Earth Hour is Tonight at 8:30PM Local

I’m that guy, you know the one, the guy who always appears to be running around at one hundred miles an hour, never slowing down, never smelling the roses, never having time for those closest to him, etc etc etc. While this isn’t completely true (my close friends know I’m equally satisfied driving a large complex project or sleeping on a rock in Sequoia), I figure the least I can do is completely disconnect for one hour and that hour begins tonight at 8:30PM as I will participate in Earth Hour. What difference will it make? Globally, most assuredly my participation won’t make any difference at all, but I figure if I can sit in the dark for an hour disconnected from The Matrix, it can’t be a bad thing personally. And at a minimum, it makes a great excuse for not having to watch repeats of Real Housewives of NY. Maybe you’ll join me as well.

Road Warrior Runners: The New Guy

In every community, you’ll find its members categorized into various groups. Running communities are no exception to this rule. You’ll find the veterans, those elder statesmen or regular members who have been coming for years; the leaders, usually the founders, organizers or decision makers; the followers, a subset of the regulars that show up and simply go along with what everyone else is doing; the celebrities, the folks who show up one week are gone for the next two months and then come back regaling their club members with terrific stories of their running in exotic locations abroad; and then there is the new guy.

Regardless of gender or even of how many, the new guy arrives into a running group with energy, hopes, expectations, an agenda, and a shoe full of anxiety and apprehension. The new guy can be new to running, a thirty-year veteran who just moved into the area or a travelling businessman. The new guy might be there for a single run or there to join the club indefinitely. Underlying all of these, the primary goal of the new guy is to be invited in and have an enjoyable time. But the quickest way to make this perfect situation completely horific is for the new guy to be too forward, too knowing, too ignorant or too irritating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that inserting oneself into a group of runners is as difficult as blending into a prison click but like everything else in life, the new guy has one chance to make a first impression. So if you’re the new guy, here are a few things to do and a few questions to ask to ensure the enjoyment of your first run:

  1. Call ahead. If you’re the spontaneous sort, you can just show up at the posted time and meeting place, but it’s been my experience that that’s a 50/50 shot at best. Lots of clubs post regular runs but many either never instituted anything formal or the group changed their logistics or eliminated the weekly run entirely. When you call the organizer, ask them a few basic questions. Do they meet as scheduled? How far do they run? Is the posted time an arrival time or a run start time? What pace do they run? How large is the group? Do they run on streets or trails? How easy is it to get lost? Is the course marked or easy to follow? Will you be there or should I be looking for anyone in particular? Should you bring anything? Does their group have a specific purpose or mission – what’s the composition of its members? The answer to this last question may not seem important but if you are a new runner and you connect in with a group of cross country A-personality racers you may not be very happy as they drop you in an unknown area within the first few hundred yards. Another reason is that the running group may be part of a larger community. On two occasions, I found myself running with Christian church members and GLBT members without knowing it until I was about a mile into the run. On both occasions I had terrific runs, but I felt a bit disingenuous as both groups assumed that I was already a part of their community. These are fairly benign examples, but increasingly I’m seeing that causes of all types are realizing that appealing to runners is a great way to recruit new members, and you just might want to insure that the folks you’ll be running with are at least somewhat aligned to the conversation topics that you might want to have out there on the road.  For instance, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be running with a group of hunters talking about their latest kill.
  2. Show up early. Parking and logistics are never as easy as they appear to be, especially if you are connecting with a group while on a business trip. I remember connecting with a weekly group run in Piedmont Park in Atlanta and the starting place was listed on the internet as near the tennis courts. It took me a good twenty minutes of driving around before I finally stumbled upon the correct entrance to the park and the meeting location for the group. The only thing worse than a crappy run is missing the run itself in an unfamiliar area with no idea where to run next.
  3. Introduce yourself. I know this sounds like an obvious thing to do, but how you introduce yourself can give you a lot of information about the group and can help to blend in much quicker. I usually begin first by asking if this is the group run that I’m looking for. Even as recent as last week, I showed up at a running store where runners were congregating and when I asked them if they were members of a particular group, they told me no, that this was a running class and the group I was looking for would be arriving a few yards down in about fifteen minutes. In Los Angeles, if you show up on a Saturday or Sunday morning at the end of San Vicente where it hits Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, you’ll find four or five different groups meeting within a ten yard area and it can be both overwhelming and a bit intimidating if all of a sudden you jump into a group with a completely different purpose than the one you expected. The better a runner you are and the more familiar you are with the area, the less of an issue this is. Introducing yourself to the runners that are already there will help to alleviate this issue. When you introduce yourself, let people know that you are new, that you haven’t run with this group before, and let them know how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the area in which you’ll be running. Here’s what not to do. Don’t tell them what distance you would like to run and how fast. In short, you are not a member of their club yet and you haven’t earned the right to do that. I’ve seen folks do this and they are seen as pushy, entitled and assuming. It sets a bad tone that is completely avoidable.
  4. Ask them what their plans are for this particular run. Even if you have previously asked the organizer this on the phone, things change. It also solves the awkwardness described in step number three. By asking them how far they are planning to run and at what pace, you can figure out if that fits with what you are able to, and want to do. There’s still an escape clause. Nobody knows you and there’s no harm in backing out if it doesn’t work for you. You can do it quietly and without fanfare by simply telling the organizer that you were hoping to go longer, shorter, faster or slower, however you’d love to connect with them another time now that you have a better understanding what they do. But do let the organizer know. There’s nothing worse for a conscientious club organizer than hunting around for a new runner that’s gone missing, especially when you haven’t gone missing, you just dropped out on your own.
  5. Find at least one person running a similar distance and pace. Many groups start together and then break up into smaller groups by pace. This can be a formal process set up before you start or informal as runners start to hit their stride. Try to find at least one person slower than you, and a person faster than you because in most all cases you’ll need to apply a pace discount or premium to what they tell you. “We’re going to probably run 7’s” might mean we’ll start out at a 7:00 min/mile pace but then the speed up once the testosterone sets in, or alternatively it means we’re really running 7:30’s or even 8’s but I exaggerate a bit. The terrain can also come into play. This is a bigger issue with cycling groups but running 9’s on a 6-mile climb requires much more energy that running 9’s on a flat route. If you’ve been used to the latter, you might not be able to keep up. What you’re really looking for is a tour guide, someone to follow that knows the route so you won’t get lost. By identifying folks slower and faster, you hedge your bet and once you start running you can blend in with the folks that seem right for how you’re feeling that day.
  6. Communicate but don’t over-communicate. This isn’t your group and even the friendliest of folks will get tired of you if you talk the entire time about how great running is somewhere else. If they’re interested they’ll start asking you questions but the general rule is that less is more. Remember you’re the new guy.
  7. Run with humility. If you are a world-class runner don’t go out with the intention of showing everyone how terrific you are. They’ll see it soon enough. Nothing is more endearing that a great athlete that seems to be content enjoying the company of those who are less gifted. And as the new guy, you are already cool, and only by opening your mouth or by doing something silly can that change and it can only really change for the negative; view this as just another interpretation of low impact running.

Most importantly, have fun out there. Being the new guy doesn’t last forever, so enjoy it while you can.

Road Warrior Runners: 7 steps to becoming an instant member of the local running scene

Running is a lifestyle that yields tremendous benefits in all parts of our lives. One of the terrific characteristics about being a runner is that across the globe we all share a common connection, and no matter where you may travel or live, you will always find like-minded souls putting in their mileage, enjoying a trail, pushing a stroller or hanging out at a local coffee shop after a good sweat out on the roads. The trick is finding out where they are all running.

