Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spiritual Fitness

You can't be spiritually fit without considering the place Jesus has in your life.  We know that Jesus today is the Son of God, sitting on the right hand of the Father and interceding on our behalf for our salvation. On Easter we celebrate Him as the risen Lord, the divine God who rose from the dead and by so doing paid the price for our sinfulness so that we can accept that sacrifice and have eternal life with Him.  I have to stop and remember the earthly Jesus though.  Yes He was the son of God but He was also a human being, a man just like me.

Jesus was born on the earth like any other baby.  He grew within the womb of an ordinary woman, struggled into the outside world while causing his mother pain. Undoubtedly he cried upon exposure to the world outside of the comfy womb he had been so comfortable in.  He grew up as a normal boy (for the most part), playing with friends, falling and skinning his knee's, running and participating in games.  As he grew older he learned the skill of carpentry.  He probably busted his thumb a time or two, maybe he fell off a scaffold.  The point is he knew what it was like to be a normal boy and a young man as he grew up in Nazareth.  Once he began his ministry he became an itinerant, walking from place to place trying to show the love of God to people. He got hungry, he got thirsty, he got tired of walking and had to take rest breaks.  He experienced joys and sorrows.  He was well accepted and was despised. He got angry, he laughed, he enjoyed the crowds but at times he craved being alone.  He was every bit a man as I am a man today.  As he approached the end of his life, only in his early thirties, he experienced fear at what he was to face.  Jesus, however, knew that He was the son of God and that his painful, inglorious death would be required in order that God's love could be shown to us.  He suffered the beatings, the trip up to Calvary's hill lugging his own cross when he easily could have avoided it.  He was God after all.  He chose to feel every bit of pain as the nails were driven through his hands and he was lifted up onto the cross.

Thank you Jesus that as a man you suffered so that as the Son of God you could guarantee me life eternal in heaven.  I do not deserve such a sacrifice, the fact that you made the sacrifice anyway is an expression of just how much you love me.  I am spiritually fit only to the extent that I continue to give you Lordship of my life.  Thank you my friend, my Savior.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Coon Creek tried to discourage me

OK, so I could have gone down to the beach and run the 6-mile Miracle Miles for Kids from Morro Rock to the Cayucos Pier.  Pay $40 or ghost run it. I have done this race several times and I really felt like getting my feet dirty on the trail.  So I slipped into my Vibram 5 Finger shoes, my favorite's for trail running and headed for Montana de Oro to take on the 5 mile out-and-back Coon Creek trail.
Trail goes through a patch of California Poppies
#3 of six bridges on Coon Creek Trail
This is a single track that starts at nearly sea level, climbs to about 350' at a beautiful little grove of oaks where you turn around and head back.  I set off up the trail with high hopes of having a great wrong.  I was feeling strong and powerful as I tackled the various uphill's, climbed through a rocky section, crossed six bridges across the burbling Coon Creek and tried not to get distracted by the beautiful scenery.  I did not feel too guilty about that as I have done my share of slow hikes on this trail where I took time to 'smell the roses'.   There were a few other people on the trail, mostly going the opposite direction.  I received encouraging comments of 'good for you', and 'that's what we should be doing'. I told one couple that we all do what we love, enjoy your day.  At that point I was starting to breathe pretty hard so whether or not I was enjoying what I was doing was becoming at least a bit questionable.  I did keep up my pace however and was soon greeted by bridge #1 of the six bridges that cross the meandering Coon Creek.  Whenever I run this trail I use the bridges to gauge where I am on the trail.  The first bridge comes at .45 miles, this is bridge number 3 which is about 1.5 miles in to the run.

As I crossed bridge number 3 I was feeling strong, the only pauses I took were for a couple of pictures to document my run and to make my friends jealous.  I think I may have succeeded on the latter, who wouldn't want to be in this beautiful place.  I would love to lead a hike for some of my friends sometime in this area.

