Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Heading to South Bend

ORN: Wednesday; zero; Tuesday, 3 miles, all run

One of the surprising things to me about Jeff Galloway’s approach to running is how much deeper it goes than merely the oft’ quoted run/walk deal.

A key point is in annual race planning, whereby he urges only shooting for one or two target races each year, races in which one wants to get near to maximum effort over a specific distance. All other training then points to that race and even other races are merely training with friends and having a T shirt to prove it.

This resonated with me when I realized I was coming back from the winter’s ITB injury. The timing made this Saturday’s
Sunburst half marathon my first target race of 2007. It has really been fun to ramp up to this event. Since this is my third year in a row for this race, it has both familiarity and a strong emotional appeal.

My aim is to get back under 2 hours for the half marathon, something I haven’t done since last year’s Sunburst. My “A” goal for the race is to beat 1:57. My “B” goal is under 2 hours and my “C” goal is under 2:06. The plan for the race is to use a 5 minute run, 30 second walk routine, hitting splits for 1:59 through the first 10 miles. Then, depending on how I feel, I’ll either run it in or continue the same R/W routine. I tested this pace at this ratio in a 10K race in late March; now I’ll see if I can carry it for double the distance.

I’ll have company as well. Tony, one of the veteran marathoners of our local running club, is riding up with me on Friday night. He’s running the marathon in this event. Going boldly where only
Darrell has dared go before, he’s also sharing a motel room with me. Gas prices being what they are, it’ll be nice to split the costs of driving. Wish him well…I hope I don’t snore. I hope he doesn’t snore.

The race has emotional appeal for me due to its location. The real draw for this race is finishing at the 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium. My dad played football for Notre Dame back in the 30s, so this is a real link to him, for me to participate in a sporting event on the very turf he played on. Dad died in 1993; we were close and I still miss him a lot. When I first ran this race two years ago, my sister scanned some old family photos and put a picture of Dad playing football on the back of a white technical shirt, which I wear now in several races a year and will again on Saturday. In a symbolic way, he’s with me, in his youth and prime, charging down the tunnel and onto that most famous of college football surfaces. It’s a rush and a cool way to honor Dad.

Stay tuned for the race report. And persevere.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Graduation Day

ORN: 6.75 miles, 7x800m intervals, average 4:05

Our youngest son Matt graduated from High School this afternoon. It’s a little hard to fathom that we now have three kids through HS and will have the proverbial empty nest come August. But true it is.

Matt is an amazing kid, quite different from our other two. They are 11 and 8 years older than Matt, so we’ve had kind of a “second parenting” trip with him. He’s an excellent student, exhibited an interest in a lot of leadership activities and really enjoyed performing in chorus and school musicals, even joining several other seniors for two musical numbers during the ceremony today.

His plans are set now. He will attend
Wheaton College this fall. It’s a college of about 2,500 in Chicago suburb of Wheaton. It was his first choice, as the small college closeness situated in a big city had appeal to Matt. Being three hours from home also seemed about right; not too close, not too far. He’s going to major in international relations. I think the tone of the campus will fit Matt’s depth as well.

His other dream is to be an Army officer and so he applied for and won a four-year ROTC scholarship at Wheaton. This is kind of mind-stretching for us as well. Our oldest son, David, is currently in the Army, serving with the 2nd Infantry in Baghdad. He’ll be out of the Army in early 2008. And now we have our youngest at the start of an Army commitment. I’m intensely proud of both of these guys for wanting to serve. That service comes with a cost though; we feel it daily. Yet we need bright people of character to lead in the Army. So, here’s another one, freely volunteering for the task. It is interesting to find sweaty running gear in Matt’s shower now that finals are over as he prepares for the rigor of Army physical training he’ll get in August.

So, a number of our family members gathered this evening for a meal to honor Matt. Seated, from the left, are my nephew Brian and his wife Susan, Gretchen’s parents, David’s wife Susan, and Gretchen and me. Perched in the back are twin grandson Andrew, Brian’s son John, Matt, holding granddaughter Berneice, Brian’s son TJ, and twin grandson Nathan. Each person in the photo very special to us. Four generations, holding together.

