Saturday, May 13, 2017

Race Report: Double Marathon Weekend-Wisconsin Marathon, Kalamazoo Marathon; "The Mittens Challenge"

The Summary:
Saturday, May 6, 2017; Wisconsin Marathon; 4:56:12, R/W 3/1
Sunday, May 7, 2017; Kalamazoo Marathon; 4:50:28, R/W 3/1

The Gory Details:

"Are you crazy?  Yes, you are crazy."   This is the almost universal response when I told people I was planning to run two marathons in a single weekend.  I've grown used to it.   I just like to run and these two races fell out wonderfully on my 2017 running calendar.

Actually, I have done two marathons in a single weekend once before in September, 2014 (link).   I've wanted to do it again but a lot of logistics have to fall in place to make such insanity possible.   The 2017 version fell into place because I didn't need to run either marathon for time, the two marathons were in reasonable driving distance from my home and from each other and the weather had a chance to be favorable.   In addition, the two races have a loose alliance with one another, calling completion of them both the "Mittens Challenge".  So, I signed up around the first of the year and the big weekend finally arrived.

I've run the Wisconsin Marathon three times before, so was quite familiar with the course and logistics just north of Chicago, across the Wisconsin border in Kenosha.   I took Friday afternoon off from work and headed north.  Packet pick up was a breeze.   A treat was having Friday night dinner with Laura and Jake Gillette and their two kids.   Midwest runners will recognize both their names, as both regularly win and place in marathons around here.   I've had the chance to get to know them as they both won the Circular Logic Marathon three straight years.   Great folks and it was fun to share bowls of pasta and talk running and raising kids.

I awoke around 4:30am on Saturday for the 7:00am start time and scored a primo parking spot by getting to the start area so early.   The temperature was set to be near perfect, in the mid to upper 40s at the start; the only question was how the wind would behave.   As the course flows along Lake Michigan for the entire 26.2 miles, the breeze off the lake can be severe.  The 2016 race proved that, in spades.

As the sun rose, runners assembled.  I saw a lot of folks I knew, including Heather Ziegler, below, a fellow Marathon Maniac and a truly excellent runner.

I decided on layers for the day...I wore two short sleeve tech shirts, tube sock arm warmers, a neck warmer, hat and mitten/gloves.   I picked all this as it was adjustable as the day warmed and as we varied either into or with the wind.   And I wore this sign on my back to make the case.


The race started on time and the new course was a little different than we had run the past two years.   We went farther south during the first half than in previous years, made a loop and headed back north.   During this out and back, I saw Jake Gillette amongst the leaders.   Since I didn't see the first runner and since the half marathoners were still in the mix, I didn't know just where Jake ranked.   But I did turn around and run for 50m or so with Jake, wishing him well.   And, man, it felt different to run a leader's pace, even for such a short distance. 

I started out and held my run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute routine from the start of this race and, as it turned out, I held that through the entire weekend, until the final two miles in Kalmazoo.   But I jump ahead.   

At about my mile 7, I saw Jake again, now waaaaaaay ahead of me.   I had counted all the leaders and confirmed for him he was in third place for the marathon, about 100 m behind the second place guy.   Again, fun to run that fast and Jake told me later the intel helped him.   He ran hard, but so did the other guy...he ultimately took third.  

Around the  half way point, the new course had us looping near the start finish line.   Laura Gillette (who was watching their kids as Jake ran...the reverse would happen the next day, when she won a marathon farther into Wisconsin as Jake took care of the kiddos) managed to snap a photo of me plodding along.   I hit the halfway point at 2:24:00 and felt fine.  


 We continued south on the second half of the marathon with the wind generally at our back.  This portion of the course spent more time on gravel roads on the south portion than it had before.   This altered the nature of each stride, compared with asphalt.   I didn't like it as well as the previous course but I suspect it worked better for local residents.   

My pace per mile was in the upper 10 minute range for most of the race through mile 19.   Around 19, we turned into the wind as we headed back home and the wind was steadily picking up as the morning wore on.  The combination of fatigue, wind and gravel combined to push the average times to the mid 11 minute range.   It was what it was.   I was very cognizant, as well, I was not yet half way through my weekend of running. 

The finish of the race was fun...I was glad to have it over, wondering over the final mile just how the next day would be going.  Yet, as soon as I crossed the finish line, I had huge fun with the volunteer handing out medals.  I told her this was as close as I'd ever get to the Olympics, so "we need to be serious"!!  I then sang the Olympic theme song as she somberly placed the medal around my neck.   Two very European "air kisses" followed and we both then cracked up...she got the joke and played along wonderfully.   Yeah, I was feeling better already.   Lifetime marathon #73, done.  

My fascination with logistics then kicked in, immediately.  I grabbed a couple of bottles of chocolate milk and plenty of cheese (this is Wisconsin, remember) and headed for my car.   I called in the results to my wife as I drove to the Kenosha YMCA, where the race had arranged for free showers for any runners, a wonderful feature for us out of towners.   Cleaned up, I grabbed a quick lunch and headed for the Kalamazoo Marathon.   It was around 1pm.   

Driving to Kalamazoo from Kenosha involves traveling around Chicago.  Fortunately, it was Saturday afternoon, there was no major construction going on and there were no accidents to snarl things.   Looping around the Lake and heading into Michigan without stopping, I arrived in Kalamazoo around 5:30pm.   Having never been in Kalamazoo proper before, I depended on my GPS to get around.   I swung by the Start/Finish area to gauge where to park and how the start would work.   To my surprise, I saw one guy setting things up who turned out to be the committee member in charge of the finish line.   He was super helpful, explaining start logistics and best parking plans.   He really put my mind at ease about race morning.  

