Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On The Verge of... Well, you know.

Goals are good. They help a lot to maintain you in steady progress and keeps you accountable. For normal people, goals are awesome!

Then, there's runners.

It seems that, as a group, we are an obsessive bunch.  For us (notice I'm including myself) goals can be a double edge sword and if we are not careful, they will cut us. Case in point: my runs last week. 

It was supposed to be a recovery week. Each run was shorter than usual but, the weekly mileage total was pretty much the same so that meant more running days. I was all for an "easy week" but my body apparently had other ideas. My body decided to call last week "speed week". And boy was it. Not only did I break my best 4 mile time - twice - but also my best 3 mile time. It was weird running miles in the 13 and 14 minute range but I was feeling great. Also, I was on the verge of breaking my monthly mileage record.

Then, my mother-in-law came to visit.

Now, now. I'm not gonna blame my MiL for what happened. It was just a coincidence. We were supposed to go visit her but she had some business in our area so at the last minute they decided to come. I had it all planned out. We go do what we have to do, have lunch, then after they go, I do my final run of the week (5 miles) late in the afternoon and I reach my magic number for the month (80 miles) Well, we took her to where they had to go and its taking way longer than I thought but I at the time I did not notice. Then we go to "lunch" (Sizzler) and things got a little out of hand as they usually do at a buffet. Man was I full! That's when I notice its 4:30 pm. 

We got home, my wife's family left and all I'm thinking about is: "If I don't do this run, I will not reach 80 miles this month. No way." My body however just wanted to get on the bed and whither there like bad lettuce forever. "It would be unwise to even try to run like this." I thought.

So I went running. Stupid, I know.

During the whole run, especially the first two miles, the meal I had just consumed was adamant in letting me know that it did not want to join me on this run and was more than happy to stay at whatever corner or sidewalk I was willing to "leave" (see how that rhymes with heave?) it at.

By some unholy miracle, I made it through 4 miles of this insanity before I finally gave up. I was so sick, I decided not to run yesterday which ended my race to 80 miles in July. The good news? I broke the record anyway. My best month was 73 miles (April) and I made it to 75. Even though I did not reach 80, I managed something.

In celebration, here is some Runner's World motivation from the Remy's World column.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It Just Got Real

A little while ago, I mentioned that I had officially signed up for the Walt Disney World Marathon. To put it mildly, I was freaking out a bit about it. Well, now thanks to Heather over at Heather's Looking Glass, I am now booked with hotel, tickets and dining plan. By the way, if you are interested in a Disney vacation or cruise head on over to Heather, she will hook you up.

It might seem a little early to make all these arrangements but I'm on a budget here so I'm trying to do things as well out in advance as possible and pay for them well in advance so while I'm actually there, there is a minimum of surprises. 

Orlando being what it is, the options were plentiful. I read somewhere that once you cross over to the Orlando area, there is an inverse relationship between time and money. That is, you have to spend one to save on the other. I couldn't agree more. While this is my first marathon, it is definitely not my first Disney visit so I know the ins and outs of Orlando pretty well. So, I weighed all my options and made some decisions. 

The first one is probably the most difficult of all: I'm going solo. We just don't have the money to take the whole gang to the Magic Kingdom. I have been struggling with this for months, trying to figure out how we could all come but frankly, we are just too many! LOL I wanted them to be there so bad and I sure could use their support but the cost and also the logistics were gonna be a nightmare. As much as my wife wanted to go, she was also scared to death about being all alone in the parks or in the marathon with three small girls while I ran. She doesn't speak English and relies on me for everything while in the parks. While she was sad, she was kind of relieved too. In hindsight, it would be easy to think that I could have waited until we could all go to run this marathon in the future but no. I have set this goal and have to see it through. It's ironic that it's in a place where every single thing you do and every single place you go reminds you of your kids but if goals were not hard, achieving them wouldn't matter.

