Monday, July 31, 2006

So, Just what IS my Marathon Pace?

ORN: Sunday: 7 miles, 9:18/mile

In planning and training for the Portland Marathon on October 1, I'm trying to target my pace. Numerous runs on the training plan are set for "Marathon Pace'...but just what is it? I'm asking for help here.

The data:

1. In the St Louis Marathon in April, I targeted a 9:45 pace, which I held pretty well through 23 miles, when I had to walk the uphill portions of the last three miles. I ended up averaging 10:18 over the entire course.

2. Four weeks later, I did the Indy Half Marathon in an 8:53 pace.

3. Four weeks after that, I did the Sunburst Half Marathon in an 8:39 pace.

4. I have, to date, targeted a 9:30 pace (on my Garmin, probably a 9:35 or so in reality).

5. On Saturday, with temps in the 80s and very high humidity, I ran 11.4 miles at a 9:31 pace (on the Garmin). I was trying to run at 9:45. Couldn't do it.

6. On Sunday, the training schedule called for 7 miles at MP. With the temps and humidity even higher, I set the training pace feature of the Garmin to 9:30 and couldn't keep it at pace...I ran it at 9:18.

7. I'd like to finish Portland strong...I have no need (on this one) to get under 4 hours. That will come, perhaps in 2007.

So, good running friends, what should I target my MP at for Portland, two months from tomorrow?? Or am I obsessing too much??

Thanks for your help as we all persevere.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Badwater Ultra: Jay ran 135 miles!

ORN: 11.1 miles, 1:45:40, 9:31/mile

I wrote earlier this about
my work colleage Jay who participated in the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon. The great news is that Jay completed the race! You can see the full results here and this spreadsheet is some amazing reading.

Of 84 starters, 67 completed the trek. Jay was 62nd, keeping moving for 56 hours, 52minutes 54 seconds. Put another way, he started running at 8am on Monday and finished at 4:52pm on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, two straight nights on the road. Gutting it out. And finishing, achieving a goal he has had for years.

Jay called me on Thursday morning, after I had seen his finishing time on this website around 5am on Thursday. It was great (and amazing) to hear his voice. He sounded super, very cogent and lucid. I asked how much he had slept and he said “Ah, I’m still kind of jazzed, I only slept 5 hours last night. I’m sure it will catch up with me.” How’s that for an understatement!

Jay said he felt pretty good, except for his feet. “They are kind of a mess,” he understated again. He had already lost one toenail and thought a second one would be gone soon. Some serious blisters and raw spots added to the ambience.

This morning, he sent an email to our local running club:

It was an amazing week.

Monday's temperature reached 129F on the road between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. The humidity was recorded at 21%, making for a heat index of about 150F. The surface temperature in the sand next to the road was recorded at 152F. We have photographic proof.

I suffered mild heat exhaustion during this period and had to take 4 hours to recover lost fluid.

I came back from the dead and was able to run-walk to the finish.

I couldn't have done it without the faithful support of my crew: Corey Linkel, Bonnie Busch, Nikki Seger, Brian Kuhn, and Mary Gorski.

Brian is hooked and has vowed to enter next year.


Awesome. It will be great to see Jay on Monday and hear more.

Persevere. Jay did…and has a most unique accomplishment he can never lose.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Hike up Pikes Peak

The week before our recent trip to Colorado Springs, my son David called me and asked if I’d like to hike a trail to the top of Pikes Peak while we were there. Not knowing anything about the trail but thrilled to do something outside with David, I immediately said “Yes” and then proceeded to learn what we were planning to do. While the plan depended on weather and baby cooperation, it all came together on Monday, July 3. And what a day that was.

We went up on the
Barr Trail, well-described in this link (and a longer, detailed description from a trail marathoner here). We were up at 4:30am, out the door at 5 and on the trail at 5:45am, along with a LOT of other people. It was pretty amazing how many other had the same idea. We set out at a comfortable walk and quickly began the climb up. I was amazed at how well-groomed the trail was, how well-conceived the switchbacks were and the number of runners we saw, both going up and down the trail. We hit our own rhythm and just kept moving. The day was glorious and it was special to be with David.