Eventually, I found my hotel and then some nutrition for the evening.   I had a long phone call with my wife once I got in for the night, as we had our house up for sale and, out of the blue, had received a serious offer on the house late on Saturday evening...yeah, I like I need something else to think about!!  Bedtime at 11:00pm was later than I would have liked but that's how it fell out. 

I was up early again and into my car around 5:15am.  A few fellow residents of the hotel had not yet gone to bed yet and were quite drunk and quite boisterous.  I'll just say they loudly queried what I was doing and were not of mental acuity to comprehend a marathon.  I scurried away and hope they eventually slept it off.  

Thanks to the advice from the volunteer, I knew right were to park and was the second car in the lot, a mere 80m or so from the start/finish line.   Two mornings in a row, two primo parking spots.  Sweet.  

Pre-race was nice in two ways for this race.   First, was packet pick up...they had a special tent set up just for folks who were running the Mittens Challenge.  Since they understood we'd get to Kalamazoo late, they let us get our packet on race morning.  It was fun to see a number of folks I had run with the day before, swap stories about Chicago drivers and get set.  

The second was the opportunity for Christian worship pre-race.   I had seen this on the race info and it was really nice!  A local pastor who was running the half-marathon led the open service.  He had some good stories and scripture application and it was great to sing familiar music as runners gathered for the race.   It meant a lot to me. 

The weather was a bit cooler than on Saturday, with the temperature just at 40F for the race start.   I opted for one extra layer underneath the Maniac shirt and everything else was the same as on Saturday.    Right on time, the race started and off I went, again. 

I hoped to finish around 4:50 again but had no familiarity with the course so didn't know just how that would work.   Not surprisingly, I was also stiff early through the hammies, glutes and lower back.  As they had pacers available, I fell in early behind the 4:45 pacing group as their slowness felt just right.   I stuck with them for well over an hour, as it felt very comfortable.    Around mile 8 or so, we got into some uphills and so I fell out of that group and switched into the 3/1 run walk again.   We looped in and out of the Western Michigan University campus, a fine looking place with which I was totally unfamiliar (other than they correctly spell their mascot as "Bronco" unlike a local high school team in my town which spells the same mascot "Broncho" but that's a different story).   


From there the race just took on a fun nature.  Here's a few points:
  • Around miles 10 through 14, we wound through neighborhoods who seemed to really enjoy cheering runners each year.   At mile 12.5, a lady was serving HOT pancakes...it was perfect!!  I munched slowly on it, when, to my surprise a half mile later, another set of neighbors were serving fresh bacon!  I made a bacon sandwich with my remaining half of a pancake.  Another half mile, someone else was serving fresh oranges.   How cool is all that!! Made it big fun. 
  • I saw long time pal Jen Savage on an out and back in this section...she's a hoot and it turned out it was helpful for her too.
  • I spoke with quite a few other "Mittens" runners as the race progressed.   Some had poignant stories...I was moved.   Others were just fun folks to share some craziness with. 
  • I ran with a young guy who had run Boston, New York and Chicago  marathons before he even turned 29.   He and his wife were both running this day, celebrating their first wedding anniversary.   Fun conversation. 
  • In a city park, around mile 19, I passed one of the 4:45 pacers I had run with early.  "Not your day today?" I asked.   He said it just goes like that some days.   Helpful to see...I hold pacers in high regard but even they can have tough days. 
  • Around mile 22 or so, I fell in with a pair of elementary school teachers from Indianapolis.   One was running her first marathon, urged on and coached by the other who was running her fourth.  We had a lot in common and it was most pleasant.   
All of this was climaxed with an amazing thing just before mile 24.   The elusive but famous "second wind" set in for me.   I felt fantastic.   I bid my new teacher friends adieu and proceeded to run the final two miles, to enjoy the moment and the running conclusion of the big weekend.   There was one short, steep hill which I walked, chatting with a very friendly volunteer there to encourage runners at this tough moment, and otherwise just tried to pick up the pace.   Splits showed I dropped my pace from the mid 11s to 10:24 and 10:26 for the final two miles.   

We made the penultimate turn and I was just feeling awesome.   You get a sense of that in this photo from that section.



You're not supposed to feel this good after 52+ miles of running over one weekend.   But, bumblebees aren't supposed to fly, either.    I turned the final corner and it was a joy to cross the finish line.   I got my two medals (one for the marathon, the other for the Mittens Challenge) and then just hung around the finish line for a while, as if I didn't want the day to end.   I greeted my teacher friends and other folks with whom I had run.   It was a blast.

I did finally head home, a four-hour drive to wrap up a most enjoyable weekend.
A few timing statistics emerged after the dust settled.

  • Both races had official timing mats at their respective 20 mile marks.  On Saturday, I hit 20 miles in 3:40:13; on Sunday, I was 3:40:02 at the same point...almost identical times.   Yet, the final 6.2 miles took another 1:15:59 (12:16/mile) on Saturday, whereas the same distance took only 1:10:24 (11:22/mile) on Sunday.   That's what the amazing and unpredictable second wind did at Kalamazoo.
  • Saturday stats:  I was 423 of 548 overall finishers, 253 of 308 men and 3rd of 9 in the 60-64 Age Group.
  • Sunday stats:  I was 297 of 415 overall and 8th of 12 in the Age Group.  

So there you have it.   Hope you enjoyed the story...I sure enjoyed the weekend.  Thanks to both races and all the volunteers and organizers.

Persevere.  No matter where or if you run.


.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wedding Photos -- Matt and Stephanie, April 22, 2017

This post is not about running but about family, serving as an on-line catch point for photos.

Our youngest son, Matt, married Stephanie Dana on Saturday, April 22, 2017.   It was a fantastic family event.   Here are a few of the better photos of the day.




Just after the wedding service, the smiling couple express the joy of the day.  I love this photo, it captures so very, very much.  

Here is how the day unfolded.
















A little fuzzy, but here I am with Matt about fifteen minutes before the wedding started.


