Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year Reflections

I usually post this time of year reflecting on the year that just passed. I've logged the majority of my highlights in this space of the internet already so it seems a bit redundant. Also a bit self absorbed, especially considering everything else going on in the world right now. The one focus I strive for is to make each year stand out - so I sit here at this time each December and think, man, that was quite a year! If this was the case for anyone else that may be reading, congratulations! Take the same approach and set some high standards for 2009. If the year passed and all's that you are focused on is the negatives, than it's time to rethink your approach and get on a new path. That's the cool thing about a new year - you are starting with a clean slate.

Here are some of my tips to make this coming year a special one:

  1. Stop watching the news. Stay up to date with current events through periodicals instead of the screen. What's portrayed on the news is usually a sensationalized view of the reality. Funny, I talk with many different business people daily. Very educated people who have interesting and powerful career positions. Each one I talk to gives me a totally different view of the current economic crisis, and what they foresee in the future. What I've come to conclude is that each persons view is based solely on their personal situation instead of looking at the global situation, even if they think they are looking globally. This is regardless of whether they are optimistic or pessimistic. My point is that A. I don't think anyone really knows what the hell is going on, and B. we need to be more proactive instead of following the news and advice of people we think are in the know.

  2. Start each day by asking yourself what you are going to do that day that puts you ahead - that separates you from the ordinary. OK, I know this is hokey, but get in the habit of looking in the mirror each morning, telling yourself it's going to be a great day (even if it is a grey Monday in February and -2 degrees outside), and asking yourself this question. Instead of rolling your eyes, just try it for two weeks. What have you got to lose?

  3. Don't accept routine, normalcy, or complacency. Easier said than done. Many have fallen into the habit of doing the same things each day, week, year. Those racing endurance events feel they are putting themselves out there, but the truth is that many of them are doing the same exact things they have done for the last five years. Switch it up. Stretch your goals a bit. Decide that this year, you are going to throw in one off the wall or bizarre or out of routine training session each week. The Tue night MTB ride reintroduced to me the fact that as much as I love swimming, biking, and running, I had become to routine. When was the last time you finished a day feeling re-invigorated and full of new energy that you couldn't sleep? This happened to me after the first few night rides. Something new and exciting to switch up the schedule a bit.

  4. Get out and train with others at least once a month. For some, that's a not a common thing. If you typically train with the same people, aim to train with some other athletes as well at least once per month. I have this Sunday morning run and it's been mostly just Ken and I. We do different courses, throw in hill repeats, trails, ... Most don't want to drive to run, and do the same long run each week. I've watched Ken go from a 7 min/mi racer to a 6 min/mi racer. Good stuff.
  5. Don't accept what others say. Being told that you are not capable of doing something that you truly believe in should just fuel you. People in life, for some reason, are constantly offering their unasked for advice to others in the form of negativity. If you believe what they tell you, then it will come true. If you have your sights set high and people tell you that maybe you should lower them, you can believe them and not even try, or you can defy them and prove to them and more importantly, yourself, that you are capable.
  6. Smile more. Ok, once again, a bit hokey. But studies prove that those who smile more have more energy and carry through on things.
  7. Surround yourself with influential, positive people, and dismiss those who drag you down. As we age, time becomes more and more precious and why waste it with those who don't contribute anything positive at all?

That's enough for now. Sure, we've all heard these things but how many of us are following all of them? If you are one of the few who is, then you are way ahead of the game and will have a brilliant 2009, congrats. If you are one of the many who is stuck in a rut, the choice is yours right now. You don't want to reflect back on a year, or worse, twenty years, thinking I coulda, shoulda, woulda.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is age getting the best of me?

December 28th and I ran in shorts and short sleeves this morning! The trails were a mess so I ran a very hilly road course and my legs felt great, unexpectedly. I keep overthinking this whole age thing. There are some days that remind me that I'm supposedly on the downward slope. This isn't a depressing thing, just the factuality that I started racing in my 20's and I'm now in my 40's. These are the days when I feel a bit more stiff than usual. When my gait seems three inches shorter than it used to and when I don't have that spring up the hills that I remember. I'm not looking for sympathy, trust me. I'm just jotting down my thoughts. I know that this is a bit self consuming and that's the one battle I continuously have with keeping a blog anyways, but maybe there is something of value in here. If not, then you just wasted a minute of your time reading this. (Straz, that's five minutes of your time - I know your reading level.)

