Sunday, December 30, 2007

Back in the U.S.

"Hey, Dad, this is David. I'm back in the US."

With that simple greeting on the phone on Friday afternoon, a huge weight lifted from our family's collective shoulders. My oldest son was back from his second (and final) tour in Iraq, a 15 month time away from his wife, three kids and the rest of the family that was truly an ultra-marathon.

His wife Susan was there to greet him at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. The two of them will spend about a week there enjoying much-deserved and much-needed time alone. He will be released for 30 days of block leave on Sunday, January 6, when they will drive back here. On January 8, we'll celebrate Christmas. And what a celebration that will be.

It has been good to talk to both David and Susan in the last day or so. As my wife put it "They have their happy voices back." I've been amazed and encouraged by the maturity and depth with which the two of them have handled this challenging phase of their lives.

Along with Susan's parents and a few other helpers, we are taking care of their kids while they are gone. Lemme tell you, the effort of a full day on Saturday caring for twin boys who are not quite 4 and their 18 month old little sister was enough to rival any 20 mile training run with hills and heat. There is a good reason most babies are born to people in their 20s!

Plans for David will have him back in Colroado for a few weeks in February to finalize paperwork and then he will be honorably discharged, having fulfilled his Army contract, with a year extra included due to this deployment. Building on his experience as a Medic, he'll be going back to school and getting a Physicians Assistant degree over the next 2-3 years.

It's great to have him back. Rejoice with our family. Everyone persevered.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day, 2007

Christmas has been awkward for me for a number of years now. My Dad died late on Christmas Eve in 1993 and remembering the loss of one so close to me has often dampened my spirits. The previous two Christmases have been particularly difficult, though I don’t know why.

This year was different. I thought a lot about Dad, even had a wonderful dream a couple nights ago about both him and Mom (she died in 2001). I was grateful for them both, knowing the true gifts they gave me and my three sisters can never be taken away. Two specific things probably helped the more positive spirit.

First, Gretchen and I shifted our shopping attention this year and focused on gifts to charities we believe do a good job of addressing issues of poverty. The Heifer Project, Compassion International, and BOGO Solar Powered Light are three we found compelling. We gave money we normally spend on gifts to each of them in honor of a number of family members. It was a cool to see their reactions when we told them of the gift. We don’t need more stuff; many others do. We’re trying to connect with groups delivering help effectively.

Our spirit was also buoyed with news our son David is on his way home from Iraq, having completed his (extended) 2nd tour of duty. He is in Kuwait at the moment and should be back with his wife at his home base in Colorado Springs in two days time. He’ll be here with us on January 8, which is when we’ll truly celebrate Christmas.

I’m also thankful for you, this diverse collection of people who like to run, write about running, comment about running and see how running connects us as people. Thank you for being a more-significant-than-you-might-think part of my life. I truly appreciate it.

So, at the end of Christmas Day, 2007, I simply say thank you. And, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Photos and Funnies from Rocket City

ORN: 8.7 miles, 1:30:59 w/ 5K in 24:57, 7:58/mile

Two weeks ago, we ran in awful heat and humidity in Huntsville. A week ago, I ran in a snowstorm here in West Lafayette. Today, I ran in shorts and a long sleeve T shirt. Gotta love the winter time.

I’m back on a schedule of marathon prep and today’s workout called for 9 miles total, including a 5K time trial. I did an easy 2 mile warm up, then did the 5K. I managed to run steadily, clicking the miles off in 7:55, 8:06, 7:59 and 0:54 (at a 7:04 pace). I beat the 25:15 target time by 17 seconds. That was encouraging. On the remaining 4 miles of the workout the right knee got sore below the kneecap, the same thing that shortened last week’s 8 miler. That was a little discouraging. Yet, I think it will resolve with some rest, ice and Vitamin I.

Here are a few final odds and ends from the Rocket City Marathon, goofy things that don’t really have a category and in no particular order but things that make running fun.

Low Level Market Research. David posted this picture of the pre-race banter in the starting pack. You can see we lined up correctly at the 4:15-4:30 area. Darrell (on the left in the Marathon Maniac shirt) chatted with Wes while David (arms crossed in yellow shirt) contemplatively conversed with Michele. I sat on the asphalt doing my nearly-forgotten ITB stretch. It was fascinating what happened, acoustically speaking, when I sat down. The banter kind of faded and I was in my own little world. It reminded me of being in San Antonio and going from street level down to the River Walk. Everything changed. In the midst of this private world, I did a quick market survey of shoe brands. Dominating the choice seemed to be Asics, with Brooks in second place. Others were adidas and a few Nikes. Why do I remember or notice things like this?? I don’t know…but there you have it. And thanks, David, for providing visual proof!!

At Least She Had All Her Teeth. I mentioned before that one of my favorite things about traveling in the south is eating at Waffle House. I was not disappointed on this trip, having lunch south of Nashville on the trip down and breakfast just north of Huntsville on the trip home. At lunch, I had a new vocabularic experience, in that I have never heard the words “sweetie pie” and “Diet Coke” used in the same sentence, as in “Would you like a refill on that Diet Coke, sweetie pie?”

Did You Ask Your Brother First? You overhear all sorts of conversations during a long race but this one was a bit much. Two ladies were talking away as I eased past them. While in earshot, one of them made an emphatic, loud statement that “My brother’s sperm are just SO weak!” TMI ladies, TMI.

Never Be an Old Dog. I so enjoyed being with so many marathoners for this trip. I learned two very useful things as well. The night before the race, when I first met David, I noticed he has small numbers on the back of his shoes, not unlike the dots I put on mine to label each pair. We got talking about shoe rotation and he shared with me his system for breaking in new shoes and safely extending the life of old shoes. It made a lot of sense and I’m using it now. Later that night, Darrell told me of his habit of always bringing toe nail clippers to races so he can clip off the plastic tie thingies they give you to hook the chip to your shoe. Yeah, I can obsess about that level of detail too. Thanks guys!

Odd Technique, but it Worked. I ran with and near the fellow in the blue shirt (#734) for much of the first 18 miles of the race. I worried a bit about him, as his form wasn’t that good, he looked to be overheating in the long sleeves and he just seemed to be struggling. I lost contact with him as I faded around mile 20. But, around mile 22, I saw him in the yard of a house, flat on his back, his legs propped straight up on the trunk of a large tree, his hands extended over his head. I walked up in the yard to check on him. I asked him how he was feeling. He opened his eyes, gave me a big smile and said “Oh, I am just seeking to regain my energy!” He assured me he’d be OK, so I went on. I did stop and ask a volunteer at an intersection within sight of the tree to keep an eye on him. I really didn’t think he was going to make it. Well, around mile 24, as I kept struggling on, you guessed it, he passed me. The lower part of the back of his shirt was muddy from laying at the base of the tree. He was still running with rough form but moving way better than I was. He proceeded beat me by a full 12 minutes and 10 spots in our age group. I’m starting to look at trees in a whole new way now.

What Time is it Anyway? Late Saturday night, Darrell and I worked out the schedule for Sunday morning to get him to the airport and me on my way home in time. We agreed to try to leave the hotel at 7:00am. I woke up early, showered and dressed. Darrell was still asleep and I didn’t bother him, feeling compassion for his Pacific Time zone internal clock. I worked some email and enjoyed the dark of the room. But, at a little past 7, I quietly greeted him, suggesting we might get going. He asked what time it was and I told him. He looked puzzled then laughed. It seemed he had left his watch in stopwatch mode overnight, not time mode. Since he had run a 4:07 marathon, he thought it was still just after 4 in the morning. This has already become a fun story in our household. Gretchen will comment, on those mornings when it’s hard to wake up, “Gee, isn’t it still 4:07?”

It was a great weekend. Thanks for listening. And persevere, with or without a tree to lean on.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Analyzing the Rocket City Marathon

ORN: 8.6 miles, 1:37:11, 4R/1W then 1/1, 11:18/mile

I’ve done a lot of thinking and analyzing following last Saturday’s Rocket City Marathon. When I crossed the finish line and during the two hours immediately after the race, I truly wondered why on earth I was even attempting marathons. I felt I had done horribly, was deluding myself, wasting tremendous amounts of money, looking like a fool to my family, bringing shame on the sport of running and causing disgrace to America. Well, with the exception of the last item, I did feel all the rest. I was exhausted, nauseous, quivering, barely able to walk and pretty fed up with myself.

By the time I had showered, attended the awards ceremony and headed out to dinner with Darrell, Wes and Dee Dee, I was more myself. Chicken fingers and 6 Diet Cokes helped restore the physical balance. I slept well, felt little if any soreness the next morning and drove home feeling fine.

The nagging question remained, though. Why did I feel so rotten over the last four miles of the race and the immediate aftermath? And why was I so disappointed, mentally and emotionally, in my 4:56 time???

