Saturday, July 28, 2007

“Invited” is not the same as “Elite”

ORN: 6 miles, 4/1. Then 5 mile race; 48:58, 9:53/mile

After reading Rob’s account of
The Epic 24 Summit Run he and Eric did last weekend, I feel a little sheepish reporting a mere 5 mile race out here on the flatlands. Suffice it to say, I’m in awe of those two guys, their friends and, of course, their den mother.

I hadn’t planned on racing this weekend but I was an “invited runner” to this race. Never have had that happen before. The race was a fund raiser for one of the local HS cross country teams. The daughter of friends of ours is a freshman on the team and she wrote me a nice letter asking me to please, oh please help out the team and run the race. So, hey, how do you say no to that??

The schedule called for 11 miles on Saturday with 5 one-mile intervals at 9:15. So I figured I’d run six miles early and then see if I could string 5 9:15s together in the race. At least, that was the plan.

I followed what has become my default summer race plan. I umpired a fantastic baseball game on Friday night (more about that on a separate post later). I got up early and did 6. Grabbing a dry shirt I headed across town to the race. While driving over, I continued to push the pre-race nutritional envelope by downing fast-food cini-minis chased with Accelerade. Arriving at the start area, it was evident why young Angela had pleaded with me to run the race. Only about 50 people got the message and showed up. Further, runners had the option of running either 5K or 8K. I opted for the longer race, not knowing what awaited.

The race was a first for me. We ran on the cross country course this school uses. I’ve never in my life run on an actual cross country course, so this was kind of cool. The course snaked in and around the extended grounds of this large high school. We ducked in and out of trees, around buildings, over sidewalks, down and up drainage areas and through the middle of the long jump pit next to the track. 8K runners ran 3 loops, 5K runners only two.

So out we went. I set my Garmin for a 9:15 pace which put me at the back of the pack early. Mile 1 went by at 9:04, but faded to 9:22 for mile 2. Somewhere in the next mile, 8 innings of tense baseball plus the 95% humidity plus the 6 early miles plus the cini-minis got to me and I faded. Mile 3 hit 10:23 and sagged further in mile 4 to 11:02. I recovered somewhat and did mile 5 in 9:06 and felt OK at the end.

And it was the end. The very end. On the third lap of the CC course I noted that I was Very Alone. Turned out only about 15 people opted for the 8K race and I was dead last, also a first for me. It was funny, in that at one point on the third lap I could see the Guy At The Water Table walking out to get a view to see if there were any life forms left on the course. When I got to his station, I let him know I was last and his work was done. It’s always nice to bring pure joy to someone. I got a similar reaction at the finish line. About 10 seconds after I crossed the line, they had the cones loaded onto a cart and were heading out.

So, to be invited is not to be elite. Just hope I didn’t hurt Angela’s chances of making the JV team by her being associated with a slow plodder!

Persevere. On the summits or in the long-jump pit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's a good run when...

ORN: 5 miles, R4/W1

…you are up before dawn, just throw on a tee shirt and shorts and head out the door.

…you see the first dim light before dawn, turning to grey, purple and orange gradually and beautifully.

…you see a “tablecloth” of ground fog laying across low points on the trail in the still, cool morning air.

…you run into the “tablecloth” and it disappears, then reappears as you pop out on the other side.

…the birds are so loud in their pre-dawn glee you can’t hear your watch beeping.

…you stop and speak to two friends, each recovering from surgery, out walking, gaining strength, feeling and looking great.

…you laugh out loud while running, thinking of Michelle being the first to identify the left-handed infielder as unusual.

…the left knee you tweaked last week when making a call at third base is mostly better.

…you remember a college friend who is coming up on the anniversary of a family tragedy and you remember to write him a note of encouragement.

…you remember it would have been your mother’s 90th birthday and you smile at her memory.

…you persevere through rotten weather, injury and distractions to enjoy a run like this.


Friday, July 20, 2007

My Other Hobby

Blogging (and commenting on blogs) has been spotty the past couple of weeks as I’ve been intensely involved in my other sporting hobby; umpiring Little League Baseball.

