Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer Training

I'm three weeks into six weeks of teaching summer school. It makes for fairly busy days, but one thing I like about the schedule is that we have an hour and 45 minutes for lunch, which is a good amount of time to get to the gym, change, work out, shower, and get back for my next class (you may have noticed I didn't say "eat lunch"--no, there's not time for that, too). 

This spring, my training was (sometimes reluctantly) focused around preparing for a half marathon. This summer, I'm a little more up in the air. I'm playing in a summer tennis league, and since I didn't play at all from October until June, it hasn't been a surprise that I've been playing pretty poorly. So the last couple weeks I've worked in at least one day a week of hitting serves or groundstrokes from the ball machine. That's been Friday and/or Tuesday. 

One of the things I liked about being done with the half marathon was that I could get back into the gym and get back to weight lifting, so I have been. I think it was in May that I was introduced to the hex bar (or trap bar) dead lift. 
Image result for hex bar deadlift
This is pretty much what I look like doing these, except better dressed.
There are two things that are appealing about hex bar dead lifts: one, they're easier on the lower back and two, they're supposed to help develop speed better than any other lift. I'm lifting two days each week, with one day being dead lifts, bench press, 1-leg box jumps, and chin-ups, and the other day being squats, shoulder press, and lat pull-downs (or more chin-ups). 

This week, I finally brought some running back into my life. 

It's not that I haven't run at all since the half marathon, but I haven't run much. Twice? Or is that giving myself too much credit? I'm not sure.

On Friday I hit with the ball machine and hit some serves (that's tennis, not running, in case you weren't clear) and then did a 20-minute run up on the infamous wooden track (because the weather was lousy). I think I was going at a faster pace than usual, because I was pretty tuckered out after the 20 minutes, but I didn't keep track of distance, so I don't know.  

Then today (Sunday), I went for a long, slow run. I ended up just shy of 9 miles (8.93) and just shy of 90 minutes, which worked out to a 9:58 pace. Which, if my math is correct, is faster than a 10:00 paces, so I was pretty happy with that, all things considered. 

One of my friends invited me to run a half marathon in Chicago in October, and I'm considering it. Either way, it seems a shame to squander the endurance I built up this spring. We'll see how I feel about it as we get closer, but if I get back to running now, that at least keeps the door open. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Training Log: The Final Countdown

Well, we're in the home stretch, I suppose. It's Wednesday night and the 500 Festival Mini Marathon is Saturday morning. The last week and a half of "training" (I use the term loosely) haven't been exactly what I'd planned. But hey, we go to race with the runner we are, not the runner we wish we were.

You may recall that the last run I posted about was the Sunday before last when I had logged 11.86 miles (albeit split between two run with about 20 minutes between them). My intent was to get in two more runs between then and the race: another long one and then a shorter one so that I was relatively fresh for the race.

Yeah, best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

Last week was just unbelievably crazy-busy as we prepared for last weekend, which was Parents Weekend at our school. Among other things, I was working hard to prepare a Senior Tribute for my 14 soon-to-be-alumni--the tribute is basically a picture slide show in which I recap the 4-year journey and say nice and true things (and sometimes things that are both nice and true) about each of them. To be honest, I agonize over it. I guess it always comes out well, because parents and students seem to like it, but I'm always sure that I'm going to leave someone feeling short-changed no matter how hard I try to get it right.

Which is all just another way to say that the whole project ends up taking pretty much all of my time from the time I start it until it's time to present it. Every year, I'm literally making changes right up until the time I head over to the meeting. All of which is just to say that I never felt like I could take the time to go for a run that whole week, especially not Thursday or Friday when it felt like it was time according to my training plan.

Then the weather was lousy Saturday morning and I was on duty Saturday afternoon from 2:00-midnight. It rained all day Sunday, then Monday I worked and drove out to Ohio Monday afternoon/evening (so no run). Finally on Tuesday I scraped out some time in the afternoon--after it stopped raining and warmed up ever so slightly.