Life is a journey, an amazing one at that. And in all of it, we run with perseverance the race set before us. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Of Gloves and Gatorade, Gu and Gummie Bears

ORN: 18.0 miles, 3:12:22, 10:40/mile, R4/W1

Life is complicated. Witness
Darrell trying to find a doctor to see him when he happens to be in town. Witness David trying to manage the hectic end of a school year. Witness your own life. It’s nuts. It is often too complex.

So, I was in a receptive mood to read
Money-Saving Tips for Runners from the Complete Running Network last week. There were some good simplification tips in the money saving ideas as well.

I really like my $1 cotton gloves from the hardware store. I was out the door this morning at 6:20am in calm 51 degree temps with my
Portland Marathon Finisher's Shirt and my $1 gloves. It was perfect. I have a pair of $15 polyester gloves with a cool logo on them and I really like the simple gloves better. And if I lose them, so what???

I have mixed my own Gatorade for a couple of years now and suggested that as an additional money saving tip. Why buy water? Plus, I can make the concentration that works for my stomach. I strapped on my
Thunderbolt belt with 20 oz of Gatorade and was off.

With the bounce-back process I’ve been working on, I haven’t done a lot of really long runs. A year or so ago, I always packed a Gu or two to gulp down along the way. But the CRN article got me thinking about if this was necessary. Nearly two years ago, I remembered
the Running Chick wrote about her secret weapon; Gummie Bears for sugar input. I decided to pull those in, rather than the $1/pack Gu.

And the simplification worked, at least today. The schedule called for 17 miles. I messed up figuring my turn-around point and ended up with 18 and glad of it. I did a consistent 4/1 run/walk ratio and felt very good. I took a couple of swigs of Gatorade every other walk break. I popped a Gummie Bear about once a mile. I ended with gas in the tank, even though I was about 25 seconds/mile faster than what Galloway specifies for long runs; I could have easily done a few miles more. Further, this evening I umpired the plate at a Little League game tonight and the legs felt fine. Amazing. What a gift to run pain free. I am so grateful.

Two weeks to the
Sunburst half marathon. Speed work next Saturday, then a short taper and we go for a sub 2 hour halfsie.

Persevere. And simplify, where possible.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mr. Yasso visits Indiana

ORN: 7.5 miles; 10x800m @ 4:08 average

For several years, I’ve read about
Yasso 800s, a training tool whereby the time at which one can run 10 800m intervals (in minutes and seconds) is the same time (in hours and minutes) that one can supposedly run a marathon. Some hold strictly to this; here’s a long discussion of the topic from Cool Running. Like ‘em or loathe ‘em, I did do 800m intervals today, as it was on the schedule. I actually enjoyed the workout a lot. For my target sub 2 half marathon, Galloway said I should do these at 4:15 each…I simply couldn’t. I felt like I was holding back the whole way. I even did the last interval at 3:58. It was a step-back week on the schedule, so it felt good. Next Saturday is 17 miles, then taper to the Sunburst half marathon.

I got home and to a wonderful surprise. Our son Nathan flew in from Portland to surprise Gretchen by showing up for Mother’s Day. She was wonderfully amazed and it was worth the effort. She had already planned out her idea of a perfect weekend. She had 8 cubic yards of hardwood mulch delivered on Friday and wanted to spread it all. So, after greeting Nathan, the three of us jumped in and started shoveling mulch. In four hours, we had it all spread. The garden looks great, Gretchen was thrilled and it was a great day.

Two funny things. After about 30 minutes of shoveling, Nathan said “Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve felt warmth.” Oh my. He’s lived in Portland for 5 years and has fully forgotten Midwestern weather as he enjoys marvelous Oregon weather. It was actually a beautiful day, by our standards; temps in the mid 70s, with (what we call) low humidity of about 40%.

Then, while I was pushing the wheelbarrow back and forth to the back yard, the process excellence geek in me wondered what our cycle time was. Since I still had my watch on from running the Yassos an hour or so earlier, I tried to unobtrusively hit my “lap” button each time I started another run to the backyard. After about 3 trips, Nathan noticed and said “Dad, please, tell me you aren’t trying to time this thing.” Well, he had me.

