Wednesday, September 27, 2006

All Wound Up and Ready to Go

ORN: 4 miles, no watch, holding the reins back

I read somewhere that if one does the taper properly, one should arrive at race day almost springing with energy, the pent-up need to run after the heavy milage of training.

I'm kind of feeling like this.

The schedule had a mere 3 miles yesterday and 4 today, then two days rest. Today's 4 miler was fun, went quickly and I had to work to keep from going wide open. Then, over the noon hour at work today, we had a cancer society fund-raising 1.5 mile walk. I headed out the door, saw a couple of folks I wanted to walk with up ahead and, in street clothes, just ran for a couple hundred yards. It felt wonderful. I almost hated to catch them because it meant I had to stop running. Considering I would be in meetings all afternoon, it was a good think I quit running. The whole sweat thing would have been a problem.

Logistics call for an early-morning flight out of Indy on Friday morning. I'll spend Friday and Saturday with Nathan. From where I'm staying in Portland, I'll be able to catch the local rapid transit train downtown to the start on Sunday morning without waking Nathan up. Good thing, since I really like to get to race starts early. Which means I'll be out the door a little after 5 for the 7am start. It also helps me to go the other way, taking the train to the airport for my flight back on Monday at 6:30am.

I'm even more excited to see Nathan and his world than the marathon. He's a neat kid, making it on his own, and I get to be in his world for a couple of days.

One more cool thing...I'll meet up with some other runners for pasta on Saturday evening! Thanks to the on-line introduction by Darrell (sorry, links aren't working tonight), I'll be with Rob, Michelle and about 10 other Seattle runners. Should be fun....I'll post photos.

Thanks for all the well-wishes. Stay tuned for full race reports, with short versions and the long awful, painful versions too.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nuthin' New on Race Day

ORN: 8.3 miles, 1:16:27, pace somewhere around 9:25…see below

Well, it’s one week to go to
The Portland Marathon. The taper is in its final stages and I’m doing the usual nutso things in the taper. Like obsessing on whether or not to bleach my shoelaces to get them extra white. Yeah, really.

Of the more productive uses of my now-extended time not pounding out miles, I’m watching my weight to keep it flat at 195, laying off snacks and sodas, drinking water, stretching carefully. I have my packing list well in hand. And, yes, I’m monitoring the weather on race day. As of this moment, it should be about 52 at the start, headed for 73 under partly cloudy skies with only a 10% chance of rain. Sweet.

I’ve continued to navel-gaze about my projected pace. Part of the problem is that I know my Garmin has some inaccuracies in it. Linking that knowledge with the old maxim “don’t do anything new on race day,” I made up a
mile split wristband for today’s run, using it in conjunction with the stopwatch on the Garmin to see my true pace. I also wanted to practice flipping the mode switch on my trusty GPS unit back and forth from “virtual trainer” to stopwatch mode. I carefully covered the wristband with shipping tape and wore it on today’s 8 miler, so I wouldn’t have ANYTHING new on race day. And what a hoot…I learned a lot.

First off, the standard 10 point font of the wrist band really didn’t cut it for my 52-year-old eyes. Shoot, even with the reading magnifiers built in to my sunglasses, I could barely read the time while I was running. Talk about feeling like a doofus. (And to think I umpire baseball all summer with eyes like these…please don’t tell the coaches.)

The second thing I observed is
Murphy's law appling fully in this situation. “A water-tight pace band isn’t.” About 2 miles into the run, I noticed the paper soaking up the sweat. By the end, all the non-black ink colors had faded into oblivion.

The third thing I observed is the applicability of yet another old maxim: “The person with two clocks does not know what time it is.” Between my fancy-schmantzy GPS unit and an old-fashioned pace list, I had no idea how fast or slow I was running. This is further compounded by the fact that though I ran on my favorite route, where I’ve marked every half mile using a bicycle odometer, I didn’t know just how accurate those marks were. So, by the Garmin, I ran today at a 9:19 pace. Dividing out the ostensible 8 mile course by the elapsed time, the pace was 9:33.