Around 7am, we had covered about 3 miles on the trail, gained about 2,000 feet in altitude when we got our first clear view of Pikes Peak. Wow…over 10 miles horizontally still to go and we were only an hour into the hike. The peak sure looked a long ways off; the moment was simultaneously awesome and sobering.

The next four miles got us moving horizontally towards the peak and with a less-steep slope. The trail widened, the crowds had lessened and David and I could walk side by side instead of single file. The conversation was pleasant, the scenery fantastic. The morning was beautiful, the birds were in full voice, I was with my first-born, outside, doing something we both enjoyed. Awesome.

While pausing for some water along the way, we met a family from Lubbock, Texas decked out in Chicago Cub hats. We all laughed at the unlikely premise of five die-hard Cub fans finding each other on the side of a mountain in Colorado. It ultimately turned out to be a more important “coincidence” than we first imagined.

Half-way up, we came to
Barr Camp, a respite and shelter along the way. We paused for some water and to sign the registry. We wondered, at the time, about the number of people sitting around there who seemed content to hike to Barr Camp, rest up and then walk back down. But, we hadn’t done the second half yet.

Shortly after Barr Camp, the father of our Cub-fan family caught us as we paused for water. It turned out his wife and daughter had planned to go back down after Barr Camp, while he sought to go to the summit. We never learned his name, so I’ll just call him “Harry” for this story (Cub fans know why). We invited Harry to join us the rest of the way.

Heading up from Barr Camp, the path got steeper and the trees started to look smaller and smaller. At around 12,500 feet, we got to the tree line…what a sudden shock to the system. Whereas we had been on a pleasant forest walk, we were very suddenly alone on the mountain. I can’t quite describe the feeling of smallness that hit me. We were small…other hikers only a few hundred feet above or below us looked tiny. With no protection any more from the elements, it was us and the mountain, with nearly 2,000 vertical feet to go. Everything seemed to change.

Looking up, we saw a dark cloud now covering the peak. As we went further, we realized we would soon be walking up into the mist. I took one last picture, packed the camera against the moisture and we carried on.

It was along here that Harry told us his story. He had come to Colorado Springs many times as a child and always admired Pikes Peak. Adulthood came along and then so did a lot of weight. Harry told us 6 years ago, he tipped the scales at 400 pounds. At about 5”9” in height, he realized the real danger of obesity. So, he began to shed those pounds, steadily and safely. And, in the back of his mind, he set a goal of one day being able to be in good enough condition to make the hike up Pikes Peak. And today was the day. It was moving to David and me to realize our spontaneous adventure of a Dad and a son had intersected with a major life event for our new-found friend. The Cubs were interesting, but Harry had much bigger things to prove to himself. I was impressed.

The cloud descending down the mountain dropped the temperature. As we walked into the cloud, David and I both added to a second shirt and kept moving. (Technical note: I ended up wearing only two layers of polyester; a short sleeve and long sleeve T shirt. That's it...I was astounded at how warm I stayed, even when wet, even to the summit, with just these two wicking fabrics.) Harry did the same, but was starting to struggle. It started to drizzle and then sleet as we got near 13,500 feet. Then we heard thunder but unlike any thunder I had ever heard before. Since we were in the cloud, not below the cloud, the thunder came from all around us. Bouncing off of nearby rock faces, both above and below, it felt like being inside the biggest subwoofer ever invented. It was almost Biblical in magnitude. The mountain, the cloud, the thunder, the walking; it was all there. Amazing. Cool. Unique.

However, thunder always comes from lightning and I wondered if we were in danger. The trail description (which I only read after the outing) says we were. At this point, though, we were committed and the best we could do was to move steadily towards the summit…storm or no. We stopped again to pull on nylon wind pants and kept moving.