I perform a lot of self analysis tests - tests that I have been using for years to compare and evaluate where my present fitness is. I recommend often that my athletes come up with a solid run course and bike course where they themselves can perform such tests. As much as these tests give me an idea of my present fitness AND health (you can have one and not the other), I also know that lab results and tests aren't always accurate in depicting certain information. Trust me, I've been doing this for over twenty years and have studied the analytical as well as the actual.

The main obstacle when evaluating ones form and fitness and health is in not lying to oneself. Lying in general is something that really bothers the hell out of me. I know it bothers most, but I really get overly irritated with it for some reason. It's the main thing I stress constantly to my kids. "we never lie", "be humble" and "always think about yourself in someone elses shoes" are the lessons that I hope become ingrained in them from my constant reminding(nagging). We all have some ability to lie to ourselves. Justifying is a form of this. This is a self-defense mechanism set up so that we don't get ourselves in to much trouble physically. Now I'm not talking about justifying or lying with non-physical things. There is a difference and it has to do with ethics. Convincing lots of people to invest their life savings with you and screwing them out of that money is a bit different than convincing yourself that you gave it your all and did the best race you could, don't you think? OK, I'm getting off topic.

I don't want to lie to myself, telling myself that I'm as fit as I was maybe two or ten years ago and convincing myself that I'm not on that downward slope. If I feel I can't run as fast as I once was able to, I'll deal with it. That brings me to today.

As I was out on my run, feeling good and thinking about the upcoming year and goals (I recently sent all my athletes a specific goal sheet asking them about their realistic goals and their dream or reach goals), I thought about whether I was setting the bar to high or to low. And with all the HR, wattage and time tests that I performed this past year, the one test that puts a smile on my face and proves to me that I can still put out my best times (this is if I had the amount of time I would need to put into training) is the Vermont Ride I did with Baker and Molson in August. After doing this ride since 97 every year, sometimes twice per year, I averaged my fastest time to date and felt strong the whole way there AND back. Reflecting on this gives me a lot of confidence knowing that this coming year is going to be an exciting one and one where I definitely reach!



Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

I'm sitting here procrastinating. I want to get a run in, but I guess not that bad, as I'm wasting time instead of getting dressed to go. That's what a foodfest, sugar-filled, too-much-wine couple of days will do to ya. Up until Wednesday, I have been quite disciplined in regards to my nutrition the last month - something not so easy in December. I have a good routine that works for me that I'll share, out of boredom and the fact that strangely, I have been getting a bunch of inquiries about what I eat. Just keep in mind that this works for me.

4:45 am: Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt
8 oz of H2O w/ 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar
2 salmon oil supplements
2 packets of emergen-c
2 probiotic capsules

6am: coffee (black)

9 am: shake (frozen bananas, soy milk, peanut butter, whey protein, flax seed)

sometime during the day: apple w/ almond butter

Some other time during the day: hand full of honey oat pretzels

Dinner: something protein related w/ veggies and a glass of wine
2 more salmon oil supplements

Yesterday, I had none of the stuff on my routine menu really. I'm not going to search for the nutrition in what I ate and make any justifications. I did have a piece of coconut cream pie, a piece of chocolate cream pie, a bunch of cookies and chocolate chip biscotti. OK, now I feel gross again. I guess I just needed this reminder - time to go run. Maybe I'll even tack on a few extra miles. Tonight, I'm making home made pizza.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Run Playlist Today

Ran 9 miles with some pick-ups thrown in at the 20 min and 40 min mark. I had a cool playlist rolling - at least I dig it. Here it is in order:

