Rest up

sheepThere’s a whole bunch of stories that piqued our interest today regarding the Phillies and intriguing topics.

On the Phillies it seems as if Kris Benson is a little dinged up, though that doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Actually, it just sounds like Benson needs what we marathoners call an “easy day.” After weeks of piling hard days on top of each other, it sounds like Benson’s right arm told his brain that it was shutting it down for a few days.

“I’ve been going a month straight now, throwing every single day, and it’s held up pretty good,” Benson said. “I’ve gotten pretty far along in this process. I think to expect me to go from the first day of camp to the last day of the season without taking a break here and there because it’s going to fatigue out is … not going to happen.”

So Benson needs to go easy, which is how the body builds its self up. Most folks believe that the hard workouts are what makes an athlete strong, but that’s not even the half of it. Muscle regenerates and grows during recovery and rest – it suffers micro-tears and gets beat to bits during work. That’s part of the reason why human growth hormone is so popular – not only does it help create lean muscle mass, but also it allows an athlete to skip some of the recovery process.

Sleep, of course, is an important part of the process, too. In fact, celebrity doctor Mehmet C. Oz writes in the April, 2008 edition of Esquire that people need sleep more than they need food. That makes sense when one considers that it is during deep sleep that the body naturally produces HGH.

Writes Oz:

If you get less than six hours of sleep a night, you’re in trouble. You need sleep more than you need food. When you’re always tired, you actually age faster than you should.

In other words, work hard and then rest up because that’s what it takes.

“If I could take a break now and take advantage of it and use this to build myself up for the 60-pitch area, to bump up to the next area, then I think in the long run it will be a good thing,” Benson said.

Kris BensonOf course who could blame Benson for pushing it a little harder than he should have over the past few weeks? With the backend of the Phillies’ rotation struggling and looking for some help, Benson probably saw a spot or two ripe for the proverbial picking. There are jobs to be had on a potential playoff club at stake and Benson rightfully reasoned that one of those spots could be his.

It still could, but it seems as if some extended spring work in Clearwater, followed by a minor-league rehab stint will be needed in the meantime.

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Working-class hero Chris Coste’s memoir, The 33-Year Old Rookie hit stores today. With a copy en route from the good folks at Ballantine Books, we will be sure to have a full review here ASAP.

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Allen Iverson returns to Philadelphia for the first time with the Denver Nuggets tomor…

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Allen IversonOh, sorry about dozing off in the middle of a sentence like that. It’s just that in Philadelphia, it’s a tired old story that another all-time great is returning to town with another team. There are many issues with this trend, namely, why do all the really good players want to leave town?

How much time do we have?

Nevertheless, it will be a more exciting story when the all-time greats play their entire careers for a Philadelphia.

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Sports and politics are always a bad mix, just like it was a bad idea for the Carter Adminstration to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. But if there were ever an Olympics to be boycotted, this summer’s games in Beijing are ripe.

Excluding the issues regarding China’s horrendous human-rights record, environmental and pollution atrocities as well as the most recent killings in yet another crackdown against basic freedoms in Tibet make one wonder why the International Olympic Committee would ever consider having its games in China in the first place.

HailePlus, athletes aren’t even allowed to sign autographs for their fans as evidenced by the Chan Ho Park incident in Beijing last week.

Perhaps the best measure of protest against the Chinese is the French Olympic committee’s move to boycott the opening ceremonies in August. Even better is the subtle – but powerful – protest by Haile Gebrselassie to skip the Olympic marathon. This is quite meaningful because Gebrselassie shattered the world record in the marathon last October. Plus, Geb is the most decorated distance runner in history with stirring Olympic victories in the 10,000 meters in 1996 and 2000 in what are regarded as the most dramatic runs in the event’s history.

So when Geb says pollution in Beijing is a concern enough to skip the Olympics, the issues are worth investigating…

Like why would the IOC award Beijing with something like the Olympics in the first place?

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The autopsy for top American marathoner Ryan Shay was finally released today – 4 ½ months after his death in the Olympic Trials in New York City. It appears as if Shay’s heart was too big – no drugs, no foul play. But everyone who knew Shay never suspected any of that in the first place.

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Tomorrow: Lenny Dykstra and the NCAA Tournament

More hours in the day, please…

People who can juggle kids, jobs and running with calculated efficiency, always amaze me. Those folks who can get up at 5 a.m. in order to get a run in at 6 so they can be finished in time to get the kids out the door by 8 are Supermen and women.

(right: The Breakfast of Champions.)

Even better, some of them even add a second run at the end of the day or during a lunch break. It really is very amazing.

I can’t do it. Even when I didn’t have a real job, a mortgage, bills, kid, etc., I was never one who got up early. Before I actually began writing about baseball and sports I kept “baseball hours.” That means if I get to bed before 2 a.m. I must be sick or really tired or something.

Because of this schedule and lifestyle, racing is often difficult since they are usually held early in the morning. In order to race, I have to make a real commitment to a particular event and then make sure I’m in bed or horizontal very, very early – for me. Nevertheless, the day before a marathon I make sure I’m finished walking for the day at 5 p.m. and in bed at 8.

The rest is just that important. I never realized that until I went to race a couple of months ago and just couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to get loose or run the way I had been in workouts. When I expressed this to my wife she smartly told me why I was slow on that particular day.

“You got up in the middle of the night to run. You’re usually asleep at the time the race started so you intentionally got yourself up in the middle of your natural sleep time to run. You were tired.”

She’s very smart.