I’ve loved baseball as long as I can remember. I played through High School and my freshman year at Purdue as a decent fielding but weak-hitting catcher. While still in high school, I started umpiring for youth games and stuck with it later. When my own kids started playing munchkin baseball in the mid 80s, I resumed umpiring and have been doing it ever since for our local Little League. Here I am with my long-time buddy Jim before one of the games.

Each July, we start the tournaments that lead, eventually, to the
Little League World Series. It’s a huge tournament with more games than all the games played in a single Major League Baseball season. Our district consists of 12 small to mid-size communities in west-central Indiana. I’ve just spent 11 of 13 consecutive evenings driving to many of these little towns to umpire. These towns and games are as far away from the hype and ego of the Major Leagues as can be, which is what gives it such charm. Each town puts its best 12 year olds together and they play. Baseball, about as pure as it can be.

One field literally backs up to a huge corn field, not at all unlike the mythical “Field of Dreams” in Iowa. A kid hit a towering home run over the left field fence of this field, into the corn. Now, we usually give the ball to any kid hitting one out but we couldn’t find this one. At least not at first…after a while, his Mom came back in, ball in hand. “I had to go 15 rows deep to find it!” she exclaimed, a little grubby but happy to find the souvenir for her son. No steroids involved in that home run, just a strong farm kid with an aluminum bat pounding a corn belt-high fastball into the field.

This photo showed up in a local
newspaper article this morning from a game I worked on Monday night. A buddy of mine wryly observed “At least you were looking at the right place.” Here’s a quick quiz for you baseball aficionados: In this picture of a play at second base, there is one thing you don't normally see in baseball. What is it?? First person to correctly answer gets a shout out.

Five more nights of baseball remain, as the top 8 teams in Indiana show up at our local field to determine the state championship. It will be nice to just go 5 blocks to umpire and it will be some good baseball.

Persevere. Especially with a 3 and 2 count.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Race Report: Zoo Run Run 5K-ish Race

ORN: 11.6 for the day; 7 miles, 1:12:57, R4/W1
5km Race: 24:05, 7:44/mile, new PR

The schedule called for 10 miles today, including a 5km time trial at 25:15. Conveniently, our local zoo had a 5K fund raiser this morning. So, I went out early and did a comfortable 7 miles on the Celery Bog route at a little over a 10:15 pace. It was fantastically beautiful to be out so early on a Saturday morning. I got home, grabbed a dry shirt and headed across town to run the 5K. One of the nice things about living in this city of 150,000 people is that “across town” is only a 12 minute drive.

Did I mention it was a spectacularly beautiful July morning in Indiana? The low humidity and 62F temperature at the start of the race was a marvelous gift. Given these nice conditions, I decided to push the pace to see if I could drop my 5K time below 24 minutes.

The race had some 400 participants and we took off on time. It took a while to find a hole to run in but I settled in comfortably a half mile or so into the race. As we approached the one-mile mark on my Garmin, I started looking for a mark or a timer to check the split. Nothing. Since I had turned off the auto-split feature on the Garmin, I have no idea what the split was, though I did guess it was under 8. So, we just kept motoring. We wound through some neighborhoods near the zoo and there was nothing really remarkable. I started looking for a 2 mile marker. Nothing. We carried on. Coming back towards the park, the Garmin told me we had about .3 miles to go, so I opened it up, as I sensed I had a shot at getting under 24.

We turned a corner and I saw the finish line and the legs felt strong, ready for a good finish. Then I saw a barrier, with a volunteer directing us to the left. I saw folks finishing, but coming from the opposite direction. What was going on?? Turned out the course marshals sent us on a wrong turn at the start and the course was actually about 3.6, not 3.1 miles long.

I was still pushing in my kick, based on a 5K finish distance. So, I decided to keep kicking and then hit the stop button when my Garmin said 3.11 miles. That was my objective and what I needed from a training plan. My watch stopped at 24:05, short of my goal, but still a PR over the 5K race I had a month ago.

I walked and jogged the rest of the course, grabbed some bananas and enjoyed the free pancakes and sausage they offered. I ended up meeting another local runner over the flapjacks and we were both surprised to meet someone who also runs marathons. So, despite the disorganization of the race, it was an enjoyable morning. Did I mention the weather??

