the stress it is given. Mine is finely tuned to running long distance and short bursts of speed. It has become capable of handling my weekly track workout with very little, if any residual soreness, the following days. My guess is starting something new, such as The Hundred Up therefore puts us at about the same level. It is only through consistent practice and further adaptation that it will become less strenuous to perform.

Results for week one:

Five completed attempts. I started with 40 reps my first attempt just to make sure there was nothing the next day that would interfere with my regular routine. Added 10 reps each session, still without any stiffness or aches the following days. Keep in mind I am do “the Minor” as described by G. W. and will not attempt The Major until the successful, repeated completion of 100 reps of The Minor.

What has this done for my running? Obviously it is too soon to expect any significant change. But I did notice during my final and therefore most grueling track intervals this week, if I leaned forward slightly and tried to incorporate the movement of the exercise, I gained ground on those ahead of me.

I expect to continue with The Minor this week and begin The Major as soon as next week. Results to follow. Precursory conclusion:

There is no down side to this exercise. Let’s see if there is an upside.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The 100 Up Challenge

What is it? A one hundred year old running exercise that focuses solely on running form. The unique aspect of the 100 Up is that it does not involve running, it is a simple stationary drill. Created and documented by an early 19th century miler, W. G. George, with the intent of “perfecting running form.”

Fast forward about 100 years and you find yourself in the midst of a running revolution which claims that all the advantages of high tech shoes created since the 1970’s have not lessened the instances of injuries, but actually increased the injury rate among runners. The solution proposed by the revolutionaries? Running barefoot. To hell with the shoes, run as nature intended.

Needless to say you won’t see me running barefoot any time soon. I have experimented on more than one occasion with a few barefoot miles, but only on the treadmill. However, those few miles taught me something within the first ten minutes that fundamentally changed the way I run:

I run completely different when running barefoot.

My heels never touched the treadmill. Not once. This was not a conscious effort, but my legs taking charge of my running and landing using all the muscles of the lower leg to cushion the impact of each strike. It was a true epiphany. And as natural as running itself, in the purest sense.

I run now only in flats or shoes that have a “zero drop” front to back in elevation on the sole. I still prefer some protection from the elements as well as surface impediments. But the feeling is the same as on the treadmill barefoot, my foot strike is on the ball of my foot, every step.
As stated in my blog title I am always looking for continuous improvement and the idea of perfecting form appears practical to me. Let’s face it, by taking the challenge I could again stumble onto another break through. At this time I do not really see a downside.

I will post updates weekly detailing my progress and thoughts along the way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Real Reason

Over the years I have refined my answer to the most common question when interrogated by someone who does not understand running when they ask “why do you run marathons?” My answer has ranged from a sarcastic comment to a drawn out explanation of the benefits I derive from running and how they permeate other aspects of my life. More recently I have learned that running is not a selfish decision made with my self interest in mind as i previously believed. I also run for other people.

Prior to the 2010 LA Marathon I was committed to running the full marathon but unfortunately life got in the way. As a result my training consisted primarily of quality runs and much less on mileage. I did not have the opportunity for the usual five weekly runs that I depend on when training for a full marathon and instead wound up most weeks running only three times.

Since this had never happened I had no idea what to expect for the outcome. Would the race turn into a long day of regretting my lack of preparation, or would the abbreviated weekly schedule leave me feeling fresh and strong on race day? I came to terms with this race as an experiment in training and all I could do was hope for the best.

I trained and ran the race with a friend of mine who coincidentally wore the same shirt on race day. We both had very distinctive singlets from a previous company sponsored race and we individually decided to wear them in LA. They were bright red with the company name across the back of the shirt.

To his advantage he did not experience the missing weekday runs and followed our training program to the letter. If it said “run 9 miles on Tues” he ran 9 miles. Come race day we started the race together. I intended to gage my ability to keep up as we went along since I was breaking new ground with so few hours and miles of training. Unfortunately by mile six I had to let him go as I began to fall behind. I labored to continue at what felt like the same pace we started running, only to be reminded at each mile marker I was running a little slower.

As I approached the twenty mile marker something most unexpected happened. I spotted the bright red singlet ahead of me, on the right hand side of the road, walking. Sure enough it was my training partner and friend. He proclaimed he was “done” when I caught up to him which frightened me. I had never known him to tap out in an event. Ever.

Encouragement seemed like a viable option. I said “just stick with me, we’ll get in under four hours.” He would manage to pick it up and jog a few steps, only to announce “I’m done” again and start walking shortly after. After a few more failed attempts I realized that it was my turn to leave him behind. I announced I would see him at the finish as I drudged on ahead of him.

I managed to cross the finish line in 3:48 which is not a bad time for me. The training three runs per week proved to be sufficient to finish a marathon, but it was insufficient for preparing me to run hard the entire race. Wondering how he was doing, and worried he may not have been able to complete the race, I started to make my way back upstream hoping to find him and encourage him to finish when I noticed he was already entering the finisher’s area. He managed to pull it together and ended up finishing with a 3:56 to my surprise. If I had any reason to suspect he would be able to get moving again I would have stuck with him. I would gladly give up an all out effort in a marathon for the chance to help get a friend through their first marathon.

