Friday, December 24, 2010

Secret Santa Gift!

I received my Secret Santa Gift from Kovas yesterday - man $11.45 on postage!  (I'm happy, but Mr. Mailman is super happy!)

It was a freezing cold box of drink and energy mixes and an awesome technical shirt (that is not too big!) - plus a hand-made card!

Thank you!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some Favorite Blogs: Run With Jill

DISCLAIMER: Jill's my coach, so I've taken the red pill!


When I wanted to start to learn about running this summer, I searched for a few words ("training", "schedule", "marathon", "sprint", "5k", "10k") used in blogs hosted on  I found a bunch and I began to follow them and the blogs that followed them.  Jill's was one of these first blogs.

Blog: Run With Jill

I did a tag cloud of one of some of her last posts

created at

and as you can see the blogs about running!

Jill's blog is also about 
  • Marathoning (but only the ones that are 26.2 miles long!), 
  • her heel and the struggles with insurance, 
  • her family, and
  • maybe dualthon or triathon in the future!
"Run like a girl" is part of her email address, and I already have been thinking of buying a running skirt!  Jill also hosted a very successful* gift exchange this month.

As of writing she:
  • has 321 blog followers
  • has a RRCA certified coach designation
  • runs in all distances and has done a du
  • has run Boston in 2009 at 3:51:55 (corrected to 3:51:32)
4 Questions for Jill (responses in fuschia!):

1. How long have you been blogging? Do you have any blog post memories, comments or post from other sites that stick out in your mind?

I started blogging two years ago this January 1st. My then-personal trainer wanted me to write out my thoughts, as sort of a daily journal, about my training as a way to analyze and understand a little more, and to see if we saw patterns in performance due to daily activities/nutrition/sleep, etc. It was a great little experiement at first but then he never really read it daily and the whole thing ended up being more of a personal journey describing my thoughts on my running. After about 6 months of blogging, people started following me and making comments - which I didn't even know was an option - and I thus have found a world of support, encouragement, and true friendships.

2. Have you ever trained someone who was really poorly adjusted to running? How did that go?

I obtained my personal training cerification because at one time I thought it'd be pretty cool to be one, and I was aimlessly going to the gym and ramdomly doing whatever, having no direction or guidence whatsoever (before I hired a personal trainer. Which, btw, I no longer have); I wanted to know more about weight training and the proper exercises and techniques to fuel my running. I achieved the latter, but after I worked with a few people for stricly weight loss, I quickly realized this was not an area I wanted to spend much time in. Non-runners do not want to run, not even for weight-loss. Cardio is a scarey word to may of them and I got really tired really quick of constant excuses. I do have one person I work with right now who hired me to give her a 6-week program of nutrition and exercise for weight loss, despite my hesistation not to. The first time I put "run 2 minutes..." on the plan, suddenly she had a slew of medical conditions which prohibited her to run. Funny, cuz she never mentioned them on her pre-screening questionnaire :). I'd much rather stick with runners/athletes.

3. What's a common mistake you see with people who self-train? Do you have any advice for them?

I see many but one big one is no strength training. Advice: strength train. It will make you a more efficient runner by helping your running economy and making you stronger for those last hard miles in a marathon - and will make you faster!

4. How much time do you spend on treadmills and how much running on ground that doesn't move?

I actually do a lot of treadmill running because 1) I have horrible allergies and living in a semi-arid climate causes a lot of dust and allergens in the air which play havoc on my sinuses. 2) I have been hospitalized twice for dehydration so to abate carrying so much water with me, the treadmill allows me to refuel frequently. But when I am marathon training, I do like to run along trail on a creek, it's very pretty with great views of the Rockie Mountains - and there are frequent gas I have marked out so I can stop to refuel my water. And in the summer, I do love to run in the mountains as much as possible. It's a commute, though, so do not get up there as often as I wish - but it also makes it that much more special when I do.


I started working with Jill 12 weeks ago. In that time I've improved my PR in the 5k by 40 seconds and in the 10k by 5 minutes!

Jill was able to build up my confidence with her deep experience. She exposed me to the proper race-time demands, an energy- and muscle-building nutrition plan, a cross training plan to build up my strength and aversion to injuries, and a varied and interesting weekly plan that altered based on my progress and my overall time constraints.  She help me understand the basics of running including the exercises, tools, and drills involved. Not only was she a help in training, but here confidence in me before races and before some of the more demanding training weeks helped me strengthen my own desire to improve and tackle objectives that would have been impossible even a few months ago.

I would highly recommend her to runners that have a desire to experience professional guidance and want to improve their running abilities to reach - what seem to be - impossible goals.