The second decision is gonna sound weird to some since I mentioned I was on a budget: I'm going all-Disney for this one. Disney hotel (value, All-Star Movies), dining plan, everything. Staying in a non-Disney hotel would have been cheaper per night but that's not the whole story. There is also food, transportation, tickets and the expo where I have to go to pick up my bib and stuff. If I stayed off Disney property I would have to arrange transportation (rental, taxi or whatever) to and from the airport plus I have to eat at some point. Again, outside the parks, food is cheaper but that would mean (again) transportation arrangements. The dining plan allows me to stay in the property with a set amount of  meals I don't have to worry about. Food in the parks is very expensive and if you are a hearty eater (like me) the dining plan can save you some dough. Plus, it gives you the chance to try some of the specialty restaurants you might not try otherwise.

So essentially, I have booked this as a fire-and-forget type of vacation with everything done in advance in a kind of all-inclusive package. All I have to worry about is what to bring the girls as a bribe so they forgive me for not taking them with me. While I'm paying a bit more to stay with Disney, I'm saving some money and hassle with transportation and food. I'm also including some tickets. I'm planning to spend some time in Epcot and maybe Animal Kingdom on Friday and Saturday. When in Rome, right?

The only thing I have not figured out is the Race Retreat. Disney offers this VIP-type tent called the Race Retreat where (for a fee, of course) you get private port-a-potties, private bag check, climate control and food before and after the race. If I was gonna splurge on something, this would be it. Especially since this is my first Marathon. I have enough to worry about and this sure sounds convenient enough. I just need some assurance that it's worth it. Anybody had any experience with this?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dealing with the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment through Dietary Changes

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from someone volunteering to do a guest post on this blog. I thought people did that on blogs where people read them! (insert drum fill) 

Seriously though, David Hass, from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance has asked me to help him share some information about nutrition and the side effects of Cancer treatments and I of course said no problem. Hope you guys enjoy and you can check out the MCA blog here.

                                                                                                                        - Frank

The goal of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, is to attack and destroy the cancer cells within your body in order to stop them from multiplying. However, healthy cells are often caught up in this barrage, producing undesirable side effects. Simple dietary changes can help to reduce and sometimes eliminate some of these unwanted physical and emotional side effects.

Chemotherapy Causes Chemo Brain
Among many cancer patients and survivors, there is a phenomenon jokingly termed “chemo brain” that is actually a very real and serious condition. Chemo brain is characterized by factors such as memory loss, an inability to multi-task and extreme difficulty concentrating. There are several dietary tricks that can help to combat chemo brain.
• Eat your vegetables. Yellow, orange and green vegetables contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that has been linked to improved memory and reasoning skills.
• Focus on consuming more of the brain booster foods.
• Blueberries contain a wealth of nutrients, including vitamin C, folic acid and fiber. They are said to help improve the memory.
• Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease while improving the memory as well the enhancing the ability to learn new skills and concepts.
• Other brain boosting foods that are rich in antioxidants include apples, blackberries, dark chocolate, coffee, curry, grapes and spinach.

Nausea is Often a Side Effect of Chemotherapy and Radiation
Nausea is not only uncomfortable but may also lead to vomiting. Vomiting empties the body of essential nutrients and can irritate the lining of the stomach, esophagus and throat. The more often you vomit, the less of the essential vitamins, minerals and even calories that feed your body. Additionally, frequent vomiting makes you feel weaker overall.
• Keep small packages of crackers nearby at all times. It is a good idea to have some on your bedside table for any morning or post-nap nausea. Keep several packages in your car, your desk, or any bag that you carry with you regularly.
• If certain food smells make you feel nauseated, avoid them as well as hot foods and beverages. Stick with cold foods and drinks.
• Safe options are bland foods, such as cold cereal, plain toast, rice, pudding, sherbet and mild fruits or vegetables.