Ever the engineer, I pulled out my race log while sitting at a tire-repair place later in the morning and reviewed the actual pace vs. the Garmin pace on major races I’ve run during the past two years, races where I have some confidence the overall distance was pretty accurate. While it varied, it looks like my Garmin gives me a pace about 8 seconds per mile faster than the pace I’m actually running. This is the first time I’ve done that math and now at least I know it.

So, here’s the plan. I just re-ran my pace chart in 16 point font using a 9:38 pace. I’m going to fold it over and put it in a small sealable bag to fit in one of the many useful pockets on my
RaceReady shorts. And the objective will remain to beat a 9:30 pace on the Garmin. Future race planning will build this 8 second error into the training. For now, I’m sticking with the plan.

Boy, this taper thing is getting scary…good thing there is only one week to go.

Persevere. No matter how bad your eyes are….

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Family Photo, News

It is increasingly difficult to get our far-flung family all together. So you can imagine our pleasure on Sept 9-10 to have it happen. Here’s a shot of all of us.

From the left; son Nathan, 26, living and working in Portland, Oregon (who will graciously let me sleep on his couch when I’m there for the Marathon on Oct 1); son Matt, 18, a senior in High School, working hard on college applications right now; grandson Andrew, 2.5, desperately trying to get loose from this photo shoot; son David, 28, husband and father of three; granddaughter Berneice, 3 months old and conversant on theoretical subtleties of the space-time continuum; daughter-in-law Susan, Rutgers engineer and mother of these three; grandson Nathan, also 2.5, a very busy boy; and my wife Gretchen, who keeps everyone in touch.

Gretchen and I had such a wonderful time having everyone together for the weekend. At one point, we looked at each other and wondered aloud how two college kids who fell in love in the early 70s could have ended up with nine people now in the clan. Little did we know then. And we are in awe and grateful for it now.

The occasion for the get together was David’s deployment for his second 12-month stint in Iraq. He leaves here today, Sept 17, will meet up with his unit in Colorado for a couple weeks of final preparations and head to Baghdad via Kuwait in early October. He’s back to being
Sgt Ely, Army medic, helping to keep our troops alive, in addition to dispensing a lot of medical treatment to regular Iraqis. Susan and the kids remain here in town.

It is an odd feeling to have your firstborn in harms way, in a very dangerous place. Not something I would have ever imagined or dreamed. Yet, it happened once and now we embark on it again. As you might imagine, news from Iraq has added punch for us. I feel a pit in my stomach when I hear of an American soldier killed there; some parent is receiving the word we most dread to hear. Yet me worrying will not keep David one iota safer. As a follower of Christ, I do believe my prayers make a difference. And I’m very glad for other soldiers’ sakes that he is near to them, a trained, experienced combat medic. He can save lives, literally, something few of us can say. So, we deal with it and hope the year goes quickly.

When I said good bye to David yesterday, he strongly suggested we say “see you later” rather than “good bye”; that is wise. Do your job well, my son. See ya later.

Persevere. David will. We all will.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Two weeks to go

ORN: 12.2 miles, 1:56:41, 9:34/mile

Wow, what a beautiful morning in Indiana; 59 and sunny in the early morning. This is the kind of day we dream of all year, then get a few during the autumn and then it is gone. And the memory of such a day is adequate to help us keep going through the bleak winter, the blustry spring and the dripping, languid summer.

The run went well...I set out to do it at 9:40 and found I had to hold myself back throughout the run. Splits were pretty even. The new hydration plan (read: force myself to drink more than I feel like drinking) worked well and will be doable on a marathon course.

It also struck me today that we are far more dependent on the weather for good runs than we might want to admit. The sheer thermodynamics and physiology of cooling heated muscle tissue is largely out of our control. Perhaps all my anquishing over the last month or so is just adding to the overheating!! No surpise, therefore, why all the major marathons are in the spring or fall.