Given how close the race is getting, I didn't want to do a long run, just something to remind my legs that they've got to be able to do some work. So I ran for 76 minutes (goal: 75) which Google Maps tells me was 7.28 miles (pace: 10:26, which included some time walking to my car, getting a drink, and taking off my jacket, not to mention time running painfully slowly into the wind and/or uphill).

So all in all, it was exactly what I wanted it to be (except for not really being when I wanted it to be, or the larger plan that I had intended). It was a decent run, and I didn't injure anything or come away with any blisters or hot spots or other things that are likely to give me trouble Saturday. .

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Training Log - Catching up

I have a lot of catching up to do, though fortunately the catch-up work is all in the recording, not in the running. I'm pretty sure I couldn't make up for not working out at all in three or four weeks or whatever it's been, but I can fake my way through a recap.

I'm pretty sure that the first week that I neglected to report was right after spring break, and I only managed one workout of any kind that week. Part of the problem was that traveling back at the start of the week was a total disaster (a flat tire on our borrowed pop-up camper necessitated an unexpected hotel stay), and then we had a lot of clean-up to do from spring break, and then I was back at work and--shockingly--it's always busy right after a break.

Who am I kidding, it's always busy.

But anyway, I'm pretty sure it was that Wednesday that I did a run on the famous suspended-in-air wooden track because it was raining, and I ran for 80 minutes, which was the longest time I've ever spent running in my life. To that point--I can say from my current perspective that I've repeatedly broken that record, such as it is.

But I didn't do any more working out that week, and then it was the Big Birthday Weekend. I turned 40 on Saturday, our middle child turned 5 on Tuesday, and so we had family in town that weekend to celebrate. We went out for breakfast on Saturday, which was an appalling-yet-appealing all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. So I ate too many pancakes, even if they did have crappy margarine spread instead of butter and high-fructose nonsense instead of real maple syrup. I have standards, but I can ignore them when necessary.

And I'm not the only one who ignores standards, apparently.
For that matter, those standards were pretty thoroughly cast aside at lunch, at my daughter's birthday party that afternoon, at my own birthday dinner, and at the late-night cake-fest that followed.

And Sunday wasn't much better.

These things happen.

I came into the next week feeling like I had a lot to make up for, between just one workout last week (albeit one run that I was proud of) and a whole host of dietary sins over the weekend. Additionally, it was a gorgeous day on Monday, so I went to run outside along the lake by our school.

And it absolutely killed me. Ugh. I had zero desire to do that run, and the fact that I seemed to be running into the wind almost regardless of what direction I was running didn't help matters any. I stopped after a mere 17:38, during which time I ran (according to Google maps) 1.728 miles--which turned out to be a better than expected 10:13 pace. Not expecting that, because I felt slow slow slow, and that's just slow.

To compensate in some measure for the shortness of my run, I went to the weight room and pumped some iron: a very quick workout, my 2-minute all-out effort on three exercises: leg press, bench press, lat pull-down.

Wednesday, I planned to go over to the track and run 400-meter repeats. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans (though, to be perfectly honest, this wasn't a particularly well-laid plan). Pretty much everything that could go wrong did. First, as I jogged over to the track by way of warm-up, I was futzing around on my phone, tripped, and went down. I got right back up and kept running, but my leg looked like this:

Now, I don't have a lot of experience with running 400-meter sprints. Like, pretty much none. To the extent that I have worked sprints into my workouts, they've tended to be more like 100 meters. The first supposedly-400-meter sprint, I approached it basically like a 100-meter sprint that would just be painfully long. And it kind of was, except that it was painful enough that I quit after 300. I walked back to the starting line, recovered a bit, and thought "Well, how about 300-meter repeats?" So I basically just went out there and did the same thing, except that I pooped out after 200 this time.

Well, shit. This was not at all what I was planning.

As a side note to this, one thought that crossed my mind as I was taking that recovery walk was that I really didn't want to write on my blog about what a colossal failure this workout had been. Finally, as I was walking the longer distance back to the starting line, I decided that maybe--just maybe--a 400-meter run was not just a long 100-meter run. So, like, maybe I couldn't set the same kind of pace for both?

