Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrate July 4th Early with an Ales for Autism Fundraiser and Iron Springs

Ales for Autism is at it once again, this time with a fundraiser at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery this July 3rd as part of their Give Back Tuesdays series of community fundraisers.  You can find more details here as well as checking out the event's Facebook page

So why not celebrate our countries independence a day early, enjoy some great beer, and raise money to support families struggling with autism?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Running Quote for the Week: The Unforgiving Minute.....So What?

Our quote for this week center comes from an unlikely source, British, Victorian-era poet Rudyard Kipling, and the "unforgiving minute" is this quote:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Just sixty seconds running? What's that all about?   Lot's of us run for plenty of minutes, even an hour or two, several times a week, and we're much more likely to inherit a bad case of chaffing than the Earth.  What's the big deal here? 

These are actually the last four lines of a poem Kipling wrote in 1910 called If- which totals thirty-two lines and starts off with

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

Now we begin to see some relevance to running.  There are distractions all around you, whether it be the terrain, weather, or traffic and focusing on pace, form, and effort for each run is key in training.  In a race, competitors, crowds, and the race course are added to the mix and success in getting to the finish line is a lot about "keeping you head when all about you are losing theirs".

If you read Kipling's If- in entirety, you'll find his poem is about perseverance, about overcoming barriers, and perhaps more importantly, keeping the mental discipline required for success.  And while Kipling wasn't a runner, it's telling he used running as a metaphor for persistence, effort, and keeping your composure with the rewards they bring.    If you run for all sixty seconds in a minute, or all sixty minutes for an hour, you might not inherit the Earth, but you'll gain strength, discipline, and a sense of accomplishment.

Here is the full text of If-.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Old-School Father reviews "Train Like a Mother"

Guys, let's face it.  We look up to men like Steve Prefontaine and Alberto Salazar who talked a lot about guts and enduring pain, but none of them went through child birth.  Whether they know it or not, the mothers of the world are uniquely experienced to deal with the necessary patience, hard work, and pain threshold required for the thrill of reaching the finish line.  While children do not come with manuals, authors Dimitry McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea  provide a running manual for mothers with their second book, Train Like a Mother.

This book does not fall into the trap many "you can do it"  running books fall into, which make running seem like nothing more than moving your arms and legs around, feeling good, and then raising your arms in victory at the finish line.  Thankfully, McDowell and Bowen create no such illusions in their book.  There's plenty of pages devoted to burning sensations in the lungs and legs, race day flame outs, injuries, chaffing, and unplanned discharges of various bodily fluids.  Which makes taking the journey to the finish line even more significant and the inspirational stories more compelling and real.
They divide their book into 13.1 chapters (OK, it's really 13) that start off with the couple of introductions about running, caveats about taking on any training program, before outlining beginning and intermediate training plans for running the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon distances.  After that are chapters on matters such as strength training, injuries, nutrition, setting goals, before concluding with tips on how to get the most out of all that hard work on race day.

I found much of the training advice to be well thought out and sensible, although it travelled over rather well worn territory.  But there's always a fine line in training when setting goals and making plans that "absolutely need to be done, no excuses" and being flexible, recalibrating and adjusting your training to how you feel and the things that life inevitably throws in your way. I found the training plans to strike that difficult balance.   For example, workouts are denoted as "Bail if necessary" while critical hard workouts are stamped "Bailing is not an option".

Also valuable are the "Motherly Advice" side bars, where all sorts of tricks and clever ideas are shared to get a little extra training while juggling everything else that's going on.  For instance, they show how to use running strollers and treadmills to get a decent workout in while keeping the little one engaged and happy.  But I must say I was slightly amused by the authors' devoting at least two pages about smoothing over feelings when making a break from a running partner who can't keep up.  (The guy version of this book would have only a single sentence:  "He'll get over it.")

I found the chapters on cross-training, recovery, strength training, and flexibility helpful, with lots of insights on core training and simple exercises one can perform in the living room.  Maybe that's because my wife Linda, a running mother herself, has found a lot of the core exercises she's worked on have helped her running.  With my kids here for the summer and less time to run, I'll be spending more time inside working on core strength and overcoming some form imbalances, with this book giving me some direction in this area. 

McDowell and Bowen also share all sorts of interesting discussions and advice from women readers of their first book, Run Like a Mother.  As a guy who's spent most of his time talking about running with male runners, I found these conversations be a fascinating cultural experience.  And if this book is an accurate representation, compared to guys, women runners talk just as much about chaffing, vomiting, and a lot more about sex.
The authors, Sharon Bowen Shea
is the shorter one.
But perhaps the most valuable passages of this book come from the personal advice the authors share about the need for mothers to take good care of themselves and have positive diversions at a time where they face great demands and expectations elsewhere in their life.  Looking back ten years ago during the time my kids first came into the world, I wasn't running much, was 60 pounds overweight, was angry, unhappy and needless to say, not as good as a father as I could have been.  Guys like my don't ask for directions, and since it took nearly hitting rock bottom before I got some help, this book probably couldn't have helped me back then.  But for those running mothers out there struggling to raise their kids without a manual and still find the meaning and purpose running adds to their lives, Train Like a Mother provides a lot of good direction during this crucial time in their lives.