Persevere. On nice days and lousy ones.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Taper Time

ORN: Sunday: 5.8 miles, with 5 at 9:28
Tuesday: 5 miles, easy
Wednesday: 6.4 miles, with last 2 hard

Saw a local running pal on the trail this morning. She asked how close I was to the marathon. When I told her I was just starting my taper, she bubbled in her New Zealand accent "Oh, the taper! My very favorite part of running!"

Yep, that's where I find myself now, amazingly. After the 21 miler on Saturday, the schedule called for 5 at mp on Sunday. I never was comfortable with my earlier-proposed 9:20 mp, so dropped that to 9:30 and that feels better. I did the 5 at 9:28 and, coupled with the fun 21 miles the day before, I'm feeling a lot better about the marathon preparation.

Now we taper. Hard to believe I'm closing in on the second marathon but I am. The weather is improving (read "cooler") and, other than the Cubs having the worst record in the NL right now, life is good.

Persevere. Even when life isn't so good.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Now THAT'S a little better

ORN: 21.2 miles, 3:32:20, 10:01/mile

My second and last 20 miler before Portland was on the books today. After the difficult 20 miler I had two weeks ago, I wondered how this one would go.

No comparison. And, boy, am I glad.

On reflection, I realized I had dehydrated in both the earlier 20 miler, plus the half marathon I ran in Parkersburg. So, I resolved to drink more than I was used to today. I stashed three, rather than two, bottles of Gatorade along the route. I also went out conservatively, trying to keep to a 9:40ish pace, but knowing I would walk through a lot more water stops.

It seemed to work. Though the morning was milder, moving from the mid 60s to the mid 70s during the run, I drank regularly. Forced myself to take in more fluids than I felt I needed. Around the 10 mile mark, I realized it was working, as the legs still felt fresh, the mind sharp and I was loving the run. My splits looked like this:

10 22, 9 39, 9 42, 10 02, 9 31;
10 09, 9 51, 10 06, 9 48, 9 46;
9 52, 10 23, 10 20, 10 12, 10 06;
10 26, 10 45*, 9 49, 9 50, 9 53;
9 56, 1 43 (@9 32 pace).

The splits are not that great, but they are even. My 20 mile time was a full 16 minutes quicker than the 20 miler two weeks ago. I only walked to retrieve Gatorade. I got a little distracted on the pace after mile 11, getting lost in thoughts about family, then woke up a bit. The 10 45 mile contained a short break to talk (again) with long-time friends Dick and Marilyn, whom I have mentioned before, as we grieved together the untimely death yesterday of an MS sufferer in our church.

More significant was just how fun the run was. As I neared the turnoff to head home, I purposely extended my turnaround point to add another mile to the run. I simply did not want it to end. I used the last five miles as a chance to simulate late miles in the marathon, forcing the pace a bit and paying close attention to form.

I am more confident now than I have been in a month about the prospects for a good run in Portland. I could have easily done another five miles this morning and, even at this paltry pace, would have PRed. I think the forced hydration was a key part of it all.

Another encouraging fact came in a surprising way. Middle son Nathan flew in from Portland late last night to visit big brother David before he deploys. Mid-day today, Nathan said to me "Dad, I can't believe this heat and humidity." Whoa. You are spoiled, my son, if today feels like heat and humidity. I thought it was a dry, beautiful day. If Portland weather is this good, it will only help.

One other fun part of this run; to get in 20 miles, I have to make a large loop through the Purdue campus. Today, Purdue had a home football game against Miami (Ohio), so campus was hopping, even at 8:30am. I looped past my old apartment, which was a rattle-trap in 1973-1975 when I lived there. How does it still stand? Saw a guy with a silly grin on his face as four pretty Zeta Tau Alpha girls squeezed into his Mustang GT convertible with the top down on such a nice day. I'm sure his parents figured he was in the library. It then hit me that one year from now, my youngest son will be on some college campus...oh my...I'll be the one thinking he's in the library. Oh my.