My analytical side went to work on the 9 hour drive home (which should have been 7+ hours, except for a large slowdown for a car accident and downpours south of Louisville, making me sing this old song; but I digress). This quest for a root cause problem led to two new strategies for 2008. I invite your opinions.

Fundamentally, I felt so rotten because I went out too quickly given the 65-70 degree temperatures and 90%+ humidity on race day. I felt fine through 15.5 miles when the early pace caught up with me. At 13.5 miles, I felt quite fine, even hamming it up for the race photographer.

But why did I go out so quickly?

I was intent on running a 4:15 marathon and had been for months. Once I worked though my ITB issues last spring, I set my sights specifically on hitting 4:15 in Rocket City. I had shaped all my training and mental preparation to hit that time on that day. So, when the day arrived, I did not even consider modifying the goal. You can see the yellow pace band David gave me on my left wrist. I was into it. It was what I HAD to do. Darrell even picked up the so called “game face” I had on that day and decided to run his own race. Darrell's one perceptive guy!

So why did I cling so tightly to that time?

Part of it is personality. It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog for a while; I’m rather goal oriented. This can be a positive thing, but it has its dark side as well. I also realized I felt like I only had one shot at the 4:15. After all, this was the target race. Like a starving man seated before a big plate of food, I had little poise or discretion in the moment.

As a result, I stubbornly clung to the target time, ignoring the reality of the day’s weather. Dumb, in retrospect, but very real. There is nothing wrong with planning, nothing wrong with setting goals. Yet I need to hold these goals with a light grip and with a long term view.

So, I’ve landed on a couple of new strategies for 2008.

First, I changed my goal. It is “Run the best race conditions allow.”

With this as a goal, I avoid foolishly holding on to a particular target time while still seeking some level of achievement. “Conditions” speak to three parameters. First, the weather. Running in the Midwest means uncertainty about temperature, humidly and precipitation. I’m foolish to think I can rise above that. I learned that in spades in August 2006 in Parkersburg, June 2007 in South Bend and once more at Rocket City. Second is my training condition. If I’m using a race as a long training run, I can account for that. If I’m coming off an injury, I can account for that. Third, is my health. If I catch a bad cold four days before the race, there is no point in seeking to PR.

Putting this together gives me, it seems, a richer, fuller topography in which to decide how to run a certain race. It particularly gives me the framework to recognize those rare days when all conditions align and I should do nothing less than hammer hard for the full distance.

My second change is to make the marathon more common. Right now, I’ve penciled in four marathons in 2008, each of which fits my rough criteria of location, cost, interest and timing. I’ll describe them more in a future post. I’m pretty pumped to take four shots at 26.2 in the new year.

I think the basic training plan I used is sound. I say that because I’ve had no negative physical aftermaths of the marathon last week. Very, very little soreness, I went up and down stairs pain-free all week. I ran three miles on Tuesday and Thursday with no problem. I did 8.6 today (in the snow!) and felt fine for five, and just a few “comments” from my right knee over the rest of the run. So, I’m thinking if I stick with the training plan, adjust my thinking as above, it could work.

Thanks for listening to my ruminations. I do welcome your comments, positive or negative, on my approach. I learn a lot from all of you, for which I am thankful!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Race Report: Rocket City Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:56:12, R/W various, 11:20/mile

Quick Summary

The Rocket City Marathon was a fantastically well-run race, exceeding my expectations. I had a wonderful experience with friends. And my own performance really stunk.

The first 16 miles went very well, the wheels came off the wagon over the next and I was reduced to a miserable shuffle for the last five. I felt really rotten at the end, the worst of any of my marathons.

I did recover after the race and have much to ponder. As I’ve said before, the marathon is a great teacher; I’ve just been schooled.

All the Gory Details


I left the house Friday morning with an inch of fresh snow on the driveway. During the 7.5 hour drive, I got to a very different land! From lead-grey winter skies with slush on the ground, I came to blue skies and upper 60s; what a treat!

I met Darrell at the hotel and it was truly great to see my running pal again. We immediately started gabbing and it never stopped all weekend. I grabbed my packet at the expo and we joined up with other runners for a very easy 2 mile run through some of the historic neighborhoods of Huntsville Alabama. The tour was a lot of fun and got a view of the “Old South” in many ways. And, after three days of long-distance car driving, the very easy run felt great on my legs.

We went to the group spaghetti meal and met up with Wes and Dee Dee who had just arrived from Atlanta. The conversation level jumped up another couple of notches, then ratcheted up further when we were joined at our table by a pair of triatheletes who live very near them in Atlanta, plus some grizzled veteran runners from Boulder, Colorado. The food was good, the people were great and we had an excellent speaker in Jeff Galloway, who actually ran the marathon. I had a chance to talk with Jeff a bit and I have much more to say about him. Later, David walked over from another hotel and the five of us had a great time chatting in the hotel lobby. David is a cool guy, a sincere, self-effacing man of significant substance.

Race Day—early

In what was probably a harbinger of the day to come, I woke up around 4am with, shall we say, some “intestinal distress.” It finally resolved but I was awake for good. Not wanting to bother Darrell, I pulled on some clothes and slipped out of the room. I found several other insomniac marathoners in the lobby; we had instant empathy! I then walked outside to view the finish line. I always like to have some idea of exactly how the ordeal is going to end. It also turned out to be a great source of merriment for Darrell, me scouting the finish line in the pre-dawn darkness.

As I walked around, I realized I was perfectly comfortable being outside at 4:15am on December 8 wearing shorts and a T shirt. What was the temperature going to be like by late morning, in the last few miles?? For about the 10th time, I changed my plan of what I was going to wear, shifting to the very lightest of the 8 shirts I had brought along.

Breakfast was two packs of instant oatmeal, a diet Coke for the caffeine (I hate coffee) and a bottle of Gatorade. I wondered, in retrospect, how wise this was. Race time finally rolled around but since the start line was just outside the front door of the hotel, we sauntered down around 7:30am and had plenty of time to be part of the 8am start.

In the pack, we met David again and met Lana and Michele for the first time. It was great to meet more fellow running bloggers. We chatted a bit but then heard the National Anthem, then the gun, and off we went.

The Good

I started out with Wes, as we both hoped to run a 4:15 race and had agreed on a 9/1 run/walk ratio. Darrell stayed with us until the first walk break, as well as two of the guys we met the night before from Boulder. Wes and I then had a nice time through mile 4. I needed the port-o-potty, Wes went on and I thought we’d reconnect. However, I missed him a mile or so later but he let me go on, noting I appeared to be in a “zone.” I’m not sure how much of a “zone” it was, but the first 15 miles did go consistently, all coming in at 9:40, plus or minus. I felt fine and was enjoying the run.

The first point of concern came around mile 12 when I felt a hot spot on the ball of my right foot and a corresponding “less than cool” spot on my left. I have never had blisters with my current sock/shoe combination but now I had one forming. I knew I had to deal with it. Fortunately, there was a first-aid station at mile 14. I swooped in asked for some tape and covered the blisters. The left foot was fine the rest of the way; the right foot was reasonable. I was thankful for the great folks at the station.

At mile 15, we reached the far end of the course and turned to work our way back to the finish. I was only a minute behind pace for 4:15 at this point, even with the foot repair stop.

The Bad

Going towards the turn around point, we were running into a mild breeze. It felt good in the muggy morning. When we turned, that breeze was now at our back and, in effect, we were running with no movement of air. It quickly took a toll. I sensed my heart rate creeping up, noted many other folks starting to walk. The trip back was going to be a lot harder.

I rolled back to a 5/1 run/walk ratio and held that for a couple of miles which checked in around 10:45. Yet the grind was on. Modifying the ratio to 3/1 seemed to work so I held that pattern through mile 22. I knew the 4:15 was gone, as well as a 4:30. Yet I was moving and seemed to be not much different than other runners around me.

The Ugly

The day’s temperature continued to rise. The humidity rose as well, yielding some intermittent light drizzle mixed in with the heavy cloud cover and thick air. It was taking a toll. Coming up the one moderate hill in the entire course just past the mile 21 marker, I found I was struggling with the 3/1 ratio. I relented and cut back to run a minute, walk a minute.

This slow pace gave me much time to think. I was passed repeatedly by people who were shuffling as I was, yet going faster. The last four miles all came in at 15 minutes even; I felt as if I was an embarrassment to the world of marathoning. I know it is hardly all about me; yet the mind plays funny games when fatigue sets in.

It took a full hour to cover the last 4.2 miles. Mercifully, the final 0.2 was on a gentle downhill slope, from which I could clearly see the finish line, the crowd, the flags and hear the enthusiastic announcer. He seemed to get everyone’s name and hometown announced. It was a rush to my tired mind to hear my name too. I saw Dee Dee smiling and waving and kept running over the line. It was over, just barely beating the 5 hour mark.