Cancer Treatment Can Lead to Anorexia Nervosa
Many cancer treatments result in a loss of appetite. This in combination with the high levels of emotions during treatments can sometimes lead to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by an inaccurate perception of one’s body and an intense desire to maintain an extremely low weight. With an already weakened immune system, it is vital that you nourish your body with adequate protein, fat and carbohydrates to ensure that you are supplied with the right vitamins and minerals.
• Surround yourself with positive people. You want to live in a supportive environment that makes you feel secure and confident in who you are.
• Eat with friends and family members as often as possible. Try to avoid frequently dining alone.
• Play music or light candles while you eat to create a pleasant ambiance.
• Eat higher calories snacks that are also high in protein. Examples include nuts, avocados, cheese, and nut butters.
• Check with your cancer treatment center regarding nutritional counseling and support groups.

Though cancer is a life-changing event, you can take positive steps to enhance your physical and mental health as much as possible when undergoing cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.  Proper nutrition and eating habits play a huge role in keeping you both physically and emotionally strong.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Picking the Right Boogers

It's that time again, unfortunately where I have to get new running shoes. Man does time fly when you have to spend money! Even when you try to put it off as long as I have. (Read last post)

OK, so why the booger title? I promise to explain in a bit. There is a reason, I promise.

While compared to, say... cyclists, runners have it pretty good in terms of affordability of their chosen obsession. Running shoes however, can get really expensive really quickly. This has been a hard issue for me not only because I'm poor, but because I'm used to measuring my footwear longevity in terms of years not months. Now that I have been buying running shoes for a while it has become pretty clear that 6 months, if I'm lucky, is the most they will last. 

We hardly knew ye. Despite having almost 300 miles on them, they look pretty good.

 In fact, I have decided to buy two pairs of shoes. My logic being that if I spread my mileage between two pairs I could stretch their use to a whole year before I have to buy new ones again. Maybe its wishful thinking but worth a shot. I'm still spending the same amount of money but at least its not as often. I figured I can use one pair for longer, easier runs while I use the other for shorter, faster runs.


So, I ordered another pair of Beasties which were awesome! Size 14. Got them in a different color just for the sake of variety.

Brooks Beasts 2012. Shoe porn for your pleasure.

 Along with those, I also got a pair of Brooks Addiction 10's, another Motion Control shoe. They are size 15.

Brooks Addiction 10's Size 15. I think I'll call them "The Junkies".

I need to make a comment here. I like to buy local and try to support my local running store. Actually I bought a hydration belt there recently but it has become pretty hard to buy shoes from them. Why? They never seem to have shoes in my size which is odd because you would figure that since motion control shoes are for, among other things,  larger runners, they would stock them in larger sizes but I tried getting my previous pair there with no luck. I gave them some time to order some and they didn't until finally my baby brother (weird calling him that since he is almost 7ft tall) gave the Beasties to me which he ordered online. Now, when I bought the belt I asked them about shoes and again, they didn't have the Beasts but he showed me the Addictions which he had in size 14 but they were too small (hence I ordered them in size 15) so for the second time, no running shoes at the running shoe store.

So I went online where it was recommended I try Zappo's and sure enough they had both shoes I was looking for, finding and ordering them was super easy and shipping was free, even here in Puerto Rico where that kind of offer is often not included. Sweet.

The Beast is the top of the line motion control shoe from Brooks and they have earned their name. It's like wearing tanks in your feet. Very tough. it wasn't a tough decision to buy them again. The Addiction is, for all intent and purposes, a step down from the Beasties but I have read very good reviews about them and when I saw them online, they came in all black which I love. Not flashy at all. They look even better in person and fit great. They are also a bit lighter despite the larger size. I'm looking forward to try these. After I use them for running, I wouldn't mind using them to replace the "Girlies" which are getting a bit old.

Beast: Old vs. New

OK, so why boogers?

Well, I wear motion control shoes. It doesn't get any more geek than motion control when it comes to running shoes. They even look geeky compared to other types that look cooler for some reason. So, looking to make motion control shoes sound cooler I was messing with connecting the words. Like when Southern California is called SoCal or something like that. So Motion Control = MOtion + COntrol = MoCo.

As it turns out, "moco" in spanish is slang for booger. Regrettably, when you experiment sometimes, the patient dies. 

There you go. So remember, when going to the running store, pick the right boogers. Ha!