As I toed the line for the third time and mentally sounded the starter's gun, I found a pace somewhere between my regular long-distance pace and my full-out sprint, and then ran my 400 meters. It still wasn't exactly fun, but it was doable. I ran a 1:39 400, which is incredibly slow by most standards, but whatever. It's where I'm at right now. My second one, after a minute and a half's rest, was 1:44, so I didn't totally tank it.

And then I called it a day.

Friday came around with glorious weather, and though Friday was a busy day, I decided to get a little run in. I had in mind more where I wanted to go--running along the lake--than how far I wanted to go, except that I knew I couldn't go too long, because I had places to be and things to do. So. I ended up running... uh, I have no idea actually. I wrote the first part of that sentence a week or more ago and I don't remember that run at all. Moving on.

Since Friday's run wasn't all that long and I hadn't done a "long" run in over a week, I decided to try to get a longer run in on Saturday. It wasn't an ideal run by any means, but I guess it was okay.

I set out to run a big loop around the town where I live, though with no very clear idea how far I would be running. My vague intention was to run anywhere from an hour to two hours, and I ended up running an hour. I felt pretty good through most of the run, but during the second half my shoes were rubbing in a couple places on my feet and my nipples were chafing (good idea, wearing a t-shirt instead of one of my dozen or so shirts that's designed to wick away sweat). A little tired too, but I think it I hadn't spent 30 minutes trying to ignore irritation on my feet and nipples, I would have been all right to go further.

According to Google Maps, I ran an evil 6.66 miles. I apparently didn't start my stopwatch, but it was around an hour and six minutes that I ran, which worked out to a 9:55 pace. Not sure if I believe that or not, considering all of my runs so far have been just slower than 10:00 pace, but I will say that the first half hour of the run felt really good, so it's not totally inconceivable, I guess.

Let's review then: in one week, I had my longest run of my life (but nothing else) and then the next week I had a lot of smaller workouts, none of which was particularly impressive on its own. So which was the better week?


No workout Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, but finally on Wednesday I was able to set aside some time for a longer run. As a side note, I'm beginning to think the stopwatch on my phone is faulty, because I swear I hit start but--just like my last run--there was absolutely nothing on it when I finished my run. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I ran for 100 minutes, and I felt pretty good throughout. I was glad to be done, but feeling really good about it.

Then I sat down with Google to see how far I ran. I was hoping for 10 miles or close to it, but Google had some unpleasant news for me: 8.77 miles.

Well, crap. That was disappointing. 11:24 pace, way slower than I was hoping for. If that's my pace on race day, I'll be closer to two and a half hours than to two. But still, it was my longest (ever) run, so that's something. And it wasn't all the grueling, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that it was slower.

I didn't work out between then and Sunday, when I did another long run. My goal was to do a 2-hour run, however far that would take me. I ran a loop around town that took just about a half hour, so--employing my ingenious math skills--I should make four loops.

Unfortunately, things happen. For instance: I planned to wear my new Vibrams for this run. I've discovered that they rub funny on my instep, so I get around that by putting two big fabric band-aids on my feet. Problem solved.

Except that all but one of my bandages are at school (30+ minute round trip) and I have two feet. So instead I wore my old pair of Vibrams, which are full of holes that let my toes peek out... but I cleverly used duct tape to patch the holes.

And that was all going splendidly until my third circuit of the course, when I lost the duct tape on my right second toe--actually, I probably lost it long before then, that's just when the constant scraping against pavement started to irritate me. So I stopped after three circuits instead of four.

But once I got home, I put a bandage on my right instep and wore one new shoe and one old shoe and went out to add another [approximately] half hour to my run. So I'd say there was probably 20 minutes or so between my first run and my second.

According to Google Maps and my watch, my first run was 93 minutes that covered 9.12 miles (a perfectly acceptable 10:12 pace). And my second run--despite feeling like god-awful hard work, was just 2.74 miles in only 27 minutes, which is apparently a 9:51 pace. Well what do you know! Maybe that's why it was so hard.