Merry Christmas Jill, this is my gift to you!

* because I sent my gift and it was received already and I don't really care about anything else!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Clever Story of the Nativity and Appeal

I received this link from Peter a friend of mine from school, definitely pass it along if you think it's a clever commentary of how we do things online today.


On Monday I'll review Jill's blog and have a short little interview with her.  Then I recommend a few other blogs for you that you may have missed (I like snooping and reading everyone's blog but these are a few that have helped me improve my running).


Drop me a note if you think I need to follow a blog.  I definitely don't follow back all my followers (although I want to) because not all of them have a way of finding their own blog.    So please include your blog below in the comments.  I thank you and will check it out.  Others will find it interesting too.

Regardless of whether you know I visit regularly, advertise your blog in the comments!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some Favorite Blogs: SUAR (UPDATED)


I have a few very favorite blogs that I visit, and I remember the urls by heart - and they coincide with my early blog readers!  One is not boring, one guy talks about Dairy Queen (DQ or something), another the guy can't afford shoes, still another is a fast runner from Minnesota that chicks everyone but does it cutely, then there's the quality assurance guy that runs beside elephants and gazelles in the off-season.  Then there are a bunch of friends of these people from Phoenix, Socal, mid-west, Canada - then there are all those young runners, one known by one letter (usually followed by a "u"), or abfest from the southwest, or the runner that doesn't run in races but has a laundry basket for everyone ... the list goes on and on.

But I thought I would wax poetic about a blog I read on a regular basis (but comment on a little less): Shut up and Run.

Shut up and Run:

Beth, the author, is currently suffering from an injury and is trying to maintain her sanity by doing pool workouts.  She posts at least 6 times a week, and runs contests often.

If I could describe her blog in three phrases that would describe at least 75% of the posts I remember it would be:
  1. toilet humor,
  2. endurance running,
  3. Dean Karnazes
She's been getting very deeply thoughtful in her writing every few days, and I'm enjoying it more.  

As of writing this post she:
  1. has 1025 blog followers, 
  2. is the Boulder Colorado Running Examiner
  3. is a RRCA running coach
  4. runs in all distances and has done a tri
  5. has done over 20 product reviews of interest to female (and male) runners
  6. is also pretty famous outside of her blog on newspapers, tv, radio, road signs ...
3 questions for Beth (Beth's responses in yellow):

1 . How has blogging improved your experience as a runner?

Blogging has made me a better runner (emotionally, mentally and physically) for two reasons:

#1 The incredible support of the blogging community. I know if I get a PR, run a solid race, have a great training run, crap in a tree or BQ there will be comments of sincere heartfelt congratulations (or pity when it comes to the crap). Yet, on the flip side, if I incur a stress fracture in my hip the week before my marathon, there is even a more significant outpouring of support. When I got my injury, I had almost 200 comments within a few hours. It blew me away. I just sat at the computer, tears rolling down my face.

#2 - The blog keeps me honest, accountable and motivated. I'm pretty disciplined and don't have much trouble getting out there to do my workouts. However, if there is something I'm scared to try or if I'm thinking about quitting a workout, race or anything, I remember the blog community and feel them rooting for me. Weird to be so impacted by so many people I've never met, but it's a powerful posse that way.

2. What do you find tough about blogging?

Not much. It's my most favorite thing to do. A hobby, really. I get lost in it. The writing never feels forced or strained. I will say, that every time I publish a post I take a deep breath wondering how it will be received. Will people think I've finally lost my mind? Will they identify with even a smidge of what I'm saying? Will they be offended? You would be surprised how much I care about what people think. However, just because I care does not mean I censor or change what I write. Everything I write is completely 100% authentic and from the heart. I think when you put yourself out there, you have to be prepared to be criticized and judged. 99% of the time this doesn’t happen, but when it does I try to take it with a grain of salt. And a glass or two of wine.

3.Do you meet regularly with other runners that you met first through blogging?

No, not often. I have gotten together with local runners/bloggers a couple of times (Jill & Tara) and I got to meet boring Adam in Denver this fall. This past weekend I met Chris K (BQ or Die) in Boulder, which was really cool. What I can’t wait for is the Boston Marathon in April – it will be the blogger meetup of the century. I’ll get to see some favorites in the flesh (Emz, Misszippy, Meg, Tall Mom, Hungry Runner Girl, Aron, Marathon Maiden, Bethany & Ryan to name a few). I really want to organize a blogger flash mob. In the nude.

I have some bloggers/readers contacting me and we email pretty regularly, but I don't necessarily get together with them. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I can barely keep my head above water as it is with family, work, blogging, working out that it is tough to set up times to meet people. Plus, I'm pretty sure no one wants to run in the deep end with me. Maybe when I get my new bathing suit.

