Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running in a Busy Life

Well, today is the day that it really all begins for me and my goal of running the Columbus Half Marathon on October 17th. I’ve been running for two months now and have logged just over 100 miles, but today is when it gets serious. I’ve paid my entry fee just ahead of the early bird deadline of July 31 and now the real work starts as I began Hal Higdon’s 12-week training program this morning with the first day of actual running.

When I returned from a good run this morning that took place in perfect weather conditions, I received a tweet asking about writing a blog post about five tips for scheduling training for busy people. Well, with this being my first half marathon along with the fact that my training has just started, I’m not sure that I am an expert on this subject. However, just writing this blog will be one more accountability step in my busy life in making sure that I reach my goal of crossing the finish line on October 17th with 14,999 other dedicated and determined people.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I am the sports information director at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, a private faith-based college located in Mount Vernon. My job responsibilities revolve around promoting our institution’s 10 sports teams, student-athletes, and coaches in all their endeavors on and off the court or field. This is a lot of fun, but during the sports seasons it means that I am working about 80 hours a week including the weekends.

After my wife, Carla (above with me), completed her second Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus this past spring, I strongly began considering the possibility of running this upcoming race. I knew that I would have some time to begin training in the summer when I wasn’t quite as busy at work since we didn’t have any games going on. However, I still continued to doubt whether or not I could really put the time into it.

Tip #1: Find an accountability partner. Whether or not this person runs the race or not, you have to find someone who is going to be right there with you (even from a distance) and help keep you on track. For me, this is my friend, Jay Stancil. Like me, Jay is a sports information director at Union College in Kentucky. Like me, Jay is married with two kids. Like me, Jay is going to turn 39 in November. Like me, Jay has never run a half marathon. I kind of jokingly suggested to Jay several months ago that he should come up to Columbus and run the half marathon in October. Well, he jumped on the idea and started training right away. I was a little more reticent about getting started, but Jay’s updates and encouragement through Twitter helped nudge me to the Kokosing Gap Trail to finally begin this process. It is also nice if you can find someone to run with you at least occasionally as you train. It’s a great help for making sure you show up for a scheduled run even on a day when you might not feel like going.

Tip #2: Find a time to train and stick to it. Once I got over the first hurdle of just getting off the couch and starting to run, I knew that I needed to make this a routine or basically a lifestyle change. Especially in the summer, it would be easy for me to sleep in just a little since the kids don’t need to get off to school and my wife is off work. However, I found that by getting up early that I have time to run and I can beat the summer heat at the same time. For me, the morning runs were a great way to start my day and give me energy (despite weary legs at times). By making it a habit, it becomes easier and easier to get up and go for that morning run. Now, I find that I really miss my runs when I take a day off, the weather doesn’t cooperate or I have a conflict that keeps me from going. It is also fine to adjust occasionally due to your schedule, but I’ve found that it is best to make it a daily routine as much as possible.

Tip #3: Document your runs. This has been a big thing in helping me stick with my training. I started a spreadsheet with the date, distance, and time of each run. Since I deal with numbers, stats, and records for my job with our teams, I wanted to track everything I was doing. This is a great way to keep you accountable. It’s also a rewarding and encouraging way to track progress as you see the miles pile up. For those of us who are not elite runners (and that’s probably 99.9% of the people reading this), it really is not about your time in the half marathon on race day. It’s about the journey to get to that point, the dedication to put in the required training, and the support of your family and friends.

Tip #4: Make the most of your busy life. One thing that keeps some busy people from ever training is the fact that their work takes them on the road a lot. Why not use this to your advantage and break up the monotony of running the same route? My family and I were in San Francisco for eight days earlier this summer for the annual NAIA-SIDA and CoSIDA Workshop. I figured that I really wouldn’t have time to run or a place to run as I’m not a big fan of running on the treadmill (although this is necessary at times due to schedule or consistent bad weather). I ended up going on runs three different days that included running the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise (see photo below), running through deserted Chinatown and up Lombard Street, and running around picturesque AT&T Park – home of the San Francisco Giants. Not only was it great to continue the running momentum that I had started, it was also a great way to see the city and to connect in a new way with some of my fellow sports information directors from around the country.

Tip #5: Make sure your family is on board. Training for a half marathon requires a serious time commitment. As a husband and father of two girls ages 8 and 5 (photo below), I know that when I go for a run it is taking time out of my day that I can’t spend with my family. That’s why I’ve chosen to run in the morning before they wake up. However, by exercising, I also feel like I’m doing something that in the long run benefits my family because I am healthier. My wife has been a great support and encouragement in this process and again the inspiration of knowing that she successfully trained for and completed two half marathons while working full-time and being a great mom helps to push me to do my best. People do ask why we aren’t both training to run together in October and we just think it would be too hard to pull off that much training with two young kids. So, we’ll switch places again in the spring and she’ll train for her third half marathon.