And so, for the day, I ran 11.86 miles in 120 minutes, an overall pace of 10:07. So it was my longest run even without the extra few miles, and by far my longest run if you include them both, and it ended up being a pace that I was fairly satisfied with. But my legs are also more tired than they have been after any other run and I expect I'll still be feeling it in the morning.

But here were at T-minus 13 days to the half.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Training Log - Week 4

Week four was spent on the road, so I transitioned from mostly lifting and occasionally--almost as if by accident--running... to ONLY running.

Sunday we were at my in-laws in suburban Cleveland, so I got in my long run on loops of a housing development where every pair of houses looks like those pictures where you have to identify the five differences between them. I actually like running there. If nothing else, it's flat, which I think I made clear in my last post is much preferred.

So I ran a big loop through the neighborhood and circumnavigated it six times in 57:27. Turns out I ran 5.64 miles, which turned out to be a 10:11 pace. I was pretty happy with that. It wasn't nearly as miserable as last week's run, though I also did not achieve Zen-like equanimity. So it goes.

From there, we went to southwestern Kentucky for five days of camping. I'd like to say that I only ran every third day because I was tied up with the necessities of bare survival or family fun time, so that's what I'll say. Totally not lazy.

Wednesday, I explored the campground at a jog with my running buddy.

I haven't really run with a jogging stroller before, but of course it does take a bit more work to push the stroller, to guide it, and not dump her out of the stroller. Yeah, yeah, she's buckled in, but it's not exactly a five-point harness. It's not even a three-point harness. It's just a strap. You can't see it in the photo, but there's also a strap for my left hand which allows me to periodically let go and just run while it coasts along without the risk of, you know, letting her outrun me on downhills. We ran for about 20 minutes, and around that time I thought I'd try out one of the trails.


Even though it was paved, it had all kinds of things to jiggle my baby around: cracks and bulges, sticks and debris, and it also was very up-and-down with relatively sharp curves. In short, it was not buddy-friendly. So we walked for ten minutes until we found our way back around to the campground and ran around for another twenty (so back to my 40-minute running, albeit with a break). All in all, a fine run.

Then on Saturday, I got to take a solo run. I ran on the nice pavement, but I was once again drawn in by the idea of trail running. I saw a sign for parking for The Heritage Trail. That sounded promising. What led away from the parking lot was a gravelly path to an area that served as a dump site in one direction, and this in the other:

If it looks like that goes more or less straight up, that's because it more or less does. And it's rocky. Apparently the trail celebrates a heritage of pain and struggle. Or maybe not. A bit further on--and a bit further up--I came to this:

And the path, at this point, grew more... let's say subtle. Like "is this actually a trail? Have they just not gotten around to clearing away this fallen tree? Or marking any of it as a trail?"

I finally decided I was mistaken about this whole trail thing and went back the way I'd come. Which was, remarkably, worse going down than up. Wearing minimalist shoes, stones are not a lot of fun, particularly with the added force that comes from going downhill.

Anyway, I got back out to the road and followed it up to this sign:

I'm not sure why, but the bike has octagonal wheels... and the hiker has an octagonal head.

The path was just a dirt trail, but it was clear and well-marked. Lots of ups and downs, it kept me working pretty hard throughout my run. It's a very different experience than running on a  road, where I can kind of zone out, kind of get into a meditative state. Running on a trail like this, I had to remain alert throughout to avoid stepping on stones or tripping on roots, to track the trail's twists and turns.

It was also a rather pretty run, though that could be a bit of a liability too. Our campsite was very close to a beach, and the beach area was on a sort of bay. I found that this trail went out to the edge of the bay and then on along the lake, and I wanted to take a picture... but my phone was full. Even after I deleted voicemail messages and photos, even after I restarted the phone, it still insisted that it didn't have any memory left for photos. So I lost some time there trying to get the camera to cooperate.

It didn't.

I ran about 27 minutes, then kind of walked around futzing with the camera for five minutes or so, then continued my run long enough that I'm pretty sure I ran at least an hour all told. A good run to cap off a decent week before we left the next day for home.