There used to be a sign at the head of this trail saying that it was 3 miles to the end of the trail.  The current sign calls it 2.51 miles and at about that point on my GPS sure enough I arrived at the beautiful little oak grove that marks the end of the trail.
End of the trail, great place for a restful snooze
This is one point on the trail where it is tempting to stop and 'set a spell'.  I have actually had lunch here on a hike, it is quiet and a good place to stretch out and take a nap.  Today, however, I was intent on running good time, hopefully under 11 min pace.  Why? I don't know. Sometimes I set off with a goal in mind that really makes no particular sense other than it just is what I decided.  So after a quick pause to take a picture I turned around, faced the west and took the first step in the return trip.  Now this was fun, immediately downhill, but not so steep that it was hard on the quads, just steep enough to allow for a quick pace.  Woo hoo!!, now I'm feeling it.  I raced along the single track, pushing on the few uphills in order to keep up the pace.  Again I met a few people along the trail, as usual on most trails they were all very friendly and encouraging. 
My boo boo
At about mile 3.2 it happened. The unthinkable actually happened.  I caught the toe of my Vibram on a rock and suddenly found myself face down on the dirt.  Oops. Uggh. Ouch. Those were the only words I used as I caught myself on my left knee and my left hand.  You believe that? Good!  At any rate I bounced back up, took a quick look around to make sure nobody saw me and continued on down to the trail.  My hand was stinging, my knee was stinging but I ran for bit before finally looking at my hand and seeing that it was bleeding pretty good.  So I stopped and looked at my knee and sure enough it was just as ugly.  Am I getting too old for this I asked myself?  It is not that I fall every time I go for a trail run, but  it seems to happen more often when I run at Montana de Oro.  I have fallen on the Valencia Peak trail, the Bluff Trail, the Pt Buchon Trail and now the Coon Creek Trail. Since these happen to be some of the most beautiful places to run in the entire world I don't see myself just entirely giving it up.  Though there may be a lot to be said about hiking instead of running.  More to come.

After resuming my run, ignoring the stinging and the bleeding I was determined to keep up a good pace.  I knew, however, that I was soon coming to the finish which was a series of steps built in to the hillside to try to assist with the steep ascent.
I knew that I would not be able to run this section at any kind of speed and sure enough I had to walk most of this final section. When I got to the top of the steps, which you can't see in the picture but they are right where the trail curves at the top of this photo, I was able to stretch it out a bit and finish fairly quickly, completing my run at 4.95 miles at a pace of 11:01.  The fall didn't defeat me although it did help keep me from going under 11 min pace.  Will I ever be able to run this trail again without thinking of this fall?  Of course. I have run Valencia and Bluff since my falls.  The real question is do I want to, or do I want to concentrate on walking, hiking and backpacking.  I could stop running, save my knees, eliminate some of the falling potential and do more Spinning, weight lifting, kickboxing etc., other activities that I really enjoy. Food for thought.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kim and I working it in Morro Bay

Today was an awesome day for this old body.  I wanted to spend some time with my good friend Kim and what better way than to do some workouts together. 

So to start the day we did a 60-minute Spin class at the gym.  It was a good class but we only did about 15 miles.  It was a good hard ride but I am used to getting in 18 - 20 miles in a 60 minute class. It is probably because we didn't do a lot of high cadence endurance runs but a lot of climbing.  I definitely came away feeling like I had really gotten a good workout.  At my age that is about all you can ask for. 

Our plan was to run a 5-mile loop on the beach after we finished our Spin class, but we got down there and found that the fog was heavy on the beach and the tide was a little too high.  So we decided to head over to the Quarry Complex for a hike.  This is one of my favorite areas to hike and run and the weather was actually perfect for a good hike.  The first .3 miles was steeply uphill so I quickly began to breath hard. Breathing hard is fun, it is what makes me feel the trail and know that I am doing something good for my body.  We hiked, we talked and occasionally stopped to smell the flowers.  We did 3.5 miles in 1 hr 20 mins, a perfect pace to pamper our bodies after a hard Spin class and to nourish our friendship.  The flowers were really spectacular, especially the lupines.  I am not sure what the red and yellow flower was but it was truly beautiful

After a break for lunch, a really great bleu cheese and grilled onion hamburger at Wee Shack, it was time for an evening workout.  So back to the gym for a 30 minute Spin class.  Yea, that's right, two Spin classes in one day, yea buddy.  This Spin class was actually more intense than the 60 minute class earlier in the day.  High cadence drills abounded as we made several climbs in and out of the saddle.  We had planned on doing the 20-min abs class after Spin but I decided to send her off to do that while I spent my 20 minutes beating the crap out of the heavy bag.  I think I worked up a bigger sweat here than in either Spin class or our more relaxed hike in the hills.  All in all a great day of treating my body well and working on my connection with my good friend, my sister Kim.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Climb Up Black Mountain

Haven't been posting on my blog for a while, I think it is time to change that and start posting more often.  After all, can't expect people to enjoy going to a blog that hasn't been posted to for over a year!

Today we arrived in Morro Bay to spend a few weeks of Debbie's spring break relaxing in one of my favorite places.  Of course for me relaxing in Morro Bay means doing a lot of trail running.  I have many favorite trails here, from Black Mtn right near the RV Park where we stay to Valencia Peak, Coon Creek and others in Montana de Oro State Park just a short distance away. 