It became evident that Harry couldn't keep the pace. David wanted to move on and see if we could snag a spot on the cog railway for the trip down the mountain. He and I agreed that he would surge ahead and I would stay with Harry. Given that David is an Army medic and I’m just a guy, we might have made a different decision had we thought more. But it turned out OK. It was just a matter that Harry was struggling and I’d have to do the thinking for both of us.

The thunder continued, the sleet fell, changed to snow and we kept going up. With the peak completely shrouded in the cloud, we had no idea how far or close we were; we could only follow the path. We took regular breaks and I kept encouraging Harry, who had less and less to say. We came to the famous 16 Golden Stairs portion of the trail. While I knew there were large boulders in this section, I thought there were only 16 of them. I only learned later the name referred to 16 switchbacks…not 16 boulders. Oh my. We kept moving.

As we finished the “Stairs”, we paused again when we saw two guys walking down the mountain, still shrouded in fog. “How far do we have to go?” we asked, hopefully. “Hey, only about 10 minutes,” was their most welcome reply.

Onward we went and soon we heard a train horn. Looking up, we could finally make out the shape of cog railway cars stopped on the peak, only about 100 feet above us! This final portion of the trail got steeper and steeper. Harry was breathing heavily and I urged him to watch his step on the wet, icy rocks. David appeared out of the fog above us, having made it to the top a half hour ahead of us. What a welcome sight.

The last short climb was rough but short. We got to the top and I let out a series of joyous shouts, feeling every bit like the finish line of a marathon. David was there to welcome me and we gave each other a huge bear-hug. It was an awesome moment, even in the 36 degree temperatures, soaking wet, in the snow. What a day with my first-born.

Harry, on the other hand, looked a little dazed. David and I shook his hand heartily, congratulating him on this life accomplishment. He smiled wanly and as David and I talked, he wandered off to find his wife who was to have driven their car to the top to pick him up. And we never saw him again, never learned his name. He didn't say thank you or good-bye or anything. He was completly exhausted, physically and mentallt. It was an odd ending…but we got him safely to the top and he’ll remember it forever. He’s a neat guy and I hope he remembers us well


David talked our way onto the cog railway back down the mountain. We plopped down on seats facing three tourists who were trying to figure out why these two wet, cold guys could be so happy and chatty. We tried to explain. “You mean you guys just WALKED up this mountain?” “Yeah, it was awesome.” “Today? You did this all today?” “Yeah.” “How long did it take?” “Well, six and a half hours for David, seven for Joe.” “And this is your idea of fun??” “Yeah.” We both were grinning ear to ear.

Then they looked at me…”How old are you, anyway?” I wasn’t sure if they were concerned for my health or questioning the sanity of one who appeared to be old enough to know better. Learning I was 52 only elicited an “Oh my…” from them and they changed the subject to the evils of elk eating the grass off of golf greens in Colorado. David and I winked at each other and kept enjoying the moment.

This whole event was as memorable as any race I’ve ever run. The emotions you go through in a long race paralleled this experience exactly. The start is cool and neat, energy is high. Then reality starts to set in and you keep moving as you realize just how long it is. You settle into a rhythm and keep moving and the middle miles begin to click off. Then, you get to the latter stages, when it becomes more mental than physical. In this event, I was amazed and pleased that running on the flatlands and low altitude of Indiana still held up on this mountain. My legs never tired or got sore (I actually ran 5 pain-free miles the next day “down” at 6,000 feet on David’s base). While I noticed the thin air, stopping for a break at times was all I needed. And my brain never went to mush…I was aware of what was going on all along; from the incredible joy of doing this with my son, enjoying each moment and grasping its significance to getting Harry safely to the top.

The event was so unusual and significant, it’s taken me three weeks to reduce it to writing…hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

Badwater Ultramarathon for my pal Jay

Hot enough for ya?
While slogging through the heat and humidity the past month or so, I consistently reminded myself I had nothing to complain about. My work colleague, Jason Hodde, is an ultramarathoner and is entered in the most demanding of all ultramarathons, the
Badwater Ultramarathon, which starts on Monday. 135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of summer, with 60 hours to reach the finish line at the portals of Mount Whitney. Over two mountain passes, it also has a total of 13,000 vertical feet and 4,700 feet descending.