Again, I don’t claim to be an expert by any means. In fact, I’m a newbie to all of this and would welcome any feedback. You also want to make sure to take care of yourself and rest on the days that your training program tells you to rest. My biggest fear in this process is an injury rearing its ugly head and wrecking all of my hard work.

Monday, July 12, 2010

San Francisco

Each summer, I pack up the family and take them with me to my annual sports information directors' national workshop (CoSIDA). The workshop moves around to different big cities and it's always a nice way for us to combine both work with a little bit of vacation. (I'll write more on the workshop aspect of my trip in another blog.)

This year's workshop was held in San Francisco and my wife and I were both really excited to return to a city that we first discovered and enjoyed 10 years ago before the kids started to arrive on the scene. With some familiarity for the city, it really helped us to zero in on what we wanted to see again or have our kids experience for the first time, and it also helped us with our packing since the average temperatures were going to be about 64 degrees while it was 95 degrees back in Ohio.

After two smooth Southwest Air flights to get us there, we immediately began to get settled into our hotel and the nearby surroundings. The next morning we picked up our CityPass (which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone who will be in town for a stay of a week or more). This allowed us unlimited access to the cable cars, the street cars, and the buses. It also included an hour-long boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and right up to Alcatraz. In addition, there were tickets to the aquarium and several other museums and art galleries. It was a great deal and allowed us to just spend money one time.

Over the course of the week, the four of us were able to see all the sights that we wanted to see. Carla and the girls took in a free circus in one of the parks one day while I was in meetings. They also enjoyed playing in another park near the hotel and riding on a carousel. We made several trips to Fisherman's Wharf that included visiting the sea lions on Pier 39 and also exploring the aquarium. We watched the fireworks on the 4th of July where our view included the Golden Gate Bridge to the left of us, the Bay Bridge to the right of us, and Alcatraz right in front of us. It's funny to look back at our pictures and see us all bundled up with coats due to the windy, cold temperatures on the bay. (The only other time I can remember being cold on the 4th of July was in 1997 when Carla and I went to Detroit to watch the Tigers play a doubleheader against Cal Ripken and the Orioles.)

Our week also included a trip to Oakland on the BART (subway) to watch the A's play the Yankees. I have to send a big thank you shoutout to Debbie Gallas in the A's PR department because she hooked us up with great seats. We got to see four web gem defensive plays that night as the Yankees won 3-1.

We finished our week with a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a great trip with so many great memories, especially for my girls. They were real troopers and probably walked 20 miles each over the course of the week and never complained. They are growing up.

One other fun part of the trip for me was being able to get in three different runs around the city. Along with my SID friends, Kelcey, Cindy, Jay, and Eric, we headed out at 6:00 a.m. one morning and took the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is 1.7 miles across and it was really foggy the morning that we ran it - you couldn't see more than about 25 feet in front of you. It was really cool to run all the way across and back.

Eric and I also did another 4.5-mile run through Chinatown and UP Lombard Street on a different morning. It really was a great way to see the city. Then, I finished up the week with a run to AT&T Park (home of the Giants) and back by myself and then did it again with Kelcey and Cindy. It's one of my favorite baseball stadiums and I was disappointed that the Giants weren't in town the whole time we were there. Fortunately, Carla and I had seen a couple of games there on our previous trip.

I have to say that the Marriott Marquis, where we stayed, was probably the perfect hotel for us on this trip. The location was great with easy access to all the different modes of public transportation and also for the runs that I was able to do. However, even better than the location was the great staff that they had. It was really one big family working together to make sure that their guests had the best possible stay that they could have. I enjoyed watching Dan at the concierge desk energetically and professionally give the best directions and recommendations to visitors to help them have a great visit. Loren, the doorman, gave us great running directions and then I came to find out that he grew up across town in Gambier, Ohio. The food service staff was also outstanding and we had great conversations with Lisa and Richard as they served our meals and talked about how much they love their jobs. When you can find businesses with employees that like coming to work, you know they are doing things right. I made sure to share my compliments with Greg Nickelson, one of the night managers, before I left, but if you are in San Francisco for a stay I would recommend this hotel.

Well, it's really hard to condense one amazing week into one blog entry, but I've tried my best to do so. I didn't even get into all the amazing food we had, which I know is a shocker to those of you who know my passion for eating. I will say, though, that if you visit Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf you have to get a bag (or in my case a bucket) of Trish's fresh donuts. Wow! They were a perfect companion to watching the 4th of July fireworks. Just ask the 12 people who helped me devour them.