Saturday, December 31, 2005
In February, having only been running (again) for 6 months at the time, I set two goals for the year. One, to run the half-marathon distance once in every month. Two, to run a 10km race at a better-than-9:00/mile pace.
On the first count, I missed in February, July and August. All other months had at least one 13.1 mile run in it. On the second count, I made it, in spades, running a local 10km race in 52:19, an 8:24/mi pace. I’m encouraged with the year.
Total distance for the year was 1,304 miles. Kind of amazing. This included 12 races, 4 of which were half marathons, the rest shorter. No wonder my closet shelf is looking in disarray with all the T shirts…I need to give some away!
And, oh yeah, I started this blog. I’m not sure anyone is reading. But it serves a very useful public service anyway in that a) I have a place to talk about running and the lessons one learns from it and b) my family doesn’t have to listen to me blather on about running. They’re happy, I’m happy…what a country.
A cool year. Tomorrow I’ll write about the 2006 goals I’ve settled on.
It was/is an ugly spate of weather here in Indiana, typical of what we'll see through the next two months. 36, damp, gray, 20 mph West wind. So gloomy you want to close the blinds for fear the outdoors will suck all the light out of the house. Plus, I'm fighting a head cold and felt pretty lousy this morning anticipating the week's long run. I thought (for a short time) about bagging it altogether. But, out I went.
And had a super run.
I'm trying to do my long runs at 9:50/mile and I couldn't hold back today. Kinda neat (splits at the end). A Gu at mile 6 was a bigger-than-normal boost, kind of surprising to me. Felt good and the last set of miles were quicker than the first.
And a peculiar thing. My route takes me past a lake, now frozen, that is home to a large flock of geese. And today, they were all just walking around the middle of it, on the ice. Don't their feet get cold? Is it like sticking your finger on a frozen metal surface and having it stick? They didn't seem to mind, though. Fun to contemplate.
Another reason why running is good. You do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it. Feelings follow. They do not govern.
3 05 @ 9 21 pace
Nice way to end the year.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Wow, did I not want to go out this morning. And once I got outside, I really didn't want to keep going, as the balmy temperatures for yesterday's long run gave way overnight to a chilly NW wind.
The run itself came in two parts.
The physical side stunk. The legs just were lead-filled, very clunky. The wind was no fun and it remains really, really dark here at 5:30am.
The mental side was, by contrast, quite enjoyable. I have been working through my running goals for 2006 and made some headway, specifically bringing some rationality to a few ideas I had. Plus I solved some issues in my mind at work and at home.
Which made it worth it. And which is why I make myself get out each day.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Wow, what a switch, to wake up at 5am and see 49 on the thermometer! Running in the dark in shorts, with just a wind vest and a LS poly shirt.
The long run didn't feel as great as the temperature. The legs were surprisingly heavy. Perhaps due to the 16 miles on Saturday. The run just didn't flow all that well. But sometimes that happens.
What did I write last time?? One step after another??
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
What is running?
At its most basic, it is simply putting one foot in front of another at a gait faster than a walk. Repetetive. Over and over.
And it gets you somewhere.
And this is helpful to remember the basics.
Work life is much the same. Do the task. Keep at it. Remember the basics. Keep the form. Keep at it.
Running helps me learn.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
We were thrilled in late July to have David return safely from his tour of duty as a medic in the Sunni Triangle in western Iraq. Words don’t really capture what we felt to have him there and the joy of his return. He, Susan, Nathan and Andrew are now together, stationed in Colorado Springs, spending their first Christmas together in three years.
Our middle son Nathan is really finding a niche in Human Resources in Portland, Oregon. Hard to believe our youngest Matt is deep into planning for college. But I guess the math works, as Gretchen and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. Oh my.
I remain very grateful for my Dad, who died 12 years ago today. The values and insight I learned from him will never leave. I hope I’ve passed those same values on to my sons. I’m a very fortunate guy.
Where will 2006 go? Don’t we wonder about that every year?! To the degree that we each focus on others, apart from ourselves and seek to serve in the worlds we find ourselves, we will have opportunity.
I’m grateful for Immanuel, God with us, as we celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow. This faith undergirds everything for me. It is an exciting and humbling journey.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
With a "balmy" 38 degrees when I headed out the door, I left the tights in the drawer and got back in to shorts for the first time since Thanksgiving. Boy, did that feel good.
I needed a long run today and I got it. Nothing really spectacular other than the fact that it was long and I kept going for just shy of 3 hours, when I add in the warm up and cool down. THAT is kind of cool. No twinges, no pain. Just kept going. I spaced out some sports drinks and downed 2 Gu's along the way. It felt great.
My overall pace was a little slower than the 9:50 I targeted. But, hey, why worry?? This is only the second time in 25 years I've run this far.