Immediate Post Race

The organizers had a marvelous system whereby each and every runner had someone walk with them through the chip removal, medal placing and food area. In so doing, they could see the condition of each finisher. I’m not sure what I looked like at this point; the lady who walked me along looked like my mother when she asked me if I had a fever or not; she knew I did and didn’t really believe my protestations to the contrary. Yet, this lady was not my Mom! I told her I just wanted to walk, so she congratulated me and let me gimp away.

I hobbled around the parking lot, working back to the spot I had seen Dee Dee. I really and truly wanted to see Wes come in. This was his first marathon and I wanted to help make it a big event for him. I chatted with her for a few minutes when I started to get foot cramps and felt nauseous. Dee Dee, acting as another surrogate Mom, urged me to head inside and sit down.

I tottered inside, feeling worse as I went. I grabbed some Gatorade and a pile of salty crackers and asked the organizers where I could simply sit. I couldn’t imagine even making the walk to the elevator and up to our room. I finally plopped down and just had to sit for nearly a half hour to collect myself. The nauseous feeling continued; I feared eating anything. I felt chilled, shaky and my feet were cramping. I remembered this feeling however; I had exactly the same problem after the St. Louis Marathon 18 months ago. That memory was a relief; I knew the feeling would pass with time; I only needed to wait it out.

Eventually, I decided to head back to my room. On the way through the crowd, Darrell spotted me. He had rocked his run and, as a friend will do, was looking all over for me. He helped me to our room and let me get into a cool bath. That seemed to help. I cooled down, started eating salty crackers and drinking water. Conditions improved.

By evening, I was feeling much better. We went to dinner with Wes and Dee Dee, recapping all the day’s events. After we wished the two of them a safe drive back to Atlanta, Darrell and I walked a mile or two in a nearby park which also felt good. On Sunday morning, I took Darrell to the airport and then made the drive home.

The Summary

It was a marvelous weekend. On the drive home, I figured out much of what happened and how I think I can approach future races. I laid out my goals for 2008. I analyzed much about Jeff Galloway and his methods. I’ll leave each of for future posts; it would be cruel and unusual to ask you to read further. Pictures will also follow.

Persevere. I was reduced to that and that alone in the last four miles on Saturday. And it was enough.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From Snow to Sunshine

ORN: 3 Miles, all run`

Today's last run before the marathon came in our first snowfall of the season. 2 inches on the ground, 3 more coming, so we are told. It is so neat to run in the snow, early in the morning. Much of the fun is imagining what the drivers of the few cars out before 6am are thinking about the crazy man running in the snow.

The weather for the marathon looks to be quite different from what I ran in this morning. Probably in the low 50s at the start and could be close to 70 by the end. Hydration becomes a bigger issue. I have so many shirts packed, it is silly. I guess that is half the fun.

Off to Des Moines later today, on to Huntsville on Friday. Stay tuned for reports.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

One Week to Go

ORN: 8 miles total, with 5.1 at 47:24, R9/W1, 9:17/mile.

Last week of the taper to the race I’ve been shooting for since June. And the predictable taper madness is in full swing.

Today’s run was 8 miles over the same course Darrell and I ran in our matching orange shirts on April 22. That was a week before Darrell ran the Eugene Marathon. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. I did a 3 mile warm up then intended to run the last 5 at the same rhythm I’ll use next Saturday. Ha. I was running without my Garmin, not because mine bonked but because one of my grandsons got hold of it last week and, fascinated by the numbers, the screen and the beeps, left it on and ran the battery down. So, without the ability to feel my pace, I ran what I thought was a slow run. Not so, as you can see above. My target is 9:43 miles next week. Today I ran 9:06, 9:38, 9:51 (for 1.1 miles), 9:16 and 9:32. Oh my. And this was in tights in a cold wind, by myself, on a grey miserable day. I really need the pacing help to hold back early. I can tell I’m wound up and ready to go. Mental focus to slow down the first 10 miles will be key next week if I’m to have any hope of hanging on for the last 5.

Like David and Michele, I’m watching the forecast for race day. At this point, it has morphed to a low of 42, heading to 63, with a 60% chance of rain. This warmth (and possible wetness) really changes what I am planning on taking. At this point, I’ll probably take most of my stuff and make a wet vs. dry decision on race morning.

I just found out I have a business trip which will have me driving to scenic Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday, getting back late Thursday, then in the car early Friday to Huntsville. So, a lot of time on the road this week. Hoping to touch base with Hillary, Rudy, Mitt and Barack while I’m in Iowa…I’m sure they’ll be interested in my opinion.

Darrell, Wes and I are planning on going to the Friday night pasta feed at the Holiday Inn in Huntsville. If any of the rest of you would like to connect there, I’d sure enjoy it! Send a note to joeely618 at yahoo dot com and we’ll set it up.

Persevere. Even on taper week.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tagged: Five Facts which also Might Just Be Odd

ORN: 3 miles, all run.

Taper madness has set in, seriously. Going nuts with low mileage and off days. So, might as well pick up on the current Internet meme. Jenny tagged me, you know the drill…here are five facts about me.

1. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Nebraska. Most people I know have never met anyone from Nebraska much less actually know someone from Cornhusker land. Farms out there are laid out in very neat one mile squares. To this day, when I think about running one mile, I visualize going corner to corner past our farm; when I need to run four miles, it’s once around the section, at least in my mind.

2. From age 8 until college, I played baseball as much as possible. I actually tried out with Royals and Reds and got a second look from the latter. I gained a huge life-lesson sitting in the outfield grass late one night listening to a Cincinnati Reds scout talking to about 20 of us. I use that lesson regularly for myself and those I work with.

3. My mother-in-law’s cousin’s husband’s brother was married three times and, apparently, none of the unions went all that well. So bad, he opted for this on his tombstone.

4. I remember sport team uniforms and font styles on numbers and letters. This is a real waste of perfectly good brain cells but it continues. Boston College has very good uniforms. All sports have the same color theme and the same font for numbers and names. Ohio State has the worst basketball uniforms, even though the change every year…they are consistently bad.

5. When I travel in the South, I always eat at least once at Waffle House. Those of you who live in the South might find this odd/ disgusting/ disillusioning/ offputting. Those of you who don't will wonder what the deal might be. Well, I’m simply fascinated by these tiny diners at every intersection (it seems). The waffles are truly awesome; the hash browns (covered and smothered) are something you should have once and a while. Mostly, I like the people. Always an interesting conversation with the staff and the local regulars.

There…more than you wanted. If you’d like to play along, consider yourself tagged.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Run/Walk Pace Calculator

ORN: 7.6 miles, R5/W1, 1:16:45, 10:11/mile; then 5.1 miles, R9/W1, 49:12, 9:34/mile

One sure-fire way to strike fear in the hearts of many people is to ask them to solve a story problem. You know the one from school beginning with “A train leaves Boston at 8:30, heading to New York at 45mph….” Scary, for many.
But not all.

Some of us more geek-oriented people actually LIKE story problems. When I saw one on a test, I always licked my chops, knowing I was going to get lots of credit. Apparently, my blogging buddy Wes has a similar bend. So, Wes and I collaborated on a public service project to solve a particular story problem for all our running pals.

The story problem goes like this. “So, I’m using a run/walk plan in a race. If I want to have a certain pace per mile and have a certain run/walk interval, just how fast do I have to run during my run segments?” You can hear the teeth gnashing over that one.

Wes and I worked through this issue and reduced all the variables to a simple spreadsheet, which we’ve posted on line. You can viewthe Run Walk Pace Calculator or you can download it here. It should allow you to enter your desired overall pace, your walk pace and then learn what your run pace should be. Further, we have two tabs on this spreadsheet. One is a general purpose calculator for the run pace. The other is a race-specific calculator. You’ll get slightly different answers from each one. If you want to know just WHY you’d get a different answer, I’d tell you but that, my friends would involve another story problem and you really don’t want another one anyway.

We’d appreciate it if you could try to open it, test drive it and let us know if it makes sense. It is, after all, a public service and we aim to serve.

I applied this today in my long run, two weeks now from Rocket City. Utilizing David’s example, I took a 7+ mile warm up at an easy pace, then reset my watches and attempted to run the last five miles at exactly the pattern I plan to use in the marathon. The calculator told me I needed to run at 9:22 with a 9/1 sequence to hit the 9:43 overall pace I want for a 4:15 marathon. Could I do that on legs still tired from sub 8 minute miles on Thursday and 7 more miles just before it? I was pleased that it worked. My mile splits for the last five were 9:36, 9:46, 9:33, 9:31 and 9:27. Given that my Garmin usually about 4-6 seconds slow per mile, those are just about right. Can I do that for 26?? Well, as they say, that’s why they play the game.

Enjoy the calculator. Enjoy the laugh at the geeks. Enjoy the cleaned up blog style here; I hope it reads a little cleaner for you now.