Jay is part of
Roster of 85 endurance athletes. He’s taking a crew of 6 others with him to supply him with the water, food and support he’ll need. He told me Thursday he’ll have five pairs of shoes, 7 pairs of socks, five sets of SPF30 sunprotecting garmets, a rental minivan, rental small car and more ice than imaginable. He has a clear plan for completing the race, which he started once before and has been a crew member for others twice. He knows just how tough it is. The plan includes walking most of the uphills and only a judicious use of running. Staying awake and on his feet for 40+ hours in 120 degree heat is the real challenge. As he pointed out to me “We run on the white line on the roads because it is cooler than the black asphalt.” Yeah…that’s just the start.

I’ll be following Jay, bib #36, via the
their webcast over the next three days. Jay sets off at 8:00 am PDT on Monday morning with an ultimate challenge ahead of him. Go get ‘em, Jay, in the ultimate test of perseverance.

Registerd for Portland

ORN: Saturday: 15.3 miles, 2:34:45, 10:06/mile
Sunday: 7 miles, no watch, felt good
37.5 miles for the week

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for
The Portland Marathon on October 1. I’ve been talking about it for months and now I’m in. It is interesting, psychologically, what that simple commitment does. Now I’m really going. I’m in. I even know my bib number, a neat part of the registration process.

This pretty much defines my running now for the next 2.5 months. I sat down with
Hal Higdon's Intermediate MARATHON TRAINING GUIDE and laid out each day and each week to that point. It made sense and appears very doable. Further, this program has more miles built into it than his Novice plan, which I used to prepare for the St Louis Marathon and that worked out fine. More miles, two 20 milers, some speed work.

Better, I can do it cheap. By booking early, the registration and air fare from Indy will only set me back around $300. Since middle son
Nathan lives and works in Portland, I can stay cheap and it will be great to be with him in his world.

The training really came in earnest the past two weeks. My summer training plan worked out reasonably and now I can launch into the higher mileage weeks reasonably well. Yesterday’s scheduled 15 miler went well, which is surprising since I was just over 10 min/mile for the whole trip. Yet I haven’t done 15 miles since the marathon on April 9 but I really enjoyed it. It was fun to just run and run and run for 2.5 hours. I never needed to walk, despite the temperature being nearly 80 by the time I ended.

Coming back this morning was a wonderful 7 mile run. The temperatures dropped to a “frosty” 63, and it felt marvelous.

So, there we have it. Two marathons in 2006. An objective. A reason to claw out of bed at 5:15am daily. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

ORN: 4 miles, no watch, soaking wet

Up at 5:15am, 78 degrees, pitch black. Ugh. Out the door, in rediculous humidity. But off I went. Decided to go on Route B rather than my preferred Route A, just to vary things. Half a mile in, I noticed a street light flicker. No biggie. A little later, I saw a lightning strike. Gee, was that what the flicker was?

Another lightning flash. Two seconds later, the thunder hit me. Whoa, that's close. I was nearing the one mile mark, decided I should turn around and head back home.

Another flash. I wasn't even into the "wa" of "One..." when the thunder hit. Yep, just a block away from me. So close that I heard the sizzle of the water being vaporized by the zap. Way too close. But I was heading home anyway. About 30 seconds later the rain started. Then a downpour. My cap kept it out of my eyes but I was quickly soaked. But I was headed home.

In the six minutes or so that it took me to get home, the cloudburst had passed. The storm was quickly moving to the east and the temperature was even dropping. I got to my mailbox, pulled out the towel to clean my glasses. I took off my shirt, wrung it out and decided to two two more miles on Route A, now that it was clear. Squishy socks or not, off I went and it was nice.

I don't recommend running in lightning...but it sure turned an otherwise boring short run into a little more excitement.

What do people from Mississippi think about their state being used just as a timing chant??