When we reunited in the finisher’s area he began to tell me a story. Something truly wonderful and amazing. An unknown runner approached him at the finish line and asked if he was part of a race team? Confused by the question he replied that he was not, but that there were two of us wearing the same shirt. She continued, and asked him to thank me, the other runner wearing the red singlet. She then explained that she was really struggling late in the race yet noticed this person ahead of her, dressed in red, hanging on. She figured if that person can hang on, so can I. And so she did. This runner, unknown to me, was lifted just enough to remain in the race when she felt like stopping encouraged only by a stranger in a red shirt ahead of her who also refused to give up. And sometimes that is all it takes. Knowing it is possible. That we can hang on in spite of overwhelming feeling to give up.

For the first time I knew and to this day my answer no longer varies. In fact I look forward to hearing the once dreaded question from others “why do you run marathons?”

“To inspire other people” I now reply content with my answer. That is the real reason.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Bad Race?

In my youth I used to believe that there was no such thing as bad beer. Some beer just goes down better than others. In that same spirit today I believe that there are no bad races. Some of them just go better than others.

The race that could have gone better in this case simply refers to me not meeting my goal. Finishing a race and feeling let down or disappointed afterward, instead of being overcome by the familar euphoric feeling. On some days the goal can be nothing more than not falling down (*see my "On Your Feet" blog) or not walking throughout the entire run. But for this race it meant not crossing the finish line within my predicted time.

Running for me has always been a metaphor for life. Putting in the effort is the first step. More often that not on my early morning long runs I think to myself “most of these people are still in bed” as I run past their house unnoticed. With the pristine minutes of dawn all to myself, as the silence of the day before it unfolds lifts my spirits and makes me glad I got out of bed on that day. Yes it would have been easier to stay in my warm, comfy bed. But it would also be less rewarding.

Then comes learning your limitations. You can always choose to accept or not accept them, it’s completely up to you. Determination and perseverance go a long way in altering your course here. I often wonder what if Danny DeVito thought to himself "I’m not the Hollywood type?" and as such never pursued what turned out to be a remarkable career in Tinsel Town.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is learning from your mistakes. Every long distance effort should teach you something. What to wear, how to train, what to eat or not eat, and most importantly what you will do when faced with adversity. This is where effort, limitations, and knowledge converge.

Falling nearly a minute per mile off the desired pace in this last half marathon could be interpreted many ways. I am getting older and slower. In this example time will always win. We do all get slower as we age, there is no denying it. But I don’t believe that was problem. In fact I am willing to wager my best runs are yet to come.

So what happened? Maybe I didn’t choose the right plan to prepare me for my goal. Or perhaps I didn’t follow it as closely as I should have. It is possible that throwing a race in the middle of a marathon training plan isn’t a good idea. Of this I can’t yet be sure. But I do know that missing my goal was very humbling, and also very inspiring at the same time. Like those long, lonely miles often late in the run when your mind is telling you to stop, now is the time to decide what you’re willing to accept – in the next race or your life – and refocus on how you can obtain your desired goal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Racing and Placing

As I reflect back 2008 proved to be an interesting year. The election of an African American president, the near collapse of the financial system, five dollar plus per gallon fuel just to name a few. In my mind it became the “the year of firsts.” The year also brought many firsts on a personal level. Increased professional responsibility, my youngest daughter started kindergarten, and in spite of my better judgment, my commitment to return to the marathon.

My plan was very simple: to run a 1:30 half marathon. I thought a series of races would be necessary to achieve my then lofty goal, so I intended to knock them out as a 1:50, 1:40, and finally the 90 minute half. After proving to myself that I could run a respectable half marathon I would begin my assault on the full. The way I figured it, it would take me well into 2009.

As fate would have it I missed my initial 1:50 attempt in February by less than one minute (refer to my “Running in the Rain” post). I met the first goal a few months later on a tougher course, a personal best and redemption on my first attempt. In my third half marathon still in the first half of the year with a goal of 1:40 I tried a different strategy. Instead of getting beat-up on a hilly course I would run a fast course and take advantage of the downhill portions. At each mile marker I ran my personal best and held the sub 7 minute pace the entire race. I knocked off my fastest 5K, 10K and crossed the finish line with a 1:30. With this premature triumph and all three goals met, do I take off the rest of the year or do I do something I hadn’t done for quite some time - run for fun?

I decided to try and continue training hard without a specific race in mind. No set distance, no race date. Just two or three quality runs a week along with a few base runs. On a whim at the last minute I entered a 5k and to my surprise I managed to take 4th. More of a surprise was that the race gave awards five deep. My first time on the podium is one I’ll never forget. As others callously accepted their award I let out a burst of excitement and my best triumphant pose after receiving my award. The crowd loved it. I raced another last minute 5k in late summer, a small local benefit race and placed second. For the first time I began to think about placing, and also possibly winning a race.

Hitting an annual goal in the first half of the year and making the decision to “run for fun” the rest of the year opened the door to things I had not yet imagined. I would not have found these experiences if I was still focused the entire year on running a half marathon. That first seemingly insignificant and unexpected 5K that put me on the stage has forever changed my running. And I realize, isn’t that how life works? Our best thought out plans and goals are necessary tools, but not an end point. Instead of taking us where we think we need to go, sometimes they take us in the direction we should be heading. Without our contrived, yet well-intentioned goals, we may not create the opportunity to find out where we need to be.

So now the real question remains: should I succumb to shorter distances and admit that perhaps the marathon is not my forte or continue to wage my personal war with the full marathon again? I don’t yet know. But rest assured I’ll be pondering that concept on my next long run...