Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Bridge the Gap

Here's the gap. I ran a 3:39 on my last marathon. And I need to break a 3:10. I've finally realized that I need to scratch my entire workout plan and create a new one, which is good because I never had a workout plan.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was just running twice a week up the trail at a comfortable pace for 10 or 15 miles. Problem is that I wasn't getting any faster. After making some changes over the last few weeks, here is what my schedule is evolving toward:
  1. Not Running Slow: Yep, simple as that. How do you expect to run a 7:15 pace for 26.2 miles if all your 10-15 mile runs are at an 8-minute pace? My goal is to get my distance runs at a 7-minute pace. This means that a 7-minute pace should feel comfortable, not like I'm about to keel over. My last 10-miler was at a 7:35, so I'm on my way.
  2. Intervals: Once per week. I only do these if I can round up a couple friends for 40-minutes of pain. Because intervals suck! We do this workout on a high school track, and start with a mile warm-up. During the warmup, we jog the turns and sprint the straightaways. Then we get into the sprints: two 800s, two 400s, and two 200s. We have a two-minute break in between each interval. I've done this workout four times now.
  3. Hills: Once per week. These are like speed work in disguise. I run 3.5 miles to a hill I discovered, run up it, walk down it, repeat a number of times, then run home. I've done this workout three times now. Next weekend I'll be bamboozling a friend into doing this workout with me.
  4. Tempo Runs: I just read about these in Runner's World, and haven't done one yet. They say this run should be a 15-minute warmup, followed by 20-minutes at the "tempo pace", then finished with a 15-minute cooldown. To figure out my goal for a tempo pace, I checked with the McMillan running calculator. It says that for a 3:10 marathon I should shoot for a tempo pace between 6:36 and 6:53. Holy smokes!! Well, that ain't gonna happen for now, but I'll report back on my progress.
I've also been getting in an extra workout or two throughout the week. So now I'm running 3 or 4 times per week. Hopefully this will slowly bridge the gap for me so I can accomplish my goals.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Work Hard, Be a Slob, Eat Lasagna

Last week was pretty much all about gorging myself with food, not working out, and gorging myself with food. I went to New York last week to attend a series of all-day (and almost all night) workshops which were intended to develop a solution for some work problem thingies. Yes. Thingies. I could say "To obtain sign-off on a solution for ticket management and best available volumes," but that just doesn't sound as interesting.

I was set up in a large meeting room, which twice a day received catered food. I wish I would have taken a picture some of this stuff. Cookie platters sprinkled with rock candy and chocolates. Huge containers of the main course. And enough soda that everybody in the room could drink a 2-liter. Free food in nearly unlimited amounts is never a good thing for someone with a bottomless stomach. When the next bite tastes good I usually take it. I'm pretty sure that my girlfriend's family thinks I double as a some kind of trash receptacle, which actually ends up being mutually beneficial. They don't like to waste, so they pass it over to the human consumption machine for peace of mind.

I've realized that paying for food actually keeps me healthy. If I'm going to buy something, I'll usually make a healthy choice and keep the portions reasonable. But when it's free, it apparently is no holds barred.

On Tuesday the catering organizer came into our meeting room to ask if we had any preferences for the rest of the week. It quickly became one of those weird situations where nobody wants to suggest a food because they don't know if everyone else in the room will like it. So "Mr. I Don't Give a Sh$t" came to the rescue. "Lasagna!!", I impulsively blurted out during the silence. People just started cracking up. Random...I guess. Timely...yes. Because guess what I did. I successfully avoided people being like, "Uhhh, does anybody like sandwiches or pizza or Chinese food or anything like that?" And then people would feel each other out with their suggestions until the group landed on the lowest common denominator...a freakin' veggie platter.

Oh HELL no, it's time for lasagna, bitches!! And guess what, everyone loved it. Who doesn't like lasagna??

Reality check: This weekend it's ass kickin' time. My ass. On the trails. Burning off some 'sagna. Peace out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

User Guide: How to Party Like a Grown-up

I work in the energy industry and regularly travel to Houston for a project that I'm working on. It is a BIG project, with hundreds of people working on it. As a result, I have a lot of friends in Texas. A lot of them aren't even from Texas though. Like me, they travel in from different cities, even different countries. So we're always looking for a party. And I provide.

It started as dinner parties where I would play chef. I just cooked during the first few parties, but soon introduced other activities like beer making and wine tasting, all the while listening to my eclectic party playlist of old school rap, 80's music, and blues rock. Unfortunately my place in Houston is only big enough to accommodate an invite list of about 15 people. So once I realized that I wanted to party with more people than could fit in my apartment, I decided that we needed to hit the streets. Here's a breakdown of how to party like a grown-up:
  • The Standard Dinner Party: invite over 10-15 friends. Serve two appetizers and a main course. The main course should have a side or two, like salad or veggies. Bump some fresh beats, and have some interactive games out in case people are interested. Or you can introduce other themes, like beer making or wine tasting.
  • The Beer Making Party: find a homebrew store in your area. I forked out a one-time fee of about $120 for the equipment, and then spend about $50-70 per batch of 50 beers. I get money from people that are interested in getting some of the finished product. I try to get $100 per batch from people. So if ten people want in, each pays $10 and gets 5 homemade beers.

Sometimes grown-ups like to pretend they are still in college.
Photo on left shows part of my kitchen after the last beer making party.
Photo on right is the result of bustin' out a roundhouse kick to a bag
of malted grains that we used for making the beer.
  • The Wine Tasting Party: I'm secretly compiling a database of wine ratings done by real people. So far I have been able to statistically illustrate that there is no correlation between price and taste. Some people have asked me, "But how do you know these people know anything about wine?" Well, maybe they don't. But that's exactly the point. I want to know what the average person thinks, not a group solely of pretentious wine snobs like myself! Have everyone bring a bottle of a similar type of wine. You can't expect a fair experiment if somebody is finishing each sample before moving on to the next (...because they are getting more and more drunk with each sample). So you need to pour them ALL at the same time and present them to the tasters. Yes, you'll need a ton of cups, so just go with cheap plastic ones. People love this event! Especially when you start giving people a hard time because they LOVED the $2 bottle. :)
  • The Wine Crawl: Choose four wine bars. Spend 45-60 minutes at each. I plan them out so the least amount of transportation is required. Oh, and grown-ups take taxis when they're drunk. Also, I've learned that having the last wine bar next to a bar with a dance floor is always a hit. I don't know a single person that isn't ready to tear up the dance floor after visiting four wine bars.

Tips on throwing a House Party like a Grown-up:
  • Try to ensure that everybody on your invite list has at least one friend there besides yourself. For those that don't, tell them they can bring a friend to the party.
  • Immediately get people a drink upon their arrival. Offer a drink with hard liquor, like a margarita or mojito. The sooner people get a little sloshed the better.
  • Have music playing. Ensure you have some old school beats on your playlist. Every time I play Rumpshaker by Wreckx-N-Effect it creates a buzz of conversation. People go nuts when they hear a song that they used to love but have forgotten about.
  • Kill your TV (Unless, of course, the theme of your party is to watch a game or some specific TV show).
  • Prep the food so that you spend the least amount of time possible in the kitchen during the party.
  • Have interactive games out in case people want to play them. I don't normally try to gather people for playing them. I leave that for the guests to initiate.
  • If you regularly throw parties, don't be afraid to let people know that they can bring drinks or just contribute to the cooking fund. I always have an inconspicuous "cooking fund" box, and find that many people will throw in some money. I never ask for money, but definitely accept donations.
So there you have it. Now get out there and party like a Grown-up!
Do you have any grown-up tips you'd like to share?