Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Soldier's back in Baghdad

ORN: 9 miles total, with 8x400m hill repeats @ 2:05

We’ve had a busy two weeks while our son David was here on leave from his duty as an Army medic in Baghdad. Sadly, we bid him goodbye this week and on Wednesday morning, he headed back.

The time here could not have gone better. David and Susan connected marvelously, which was an answered prayer. Long deployments are hard on a marriage and the two of them have worked hard to keep communicating and loving each other well. Twins Andrew and Nathan, at age 3.5, really enjoyed having their Daddy home. On Tuesday, David had Susan give him his very short Army haircut and the twins both said they wanted haircuts “just like Daddy.” Quite endearing. Little Berneice had her first birthday while David was here and she came to really enjoy this man she hasn’t seen since October. Feel free to take a look at the family photos

Middle son Nathan also joined us last weekend, flying in from Portland with girlfriend Allison, to see his brother and show Allison where he grew up. She’s a wonderful young woman, we really enjoyed her. Both David and Nathan included 18 year-old brother Matt in a lot of real activities, accepting the fact he’s not the “little brother” any more. Made Gretchen and me very pleased.

Gretchen saw him off early Wednesday morning, staying with the kids while Susan drove her hubby to the airport. David was in uniform, mentally preparing for the trip and the transition back to military duties. She commented “He’s a real man. He fills out that uniform and is truly responsible.” Indeed.

He’s set to return in late December, when his Army obligation will be over. Keep him safe, O Lord, and may we soon see an end to this war.

Persevere. Just like David and Susan are doing.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Races Report: Relay for Life, Alana 5k

ORN: Relay for Life: 7 miles, 1:10:19, R/W 4/1
Alana 5K Run: 5km, 24:12, 7:48/mile

Quick Summary: A crazy morning was huge fun. After a 7+ mile “warm up,” I ran a PR for 5km and felt great throughout.

More Details

As I reported in the last post, I decided to help our company’s team in a local cancer fundraiser. After umpiring a singularly forgettable baseball game Friday night (final score 18-3), I got up at 4:45am and headed to the High School track to run. The fund raiser started out with
great enthusiasm at 7pm Friday night. However, rain moved in overnight and by the time I got there at 5:30am in a steady drizzle, there were about 30 people still walking. I checked in with two of our folks who were still trudging on and then just started running.

It’s been a long time since I’ve run on a real track; come to think of it, I can’t remember doing so since I graduated from High School myself in (gasp) 1971. This track is only two years old and has a marvelous surface and my legs fell in love with it immediately. It shed water, had good traction in the rain and was wonderfully cushioned. I did a 4/1 run/walk and ran comfortably. It was a joy to run on this beautiful track in the rain as the sky slowly brightened for a good cause. Most of my running laps were in the 2:25 range, which felt quick. I was pleased, though, that my last lap turned at 2:08. That lap came around 6:50, as the organizers decided to call it quits. It was cool to hear them proudly announce the collective effort had raised over $220,000 for cancer research.

As I left the track, I saw the 5k race organizers setting up the start line literally 150 feet from the exit, preparing for their 8:15am start. Feeling hungry, I zipped over to a nearby Burger King and picked up the classic runner’s breakfast of 4 cini-minis and a sausage biscuit, all chased by Gatorade I had prepared earlier. I enjoyed this delectable culinary experience in the front seat of my well-traveled Saturn and then tilted the seat back to sleep for a half hour.

The race assembled with about 60 runners and walkers. I had dialed my Garmin to pace me to a 25:15 finish time with its virtual trainer and off we went. The rain opened up right around gun time and so we ran the whole race in a moderate rain shower. This kept it cool and very, very enjoyable. In fact, after my last two half-marathons in solid heat and humidity, it was a real joy.

I settled into steady pace that felt good and I kept the pace to be around 60-90 feet ahead of my virtual partner. Mile one went through at 7:53 and I settled in with a group of local cross country runners. Probably on the JV team, but, hey, youth is wonderful. The mile two marker was not clear…I hit my watch to show an 8:17 mile, but the Garmin later told me it was a 1.04 mile. Anyway, the pace was steady and, as the senior member of the cross-country team, I was keeping up.