Stephanie walking down the aisle with her parents.  













Here's my daughter-in-law Angela with our two-year old granddaughter Stella, "helping" to take a rose to the altar before the wedding.















Here's our immediate family, after the wedding.  We have three sons, now all married and four grandchildren.   A great joy to be with everyone.    Three daughters in law now; three wonderful women, as unique as the men they married.















And here's my extended family.   My three sisters, their spouses, 8 of our 10 total children, THEIR spouses and THEIR children.  A great bunch...and they all came to our house later for tacos!    Love this bunch so much.  













We then moved to the reception hall, across the street from the church in downtown Lafayette.















At the reception, they presided from the head table.   With an 11:00am wedding, this became lunch and folks hung around until nearly 4pm.   Great time with family and friends.  




















Tacos are always in style...and we all enjoyed them at our house after the reception.

















And, yes, there is a running angle to all this.   Three weeks before the wedding, Matt, Stephanie and our oldest son David formed a three-person team to run the Circular Logic Marathon Relay, where I'm the Race Director.  Creatively, they named their team "Joe's Kids".  They finished in 3:56, which prompted David to say to me, "Shoot, Dad, what's the big deal about a sub-four-hour marathon?  We just did it and feel fine!"   Funny, my son.

So, that's a few pictures from a big day in our family life.   We are thrilled to welcome Stephanie to our family and thrilled at the wonderful match the two of them are for each other.   Hope you can smile with us.

Persevere.   For better, for worse.



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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Race Report: Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon 2017

ORN: 26.2 miles (plus), 4:52:57, R/W 4/1, 11:11/mile

Summary:

The Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon is a treat.  Got in a long run in a perfect climate with no wind, no hills, comfortable temps and friendly people.   The fact it was 204 times around an indoor track was, frankly, irrelevant.  Lifetime marathon/ultra #72 in the books.


Not Many Gory Details:

This is a short write up, mostly to capture a few thoughts and a few photos.  I first ran this race in 2013 (report here) and the logistics were identical this year.    Running buddy Jon had also registered but persistent illness prevented him from running.   So, it was a 2.5 hour drive in the dark Indiana countryside by myself and, after a hectic week at work, the time alone was welcome

One photo tells much of the entire story...here is the entire marathon and half marathon field.   Yep, this is ALL of us at one corner of the indoor, mezzanine level track on the campus of Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.

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Race Director Doug Yoder is in the yellow hoodie on the left.   Doug and the timing guy handled the entire race...two people.   And it went well.   Contrast this to monster events like the Chicago Marathon, where it takes a helicopter to get high enough for a photo of the entire field and thousands of volunteers to make the race happen.   Fun to run both types of events.   And a lot of me really likes the smaller better.

The most remarkable thing about this race was that it was entirely unremarkable.   We got started and just ran.   Many have asked or shook their heads about running an indoor marathon.  What I've observed (this is my fifth indoor marathon) is that you don't even think about the number of laps.   Instead, you just run comfortably and run for time.   And that's what I did.

I covered the first half in 2:24:58 and the second half in 2:27:55.   Close enough to even.   I never really got all that tired.  I just ran.   I also chose to run in the outside lane for the entire race, just to get in the extra distance.   I'm guessing I actually ran closer to 27.5 miles.   A good long run.

So, in the absence of any great drama or other big race news here are a few interesting tidbits from the day.

The race winner was Jake Gillette, below, with his wife Laura.  I've come to know the Gillettes since my first Maple Leaf race in 2013.   Laura and Jake have both run (and won) the Circular Logic Marathon, for which I'm the RD.  They are both speed merchants.   Jake ran Maple Leaf as a final tune up for the Boston Marathon in April.   Laura didn't run Maple Leaf but did come out and run a few laps with a friend and, in a wonderfully kind touch, wore her green Circular Logic T shirt, knowing she'd see me there.   I appreciated this!  Both of them will run Boston...they will do well.













 Alongside the track was a huge collection of national flags.   I presume this represents the nationality of students who have attended Goshen College over the years.   And one caught my eye...the distinctive flag of the small southern African country of Swaziland.   Gretchen and I lived in Swaziland from 1976 through 1978 and our oldest son was born there.   Many memories came back from that time, now long years ago.




















Yes, this race is not like Chicago and, yes, there are nowhere near the spectators there are in Chicago.   In fact, you could count the spectators at Maple Leaf without needing to take off your shoes.   Shoot, how exciting is it to see the same people parade by every 35 seconds or so??  Yet, the few folks who were there had a good sense of humor.   This girl had a relative running the half-marathon option and entertained us with a steady series of signs on her white board...it was great fun as we went round and round.




















A hot shower right after the race in the college locker rooms capped off an enjoyable morning.   No soreness, no pain, just a good, long run to prepare well for spring racing.

Persevere.


.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Race Review: Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon 2017

ORN:   26.2 miles, 150 laps, R/W 4/1, 4:51:47, 11:09/mile, 25th of 36 overall finishers, lifetime marathon/ultra #70.  

Summary:

The Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon (ZYY) on January 8, 2017 was a blast.  It was terrific simply to run long in shorts in the middle of winter; Yet, this race experience was unique and most enjoyable.   Crazy to run 150 laps??  Not at all...it was a joy.  In two big ways.

Gory Details:

Last summer,  my local running pal Jon and I were musing on race plans over nachos when two dots connected.  Both of us have sons who recently moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area.   Both of them have recently had daughters (well, their respective wives had the babies, but you get the idea).   Seems like a road trip, right?  So, can we find a race to run in or near Minneapolis?

Jon, a database guru par excellence himself, wiped the cheese from his fingers, jumped online, found ZYY and posed a fascinating idea; Let's drive to Minnesota in the dead of winter, visit our kids and run an indoor marathon!!  Made perfect sense, to us, and the plan was on; ZYY was the target race.  Pass the jalapenos, please.