For reference, here's my splits:
4:53 (9:44 pace)
And did I mention I wore shorts?? Didn't see any other runners in shorts which, by itself, is kind of fun. Dialogue in cars: "Ethyl, did you see that crazy guy? Does he have shorts on? With snow on the ground?"
Note to self: 16 mile route: normal trail, with Morehead extension, one loop around Purdue's CoRec, back north, take Lindberg extension, then home. To get 18 miles, add one more pass on Morehead extension. To get 20 miles, add the Kalberer extension.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Wow, 20 mph winds at 5:30am, very unusual here in Indiana to have this much wind at this time of the morning. Temps were right around the freezing mark and the trail surface and street crossings were slick in spots. Getting set for 16 tomorrow. I'm interested to see just how a four day sequence of 4-8-4-16 feels.
And it's almost Christmas. Much to be thankful for.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I really enjoy these long, mid-week runs. I delayed this week’s version by a day to avoid super cold weather. It was 19 this morning, which is starting to feel surprisingly comfortable. A very enjoyable run today.
A big part of the enjoyment was the beautiful hoarfrost on every tree and surface. The wind swung to the south overnight, bringing more humid air with it. Hitting the very cold surfaces, that moisture froze. The trees and bushes were all sheathed in white. With a quarter moon shining two hours before dawn, there was an almost dream-like element to the surroundings. Surprisingly bright, since every twig reflected the minimal light. At one point, I could almost imagine the trees as Ents, conferring and deciding to march on Isengard.
And everyone else missed this beauty of this strange, marvelous light.
One of the joys of early morning running. The creation is still and beautiful A winter morning, with the fog freezing everywhere.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Back out again, as the temps got to a "balmy" 19 this morning. Much better than the single digits the past two mornings. I shifted all my runs this week back a day to catch some "milder" weather.
No twinges or concerns after the debacle in the snow last Saturday. Actually felt good to run hard this morning. The Trails were now clear of snow, so I had a good surface to run on, away from traffic. Much, much better, thank you.
Saw a very bright and spectacular shooting star around mile 1. Very cool in the still-dark sky. I would have missed that had I slept in.
8 miles tomorrow.
Monday, December 19, 2005
The race did not go as I hoped. 12” of dry, powdery snow on top of a rough bike trail is not a wonderful way to run. I did one lap of the 10.8 mile course and started the second lap, when I felt my right hamstring start to go. I decided to hang it up and not injure myself. A beautiful winter day, but not an enjoyable running event.
All the Gory Details
OK, if you are a glutton for punishment (also known as a runner), here’s the full scoop on the race.
You know a race is set for cold weather when at registration they give you an ice scraper and a stocking cap along with the obligatory T shirt. Yep, this is a cold one.
Having run this race a year ago, I was psyched to run it again. The 2005 Trail Map here shows the 10.8 mile loop around a man-made reservoir on the Wabash River. Race HQ was at a campground on the middle of the north side of the lake.
I was out of bed at 4:30am, on the road 20 minutes later for the 90 minute drive in the dark. One bank thermometer said 18, the next one said 12. Yeah, it was cold. Had a great time driving and thinking through some issues that early in the morning, with Twila Paris on the CD player. I pulled into the pitch-black campground that was buzzing with activity around 6:45am. I found the registration tent (well heated with propane flame-throwers!) which was way better organized than last year, and I was all set before 7am. Back to the car, popped in my contact lenses and relaxed, wondering what 20 miles would be like. Oh yeah, I’ll just let you imagine what a pit toilet at a campground in these temperatures was like.
The 8am start was, well, chaotic. I knew that they intended to let the 3 lap runners and the relay teams go at 8, with the one lap runners 15 minutes later. Apparently few others did. It reminded me of the old Charlie Brown films, where the adults are off-screen, going “blah blah blah” while the kids did what they wanted. The race director had a bull horn and was talking, but it was unintelligible.
At 8:03am, the cannon (yeah, a real Civil War era cannon) went off and so did we, nearly 450 in the first wave. We did a half mile on the main road into the campground, feeling very much like a normal race start.
Then, it really started.
We made a left turn and went on the trail. How can I describe the surface?? They had around 12” of snow in this area in the previous 10 days, then bitter cold. So the snow was dry, powdery and refused to pack at all. So, we all moved ahead, crammed into single file in the snow. All trying to find a path that was about 9-12” wide. Seriously. It looked like this; all in single file. For the first 100 m or so off the road, we had to walk. It was a traffic jam, 8 lanes of cars funneled through a single lane.
