Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Review of 2008

ORN: 5.2 miles, 52:18, R3/W1, 10:04/mile

The drive home from Huntsville, Alabama a little over a year ago was a long one and not just because of 9+ hours in the car. My much-anticipated run in the Rocket City Marathon had gone very badly and I beat myself up quite a bit on the first half of that drive. I finally did start to think more proactively, and published my thoughts at the time here.

Therefore, it was a treat to reflect on 2008 during this morning’s simple 5 miler.

Modifying my general running goal to “Run the Best Race Conditions Allow” really was huge, more than I even anticipated. I went into each of the nine races I ran this year with a rational plan, based on my conditioning and understanding of the weather. In all but one case, I executed the plan; my serious bonk in the US Air Force Marathon was a wonderful teacher, despite the major errors I made there.

The other key element for 2008 was to make races more frequent so I would not pin particular hopes too highly on any one of them. This went wonderfully. Timing shifted such that I ran 5 half marathons in 9 weeks in the spring…what a hoot that was. Three marathons fell onto the schedule for the fall and I felt like I am now just starting to scratch the surface of what this distance can teach. Then, sandwiched between, was an amazing 6 hour trail run on July 5, covering 27.5 miles of humid Indiana woodland. That race was a treat…and I may well do it again next summer.

The log shows 1,116 miles for the year. Not a lot of miles; lower than both my 2005 and 2006 totals. But I did it injury-free with more races and more fun. Not a bad combo.

It was a good year and I’m very thankful to have the time and the health to keep on running. I’m incredibly thankful for this wonderful “virtual community” of distance runners. Your friendship and interest means so much to me!! I wish the very best for 2009 to you and yours as we all persevere.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

ORN: 8.6 miles, 1:29:08, R3/W1, 10:22/mile

There's an old story here in Indiana about the newcomer complaining about the weather. "Aw, quit your whining" says the native. "Wait 30 minutes and it'll change." The old guy was on the money this week.

Last Sunday, we had wind chills of 30 of the most bitterly cold days I can remember the past few years. Today, it was 64 and I ran in shorts and a T shirt, sweating in the humidity. So much for winter.

I set out to do 13 miles, wanting to get back on track for some spring marathons I'm targeting. Alas, the left ITB that flared up in the later miles of the Memphis Marathon made another appearance. Around mile 8 or so, I started noticing it. As usual, it crept up quickly and soon it was obvious today's run was over. I cut the route short and walked the mile home.

I'm not too concerned. The ITB flared at 4 miles two weeks ago and I've done shorter runs with no problem since then. So, with more ice, foam rolling and a little TLC, I'm confident it will improve. In the big scheme of things, it really isn't much at all.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve, 2008

December 24 surprises me every year. I never quite know what to expect.

Late on Christmas Eve, 1993, my Dad died after a year-long battle with colon cancer. We were close. Even though he lived well for nearly 78 years, it was hard to grasp then that he was gone. And it is still hard to grasp, at some level. Over the years, I’ve noted it wasn’t the huge, profound conversations we had sitting in his pickup on our Nebraska farm I miss; we had many of them and he died with us in a marvelously wonderful relationship, nothing left to say. Rather, what I miss is just picking up the phone and talking about what’s going on, anything from understanding corn price movement to unusual comments by some distant relative to Notre Dame football.

This year, my own feelings are better than normal. Grateful for Dad and all he taught me by word and example. I feel that gratitude with my sons in adulthood and three grandkids growing oh-so-rapidly. Plus friends have recent pains. A Christmas letter yesterday brought news of the untimely death of a friend late this fall. Jenny wrote of her father-in-law’s death last week. All these things hurt. Even in the presence of the good relationships each had.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this evening, my mind goes to my Dad. And it also goes to all of those who have someone missing. I hope and pray that space can be filled with thoughts of Emmanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas. I’m grateful for all of my running friends!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


ORN: none...still resting ITB

It's now official:

I'm now a member of the Marathon Maniacs, #1,228, complete with my very own list of marathons finished. My shirt arrived today in the mail and it finally feels real.

It's a little unclear to me why I pursued this or why it is such a quiet pleasure. The best I can come up with is this is the first serious thing I've ever earned in distance running. I'm sure glad membership is about endurance and not speed.

And maybe that is the entire reason for the pursuit; it emulates so much of life. Endurance very, very often trumps speed.

I'm honored to be in such great company. It'll be fun to meet more MMs at races and not to have to say "Hey, I'm going to qualify." Thanks for having me.

As we all persevere.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Memphis Marathon Thoughts and Pix

ORN: 5 miles, still with ITB pain

In no particular order, various items from the marathon last Saturday.

We had a great dinner on Friday night with David and his wife Gayle.

While the conversation certainly had a lot about running, it ranged much wider than just that. A most enjoyable evening, indeed!

Running an even pace Darrell alerted me to data in the results section which I find fascinating. We ran a very even pace overall from the timing mat data. Through 6.2, 13.1, 20 and 26.2 miles, we had a per-mile pace of 10:25, 10:26, 10:34 and 10:34, respectively. Interestingly, in my 55-59 age group of 70 finishers, I was in 44th, 43rd, 41st and 34th place at each split. I obviously didn’t go any faster, yet kept moving up as others faded. Finishing in the top half of my age group is a major accomplishement.

Race morning photos

Darrell is lookin' good, ready to roll. The shin thingie on his right leg held up well. Our hard-earned tape kept it stuck in place perfectly.

I however, being a card-carrying male person, had not even remotely given a thought to the color scheme of what I was going to wear on race day; I only was concerned about managing the cool temperatures and so packed the shirts to do this. But when I pulled this on, I suddenly realized I looked like a “Salute to the Green Bay Packers.” As a Chicago Bears fan, this is a Very Bad Idea. But, I had to go with it...I had no options in the bag. At least I had no Packer logos anywhere. And, bad color and all, it was the right combo to wear on a windy day in the 30s.

Tastes like chicken, part 1 In previous marathons, I’ve had trouble with my stomach; not last week. Somewhere around mile 19, we ran past a row of coffee houses and small grills; the smells were wonderful. Since it was around noon by then, I was getting hungry. I asked Darrell “So what do we want to do for lunch after the race?” “Dude, we’re not even to mile 20 yet.” “No, seriously, what should we have? I’m thinking a nice burger would taste good.” “Joe, really, lose it.” I backed off…but thought about food all the way in.

Fantasy Baseball I really liked the idea of ending the race in a baseball stadium, a wonderful intersection of my favorite two sports. While driving down, I had an idea of how to link the two. When Darrell and I surveyed the finish line area on Friday night, I realized it was possible. Around mile 5 of the marathon, I told Darrell what I was thinking, if I was still in good shape at the finish. He laughed and realized (again) I am a little wacky. I debated for much of the last couple of miles whether to do it or not (when I wasn’t thinking about food). As we rounded the last turn and headed into the stadium, I decided to do it.

We came into the stadium through the outfield wall in right-center field and made a sharp left onto the warning track. About 40 feet from the foul line, I began angling from the grass side of the warning track to the wall side, shouting in a baseball-announcer type voice:

”There’s a deep drive!! It’s hooking down the line!! It could be trouble!!! Ely’s back, back, back, at the wall!!! He leaps….”

At which point I jumped as high as I could with an imaginary Rawlings baseball glove on my raised left hand and crashed into the outfield wall at the base of the foul pole. Seriously, I really did crash the wall. And I kept announcing as I did it.

…AND HE MAKES THE CATCH! The Cubs win the Series!! The Cubs win the World Series!!!!!

And the assembled people along the front row, waiting patiently for their family member to stagger home, suddenly woke up with this crazy man in a yellow shirt crashing the wall and they all started clapping! What a hoot! I ran towards the infield (and finish line) with the imaginary ball held high over head.

I was disappointed in my leap…the wall was only eight feet high and I really wanted to get above the top of the wall and pull back a home run. But I didn’t have the hops in my legs at that point, so had to be content to simply rob the imaginary hitter of a double off the wall. Yet it was a crazy, fun way to end the race. I had about three other cool baseball moments, but I’ll spare you those details.

Tastes like chicken, part 2 The Memphis folks had one of the better food spreads for runners afterwards. Greeting us first was a big table piled high with Krispy Kreme donuts. I told Darrell, “I’m going to have one of these for Rob” remembering his recent downing of several Krispy Kremes during the Seattle Marathon two weeks ago. Boy, were they tasty. So much so, I had a second one a little later, also for Rob.

You are so very welcome David, Darrell and I were all impressed with the degree of community support the marathon had in Memphis. We all noted we had never been thanked so often and so sincerely for running a race. As a fund raiser for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, folks in town appreciated the race and what it meant. The hospital is a point of pride for the city and justifiably so. We felt incredibly welcomed and supported.

Tastes like chicken, part 3 Well, we never did get any lunch, what with the spread after the race which we could nibble on. After cleaning up, though, we did head down to Beale Street for some real Memphis BarBQ. Here we are in our race t shirts, ready to dive into some serious pulled pork, BBQ beans and cole slaw. Real comfort food after a long run.