Sunday: 5.64 miles in 57:27 (paved and flat)
Wednesday: ran 20 minutes, walked 10, ran 20 (paved, a bit hilly, with a jogging stroller)
Saturday: Ran approximately 60 minutes with one break of about 5 minutes about halfway through (mixed trail and pavement)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Training Log -- Week 3 (part 1?)

It's totally possible that I'm more or less done working out for the week, because Thursday was crazy busy as the students leave for spring break, then Friday we'll be getting ready to travel and then travelling, Saturday we'll be spending a day at Kenyon (and travelling to and from). It's getting busy, I've gotten in 3 days of work and we'll see where it goes from here.

Monday, I got into the weight room and hit "the usual": leg press, bench press, squats, and lat pull-down. I pushed the leg press hard and got more reps in my two minutes than I've gotten before, and the same on bench. Pretty solid effort, all in all. Go me.

Oh, and I also worked in some speed work after that. Nothing too big, just four sprints, each about 120 yards (or whatever the length of our indoor track is).

Tuesday I went for a run, and it was just nice enough to draw me outside, but not nice enough for me not to hate it. Recently, I've only run inside in nice flat, controlled conditions. Outside sucks. For those who know my school, I "like" (I use the term loosely) a loop of about a mile from the fitness center down to the lake past the flag poles, along the lake to go around the crew building, then up parallel to the road to the football field, then between the football field and the lacrosse practice field, across the parade field, up the steep little hill by the health center, then angled up that hill in front of the chapel back to the starting point.

Before I'd even gotten started good, this seemed like a terrible idea. The ground was still saturated from recent rains and a good deal of the loop is on grass. So my shoes (granted, they're Vibrams, so there isn't much to them) were totally soaked pretty much as soon as I started. And then when I made the turn to cross that big field from the crew building up to the football field (which seemed way far away), I was running into the wind and--I would swear--at least slightly uphill. Every step was like running through something that's hard to run through. Something that's so hard to run through, it saps the mind's ability to form similes. That's how bad it was.

And then, as I come around to finish each loop, I have to go up a steep (albeit short) hill and then a long gradual slope. So that by the time I finish a loop I really want to just quit. My plan, congruent with what I said in the last post, was to run about 40 minutes, which I supposed would be 40 minutes. I was ready to quit before I finished the first mile loop as well as at the end of each loop, not to mention in the midst of several of them. I slowed to a walk just a couple times, to pull out twigs that had lodged between my toes, but basically I ran the whole 40 minutes, so I guess that's a win. Definitely slower than 10-minute miles by the time it was done, but I wasn't really timing my splits.

Wednesday, I once again had post-40-minute-run sore legs, but I also once again pressed forward with a workout in the weight room: 2 minutes of 135# deadlifts, 2 minutes of shoulder presses, and 2 minutes of seated rows. It's amazing how challenging six minutes of actual work can be, but there it was. And, just like last week, I felt like it was not only challenging, but also a great recovery workout, as the legs felt just a bit fresher when I was done.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Training Log - week 2

If you read about my first week, you'll soon notice that the second week wasn't actually that much different. At some point, I should, you know, shift more toward actually running, but as I think I made clear in the first post, running isn't really my thing, so I plan on putting it off as long as I can.

And I will justify my decision to do so under the aegis of "minimum effective dose." If you're not familiar with the term, it comes from the pharmaceutical world, where they ask the question about how much of a particular drug is needed to get an effect (perhaps not completely irrelevant to the current discussion, they also sometimes look at the dosage at which half the subjects die). But anyway, whether it's a drug or whether we're talking about running (which I like to call the opium of the middle class, so also a drug), it should be obvious that too little will not be effective. But on the other hand, more isn't always better, so I'm kind of wondering where that sweet spot is (in other words, how little can I run and still managed to get through a half marathon in less than 2 months?). I mean, the thing is, if I get injured, I'm not going to be able to run much so, you know, better safe than sorry.

With that lengthy preamble out of the way, here's what I did last week.

Monday: nothing. Too busy adulting, couldn't find the time.

So on Tuesday , I did my leg press, bench press, squats, and lat pull-downs routine, and on Thursday I did my dead lift, shoulder press, pull-down routine. Sandwiched in between, I did actually do some running (see? I really might be training for a half marathon!).