Friday, July 12, 2013

It's the Shoes! - Take 2

Oh man did I learn a hard lesson this week.

Confession: the time for new running shoes has come and gone. My current pair started to show signs that they were going the way of Roberto Duran a little bit after crossing the 200 mile mark. I am now closing in on 300 miles and have been trying to ignore those signs. Well, on Thursday the signs screamed back. "Ignore no more!".

Back when I switched to my current shoes, I was still figuring out what it felt like when your shoes gave out. Now, even though I didn't quite notice back then, I know exactly when my first pair let me know it was over. During the 5K for Diabetes, I was in a lot of pain. My feet, knees and hips were hurting more than usual. Also, my right leg was going numb. I thought it had to do with the wacky race I was having but shortly after that I switched to the Brooks Beasts (The Beasties as I like to call them) and forgot about it.

Fast forward to about a month and a half ago, and was starting to feel the same things as during that race. I knew immediately what was going on. The Beasties were dying. Every step felt like stepping on concrete with no cushioning and the day after running I would have terrible back pain. Money doesn't grow on trees so I tried to put off getting another pair as much as I could. I started to run a little light-footed to avoid going hard on the shoes (it felt as stupid as it sounds). I even started to alternate the Beasties with my trusted New Balance Women's Trail Running Shoes (The Girlies?) which I use for walking and other non-running activities. Actually, that run I did over the old Air Force base? The Girlies. Also, I used The Girlies for speed work. You know you REALLY have to get new shoes when you go to a padded track and you still feel like your feet are falling hard on the floor. That's why I used the NB's.

The Girlies

And so I lightly treaded and alternated for as much as I could. Then Thursday happened. I was supposed to do a 5 mile tempo run. Well, it ended up being 3 miles(barely) of pain. The first mile was fine as it was a warm-up and I was running slow. Then I picked up the pace and halfway through the second mile I was hurting. Feet, ankles, knees, hips... and that numbness in my right foot, which by the way stems from back issues I had from before I started running. After mile 2, the pain -which I had felt on previous runs but not this much- was all I could think about and I started to get concerned that I was gonna hurt myself long term so I ran/walked to finish three miles and stopped. Lesson learned.

Even now writing this, my calves hurt and I have a stinging discomfort in my hips and knees. I really took it too far. Need to better plan long term for these moments. It also confirms something I've been thinking for a while: I'm insane. For several reasons, not only just stretching the use of the shoes way beyond reason. For example, right now all I'm thinking about is about what can I wear so I can run while my new shoes arrive. I think I have the first running shoes I ever bought somewhere. I bought them at an outlet and chose them because in the display, it said "running" on the bottom. I know they were not fitted and they are definitely not motion control but I hardly used them so their cushioning should be OK right? And then there's the Girlies. I guess I can push them a bit more...

 I also only stopped running when I felt my long term running schedule might be compromised by injury. I know there's a positive there but still, it kind of makes me feel like I'm crossing the running "dark side". He he he...

So, I'm getting new shoes (duh!). I'll be sure to talk about that next post.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fitletic (iFitness) Hydration Belt - A Review

I was avoiding this for some time, but I finally gave in and bought a hydration belt. A while ago I mentioned on this post, that I didn't want to be the fat guy running with every piece of gear he could carry (and buy). For the most part I have done my best to avoid it but you know, a tech shirt here, an iPod holder there... The hydration belt was the proverbial line I would not cross. "Those are for either posers or really serious runners." I thought. But alas, need has caught up with me. I have become THAT guy. All I need now is some knee-high compression socks and some ridiculously expensive sunglasses to complete the transformation.

All kidding aside, the whole issue that prompted this is very simple: The long run. It's starting to actually become, well... long. I can run seven, probably eight miles without water during the run if I really push it, but beyond that, I need to plan in advance. Also, consuming gels require plenty of water (according to the instructions) so you got to have something for that as well. During races, you got hydration stations and if you plan accordingly you probably don't need a belt but if you intend to train for those races...