And, as always, persevere.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Race Report: Drumstick Dash, plus Thanksgiving Thoughts

ORN: 5.5 miles total: 4.5 mile race, 35:17, all running, 7:50/mile

Thanksgiving is a day of reflection for me. We have so much to be thankful for in this country and I personally have been exceedingly blessed.

On the running side of life, I felt a need to get in some speed work, some intensity as I dial down the mileage during the taper. So, last weekend I registered for a 4.5 mile race run each Thanksgiving in Indy. On my regular run on Monday, the soreness I had on the 20 miler last Saturday flared again, causing me to cut off the run. It seemed to be just inflammation, so I didn’t run again until today, Thursday, hoping the rest would take care of it.

I rolled out of town at 6:30am on Thanksgiving morning for the 60 minute drive to Indy. The other seven cars on the road at that hour allowed for a nice quiet drive in the dark. I got to the site 90 minutes before the gun, scored a good parking place, got my packet and relaxed in my car. The temps were in the mid-30s with a solid north wind and some drizzle. I wore shorts anyway. This weather could be similar to what we’ll see for
Rocket City in two weeks, so I viewed it as a trial of sorts. After running and stretching on a track next to my parking place, I headed to the start area.

This race has exploded in its five year existence, with 5,000 runners this year. Hardly a little Turkey Trot any more, it’s a big event. I ran it two years ago and was interested to compare how it would be this time around. We started on time and headed on the route through the neighborhoods of this older part of Indianapolis…it was very refreshing to not be in the suburbs.

My objective in the race was to see if I could string 8:00 miles together. I set the Garmin to help me pace myself early and it seemed to work. Mile one clicked at 7:43 so I backed off a bit. The next two were at 8:06 and 8:05. I amped it up a bit at this point, doing mile 4 in 7:41 and the last half mile in 3:43. Amazingly, I finished 25th of 115 in my age group, way better than my usual mid-pack placing. I also ended up in the top 20% of the overall participants. It was a good race.

On the drive home, I wondered just why I enjoy races so much. That’ll be a topic for another post sometime.

We gathered four generations together later in the day for our Thanksgiving meal. It was a special time, yet we missed our son David who has one more month to go in Iraq. We made some videos for him and you are welcome to view our
Thanksgiving Greetings to David in Baghdad and see his 17 month-old daughter Berneice Eating Pumpkin Pie.

Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Peter Drucker meets Jeff Galloway

ORN: 20.2 miles, 3:44:13, R3/W1, 11:07/mile

The most influential individual on my professional career is undoubtedly
Peter Drucker. His many books and articles have truly shaped my philosophy of business, management and strategy.

Drucker’s view of planning was captured in this illustration he often used.
A pilot flying from New York to Los Angeles files a flight plan before take off, laying out the plane’s route, altitude and speed. Yet, once in the air, the pilot seldom follows that plan exactly. Weather, traffic and timing alter that plan. Despite those changes, though, the plane never lands in San Francisco; it still gets to Los Angeles.

Given Drucker’s influence on me, it’s not surprising I’d apply his work to running. Last spring, I set out to rehab my ITB injury using
Jeff Galloway's methodology. During the summer, I set up a plan designed to finish up at the Rocket City Marathon, now just three weeks away.

The Drucker-esqe plan change came to the fore after last Saturday’s aborted 28 miler due to serious ITB pain in my left leg. During the past week, I crunched the plan extensively, trying to make a good decision on how to finish out the training still hit the goal. I decided to rest until Thursday and take a couple of short runs. A two miler Thursday and a three miler Wednesday went pain free. Yet I needed to somehow know how the knee would hold up with marathon-like stress. So, I decided to try to go for 20 miles this morning. Three weeks pre-marathon seemed the right time.

On another nice fall day in Indiana, I took off. I altered my usual 20 mile route to have a 5.5 mile loop, an 11 mile loop and another four mile loop, all starting and ending at home. If it fell apart, I didn’t want to have to walk a long way again.

The first loop was a
ryan shay 5.5 mile memorial run. As a father of sons the same age as Ryan, I found myself thinking much about Ryan’s parents. It was simply moving. My prayers continue for them as they work through the many stages of grief. Life is hard. We need each other.

The second loop was uneventful. Which is what I wanted to have today.

The last loop felt like a last loop. With 18 miles last weekend and virtually no running all week, the legs felt flat. Interestingly, my left knee never quibbled once all day. Yet, my right knee began to just be sore. No ITB pain, just a general soreness. I worked through it, thinking particularly of
Rob's consistent example of choosing to work through the tough patches of a run. Twenty miles was about all I could do today. But I got it done. And it felt good.

On the question of “what to eat while on a long run” (you were asking that question, weren’t you??), I am really getting to like
Clif Shot Bloks, the Margarita flavor, thanks to a good suggestion months ago by David. I cut each blok in half and ate a half blok every 30 minutes. I made a further modification by sprinkling a little table salt in the zip-lock bag I carried the shots in and shook it up. This spread a little salt on the surface of each of the sticky chunks. Particularly in the later stages of the run, it was nice to pop the blok, taste the extra salt, then slowly chew the blok. It seemed to work. Thanks, David.

So, despite the plan change, we’re over the final ridge and now tapering into the marathon three weeks from this morning. It’s gonna be fun in Huntsville, sharing a room again with
Darrell, meeting up with Wes, and hopefully connecting as well with Lana, Michele and David. Three weeks to go…I can hardly wait.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Up the side of but not over the final ridge

ORN: 17.7 miles, 3:17:57, R3/W1, 11:10/mile

After last Saturday’s post on the simple 5K race I had run and my plans for a 28 mile run today,
David commented “If you can knock out the 28 miler without crumbling you'll be golden.” I appreciated his encouragement.

Unfortunately, however, I crumbled.

On an absolutely perfect day for running, I set out at 7:30am to do 28. No wind, temps in the low 30s, rising to the mid 40s by mid day, blue sunny sky, absolutely invigorating. The run was going wonderfully, just wonderfully. It was a joy to be outside, knocking off the miles. The hydration worked, taking a half of a Clif Shot Blok every 30 minutes or so seemed about right (thanks, David, for telling me to switch to the margarita flavor) and it was just a matter of getting the miles in. Everything felt fine, I was really enjoying it.

Then, in the matter of about a half mile, the wheels came off the wagon.

In the 18th mile of the run, I noticed a small, worrying twinge on the outside of my left knee. Surely not, that can’t be, no, it’s not there, it will go away, switch the camber on the path to take the pressure off. Didn’t work. In a very short while, the left knee basically seized up and refused to run. I dialed back to a 2/1 run/walk ratio…no dice. The ITB obviously flared up. I knew the feeling, exactly, from the hassle I had with my right ITB last fall and winter. Same thing, other side. Oh my.

The only option was to walk back home, about 2.5 miles from the spot I was when it packed up. Walking was fine and it gave me time to analyze the whole thing (you are surprised I would be analytical??!!), planning the next actions.

My chief suspect on this one is old shoes. I bought a new pair of Brooks Beast a couple weeks ago, as I knew my prior pair was aging out, having logged about 360 miles so far. With my 6’1”, 195 lb, far-from-dainty frame slamming shoes with every step, I have learned from experience 350 miles is around the time I no longer get the support I need. But, frugal Joe just wanted to get one more long run out of the old pair before switching over for the run up to the
Rocket City Marathon. Looking at the soles of the shoes, particularly the left shoe, I could see that I was getting more over pronation than is wise. The ability of even this big honking shoe to control my inward foot roll just breaks down with use. Old shoes and lack of motion control were the culprits a year ago…I strongly suspect the same thing here.

This pair thus moved to my “mow the lawn” pile.

Unlike (very unlike) my attitude about this a year ago, however, today’s event was really not a big deal. It happened. It is fixable. It is only some inflammation. Ice. Ibuprofin. Foam roller. Switch to the new shoes. Unlike
Ryan Shay's family, I came home and could talk about with them. In fact, I could really identify with the transformation David in Nashville described recently.

This probably does affect my time goal at Rocket City, now just four weeks away. I won’t have the chance between now and then to truly test the ITB and know how it will hold up. I probably won’t settle on a goal until close to the gun going off. And that’s OK. On the long hike to the marathon, I won’t crest this final ridge. I’ll double back, find a low-mileage pass and get there anyway.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am a runner...a tagged runner

ORN: 5 miles, R9/W1, with 4x 200 m accelerations

Sarah recently tagged me to describe why I am a runner. I’m game, Sarah…here goes!

I am a runner because:

Running is a year-round activity for me. Even in rotten Indiana weather.

I have a chart called
Dress for Winter Running Success to know what to wear in all the rotten Indiana weather. And I use the chart. And it is taped next to our shower. And my wife loves me anyway.

I have a running blog, which preserves my loving wife from having to endure unending blather about running.

I have painted little marks on curbs around my neighborhood to indicate each half mile on my running routes.