Malibu - Hole (great warm up song)
99 Problems - Jay-Z (but a bitch aint one)
Timebomb - Beck (good tempo to this song - helps you find the right pace)
Sex On Fire - Kings Of Leon (These guys are good, check em out if you havent yet)
When The World Is Running Down - Police (old school - great beat to run to)
Hello/Goodbye - Lupe Fiasco (just a cool song, period)
Something Is Not Right With Me - Cold War Kids (Lisa thinks the title is fitting for me)
Control - Puddle Of Mudd (try running easy to this one)
Times Like These - Foo Fighters (classic song, makes me feel good for some reason)
I’m Not Over - Carolina Liar (another good beat to run to. Duh, this is a run playlist)
Can’t Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers (Again, the title is fitting. The end of this song is just to cool)
Daft Punk Is Playing In My House - LCD Soundsystem (stupid song, but great to run to)
L.E.S. Artistes - Santogold (tempo of this song starts to ease my effort)
Lucky Man - The Verve (just a great, fitting song. A good one to get stuck in your head)



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Running

Who needs snowshoes? Ken and I met at 7am this morning for our Sunday long run as usual. There were a lot less cars in the trail parking lot this morning. That's a shame - it was a beautiful morning to run. Connecticut got hammered with snow yesterday - a fluffy, yet thick snow. This is great to run in and makes for a different workout. It's definitely a strength run. The first thing most ask when they find I'm running in the trails in the snow is "don't your feet get wet and cold?" Once your feet are wet, they're wet. And they rarely get cold as long as your moving.

I hope others got a chance to get outside and run in this. it's amazingly peaceful in the woods and the white snow is unbelievably picturesque. It'd be a shame to be stuck indoors on a treadmill and miss out on these days that are few and far between.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Blues?

One year ago, I wrote about the lack of motivation many athletes experience during December. You can read it here: http://http//hodska.blogspot.com/2007/12/off-season-blues.html (I am not great on the computer and don't know how to make just the word "here" the link, so bare with me.)

I feel it's worth revisiting. In this post, I want to discuss mental attitude a bit more.

I always try to be dead honest with myself. I get nervous going into big events and experience self doubt sometimes. I remind myself of all the hard work I put in towards the upcoming event, and ask myself these questions: A) why am I doing this and B) what are my expectations? I then break B down a bit further asking myself what result will I truly be content with? Sometimes this can add to the nerves, but the main thing I try to avoid is making any pre-race excuses in case something goes wrong. Once we start doing this, we begin to set ourselves up for a disappointing race before we even get to the starting line. It's easy to feel outside expectations besides the ones that we place on ourselves. I feel them. The key thing is not try to justify anything before or after races. I remember posting a race journal and a friend and athlete I coached commented that I was awfully hard on myself. I went back and re-read my journal and found that I was being honest, given my expectations. When I was younger and first began racing, I had some good results in local races quickly and started placing race pressure on myself. If I had any set backs in training, something we all encounter throughout the season, I'd begin to make excuses in my head in case I didn't finish where I wanted to. My ego was getting the best of me which happens easily when you are young and naive - or stupid. I caught this quickly and thought that this negativism and focus on petting my ego was not only silly, but that it was going to sap the enjoyment and learning process out of racing. Another young friend of mine couldn't let this go and dropped out of triathlons back in the mid 90's. I saw him a few years ago, fat and bloated and regretting that he ever fell out of the sport.

After spilling all that out, the only thing that truly matters when I break it down is that I'm enjoying the process, testing myself, learning, and making friends. It's great to have high expectations. I certainly do and I think that setting high expectations, one's that we really need to reach for, is the way we'll learn the most about who we are. Remember that the higher the expectations, the higher the pressure will be that you place upon yourself and the more you will feel pre-race nerves and question yourself as to why you are doing this in the first place. But this is where, if we follow through, we take big chances and maybe reap big rewards in self discovery and fulfilment.

I recently asked the athletes I coach to complete some written homework in the form of listing their top ten limiters (a nice term for weaknesses). I have a few who listed mental toughness as their strength, where as I had listed mental toughness as one of their limiters in my personal notes/files on them. After thinking more about this, I realize that many of them are mentally tough in the fact that they won't give up or quit when the going gets tough in a race. When you are testing yourself by racing and being tested in that race by that little devil on your shoulder convincing you to quit or ease up or walk or lie down, not giving in exudes mental toughness. So after re-evaluating their mental toughness, I changed my notes to "lack of belief" for these individuals. They are very talented physically, yet train and race at a level that is within their safety zone. They are capable of racing at a higher level and yet don't believe they belong at that higher level. Guess what? The body follows the mind. You gotta believe!