At about the 2.6 mile mark, I found myself hitting a good stretch and passed the two girls who had paced me so wonderfully. Around a quarter mile from the finish line and I opened it up. I was pleased the legs were still with me. Alas, youth still ruled though, as the two girls caught and passed me with about 40 yards to go. Across the finish line we went, finishing in 24:12. The Garmin said I ran the last 1.07 miles in 8:01 or a 7:32 pace. The kick at the end helped.

As I drove home, I got to wondering if this might be a PR. Indeed it was, by 25 seconds. Interestingly, my previous 5k PR was in this same race, two years ago. It was fun to do a PR, it has been a while since I set one. The key lesson, to me, is the impact of weather. Today was almost a perfect running day. A light rain, full clouds, temps in the low 60s, a flat course and perfect pacing partners.

So, a very, very fun morning of running. Now, I’ll be following the exploits of two guys I know who are running
the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run today, tonight and tomorrow. Brian from our local running club is competing. Blogging pal Eric is also running, crewed by his blister-prone but strong-running wife Michelle and worthy pal Rob. As I write this at 11:10am EDT, both Brian and Eric should be nearing Red Star Ridge checkpoint. Many prayers for their experience, endurance and safety, particularly when they trudge on though the night.

Peresevere, and have some fun running.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Saturday Morning will be Interesting

ORN: 4 miles, 5/1 R/W, 40:02

The training plan calls for a 5k race to build some speed this weekend, along with 4-5 more miles besides the race. So I signed up for a small local fund-raising race that goes off at 8:15am at a local HS, figuring it would be easy enough to get in the other miles beforehand.

Then, at work on Tuesday, one of my colleagues pointed out that a number of our folks were doing an American Cancer Society Relay for Life fund raiser from 7pm to 7am, starting Friday night. This is a deal where a group attempts to walk for 12 hours in shifts. It takes place on the track at the same High School. She asked if I'd like to be part of the morning shift, like 5am to 7am. It truly hit one of the crazy, responsive chords for me.

So, I'm going for it. I'll be up early, run for 90-120 minutes at the Cancer fund raiser. Then, I'll have an hour to relax, then run a 5K at a target time of 25:15.

Will it work? I dunno. But it sure sounds like fun. Oh, did I mention I'm also umpiring the plate at a baseball game Friday night??

Stay tuned...if I'm still awake, I'll post more on Saturday.

Persevere...all day, all night.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lookin' for hills, in all the wrong places

ORN: 8 miles, with 6x400m hills @ 2:15 average

When our youngest was about 4 years old, he had a “Big Wheels” and we often walked in the neighborhood as he rode. One evening, he came to a place where a tree had been planted too close to the sidewalk and, over time, the roots had lifted the concrete. We saw him power up and over the bump, then stop, turn around and exclaim “Look, a hill!” Gretchen and I just sighed, feeling sad that we were raising children in a place with a topography so flat that a single maple tree could create a “hill.”

I’m happy to report that Matt is now a well-adjusted 18 year old, despite this childhood ordeal. Yet, the topography has not adjusted one inch. So, it took some thinking for me to figure out how to handle many of the summer runs on my training plan that call for hill running. As strange as this will seem to many of you, hills are hard to find.

After some thinking, I finally had a creative solution. A
city park, built on an area that drains into the famous Wabash River which runs through our fair city, has a recently-improved trail surface that snakes down a long hill. I laid out a 400m section of it last weekend that had a challenging but not knee-buckling incline and ran it this morning.

What a treat.

Mind you, it was 2.5 miles of flat running to even get to this hill, but that proved a good warm up. Upon descending onto the trail, the environment transformed from a morning of hot, muggy asphalt reflection into a cool, shady, wildlife-laden oasis. The visual pleasure was immense.

The plan called for 6x400m of hills at a 10km race pace. Since I have no clue right now what my 10k race pace would be, I simply ran it reasonably hard. The splits were pretty consistent, averaging 2:15. Later, I checked
The McMillan Running Calculator which would put my target time at 2:10 for these splits. So, I’ll try for that next time.