It also struck me how irrelevant football seems to be to the total "football experience." The number of huge RVs and other people tailgating hours before an inconsequential game was astounding to me. Regular readers of this blog know I like baseball and football only serves to remind me baseball will soon end. So the effort that goes into the spreads for tailgating kind of amazes me. But, hey, it is a big part of our local economy. I eventually finished the 3 mile loop on campus and moved back to the quieter portion of the running trail. For the record, Purdue barely knocked off Miami, needing OT to get the job done. Could be a long year, again, for the Boilers. But, hey, as Chicago Cub fan, I'm used to long years.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


ORN: 8.3 miles, no watch

One of the side benefits to running mid 9 minute miles is the ability to take in the surroundings...I'm sure not blowing past them. This morning was particularly wonderful.

It was in the mid 50s at 5am when I went out for the mid-week long run. Very still and quiet. My 8 mile route takes me past two wetland/bog areas and both were full of life this early. Geese were just waking up. A heron skimmed the shallow water, just inches off the surface, it's seemingly ungainly body while standing transformed into a graceful, effortless flying machine. A box turtle sat on a rock then seemed to jump into the water as I approached.

More amazing today was the temperature changes with very minor elevations changes. Very surprising here in the flatlands of northern Indiana but it was striking today. As I went down just a few feet and ran next to the water, the temperature dropped perceptibly. "Climbing" back out of the shoreline run, the temps rose. Near the other bog, with less water, the collected fog from the cool night clearly lowered the temperature again.

The absence of wind allowed for these variations and it was fascinating to run in and out of, to experience and sense in the flesh.

A nice run during the last big week of marathon prep. One to remember in the cold harsh days of February.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Where's the Shin Splints come from??

ORN: 12.3 miles, 2:00:16, 9:47/mile

What a whirlwind this Labor Day weekend has been! Flew to Colorado Springs early on Friday morning, helped David and Susan pack the last few items on a U-Haul truck and I was on the road, headed east, by 2:30pm, as were they. The two of them, along with twins Andrew and Nathan, plus 2 month-old Berneice and dog Callie drove straight through and got to Lafayette 10 minutes shy of 24 hours later. I drove to near Hays, Kansas on Friday, spent the night and got home around 11:30pm on Saturday night. 1,100 miles of driving and a great chance to see America’s heartland. Plus, I even got a lunch at
Waffle House in Kansas City. We had a group of about 17 from our church show up at David and Susan’s new house on Sunday afternoon and in 53 minutes, we had the truck unloaded, everything in the house (including washer, drier, couches, beds set up) and cleaned up. Awesome.

I really enjoy driving (I always wanted to be a trucker…so this is as close as I get) and it hit me somewhere in western Kansas that I like driving for many of the same reasons I like running. I don’t mind being by myself. Both involve distance and time and planning and dealing with breakdowns, while still making the goal. So, I could bop along with my thoughts, a new-to-me
Michael W. Smith CD and then scanned the AM radio dial at night for baseball games from across the country (who needs XM when you have ionospheric bounce??).

It was nice, then, to get back and get my weekend long run in on Labor Day. The schedule had a step-back week, calling for just 12 miles. Out I went on a beautiful morning, with little humidity and temps in the mid-50s. And, bang, I had shin splints! Wow, where did that come from? Haven’t had those for a year or more. Was it linked to all the driving and traveling?? For whatever reason, the first five miles just plain hurt. I decided to simply use it to simulate what I’d do in Portland if it happened. I slowed a bit, focused on form and just kept moving. Slow indeed…the first five miles were right at 10:00/mile. Ugh.

Amazingly, around mile 6, the pain subsided and I began to enjoy the run on the beautiful morning. I dropped the pace to my planned 9:40/mile pace and it really felt good. I pushed the last two miles, doing them in 9:11 and 8:58. It was nice to feel good at the end of a long run.

This week is the last big week of mileage. I’ll go 5-8-5 the next three days, then 20 again on Saturday and 5 at marathon pace on Sunday. I still dither about what my marathon pace is, but, for the moment, I’m sticking with the plan to go off at 9:20/mile on my Garmin.

Persevere. Shin splints or not.