It was a great race and a great weekend. I recommend the event highly, even if you are not a baseball fan. It was a wonderful way to cap off a full year of running.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Race Results: St. Jude Memphis Marathon

Saturday, Dec 6, 2008: 26.2 miles, R3/W1, 4:36:48, 10:34/mile

Quick Summary

The Memphis Marathon came together wonderfully. Darrell and I ran the race together, hoping for a 4:40. We beat that by just over three minutes; better yet was a smooth, event-free race. Darrell knocked off his first marathon in a year; I qualified for insanity. Some ITB inflammation remains but does not take away from a terrific race weekend.

The Details

There is so much to say about this weekend, I’ll spread it out over several posts. For this report, I’ll give you the facts. Philosophizing will keep for later.

I made the eight-hour drive to Memphis Friday afternoon, meeting Darrell mid afternoon. Race registration was very smooth and the expo was nice. We walked downtown, got a good look at the finish line at Memphis’ AAA baseball park and then met David and his wife for dinner. What a treat! Running was a key topic but the conversation ranged much more widely than just the obvious connection.

Race morning started early. I snuck out of the room around 5am (start time was 8am) and hung out in the lobby for a while. This is always fun at a host hotel…lots of folks milling around, nervous energy abounds. We walked the half mile to the starting line around 7 and saw David again. He was gunning for a sub-4 hour race and lined up ahead of us. Darrell and I had decided on a 4:40 goal, so headed for the correct corral. Mostly we just tried to stay warm. Start temp was in the low 30s; “throw away” sweats were the fashion choice of the day for most folks.

Our corral crossed the start line about 8:20 am and finally we were moving. Our pace called for 10:28 miles through the first 19 miles, using a 3/1 run/walk plan. The first mile was fairly crowded and took us 11:01. We began to pick our way through the pack and found more of a rhythm. By mile 5, we had shed our throw-away sweats (though we found ours later, thanks to a curious ecclesiastical coincidence) and were 5 seconds ahead of pace. Two layers of tech shirts plus gloves seemed to be adequate.

The race then settled out. We headed for a big loop of the city. One porta-pottie stop modified the pace a bit around mile 8 but by mile 10, we were still 8 seconds ahead of pace. There were lots of folks running; the half marathon had 8,000 entrants and the full marathon had 3,000, so there was no shortage of conversation. Darrell was great to be with. He also tolerated my less-than-generous view of the plaintive wails from some local female folk singers along the course—friendship extends some space at times.

Heading back to downtown, we finally separated with the half marathoners. We suddenly had a lot more room to run. We crossed the half-marathon timing mat at 2:16:34. We did some quick math and realized this was leaving us in good shape for a 4:40 full marathon.

Other math exercises bothered me a bit. My own hydration plan called for 20 oz of water per hour. Yet, at the halfway mark, I was drinking at half that pace. I had let the cool temperatures make me think I needed less water. I reloaded my bottles at a water stop and started drinking more. At mile 15, we were 45 seconds ahead of pace and feeling positive, enjoying the second loop through Memphis.

And I expected something would then “happen.” I first noticed the left ITB around mile 16. It took me a little while to grasp just what was going on but soon it was unmistakable. Yep, that was the ITB, talking to me again. What to do? While I had tried to find “flat” parts of the road to run on all along, the overall camber of the route sloped to the right. At this point I became a lot more diligent (desperate?) to get to the middle of the road, trying to stay flat. The pain lessened somewhat as I did this. I don’t know if it is connected or not, but the more fluid I drank, the easier the pain seemed as well.

By mile 19, we were at the far part of the course and made the turn for a long straight shot to downtown. The trees arching over the mature residential street was a terrific setting. We hit mile 21 and had 3:45 ahead of the pace we needed for a 4:40. I had the ITB, Darrell was persevering with quad pain yet the 3/1 rhythm just seemed to be working fine. Around mile 24, we got tired and added about 30 seconds per mile to the pace. But, by then, we could see the lights of the ball park and knew we’d finish.

Around mile 25.5, I had some concerns about just what my ITB was going to do, so let Darrell go on ahead; he was on a roll and I didn’t want to slow him. I quit taking any walk breaks, as it was easier to simply run and not stop and start. Darrell did the same. We rounded a corner, ran onto the ball field through the right-center field wall, followed the warning track to the right-field foul pole, finishing midway to first base. Darrell finished about 30 seconds ahead of me and waited for me to cross. Huge smiles and a big hug awaited. We were done and had achieved our goal.

There is nothing quite adequate to describe the finish of a marathon. This was my tenth and it never gets old, even though each one is unique. Why is this so?? That will be another post.

There’s much more to describe; I’ll post more later along with some photos. Being with Darrell was simply huge; we have a lot in common and enjoy the time together. Meeting up with with David was also a big treat. A well organized race is always a joy. So, for now, share the joy with me. Three marathons this fall and it’s been good to run with perseverance through it all.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day, 2008

ORN: 5.1 miles, R7/W1, 48:49, 9:35/mile

Thanksgiving happened at our house this year. Wonderfully, we had our entire family together. Matt is home from college, reading more Shakespere and catching up on sleep. Nathan is in from Portland, enjoying his hometown. He's become quite the accomplished cook; here are some action photos of Nathan making an apple pie for the family celebration.

Our three grandkids are a hoot. They are at such fun ages, with the twins almost 5 and Berneice now 2 1/2.




With Gretchen's folks in attendance, we had the unique privilege of four generations around the table. This is also the first Thanksgiving in five years that David has been with us. As we saw many tributes to the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world today, we were both grateful that he is now home and identified with the very real ache of those families with soldiers far away.

Four generations, together.

We have much to be thankful for. Not the least of which is this wonderful, extended running community. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

And keep on persevering.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Taper Fun

ORN: 12.7 miles, 2:03:42, R7/W1, 9:45/mile

Many thanks for the many comments to my last post about trying to keep the same model of shoes. I see I'm not the only one who has struggled with this model switch. I've tracked down one pair already and have a line on a second. If I can get the second, I should be set through the spring marathon season. My wife is a wonderfully patient woman, as she hears such prattle and watches shoes stack up around the house. Thank you dear.

My knees/ITBs settled down nicely in short runs during the week in proper shoes. Today's schedule, two weeks out from the Memphis Marathon, called for a mere 8 miler but that sure felt wimpy. I went out thinking I'd do 10 and then pushed it to 12 and then, hey, I just kept going a while longer.

I decided to employ the taper principle of decreasing mileage but increasing the intensity. For me, that means going from my usual 5/1 run/walk ratio to a 7/1. Plus I pushed the pace of my run segments about 30 sec/mile quicker than I plan to do in Memphis (where I'll do a 3/1).

And, man, did it feel good. I felt like I was pushing it but yet it was maintainable. I didn't have a single whimper from the knees, hammies, ITBs or ankles. I felt more ready than I have for a while to take on 26.2.

I'm starting to eye the weather in Memphis for December 6. It typically runs about 12 degrees warmer than it is here in N Central Indiana. If that holds, we could have a dandy day to run. But, in any event, I'll seek to "run the best race conditions allow."

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What to do with the shoe

ORN, Saturday: 20.7 miles, R2/W1 (mostly), 3:57:44, 11:30/mile

The long run three weeks ahead of a marathon is intended, among other things, as a final shake down for race day. Yesterday’s long run (intended to be 28 miles) fit that description but not all as I anticipated.

The good news was I did a final, satisfactory test of Salt Stick tablets. I popped one at the top of each hour. They sat just fine on my stomach and I had no cramping, wooziness or tingles in my feet as I do when I start to lose electrolyte balance. They will be quite simple to haul along on race day. I also reaffirmed my geeky practice of labeling Gu packs, mistake-proofing the time to eat each one.

I also had two cool “unexpected” fun parts to the run. The first was an active screech owl prowling one of the woods I run through. Wow, what a sight and sound. The second was seeing fast runners. The NCAA Regional Cross Country championships were going on at 11am Saturday at the Purdue Cross Country course, right next to the trail I run on. The timing was such that women’s teams from Indiana, Miami (OH), Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin were warming up on the trail just as I came through. What a contrast…these young, tiny, graceful, fluid college runners next to the big, lumbering 55 year-old slow guy. Ah, but we were all running and that was cool.

But the big news of the run is about shoes.

Nearly two years ago, I came to grips with my floppy, overpronating feet and shifted my shoe to the huge, clunky and very effective Brooks Beast. After moving to that shoe in February, 2007, I’ve had virtually no problems with my knees. I’ve gone through five pairs and just recently received my sixth pair.

And thus the problem.

Pair #6 was the “new model” of the Beast. Same general look but when I first put them on, I knew they were different. The sole was different, the posts were different and in my early short runs in the new shoes I just didn’t feel the same stiffness. The first five pairs worked wonderfully (and hard) to keep my 195 pound frame from inwardly rolling my feet on every step. They kept my IT band lined up and happy.