In my effort to avoid the belt I tried several things. Carrying a bottle in my hand was a disaster. It threw my form off and it becomes really uncomfortable as the time passes. Then I tried hiding said bottle somewhere along the course I intended to run which turned me paranoid someone would find it. Then I tried to adjust my long run so it would pass through my house at least once and I would leave the bottle in the mail box. It didn't always work. Finally, I was watching Spirit of the Marathon on Netflix (awesome documentary by the way) with my wife. She saw all the runners there with belts on and said "Honey, you should get one of those." SOLD! Two days later I went to the LRS (Local Running Store for the uninitiated) and arrived home with my new toy.

Check out the reflective strips. Pretty handy at night

I bought the 16oz. XL version, which means it has two 8oz. bottles and fits people with bigger waists but it comes in smaller sizes and there is a 12oz. version. Based on what I read online, I was worried I was too fat for the belt to fit but there were no problems at all. There was room to spare. It fits very comfortably and it is obviously designed for runners. Once properly adjusted it fits very snugly without being bothersome. The biggest complain runners have with these things is that they move around a lot which can get annoying (and painful) but this fits just right for me. Bonus: You can use it either way. With the bottles and pocket in front or back.

Looks small in my hand but it will hold 8 oz

The bottles by the way are very interesting. They have this seal on the spout that easily gives way when you suck on the spout or press the bottle but immediately closes up when you stop, thus restricting water flow (and a very wet mess in you shorts). It's cool but I wonder how it will hold up with repeated use. They are secured to the belt by elastic straps. Once they are in place, those babies don't move at all. The center pocket will allow you to carry even the biggest smartphone. My Brother in Law's Galaxy Note II fit with a lot of room to spare. I think it's made of neoprene but I don't think its waterproof. The adjustment clips double as holders for gels and you will need them if you plan to carry several of them for longer races.Gel packs are large and I'm not sure you can fit all you would need for a marathon in the center pocket. Of course this depends on individual needs so it will vary person to person.

It is also worth mentioning that the system is expandable. There are several add-ons for extra water bottles, cell phones and the like.

After taking it out on my most recent long run I have to say it did not disappoint at all. There is absolutely no bouncing to speak of or any annoying sloshing of water in the bottles even when they are partially filled. It did take me a couple of miles to adjust it properly as I had set the belt to the max size. The belt would slowly slip down to my butt mainly because of the weight of the full bottles but after some tightening and finding the proper position it stayed in place no problem. I have to add that tightening the belt does NOT put any extra "squeeze" on your waist. The whole thing is elastic and will not put any unwanted stress on your waist.  I also have to add that I have no butt, therefore making it easier for the belt to slip down. If you have a butt you might not have the slipping problem but again, adjusting the belt properly will solve the problem easy.

So there you go. Hope this helps anyone thinking about a hydration system for their runs. I highly recommend the iFitness belt. It's comfy and practical and allows you to carry a lot of stuff like gels and phones or whatever you need it to plus, it's expandable. For around $40.00 retail, it is also reasonably priced in my opinion. For more info, here is their website.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I have come to the conclusion the I posses super-powers. Yup, I'm special. I'm not a super-hero though. That would imply I help people. Sadly, I cannot help anyone but myself with this ability so the hero part is out for now. As soon as I figure out how I can use it for the good of mankind I'll let you know. 

You see, every time I get into some sort of running funk/rut/difficult moment, I can get myself out of it simply by writing about it on the blog.

I have noticed that every time I have one of those difficult moments and share it with people on the blog, I end up working through it with pretty scary efficiency, to the point where it almost seems fake to me. I run into trouble, I write about it, next week, problem solved. I get that we have bad weeks and good weeks but this is getting ridiculous. Case in point: I wrote this post two weeks ago about being stuck in some awkward place. I was on a little weekend getaway the week after that so the solution didn't exactly happened immediately but this week was... well, take a look.