Persevere. Even if you are from Mississippi.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Physician, Heal Thyself

ORN: Saturday: 11.5 miles, 2:03:10, 10:43/mi
Sunday: 7.0 miles, 1:06:29, 9:29/mi

Early last week, our local running club sent out an email in response to a request by our local newspaper asking for runners to volunteer to be interviewed about running in summer heat and humidity. Being a chatty guy, I responded, got a call from a sports writer on Thursday, and the article showed up in the Saturday sports section, viewable

In this hard-hitting and deeply insightful article, we hit the controversial topics like running in the cool of the day, hydrating well and wearing wicking fabrics. One other thing I mentioned to the reporter which didn’t make the article was lowering distance and speed expectations in the heat.

Which brings me to my title.

I got out for a planned 14 mile run a little later than expected on Saturday morning. It was around 75 when I headed out the door at 8:30am, fresh from seeing my name in print. The first four miles went well, at around 9:25. And then the heat got tough. The next four miles averaged 10:20. Will I make the full 14, I wondered, or will I heed my own advice? After all, at 5pm, I was assigned to umpire home plate for a district final baseball game. How deep to I go into the reserves?

My body made any further decision easy..the tank moved to empty and I simply had to walk some. Miles 9-12 came in around 12:00/mile, as I was walking a good portion of the time. No amount of fluids or Gu would help. I cut short the route and the Garmin said 11.5 was the day’s total. A good thing, too…when I walked in the door, the temperature was at 94.

My baseball game went OK, though it was blistering as well. Over 100 at the plate when it started and let’s just say the high temperatures did little to create a happy and forgiving mood amongst the fans. The best team won, though, and I was not assaulted when I exited the field.

So, this morning, I further heeded my advice and was out the door for a 7 miler at 6:30am at a frosty 74 degrees. The first three miles came in at 9:05, and the next two only slowed to 9:30. The last two showed some struggle, hitting at 9:55. Yet, I made the total goal of a sub 9:30 pace.

This is the hottest weather we’ve had for four will pass. And we’ll persevere.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sneaking in a Run

ORN: 5 miles, no watch, got wet, felt good

Since I got back from Colorado Springs (did I tell you about my new granddaughter???!!! See below!!!), running has been choppy due to my other hobby of umpiring Little League Baseball. This is the time of year for league and district tournaments, all leading to the LL World Series in Williamsport, PA in August. I love the game and the kids, even though it involves a lot of travel to nearby towns and late, humid nights.

Late this afternoon, I got a call that tonight's doubleheader was scrapped due to thunderstorms in the area. This meant I could sneak in a run after work. Regular readers know I usually run in the morning...but tonight I headed out of work with a spring in my step. I got home and headed out for a nice 5 miler. The drizzle didn't seem to bother. Wow, did it feel good. And guess what?? Now I'm listening to the MLB All-Star game on the radio.

I got in my 10 miler last Saturday and will be sneaking in runs the rest of the week. Then, the serious preparation for the Portland Marathon begins.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Meet our new granddaugher!

We just got back from a long weekend in Colorado Springs to meet our new granddaughter, Berneice. It was an amazing time, at many levels.

Little Berneice joins a family with David, Susan and her twin brothers, Andrew and Nathan, who are not quite 2 ½ yet. Yes, it is a busy household! It is also amazing for Gretchen and me to see our son now being a husband and father of such a growing family. We were frankly impressed with how Susan and David are handling this little tribe.

Berneice has been very healthy so far. She is gaining weight, nursing well and sleeping for five hour stretches at night, a wonderful performance for a newborn. Susan is bouncing back wonderfully well from the C-section. We went on some half-mile walks while there and she had no discomfort. You can see more photos

It struck me deeply the blessing of healthy baby. To hold this little girl, normal and healthy in every respect, was almost more than I could bear. So many people work through the difficulty of a child with special needs and concerns. Why do we not have that concern? Nothing we deserve…simply a gift of grace. And for that, we are profoundly grateful.

I pray this little family can persevere. We’ll do all we can to help them do just that.