I plan races a year in advance.

I put the weather in the next race’s town on my Yahoo home page.

I mark my running shoes with little dots to identify each pair so I can rotate them correctly.

I use the word “only” in front of the words “a half marathon.”

I look forward to using the word “only” in front of the words “a marathon.”

I can pronounce “iliotibial band syndrome” correctly, describe it succinctly and don’t giggle when I say it.

I recognize other local runners by their gait not their faces.

I think about how to keep running in a proper perspective with respect to the other main areas of my life; family, faith, work, community.

Most of all, I am a runner just because I run.

How about you?? If you’d like to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Race Report: Health and Kinesiology 5K

ORN: 7 miles total; 5K in 24:29, 7:47/mile

The schedule called for another 5K time trial today. As both long-time readers of this blog know, the 5K has been my own “Moby Dick” in that it’s a distance I really don’t like and have not done well running. Yet the sustained speed work is vital if I’m going to even have a chance to do the
Rocket City Marathon in 4:15. All the formulae say I need to comfortably do 5K in 25:15 to be on that pace.
Conveniently, the Health and Kinesiology student club sponsored a race on the Purdue campus this morning and so there I was. It was one of those nice, small, local runs with maybe 120 runners. The course was on familiar turf, as the loop included part of my usual long-run route. Weather was perfect, sunny and high 40s. I donned my US Army PT gear, to honor both of my sons in the Army, and headed for the race.

For a Purdue grad like me, it was cool to have the start line right next to this relatively new statue of a Boilermaker, just outside the Purdue football stadium. The course was a simple loop and went smoothly.

I was most pleased that I ran negative splits. The miles went at 7:58, 7:46, 7:42 and the last tenth at 1:02, a 7:07 pace. Beating the target time by 46 seconds was fact I felt as if I could have done better. Yet, I felt in control and could gradually accelerate. I ran a half-mile cool-down just after the race and enjoyed the entire morning. I ended up 3rd of 9 in my age group, a better position than I normally run.

One fun thing was a conversation with a young couple before the race. In their early to mid 20s (hey, they all look awfully young to me any more), they had just taken up running and this was their first race ever. They ended up asking me all sorts of questions before the race and it was fun. In discussing shoes, I mentioned I had switched to some lighter shoes since “this was only a 5K.” The young lady’s eyes got big; “What do you mean ‘ONLY’??” I apologized for minimizing what felt like a huge distance to her. She wondered if she’d ever feel that 3 miles was short. After the race, I talked to them again. They were thrilled to have run the entire way and to have simply completed a race. It was really enjoyable to see someone taking up the sport and smiling.

Next Saturday, I go over the last ridge on the long hike to Huntsville, as a 28 mile training run is on the books. I’m looking forward to it.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Man in the Yellow Shirt

ORN: 9.3 miles with 6 x 1 mile repeats at 8:30 average

It was around mile 8 or so when I first spotted the Man in the Yellow shirt during last week’s
Indianapolis Marathon & Half-Marathon. It was probably his bright shirt that first caught my eye. I noticed again as we moved through the park, as we were staying about the same distance apart. I observed we were both using a run/walk plan and we seemed to be about on sync with each other.

I gradually got closer to him and could observe him more closely. He ran with a practiced economy of motion. Head up with no bobbing, back straight, arms low, swinging gently in metronome-like cadence, legs solid, feet close to the ground. No pounding, no wasted movement, steady and experienced. His shirt had long sleeves, even on a day in the low 60s. He wore a broad-rimmed floppy hat. He moved surely through aid stations, negotiating the traffic with ease and consideration while hydrating well. This guy knew what he was doing.

After the half marathoners split off at mile 12.5, I found myself getting closer to him. For the first time I noticed the full head of grey hair under the broad rim of his hat. He seemed to be at least in his mid 60s. And I was fascinated by just watching a man who seemed to be a very experienced runner.

During miles 13 to 19 as we ran the out portion of the marathon, our run/walk cycles were slightly out of sync with each other, so we leap frogged each other several times. He ran steadily, I admired his style each time I was behind him.

On the way back, our walk breaks finally coincided somewhere around mile 20. I pulled up beside him and asked him how he was feeling. He smiled, put his index finger to the base of his throat and uttered “It’s getting a little rough about now,” in a raspy, guttural type of voice. And I realized what I saw and heard in that instant.

He had had a

A laryngectomy is the surgical removal of the larynx, better known as the voice box. It involves rerouting a person’s breathing away from the mouth and to a surgically-made hole at the base of the neck. The person having this surgery has to learn how to speak again, forcing air over a surgically placed flap that vibrates. My wife is a trained speech therapist and had told me about this procedure and what is involved for a person to learn to speak again following this life-changing surgery. I was aware of the fact it reduces life to a minimalist existence for many. Yet the Man in the Yellow Shirt had decided it was not going to be that for him. I had no idea what his story was, yet I knew it had to be amazing.

Our short walk break was soon over and, knowing speech was difficult, we didn’t talk any further. We continued to leap frog for the rest of the race, yet on the last long incline when I struggled, his steady pace pulled right by me and he finished ahead of me, the Yellow Shirt climbing the hill and out of view.

After I finished the race, walked a bit and collected my gear bag, I headed for the big food tent, mostly to just sit down. Walking in, there he was, his Yellow Shirt as visible as it had been on the course. He was by himself at a table and I asked if I could join him. He smiled and motioned for me to sit down. After some small talk about the race and the finishing hill, he asked me “Are you doing 50 States?” I smiled and told him I didn’t have that ambition though I had a
good friend who was. “So, are you doing 50 states?” I asked. Matter of factly, he said “I have and I am.” I did a double-take and then realized what he was saying. Turns out he has already run a marathon in all 50 states and is now doing it all again. Saturday’s race was his 40th state this time around. “Yeah, only 10 to go now,” he said “and then I think I’ll call it quits.” He mentioned the city he came from, then bid me farewell and walked off.

I sat there, utterly impressed, completely amazed, in full awe. And I couldn’t get him off my mind.

When I got home, I looked up his hometown on the results list and found his name. I then did a web search for his name. I ended up with nearly 10 Google pages of his name with marathon results from all over the country, just as he had said, regularly doing marathons in the 4:20 to 4:50 range. Time after time after time.

And in the midst of all these marathon results was one article from the University where he had been a faculty member. He had won an outstanding teaching award several years ago. Several students were quoted saying what an amazing communicator he was in his field, making difficult technical subjects understandable, despite the obvious hurdle of speech he had following his surgery. This was no ordinary human being I met.

I tracked down his address and wrote him a letter to express my appreciation for our conversation and wishing him well on the last 10 states of his second trip around the country. I’ll respect his privacy here and not give any further specifics. Yet this man’s story is the most amazing one I’ve personally encountered in running. What he is continuing to do is an inspiration. I hope it encourages you just a bit as much as it has me.

Persevere. Like the Man in the Yellow Shirt.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Race Report: Indianapolis Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:48:56, 11:01/mile R3/W1

Quick Summary: A super race for 24.5 miles!!! And, as always, the marathon is a profound teacher. On a beautiful day in central Indiana, it was a joy to run, smile, learn, be amazed, be challenged and to end the race contented.

Full Report

In an award winning entry to the “Coincidences that are Weird but Make No Difference” category, I spent the Thursday night before this marathon just as I did on the Thursday night one year ago before the Portland Marathon; attending a concert by the bluegrass/acoustical group
Nickel Creek. An added feature this year was that we wedged into the backroom of a bar in Bloomington, Indiana to see the band, standing on hard concrete for 3 hours, not moving. Just what I’ve read in many training guides for care of feet and legs before a marathon! Great concert, though, and a goofy link up.

Prerace: Race day had me up at 4:50am and out the door at 5:30, heading to Indy. Having run the half-marathon version of this event two years ago, I knew the parking/set up routine. I drove to the 12.5 mile mark and stashed 20oz of Accelerade and a dry towel behind a brick wall, then parked and registered. I was set before 7:00am, so, with the 8:30 start time I had plenty of time to relax and get set. The field of 4,500 began to assemble and what fun that was. I love the start of races…the energy is huge, the music is great, hope and optimism fills the entire group. With temperatures in the mid 50s, we were off on our journey.

The course looked (very roughly) like a figure 8 with a string hooked to the middle, where the start/finish line rested. The half marathon route covered both loops of the 8. The full marathon added a run out and back along the string. My plan was to run 11:03 miles, to end in 4:50.

The First Loop provided a way to just get started. About five miles long, it was simply cool and beautiful. My main focus was to hold back, stay relaxed and get into the rhythm of my run 3 minute, walk 1 minute approach to this race. That rhythm set in quickly and nicely and I hit the five mile mark 1:50 ahead of my projected pace.