On Tuesday, I went on a 5 mile regular run. I was very aware that I was having pacing issues so I decided to not focus on pace so much and just run. It took some discipline but I managed to avoid looking at the watch too much during the run. I got home, uploaded the info and was totally blown away! It was the fastest 5 miles I have ever run. Ever. 15:12 min/mile average and not a single mile slower than 15:45, including a 14:45 final mile. The last time I ran 5 miles I did it in 1:21. This time I did it in 1:16! What the...

Thursday was speed work on the 4th of July! I was scared that the track would be closed but It wasn't. The security guard was giving me dirty looks as I believe that I was the reason keeping him from closing up but I was there to work, thank you. Mile repeats. Ouch! Hard work but they are totally worth it and not only did I do them but...

The very next day I ran 4 more miles. My legs were feeling it a bit but again, this was gonna be an easy run and I was not gonna focus on the watch. Well... just look at the splits:

Avg Pace

Result: fastest 4 miles I have ever run. 14:34 average pace! Keep in mind that my average pace was around 16:30 with "speedy" runs at 16:00 or close to it. See what I mean? super-powers.

Finished the week with a 6 mile long run were, finally my body caught up with my super-powers and I ran out of gas on the final mile. Still, I managed to maintain my pace below 16 minutes for three miles and around 16 for the next 2 miles before that last mile where I had to run/walk to finish but I really cannot complain. Not only did I have some great runs during the week and broke two personal training records, this is my highest mileage week to date: 20 miles.

I tell you, I'm a little excited. Maintaining those speeds was not that hard which means my pacing might be on the up and up. This is a big deal as my biggest worry right now is being swept in races, especially the Marathon I'm working towards in January. The limit for most races is 16 min/miles. That is the knife's edge for me. If I can work towards (slowly) 14:30 or 15:00 min/mile I will be able to sleep at night a little better.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A little getaway and some running

For Father's Day, my parents gave me a certificate to spend a weekend in a hotel in the town of Aguadilla. While I truly appreciated the gesture, the reality is that this gift was a bit more for my daughters than it was for me. See, last year my parents took them to this hotel and they found this on the hotel pool:

My girls went absolutely nuts over this thing and we proceeded to enjoy this little water feature for the next three days and I got the sunburns to prove it. They simply did not want to leave.

I knew they were trying to get rid of me! Incredibly enough, those are not all the women in my life. There is a little 2 y/o and a lady dog as well. If they could, they would also be trying to drown me.

All kidding aside, we had a great time the whole weekend and thankfully the weather cleared up long enough for us to have some fun. It had truly been miserable here the last couple of days and the minute we checked out and left it started to rain again. Go figure.

I also ran.

I have been feeling terrible about missing runs lately because of the storms here and last week was no exception. I missed my run on Thursday which I really tried not to as I didn't want to have a weekend out in a "running deficit" but it was not to be. What is a runner to do?

Well, a runner makes up the run at 5 am on Friday before he leaves for his mini-vacation (4 miles) so he won't feel as guilty about eating those cookies in the hotel lobby. He then wakes up at 5 am the very next day to run 5 more miles while on his little getaway. It was a great run actually. The hotel used to be a hospital that was part of a huge Air Force base that was very active during the Cold War. It had the 4th longest runway in the World at the time ( I think it still ranks 5th or 6th today) and B-52 bombers were stationed there with the sole purpose of reaching and leveling Russia if need be. Today its a civil airport and most of the buildings are part of the University of Puerto Rico but there is still some military presence. I guess that runway is too much of a good thing to let go completely. 

Well, the Air Force's loss is a runner's gain. A runway that long means plenty of flats to run in and I certainly took advantage of them to get my 5 miles in. It was a very scenic run too, watching the old remnants of the base and see how the old buildings and homes are being used now as well as all the planes - both civil and military - along the length of the runway. Shortest 5 miles I've ever run.

It's interesting. I've logged miles some cool places. I got lost in Disney World, I ran a couple of miles around a cruise ship, ran a race in a private paradise island and now I've run in an ex-military base. In August, I'm supposed to go to Chicago for my Union's International Convention so you know I will be running there at least a couple of times. How's that for some diverse places to run.

How about you? What are some interesting places you have run?