I’m down in Orange County, CA this week and while I used to come down to this area when I was back in college, almost everything has changed since then so I needed to do a bit of quick research to figure out where I could safely run to keep my training going full bore in these final few weeks before the Los Angeles Marathon on March 21st. Here is my approach to get looped in quickly and seamlessly:

Step 1: Find locations to run

The best way to do that is to find places where people have already run which is super easy using all of the available Web tools for runners. A few of my favorite sites include Map My Run, USATF Running Routes, and Garmin Connect. USATF alone turned up dozens of mapped routes from 1 to 19 miles each and if you use a Garmin, you can download routes from Garmin Connect directly to your device which gives you turn by turn directions right on your watch. Goggle will also come up with blog posts and other useful information to help you orient yourself appropriately before heading out. For example, Google turned up this awesome site called Friends Run Orange County which included pdf maps of all of the various running trails in the area – priceless!

Step 2: Find your local running store

In my case I Googled “Running Aliso Viejo” and came up with A Snail’s Pace Running Shop and Road Runner Sports. Not only are these a great place to replace the Body Glide that Homeland Security confiscated from you on your flight over, but it’s a great place to get local knowledge of the area and find out if there are any group runs happening while you are there.

Step 3: Join up with a local group run

As mentioned previusly, the first place I look to is the local running store. You can also Google “Running Club [your location]” and you’re bound to come up with contact information and a schedule of group runs. A note of caution. Runners are well meaning people who try to create community. It doesn’t always work, so contact the group administrator to make sure that the run is actually still happening and that it is happening at the time and place published. Here in Alsio Viejo, I connected with the Snail’s Pace Running Club on their Wednesday evening group run. I showed up last night and there were thirty runners of all abilities loitering around at the published time and I was able to introduce myself to a group of incredibly friendly people and then get a near-perfect 6-mile tempo run in with four people at my pace, with plenty of other runners doing their own thing of less or more mileage and pace. In my case their website was a bit squirrely but I found a great link to the A Snail’s Pace Running Club page on Facebook and got all of the information I needed. The best part about group runs is that you have built-in tour guides.

Step 4: Plan your own run

Some of the sites mentioned earlier also allow you to draw out your own run on a Google Map or similar device. Gmaps Pedometer is another site that allows you to do this really easily. This way you can create a customized run of any distance before you head out. Note that sometimes maps are not completely accurate, so one of the things I do is to write down the turns on the back of a business card and take it along with me just in case. That way, even if I go off course, I’ll recognize the names of the streets and be able to find my way back.

Step 5: Let people know you’re around

With so many people on Twitter and Facebook, you’re bound to have a friend or follower that may live right in the area and can play tour guide on your behalf. As in every other community, there are cats – those who do their own thing, and dogs – those who love to join in and please their masters. The running community is no different. My friend Barry loves when I let him know that one of my running friends is coming into town so he can take them out on a run and show off what he believes is the greatest running city on earth. Bet you have friends that would do the same.

Step 6: Get lost

OK not literally, but don’t be afraid to just go out and run, and as long as you know the area is safe, you’re bound to see the area from a totally different perspective. Pretty sure that Zooey Dechanel and Jim Carrey had something going with their early morning running photography club from Griffith park in the movie Yes Man. You’ll get inspired, feel great and it will really set you up for a terrific visit, whether it’s for business or pleasure. The best part of just heading out and running is when you pop out and you figure out exactly where you are. it’s a great confidence boost knowing that you can head out with just a pair of running shoes and have a terrific mini-vacation of your own. Obviously, if the weather is unpredictable or you are heading out on the trails, you might want to bring along water, a few dollars and maybe even a cell phone in case things go downhill rapidly…get it? Downhill.

Step 7: Race

I was in a group cycling class recently where the instructor said she went down to Costa Rica and found out that there was a road race going on, but decided not to enter it because she felt intimidated. Malarkey! Anywhere you go, if you can register for the race, there will be runners that are faster than you and runners that are slower than you. If you can’t register for the race, it probably means that you’re at the Olympic Trials and then it would be OK to be intimidated. In all seriousness, join in the fun and participate. I guarantee you’ll have a great time. You can find out about local races through the local running stores and clubs, by Googling “running race [your location]” or by searching race specific websites such as

