Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Popular Bank's 5K 2015


It eludes me.  While I admit that I have never focused on developing it, by this time I would have hoped I was a little faster. I hoped that as I matured as a runner, my pace would just naturally get faster. That hasn't panned out. As I close in on 4 years of running, progress in this department has been, like my pace, very slow.

Case in point: the 5K, and the fact that my fastest time in this particular discipline is from 2013. The 37:43 I managed to pull off in the Alliance 5K -which is the hardest 5K I've run. Ever.- keeps staring at me from my computer every time I log into Garmin Connect. Almost teasing me. 

Then, there's this race. My first ever back in 2012. This is the 4th time I step on the line for this one and I love to hate it and hate to love it. It's deceptively simple: You go up one avenue then go back down another. It's flat and potentially very fast but I have never managed a PR here even though the conditions for it, on paper, look perfect for exactly that. My best time here? 39:22. Clearly, something had to be done.

The view from the back
During all my runs these past two months, all I've thought about is how faster I am when I use the Galloway Method. Time and time again it keeps proving itself to my surprise. I mean, you are walking!! How is this possible?! But the times don't lie. I am faster. However, I have relied on it for longer distances. Marathons and Half Marathons mainly. I've actually never tried it for shorter stuff. I mean, a 5K is just too little distance and certainly too little time for it to be effective right?

Well, we were about to find out.

Bear in mind, I didn't train for this. I have just been running like I always do in preparation for the Goofy Challenge: Running during the week then using the Galloway Method on my weekend long runs. I was going to be treading new paths for this one. I know you are not supposed to try new things while racing but given my current level, I thought the risk was pretty low, plus I mentally prepared myself that if something did go wrong, nothing was really lost. After all, my eyes are on the real prize: The Goofy medal. The 5K PR could come later. With this in mind, I developed a very simple strategy: Run like zombies are after me, then hope the walk interval will be enough time to recharge for the next run interval. That's it.

I met up with my now traditional running posse for this race. Gilbert walked the race with his wife and kid and his sister Cristie joined us as well. Frankie "The Jet" Ramos sat this one out. Apparently, after running a sub-5 hour marathon, this sort of stuff is now beneath him. (Hi Frankie!) This year they had corrals (Yay!) and sure enough I got sent to the last one. I ended up almost in the very back of the pack but I wasn't worried. I was the dead last person out of the Philly Half and look how that turned out.

The beautiful Ramos family and little Ramos' first 5K
And so it began. No sooner had I crossed the starting line, I took off like someone was trying to force me to watch a "Twilight" marathon. The walk break could not come soon enough. Plus, I was dodging people left and right which was expected. It turned out to not be a factor though the crowd thinned out a bit later but even so my fastest mile was the first one. 10:52, walk breaks and all, although for some reason I saw some other number on my watch and thought I was behind so I pushed on which was a mistake as I was already running well beyond my threshold. Sure enough, halfway through, that breakneck pace caught up with me and my legs started to seriously complain the final 30 seconds of each run interval. The supposed 2 minute run / 1 minute walk plan slowly turned into 1:50 run / 1(ish) minute walk as I didn't have enough legs to support such a fast pace.

The thrill of victory (...and exhaustion)
The result was an ugly positive split. A 10:52 first mile turned into a 11:59 second mile and finally a 12:19 third mile. I was totally spent. I was trying to muster some strength to finish resembling something close to running when I saw a friend of mine run past me and I decided to catch up to him and finish with him. As I crossed the finish I thought I was gonna pass out but it was over.

Final time, 36:24 - A shiny new PR and a 2 minute improvement from last year.

It's funny. When I started running, I thought that to be a "normal" or "regular" runner you had to do a 5K somewhere in the mid 30's. I don't know how I arrived at that number. I can't even tell you what I meant by "normal runner" but here I am, squarely in the mid 30's and I don't feel any different so there you go. It's not like I'm thinking I gotta reach some crazy number. However, I do feel that with some practice, I could maintain that 1st mile pace throughout the entire race. That would be cool.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Planning is a... you know.

Less than two weeks from now, I'm heading to Disney World for our two-day Kamikaze incursion into Frozenland. Otherwise known as Disney's Hollywood Studios. Things have evolved a bit since the last time I wrote about this. We have decided to go all in on this and will head over to The Magic Kingdom as soon as we land on Friday, making an already crazy trip even crazier. Why? Because as I was planning this debacle of a trip, I realized that for all the Frozen fun to be had at Hollywood Studios, there was no way to actually take a picture with either Anna or Elsa there. To do that you have to head on over next door to the Happiest Place on Earth, where both characters are waiting for you with open arms at Princess Fairytale Hall. Provided you wait in line for a million hours or something like that. Oh, there's a FastPass, but those were long gone by the time I tried to grab one.

I really don't know what's more difficult: Planning a long Disney trip (like a week or more) or a quick one like this. I'm starting to think it's the latter but that may be because I'm right in the middle of it all. The fundamental problem with planning a Disney trip -long or short- has always been that there is simply way too much to do. Initially, I thought that since the main focus of the trip is Frozen, then it was just a matter of picking those things and forgetting the rest to survive. Not true. Along with the Frozen activities -which are at specific times so you must work around them- there are several "classics" that the girls will not want to miss. Can I go to DHS and not catch Disney Jr. Live on Stage? Not if I don't want a full-blown mutiny. Can I say "not today" to Toy Story Mania? The girls have already made it very clear we have to do that one.