Entry to ZYY is via lottery; Dick Draymont, the excellent RD, lays out the details on the website.   We put in our names mid summer and, over the Labor Day weekend, learned we were lucky winners of coveted entry slots to the race.   Travel plans got interesting and I'll spare you those details, but it all came off.  With temperatures at 7 below zero, Jon picked me up on race morning at my son's house at 5:00am and we drove the 20 miles from his place to lovely St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.


With Jon, pre-race at the start/finish line

Since Jon and I wanted to spend time with our kids, we missed the Saturday night buffet for runners, which I heard was terrific.  Nevertheless, we got our packets on race morning and found a spot along the track to "set up camp" for the morning run.  
Dick didn't mess around and we got started a few minutes early and at 6:30am on a cold, dark Sunday morning, we were running a marathon.   

One of the wonderful and unique features of this race is the lap counting.   You'd figure chip counting would be the norm, as other lap races have found.  Nope.  Instead, members of the St. Olaf women's cross country and track teams crawl out of their comfy dorm rooms as early as we did to manually record each runners' laps.   Yes; each runner had his/her own personal lap counter and timer, whom we met pre-race.   Dick added yet another layer of personalization of the race by doing his best to match some characteristic of the lap counter with the runner.   Mine was Susie.

Image result for susan hoops st olaf
Susie, on campus

Susie grew up about 50 miles from my home; we surmised we had likely even run in the same races while she was in high school or home on summers.   Susie is a senior and a math major, so I felt confident that she'd get all the numbers right. No third order partial differential equations in spherical coordinates required for this event.    

with Susie, pre-race
So, round and round we went.   Each time past the chairs with the relentlessly cheering student runners, I made sure I made eye contact with Susie; armed with her clipboard and watch, she dutifully recorded each lap time, to the second.   She updated me every 25 laps to the lap total...no way to keep track of that in your head.  Dick had set up a terrific playlist; the music was great.   We all had our names on a small bib on our back...we quickly got to know each other and the race became a social event.  

Two other personalization notes on this race.   Note above, I wore bib #63.   Dick asked me pre-race if I liked it...turns out he was able to make the bib number our age for about a third of the field.  Nice.   Second, below is a poster which Susie made for me.   In fact, all along the east wall short chute of the track was a poster for each runner, hand-made by the lap counters.   She got the state map of Indiana built in as well!   I brought it home...one of several wonderful mementos of the day.  

Not "GoJo", but "go Joe"
And that's pretty much how the race went.   This was my fifth indoor marathon and I've learned to just go run and forget the circles.  Dick set up tables at each corner of the 282m mezzanine course for water and food.   Every 20 minutes, I drank and had a quarter PB&J sandwich (my nod to trail racing).  Enjoy the music, play the air guitar, chat everyone up and eventually you cover 26.2 miles.  So it went in this event.  

And then there was lap 102.  

Over that summer bowl of nachos when Jon proposed the road trip, I immediately mentioned to him that January 8 was my Dad's birthday.   He would have been 102 years old on January 8, 2017.   It made me miss him to think of how he'd have laughed to hear me doing such a goofy thing on his birthday.   But, in the back of my mind all along, I thought it cool to be running on his birthday.   

On the Thursday night before the race, however, I got to thinking more about Dad.  It was brutally cold here at home and I was running 5 miles on an indoor track at home in my final training run before race day.   What might I do to honor him?  Gradually a series of thoughts gelled as I went round and round.   Hmmmm, he'd be 102...might I do something on my lap 102 to honor him?   He played football at Notre Dame; hey, that's it...might I pause and sing the Notre Dame fight song before I start lap 102?  Yes.  And I'll get a video me singing to share with my three sisters.  But what shirt would I wear in the video?  I had another shirt planned which suddenly made no sense...I'd really need to come up with a Notre Dame shirt but I don't have one.   And I'm leaving early on Friday morning.  And how about a photo of my Dad?   My sister might have one.  Could I carry a football with me?  Whew, dunno...maybe my son can find one for me to borrow. And, oh yeah, this might mess up the race...I should check with the RD for his permission.  But, I gotta move fast.  

So, after I finished, I remembered a local store where I once saw Notre Dame shirts.   I zipped over there, hoping to find something, willing to settle even for a cotton shirt.   Alas, they actually had tech fabric Notre Dame shirts, in my size, on sale!!  Bingo.  I zapped a note to Dick the RD, asking his permission.   Another email to my sister Karen, the family historian and archivist of all family photos.   Zip...Dick wrote back, enthusiastically welcoming my effort...that was nice.   Zip...Karen emailed me this "action photo" of my Dad which we think was taken during his junior year at Notre Dame in 1936.  It was falling into place.  I printed off the picture of Dad and packed for the Twin Cities.


Gene Ely, Notre Dame tackle, c 1936
When I got to Minneapolis, I shared the plan with my son, Nathan.  Hmmm, he says...one phone call to a neighbor and we had a football I could borrow as a prop for the day. 

with Nathan Ely, the night before the race

So, it all was set up.   Prerace, Dick asked me if I was all set; he was so supportive.   Several times during the race he asked me how close I was to my lap 102.  Sorry, Dick, I'm not all that fast!!  In fact, the race winner finished about 3 laps before I got to lap 102, at about mile 18!! (You'll see him early on the video, in the bright yellow shirt with a medal.)  Susie let me know my countdown, starting at lap 95.   I had my props assembled at my base camp.   It was so much fun to anticipate.   Finally, I finished lap 101 and, in front of the assembled timers, explained what I was doing and, in honor of my Dad, Gene Ely, on his 102nd, did my best to sing the Notre Dame Victory March.   Jon captured it all on video.