Underfoot, it was awful. The snow was very soft and movable. There was no grip for my feet and it was very uneven. So, we all expended much energy just trying not to fall or run into someone. I felt very bad for relay teams who wanted to do well, as there was no way to pass unless you ventured outside the 9” wide path and plowed through undisturbed show, thus burning even MORE energy.
So, there I am, after spending much of the fall getting psyched about this, in a slow moving conga line through the trees, getting well acquainted with the water bottle the guy in front of me was wearing on his fuel belt.
After three miles of this, we emerged on the dam at the west end of the lake. And, just like the freeway when it opens up, there was a surge of traffic. Everyone spread out, there was much passing and we did a lot of work to better sort out the pace. And I was astounded just how much better a flat surface felt. I noted on my Garmin that I was pushing under a 9:00 pace, so I had to back off, knowing that was foolish.
At the other end of the bridge, we had our first water stop then back into the woods. Same condition. Still single file. Just like NASCAR at Watkins Glen…no room to pass. You got stuck behind slower runners and/or were holding up faster folks behind you.
Around the 6 mile mark, we had about a third of a mile on the trail where a bulldozer had been a couple days previous. Wow, was that nice. Two wide, flat packed paths. We quickly spread and enjoyed the comfort. But then, back to the snow.
Just past mile 7, we emerged on a bridge at the east end of the course. Again, almost instantly, I was down to a 9:00 pace. Encouraging, as it felt almost effortless, even after slogging through that much powder. A little before mile 8, we turned back west to head for the campground, 2 miles away.
A year ago, when I ran this course on bare dirt, I was really almost wiped out by this part of the course and struggled. This time, with a much stronger mileage base, it was not bad, except for the footing. I was joined by my work colleague, Jay, at this point. He’s a veteran ultramarathoner, but he told me his Achilles was tweaked and he was going to call it a day after one lap. Wow, the conditions must be tough if a well-skilled guy like Jay is struggling.
I got back to the campground and crossed the mat with one lap down. Grabbed some food and drink and headed out on the second lap. The crowd had thinned by now, as the one-lap runners were warming up again in the tent. But the snow was still deep. And, whether it was psychological from my talk with Jay or not, I noted my right hamstring starting to strain. I cut off the course to run on the asphalt. It felt fine there. I carried on to the first turning off point on the trail, hoping the problem was gone.
In 200 m of snow, I could tell the hammy was only going to get worse. My next “jumping off” point was 2.5 miles away. I had to decide. Now. I thought about my goals. My main goal is to run, injury free, into my 70s. Hey, I’m 52 now, so I have a ways to go still. What will I prove if I run now, injure myself and then be stuck inside all winter? Not much.
So, I packed it in. I ran back down the trail, onto the main road, ran up to the campground and logged 12 full miles on my Garmin. Turned in my chip, told the folks I was a DNF, grabbed some cookies and walked back to the car.
A disappointing day, mostly in the lost chance to enjoy a race. It was a beautiful winter day. The woods were pretty, geese flew overhead; but one had to concentrate so much on the course that one could not enjoy either the day or the scenery. The course was so narrow, I couldn’t talk to anyone, an important part of racing for me.
This is probably my last trail race. I know lots of folks enjoy it, but I’ll focus on the roads.
Thanks for listening!!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
OK, we're set. Rest day tomorrow and are set for the Huntington Ultra Frigid Fifty (link: http://www.fwtc.org/huff/index.shtm).
The past week has been an encouragement, in that I've renewed my confidence that I can do two of the three laps in this race. The weather should cooperate; however, I don't know what the surface will be like as I understand they've had nearly a foot of snow in the area.
Race report will be next on Saturday...should be fun!!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Got no rhythm. And I never really sensed it.
We had a big snow last week. That wiped out the trails I normally run on. It narrows the streets, makes them a mess. No solid footing anywhere. It's cold and dark most of the time.
I'm in the tail end of a taper, getting set for a 20 miler this Saturday. I've never tapered this intentionally before. Haven't done a decent long run in 3 weeks. Yeah, its a taper. That 8 miler last Saturday was not even worth blogging about. This taper has really thrown me for a loop.
Got no rhythm.
And it hit me this morning, when I still hauled myself out of bed, into the cold for a "mere" three miler. I altered my route, found some streets that had bare pavement. And it was nice.
I found some rhythm.
This is one of the reasons I learn so much from running. Running is about rhythms. From the micro, step-by-step patter of feet and breath, to the rhythm of each run (warm up, cruise, push, cool down), to the rhythm of a training week, to the rhythm of race preparation, to the rhythm of the seasons (at least here in the Midwest).
And I don't have enough experience in this most recent running dispensation to recognize the longer rhythm cycles. It only hit me this morning what was going on. And it helped a lot when I recognized it for what it was.
The spiritual disciplines restore/drive rhythm to the spiritual life. The scripture readings, the prayer, the silence, the meditation. All in good order, in the proper time. Give peace.