Fortunately, I have the luxury working out when I am well rested. My wife is to thank for that. While I keep my baseball hours, she keeps her schoolteacher hours. That means she is up by 6 a.m. even on days when she can sleep in. But she’s always been that way, I’m told. So while she tends to our son and gets him ready for school, I ease into the morning. I can get all the sleep I need, wash up, get my coffee, do a few hours of work and then start my workout. Afterwards, I pick up the boy and we wait for her to get home.

It definitely works out well for me.

But today’s schedule had a bit of a monkey wrench throw into it. There was no school for the boy, which meant an extra-early wake up call for me. Usually this means I have to start my run when my wife gets home around 4 p.m., but with an ART appointment as well as the threat of 24-hours of downpour looming, I was left scrambling for a mid-day sitter, which isn’t exactly the easiest thing to find in the world.

But my mom came to the rescue by taking an extended lunch break. I guess 30-plus years of service at her job has its benefits… for me, too.

Thanks to my mom I was able to squeeze in a quick 13-miler, which I completed in 1:27:10. That’s not so bad when the fact that I did it on five hours sleep a days after doubling up for 21.5 miles. It took some extra effort to keep the pace in the early going, and loosening up wasn’t fun, but it’s definitely one I’ll take.

I just wish I could have gone longer. This is “Blast Week” after all. Perhaps if the rain holds off until the boy goes to bed and I’m not too tired after the ART, I’ll double-up again.

Stats: 13 miles in 1:27:10. The first nine went in 60:01. Not bad for a sleep-deprived dad.

On another note, my boy Michael and I had a lovely breakfast at Starbucks this morning. He had one of their apple streusels and organic chocolate milk and I had a venti Colombian with a Clif Bar. He enjoyed the overstuffed chairs and the broad windows. I enjoyed the company. If mornings like that is the reason to put off workouts, I’ll have no qualms about becoming a slouch.

A tremendous slouch.

Running nugget
Runnersworld.com reported that Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, would get some help in his marathon debut on Nov. 5 in New York City.

According to the brief, Armstrong’s sponsor Nike is putting together a pace team that could include 1984 Olympic gold medal marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, and 2004 Olympic 1500 and 5000-meter gold medalist Hicham El Guerrouj.

So a guy hoping to run 2:45 or so gets a team of rabbits? Wow. If Nike wants to send someone to Harrisburg on Nov. 12 to help me snap 2:40, I’m ready.

Sleeping with the dog

Another late start today. Again, I needed to sleep a little later than I usually like. Maybe it’s time I finally accept my chronic insomnia and the fact that the day will start at noon and the concept of 8 a.m. is just a rumor or something other people do. Maybe this will allow me to get knee-deep back in to caffeine again.

Who needs real drugs when there is caffeine to make me feel narcissistic? Drugs are, as I learned and as William Burroughs once said, an inevitable part of life.

So too is sleep. Not that I would know much about the subject. I truly believe I could sleep all day. If no one came to wake or it was socially accepted, I really believe I could log more than 12 hours at a time in my bed. You know, like a hibernating bear or Pete Sampras. Turn up the AC, black out the windows, pull up the covers and doze.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

So why don’t I? Society, of course. And the fact that I think there is a chance that all of the saccharine sweet dreams I have, and all of the chest-thumping and career-advancing ideas I get while in the arms of the fickle mistress that is sleep, will somehow come true. When I sleep I am happy. Nothing bad ever happens. For once, I am in charge.

That wasn’t the case this afternoon, though. Since the sun was shining and I didn’t have anything planned, I took a book out to my backyard to read and possibly fall asleep in a chair. And just so I wouldn’t be lonely, I brought my dog to keep me company. A developmental-challenged five-year-old, Katie, a chocolate Labrador retriever, is not the best companion if one is looking for quiet time. Sure, she’s a very pleasant dog and quite a delight to have around because of her always-sunny disposition; however, she is as fidgety as a wolverine on speed. The poor girl just can’t seem to ever sit still. It’s as if she is Sisyphus, but enjoys the constant work out of rolling a rock up a hill and chasing it to the bottom so she can roll it back up again.

She really is very annoying.

Anyway, I took the cushion of a plastic lounge chair and placed it flat on the ground so that I could fully stretch out. In this position, I could transform from reading to sleeping mode instantaneously. After all, efficiency is the goal of any reader/sleeper.

I also brought a rawhide bone for Katie so she could release all of that nervous energy into something constructive instead of crying and whining when I didn’t pay attention to her. The rawhide also acted as a crime deterrent if Katie decided to walk away and get into trouble at the other end of the yard or on the neighbor’s side of the fence. She has been known to squeeze through an opening in the fence and barge in next door like an expected guest. And since dogs have no conscience, Katie’s tail and decorum become much more obnoxious when she enters into other environs. She’s kind of like a five-year-old boy in F.A.O. Schwartz — in order to get her back under control, a person would have to tackle her and then drag her out by the collar.

Annoying and nuts.

Regardless, Katie and the rawhide are having a wonderful time together on the sunny Saturday, and my book and I are a dynamic duo as well. In fact, the book was strong enough to knock me into a state where I was semi-coherent, like a boxer that took a bunch of punches in a row to the head. I wasn’t quite awake, but I wasn’t out for the count either. Occasionally, I would shake my head to clear the cobwebs so my eyes could focus on the next word as my brain continued to referee the fight between slumber and literature.

But just when sleep was about to land one last, devastating haymaker, Katie started digging in the dirt an arm’s length away from my head. It seems as if she had enough of the rawhide and rather than continue to chew it, she decided to store it some place safe for later. Her problem, though, was that she couldn’t find a suitable storage area. Just as soon as she would make progress with one hole, she gave up and began work on another like fickle developer who can’t decide if he wants to bulldoze and old farm to build a Wal-Mart or a Target.