I "discovered" running much the way I discovered a lot of things: in a bookstore. May of 1998, killing time in the Kenyon College bookstore as either graduation or reunion weekend approached, I found a book on running. The recommendation there was to block out 40 minutes, and depending on your level of fitness, you might start by just walking the whole 40 minutes, then you might go to four blocks of 1 minute running, 9 minutes walking, then you'd keep working your way up until you were running for the whole 40 minutes. I think I jumped right into running 4, walking 6, because my ego told me to. But anyway, that was my template, and before too long I was running 40 minutes at a chunk. As a result, I kind of internalized 40 minutes as the right amount of time to spend on such an activity, however far that would take me.

So Wednesday, that's what I did. It was cold, so I ran inside on this rather odd track we have at our school. It's a big catwalk around one of our gyms, with a wood floor. Kind of like a basketball gym floor, except it's suspended in the air up above actual basketball courts.

I started running, aiming for 40 minutes, and then I kept going until the song I was on finished, 43 minutes total. I didn't stop to walk at all, though I also wasn't setting any land speed records. If I had to guess, I'd say I ran 10-minute miles, but honestly I have no idea. I'd like to think I ran faster than that, but I'd also like to think I am a physical specimen in the prime of my life, not some dude who's almost 40 and looks more ancient than that to his high school students. Anyway, I will absolutely concede the possibility that I was slower than that. For now, I wasn't too worried about my pace, I just wanted to keep running the whole time and I did.

And wow! I was pretty tired after that. The kind of muscular fatigue where you can't get to sleep because your legs are achy and restless (which, I have to say, is not very good design: I mean, if my legs are that tired, clearly I need a good night's sleep to recover--someone should work on fixing that design flaw in our dna).

Here's the thing though. If you were following the sequence earlier, I ran on Wednesday and then lifted again on Thursday. My legs were still tired on Thursday, but I went ahead and did the workout I'd planned, because that's what you do. And you know what? My legs actually felt better afterward than before. Kind of weird, no? Go to the gym with sore, tired legs, move heavy plates of metal with my legs, they feel better. My hypothesis is that the short, intense workout didn't tire my legs the same way a 40-minute run did, but it did help to move the lactic acid out. Whatever. All I know is they felt better.

Friday, I did a little more running. Once again inside on the wooden track, I ran one mile, and this time I actually inflicted a stopwatch on my mile (9:48, so I think my estimate of my Wednesday pace was reasonable), then I walked for a minute or so, then I ran another mile, which was also sub-ten-minutes, though not as rigorously timed (i.e. I know what time I started, and it was 9+ minutes later on the clock when I stopped). And that was it. Just two miles with a short walk in between. I was crunched for time and wanted to get at least a little running in.

Perhaps because they were still stinging from their treatment on Wednesday, I found my calves particularly sore. Particularly when I stopped and started again. Because of my embrace some years ago of "minimalist" running shoes (which goes nicely with my approach of minimal running), I've transitioned to striking first with the balls of my feet rather than the heels, and one consequence is that my calves do a lot more work. Combine that fact with the fact that my calves do not do nearly as much work when I squat or deadlift (i.e. all the times I've exercised in the last several years), and that's probably all the explanation needed.

Anyway, it's a decent week of training in the books. I'll take it (as if I have a choice!).

Tuesday: Leg Press (2 min), Bench Press (2 min), Squats (3 or 4 sets), Lat Pull-Downs (2 min)
Wednesday: ran 43 minutes
Thursday: Dead lift (2 min), Shoulder Press (2 min), Box jumps (1 set, c. 36"), Lat Pull-downs (2 min)
Friday: ran 2 miles, slight break between them
Saturday and Sunday: rest

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Training Log - week 1

As I announced recently on Facebook, I've committed myself to running a half-marathon in just under two months. On the surface, this might seem like a crazy idea: I mean, I haven't run farther than 6 miles at a time in my entire life and when I say "I'm going to go work out," I most pretty much never ever mean "I'm going to go for a run." But if you dig deeper, it actually is a crazy idea.