Saturday’s long run was the first lengthy outing in pair #6. The first ten miles went fine but as I headed out on the (intended) loop around Purdue, I noticed a twinge in my right knee. Will it go away, as it often does after a few run/walk cycles? It didn’t. It gradually got worse. At mile 17, I realized it wasn’t going to get better. So I shortened the course, heading back home. Around mile 19, I throttled the cycle from 2/1 to 1/1 and held that all the way home. But the left knee now hurt and continued to hurt all day. As I write this on Sunday, they feel better, but I won’t know for sure until I head out on Tuesday to run again.

In the short term, I’m OK on shoes through the Memphis Marathon on Dec 6. This due to a nice bit of advice from David Haywood as we sat in a hotel lobby the night before the Rocket City Marathon a year ago. David described for me his method of alternating shoes, always having a higher mileage shoe and a newer pair on hand at all times. I started doing that early this year and, as a result, I have my pair #5 of “good” Beasts which will serve me well through most of December. Luckily, on Sunday afternoon, I did a quick tour of the local sporting goods stores and found ONE PAIR of the old model at one store in my size. And on discount, as they wanted to move them out. So, I’m set through March 2009 or so.

But what to do beyond that?? I’m thinking I need to find out what other really good stability shoes are out there and then get somewhere to give them a good test run. I’m just a long way from a good running store, so “shopping” is a hassle. I recall from my trip to the Naperville Running Company in 2007 there was a pair of Asics that were very close to the Beast. I’ll have to check that out.

And I welcome advice from any of you.

In the overall scheme of things, this is a minor blip. If I was talking to a guy who just lost his job in the recession or was looking down the barrel at foreclosure or had a major health problem, I’d feel pretty sheepish carrying on about the subtleties of shoe design. So take this bit of chatting for what it is…just some thinking out loud to folks who can understand the criticality of shoes for injury prevention. The fact that I can go out and run 20 miles, even in bad shoes, is a huge gift. And it is those simple gifts that sustain us.

Persevere. With or without stability shoes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicago Weekend

ORN: Sunday; 7 miles total, with 5x1 mile intervals at 8:29

As I walked in the door Sunday afternoon from a run in 36F drizzle and wind, I laughed. My wife, who is used to such odd behavior, waited for the punch line. "You know," I quipped "most people wouldn't believe you could actually be comfortable when running in such weather." She's heard this before and gave me the benefit of the doubt.

The weather was a key thing this weekend, as the first really lousy winter weather rolled through. We had spent the weekend in Chicago, visiting son Matt who is now a sophomore at Wheaton Colleage for Parent's Weekend. It was great to see Matt in his element. He showed us much of the campus, many classrooms and the ROTC facility. We took a bunch of his buddies from the dorm out to dinner on Friday. As Matt wryly observed "Dad, no college kid ever turns down free pizza." Yeah, that has never changed.

I must aplogize to Waddler, as the trip put me in her backyard, yet I didn't call. I simply didn't have any idea what my schedule would be and, as it turns out, the weather was pretty nasty. Perhaps another time we'll connect and run the DuPage trail system.

It was great to see Matt. Having just turned 20, he's rapidly turning into a confident young man. Hard to believe our youngest is at this stage of life, yet it is very gratifying. And, on the Veteran's Day, I'm proud to have a fine young man like this preparing to take a leadership role in the Army.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fall Colors

ORN: 5K Time Trial, 26:48, 8:28/mile

Not much to report on running so I won't bother. A bad head cold knocked out one workout this week. Hope to be back on track this week...five weeks to go to Memphis.

Mega-congrats to Wes for completing the Florida Ironman. A year-long quest, well done. Way to go Wes.

And here's the view down my street on this beautiful fall afternoon. Much to be grateful for.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Photo Time

ORN: 5.1 miles, R6/W1, 49:12

Back to regular running after taking a full week off. All systems felt "GO" on the easy 8 miler last Saturday. This morning was the first cold run of the late fall; the seasons have changed. I'm set, though, looking forward to Memphis on December 6. Much more to come on that.

Here are some photos for you. First, you can find our photos from Italy here.

And you can find pix from my marathon in Indianapolis on October 18 here. The smiling photos at the end are very genuine.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race Report: Indianapolis Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:43:43, R3/W1, 10:49/mile

Quick Summary

Now that’s the way a marathon should go!!! On a perfect autumn day for running, the Indianapolis Marathon went as well as the USAF Marathon went poorly four weeks ago. My new hydration and calorie plan seemed to work; I carried the 3/1 ratio all the way to the end, finishing strong. I felt terrific afterwards. A marvelous day.

The Gory Details

Growing up on a cattle farm in Nebraska, we always had horses and Dad taught me to ride around age 6. He’d hoist me up on a big quarter horse (no ponies on that farm) and then help me learn to direct the huge animal. Invariably, the horse would have his own mind, ignoring my puny efforts. I’d get thrown or get off in disgust, telling Dad how the horse “wouldn’t work.” Vividly, I remember him, calmly leaning against a fence post, saying “Joe, get back on the horse.” Despite my protestations, he’d calmly but firmly say again “Joe, get back on the horse.” And eventually I would. And I learned to ride.

This metaphor for overcoming a setback came back to me repeatedly in the past four weeks. After the frustration of bonking so badly at the USAF Marathon, I simply HAD to get back on the marathon horse, to see if I could get through it enjoyably. I was lucky to have a race available so soon to test a better method of hydration and electrolyte replacement, something I failed miserably in doing at USAFM.

This race is wonderfully convenient for me, a mere 70 minutes from my driveway. I slept in my own bed, was on the road at 5:30am, stashed a plastic bag of Gu and supplies under a bush at the halfway point of the race by 6:45, picked up my bib and chip and still had nearly an hour to relax in my car before the 8:30 gun. The field numbered near 6,000 runners, with 1,100 running the marathon, the rest doing a half.

The weather could not have been more perfect. Partly cloudy, a slight breeze out of the north, a temp of around 50 at the start and never got to 60 even at the finish. I wore a long-sleeve tech shirt underneath a short sleeve tech shirt at the start. The gun went off on time and I was back on horseback, hoping for a 4+ hour ride without getting thrown off.

The first five miles went smoothly. I got into my 3/1 run/walk ratio from the start. I had to work to hold my running pace to the calculated 9:45/mile. But it all seemed to work OK. At mile 5, I was about 70 seconds ahead of my planned pace.

At Wes’ suggestion, I have taught myself to take a couple of sips of water during every walk break. While not perfectly executed yet, it worked pretty well. I downed my first 10 oz of electrolyte water in the first 30 minutes of the race and knocked off another 20 oz of water in the next 30 minutes. This pattern followed all day; 10 oz of electrolytes at the top of each hour, followed by water the rest of the hour. The course had plenty of port-o-potties fortunately. At mile 10, I was 40 seconds ahead of my planned pace. The miles were just clicking off.

We came past the breakoff point for the half marathoners where I had stashed my bag earlier. I dropped off the long sleeve shirt, swapped my cap for my visor, reloaded three more Gu packs and headed out on the much-less-crowded out and back portion of the marathon course. The day was beautiful as we moved through a state park, full of trees in splendid fall foliage. At mile 15, I was 14 seconds behind my plan.

Surprisingly quickly, we got to the turnaround point at mile 19; we were heading home, I was feeling good. Would this continue?? I just stayed with the plan, running 3 minutes, walking 1 minute, drinking two or three swigs every walk break, downing a Gu every 45 minutes, enjoying the day. Amazingly, I had my second fastest mile of the day in mile 20; it’s 10:09 was bested only by a 9:56 during the mostly down hill mile 10. With 6.2 to go, I was 16 seconds ahead of the plan. Miles 21 and 22 went smoothly. I knew I was moving into the real test.

I still felt good at the mile 23 marker and a slight hill faced me, one which proved difficult on this course a year ago. Yet the mile went smoothly and mile 24 was done. A mild but long incline extended from mile 24.5 to mile 26. It was here I felt the most pain of the day. My left ankle had begun hurting around mile 17 due the camber of the course sloping mostly to the right. On the hill to mile 25, I had pain in and around my right knee, perhaps from the same camber issue, perhaps from fatigue. In both cases, though, I had none of the cramping or nausea I felt at the same points four weeks ago. It was just pain and it wasn’t all that bad.

As we slogged up the hill, I determined to stay with the 3/1 all the way to the end. Fascinatingly, it seemed to work. After three minutes of painful running, a 60 second walk really made a difference. The course finally made it to the top of the hill and we reentered the park hosting the start/finish line. With about a half mile to go, I could see the finish line and the slope was flat. The pain disappeared and I got the biggest, dumbest smile on my face you could imagine. I ignored the remaining walk break, accelerated to the finish line and crossed feeling terrific. My final chip time was 4:43:43, exactly 60 seconds better than my projected time. I had hit the splits all day.

One further test remained; how would I feel post-race? Boy, what a difference. I had no cramping at all. I was joking with the race volunteers at the de-chipping station. I grabbed some more water, a couple of bananas and walked back down the course to cheer on the folks coming in to a 5 hour finish. I was pumped; I walked and walked and yelled and cheered for them. I yacked with spectators. I made Purdue jokes. I downed the bananas. I headed for the food tent, got a hamburger, found some folks with whom I had run to sit and laugh and talk with and enjoyed the whole surroundings. After a little while, I walked comfortably back to the car, called my wife (who was relieved to hear me laughing) and drove home.