The Second Loop was even more appealing visually. We ran on a bike trail for two miles through a city park under a cool, shady canopy of red and gold fall foliage set against a perfect blue fall sky. I also found some personal pleasure in this loop. At one point, an Army unit provided race directions and watched the intersections. Knowing I was ahead of pace, I paused, shook the hand of each person in uniform and thanked them for their service to our country. With two of my three sons in the Army at the moment; I have great appreciation for each one who serves. It didn’t slow me down that much; I hit the twelve mile mark 3:11 ahead of my pace. And I first spotted the Man in the Yellow Shirt.

Heading out. The half-marathoners split off at the 12.5 mile mark. I found my Accelerade and towel, undisturbed, refilled both of my belt-based bottles and moved off into a new phase of the race. With about a thousand of the 4,500 starters running the full marathon, the crowd slimmed considerably at this point. It got quiet and became an obviously different race. I find this the most enjoyable part of a marathon; the start is over, the struggles at the end remain in the future, one just starts knocking off the miles. Yesterday, it was even more enjoyable and truly a spiritual experience for me.

The out and back portion of the race opened into a beautiful state park and then onto city running paths. As I rounded one vista, I was swept away by the beauty of the tree-covered hills in their fall splendor. A phrase from an
old hymn came to me:

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small

The spread of nature before me brought a sense of awe at our world. As a follower of Christ, I considered it a gift to be part of God’s creation on such a beautiful day.

The miles clicked off in the high 10s to low 11s pace. I made the turn around at mile 19 a full 5:40 ahead of pace. And I was now playing tag in the run/walk pace with the Man in the Yellow Shirt.

Heading Back It was now time to plan the final few miles. In particular, I thought long about my stated “A” goal for this race: to run continuously from mile 23 to the end. My legs were not in pain but were getting heavy. I seriously thought about just keeping the 3/1 pace to the end. Yet, I truly had set the goal of running the end as part of the entire experiment I’m on this year. What do to?

The deciding factor came from a surprising source:
Sarah's son. You see, sometime last year, she was questioning about trying a certain race. In his simple-yet-profound 10-year old wisdom, he just said to her “There’s no point in not trying.” This has become a tag-line for Sarah and, when I thought of it, I laughed out loud on the course. Of course…there’s no point in not trying to run it in from 23!! What if I don’t make it? So what?? I’ll learn something. And, if I do make it, then I’ve accomplished an important goal. There’s simply no point in not trying! I came to this around mile 22 so had a fun mile planning for the final push (in addition to having my first conversation with the Man in the Yellow Shirt). Fortuitously, there was an aid stating about 50m before the mile 23 marker, so I downed a cup of water, turned off the 3/1 beeper on my watch, smiled thinking of Sarah’s son and set out to run the final 3.2 miles. At mile 23, I was 4 minutes ahead of pace.

It felt good. Steadily running, paying attention to form, I just kept going. We climbed a long incline and I began to think it might work. I crested a hill and hit mile 24 with an 11:01 mile in my hip pocket. The course set back across the broad valley surrounded by trees, yet I was less cognizant of the beauty, concentrating on keeping moving. And, around 24.5, the legs were done. I simply had to walk.

It felt like some sort of a defeat. Yet there was no arguing with the sluggishness. No self-talk or positive chatter could overcome the fatigue. After a bit of consideration, I decided to go back to the 3/1 plan. I re-started the timer and set out to finish the course. And I chuckled and was grateful for Sarah’s son’s counsel…indeed, there was no point in not trying.

From the 24.5 mile mark, the course had a mild incline all the way to the 26 mile marker. The temperature was near 70 by this time and all of this conspired. Yet, I managed to keep the 3/1 ratio the rest of the way, even if a less-than-Kenyan running pace. I passed a number of folks who were hurting and tried to offer some encouragement.

We wound back to the starting area and I was going on fumes. Yet, when I hit the final right turn with 100 m to the finish line, I pushed it in, a big grin on my face, thrilled to have complete the third marathon of this running era, one minute and four seconds ahead of my target time.

Post Race I crossed the line, got de-chipped and was amazed at how good I felt compared my the immediate post-race feelings last year in both St Louis and Portland. I was fully lucid, actually exchanging philosophical comments with spectators and fellow runners, discussing race-histories and geography, wondering where the honey-bees around the Gatorade jugs sleep at night and staying on my feet. I had determined beforehand that I wanted to walk quite a bit after the race to see if that would avoid the cramping I had experienced before. So I walked…and it did. I looped back to the course, saw a fellow runner finishing her first marathon come in and cheered for her…she had tears streaming down her face, it was so emotional. Good for her.

I walked back to the gear check, got on a dry, cotton T shirt, went to the food tent and there he was, the Man in the Yellow Shirt. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes, giving me one of the most amazing and inspirational stories I’ve personally seen in running. So much so, it will be its own blog post soon.

A day later, I’m amazed at how good I feel. No blisters. No soreness. I’m up and down stairs with no discomfort at all. I’m set to do my usual Monday 5 miler tomorrow morning. It is astounding to me to feel this good. Three weeks from now, I’m scheduled to do a 28 mile training run…we’ll see how that goes.

For now though, I’m over the next ridge on the hike to the
Rocket City Marathon. I have much to think about between now and then and I will enlist your input in so doing.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thermal Whiplash

ORN: Saturday—9.1 miles total, with 6 mile repeats @ 8:45

I had a long, deeply profound post composed in my mind about the impact of the temperature on our running. Starting with the debacle at the Chicago Marathon last Sunday to my own experiences in heat, I was going to write on what high temperatures Teach Us About Life In General.

The post sounded pretty dumb once I started it though, so I will not impose it on you. You should be glad.

Suffice it to say, the weather was brutal a week ago in the Midwest. Then a cool front blew through and two days after the heat damage in Chicago, it was into the mid 40s overnight. And it makes a big difference. And jerks you around.

I had one of the nicest runs I’ve had in months on a simple 4 miler mid-week. It was stunning what the lack of humidity does alongside cool air. Yesterday, the schedule called for 5x mile repeats at 9:15. It was so nice, I did six, rather than five. I tried to hold back the pace but still did all the repeats very near 8:45, feeling very comfortable, as if I still had a lot I could still put forth. The last repeat hit at 8:33. Three weeks ago, in 86 degree temps, I averaged 9:11 for the identical course with 6 repeats. Yeah, the temperature matters.

The next long training run comes this Saturday in the form of the
Indianapolis Marathon. It is great to have a low cost (only $45) marathon an hour from home fit the training schedule. Looks like about 400 or so will run the full marathon, though about 2,000 may run the half marathon with it. I ran the half two years ago, so am familiar with the course. I find myself in the anticipation mode, really looking forward to a race. I haven’t run a long race since early June…it’s time.

The plan is to run a 3/1 run/walk ratio, shooting for 11:00 to 11:15 miles. My A goal is to run continuously from mile 23 to the end. My B goal is to run it in from mile 25. My C goal is to simply finish reasonably. The forecast at the moment for Indy on Saturday is for temps around 54 at the start, heading to mid 60s by the end with partly cloudy skies. Yeah, that works. That works just fine.

Persevere. In any temperature.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

23, 33-19

ORN: 23.2 miles, 4:15:33, 11:01/mile, R3/W1

Up at 4:30, running at 5:00am on a Saturday…yep, running will lead you to do odd things. Such was the case today, as I needed to get over the Second Range on my journey to the
Rocket City Marathon. The Galloway plan I’m experimenting with uses over-mileage and this is part of it.

The run itself was wonderfully unremarkable, very enjoyable and quite instructive. The day was perfect, with temps in the low 50s, a clear sky with a nearly-full moon still high in the sky for the first half of the run. I packed Accelerade and Gummie Bears today and the combination seemed to work well.

The miles just kind of clicked off, so I won’t bore you with many details. When the sun finally peeked over the eastern horizon, I looked at my Garmin and noted I already had 13.4 miles in the bank. The pace was steady throughout, and the 3/1 ratio kept it in the high 10s and low 11s. I really felt I could have kept that ratio going for a long time. To work on mental toughness, though, I ran the last two miles without interruption for the quickest miles of the day, 10:22 and then a 9:33 at the end. No pain and very little weariness. No soreness at all the rest of the day. The new pattern of thin sock/thick sock has fully eliminated blisters. It was a fun run. And, yes, I could have easily added three more miles today.

The next step is a
training marathon in three weeks. I’ll run it at 3/1 as well and remind myself it’s just a training run with friends, a T-shirt and a medal.

But all this begs the obvious question: Why get up at 4:30am for a training run?

Blame it on ESPN.

Earlier in the week, my good friend Don called me with an extra ticket to this afternoon’s football game between Purdue and Notre Dame. Given my family’s long connection with Notre Dame, it is always a special treat so I accepted his offer. Midweek, the TV gurus decided this game would be a noon kickoff. So, in order to get in 23 miles, clean up, fight the traffic for this sellout game and be there for the game, I had to be on the run by 5am.