I mean, I don't have any business running a half marathon. Seriously. I did track for exactly two years of my life--seventh and eighth grade--and I was not only terrible, I also hated pretty much everything about track except for walking from the junior high to the high school with my friends and eating sugary crap on the way at the gas station.

But, okay, actually, I have at various times in my life taken somewhat to running. But not all that recently. So why a half-marathon? Well, in part because one of my co-workers asked me to. Not just me, pretty much everyone in the whole school, and it was totally an option to run a 5k instead of a half. But the thing is, even though I know I'm in pretty terrible cardiovascular shape, I'm still pretty confident that I could go out and complete a 5k right now. Maybe not very quickly, but I could do it. But 13.1 miles? I don't know. It's the challenge, I guess. See if I can do it.

So let's talk training. For most of the winter, I have decidedly not been training for a half. My training this winter has been almost exclusively weight training, shaped by some time I spent hanging out with the Marines in San Diego in late January. While there, we took the Marine Combat Fitness Test, which included this thing where we lifted a 30-lb ammo can overhead as many times as we could in 2 minutes. Now, 30 pounds isn't that much, but I found that trying to do it continuously for 2 minutes got really, really hard.

So I thought "Huh, I thought I was fairly strong, but apparently I don't have a whole lot of endurance." Which makes sense since for the past few years I've mostly been lifting in the 1-5 rep range. So, with that seed planted, this winter I've still been focusing on the "big lifts," but I've structured my training around a 2-minute max effort. It took a while to find the right weights and, for that matter, all the right exercises, because it turns out that it's really hard to do back squats continuously for two minutes while maintaining good form (so I've been doing 2 minutes of leg press and adding in some heavier squats later in the workout). Besides that, I've been doing bench press, lat pull-downs, dead lifts, and shoulder press. It's been pretty enjoyable overall: I feel like I'm getting a pretty intense workout, but it's very efficient. Even with warm-ups and time to recover between exercises, I get in and out pretty quickly.

Last week, before I signed up for this half marathon, but with the possibility in the back of my mind, I went for one run in addition to my weight lifting workouts. And I have to say, it wasn't exactly the kind of workout that screamed "Hey, you should sign up for a half marathon!" Because I ran like 25 minutes and stopped several times along the way. So maybe a half-5k...? Is that a thing?

But I had an abiding faith that it would get better this week and--SPOILER ALERT--it did. But more on that in my next post. I figure I'll use this half-marathon thing not only to motivate me to train in a different way but also to blog more frequently. And just like it would be a bad idea to go out the first time and try to run 13 miles, it would also be a bad idea to write much more than I already have. So I won't, except to recap my training last week:

Day 1: Leg press, Bench, Squats, Lat Pull-downs
Day 2: Dead lifts, Shoulder Press, Lat Pull-downs
Day 3: a very, very sad little run

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Instant Pot Corn Spoon Bread

I fell in love with Don Pablo's in college and then I fell in love all over again the first time I had their spoor bread. Good. Lord. I've made copycat recipes a few times in the past, but they always seemed like a lot of work, with a long bake time and ingredients I didn't necessarily have on hand.

Tonight, with the help of my trusty Instant Pot, all that changed.

Because the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, it both cooks faster than the other recipes and doesn't need an extra pan of water to keep the spoon bread moist. Win-win.


1/3 c. corn meal
1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. water

1 can corn
1/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. corn meal
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

some avocado oil

In a food processor, process the first 1/3 c. corn meal to make a fine corn flour. Add the softened butter and cream together. Add 1/4 c. water and blend. It's a good idea at one or more points in this process to scrape the sides. Add one drained can of corn and the heavy cream, process some more.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining corn meal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add to the food processor and process to mix.

Turn on the instant pot to saute, add a bit of oil (I like avocado oil). It doesn't need to get really hot, just enough so that it flows nicely over the bottom of your Instant Pot. Scrape the spoon bread mixture into the Instant Pot. Put on the lid and use the manual setting for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, it should be good to go, but your mileage may vary. I've only made this once, but I'm pretty sure that will change before too long.