To all you Moms, have a happy Mother’s Day. It may not mean spreading mulch for you, but I hope you do do something you enjoy.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Race Report: OneAmerica Mini Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, 2:10:23, 9:56/mile pace

The Summary: The race went as I thought it would go; a decent training run and a relaxing outing, if running with 35,000 others can be relaxing. Felt good throughout, ran it about like I would run a training run. The people-watching and taking lots of photos made it a treat. It also finished off my first
Goal for 2007.

The Details

This is my third straight time at this race, so I have the routine down. Up at 4:30am, picked up friends Jess and Chris and off we went. We found our parking place, got pinned and taped and walked the finish area to sort out a place to meet.

The start set the tone for the day. Like most big races, the Mini uses corral assignments, lettered A-Z, from front to back. Getting ahead of corral H depends on proving a previous race pace. Two years ago, with no proof, I was in N. It took about 4 miles that year to find a groove, having to work though a lot of slower runners. Last year, I qualified to E and it was wonderful. I was with the right group and found the groove inside a half mile. This year, amazingly, I qualified to corral D.

But I didn’t start in corral D.

My buddy Jess was running his first half-marathon. Friendships mean more than times in a training run, so I started with him in corral T. It was rather impressive, as Chris, Jess and I walked to the front of the queues, then worked our way back to our corrals. We dropped Chris off at G, then walked and walked and walked to T, a full six city blocks from the start line. We warmed up with a half mile or so, got into the corral, stretched and waited.

It was a cloudy, humid day, with temps in the low 60s at 7:30am, moving up during the race. The race started on time and 23 minutes later, Jess and I eased over the start line. From so far back in the pack, the nature of the day quickly became evident. The crowd was simply incredible. Jess and I tried to find a pace but couldn’t do it. We weaved, we bobbed, we looked for holes. We ran around walkers, past joggers, in-between people who started out too quickly and were fading. It simply was impossible in such a crowd to find a way to run in a straight line at a consistent pace for more than 30 seconds at a time. At a number of times, we had to nearly stop, as slow traffic spread curb to curb. And it pretty much continued that way for the whole race.
Rob wondered how it compared with the crowd at the Portland Marathon; the answer—no comparison. In Portland, I was running clear by mile 1.5. Never did get clear in Indy. So, I won’t bore you with times. My splits were pretty consistent, right under 10/mile all the way. I’ll just put up some photos and interesting observations on my run, as David suggested.

At Mile 1.5, I saw one of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen in a race. These gals were obviously motivated; it was 8am on a Saturday morning and these girls got into prom dresses and traveled from somewhere to simply look for a date. Not your typical teenager! Only after I looked at the photo later did I see the Mom taking a picture of me taking a picture…ah, to be a parent.

Around mile 3, I came up on a guy who had a
Blue Star Flag pinned to the back of his shirt. I knew this meant he had a child in a battle zone. I ran with him for a while and we learned we both have sons in Baghdad right now; his with the 10th Mountain Division, mine with the 2nd Infantry Division. There is an immediate bond of empathy and support among parents of soldiers. It is hard to describe but intensely real. We both had tears in our eyes to think of our sons and share the moment. The handshake was firm, as was our support for these two soldiers and the rest of their units. Parenting never stops.

There were lots of bands along the route. Some were good, some were awful, some just odd. One of the best was this percussion band from a local high school…these kids were good. And how cool, acoustically, to have a strong, complex beat as we ran past at mile 4.5. I stopped to take the photo and talked to one of the parents who hauled them down for the race; she was terrific and so proud of these kids. Again, the impact of a parent.

We got to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before mile 6. I made a “pit stop” just outside the track, thinking that was rather appropriate. Note to
Michelle; your race gloves would have been safe in this porta-pottie.

The trip around the IMS track was uneventful and, more importantly, less painful than in previous years. They’ve installed a warm up lane inside the main track through all four turns of the track and let us run there. This lane had no banking to it and it was great to run on a flat surface. On the front stretch we were back on the main track and I took the chance to “kiss the bricks,” as is a tradition here.