The game was fun, in that Purdue won fairly handily, 33-19, over this year’s hapless Fighting Irish. Besides the football, however, it was a fascinating contrast. Whereas I started my day with 4+hours in the quiet solitude of a long training run. I then spent 4+ hours with 65,000 others at the game. Our seats were in the nosebleed portion of the end zone, just under the main stadium speakers, so we were blasted with pounding music, commercials and announcers all day. What a contrast in both enjoyable events.

With Don's help, I made a 39 second video for my extended family during might enjoy it as well.

What a way to spend a perfect fall day in Indiana. Persevere, alone or in a crowd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Partly Cloudy can make you Fully Wet

ORN: 5.4 miles, 8/1, 10:54/mile

I’m on the road on a business trip in Bloomington, Indiana. Got a break between the meetings this afternoon and the obligatory business dinner this evening, so I changed and went out for a run, needing a solid 5 miler today.

When I left the hotel, it was warm and muggy with partly cloudy skies. I took my usual route here in Bloomington, following a main street straight east from the hotel. This route took me along the south side of the Indiana University Campus, quite a busy place at the end the day. I proceeded past the restaurant in which
Darrell and I ate the night before last December’s trail Marathon, as well as the Cold Stone Creamery where we celebrated Darrell’s fine run in the mud the next evening. It made me smile to recall that fun time with him.

I kept going east and was almost at the 2.5 mile turn around point when I noticed a few drops of rain. In a matter of seconds, the drops turned into a full blown Midwestern thunderstorm, a real
toad strangler, as we call such a storm here. Since the storm came quickly out of the west, I was fully unaware of its approach. The rain came down in sheets, pounded by a high wind that was taking branches and leaves with it. And I was as far as I could be from the hotel, in an unfamiliar residential part of a town I don’t live in.

So, I got as creative as I could. I found some shelter under a mature tree and wondered just how long the rain would continue. I laughed at myself as I huddled under the tree. I had carefully packed a running cap for the trip, knowing the forecast called for rain. But the cap was nice and dry in my room, as I had deemed it not necessary for the run. After about 10 minutes, it seemed to let up just a bit, so I started back west, hoping to get to a commercial area for some better shelter.

I ran straight into the rain and finally got to the front overhang of the local organic food coop store and escaped the continuing downpour. I must have been quite a sight, a drenched guy in a neon yellow
Brooks NightLife T Shirt. I stood there a while, seriously wondering if I should just call a cab, as the rain continued. So, I walked into the coop, looking for a customer service desk or something where I could make the call. I got more odd looks, saw nothing and no one was helpful, so walked back out.

At which point I decided to just run it back.

So I did. As I started, I remembered another piece of advice from the day Darrell and I had in the woods last December. We overheard a cross-country coach telling his runners before the marathon to just run through water, not around it. “Your feet will get wet but they will not get cold. Go through it.” Good advice. I went through the water, well over ankle deep in some places.

I got back to the hotel, still quite a sight I’m sure. The shower felt great, the evening’s dinner was the usual business-esque small talk. And, hey, I got my 5 miles in.

It was doubly funny to read Darrell's post from running in the rain last Saturday in SoCal. We have this connection...what a deal!

Running often brings a surprise, always fun. Persevere, dry or wet.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Hot Run with a Cool Ending

ORN: 8.3 miles with 6 x 1 mile repeats at 8:55 average

Some days you just gotta get the run in, no matter the weather. Such was today. I needed to get in some mile repeats and the only time to get it done was mid-afternoon. The temp was 88 with high humidity, which brutally reminded me I was no longer on vacation in Wisconsin but rather back home in Indiana.

After a mile warm up, I lit into the mile repeats. The plan was to do them all at 9:12, simulating my run pace in the target race. In the heat, the workout was way tougher than I anticipated. The first four repeats were OK, at 8:37, 8:46, 8:55 and 8:58. But the pace was dropping and it was just plain tough.

I worked through the fifth repeat telling myself “mental toughness” but, despite a push at the end, it clocked at 9:27. Ugh. I needed to collect myself mentally for the final mile. And this was where the run got cool.

I worked out the mile ends to be near a public water fountain. I got a drink and, as I did, a large fellow on a recumbent bicycle with a black lab on a leash pulled up. Our fair city did a nice job on this water fountain with an adult size fountain, a kid size fountain, and a dog-level fountain all on the same post. I offered to hold the button for the man’s dog to drink, and he accepted. On such a hot day, the dog lapped lots of water, giving the two of us time to talk. He was a severely overweight middle-aged man and he told me he liked this type of bike as it took the pressure off his back. It turned out he had one hip replaced already but lower back pain continued. He had received a cortisone shot into the back on Friday and said “I gotta get some exercise and this is the only way I can really do it.”

The dog was finally happy and he began to pedal off when the chain jumped off the front sprocket. So, we started pushing and shoving the offending link which had wedged into a small space between two of the three sprokets. It just wasn’t budging despite all our effort and we had no tools to pry it loose. So I suggested to the man, since I was almost done anyway, I’d just run home and then bring my car and some tools to repair the bike. He accepted my offer and I took off. I was very concerned by this point in time for the man’s health. He was sweating profusely, huffing and puffing, and I urged him to just sit in the shade of a nearby gazebo and wait for me, out of the hot sun.

I did my last mile split home in 9:07 (isn’t motivation wonderful?), grabbed a couple of screwdrivers, some pliers, a hammer and a cell phone and drove back to the gazebo. As I pulled in, however, he was back on the bike, dog alongside, pedaling home. He had kept working on the chain and it popped loose. He diagnosed a loose crank as contributing to the problem.

We talked some more and he had a cool attitude. “I know there are a lot of folks in worse shape than me, so I need to be thankful and do what I can.” Yeah, you go guy. That’s the ticket.

As I left him and headed back home, it hit me, once again, what a gift good health is. And, even more, it is a gift to have the ability and inclination to be involved in endurance sports. It is a gift to be able to run, bike, swim. It’s a gift to have others with whom we can talk at length about this interest. And when I realize it is a gift, not an entitlement, I can hold it with a looser grip, grateful for the blessing I can enjoy each day.

Enjoy your health today. And take good care of this magnificent machine we call our bodies.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Adventures in Plant Pathology

ORN: Tuesday: 5 miles, 7/1
Wednesday: 4 miles, 7/1, road & trails

Friday: 5.3 miles, 7/1, road & trails

I wanted to run in new places while on vacation this week in Door County. So, on Wednesday morning, I just took off exploring. I found a wetland area to run in and then turned onto an unfamiliar residential access road. To my delight, the road narrowed to a track and then to a trail. I kept running, enjoying the changing surface and wooded run.

As I worked down the trail, just above a big body of water, I glimpsed through the trees a patch of algae on a backwater with an unusual tint of green. I wondered what it was. The trail twisted and turned generally towards the backwater and I got the glimpses of the green more and more. What on earth would cause that tint?

As I got closer, I heard the distinct “click” of a 7-iron and then the yell of “Fore.” I laughed, as that distinct green was merely the carefully manicured #12 fairway of a golf course near the bay. Hardly a backwater, this was a high-end club. I ran to the edge of the fairway, thought about taking a spin down around the green but opted not do. I headed back up the trail, realizing, once again, I’m a manufacturing guy not a biologist.

Heading home on Saturday, with a stop in Chicago to take son Matt to lunch and hear about his first four weeks of college. Amazing times!

Persevere. With or without algae.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This isn't Indiana, Toto

ORN: 10.3 miles total, including 5K, 26:06, 8:23/mile

We are taking a vacation this week in Door County, Wisconsin. This is what I get to see out the window each morning…wow. We’ve been coming up here for 23 years now. We usually came in June or July, though, since school schedules dictated vacation options. With the “empty nest” now, we can pick our own schedule. Visiting here after Labor Day allows much lower rates, less traffic, quiet walks and cooler temperatures. For Gretchen and me, the perfect vacation is a stack of books, a view of water and no schedule.

Not to mention good running.

Door County consists of a number of small villages along a narrow peninsula between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. A network of county roads and public parks on rolling hills makes for an endless variety of visually appealing and challenging runs. This topography, coupled with the cool temperatures, low humidity and clear blue skies of early autumn, makes running here about as enjoyable as it gets.

After long runs the past two weekends, the schedule today called for a 10 mile run to include a 5km time trial. Galloway’s idea is to stress the body at a prescribed pace that will mimic the aerobic demands of the target race. All that works out to a 5K target time of 25:15 for me.

So, I set out this morning exploring the country roads. The Garmin, as useful as it is in many setting, earns its price when traveling. I explored and ran out a little over 5 miles, turned around and headed back to the condo. I did 6+ miles at a 10:30 pace, using a 5/1 ratio. I took a walk break, reset the Garmin to the “Virtual Trainer” mode and set off on the time trail. Mile one was exactly on target pace at 8:07, with mile two almost there at 8:13. I could still make that up. Yet, during mile 3, I could feel my form break down, my left thigh and hip began to tighten and it all leaked to an 8:49 mile. I pushed the last tenth with an 8:17 pace but still missed my target time by 51 seconds.