After getting home I did a little more analysis (you are surprised??). I kept up with the fluids, averaging about 25 oz/hour for the race. I slurped down six Gu packs during the race, the most Gu I’ve ever eaten in a marathon. I ate about 24 Wheat Thin crackers as well, which added more salt to the 400mg/hour of sodium I got from the electrolyte drink and Gu. And I had no cramping during or after the race. Further, I cut 5 minutes from last year’s time in the same race, not to mention finishing with more enthusiasm.

What was the timing impact of all the fluids?? Reviewing the per mile splits, it appears the four bathroom breaks cost me about 4.5 minutes of clock time. Comparing to the USAFM, where I had almost the exact same time through mile 21 as I did yesterday, the improved hydration cut my finishing time by 24 minutes. So, to “invest” 4.5 minutes and get 24 in return seems like a pretty good deal, not to mention feeling good at the end.

Yeah, Dad, I got back on the horse. I wish I could give you a phone call to laugh about it together, but you know how it went.

It was a terrific day. It was "the best race conditions allowed." I hope my experience can help you as well as we all persevere and keep learning.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh yeah, a marathon tomorrow

In a few hours, I wake up and head to Indy to run the Indianapolis Marathon. This will be my second marathon in four weeks, the closest ever for me.

The big task tomorrow is to figure out the whole hydration/electrolyte/fuel question. The very things which eluded me at the Air Force Marathon have really been motivating me to try it again.

The plan looks like this. I’ll do a 3/1 run/walk, shooting for a 10:45/mile pace, the same as I did at USAFM. I’ll carry my own fluids. At the top of each hour, I’ll start working on 10 oz of electrolyte drink with 390mg of sodium and other goodies. After that, I’ll look for additional 10 to 20 oz of water each hour. Fuel will be Gu, one every 45 minutes. I’ll throw on some Wheat Thins as well. I decided against the PB&J for this run. I also opted out of the Salt Stick capsules; I tried it in one run last week and just am not sure of how it will sit. I think it will work eventually, but am not going to try it tomorrow.

The weather looks near perfect in Indy tomorrow, as it should be around 42 at the start and near 60 by the time I hopefully finish.

Will it work? I’ll know tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back Home from Italy

ORN: 4.2 miles, R6/W1,

Whew!! Back from Italy late Sunday night, took Monday off and now into the regular grind. What a marvelous time we had!! I’ll have photos posted in the next week or so. But here’s one funny running story and some other bullet points from our 12 days of pasta and scenery.

We visited the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa last Monday, just a couple of hours after my 17 mile run. The tower and the scene around it is comical; all the tourists stand and laugh. After gawking for a while, we paused for some gelato, Italian ice cream, oh so creamy. As we stood there, I noted a “42” spray painted on the street. I just happened to remember a Marathon is 42.2 km long and wondered if this wasn’t the “almost to the end” marker for a marathon which would finish next to the famous tower? We got home and a quick web search confirmed it; this was the finish of the Pisa Marathon. I guess if I wanted to go back there next May 19, I could run, laughing, to the finish line! For now, I’ll settle for the photograph.

So much more to say about Italy…I’ll just run a list, in no particular order for you:
  • Best Meal. A tiny restaurant in Florence with five tables and an elderly owner who spoke no English. Fantastic food, a warm welcome, wonderful evening.
  • Best Single Dish. In Lucca, called “Vegetable Soup” in English on the menu. Actually more a stew than soup, it had a puree with 2 types of small beans, spinach and amazing flavors of spices. Indescribably good.
  • Worst Meal. None. No bad meals. At all.
  • Italian drivers are not as crazy as I had been led to believe. I drove for a week and got along OK. Only once did someone make an obscene gesture at me.
  • Fashion. Italian men and women dress well. Especially the shoes. High heel boots seem to be very much in vogue this fall.
  • Cold Blooded. Italians also seemed to be colder than I was. While I was in shorts and a golf shirt, they were in parkas and scarves. Seriously.
  • The normal goods of life are expensive. Food, rent, petrol. We wondered how those on the lower end of the economic ladder make it there.
  • Italy is densely populated. There are people everywhere. I’m sure used to wide open spaces, American style.
  • Churches are museums in Italy much of the time. They look to the past. Where is the faith? Where is the look to the future?
  • Trains are a fantastic way to travel in Europe. Way more relaxing than driving.
  • Movie stars always have perfect complexions.
  • My family was surprised to learn I can do a pretty good voice impersonation of Bill Clinton.
  • Italian port-o-potties work differently than the American version. And are cleaner, as a result.
  • Italian pasta is thinner than the same-named American pasta.
  • Marble is pure calcium carbonate and is sawn off the sides of the mountains.
  • I love traveling with my wife.
  • If there is no smoking on an airplane, why are their ash trays in the plane’s restrooms?

A great trip. Great to be home. Persevere.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Italy Update

ORN: 17.0 miles, R4/W1, 3:05:00

Greetings from Italy!!

Wow, has this been a great trip and we have another 5 days here. The art in Florence was astounding. Even me, a card-carrying, linear-thinking engineer was deeply moved by seeing Michalangelo's "David"...the most famous statue ever. The food is just beyond description. It is great to be with my three sisters and our spouses. We're all safe and enjoying it.

Running was cool this morning. I knew I had to get one long run in on this trip to bridge the USAFM and the Indy Marathon coming up. The schedule allowed it this fact, I'm typing this from an Internet cafe in Lucca which I came to after running...they didn't seem to mind me sitting here in my sweaty tech shirt!! I'll post photo of where I ran when I get home...but if you search for images of "the walls of Lucca" you'll see it. A 2.5 mile loop on protecitve city walls built in the 1200's. Now a verdant, beautiful walkway. What a cool spot to run. My hydration plan kicked in...I was a little low on fluids and calories, felt it sliding away around the 11 mile mark. I chugged the second Gu and dialed up the fluid rate and I staved off the early tendancy to dehydrating. Finished strong. 17 miles in

So much more to write...will wait till I get home and don't have to pay per minute to connect!!

What on earth happened to my Chicago Cubs?? I leave the country and they drop three straight to the Dodgers and pack it in for another year??? Oh my...what a bummer for this baseball fan.

Hope Portland Marathon went well for those of you who ran it. Good luck to all of you running Chicago this Sunday!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Hydration Plan

ORN: 8.3 miles, R6/W1

“Thank you” isn’t quite adequate to express my appreciation for all the input I got last week after the marathon bonk. Your input was fabulous and triggered a lot more research last week for me. Bottom line; I concluded I both dehydrated and suffered from hyponatremia. In short, I not only did not drink nearly enough fluid but I also sweated out and did not replace any of the essential electrolytes. Together, it explained not only the cramping, nausea and discomfort I felt last Saturday but also numerous other less-severe experiences in years past, both running and non-running. Interestingly, I think my base training plan worked well. I had no soreness in the three days following the race, ran again on Thursday and again this morning and felt great. The problem is hydration, not running per se.

So, I’m sticking with my marathon plan for the rest of the fall. Taking your input and other reflection, I have a new hydration/electrolyte plan, to wit:

  • Drink 30 oz of fluid per hour
  • Take in 500mg+ of sodium per hour, via fluids and food
  • Get calories via a Gu at the bottom of the hour and a quarter Peanut Butter sandwich at the top of the hour

Wes urged me to practice this plan, training my body to take in this level of fluids. Good advice. Fluids on every run, even though I don’t need them, just so I get into the rhythm of figuring out how to glug down 30 oz per hour. This is over double my previosu pace of driking. After two runs, I’ve started to get the feel for it and have sloshed much less than I thought I would. This morning, I just got to laughing about the PB. I couldn’t find any bread as I headed out, only a solitary hot dog bun in the pantry. So I smeared a generous pile of PB on the bun, cut it in half and jammed it in my fuel belt. It worked.

I won’t have a chance for any really long runs between now and the Indy Marathon on Oct 18, since we leave for Italy in two days. So, that will be a test run for how well this plan works. Nothing new on race day?? Well, I’ll push that axiom a bit. I’m hoping to get at least one 10-15 mile run done in Italy, have even found a really cool place where it might happen, but all that will depend on how our sight-seeing plans go. Yet, I understand most of Italy stays up late and starts slow in the morning, whick I hope will prove a perfect situation for a long run at sunrise some day.

I don’t think I’ll have much, if any, on-line contact for the next two weeks, so don’t take it personally if I don't comment. I’ll post links to pix, plus a trip report when I get back. Till then, thanks again, so very, very much, for all your advice. I’m really grateful.

And persevere…this means a lot to several of you, my prayers are with you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Race Report: United States Air Force Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles; 5:07:34, R3/W1, then R1/W1, then W; 11:45/mile

Quick Summary

The marathon is a relentless teacher. And I think it is this relentlessness which makes it so appealing to me. Yesterday was yet another prime example. Twenty-one nice miles. Five really hard miles. Dehydration, nausea. Bonk city. Lessons abound. And I need the group here to help me figure out just what happened.