I know it's only mid December and motivation may be a bit low right now. Re-evaluate your 2009 goals, or begin evaluating them. Write them down, set high standards and begin to believe that these standards are where you belong. Then get your ass out of the couch and out the door.



Monday, December 15, 2008

The Plunge 2009

December 15, 2008

Hi All,

It’s, once again, that time of year. No, it’s not the holiday season I’m talking about. It’s that time of year when I attempt to recruit a number of you to join me in January in jumping into Long Island Sound. “Why would you do something that stupid?” you may ask if you have never done this. If you have, you are probably thinking right now “I was dreading this letter!” Let’s start with a brief history of the event. In 2005 when the Tsunami hit the south pacific, I thought that we could use the Plunge as a way to raise charitable funds for the American Red Cross, which we did quite well. In fact, that year, we organized simultaneous Plunges in Cleveland, New Mexico, and California. In 2006, we continued this terrific annual event, but decided to make it beneficial to someone closer to home. I wanted those that donated to see directly where their generous funds were going. We raised money for a young boy battling cystic fibrosis. The funds we raised helped offset some of his extensive hospital bills and paid for a well needed vacation to Disney. How cool is that! In 2006, we continued the trend of helping children directly in need by donating funds to a family with overwhelming hospital bills due to testing and procedures with their two autistic kids. The money this time paid for the kids to attend a leading autism medical specialist in Boston, one that their insurance wouldn’t pick up. Last year, we raised funds for a Stratford single mother and her child who is battling a very rare illness called Kawasaki’s Disease. So that leads to this year.

Pam Morrow contacted me about having the Plunge for her neighbors Bob and Christine Greif. On May 11, 1997, Christine was hit by a drunk driver while on her bicycle preparing for a local triathlon. Christine sustained a traumatic brain injury that has left her with limited ability to walk, eat, speak or otherwise engage in normal daily activities.

Christine was a scholar athlete at Avon High School and then at Dickinson College where she majored in English. Christine was the recipient of the Trinity Club Book Award in her junior year for her scholastic achievement and service to the community.

More than ten years since her injury, Christine continues to suffer the severe effects of the brain injury which have made daily functioning incredibly difficult. Christine has persevered with the help and generosity of family, friends, church and community. Insurance companies have given up on Christine making funding of her care extremely challenging.

Our goal is to raise awareness and to generate some charitable funds to help offset some of the expenses that Christine has incurred. The thought of asking people to donate money is difficult enough without considering this financial crisis we are all undergoing. This is also a time of year where it’s important for us all to realize just how fortunate we are in the big picture.

In the four years that we have done the Plunge, we have raised quite a bit of cash, thanks to all of you who have contributed and/or participated. One of my favorite things about the Plunge is the way that it makes those attending smile – even those of us that are stupid enough to Plunge.

Here is the official information on the upcoming Plunge for Christine Grief’s fight against her severe debilitating injuries:

When: January 3, 2009

Time: 2:30 pm!!! High tide is predicted at 3:44pm so we are plunging in the afternoon this year. I will provide coffee and hot chocolate.

Where: Southport Beach on Pequot/Beachside Avenue (Exit 18 or 19 off i95)

Even if you are not plunging, please come down, support the event and watch us plunge, even if it’s only me.

Please e-mail me at ehods@earthlink.net if you are planning on being there so I have an idea of a head count.

Each plunger should make an effort to raise $100 to be donated to “Team Christine Greif Fund”. You can send checks to me, bring them with you to the plunge, or donate through paypal at http://www.hodska.com/ . If you donate through paypal, please send me an email informing me of this so I can then keep track of each individual donation for Christine.

Please forward this on to family, friends or any one you think you can sucker into plunging.

***The beach could be rocky and/or have sharp shells. I advise you to wear an old pair of sneakers during the plunge.

***Those plunging are doing so at their own risk. If you have any physical ailments such as an existing cardiac condition, asthma, weak immune system, or anything else that may be effected by this event, please come to watch, but its best that you do not plunge.

Thanks everyone! What better way to start the New Year than doing something good for others, and waking up the system!