My personal adventure here this week in Aliso Viejo has been nothing short of spectacular yielding two 10 plus-mile runs along the Aliso Creek Trail, where both times I “got lost” and had a terrific time finding my way back, and a 6-mile tempo group run and I’m not done yet. It also allowed me to connect with new friends Matt, Bob and Tom with the Snail’s Pace Running Club, which not only provided me with a great run but introduced me to Tom who I found out lost his daughter in the second plane that flew into the World Trade Tower on 9/11 and who went on to carry the Olympic torch back in Salt lake City. Tom is also running his 26th Long beach Marathon, one of only 16 runners that have run all 25 of them. Pretty cool! I even got invited to an awesome Italian restaurant after the group run where over 40 club members laughed and chatted about their upcoming races and runs. If you ever find yourself in Orange County, I highly recommend Antonucci’s in Mission Viejo. The pizza was amazing!

See you out there on the road.

The 10in10in10 Challenge – Week 8 Report (Up 1.25 lbs or -5.5/10)

For those new to this blog, I and a bunch of other tweethletes embarked upon this year’s 10in10 challenge, with the outcome goal to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. This report covers progress through week 8 of 10.

How’d I do? (The Outcome Goal) The see-saw continues as Week 7′s surprise drop of 2.75 lbs was followed yet again by a corresponding increasing gain, albeit of only 1.25 lbs this time. This was a near perfect week for me with the only major gap being a lack of weight/resistance training. Therefore just as Week 7 yielded a surprise benefit, the Week 8 result is equally surprising, but considering that I have dropped and gained weight on an alternating basis throughout this challenge, I should probably be used to it by now. But it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

I use three levels of performance measures. Less than Expected, Met Expectations and Exceeded Expectations. My grade?

Met Expectations Overall, for week 8 of 10 I gave myself a self assessment of Met Expectations. The reason I can grade myself this way is because of my strict adherence to the process goals set forth; my nutrition was excellent, my portion control was good and I got in 10+ hours of endurance activities including 50 miles of running and 42 miles on the bike. Why the resulting positive weight gain? I have no freak’n idea except that the actual weight measurement itself may be dependent upon a number of other factors that I have yet to identify.

Before we get into this week’s details, I thought it would be fun to throw out a week by week log to illustrate exactly what I’ve been talking about:

  • Week 1:  +3
  • Week 2: -4.5
  • Week 3: -.75
  • Week 4: -1.5
  • Week 5: +1.5
  • Week 6: -1.5
  • Week 7: -2.75
  • Week 8: +1.25
  • Total to date: -5.5

I know it looks like I’m counting cards, and to make it even more squirely, there is very little relationship between the gains/losses and how well I met my weekly objectives that week. To me this begs that there may still be important and relevant determining factors I am not measuring or a time lag between the implementation of positive behaviors and the resulting measured response. Your thoughts and opinions on an explanation are both encouraged and welcomed.

Report Card – Week 8

February 22 – February 28:

The chart above is created using Joe’s Goals.

Caloric Intake/Nutrition = Met Expectations

Portion size: Actually pretty good this week.

Eat Healthy Breakfast: Only issue was a few more bagels than I would have liked.

Eat light every three hours: Much better with this this week.

Eat fresh whole foods: Good. Salads almost every day.

Avoid junk food and sugar: No slip-ups this week at all. Ruthless adherence.

Eat protein first: Did this.

Stop eating 60 mins. before going to sleep: Hunger is ugly leaving your body.

Caloric Expenditure/Positive Stress = Met Expectations

February 22 – February 28:

Workouts captured on Buckeye Outdoors, a free online training log.

Workout early: Got out for 2 early morning runs this week.

Min 45 mins of Cardio: Excellent week for cardio, including a 23-mile run on Saturday.

Resistance training: Hit legs and chest this week but I could have used one or two more days of weight training to keep things off-balance.

Recovery/Adaptation = Met Expectations

Sleep min of 7 hours per night: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Conclusion: I’m very proud of what I accomplished this past week although it didn’t result in the weight loss I had been hoping for. More work to do and a short time to get it done.