(A copy of this book was provided by Andrews McMeel Publishing for the purposes of this review.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Running Quote for the Week from a 1980 Colaboration of Running Heavyweights

"There is no slot in which to deposit your excuses and alibis at the finish line"

Marty Liquori and John L. Parker in their book "Marty Liquori's Guide for the Elite Runner"

Published by Playboy Press in 1980, Marty Liquori the American record holder in the 5,000 meters collaborated with the author of the running cult classic novel "Once a Runner" to produce a gem of a book that's long out of print.  Marty Liquori's training plan and running advice is fairly straightforward and hardly revolutionary, but what really makes this book great is the all little insights, stories, and motivation Liquori shares with his readers, opening a window into the mind of a runner from the 1970's golden era of American distance running.

This quote is particularly memorable as it underlies a brutal simplicity of distance running, where all the hard work, joy, pain, and passion over months of training is distilled into a finishing place and a number on a stop watch.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beer of the Month: Noma Weiss from Sonoma Springs

The Sonoma Beer Fest, held last June 2nd in Santa Rosa, has in a couple short years become my favorite beer festival.  Located less than a two hour drive north from my home on the San Francisco Peninsula, it always features something old and something new.  You can never go wrong with breweries like Russian River, Bear Republic, Moonlight Brewing, or Moylan's, but there's always a great new brewery that's popped up to discover at this festival held in a region of the country where fermentation, whether of grapes or malt, is a driving force.

So the Beer of the Month of June goes to Sonoma Springs for their pouring of an arresting Wheat Ale call Noma Weiss at the Sonoma Beer Fest.  That's right, I used "arresting" and "wheat ale" in the same sentence.   It's got this strong, yeasty, fruity vibe that made me sit up and take notice upon first sip, which I found difficult to deconstruct into any recognizable flavor components.  And while you could make a case I don't have a trained palate to evaluate beer into flavor components and just sort of wing it with Internet beer reviews, I find "indescribable" to be the mark of a great beer.  If I like it that is.

And I also recommend Sonoma Springs's Black Forest Black IPA, but their Noma Weiss seemed to go better with the beef sandwiches they were serving next to their booth at the Sonoma Beer Festival, so it's my pick. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Running Devotional: Emil Zatopek starts us off

Starting a new feature here, a running quote or passage to motivate your, or at least give you something to think about during your running week. Sometimes it will be from a great runner, sometimes an average one, and even I'll chip in with my own observations here and there along the way. I found this unconventional quote on achievement from the legendary Czech runner Emil Zatopek a great way to get this started.

"To boast of a performance which I cannot beat is merely stupid vanity. And if I can beat it that means there is nothing special about it. What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come."

Emil Zatopek

I've noticed the great runners often respond to their amazing accomplishments with a ho-hum matter-of-factness.  Perhaps we would reach greater heights if we reacted to running achievements with less elation and more expectation.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beer for Hydration article in Adventure Sports Journal

I've done it again and conned Adventure Sports Journal to publish another article I wrote.  Elaborating on a reader question about the satisfaction one gets drinking a beer after running, I delved into the science of hydration, debunking an internet myth along the way.  You can read the article here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Circle the Calendar

I gave it little thought when I entered it Hillsborough Family Fun Run 10k held yesterday.  It's one of those small local races hardly anyone knows about, with nothing much going on.

There are no rock bands.  No automatic timing.   No corporate sponsorships. The course is twisty and hilly so nobody is there to set a PR.  There's no race expo. No large crowds.  You don't have to put in huge amounts of mileage or do any special training to complete the 2k, 5k or 10k races. 

It's just a bunch of people from the community getting together to run.

To keep your running priorities in balance, do a race like this now and then.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Session #64: Pale Noise

Carla Companion laments the fact that most people don't get too excited about Pale Ales, so she encourages us to try a couple to explore this unappreciated style for this month's Session.

Imagine a world where everyone speaks only in a whisper or a scream. Suppose the only shows on TV were "Masterpiece Theater" or "Keeping Up with the Kardashians". What if we made our homes either on roller coasters or in sensory deprivation tanks? Now consider if the only two beers in the world were MGD 64 and some Belgian Quadruple Black Imperial IPA aged in Cabernet barrels and you'll understand how the humble Pale Ale makes the world a better place.

While life's highs and lows tend to get most of our attention, the vast majority of our time on earth is spent amidst a humdrum background noise. It's the balance between the tone, intonation, and intensity of this background noise that creates life's diversity. Maybe I'm getting way too philosophical for a blogging discussion on Pale Ales, but if you ask me, life is about balance, and Pale Ales are about balance, so logically speaking, the humble Pale Ale style epitomizes life itself. OK, the malt and hops balance may not be the same as finding the balance between relaxing bliss and hard work, or altruism and selfishness, but you get the idea.

Encouraged by this month's Session, I focused on rediscovering the diversity of the Pale Ale in three widely distributed examples of the style in my home state of California. Here's what I found.

Widmer Drifter Pale Ale
There's a definite caramel character to the underlying malt with a very light, slightly earthy but mostly citrus hop presence. Refreshingly juicy.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Is there any greater irony that this Session devoted to throw-away craft beers includes arguably the most important beer of the modern American craft brewing revolution? The malt is toasty, the hops earthy with a light savory herbal note. Familiarly yummy.

Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold Pale Ale
Nearly clear, cracker-like malt lets the piney, astringent hops with noticeable flavors of grapefruit peel shining through. Warmly cleansing.

Find balance in your life's noise. Or just find a good beer.