Happy Holidays and here’s to an exciting and adventurous New Year! See you at the Beach January 3rd.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hawaii on TV

The Hawaii Ironman is on NBC today from 2:30pm et to 4pm. Go out and run first before plopping yourself down on the couch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doom and Gloom

Today is a tough day. Yes, in this current global economic situation, when there are soldiers still fighting that will not be home with their families for the holidays, it gets worse... Oprah has regained her weight and is back up to 200 lbs. I can't believe this has happened. I mean, what is this world coming to? I'm devastated and at a loss for words.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Getting Hungry

We had 12 show up for the Tuesday night ride this past week, including a 12 year old on a cross bike! The ride went close to two hours and stayed mainly on the rail trail, however, we did do some single track - nothing too technical. I rode the new 29'er - what a great ride! One ride and I'm already sold on this tech. My light battery died about 90 minutes in, making things very interesting. When I was with the group, it was no problem. When alone, I couldn't see the trail under me, making the ride dangerous and bizarre. I came out unscathed though. This ride has been a blast and a nice change of pace.

Wednesday night, I attended the kick off meeting for the Bethel Cycle Club for next season. Greg has really done a great job with this club. He has the right people heading things up and they have done nothing but grown. Megan S. heads up the tri-club and they currently have more members than the cyclists! Greg introduced me at one point and asked me to say a few words, so I spontaneously discussed motivation during this time of year. One of the things I mentioned was the African runners and how they are studied and observed to see why they are so good. Many books and magazines have covered their theories as to why the Africans excel in distance running - the common theories are; they all train together at altitude and that they have been running long distances since they were young kids. I think it's more simple than that. The pure reason they are so good is because they are hungry - both literally and mentally! In a country where their annual individual salary is less than $100/year, this is their ticket out. We have it very nice over here in the US, even during this recession, and this makes us soft, plain and simple. The point was that now is a great time of year to "get hungry", instead of being a lethargic, excuse making, over partied, over hor douerved, typical December American.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Prime 16

Man, I had a great run today! It's been awhile since I felt "springy", so this was unexpected. I always remind athletes that when you have one of those great training runs where you are just flying, that's an indication of your potential - not a fluke thing. Today was one of those runs where you know it's going to be a good one after taking your first ten strides. Bonus was that the weather was perfect here in CT for running - I wore shorts and a long sleeve jersey and was comfortable. As I ran, I had a desire to get back on the track and do some interval work. I know many of the closet coaches would feel this is stupid to do in the wintertime, but if you do the "right" session (in regards to length and effort) this is not only not stupid but it can take you to a new level.

Nostalgia entered my mind, as I thought about the early 90's when I used to drive up to Yale in the winter and do indoor track sessions at Cox Cage with Margit McDougall, Ron Meneo, Scott Roth and Emmitt Hibson. We were preparing for the first race of the Connecticut Series. Man, I wish someone (hint - Mandy) would bring back this cool series. The series consisted of sprint races like the Milford Tri, The Orange Biathlon, The Derby Biathlon, The Hartford Tri, and Griskus. They even had an awards banquet at the end of the year. The competition was fierce and I'd run these sessions at Cox Cage thinking about going up against L.J. Briggs, Chuck Sperraza, and Dick Korby to name a few. One of these winter days this year, I'm going to have Margit (here that?) help me round up Ron, Scott and Emmitt and do a track session then go drink some beers and catch up.

Speaking of drinking some beers, I was up in New Haven last week with some friends at Farbers (The Mexican) new bar and restaurant Prime 16. He opened up right near the corner of Temple Street and the green and the place is great, but I expected nothing less from Farber. It's a microbrew bar with something like 30 microbrews on tap from all over the place and another 60 in bottles. His menu consists of some really cool appetizers and some amazing burgers - there's even a few vegetarian ones. As much as i like The Bar, Prime 16 will replace it as our destination the night of The Plunge, January 3rd. Hopefully, a bunch of you can make it. My athletes will be beginning my Cleanse Plan on January 4th, so you may as well join us for some fun the night before.

Tonight is the night Rail Trail ride. I'm anxious to try out my new Cannondale 29'er. If people are feeling adventurous, I may take them on some single track.