And here is the video:




It's hard to sing well after running 18+ miles but who cares...this moment was one of the highlights of all the running I've ever done.   I can't even quite express what it meant to remember my Dad on his birthday and have others who never knew or even heard of him realize it was special.     

I then ran lap 102, carrying Dad's photo and a football.   So many of my fellow runners realized what was going on and were so supportive.   I'm deeply (and forever) grateful for Jon pausing in his race to capture the video for me.  It was a blast.   I could almost hear my Dad's big, hearty laugh as I ran that lap, even though he died in 1993.   

I finished lap 102, stowed the photo and football and proceeded to run 8 more miles, nearly an hour and a half worth of running.   No "Wall" in this race, though...the adrenaline and enjoyment carried me the rest of the way.   I told Susie "we're back to normal the rest of the way."   And, pretty much, we were.  

The rest of the race went well.   The final 10 laps seemed to go by quickly...Susie commented I seemed to run them quickly.  It felt that way.  Spontaneously, as I got to my final lap, I grabbed my Dad's photo and the football and crossed the finish line with them.    Marathon #70 concluded and what a day it was.   

With Susie, post race, time chart, football and photo in hand.

Close up of the handwritten lap record...very special!


I felt bad for the students tracking those of us in the back of the pack.  They were so positive, though, and real troopers to hang around despite our slowness.  I warmly thanked Susie for her help all day and let her get on with something far more interesting than watching old guys shuffle around the track.   Yet, the enthusiasm from all the students was unique and truly a difference maker.  

Jon finished up a little bit after I did.  We cleaned up and headed back to our kids' houses in the Twin Cities.  

It was a remarkable morning, a remarkable marathon.  Mega-thanks to RD Dick Draymont, all the amazing and tireless women of St Olaf's cross country/track teams and Jon for his friendship.   And, thanks again to my Dad...I'm blessed to have had such a great relationship with him.   The many things he taught and modeled for me will never be taken away.  















Persevere.



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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year In Review: 2016

It was a good year for running.

My monthly miles below showed more consistency than I've had in years past.  September was the only low month and that was due to a couple of overlapping tapers.  No injuries all year and some high miles in the first half of the year.















All of this totaled to 1,853 miles of running, an all-time best for a calendar year as you can see in the graph below.   I'm kind of amazed looking at this chart, frankly.   I've also logged 16,874 miles since resuming my running in the spring of 2004.






It's astounding to me to have run year-round for 13 years in a row now.  I've had only two injuries of note in this stretch.   Hope to keep it going.

Racing is fun, as always.  I ran 27 organized events this year, including one 50K, seven marathons and four half marathons.   Race day just never gets old for me.   I also continue to give back, as Race Director of the Circular Logic Marathon.   We held our fifth CLM and are getting set for the sixth edition on April 1, 2017.  Trekking to many races with local running pal Jon made race days even more fun.  I also had a first-time experience with an on-line running team through Running Ahead, which was a real treat.

I didn't hit my goal for the year, however.



BQ was not to be this year.   I gave it three shots, at Carmel Marathon, at Wisconsin Marathon and then at the Last Chance BQ Marathon.   I came up 3 minutes short.   Then I took a shot for the 2018 Boston at this fall's Chicago Marathon.  On a perfect day, with a perfect course, I still came up 7 minutes shy.

What did I learn?

First off, BQ is tough.   No two ways around it.   I needed to find enough sustained speed to get there and didn't quite find it. Coming up short at Chicago was telling to me.   If I couldn't do it on such a perfect day, maybe it just isn't set right now.

But....

I did the calendar and, as of October 2017, I get an additional 15 minutes on my BQ time for the 2019 Boston Marathon.  That's a 4:10 marathon, which suddenly feels very achievable.   Hmmmmmmm.

But, Boston notwithstanding, did I enjoy doing the miles this year.   A lot of miles. And I feel great.   Zero injuries, much enjoyment.   That's a good year.

The 2017 goal??   I'm looking simply to run races I enjoy.   Likely running several ultras as well.   And might I go quick in a late fall race???   Maybe  :-)

Persevere.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Race Report: The HUFF 50K Trail Race, 2016

ORN:  50km, trails, 7:23:12 (14:16/mile); R/W 3/1 (mostly), placed 1st of 10 in 60-69 age group.

Summary:   The  HUFF was tough in 2016.   7" of light, powdery snow made footing tough for the entire 31+ miles.  It was a slow, long day in the Indiana woods. And it was remarkably joyful.

Gory Details:

As I've written before, the HUFF 50K Trail Race holds a special, unique place in my running.   I first participated on December 16, 2004, running a single 10 mile loop just seven months after the start of this era of running.  Until that day, I had never run trails at all.  I'd never run farther than 8 miles before that day.   So, it's funny to read now my race report of that day.  Dan Quayle, where are you now??

I've written about all five prior HUFFs since the organizers had to move the race to its current location at Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Weather conditions in late December in Indiana give each year its own character . 

2011:  The Deep Water Year. ( 7:33:44) The most philosophical I've ever been on my blog.  The lessons of that wet, cold, muddy day still hold, remarkably.  link  The 2011 race and the "aura" surrounding it has grown over the years.   When I meet anyone who also ran that day there is an instant bond.   

2012:  A very runnable race day: (6:26:45)   link

2013: Another nice HUFF race with more snow pack, but I ran in shorts anyway: (6:32:01)  link

2014:  A good day and a 50K PR at the time (6:19:28) link  

2015:   The most runnable of the series, leading to my current PR of 5:59:51 link

Which then brings us to the 2016 race.

Experience showed it key to watch the weather in the week leading into HUFF.  The temperatures looked favorable, with mild, mid-30s in the offing.   There was no rain in the week before, giving us hope we would not be flooded again.