More importantly, this little race has historical significance for me. I ran it 3 years ago as the first race in this new era of my running. Due to work demands, I had not run much for 7 years, hadn’t raced at all in that period and only started running again in May 2004 when I started my current job. I hesitatingly entered this race just to see what would happen. I distinctly remember wondering at the start if I could even run the distance without walking. I had lousy shoes, wore two neoprene knee braces to ease the joint pain, had not discovered wicking fabric, weighed 12 pounds more than I do now and was generally clueless. Amazingly, I did run the full distance in 29:45, a 9:36 pace, which stunned me. I just re-read my running log from the day which I concluded writing: “If I get to the point of running a 10K race comfortably whenever I want to, I’ll be pleased.”

Fast-forward three years and a lot has happened. It is a marvelous gift to have the health to run and run comfortably. And I am pleased.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hill Work, followed by a First

Obligatory Running News (ORN): 11 miles, with 10x400m hills @ 2:05

Hard to believe I’ve moved through the first phase of training on my 26-week program ramping to the
Rocket City Marathon on December 8. That phase is Lydiard-esqe hill work over the past few weeks. I’ve never really done intentional hill work, given that hills are hard to find anyway here in northern Indiana. This has been enjoyable, though. The next phase ramps up the endurance; long runs every other weekend with mile repeats on the other weekends, plus a few 5K time trials thrown in.

Today’s run was just plain hot, as temps were near 80 by 10am and the humidity was also in the 80s. Yet, descending into the
city park trail I described a few weeks ago was a joy. In the canopy of trees in full summer growth, I enjoyed total shade and the humidity seemed not so onerous. The ten 400m hill repeats passed quickly. I was surprised to average 2:05 for the set, with a low of 1:57 and the high only 2:09. The surprise was due to the heat, plus the fact I had umpired 5 hours of baseball on Friday night in the same heat and humidity. I didn’t expect much from the run, yet it was still useful.

The other surprise was that, despite getting home near midnight from umpiring, I was still anxious to get out the door on Saturday morning to run 11 miles. Most people would find that fully insane. I guess it makes sense, though, when one enjoys running.

The “first” came when I got back from the run. Daughter-in-law Susan was here, with all three of our grandkids. The twins, Nathan and Andrew, wanted to know if they could go run with me. Of course we did! We got their shoes on, went outside and I suggested we “run to the corner” about 80m from our front door. Off we went, a grandpa and two three-year olds, what a sight. The twins ran all the way, we took a short break and quickly ran back. As the two of them are boys and thus not confidently potty-trained yet, it occurred to me that their clothing for this run gave a whole new meaning to the term “training pants.” They ran in the house and proudly reported “We went running with Grandpa Joe!” What a thrill for me…I hope we can have many more runs.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Permission Marketing

ORN: 3 miles, with 5 100m accelerations

This might be interesting…then again, it might not. I’ll track it for you, publicly.

I got an email today from a nice person at
Accelerade who found this blog, apparently. She invited me to be a part of their “endurance athlete community.” In return for me signing up, she offered to send me 30 20oz bottles of Accelerade free. She asked me to discuss my reaction to the product here on the blog.

Since no company has ever asked my opinion about a running product, I gave them the OK this evening.


Mostly because I’m fascinated by business, manufacturing and how ideas spread. The concept of
permission marketing is one of those ideas central to the digital world. It bypasses traditional mass advertising and, instead, goes for very specific targeting of the exact market a company wants to reach. And then, when well done, it attempts to get others to talk about the product. Correctly, they assume a fellow user’s recommendation will be far more effective than mass advertising. Accelerade is clearly trying to do this and I salute their intent.

So, I’m participating and I’ll do it fully! They asked me to evaluate the product and I’ll do that. This is what blogging is…a very public, unvarnished discussion.

I’ve been a Gatorade drinker for a long time, though I’ve also used
GU2O successfully as well. I’ll also comment on the marketing side of their offer. Do they do what they said they will do? Do they respect my email privacy, as they said? Do they deliver? If so, it is a solid company. If not, well, then it won’t. Either way, I’ll keep you posted here.

Shoot, this may be the only time I’ll ever be asked for an endorsement!!!

Persevere. You have my full permission.