Since we got into town in the afternoon I decided to stay close and run Black Mtn. This is a 600' morro (a volcanic upheaval) that is part of Morro Bay State Park.  Leaving Bay Pines I ran up Quintana Rd towards town.  This is immediately uphill and remains that way for 1.2 miles.  This is mostly pavement as I ran up Quintana Rd, took a left hand turn on Bella Vista Dr, another left onto Balboa and then a right on to LaLoma to the trail head.  The trail continued uphill for a short distance until I got onto a fast .3 miles of down hill single track.  I was able to really get up some speed here but then I was faced with the old axiom - what goes down has to go back up.  At this point I was at about 65' elevation. Over the next segment of less than a mile I ascended to 600' to the top of Black Mtn.  I had to walk a bit on some of the steeper portions which basically ruined my overall pace in the end.  That is ok, the beauty and the challenge of this run up to the top was worth it all.  From the top I chose to do a loop course. So instead of doubling back the way I came I went down the Black Mtn Rd through the golf course, down the golf course road to State Park Rd and then to South Bay Blvd and home.  This final segment was 2.4 miles, mostly downhill with the last few tenths being level pavement.  I was able to run much of it at around 8 minute/mile pace so that my final average pace was 12:13/mile.  Not bad for an old man!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I ran 5 miles on Saturday, not a long distance for me.  The run felt really good though it was a hot evening and I didn't run fast.  I ran a loop from home which means I was on pavement the whole time, not my favorite thing to do at all.  It is just takes such an extra time commitment to hit the trails which is what I really love.  The problem is the next day my calves were really sore!  Monday, Tuesday and they are still sore.  It took until this afternoon to figure out why.  I did this run in my Vibram's for the first time in months.  I remember that when I first got them I experienced the same thing the first couple of times I ran in them.  The way your feet move is so much different in these shoes than in the normal shoe which does everything it can to keep your foot from moving.  It really is almost like running barefoot which I have also done.  So when you first run in them all the muscles in your legs work differently and for me that means ending up with sore calves for a couple of days.  I know that if I keep running in them the pain will be gone and it will be all pleasure.  I have run as far as 10 miles in these shoes and I'm not sure why I ever put them away.  I will definitely be using them regularly again.  I am going to need to replace them soon though, they have 224 miles on them as of now

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thanks for trees God

 In keeping with the spiritual side of fitness, I submit this:
The forest calls to me with a voice that is quiet and still and yet is so loud in my innermost being that I can scarce resist it. I can feel with my soul the tall tree’s, heavy and well-rooted while they sway gracefully in the heaven-sent winds that flow down the canyons of the Sierra’s. My daily routine yearns to be interrupted by a pilgrimage to these great, old trees. Would that I could stand at the base of a giant Ponderosa or Sequoia and gaze up into its bosom of needles and cones. With use of my hands and feet alone I would climb the rough bark until I became one with the freshness and strength of its mighty limbs. Continuing to the very crown I would sit in a collection of branches, making a seat from which I could begin to understand the special place a tree holds in the plan of the forest. I would know that my new friend had been alive and thriving for generations, unlike my frail few years that I have on the earth. I can only wonder what marvelous things have occurred within sight of the tree. Thank you God for giving us trees.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mixing it up

It is so important to balance your physical activity.  It is pretty apparent to most of us that we have to mix it up.  If you are primarily a runner, don't forget to hit the gym for some strength work to keep those muscles functioning properly.  If you are a weightlifter, do your cardio and yoga to keep from getting 'muscle bound'.  If all you ever do is use the elliptical you are training your body to be great at the elliptical, but if you suddenly decide to become a swimmer you will be sore for a while until you re-train your body.  So it is important to mix it up.  Especially if, like me, you are a little older and your body on its best day wants to rebel against exercise. 

I look at it like this. I need to do cardio work, strength work and mind/flexibility work. The way many people approach this is to do cardio on one day, strength on a different day and maybe combine some flexibility and cardio work on another day and so on.  I take a little different approach.  I like to include all three in one workout.  Not everyday, but here is an example.   On Monday's I typically do a Spin class, usually about 20 miles in 60 minutes.  Then I go into a yoga class that is about 30 minutes in to the practice and join in for the final 30 minutes.  After the yoga class I do a 35 minute TKO kick boxing video.  This workout is a great combination of cardio, followed by some great stretching, balance and flexibility work.  The kick boxing at the end gives some more cardio plus the added benefit of working on my dexterity and balance.  And it even helps develop musculature in my back, shoulders and arms while I work through the various punching combinations.
Another combination that I do on Thursdays is this.  I start with a high intensity cardio session where I do jumping jacks, high knee's, various boxing moves and finish with more jumping jacks and high knee's.  Sometimes I will throw in some burpee's and/or some push-ups to mix it up.  I do all the moves one after the other with no rest and it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.  Then I do a 60 minute yoga practice (power vinyasa).  I finish with about 30 minutes of weightlifting, mostly upper body.
These workouts leave me feeling energized for the day and burning calories long after the workout is over.