* * *

I thought I would help you all shop for blogs this Christmas.  I recommend you check out Beth's blog.  you will definitely enjoy yourselves!

Merry Christmas Beth, this is my gift to you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

with head full of brains and shoes full of feet

As you all know Jill is taking me places I haven't been before.

I have revealed a few things about my coaching, but since J.P. has been on the case, I've actually posted a lot less running stuff on the site.  The following is an excerpt of my training.  It is something that has framed my attention to my plan, the weight I place on each week in the big plan, and the desire and drive I bring to each run, drill, exercise, stretch, nutrient, breathe and stride.

On the surface you will laugh at this, but it is sheer brilliance.  Watch this when you think you've lost your mojo.


P.S. Thanks for all the great comments on my Video Race Repot

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Burlington 5k Race Report

Target pace: 6:11 (9:57 / mi)

1 K5:539:24
2 K6:129:56
3 K*6:2210:12
4 K6:099:51
5 K6:079:47
* water stop

Avg HR: 150
Max HR: 166

I fought with myself from about 3.5k to about 4.75k.  But a strong (coaching!) voice kept telling me "you've been killing your speed work" and I kept speeding up to match/surpass my target pace.

It was AWESOME !!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Burlington Santa Suit 5k Race Result

Chip time: 30:48

Improved on my 11 week old PR by 35 seconds!  Thanks Jill!

Thanks for all the well wishes everyone.  I read them this morning when I was getting dressed.

Full race report tomorrow with videos!

My sportstats results are here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Take a Deep Breath!!!

So I got the Race Kit yesterday ... all I need is to get the pants adjusted to length (I'll chop a lot of the felt off to lighten the load.)

The race strategy will be to run at least 3.5 k at 6:11 min/k or 9:54 min /mi. Then to use Jill's words, "Finish Strong!".

The Bib is cool, is says "Santa Andrew" on it and the race chip for my shoe is a throw-away with a Santa face on it!

There are 2709 people registered for the race so far!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Pre-Race Report: Santa Suit 5k

Here's the route and a couple of videos from the last two years of this race.

The route is a little confusing ... from the start we run through the finish, then take a loop out on Lakeshore to make up the length properly, then loop through the downtown, and through the start again to the finish at the end of the street.

Still lots of spots to sign up - there's no limit to the sign-ups.

Here's the video's from the previous two years:



I'm still trying to get Jill to get me a race strategy.

I think it will be "Run Fast in a Santa Suit".

Friday, December 3, 2010

30:46 - Performance Anxiety

I have 7 more days left until my next race - the Santa Suit 5k.

I initially said this training period under Jill would concentrate on weight-loss and improving fitness, with the added benefit (hopefully) of increased speed.  These two goals are being attained regularly so I am happy of my progress.  I also some-what jokingly said that I wanted to run 5k at 16 minutes on my 50th birthday.  So this means I need to improve my 5k time every week by running just 4 seconds faster!  That's it.  52 weeks times 5 years times 4 seconds is about 17 minutes improvement.  That means that this 10 weeks I need to see an improvement of 37 seconds to stay on track!

But I am anxious about the race.  I want to do well. I want a new PR.


When I ran my first 5k, I ran a 5k race every Wednesday of every week of the 7 that preceded the race week.  I started my watch, and then ran the 5k distance as fast as I could.  I did see a lot of progress in my running.  However, in the last 9 Weeks I have been "scientifically" training so I don't actually do a no-holds-barred gut-wrenching Tempo run once a week.  I don't think my first 5k training plan got me super ready in the best way possible, but I didn't know what I didn't know and I was blissfully unaware of lots of things and therefore a little less anxious.  My training helped me prepare mentally for my result.  I think that I don't throw myself into the uncomfortable running zone enough in my training - but maybe because I am more fit and don't need to.


One thing I did do before my first 5k was visualize the whole race, look at the elevation map, plan out how I will run, at what pace, where, etc.  Now I have no idea about the route, temperature and how it will feel running in a Santa Suit.  This race is given through the Running Room and they are usually a little weak on this type of information.


I also have no real pre-race ritual. I still don't know how to fuel and hydrate properly for these things, but the one thing I know is that for the short 5k and 10k distances I'm not going to run with music.


This week (Week 10 in my coached training) is going to teach me how to fuel properly, how to visualize, and how to have less worries about my training preparation.  So my 5k goal is 30:46.

I'm starting to gain confidence by re-reading this.

Congrats Adam!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Congratulations Adam!