One week down training for the
Rocket City Marathon. Feelin’ good and perseverin’, even here in the flatlands.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Home on Leave from Baghdad

ORN: 4 miles, all run, 38:02

Son David got home this afternoon for two weeks of leave from his Army tour in Baghdad. After about 5 days of travel, he was tired but very grateful to be home with his wife Susan and three kids. Some quick photos...rejoice with us in his safety.
Susan was obviously thrilled to have hubby home.
Twins Nathan and Andrew were bouncing all over, saying "Daddy's home! Daddy's home!"
And Gretchen and I could not have been more pleased.
Persevere. Especially during life's long deployments.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Countdown to Rocket City Marathon begins Monday

ORN: Saturday: 7 miles, 1:09:01, R7/W1, 9:51/mile

Had a delightful early morning run on Saturday on our local
trail system. The humidity was down and what a difference that makes. One fun surprise: I got to take a survey! With Purdue University in town, we often see survey takers because professors need to write papers to keep their jobs and have to do research in order to have something to write about and have to take surveys to have data for the research. A young grad student ( aren’t they all young? ) was sitting along the trail with a sign asking for volunteers, so I stopped and helped. She had questions about how often I use the trail and for how long. It was fun, as I am a big fan (and user) of the trail system. She gave me an info sheet about the survey and, when I got home, I read it. Oh the joy of academia…the survey was to test the reliability of surveys. Hey, I was there.

Monday marks the beginning of a 26 week training effort leading to the
Rocket City Marathon on December 8. I got word at work this week that the one manadatory work obligation I thought might interfere with this race will happen on December 14-15. So, I’m clear to shoot for this event in Huntsville, Alabama.

The training program lines up nicely with the seasons here. Most of the summer is occupied with hill work and shorter speed work. The real distance work doesn’t kick in until late August, then builds through the fall. Have I mentioned before how fall is the best time of year to run here in Indiana? And how much I missed all the long runs last fall? Yeah, I thought I did. Not this year…I want to relish the fall.

This program (from Jeff Galloway) includes two marathon-length runs in training. One will nicely coincide with the
Indianapolis Marathon on October 20, so I’ll do a training run and get “credit” for it. The other 28 mile run is set for November 17 and I can find no marathon anywhere near here that weekend. So, I’ll just do a long run here. I’ll fit in a few other races as distance and timing and the price of gasoline allow.

I hope all your surveys are highly reliable…even if they aren’t, persevere anyway.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Race Report: Sunburst Half Marathon

ORN; 13.1 miles, 2:07:23, 9:43/mile

Summary: On a hot and muggy day, the first 7 miles went great; the last 6 were tough. Each race teaches much. This one was no different. The experience was great, though the time was not.

The Race Itself

Tony, a friend from our local running club doing his 44th marathon, and I headed to South Bend Friday after work. We got our bibs and packets before they closed at 8pm, grabbed some dinner and were then pampered at every turn as we stayed in the lap of luxury at Motel 6-South Bend (note to self; next time at Motel 6, bring your own towel). We slept well.

With Tony’s marathon starting at 6am, we were up and heading for the start line by 5am. We scored a primo parking place near the start line at that early hour, still well before sunrise. We found a nice park bench near the start area and had a wonderful 35 minutes sitting, talking, enjoying the music and energy of the 500 or so marathoners gathering. We knew that since it was so comfortable before sunrise that the day held quite a bit of heat for us, yet we chose not to think much about it. I saw Tony off at 6, then had 90 minutes before the HM started at 7:30. So, I went back to my car, listened to one of my
favorite CDs and got ready.

At 7:30, we were off. I was determined to hold to a steady pace and had my splits in large font to remind me. I took it easy at first and felt comfortable. I did notice, though, even before the first mile marker, just how much I was sweating. That was a clue to the day I tried not to notice.

The entire course wound through wonderful older residential areas. Many residents put out sprinklers for us to run through, which really helped. My first five splits were at 8:47, 8:54, 8:37, 9:01, 9:02. I had a little over a minute in hand on my 1:59 target.