The Gory Details

The race started on time, complete with three, count ‘em, three F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter planes swooping in from behind and then going into a near-vertical climb over the start pack. When the third plane came over, off we went. One runner nearby quipped “Wow…what we need is to have them fly over at mile 22.” Little did I realize how right she was.

The first five miles wound around the southern part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. After 5, I was one minute ahead of the splits I had projected in my 3/1 pace. We ducked briefly off base to do a mile or so through the little town of Fairborn. With no security restrictions, the fan base was marvelous, a continuous stream of folks there. I gave high fives to both Batman and Spiderman. A cardboard standup of Barack Obama smiled at me. Ohio is, after all, a swing state. I hit the 10 mile mark 90 seconds ahead of plan.

We wound back into the base, past the officers’ houses, golf course, admin buildings and worked down to the airfield. We looped the north end of the massive airstrip and headed back to the south end of the base where we started. At the 15 mile mark, I was in rhythm, still 90 seconds ahead of my plan. Along there, Jeff joined me, liking the 3/1 ratio I was holding. It was his first marathon and he asked if he could “ride along” with my timer. A couple miles later, we picked up another first time marathoner, Christina. We kept moving, now out of the shade and into the full (and upper 70s) sunshine and asphalt. The three of us came to the 20 mile mark, still a full minute ahead of the projected time. I knew I had padded the last seven miles of my plan by nearly a minute per mile and informed Jeff we were on a 4:45 pace.

Heading for mile 22, up and over a long freeway overpass, I felt the race slip away. A twingly feeling in my legs and feet was the first clue. Jeff was feeling better and worked ahead. Christina got a second wind and eased ahead a little later. The walk-breaks that usually help me through such moments didn’t work this day. I dialed back to a 1/1 ratio and held that for a while, but my mile splits fell to 14 minute range. Around mile 24.5, after a mere 60 seconds of running, I felt my head go woozy and the horizon started to totter from left to right. I recognized the signs of dehydration and realized I needed to simply walk it in. Which I did. With plenty of time to think, I walked, weakly managing to run the last 50 feet across the finish line. And that was about all I had left.

After the race, I got more and more woozy. I found a place to sit down after getting de-chipped and parked myself for, it turns out, over 45 minutes. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up, the nausea and discomfort was so severe. It was much worse than the rottenness I felt at the end of the Rocket City Marathon last December. My hands, arms and calves were all trembling. I eventually managed to walk the three-fourths mile to the shuttle bus to get back to my car. Rather than driving home, I ended up spending the night nearby with my niece and her husband. The nausea continued for another hour or so, with lots of hot sweats alternating with chills, characteristic of dehydration. Only after I could sleep for while could I get a taste for fluids. Once that happened, I recovered quickly. Strangly, the roof of my mouth felt really out of sorts for the better part of the evening.

So how did this happen? Please help me answer this question!

I thought I had worked out a good hydration plan. I carried my own fluids, starting out with 20 oz of half strength Gatorade. I consumed all of it and reloaded with the same at mile 9. I drained that 20oz and reloaded again at mile 16.5. I had made three porta-pot stops during the race, which seemed a good sign I was still hydrated. Yet, I noticed (but only in retrospect) that between the second fluid reload and mile 21, I only drank about 5 oz. It suddenly became repulsive to me. I simply couldn’t get the half-strength Gatorade down. At a water stop at mile 22, I picked up 10 oz of straight water, thinking it might be more palatable. But it wasn't. I had no desire to drink, even though I knew I needed to drink.

For fuel along the way, I used a tool I had used in training, a bite of a Clif Bar every 20 minutes. That got repulsive to me about the same time the fluids no longer sounded good to me.

So how do I get over this nausea, this revulsion from the very fluids I need? Did I simply lose focus? Do I need to go to another plan? Do S-Caps figure in or some other electrolyte replacement? Did the fact I only got about three hours sleep factor in? I’m sure I’m missing something here. Yet, if I don’t solve this, I really wonder if I should stick with running the marathon distance. I would appreciate your advice.

The Afterword

My oldest sister phoned today, and, after satisfying herself I was OK, asked “Why didn’t you just quit that last mile and a half?” I smiled and told her. I ran this race on a military base in honor of my two sons in the US Army. David found many times in his two deployments to Iraq that he felt pretty rotten, yet carried on to the end. Matt will find the same in his service, most of which is still to come. Countless others in service to our country have persevered, despite their own feelings. All this ran through my mind as I walked the last mile and a half. While I had hoped to finish the race strong and running hard. Yet, my daughter-in-law pointed out this evening my race may have been a better picture of the struggles of many in the military, to simply keep moving, one foot in front of the other, carrying on to the end of the appointed duty.

So I smiled as I walked, realizing this was really nothing compared to what so many have done; simply persevering to the end.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evaluating Jeff Galloway Training Methods

ORN: 6.7 miles total; 5x1 mile intervals @ 8:26

(Note:  I updated this report on December 4, 2011, with 5 years experience.  Click here for the update.)

With the United States Air Force Marathon only 6 days away, I have little of interest to write about on running…such is the taper. Stepping back, though, it is worth capturing some thoughts about training.

On October 1, 2006, I had a marvelous time finishing the Portland Marathon in 4:21, meeting many new friends on the trip and starting to think I could really whip this marathon thing into shape. One week later, I found pain in my right knee which would not go away. It turned out to be the dreaded ITB inflammation. It was my first significant running injury and I had no idea what to do.

Doctor’s visits, massage, foam rollers; none really eased the pain. I ran very little in the months that followed; I actually bonked and had a DNF in my first marathon with Darrell in December, 2006. As we moved into 2007, I really wondered just what was going on.

Out of desperation, I began to look seriously at Jeff Galloway's system. I was slightly familiar with it before hand but dismissed much of it, because I wanted to be a “runner” not a “run/walker.” Yet, his assertion that his program could help avoid injuries appealed to me.

My first positive clue was his simple description on how to diagnose over-pronation (look at your shoes…if they wear out inside your big toe, you are overpronating). Hmmm…that helps. I took that info to a good running store; they confirmed it all and switched to a motion control shoe.

Then, in mid-January 2007, I just started doing run/walk. Starting very conservatively, with a Run/Walk ratio of 1 minute run/2 minutes walk, I got out the door again. Amazingly to me, I was gently and gradually running, without pain. I stayed with it. I bought two of his books and read them carefully.

Through 2007, I stayed with the program, getting over the “weirdness” of suddenly walking and then running again all through the run. Figuring out how to make a watch do the timing for me and let me just enjoy the run. I did the Indy Marathon in October, 2007 at a 3/1 pace and it went well until mile 23, when I tried to run continuously the last 3 miles. Then I bonked. Yet I felt fine at the end.

The target race was the 2007 Rocket City Marathon. It was there I first met Jeff Galloway, as he was speaking at the pre-race pasta party (photo courtesy of Darrell’s Celebrity Photos, Inc). During his remarks, he casually mentioned he was going to start the race at a 1/1 ratio and perhaps increase that along the way, as weather and fitness allowed. I dismissed his comments as fluff.

Why? Well, shoot, I had read all his stuff, and from his target times, I convinced myself I could do a 4:15 and, boy, was I primed. And it worked…well at least for 16 miles it worked. My 9/1 run/walk target ate me alive on that hot and humid day and the last 4 miles were a real death march.

Contrast my experience that day to Jeff’s. Reviewing the race results, I went across the half-marathon mat at 2:07:33, a full 13.5 minutes ahead of Galloway’s 2:21:05. But, somewhere around mile 17, I recall hearing a bunch of light-hearted chatter amongst runners gaining on me as I sunk into the sludge of fatigue. Sure enough, it was Jeff and his merry band of followers, looking quite fresh. I looked at Jeff as he passed me and said to him “OK, now I believe you.” He simply grinned, as if to say he’d heard that sentiment many times before. He finished in 4:45:53, nearly 10 minutes ahead of me. And I suspect he felt pretty good at the end, unlike the nausea and trembles I had.

Both long-time readers of this blog then suffered through several months of my self-flagellation following the race. Not only was my ego damaged, but my knee acted up again…not ITB this time, but some sub-patellar inflammation. I strongly suspect dehydration had a major factor in that knee problem. So, back to basics for the spring. Less aggressive R/W ratios, shorter races and some relaxation. More emphasis on hydrating well during training. Galloway also suggested runners over age 40 run only every other day.

So I further modified my training pattern. It worked for shorter races. Five half-marathons in 9 weeks went well; four of the five with negative splits and each beat my target times for the race.