Coming out of the track, we headed back downtown. Before the race, I had seen a number of people carrying signs saying “Go Belzer.” While standing in the corral, I wondered aloud just who this Mr. or Ms. Belzer was and why so popular. A fellow runner informed me it was
Belzer Middle School. A teacher there formed a spring-semester club several years ago to teach fitness and health, with the climax being the kids running the Mini in May. He focused particularly on kids who normally not involved in sports at the school. This year, over 100 kids ran. They all had matching red T shirts. So, it was fun throughout the race to see some kid with a Beltzer shirt and encourage them. How cool is that?

At mile 9.5, I saw a bizarre sight. A lady who was about 7-months pregnant was cheering on her hubby. To do so, she rolled up her shirt, displaying her very bulging midsection on which she had drawn a face, hands and feet with a “Go Daddy” theme. I am not making this up. I was so stunned by the sight, I forgot I had my camera. My wife allowed that this was probably just as well to not pass along such a visual record.

Breaking from the back of the back, I continued to pass people constantly as we made the long way down 10th street towards mile 11. I was struck by how many people in the back of the pack were struggling; lots of panting, gasping, cramping. Folks off to the side stretching and agonizing. I saw three people get onto emergency medical carts and head for more care. For me, I felt fine and was simply enjoying a run in traffic.

We made the last turn and ran the final mile. The crowds were great and still cheering, 2.5 hours after the gun sounded. I crossed the finish line and asked the medal giver-outers to snap my photo and they got into it, as you can see. I found Jess, in the crowd; he had left me at mile 3 and finished his first half-marathon in 2:05, feeling great. I was happy for him.

A huge race, a nice training run. I will say that I did pretty much decide I’ll skip every running the Chicago or New York Marathons. The crowd was so big that it was tolerable for a half but I wouldn’t want to do 26.2 so surrounded. I enjoy the solitude too much.

Persevere…like even reading this long tome…thanks for sticking with me!!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Mini

ORN: 4 miles, no watch, all run, no walk

This Saturday is the Running Event of the Year in Central Indiana, the
OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. As befits major events, the name around here is simply “The Mini.”

There’s nothing “mini” about it, though. The organizers have to cut off registration at 35,000, which they hit in early December. It’s the biggest half marathon in the US. One of the big draws of the race is running a full lap around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of what used to be a big race, the Indianapolis 500, and now home to a really big race, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400. The start queue extends 9 city blocks, takes about 31 minutes to get everyone over the start line. The whole event is a Big Deal.

For lots and lots of people around here, this is the only race each year they run. In fact, it is the only time they train each year. I suspect the timing is helpful. People sign up before Thanksgiving and Christmas pig-outs, promising themselves they need the motivation of a race to start running/walking after eating so much. So they sign up, somehow get to the first Saturday in May, slog through 13.1 miles, wonder why they did it and then repeat the next year.

All of this makes the race kind of interesting to those of us who actually run a lot of races. For some, it is a chance to run well on a flat, fast course. For many, though, it is simply a fun event with a big-race atmosphere that we only have to drive an hour to be part of. The pack is simply so big that, unless you get into one of the front starting corrals, it takes several miles to have enough space to run at your own pace in a straight line. There are lots of walkers who somehow manage to start farther up front than they are supposed to, making for lots of zigging and zagging.

Yet, the race is truly fun. They advertise 120 musical groups performing along the route and I think that is not an exaggeration. It is almost constant music for the entire route, except for the lap on the IMS. Styles range from rap to country to rock to reggae and even clogging. The final mile is a long straightaway approaching downtown and is lined with people several deep along the whole way. Only once a year do we ever see that.

So, for this my third “mini,” I’m going to just have fun. It is not a target race, it is just a long workout for my target race on June 2. I don’t really have a time target. The Galloway run/walk thing won’t work in this mob of runners, so I’ll probably just walk through the 16 aid stations and call it good. If I’m under 2:10, I’ll be pleased.

I’m running with long-time friend Jess, who has never done 13.1 before. We’ll have fun on the way down and back and it will be quite an experience for him, a guy who has only run one small 10K race before.

I’ll post race commentary here over the weekend…perhaps with photos from the course…I’m going to pack a small camera in my
RaceReady Shorts and click along the way.

Persevere. Max, not Mini.