Local running pal Jon and I decided to drive up the morning of the race, which meant being out of my door just past 4:00am.   As I backed the car out of the garage onto what appeared to be a wet driveway I got my first surprise of the day.   Hmmmmm, not just wet...it was a glaze of ice.  I locked the brakes and my car still slid slowly and safely down to the empty street.   I crept out of our neighborhood, finding the busier streets more clear.   Jon had to walk on the grass next to his driveway to get safely to my car.   The 2 hour drive to the race site went well, though we saw a lot of cars in the ditch.   We arrived a bit later than planned, yet still scored a good parking spot.  We walked down to packet pick up, which was smooth, went back to the car to get set with layers, then back to the start/finish line.   Kudos to Race Director Mitch and his merry band of soup-loving volunteers, though...they started the race on time.   So much so that Jon and I were just done leaving our drop bags when the gun went off.    We saw the pack leaving, chuckled, noted our thankfulness for chip timing, worked out where we would meet post race and began the race.

At the back of the pack, we immediately grasped what the day would hold.  In the micro-climate around Chain O Lakes State Park, we've often seen weather different from the areas near it.   For this race, this meant 7" of powdery, dry snow.   We didn't see such snow driving to the race site from the south.  But it was very evident, as you can see in these photos.




The trails are wide on this course but the snow effectively turned them into single tracks.   An ATV had driven over the snow ahead of us in an attempt to pack it somewhat.   However, the temperatures didn't let the snow pack;  instead there were a pair of "depressions" where the the ATV tires had been.   Jon and I chuckled afterwards at the day-long toggling, trying to find which rut was more runnable.  It was funny, because we never found a better track...both were tough.

The snow was so soft and powdery, running was difficult.   At every foot plant, my foot would schooch or turn or slide; there was never a firm launch to the next step.  It most closely resembled running on soft sand at a beach.   Only without the nice warm sea breeze.

Between miles 2 and 4 (the first aid station), I reset expectations for the day.   Self, I told myself, this is gonna be a long slow day in the woods.   Drop any expectations other than finishing, keep moving and enjoy any treats which may come your way.























And so it went.

The HUFF this year simply became a steady slow run.   As this is my sixth year on this two-loop course, I've been around the loop now twelve times.   Familiarity does help, as I always knew were I was, the distance to the two aid stations or start/finish line and what was ahead.   The day was quietly beautiful.  With no wind, the woods were silent save the crunch of footfalls.   The hills and trees were beautiful with the new snow; the views of the eponymous chains of lakes in the park were terrific.   I had the right number of layers on to stay comfortable...I just kept going.


One of the day's treats was to see so many folks I know.   After you've been running a while, you start to see other similarly crazy people who run long distances too.   Above are two recent friends, Bethany and Michelle from eastern Indiana who both finished their first ultra at HUFF.    Longtime buddies Walter (Go, Cubs, Go) Evans and Jen Savage ran too.   Our local club president Kate also persevered to finish.   Others were friendly and chatty, as is often the case in trail races.   The few folks who had also run in the Deep Water 2011 race became instant buddies.   A tough part of the day was that the deep snow and bad footing exacerbated a recurring injury for Jon and caused him to have to drop out early.   We've done so many races together, though, we've figured out how to alter plans.  He had an extra set of keys to my car, so was able to keep warm, find a book and wait for me.  

I finished the first loop in 3:27:25, which made me laugh.  Nearly a half hour slower than last year's very open course, it confirmed this day would be long.  I reloaded my water bottles, stuffed a couple of chocolate chip cookies in my pocket, wolfed down some PB&J and headed back out.   

The second lap at the HUFF is always quite different than the first, in that the field thins and you are really by yourself.   For an introvert like me, this was perfect.    As I told Jon on the drive up, I was looking forward to this time alone.   It had been an exceedingly difficult prior week at work, as we had lost a valued colleague to a sudden, unexpected stroke.   It was sad, hard and tiring.  A long run allows one to work through much; it's one of the things I like so much about running.   

The aid stations at HUFF are wonderful.   I got back to the first station and loaded up on more cookies and some salty chips.   By the time I got to the second station at mile 23, however, the difficult footing was taking a toll.    Ah, I said, remembering the 2014 race...two years ago I got a magical half-hamburger at this exact point in the race.   Would they have burgers again??  YES!!   I asked and the volunteer put it together for me in a flash.   A heavy coat of ketchup sent me on my way, happy.   I ate it over the next mile and it gave me a nice bump.   

The final 8 miles were more of the same...up, down, tough footing.   My right leg, particularly, was hurting from ankle to hip, discomfort the burger couldn't cure.   Downhills were particularly tough.  Yet, each mile marker brought a smile to my face.   I was enjoying the run, despite the difficulty.   As I got into the final miles, my pace quickened.   The final lap, 23 minutes slower than the first lap, was over, with an official time of 7:23:12.  

It was terrific to finish, yet not just because a tough run was over.   More on that below.  I got my finishers belt buckle and headed to the finish tent to find Jon.   He filled me in on his day; that was tough news to get.   Yet, he was very congratulatory to me for finishing, having first-hand experience on trail conditions.   He had moved my car near the finish line; I got into some dry clothes, grabbed some salty snacks and we headed home.  While roads were still slick, we made it home safely after a long day.  I slept very well that night!  


With Jon at the finish area...note the piles of snow!
















I reflected over the next couple of days on my feeling of elation at the end of the race.   It was more than a sense of relief; it was a genuine positive feeling.  My Garmin's data showed the final two miles were the fastest (least slow??) individual miles of the whole day.  Yet, this race was hard, very hard; it rivaled only the 2011 High Water year in difficulty.   When I finished that 2011 race, though, I wanted nothing more to do with the event.   While I obviously got over that short-term emotion, it was totally different this year.   I was set to do it again.  But why?

I think it came down to joy vs happiness.