Then, the 6 hour trail run in July; I went very conservative, with a 2/1 ratio, plus walking up the hills on a warm, muggy day in the Indiana woods. 27.5 miles and no Wall in sight. Amazing.
My summary assessment of Galloway's method so far is it seems to work. Something about the change of muscle use during a run, from running to walking, seems to allow rest or change that avoids damage. I do most of my shorter runs at a 6/1 ratio; long training runs I back off to 5/1 or 3/1. All of that works. I don't fully understand why, but I can sense it, both as I run and after I run.
What I have not seen as working is Galloway's time prediction methods. I've worked through it and it always predicts I'll run a race a lot faster than I can. I'm not sure what to think about that. Yet, since speed is not a big issue to me, this issue is less of a problem. The big plus is simple; no injuries all this year; each race has been enjoyable; negative splits are a rush.

So, this brings us to my fall series, with three marathons in fairly close succession. Will all of this focus on injury-free training work out at the longer distance?? I truly don’t know. So stay with me as we see what this two-year-long experiment brings about.

The plan for the Air Force Marathon this Saturday is simple; run a 3/1 and stay with it throughout. Carry my own fluids and sip on every walk break. Eat two Clif Bars during the race. The weather forecast right now is helpful, though far from perfect. Start temps in the mid 50s, heading to the low 70s by the end. Can I carry it to the end??

Thanks for listening; that in itself takes real perseverance.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Busy Fall and Not Just with the Marathons

ORN: 12.4 miles, 2:04:30, R6/W1, 10:03/mile

It’s gonna be a busy fall, so much so it makes my head spin a bit. Here’s the rundown.

Today was the last long-ish run before the USAF Marathon. I looped through the Purdue campus again. The first home football game of the year had a noon kickoff, so the campus was quite alive. The route gave me one lap around the Purdue Band, formed up, getting ready to perform. The drum cadence and brass sound from a 300-person Big Ten marching band is pulse pounding.

The Marathon is on September 20. I’m really looking forward to it. I settled on the plan for that race this week, thanks to some long email discussions with my nephew John. I’ll run a 3/1 run/walk ratio, seeking to carry that through the entire race. I’ll make the decision on pace at the last minute, depending on weather. The aim of three marathons this fall, though, is to educate myself on just how to finish a marathon. I do not yet understand that fact.

Four weeks later, I run the Indianapolis Marathon on October 18. A fall-foliage spectacular with segments through a state park on the outskirts of Indy, it presents a hilly final 3 miles which will be a further challenge. I ran it last year; can I improve this year? How will it finish?

Seven weeks after that, it is the St. Jude Hospital Marathon in Memphis. With hopefully very cool temperatures on December 6, I will see if I can apply what I’ve learned during the fall.

Just for grins, there’s another “event” this fall which really adds to the busy-ness. On September 30, Gretchen and I leave for 11 days in Italy on vacation! My three sisters and I, along with our spouses, will spend a week together at a rented place 90 minutes west of Florence, just 18 km north of Pisa, the city associated with the word “Leaning.” October in central Italy should be awesome. We can’t wait. I’ll be recovering from USAFM. The Indy marathon is only 6 days after we get off the plane in return. My thinking is I just get in some semi-regular runs in Italy and it will have to be OK.

Yeah, it’ll be hectic. Blogging and commenting may be sporadic. But, man, does it sound like fun.

And we’ll persevere right through all the craziness.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The First Taper Begins

ORN: 23.1 miles, 4:10:55, R3/W1, 10:52/mile

As the summer ends over this Labor Day weekend, so my attention shifts to the fall marathon schedule. Three await, the United States Air Force Marathon coming up first, a mere three weeks from today.

Which means my last long run was this morning. Out the door at 6am, I saw the sun come up and had a marvelous run. 4+ hours later, I was done. Man, it was fun. Just go and run. And run. And run. I could well have gone another 3 miles…in fact my last two miles were almost exactly the same time as my average pace. It is long training runs like this that remind me why I enjoy this sport so much. I found myself smiling a lot over the last five miles. No way I can explain that to anyone else but runners will understand.

Two fun things from the long run.

To get in 23 miles, I have to add a loop through Purdue’s campus. With no football game today, the campus was quiet as the dedicated young scholars all remained asleep. I did run past the dilapidated old house I lived in for two years as an undergrad. The place was pretty rickety back in 1972; I’m stunned it is still standing. But, as they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.” I was temped to knock on the front door and ask if the kitchen cabinets were still rusted.

A little later, I talked with long-time friends Dick and Marilyn. Long retired, now in their early 80s, the two of them are in great health, marvelously upbeat and wonderfully involved in the community. To wit: each Saturday morning they go on “eco walks,” strolling along the running path picking up litter. A small public service, indicative of just who they are. I wanna grow old like them.

So, now we taper and in the absence of high mileage, I’ll share more of the plans for the fall over the next couple of weeks.

While we persevere, as always.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Cornfields on This Run

ORN: 5.2 miles, R6/W1, 53:45, 10:21/mile

A late-breaking business trip landed me in southern California yesterday. I didn’t know even where I’d be staying and awoke this morning at a hotel in Newport Beach. My body was still on Eastern Time, so I was up way early. Needing a run, I wandered out the door of the hotel.

And what a find.

Just outside the hotel was the Back Bay Loop, a 10.5 mile trail around a beautiful piece of water, just off the Pacific Ocean. I set out to explore it and was treated to one of the best runs I’ve had in a long time.

The paved path provided a wonderful view of the bay. There were a lot of runners, bikers and dog walkers. On the way out, I discovered a parallel trail, unpaved, with grit and sand and more ups and downs. What fun. I reached a turn around point way too soon. Heading back, I stayed on the dirt/sand more than the tarmac. I run on tarmac all the time in Indiana…when in SoCal, I wanted to do something different.

It was a run I hated to see end. I had to flip back to Professional Business Person Guy mode. Of course, PBPG pays the bills, so not a big problem with that.

My apologies to my southern California friends about not letting you know I was coming but this happened too quickly and I had no idea what my schedule would be. Thanks for understanding.

We persevere through all our training runs. And sometimes, a really cool run emerges.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


ORN: 10.3 miles, 1:36:38, R6/W1, 9:23/mile

Like many of you, I’ve been fascinated by the Olympics this past week. I sat entranced last night watching the entire women’s marathon. I appreciated NBC devoting so much time to the event. All of us who have run 26.2 sat in awe of their pace, endurance and strategy of the event. Gretchen and I had a personal treat to see a woman from our former African residence of Lesotho hang with the leaders for 16 miles. The athletes from familiar sports provide much inspiration.

Surprisingly, I’ve also found instruction from other, less familiar sports. Most strikingly to me has been sculling. These rowers, particularly the teams of four, show me so much about the importance of form. As these teams glide the pencil-thin hulls in a perfectly straight line, with perfect cadence, working as one, it is a thing of beauty. Watching the close-ups, it is amazing to see the subtlety of each stroke. They rotate the blade of each oar on each stroke. Each arm has to work equally with the other one. The timing had to be coordinated. Oh, and by the way, they are racing the other teams.

All of this centers on perfect form. Which instructs me. I have to pay attention to my running form. Without attention, I tend to arch forward, hulking along, putting strain on my back. With attention, I get my head up, hips forward, hands lower and move close to gliding than plodding. Over and over. I’m not to a point of good form being second nature, like these skilled rowers. Maybe some day.

I’ve been inspired and instructed. A good basis for perseverance.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thirty Years and Still Running

ORN: 20.3 miles, 3:31:08, R4/W1, 10:25/mile

What a wonderful morning for a long training run. The twenty felt good…pace held up well. My legs felt it a bit at the end but no real difficulty. With the humidity down and temps between 60-72F over the run, it was a surprisingly enjoyable summer run. One more 23 miler in three weeks, then the first fall marathon on Sept 20.

Flipping the calendar to August made me realize I had missed an important anniversary in July; it was 30 years ago I started running. Allow me a brief history.

We were living in Swaziland, Africa when our oldest son was born in March, 1978. I realized I had become woefully out of shape. While I had played multiple sports through High School and a bit of baseball at Purdue, I had no outlet for conditioning as a new Dad living in Africa and was grasping what to do. With no real knowledge, I just started running. Out in the morning, seeing if I could first run a mile…then two…then three. Although I had hated track in High School, I found I really liked it.

We came back to the US for a vacation in the fall of 1978, and I discovered the first “running boom” in America had started. I devoured Jim Fixx's classic The Complete Book of Running. I ran my first race on November 11, 1978, a small 5 miler, finishing in 35:32. I was hooked.

We headed back to Africa, moving from Swaziland to Lesotho where we spent three years. I ramped up the training and entered my first marathon sometime in 1979. Temps in the 80s with no water stops for the 30 entrants left me fully dehydrated after mile 21. I regrouped, planned better and finished my first marathon on August 2, 1980. In a field of 150, I ran a 4:17 and was next to last. The quality of African running has always been strong. I ran another marathon five months later in 4:16; I beat two guys. And they were guys...we never saw women running at that time.

We moved back to the US in late 1981 and I continued running. Raising a family, settling into a new job, going to graduate school all cut back on my training miles but I kept running. I entered a lot of 10Ks and half marathons through the 80s. As my two older sons got into sports, I started refereeing soccer, a hobby that lasted through the late 90s. I ran to stay in shape for soccer; it worked pretty well. In the back of my mind though, I wondered if I’d ever run another marathon; the desire was there but I couldn’t see the path.

