Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thinking, Running. Running, Thinking

ORN: 24.0 miles, R1/W1, 4:47:55, 12:00/mile

At work late Friday afternoon, a colleage popped into my office. She had read this blog recently, noting I was now a "sponsored runner". She's preparing for a half-marathon this spring and had some shoe questions. She then asked about my prep for the Los Angeles Marathon. I noted this weekend, three weeks ahead of race day, was the time for the last long run. How long? she asked and then grimaced when I replied "23." She then asked me a very perceptive question.

"So, Joe, just what do you think about on such a long run?"

That is one of the best questions I've ever been asked about running. I stumbled a bit when talking with her. Yet, as I set out this morning, I decided to catalog just what I did think about. And several categories emerged.

Not surprisingly, I thought about running quite a bit. With a marathon only three week away, I played out the various preparations remaining, travel not the least of them. I also thought about the run/walk strategy. Once more, I used a one minute run, one minute walk plan for today's long run. hits a heart-rate zone which lets me feel like I can just go and go. The first 14 miles of the run was largely on snow and slush from the overnight flurries, which is not efficient. Nevertheless, the 1/1 worked great. No pain, no niggles, no nothing. Just running.

I also thought a lot about both family and work. There are a lot of situations in both. What do I do? Or not do? Who do I write? Who do I phone? Who do I leave alone? I find the long weekend runs often allow me enough time to truly process ambiguous situations more fully. Yet, I often can't get into those topics for a good hour or so after getting started.

Speaking of snow, I thought a lot today about just how to describe the bleakness of Indiana in late February. The 1/2" of overnight snow on top of gritty piles of snow from bigger storms earlier in the month reminded me of something, but just what? Then it hit me. It was like going to a wedding ceremony at which you know both families have some significant dysfunctions. They dress up nicely but you can see some of the ugliness still peeking through.

Better to just show some photos, though. I've told you before about the fields I run they are on a really grey, overcast winter day.

Corn Field

Running Path

The running path here had drifted shut pretty well. The only place to run had been packed down but resembled a single-track, heavily-rooted trail run much more than the broad asphalt sitting underneath it.

Soybean Field

And here's my favorite soybean field. Dry, cold, silent.

All these photos are color, folks. This is just how grey it can get here. My wife and I have often speculated that the length and colorless-ness of winter is one reason high school and college basketball are so popular in the Midwest. It simply offers people a wonderful diversion from the toughness of the outdoors. I noted to publish photos of the same scenes in May...the contrast is fantastic.

I thought a lot about wisdom today. Not a common topic, but I think about it. Simply put, wisdom is proper application of knowledge. How do I learn wisdom? How do I assess it in my own life?

I though about, ached with and prayed for a good friend with whom we used to work. His wife lost a two-year battle with cancer a week ago. Today was her memorial service. What was he feeling? How was he doing? Now a widower at age 55, how was the grief working out? How can I support him? A man of faith, John is nevertheless struggling in knowing the hope God offers on one hand while facing very real loss on the other. I simply ached for him.

As the run ended, I shifted back to thinking about running. The 1/1 worked well, really well. And an idea. As the Garmin said I hit mile 22.8, I decided to run continuously the rest of the way. And so I did. The last 1.2 miles came in at a 10:22 pace, the fastest pace of the day. Better, it felt very comfortable. I ended the run feeling well prepared for Los Angeles. Assuming, of course, there is no snow on the ground there.

So that's what I thought about for nearly 5 hours. Some things noble, some mundane, but mostly useful. And that's what good questions do...they make us think more deeply.

Persevere. And think well.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just HOW do we buy our shoes??

ORN:  4.2 miles. R4/W1, in the snow

This fun article showed up in today's Wall Street Journal, a new runner's shoe buying experience compared across four running stores.  It was well written and helpful.

The fun part in the article is something I've don't need a treadmill and slo-mo video cameras to figure out what your feet are doing.  You only need to look closely at the wear pattern on your existing shoes.  I discovered this and wrote about it three years ago, as a result of my wonderful introduction to "shoe reading" at the Naperville Running Company.  What is even funnier is that after my run this morning, I pulled off my Brooks Beasts and looked closely at the wear pattern.  Yep, same pattern they've shown for three years now.  Must be OK.  Even more OK if it shows up nationally!

Have a nice read.  And persevere.  Whatever your pronation pattern!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Web Connections

ORN (Monday):  5.2 miles, R4/W1, cold, wet drizzle

It is amazing to me how the Web serves as a colossal library on every arcane topic you can imagine.  And that search engines make it all accessible and seconds.

I say that because in the last few weeks, I've had wonderful emails from a number of runners who have come across this blog.  The key search term seems to relate to my use of and fascination with Jeff Galloway, his description of the run/walk method and the Run/Walk Calculator I posted.  (It certainly isn't my name that lands them here ... there is another Joe Ely who is much more famous.)

And it is fun!  Folks email me, we have a nice chat, usually about some very specific aspects of or questions about run/walk.  I'm glad to be able to help, how many people have helped me out???  Happy to return the favor.  

Persevere.  And don't be afraid to ask questions.    