I've just received a telegram ... ok a Facebook post:

"I would like to introduce you to Hayden. He was born on December 2nd at 10:25am. He was 6 pounds, 7 oz and is 19" long. From what I can tell he likes sleeping, watching his parents, and cat calling the new-born girls in the nursery."

source: Adam the boring runner!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My November Totals

Some totals from the spreadsheets at hand:

Sep Oct Nov
Total Kms: 102 174.7 203.4
Total Miles: 63.75 109.2 127.1
HCC/Core Drills: 7 6 8
Weight Workouts: 7 7 8
5K Races 1 - -
10K Races - 1 -
Fastest 500 m 2:49
Longest Run 11 km
6.9 mi
13.02 km
8.14 mi
16.55 km
10.3 mi
End of Month Weight 263 lbs. 255 lbs. 248 lbs

Since I'm actually not trying to run fast for just 500m, my lack of progression in that category is not yet worrisome.  Both October and November have been scientifically coached months for me.  I have a 5k race this month in a Santa Suit on Saturday Dec 11 in Burlington.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frankensteins and Mountain Climbers

The coach has me hitting four areas of my life with a tight regimen:
      • Running
      • Drills
      • Cross-Training
      • Nutrition
Running varies between weekdays, with cardio and endurance advances every week.  The routine is interesting (sometimes hard to remember once I leave the computer) and definitively challenging.

I am getting pooped though, on the drills and some of the cross-training exercises - anything that makes my HR jump to a maximum and drive me to be out of breathe rather quickly.  I still finish this and I do see an advance in holding-off the "pooped-ness", so I'm not disappointed.  Drills always made me tired - even throughout my whole 8 years of football.  

So here are two drills that poop me and one that gets me a lot of looks on my street when I return from my runs.

Mountain Climbers:

When I read the description quickly, the only thing that came to mind is this:

I usually do these at the end of a long run and all the stored fuel in my thighs has been spent, I get down on the ground to start these and the first thing I want to do is curse Jill, but I just don't have enough air inside so I just do them and shut up!


We used to do these in the air force, and I can't stand them! "I didn't join Cirque du Soliel Sarge - I joined the Air Force!" Haven't been assigned these yet, but they have been mentioned.

I only have one word for you Jill: "NO!"


Similar to the Nazi goose-step but a lot less subtle!

The Frankensteins are a little touchy because I have two retired Germans on my street, as well as a recent immigrant from Italy and it took me a little time to explain to them I was not trying to insult them from something in their national histories or to make them feel uncomfortable.

Oh the things I do because I'm a Wannabe!

I love all this work, my only worry for running over winter is to find the proper foot gear and a place to run where the snow is cleared.  Any advice would be gratefully accepted.  I don't own a treadmill BTW (the elliptical and the weight benches and mats take up most of my exercise room's space).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Portrait of a Wannabe

I still love running - but I know God was having a good laugh at me running into that 34 mph gusting wind!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

16 km (10 miles)

If you are reading this post it means ... I am still struggling to finish my 10 mile run today.  Depending on when you are checking in, I am either, trying to find a bush or washroom to pee in, hacking up a slime ball and launching it onto the sidewalk, trying to figure out why my playlist has stopped on my iPad, fiddling with my drink, trying to down some nutrition while running, or looking for a place to pee (AGAIN).

Coach Parker says this is the last long run and we start doing honest speed work for the remainder of my training.  But I don't mind the long runs ... I'm just so slow that they start sending search parties out after me!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A little bit of progress from the R&D department

From:Andrew Opala
To:Jill Parker
Sent:Tuesday, November 16, 2010 10:49:37 AM
Subject:Week 7: Tues

Dynamic Stretching
6ish miles total 1.5 mi wu + 10x400M @ *3K w/3 min recovery between sets (walk or jog lightly, do not stand still or your legs will get tight) + 1 mi cd
*Let’s see if you can pick up the pace a couple sec from last week.  10 will be tough, but oh how strong they are going to make you. Next week is recovery week so let’s make the best of these this week!
+ weights  

Avg Pace
Avg HR
Max HR

As per your note, I ran it like there was an ambulance waiting for me at the end of the interval … no cool down waiting, no tomorrow waiting, no saving myself for my virgin bride.  And I hope I passed the audition.

Compared with last week:
Avg Pace
Avg HR
Max HR


From:Jill Parker
To:Andrew Opala
Sent:Tue 11/16/2010 1:12 PM
Subject:Re: Week 7: Tues

THAT'S MORE LIKE IT, baby!!!!! I like your HR up like that! No virgin bride is safe with you, speedy!! Looks like we'll be adjusting some numbers after your next recovery week :)!