Philosophers, linguists, theologians, all a lot smarter than me, have debated if or what the difference is between these two words.   I'll not get into that debate, as most agree happiness is a somewhat more short-term condition than joy.  Happiness depends more on circumstances, where joy is a longer-term settledness of spirit.  Perhaps that's why the Christmas carol is not titled "Happiness To The World"?

The difficulty of the day did not bring happiness.  It was hard, slow running. Yet, as I've matured in understanding myself and my running, I've grown to understand the simple joy of being outdoors, moving, grateful for health and fitness.   The finish time doesn't matter; the age-group placing doesn't matter; moving and friendships matter.

That brought joy.

And that's enough.

Persevere.   And find your joy.


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Friday, November 18, 2016

How to Inadvertently run a sub 2 hour Half Marathon

ORN:  13.1 miles, 1:59:46 (9:08/mile).

I went out for a morning jog of 5-8 miles on Saturday, November 12.  And stumbled into a Half Marathon.  And went sub 2 hours.  Go figure...go read.


The Gory Details:

Earlier this fall, our oldest son and his wife invited my wife and me to join them for a couple of nights at a cabin in the woods in southern Indiana.   They had rented it earlier in the year and wanted some time with just the four of us.   How cool when your adult kids make such an offer!!


David, Susan, Gretchen, Joe


David and Susan both had the Friday off, so they picked up Gretchen mid morning Friday.   They hiked around the very large and beautiful Brown County State Park near the cabin.  I had a very full day so drove down after work.  It's a little over a 2 hour drive...I arrived at the cabin a bit before 8, driving the whole way in the dark.  I was tired and glad to be off the road.  

While the three of them were out for dinner on Friday, Susan had noticed a flyer announcing a Half Marathon on Saturday morning.   Was I interested? she asked.   Not really; I'm so tired and I ran a full marathon last weekend and I'd really just like to not rush around in the morning.   Besides, she didn't recall any details, like where or when the race was happening.  We had no cell signal out in the woods; so I couldn't look it up.  I hoped to get in 5-8 miles sometime on Saturday but wasn't concerned just when or where. 

Wonderfully, I slept like a rock and gradually woke up around 7:30 on Saturday.   G and I chatted a bit, sleepily, as we came to the surface under warm covers.  She decided to get up around 8:00 and encouraged me to get up and run.  We both had noted the road to the cabin was narrow with no shoulder and quite a bit of traffic...not a good place to run.  So, she suggested I drive over to the State Park to run trails.  This sounded good, so I pried myself out of the warmth of the covers and got out the door at 8:20 ish.  

The car thermometer said it was 29F as I drove but it was sunny, not windy and looked to be a beautiful mid-November day.  I drove to park entrance, showed them our annual Indiana Parks pass and headed in.  

Just inside the entrance, to my surprise, I saw some "Parking" signs, directing cars to a big flat grassy field.   I saw a couple of folks in shorts on this cold morning.   It all looked familiar.  I pulled into the designated parking area, got out of the car to investigate when I heard a loudspeaker in the distance saying "Three! Two! One! Go!!!!!"    Hmmmm, I say to myself, this might be the race Susan mentioned but I still didn't see anything.   Then a guy came running to a car near me carrying what looked a lot like a race t shirt and I asked "Did a race just start?"  "Yeah, just a minute ago!" and he took off.  

Hmmmm again.  Shoot, let's check this out, I quickly decided, still not seeing anything but finding the situation quite familiar.  It was so chilly, I pulled on an extra long sleeve shirt and started jogging towards the sound, on the other side of a small hill.   

Once cresting the hill, there was a familiar sight.  Streamers and cones along a park road, a small arch with a "Start/Finish" sign on it, several folks standing around.  I decided I had nothing to lose, so turned on my Garmin, reset my Timex watch to zero and ran towards the start/finish line like I knew what I was doing.  Mind you, I had no bib, had not registered, didn't even know when the start time was or if this was the same race Susan had seen advertised.   I just started running.   
As I approached the start line, I could see the tail end of the pack going up the first, steep hill and around a curve.  So, I just kept going, didn't ask permission, hit the start button on both watches as I crossed the starting mats and chuckled "Hey, I'm in a race!  I wonder how long it is??!!"   No one standing around said a thing and I didn't pause to ask!!

I quickly caught the tail end walkers and chatted with them as I passed.  The race experience is so familiar!   As I worked past the walkers, I started catching the slower runners; all of us plodding up a very steep hill.  Several were wearing the race T shirt, called "The Hilly Half".   This confirmed I had stumbled onto the race Susan mentioned.   Appropriately named, the first mile was straight up a very steep hill.  Eventually, I saw the "Mile One" marker and was still passing folks.  

But then, I started seeing faster, younger runners coming back at me.  OK, I say to myself, this must be an out and back course!  So, I won't get lost.   But why do I see folks returning already? 

Soon, I saw a big cone on the middle of the park road with a sign "5K Turnaround".  Oh, I'm starting to get it.   This is a 5K...and it might be part of the HM, maybe??  So, when I got to the volunteer at the turnaround, I just asked her.  "Hi!  I got a late start...how do I follow the Half Marathon route?"  She smiled and said "Oh, the half marathon, you're fine, just keep running straight!"   Good...settled the fact this was indeed a HM.  And there was a steady series of orange cones on the park road, so I just kept going, still mostly uphill.   

In another half mile or so, I caught more walkers.  Ah, OK, this is the tail end of the HM, I say, the organizers sent them off first, makes sense.  Again, I'm chatting with them as I pass, enjoying the spectacular fall morning.   In a mile or so, though, I saw more runners coming back at me.  Wow, I say to myself doing some math, these guys must be really fast if I'm at the tail of the HM but seeing the leaders coming back.  It didn't really make much sense, but, hey, I was warm in bed just an hour ago, so I didn't worry much.   