After a turn around, I found my stomach getting a bit queasy. I stopped for a short pit stop as well and the next two miles were still OK at 8:56 and 9:20. We then crossed the St. Joe River into another attractive residential area. By this time the local time was about 8:45am and the temperature had moved through the 70s, into the low 80s. And it got tough. Miles 8,9 and 10 deteriorated to 10:02, 9:30 and 10:47. I could feel it slipping away. The heat and humidly (over 90%) was taking a toll. I tried to find a run/walk rhythm, as my original 5/:30 ratio was no longer working. Eventually, I reset my watch to a paltry 3/1:30 ratio. It seemed to work. While miles 11 and 12 stunk at 11:24 and 11:44, I pulled mile 13 in at 10:21 and finished at 2:07:23. So I missed not only my A goal of 1:57, and my B goal of 2 hours, but also just missed my C goal of 2:06.

What did I learn?

Once more, as if I need to learn this again, it was so evident that weather is a huge influence on performance. Person after person I talked to afterwards spoke of how their runs crashed about the same time of day. Tony was on track for a 4:10 marathon until he hit mile 18, also at about 8:45 am. He then struggled to get hit home, doing 13 minute shuffles, finishing in 4:35. He said of all his 44 marathons, he has never hit the wall as hard as he did today. As modern people, we think we are not governed by the weather as our agrarian forbearers were. Not so, when we choose to go outside.

When I got home, I pulled out Galloway’s Book of Running and noted that in these weather conditions, I should have added 1:10 to 1:48 per mile to my pace as an equivalent effort. This encouraged me. Since my actual finishing pace was only 0:41 over my A goal target, I had some assurance that I was at least fit enough and ready enough to have hit the target.

A very pleasant result of the race was the non-factor of my knee or ITB. It was such a non-factor, that I didn't event think about it until my sister asked me about it after the race. Very encouraging.

The other big learning was about dehydration. I’ve dehydrated a few times before and it is no fun. This time was early-stage dehydration. Again, when the weather is this hot, I have to increase the fluid intake. During the second half of the race, the Gatorade I had in my fuel belt tasted lousy to me. I need to cut the concentration in half and make it more palatable on a hot stomach.

The Experience

While the running itself was tough, I enjoyed of the day. Most significant was some wonderful memories of my Dad, particularly as I ground through the last four miles, approaching the Notre Dame campus. On my back I had his photograph from the leather helmet days of 1930s college football. I thought about what practices in August must have been like for him. I could only imagine the hot, dusty fields without any of the amenities modern college athletes enjoy. And it was fun to think of him as a young man grinding through that, proving himself, earning a place as a key lineman. It is at moments like this that I miss him the most; not being able to pick up the phone and call him and describe the day. I could almost hear him laughing at me struggling with the heat and saying “You think YOU struggled?? Let me tell you about the time…” It was special. Blogging buddy
Will wrote recently about parental influence as he mused on his daughter’s high school graduation. As a parent, we never stop influencing, for good or for bad. My Dad is still a marvelous influence, despite being gone for over 13 years. And the amazing hip is just starting his influence.

The finish of this race is just awesome, as I have described before. Running along the outside of ND Stadium, one can sense the finish nearing and the drama building before the turn into the tunnel and down onto the field. In the tunnel itself, they continuously play the Notre Dame Fight Song, with huge crowd noise in the background. And they crank it up. So much so, that in that mere 10-15 seconds in the tunnel, I almost expected to pop on to the field and find the stadium filled to capacity. Making the run to the 50 yard line and the finish is a rush. The link to my Dad’s playing on the same surface makes it all the better.

Silly Stuff

As we entered the ND campus, we ran past the
Notre Dame Mendoza College Of Business. I’m sure it is a fine department. But, as a baseball fan, it made me laugh out loud to see the sign. I instantly made the link in my mind to famous (in baseball) Mendoza Line, baseball’s derisive term of ineptitude. At that point in the race, I knew I had the running equivalent of a sub-.200 batting average and thought it a funny but cruel reminder.

After the race, I saw a marathon runner finish his race wearing noting but running shoes and a very small, leopard-skin Speedo. Seriously. He had his race number gingerly tucked into the side. It was pretty gross, as we’ll just say this guy’s physique was not “displayable” like that. Rather, it made you want to avert your eyes. Oh my.


Three years in a row I’ve run this race now. My times have been 2:09, 1:53 and 2:07. The experience has been awesome. Weather matters. And running always teaches much.

Persevere. No matter the weather.