A cool job popped up in 1996, the only down side of which was 70 minutes of commuting each day. That drive pretty much wiped out running and, eventually, even soccer. I struggled to find a way to stay in shape in limited extra time. My weight crept up and the conditioning leaked away. Then, out of the blue, an even cooler job opportunity found me in the spring of 2004 with the added plus of being less than a mile from my house.

Over the one weekend I took off between the two jobs, I determined to begin running again. I exchanged the time I had been commuting for running and it seemed to work. I found newly-constructed trails near my house, measured some courses and started back running. And I had no idea what I didn't know.

In the 17 years since I had run a road race, a new generation of shoes had emerged, about which I knew nothing. I started hearing of “technical shirts” which I assumed to be a cotton T-shirt with an integrated circuit embedded. There were hardly any 10K races, only 5Ks, it seemed. Running was new, all over again. My knees and Achilles kept hurting. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. Yet, it was great to be running regularly again.

I ran my first race of the new era over the Labor Day weekend of 2004. A simple, local 5K fund-raiser, I wondered if I’d be able to run it without stopping. I did, finishing in a very modest 29:45, despite wearing two neoprene knee braces. More importantly, I felt the rush of race day. It was awesome. During the fall, I discovered a good running store in Indy which reintroduced me to Brooks shoes. The pain went away and running started to click again.

The distances moved up. More races. Since I was already had a professional blog, I searched out running blogs and learned more. I began to think perhaps, maybe, just possibly, I could do another marathon. On April 9, 2006, it came true at the St. Louis Marathon. I ran a 4:29 and beat more than two other people. And this blog contains most of the rest of the story.

Thanks for listening…it is fun to recap 30 years of running. Blogging has been a huge part of this new era. What I’ve learned from all of you can’t be quantified. The camaraderie, the knowledge, the ups and downs of all of our experiences means so much to me.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

I want to Run. What Shoes do I buy?

ORN: 9 miles with 7x1 Mile intervals @ 8:28

What a fantastic morning to run! Temps were near 60, no wind, blue sky just after dawn. Mile intervals were also a nice switch from the straight distance work. I was amazed to hold a sub 8:30 pace.

And something else has been a lot on my mind the past week.

My favorite marketing writer, Seth Godin wrote this brief bit of wisdom last week. I quote here the essence:

I want to write a novel. What word processor do you recommend?
Yesterday on the radio, Jimmy Wales was talking about the Wikipedia movement. A caller who identified himself as a strategist at Amnesty International asked: We're going to build a website to promote freedom and democracy and human rights. What software should we use?


If you want to do something worth doing, you'll need two things: passion and architecture. The tools will take care of themselves. (Knowledge of tools matters, of course, but it pales in comparison to the other two.)

Sure, picking the wrong tools will really cripple your launch. Picking the wrong software (or the wrong hammer) is a hassle. But nothing great gets built just because you have the right tools.

Seth's blog post hit me at several levels.

Do we run because we really like our Brooks/Asics/Nikes? Do we run to watch our Garmins find satellites? Do we run to feel the Gu replenish our glycogen levels?

Or do we run because we love to run? Because of the passion for staying fit, for competing with ourselves, for doing something that stretches us?

The answer is obvious. And we see the flip side of it in folks who start to run, get the gear and then tire or quit when it’s hard or they get sore.

Do I thus talk about the passion? Or about the tools?

This applies widely. We need passion, not only in our running, but in our profession, our family, our spiritual life. With passion present, the tools take care of themselve.

Persevere in your passions.

Long Run, Hot Day

ORN: Saturday; 18.1 miles, 3:16:22, R4/W1, 10:51/mile

In a well-run marathon, there is a “sweet spot” between mile 4-5 and about 17-20. The excitement, music, adrenaline, energy of the start is done. You find a groove and just start knocking off the miles. The purpose is to set yourself up to finish the last few miles in good shape.

Metaphorically speaking, I’m in that spot with my training right now. The excitement of the 5 spring HMs is over. Two months remain until the fall marathons begin. Right now, I just need to get more miles under me to prepare for the fall. (note: the 6 hour trail race 3 weeks ago doesn’t fit the metaphor, so I am employing “writer’s license” to ignore it :-) ) Saturday’s 18 miler fit that bill. In high humidity and temps in the upper 70s, I just got the miles in. The first 16 felt fine, the last two reminded me I did 27 three weeks ago. No damage, no speed, miles in the bank. Adequate for the moment.

I had fun watching the NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 stock car race this afternoon, mostly just for remembering my four 500 Festival Mini-Marathons which include a lap of the track. Here I am blazing down the front stretch this May. Suffice it to say, I didn’t need the corner banking to avoid hitting the wall.

Persevere. Really, not just metaphorically.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recovery at the Ball Park

ORN: 5 miles, 50:08, R4/W1, 10:02/mile

Hard to believe it’s been two weeks since the 6 hour run on the trails. In the last application of changes to my running patterns following the Rocket City Marathon last December, I took a Full Week Off from running after the race. On the one hand, it felt weird to not be out running regularly. Yet, I could almost feel the legs healing up and retooling.

Not that I was physically all that quiet. The past two weeks have been the busiest of the year for my baseball umpiring avocation. It is Little League tournament time and I did 9 doubleheaders in the past 12 days, with two more this weekend before I’m done. Getting down low enough to see the strike zone of some short 11 year-old batters is not something we see in any marathon training program. But the legs held up. As a reward, I was behind the plate for the finest Little League pitching performance I’ve seen in 23 years of umpiring, a real Greg Maddux-esqe exhibition of control, movement and change of speed. For an old catcher like me, it was a thing of beauty.

Race recovery went well. The peak soreness came predictably on day two after the race and resolved nicely from there. The most pleasant surprise was a complete lack of soreness in my quad muscles. I give credit for that to the 4x/week work on quad weight lifting in the basement. I did short four mile run the Saturday after the race, then three 5 mile training runs this week at a 4/1 ratio. A few twinges in the right knee but I recognize those always happen during baseball season. I actually laid out a new training route which incorporates (twice) the only hill in a three mile radius of my house. Seriously. We have no hills here and I have to work to find even one. We don’t do scenery in northern Indiana, we do soybeans. Eat well.

The fall race season is now taking shape. I’m registered for marathons in Dayton, Indianapolis and Memphis. After I set this up, I had a neat realization; if I complete them all, I’ll qualify for the club. We’ll see.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Race Report: 360 Minutes at Muskatatuk

ORN: 27.5 miles on trails, 5:58:08, R2/W1 (mostly), 13:02/mile

Quick Summary

On a muggy, overcast July 5 morning, I learned much about trail running and myself at the DINO Series 360 Minutes @ Muskatatuk. I reached the goal of running for six hours and feeling strong at the finish. In the process, I also set personal records for distance and time run in a single outing.

The Gory Details


At our family 4th of July gathering Friday evening, daughter-in-law Susan, a goal-oriented person like me, asked me what my mileage goal was for this 6 hour trail run. I replied I really didn’t know enough about trail running to have a distance target; instead I only wanted to keep moving for six hours and not be wasted at the end. In retrospect, I stated the goal out of luck more than knowledge, even though it proved to be a most helpful target.

After a really lousy night’s sleep at a motel near the race site 2.5 hours south of my home, I checked in around 5:15am. There I met up with Larry, the guy I had met on the plane coming back from the Portland Marathon nearly two years ago and who had been very helpful in educating me via email about the course. We talked more about the fact that recent rains had raised water levels in the many stream crossings and worked up the mud. As a race official, I’d see Larry regularly and his help was huge.

The course was fully on trails in a county park near North Vernon, Indiana. Each lap of 5.5 miles was made up of three segments. At the end of each segment solo runners were logged in as completing that segment; the many relay teams used those checkpoints as handoffs. Scoring was simple; we ran for six hours and got credit only for fully completed segments. The most completed segments won.

At 6am, after brief announcements, we were off.

The Race

The first lap for me was awful. Overcast skies made the woods dim in the early light. The humidity was well over 90% without a breath of air moving. I could not seem to find a rhythm at all. I was using a very conservative 2/1 run/walk ratio but couldn’t even seem to get into that at all. At the end of segment A, I made a wrong turn and got off the course, even though it was well marked…that’s how out of it I felt. Early in segment C, I had the low point of the entire day. Near one stream crossing, my right foot slid in a mud patch and triggered a sharp pain in my knee, the kind that made me involuntarily yell in pain. What did that mean? I’m barely into the race and I’ve got a bum knee already? I walked for a minute or so and resumed running. Yet, 5 minutes later at another slick spot, the same thing happened again. Was I looking at another DNF in a trail race? I was perplexed and concerned.

To add further humility, I was lapped by 3 relay teams before I even finished my first full lap. Boy, were those guys flying down the trails. I got to the start/finish area, restocked my water and Gu and set out for my second circuit.