And it is peace that we need so badly in an un-peaceful, chaotic world.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Up and headed out this morning at 5:30am for a short 3 miler, as part of the taper plan. Forecast said we'd have around three inches of snow by morning.
So much for forecasts.
A full seven inches of new snow on the ground. No snow plows through yet, no tracks, and I realized my car would never get out of the garage unless I did some serious shoveling.
So, I swapped the run for some "lower back exercise." Dark, early. And could scoop the driveway before I'd packed snow into the tracks! What a concept. We'll catch the run this weekend
And I saw something else cool, out early and dark. My neighbor, the father of four boys, had built one of the coolest and biggest snow forts I've seen in quite a while. Some serious snow excavation going on here. He had his 10 year old out with him last night and wow, what a neat thing for little kids to go outside and burn up lots of energy.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
The midweek run, postponed from yesterday, happened this morning. When I have more time, I'll write about what I'm learning about dressing for such weather.
These midweek long runs have really been a treat, though. I've never done them and this is the last long one as I taper into the HUFF a week from Saturday.
As with many long runs, the good stuff doesn't happen until after mile four or so. At that point, the rhythm sets in, the body is in synch and it is pure joy. Even in the dark in 11 degree weather.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Why run? Saw an example yesterday at work.
We spend most of our time running alone. Training miles. Up early. Alone. Getting in the miles. Mile after mile. Some days are interesting, some are tough, many are just there.
And, a few times each year, we get to a race. On a beautiful fall morning with a couple thousand others and it all comes together.
And if we don't train, it never comes together. Even if we sign up for the race, if we shortchange the training, we don't do well.
Much of work is like that. Just doing it. Day in day out. Not a lot of "euphoric" moments. But they are there. But if we don't do the day-to-day, it will never be there.
Much of faith is like this. Day in, day out, staying with the necessary spiritual disciplines. Prayer. Reading and meditating on the scripture. Fleshing out kindness to others. Often alone. Dry times happen. And, still, there are moments when it all works. And great joy.
Running illustrates all of this.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
I've determined to be very careful about my shoes as I am 52 and want to run well into my 70s. The shoes are the most key part of the whole equipment thing. So, I only run in the newest pair; the next newest pair goes in the closet as back up running shoes; the next newest after that is what I wear to walk the dog; older pairs get given away to a local charity.
And, so, geek that I am, I mark the shoes. Is this totally weird or just practical?
Here's the back of my new pair. I used to draw a "1" or "2" on them, but that seemed a bit much. So I went to the more subtle "dots" and here you can see a humble and understated four of them on each shoe.
If this is really odd, well, so be it...few will notice. If you've seen it, I'd be interested in knowing!!
Even if you have dotted shoes....
Took a different route today, a long lollipop. The "stick" was 5.5 miles on my normal route on the West Lafayette Trail System. The candy was a mile loop around the intra-mural fields at Purdue.
I picked this route because the top of the lollipop was a wood mulch, hilly, trail-like path. Since the HUFF, two weeks from today, is 2/3 on a trail, I needed to get the legs/feet a bit used to the difference from my normal asphalt pounding.
Wow. Good move. And two big things to ponder on the trip home along the lollipop stick.
First, I had forgotten from last year's HUFF race just how much things change when you get on uneven ground. First off, the same effort is about one minute/mile slower pace. Soft ground, picking your way, poor traction all combine to make it really tough. Note to self: cut the expectations on the trail in 2 weeks. Relax and just enjoy the run, forget about the pace.
Second, I felt like I was plodding on the way home. So, I simply cranked up the pace, 8 miles into the run. Didn't figure the legs would respond for any length of time. Wrong. After some 9:50 and 10:05 miles midway, I did the last four in 9:16, 9:30 (into the wind), another 9:16 and 9:07.
The base is holding up.
Two weeks to go. The taper continues, and it is fascinating how the strength is staying in the legs.
Friday, December 02, 2005
I must be a little kid at heart. Alternatively, a poster boy for the old saying "The only difference between men and boys is how much they go and pay for their toys."
Got my latest pair of Brooks Adrenline GTS5s in the mail yesterday from my pals at Athletic Annex in Indy. Great running store, but that's the subject of a different blog when I have more time. Put them on for a simple 5 miler and they felt great, right out of the box. Which is what I like so much about this model. It seems to fit my particular foot strike perfectly. My fourth pair in a year. And well worth it. That too is another blog.
This taper business is indeed wired. It feels really funny and I still have two weeks till the 20 miler. Others have described it well and I'm sensing it more for this long race than I have for various half marathons. Only 12 miles tomorrow, Saturday. Will feel like a very short stroll in the park! How cool is that??