Certified AFAA Personal Trainer and RRCA Running Coach
Check out:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day / Veterans's Day / Armistice Day / Poppy Day

Today many people in the World-War-I-touched World will mark a few seconds of silence for sacrifice of military and civilians in time of war.  Having a family history of war loss (as civilian victims and military service losses) I take this day personally and make it a time to ask myself how much I really do for peace and how much I help in making the world better by bringing people together and having things solved by peaceful means.  War and human nature are too hard to defeat, but I can do it one person at a time - starting with me!

Can I make a difference?

Once a man was walking on a beach and he saw a woman throwing starfish off the beach into the sea. "What are you doing he asked?" 

She said, "Since the tide will not return for another 12 hours, these starfish will dry-out in the Sun and die."

Then she went on to pick up another one and throw it back into the sea. This went on for a while and the man walked back up to the woman and asked angrily, "Do you know how many beaches there are and how many starfish are washed up on those beaches?  What difference can you really make?"

She looked down at the starfish in her hand, "It makes a difference to this one."

I love you guys!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mojo and Self-Confidence

The term Mojo comes from voodoo practice and it is usually the name given to a bag full of crystals, herbs, written words or other superstitious things that give the wearer special protection or powers [Reference]. Mojo can often be associated with other superstitious concepts like luck. Having it is good - losing it is bad! The possessor of mojo will often believe that good things can happen to them just for possessing the good luck charm. We often talk about losing our mojo or not having mojo as a reason for our lack of desire or inability to train well.

Webster's defines self-confidence as "Freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities". Self-confidence is an attitude of the mind that says, I will do my best to accomplish my desired goal. And I will have courage to do so amongst any dangers. Sometimes you will not be justly rewarded for your efforts by your external environment, but this does not matter because it is out of your control. Self-confidence means you will do as much as you can to hold up your end of the bargain.

Contrasting the two, Mojo is a belief that you can induce some sort of supernatural forces to gain your desired goal, while Self-Confidence says you can contribute to your effort to do the very best that is possible at all times. Self-confidence says that it is the internal struggle that is more important - the struggle with the self. Mojo says the external is more important - that you can use supernatural powers to gain something that you are not really worth of or capable of.

Both are really anchored on the the idea of belief.

Since I like the word "Mojo", and the idea of self-confidence, I'm going merge the cool word with the personal attitude to mean a belief in your ability to accomplish something from this point forward.

Now here's where the leap of faith comes in.

I have a big question, and it is Can you increase your Mojo with your own effort?

I believe you can!  I think building up your self-confidence can be done every day of the week.  It's just like building up your endurance, or your speed.  But it happens at moments in the training - mostly at the moments when you second guess your abilities but you keep running.  Or you run to your absolute limit, and then you run just a little further. When you really want to stop and walk to catch your breathe but you keep running.  When you need to use the Jedi Mind trick on yourself when everything looks terrible.

Since I started running, I have kept a log of my mood.  The things that I have observed in terms of mood are:

  • My heart rate - if I am tired and my heart rate is racing, I can't find my Mojo if it was stapled to my head
  • My home life - if I am not doing my best at home, enjoying my duties as a husband, friend, son, father, etc., then I also can't find my Mojo
  • My distance - I never let my gut decide anything in the first 30 minutes of running (this is something that Jill has also mentioned to me) I can usually adjust to my running in the first 1 1/2 k (mile) - but ask me in the first few minutes and I'll tell you "I have no Mojo today!"

So far, I have managed my heart rate, made sure the ducks are all aligned at home, and I'm warmed up deep in the run - and I have found my Mojo every time!

However the competitive Mojo needs to be worked on by running more races.  And I am trying to include a race every few months to build up that competitive strain - and my rising to the occasion.

There is another mood that I have observed in myself that fights against Mojo.  That mood is fear.  Fear has been with me my whole life.  I think courage is not the absence of fear, but rather a will to over-come it.  Mojo also possesses this courage component. The only way I know to defeat the mood of fear is with greater and greater distances, difficulties, speeds, and exertions; reflections on those accomplishments; and an affirmation that I should try to overcome this challenge as well.  This you must do while training - continually pushing yourself to rise to the challenge.

If I could start you on your path of finding and keeping your Mojo, I would say this:

  • Life is a precious gift, given to you by a benevolent creator that with tears in His eyes looks into your heart and writes with love that you are meant to be brilliant.  This brilliance is wound with a long ribbon called your decisions.
  • When you run - remember that you are unwinding that ribbon with the right decisions - and you are shining.
  • All you need to do is love back and your brilliance will shine naturally.
  • Love is more powerful than anger or fear or greed.
  • Do not be afraid to shine