Lap 2 was the “up” in response to Lap 1’s “down.” Somewhere in Segment A, I “came to terms” with the race. I don’t know fully what that means, other than I then grasped what was before me. I was fully alone now on the course, except for the flying relay runners, and realized the course was what it was, the humidity was what it was and my condition simply was what it was. And I came to terms with all of this. I further realized I am a very novice trail runner, despite the fact I’ve done a lot of road running. The environment was different and very new for me. So, I simply had to learn.

As I moved into the flatter Segment B, I had a hearty laugh when I linked two different things in my mind. When my sons played youth baseball, I coached them and we had drills for infielders called “Soft Hands” drills. When fielding a baseball, we taught kids to receive the ball as if they were trying to catch an egg. Arms relaxed, wrists flexible, feathering the batted ball into their bodies, rather than being tense and stabbing at the ball with their gloves. I realized I needed to give myself the same advice and began running with “Soft Legs” for the same reasons. Early in the race, I was uncertain and my legs were tense. Thus, I was “pounding” the course, which may well have contributed to my knee pain. I began to consciously relax my legs and let them glide more than push; what a difference. It was in Segment B I finally had stretches of running comfortably and smoothly.

Larry was the marshal at the checkpoint beginning segment C; he asked how I was doing and I guess he could tell it was going a lot better. I ran smoothly through the scenic third segment which went quickly.

Lap 3 was just fun. I had figured out what I was doing, the course was now familiar, I was running comfortably. In each lap, there were about 10-15 stream crossings, half of them too wide to jump over. So, I spent the day running in wet shoes. It got to be fun and I actually got to the point of looking forward to using the streams to wash off some of the mud from the other sodden sections.

I also was a little annoyed at my fellow runners. Here we were in this nice county park and what did I see on the trail but a lot of empty foil gel packs on the ground! People, people, people; if you can carry the gel pack into the woods, you can carry it out of the woods. Don’t throw it on the ground to litter up the place. I see this in road races but was truly disappointed to see it in a trail race.

Lap 4 went similarly well. Larry had told me there was one stream crossing in Segment C that had a very slippery rock in the middle of the creek. Indeed he was right, but I had even more fun with it each time around. The term reminded me of the famous Slippery Rock University Football team. As a kid growing up in Nebraska, I spent fall Saturday’s helping my Dad harvest corn. We’d always have the University of Nebraska game on and they always made a point of announcing the score of Slippery Rock’s game. I could hear my Dad laugh, smell the dust of the corn in the truck, feel the crisp autumn air. Amazing what such memories bring.

As I came past the start/finish line to end lap 4, they were playing the Pink Floyd anthem, to which I sang a new refrain: “One more lap will be a-nother brick in the wall.” I knew I needed five full laps to reach a marathon distance and I had 1:15 to do it in; about the same time each lap had taken me so far.

Lap 5 thus became the most fascinating trip of the day. I was a little tired but not wiped out. I knew I simply had to keep moving, not fall, not get injured, not lose focus. I did not feel The Wall creeping in, yet I knew it could appear very suddenly. I plowed through Segment A, running more than I had, reserving walking just for the steeper inclines. My time at the first checkpoint seemed about right. As I worked into Segment B, I turned off the timer on my Garmin. It worked well to guide me in my 2/1 segments but did a lousy job in the dense woods of tracking pace or distance. To paraphrase the country song, it was “lookin’ for satellites in all the wrong places.” I chose to simply run by feel, as Rob has described on many occasions. I pushed it to the point I thought I could hold it for the rest of the lap but not beyond.

As I emerged from the woods to the third checkpoint, Larry was waiting for me, as usual. He looked me intently in the eye and said “Joe, you have 31 minutes to do 2 miles…Grind It Out!” It was the perfect balance of encouragement and a kick in the pants, at precisely the right time.

Back into the woods I went. It was focus, run, focus, walk up, keep moving, go as steady as I could, keep grinding. I was in new territory; I’d never run over 5 hours before and my watch went through 5:30, then 5:40. I came to Slippery Rock at about 5:43 and I was feeling more confident. At 5:50, I made the second parallel run with the large river below and I knew it was getting close. I could then start to hear the music from the finish line. Several relay runners passed me; we encouraged each other that it was almost done. My legs were tired but not wiped out. At 5:55, I started up the last incline. At 5:57 the opening out of the woods to the finish line appeared above me. I cranked it up for a quick run to the finish line and found it closer than I imagined. I crossed the start/finish line and hit my watch at 5:58:08. Done.

Post Race
While I could have technically started on another lap, there was no point. Instead I simply started walking. I didn’t want to sit down…I just needed to walk and keep the legs moving. It felt awesome…I didn’t hit the wall, I finished a marathon distance, or so I thought at the time. The organizers had a misting tent set up and boy did that feel good to completely soak in cool mist. I found my gear, changed into a dry tee shirt, dry socks, clean shoes. The food afterwards was tasty. I found a post-race race food which worked wonderfully; applesauce! It sits easily on the stomach and digests oh so easily…just what I needed.

After the brief awards ceremony, I thanked the Race Director for doing such a great job. I also asked him what the distance of the full lap was. He said it was 5.5 miles. I walked away, did the math and it hit me. Five laps was 27.5 miles. More than a marathon. Amazing.

When I got home, I listed out my lap times, which parallel the descriptions above;

  • Lap 1 1:13:04
  • Lap 2 1:10:48
  • Lap 3 1:08:30
  • Lap 4 1:13:09
  • Lap 5 1:12:34

I was stunned. Running the last lap faster than the first lap is a hoot. Dropping the lap time by 4.5 minutes from the first to the third is also amazing. I’m blown away by feeling strong at the end of the race. It is a new experience and I kind of like it.

So, perhaps I’m now less of a trail novice. This race was quite high point for me, moving into new distance and time territory. I learned much and enjoyed the run immensely. If you are still with me, I thank YOU for persevering and enjoying this with me. And persevere we will continue to do!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Six-Hour Trail run this Saturday

So much to say; so little time to blog!!

After the fun series of half marathons this spring, I do the first of four planned long races this Saturday (which also happens to be cinco de Julio here in Indiana). A six-hour trail run.

I've not run at this county park before but Larry, who I met on the plane back from Portland after we both finished the Portland Marathon in 2006, lives just a mile from the park and he emailed me all sorts of good info.

On a 5+ mile loop, we'll see how far I can go. 5 laps equals a marathon; more than that gets me to my longest runs ever. Larry tells me there is about 1,000 feet of climbing on each lap...that should be taxing.

My strategy is simple; do a 2/1 run/walk from the start, plus walk up the four big hills. Larry affirms this is a sound strategy; "Six hours is a long time" he noted dryly. And my sole goal is to keep moving for six hours.

So stay tuned for a race report sometime this weekend. I'll be busy from 6am to noon EDT on Saturday.

Persevere. Even when you have a lot more to say than this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why I Run

ORN: 5.2 miles, 49:34, R6/W1, 9:33/mile

About 3 hours into last Saturday’s 22 mile run, I mulled just why an otherwise seemingly sane man would do such a thing. On the one hand it is laughable…getting up at 4:50am on a Saturday morning to fit in a 4 hour run before a family event seems absolutely nuts. On the other hand, it made perfect sense.


For me, there is clearly a personality/temperament component. On any personality test I’ve ever done, I fall dead center on the extrovert/introvert scale. I like to be with people; I have to get away from people. I feel equally about both statements. In this instance, my experience squares with the tests.

In my job in manufacturing management, I’m with people a lot. I feel strongly about having an open door policy…people know they can walk in any time, and so they do. I spend as much time as I can on the shop floor, with our associates and supervisors. We solve problems; we keep things moving. The last few months have had some wonderful but complex things going on, which has required more people time than usual.

In my personal life, it has been an intense few months as well. Out of town visitors, lots of committee work at our church, even umpiring 1-3 baseball games each week force me into lots of contact with others. Again, all good stuff, just lots of it.

So, three hours into a long run on Saturday, I was just reveling in the moment. And the reason I was reveling suddenly hit me…running provides me with the necessary balance in the introvert/extrovert thing. I simply go out and run. No one else is crazy enough to come along. I’m by myself. When I run, I think, I pray, I mull, I sing, I analyze. I have never had an interest in carrying music on my runs. I don’t do group runs, even though our local running club has them weekly. I don’t run with friends. None of these things ever has had any pull on me. And it hit me Saturday I naturally crave the time alone, time I can just be with myself and my thoughts. It is the time during which I feed the “introvert” side of me.

Now, before you write me off as an anti-social recluse with deep-seated issues, please let me state this blog serves as a wonderful way to stoke the real extrovert side of me. Talking endlessly about splits, training, races, ITBs, shoes, Gu, humidity and Garmins bores the daylights out of virtually everyone else I know. But not here…we have a wonderful community with which I enjoy connecting. All of you regular readers mean more to me than you can know. As was probably evident in my recent Notre Dame race report, I loved having John here to run with.

And there are lots more reasons why I run as well. I love being in good condition; I love running all year in all kinds of weather; I love planning training; I love going to races and running, there, with others.

And I love training alone.

Thanks for listening. And keep persevering.