Well, wouldn't you know it, I kept passing people but a bit past the 3 mile marker, there was ANOTHER cone in the middle of the road with the sign "10K Turnaround".  Oy!!  They had a 10K and a 5K and a HM, all going on at the same time!  So, once more I check with the volunteer at the cone and she's very friendly and tells me "Oh, you're fine, just keep on running that way for the Half!"   What a hoot.

Well....leaving the 10K ers behind at mile 3.1, I'm now TOTALLY by myself.  No one is around.   The cones are still in the road and I know where I am, so, at worst, I can turn around and get back to my car.   But there are no runners anywhere in sight. So, I just keep running.   It's flatter by now, on a ridge line with spectacular views in the clear fall morning.   I'm doing around 8:50 miles and feeling fine, not using walk breaks.  

I came around a bend in the road and saw another volunteer directing traffic.  He seemed a bit alarmed to see me and asked "Are you running the Half Marathon?"   I had settled on my explanation for the day and gave it; "Yes, but I got a late start."  He looked concerned.  "Well, buddy, the sag wagon has already passed here, they were behind the slowest runner, they weren't expecting you."  I replied "Hey, I'm sorry!   But I can take care of myself, so don't worry about me!" and kept running.   Not sure quite what he thought of that.  I just kept rolling.  

Integrity still had to rule, despite the spontaneity of it all.   I had not paid for the race, didn't have a bib, the organizers had no coverage for me on a liability basis.   So I didn't take any water from the correctly placed water tables and tried to just be positive and not a pain.  I  hadn't had any fluids at all, in fact, since dinner the night before.  So, how will this go??  I sure felt good so far. 

Around mile 5.5, I came over a rise and, happily, saw the aforementioned sag wagon.  Two guys driving an ATV were puttzing along behind some walkers.   OK, finally this MUST be the back of the HM pack.  I caught the sag wagon, slowed and talked to the driver as I jogged next to him, telling him my "late start" story.  He thought that was funny and wondered if I was going to keep passing people.  Told him I hoped to and just wanted to have fun on a gorgeous morning. More chatting, more fun.   So, after a couple of miles totally alone, I was back with people and started passing them once more.  I also saw the leaders heading back, so it all made sense. 

About this time, I saw a photographer.  Later, the organizers published pix free on FB.  I really like that about small races.  Smiling, still in my heavy top layer...

 

A bit after this, I heard a guy yell "Joe Ely, what are you doing here??!!"   It was my chiropractor!!  He's a runner too and I had seen him earlier in the week, but we didn't mention this race.   I just passed him quickly and yelled, "It's a long story, Doug, but I didn't exactly plan this!"   He laughed and headed back.  Even two hours from home, I see someone I know.   

The course looped a bit on the far end to get the distance right and I just kept running, with a pace just above and just below 9:00/ mile.  I was just running by feel, enjoying it.  I felt fine.  I walked up the steepest portions of the uphills but otherwise ran continuously.   The entire course was on park roads, so it was a road race, not a trail race.   

The trip back to the start was fun...I steadily passed people all the way.  At one point, I pulled alongside a couple of runners and asked "Hey, I got started late, what time did the half actually start?"  Turns out it began at 8:30am.  I was a full 30 minutes late across the start line.   Really made me laugh.  

Did I mention the day was beautiful??  It was and the temps gradually warmed.   I stashed my top shirt layer well before the turnaround and picked it up on the way back, tying it around my waist.   And still didn't take any water.   Glad it was so cool.  And was still enjoying myself. 


Around mile 10 or so, I still felt good and I began to wonder, shoot, what might my finish time be??  With a 5K to go, I started doing math for the first time.   I knew the first two miles, steep uphills, were well over 10 minutes each, and I didn't feel like I was running hard, so figured I get done in 2:05 to 2:08, which seemed a good morning workout.   But, by the time I got to mile 11, I looked at my watch, did some further math, and realized I had an outside shot at a sub 2 hour HM.   It all depended on what I could make up doing down the final 2 miles.   I know, from experience, the downs never wipe out the ups, though.  

I just ran and kept enjoying it, chatting and laughing with folks.   

Mile 12 appeared quite quickly, it seemed.  Apparently, the race had advertised the final mile as "The Beer Mile".  A local microbrewery was handing out small cups of brew right at the Mile 12 marker.  Another smart aleck remark hit me.  I said to the guy standing there; "I don't always drink beer..." and he laughed and finished my sentence for me "...but when I do, it's at the 12 mile mark of a half marathon!" 

Still laughing, I looked at my watch; 1:50 and change.  Oh my, I thought, this is crazy, can I pound this final mile point one and go sub 2?   Shoot, the whole morning had been crazy, let's give it a go.  

Running fast downhill is not as easy at it seems, as you know.   But I tried to let it all loose.  I got to the mile 13 sign at 1:58:15 or so, but I still couldn't see the finish line, such were the trees, curves and hills.   But I let it fly, came around a curve, saw the finish and gave the best sprint I could.  I knew I had no chip, so had to hit my watch to get a time.  I crossed, looked down and had it in 1:59:42.    What an amazing thing!   

Waiting for me there was Dr. Doug, my chiropractor.  "What on earth is this story?" he asked in amazement.    I caught my breath and told him.  We had a great laugh.  He had driven down from Lafayette just for this run...I had stayed in bed until 8:15.   What a contrast.  


Later, I looked at the race results, to see how I might have fared.  Overall, I would have been 83rd of 206 finishers.  In Men 60-69, I would have been 5th of 14 (and only one minute away from 3rd...shouldn't have talked so much along the way!!).  

So, there you go, the oddest and perhaps the fun-est HM I may ever do.   Broke all the rules; no fluids, no carbs, no stretching, no warm up, too chatty, no registration. 

Persevere.   You never know what might happen.


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