And with 3 small girls, there are so many other things to consider... Have you ever done a seating chart for a Disney trip? I have. Yes, a seating chart. My Mom will be joining us at the parks and with that comes the dreaded problem: Who sits next to grandma? So I have it broken down by ride. On the ones that are two people per seat like Dumbo or Toy Story Mania, I have a chart of who sits with who so everyone gets a turn to sit next to Grandma on a ride. This was pre-negotiated with the girls so they already know who goes where ahead of time.

I am currently working on the Aircraft boarding and traveling procedure. The plane we are taking to Orlando is 2 seats, the ailse, then 2 seats. Not enough room for a family of 5 to seat together. Mayline has to care for the youngest first so they sit together while I'm one seat in front. This leaves the older girls (insert Psycho theme here) alone together across the ailse. Not only that, but because we are waking up so early and have such a full schedule once we are there, I have to figure out a way to make 3 very excited little girls to sleep on the plane. So I have been talking to them about it for a while now about what's gonna happen at the airport and especially while on the plane. Wish me luck.

This is the sort of thing I've been dealing with recently, and I realize this sounds a bit extreme but there are a couple of million things out of my control that can and will go wrong so I'm just trying to deal with the stuff I can control. The schedule is tight and there's no need to screw things up because of something I could have done something about.

In the meantime, I have a race on Sunday: Popular Bank's 5K and my first race since the Puerto Rico Half Marathon back in March. I have done this race every year since 2012 and a PR is long overdue at this distance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

P90X3 - The Final Veredict

With less than 2 weeks to go before finishing my first round of P90X3, I can give you an honest assessment on what this program is all about and more importantly, how this program can help runners. Even runners like me. Granted, this program is not specifically designed for runners but after three months of program creator Tony Horton kicking my butt, I can honestly say that there's a lot here for runners to like and reap benefits from. Let's take a look.

P90X3 -which stands for Power 90 Extreme 3- is a home video workout program that promises to get you into the best shape of your life. Provided you follow it correctly of course. As the 3 in the name suggests, it is the 3rd edition of P90X -The extremely famous workout program- although this really is more of a sequel to P90X than P90X2 which is more focused on sports-specific training. You do 6 workouts a week, with a 7th "recovery" workout as optional. With the help of the awesome Katrina Pilkington, I did a hybrid version where I alternated running days with P90X3 days.

If you've seen the infomercials for this program, you've seen that a main talking point they mention repeatedly is the duration of the workouts. They are all 30 minutes. Everyone can do 30 minutes right? I can vouch for this personally. I tried P90X some years back and didn't stick to it. Mainly because the long workouts took a lot of my time. Also, because my fitness level was so low, the prospect of torturing myself for an hour or more, 6 days a week, killed my motivation. This "condensed" version, even though it's equally challenging, really helps people remain consistent. This has even more value to runners but I'll get to that in a bit.

Who is this program for?

This is the part where you have to take a good look at yourself before taking the decision to try P90X3. This is a challenging program and people with joint or back issues might have trouble here. A lot of the workouts are high impact and involve jumping and balancing. Also, if you are starting out from a totally inactive lifestyle, this program might prove to be too much. Starting out with a program like P90 (notice the lack of X at the end) might be recommended. 

Having said that, there is a lot of replay value here for the uninitiated like me. Most moves in the program have a modified version you can do first, then work yourself to the normal version, thus adding said replay value. What I mean is, it's going to take many rounds of this program to master it completely so it will be a long while before you need to move to something else, therefore giving you value for your money.

Ultimately, only you -preferably with the help of a doctor-  can asses your fitness level and decide if this program is right for you. If you do try it out, there is a lot here to keep you busy for months and months.

What about runners?

The workouts are varied and challenging but throughout the entire program, Tony Horton focuses on three things: Core strength, balance and flexibility. All important things to runners. For me it was quite the learning experience to do these workouts, then go out and run the next day and feel my still-sore core muscles and how they relate to my running form. My back as well. There are two reasons why I recommend this program to runners: The first is the aforementioned focus on core, balance and flexibility. The second is time. If you are a long distance runner -and by that I mean you run Half Marathons or longer- you are already spending serious time running. Once you pass that 5 mile threshold, the time spent on the road adds up quickly. This makes it hard to find time for other things, including cross-training. At 30 minutes, the P90X3 workouts make it very easy to schedule the required time. The variety will also keep you coming back. The program is divided into three blocks that are a month long. Each month has a different set of workouts so you are doing a lot of different stuff.

My experience

It bears repeating: This thing kicked my butt. It was tough. There were times when I yelled at the TV "You want me to do WHAT??!!" (I may have used more colorful language) but I had fun and I'm in much better shape now than three months ago that's for sure.

It helped me discover and work on my two biggest weaknesses: Lack of upper-body and core strength, and serious lack of flexibility. Videos like X3 Yoga, Isometrics and Pilates X twisted me in ways I didn't think possible and I still suck at them but there was noticeable progress for sure. Then there''s the push-ups and pull-ups. Two things I simply could not do. I did them assisted and will probably keep doing them like that for a while but yesterday I actually did some real push-ups so I'm getting stronger. Neither Disney World nor Rome were built in a day.

I will definitely be returning for a second round of P90X3 and probably beyond that. There is plenty here for me to work on. There is also another program called PiYo, which is a combination of Pilates and Yoga that is very low impact that I can combine with P90X3 that will allow me to focus on my core and flexibility even more. I'll keep you guys posted on that front. Meanwhile, if you are runner looking for an effective cross-training program or just someone looking to get in better shape, I recommend P90X3 wholeheartedly. It's awesome, it's challenging and I love to hate X3 Yoga. Bring it!