I’m disappointed I missed this target. Does it call into question my shot at a 4:15 marathon in Huntsville? I don’t think so. It helps to keep focus on all the training that remains.

And, yeah, I’ll persevere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Isn't She Cute?

ORN: 5 miles, R7/W1

Here's my granddaughter Berneice in a photo I snapped last Thursday. She's almost 15 months old now and is a real cutie.

Gretchen picked up this t shirt for her when we dropped Matt off at Wheaton College a few weeks ago. After three sons and then two grandsons, she is so very, very happy to finally have a little girl to shop for. And young Miss B can indeed turn on the charm. She's a very mellow and easy-going child. Shoot, with twin brothers around to constantly entertain, what does she have to be uptight about.

Enjoy the cute picture with us.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Up and Over the Front Range

ORN: 20.25 miles, 3:44:08, 11:04/mile

When I laid out my current training schedule to build to
Rocket City Marathon on December 8, it was obvious to me that last week and this week’s long runs would be crucial. Given the ITB injury from last winter, the build up in mileage was a question mark. These two weeks represented the “front range” on my hike to the target race in December.

And, amazingly, we’re over the ridge and moving on.

Today’s 20 miler went well and really quite unremarkably. Pretty much, I just went out and did it and kept moving for nearly four hours. I was encouraged that I had no pain at all from my left foot, the one that suffered from my inattention last week. The tightness I’ve felt in both legs on recent long runs never happened. I was tired at the end of it but had no discomfort.

I did branch off the pavement a couple of times onto rough trails when I had opportunity. It was a simple and quiet nod to
Rob who is doing a full 100 miles, by himself, on single track trails this weekend at the Plain 100. I’m awe…hope it went well, Rob.

I discovered one very useful thing this morning. I’ve always had blisters on certain toes anytime I run over 10 miles. I had to use paper tape to prevent them from forming. About a month ago, I bought a super-thin pair of wicking sock liners which I now wear inside my big fluffy Thor-Lo running socks. And now, not a hint of blisters, hot spots or anything at all on my feet. A significant improvement. Shoot, I might even call it
Kaizen, but then that would be like me, wouldn’t it??!!

I appreciate all the suggestions I got last week on “what to eat while running.” I have a list and I’ll try them all this fall. Today’s banquet came from
Wes, the cooking expert and triathalon dude, who found a high-energy trail mix on the Food Network. I used it (to the amazement of my wife, who walked in while I was surfing the Foot Network web site…she just shook her head and walked away) and found it useful. I kind of liked the crunchy stuff while I was running. Plus, the nuts get stuck in your teeth, so provided additional food for a while after munching.

During the run, I thought back to my
first 20 mile training run on March 18, 2006. At that point, it was a major new distance record for me. Today’s run was not nearly as intimidating to think about. Just a step I needed to do to get set for the fall races. Amazing.

I keep hiking, with two weeks in a lower mileage valley before going over the next ridge of 23 miles on Sept 29. Then two more weeks in the valley and then the
Indianapolis Marathon as a “training run with a medal” on October 20.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Watch Your Step

Last Thursday morning, I headed out the door for a simple 5 mile run. The air was cool in the pre-dawn darkness and it felt good to be moving.

I rounded a corner and ran past a construction project the city refers to euphemistically as “infrastructure enhancement,” a nice term for a new sewer lift station. Being the machine and process geek that I am, the two matching Cat backhoes caught my attention. I was comparing them and their tasks in the project and….

Wham. I nearly went down, hard.

While staring at the backhoes, I snagged the edge of a hole created in the pavement by the heavy equipment. I turned my left foot and ankle pretty severely. It hurt a lot. I yelled and came to a complete stop. “You idiot!” I told myself. “Why didn’t you pay attention instead of day dreaming about big machines?” It was a serious scolding.

I walked a bit to check the damage. Finding I could walk, I tried to run and continued slowly along, not wanting to give up the run. I eventually decided to turn around sooner than planned and cut the run to 4 miles. Later in the day, I wondered about the wisdom of continuing, as I spent much of the work day shoeless, an ace bandage holding a bag of ice to my foot as I popped more Vitamin I.

During the run, though, I thought about how fortunate I was to have this pain as a lesson. I did a stupid thing and had this evidence of my own stupidity. I knew it would be temporary (shoot, I ran 17 miles on the foot two days later). But the lesson was bigger. And, as I slogged through the rest of the run, a sobering connection hit me.

My mind shifted to the story which had emerged a couple days earlier about Idaho Senator Larry Craig who ended up
resigning from the US Senate over poor choices he made in a Minneapolis restroom earlier this summer. Whatever the actual story is for the Senator, in a moment, he made a very bad choice. That choice cost him his Senate seat, his credibility, his integrity, his name. All because he wasn’t paying attention. Wham, down he went.

Choices I make have impact on my family, my integrity, my career, my conscience. I have to watch my step. The very repairable damage to my left foot was a tangible reminder to me to watch my step. The ancient saying came to mind; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Theme? Who needs a Theme?

ORN Saturday: 17.2 miles, 3:07:34, R3/W1, 10:54/mile

On a beautifully cool first day of September, I had a good, confidence-building run, my longest single outing since the Portland Marathon nearly a year ago. Interestingly, the run had no single theme that allows any profound or noteworthy text here. Which, in and of itself, is pretty cool. So, just a few notes and one area to seek your advice.

Keeping the plane in the air. Two weeks ago, I mentioned hitting a wall around 12 miles that forced me to walk it in. So I had some concern when the left leg (only) tightened somewhat in the 12 mile range. But this time, it simply got a little tight yet did not lock up. I focused on relaxing the leg but kept going. And it never got any worse. While it did get tight after I showered, an hour mowing the lawn in the afternoon loosened it up. Encouraging.

Pace. In the Galloway method, this was an easy run, defined as 2 minutes/mile slower than my target pace. That means I should have run at 11:41/mile. I forced myself to take it easy and had a very, very manageable 3/1 run/walk ratio. Yet miles all clicked off in the upper 10s. The 10th mile even came in at 10:18. I chose not to fret this; the pace felt very easy. For grins, I pushed the final two-tenths and the Garmin told me it was at a 9:17 pace. I’ll take it.

Extending the usual route. My buddy
Darrell wrote recently about exploring new tracks on his runs. I took in his advice and was rewarded. On one extension, I ran into our local High School football coach, a neat guy who taught biology for all three of our sons. His team won a hard-fought game on Friday night to go 3-0 and he was on his bicycle, heading for Saturday morning practice. We chatted for 5 minutes and it was neat to hear of how his team is coming together, now ranked #8 in the state in their class. Later, I extended another part of the trail to a local lake. I ran into a couple of good ol’ boys who were fishing. “What’s biting, guys?” “Aw, only blue gills.” Certainly not the salmon run that Michelle and Jenny got to see on Saturday but, hey, this is Indiana after all. We take what scenery we can get. It made me smile.

Fightin’ the crowds. A nice Saturday morning, with Purdue back in session, made for a lot of runners out. I got one wonderful reaction as I passed a couple of ladies. “How far are you going with all that water?” they asked me. “Seventeen.” “Oh my goodness!!! Uh, er, well, gee, yeah, we’re doing six!” It made me smile more.

More lunar fascination. Towards the end of the run, the route took me straight west. There was a beautiful quarter moon in the clear blue sky around 10am. Then a plane from the Purdue airport flew just “under” the moon, the morning sun glistening off its wings. It gave me awe.

Hydration Thanks to the good advice I got from many of you after bonking two weeks ago, I took care to hydrate better. I got up early, had a toasted bagel and a bottle of Gatorade. Then I loaded up the fuel belt with 30 oz of Accelerade, which I finished by the end of the run. I’m liking Accelerade. Is it better than Gatorade?? I’m happy with either.

What to eat while running?? Some advice please. I tried Clif Blocks for the first time on this run. The package said “Lemon Lime” but I didn’t see the connection to the taste. The first one I popped in to my mouth I tried to chew but, oh my, was it gloppy and stuck to my teeth. I thought about it and the next one I just tucked in my cheek and let it kind of dissolve slowly. Actually, I felt like a good ol’ boy myself, as if I had quite a chaw of Red Man. Ugh, sorry. Anyway, I’ve used Gu and other gels before, which are OK but I get tired of the expense. I’ve wondered about just taking small packs of peanut butter crackers. What works for you?? I’m grateful for your input.

Boy, if I ramble this long on a run I didn’t think produced anything profound, I’d be afraid to see what would happen if I did see something substantial. Which I did last week, but that will be my next post.