Saturday, February 13, 2010

And now, a word from our Sponsor

ORN: 10.4 miles, R4/W1, 1:45:30, 10:09/mile

It was great to see the sun this afternoon. The sun belied the raw sting of the mean west wind, however. Winter runs are something you just do and you find other ways to enjoy the time.

One point of enjoyment and awe was meeting, twice, six members of Purdue's track team. Boy, you talk about picking the right gene pool...each guy tall, rail-thin, moving gracefully and effortlessly. The first time I met them, all six were running hard but not at full speed. And they were flying. About 20 minutes later, after I turned around, they had too and obviously cranked up the pace. Three of them left the other three behind and were really running hard. It was awesome. I also smiled, as I remembered they were 19 or 20...I am 56. They are built for speed...I was a catcher and offensive lineman...built to squat and take up space. No need to emulate...rather to just look on in appreciation.

The other point of enjoyment was to realize I went out for an "easy 10." And I could say that, with a straight face. That never ceases to amaze me. I'm continually grateful for the mere opportunity to run.

Which brings me to my other point and the title of this post. Last fall, I heard about a program Brooks offers called "Inspire Daily". In short, it's an effort in viral marketing in which Brooks connects with bloggers who will write about Brooks products and, more importantly it seems, wear obvious Brooks gear in races. I love my Brooks shoes and gear...shoot, I'm now wearing my tenth pair of Brooks Beasts, after going through about six pairs of Brooks Adrenelines before that, all in the last 5+ years. Way back in 1978, I got my first pair of Brooks shoes, the iconic Brooks Vantage.

So I put in my application, not knowing where in the cyberbox it might end up. Amazingly, in early January, I learned I was accepted. So, now I'm a sponsored runner. In return for talking and wearing Brooks, I get a significant discount on their gear. And I get to participate in an experiment in digital, viral marketing. How does this business model really work?? I get to see for myself.

Brooks Gear

In the mail yesterday, as promised, they sent me my running gear. Some nice stuff, indeed. And the colors all line up perfectly with the other Brooks Nitelife gear I already own.

This is a long way from a NASCAR-esque type sponsorship, where I precede each sentence with "My 87 Chevy Army Pepsi-Cola car gave me a good ride today but..." Yet it might be fun to see how it plays out.

If only it ever warms up a bit...



Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Waste of Energy?

ORN: 22.0 Miles, R1/W1, 4:18:16, 11:45/mile

The monster snowstorm which is now hammering the mid-Atlantic slid just to the south of us on Friday afternoon and evening. We got a mere 5" of snow, ending just past midnight. Sunny skies followed, creating a very pretty setting of wet, clingy snow coating our fair city.

Bird Feeder & Bush

Pear Tree

Of course, the lovely views of our backyard were tempered by logistic issues out our front door. With the LA Marathon now just six weeks away, the schedule called for a 22 mile training run. So how is this going to work?

My preferred route for long runs is terrific trail system we have in town. But it was impassable with the snow. So Plan B was to run a 6 mile out and back route through Indian Trails subdivision, followed by a 5 mile loop to Ravinimy Drive. Then, lather, rinse, all adds up to 22 miles. I don't like the repetition but that was the only option today. And the sun was out and everything looked white and clean. While the 27F temperature wasn't bad, the 25mph wind straight from Saskatchewan was a bit stiff to run into. But, hey, it's February in with it.

I also had planned to do a Run/Walk ratio of 1/1. I plan to try this in a full marathon in May and wanted to try it out. So, after clearing my own driveway, I headed out the door around 11am.

The footing was, to say the least, variable. The entire route was through residential areas. Some streets had been plowed, many had not. When it wasn't snow packed, it was just slushy and sloppy. I tried most of the time to simply find a set of tire tracks to run in. Inevitably, there was a lot of slippage and "picking my way through."

On some rare portions of the run on more well-traveled streets, I could actually run on bare, wet pavement. And that was when I tried to test the 1/1. I was pleased. My intent was to see how deep into this long run I could hold a 9:00 pace while running. It became clear early the only time I could test this was in those places with clear pavement. Amazingly, the cycle held well...anytime I had clear footing, I could easily "glide" to that pace...including the very last segment as I was heading home. I got it to 8:45/minute as the Garmin beeped mile 22.

The monotony of repeated loops was eased with the shared community that always happens after a big snowfall. I saw one of the most perfect snowmen I've seen in a long time in one yard and went back later to snap a photo. Nice job, eh??

Perfect Snowman

Some other funny events happened. Around mile 11, I saw an older gentleman shoveling his driveway. As I approached, he looked up, leaned on his shovel, and we greeted each other. "Boy, that's a waste of energy," he said to me.

Really, how's that?

"You could have come over here instead and shoveled this driveway for me!!" We had a good laugh. It is also a pretty typical exchange following big snowstorms as everyone digs out. I'm grateful to live in a friendly town.

The 1/1 cycle sat well for me, though. I felt strong at the end and could have easily gone 26 today, even with the sloppy footing. I have a lot of confidence we won't have to worry about snow and ice in LA on March 21.

Persevere. Whatever the footing.