Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heading for Notre Dame

ORN: 4 miles, R6/W1, 40:26, 10:07/mile

The final race of my spring series hits on Saturday, the Sunburst Half Marathon in South Bend, Indiana. Both long-time readers of this blog will (perhaps) recall this race's high point is finishing on the 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium. With my Dad having played football at Notre Dame in the late 30s, this becomes quite an emotional and special time for me.

Making it more special this year will be my oldest sisters oldest son, John, who is flying in from San Diego to run the race with me. He'll be here for supper tonight, we'll then drive up to South Bend mid day Friday, visit various campus sites, including my Dad's name inscribed on a wall of ND football letter winners and seeing his old dorm room. Yes, it still stands.

Then, a further treat...Friday night we will meet up with my second older sister's youngest son, Dave, who will be in SB for a ND alumni event! The three of us will have a lot of fun.

All of this is puncuated by a drive tonight for me to Wheaton, Illinois and back to drop off my youngest son Matt for summer school classes.

Busy?? Yes. But looking forward to it.

Stay tuned for race reports over the weekend and more than a few photos. It'll be special.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

High School Track Meet

ORN: Wednesday; 5.1 miles, R6/W1, 9:35/mile

I can’t remember the last time I went to a track meet before Tuesday night. On a fantastic spring evening, we had one of 8 regional qualifying meets at our local HS track and I went to just enjoy the evening.

And what a fun evening it was. This was a girl’s meet, with the top three in each event qualifying for the state track meet in Indy next weekend. No weak runners at this level. The competition was awesome. The crowd was enthusiastic. It was fun to be so close to a sporting event.

Two vignettes stand out which capture HS sports at its best.

Mid-way through the meet, two runners came up into the stands and sat with one of the girls’ parents, right behind me. These two had finished their efforts in the 4x100m relay and were back in their sweats. They greeted the parental units, plopped down, opened their backpacks and pulled out calculators and Geometry textbooks. “Gee, why do we have to have a final exam tomorrow morning?” the girls wondered aloud. I asked them if they were set for alternate interior angles; they laughed and dug into the book, as more events continued in front of them. I’m guessing they got good grades.

In the 3200m race, two girls led the whole way and had a 40m lead on the third place girl at the bell lap. This tall runner with perfect form then proceeded to kick it. With 200m to go, she had reeled in the leaders and took the lead going into the final turn. She poured it on and won the race by 20m. As she powered down the front stretch, the crowd rose as one to applaud an utterly marvelous athletic effort. The buzz continued, when some folks from her school turned and told me “Not only is she fast, but she’s valedictorian of the senior class and has a full ride to Louisville in the fall.” You go girl.

A fun evening. And perhaps no coincidence I had my best 5 mile training run of the year the next morning.

Persevere. These kids sure were

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Race Report: Geist Half-Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, run, 2:00:24, 9:12/mile

Quick Summary

The Inaugural Geist Half-Marathon was quite a success. On a lovely spring morning, we tooled through a beautiful area with a well-run event. I was shooting for a 2:02 and nearly got under 2. A negative split made it nice. Race 4 of the spring 5 in the books.

All the Details

In thinking about this race, I had debated (as is my habit) just what “Run the Best Race Conditions Allow” would be. Looking at the weather, the course, my own conditioning, I settled on shooting for a 2:02. Temps in the low 50s, with low humidity, were more conducive than in the Mini Marathon two weeks ago. I felt good, yet didn’t really want to crank it too high with the big race at Notre Dame in two weeks. So, I programmed 2:02 into the Garmin and let it be.

Traveling to the race with me was buddy Mat and his 17 year old daughter Christina. Matt has run for quite a time. Christina has run high school cross country but had never run a half. I picked them up at 5:25am and we were off.

Christina is one of those neat teenagers who are talented, well-balanced and delightful to be with. On Friday night, she gave a piano recital, getting dressed up and playing a lovely Nocturne by Chopin. Saturday morning, she’s up early, ready to run 13 miles, smiling and friendly throughout. She’s a captivating young woman, a treat to have along.

The race got its name since we ran one large lap around the Geist Reservoir. This lake is a centerpiece of some really swanky subdivisions on the northeast side of Indianapolis. It is hard to imagine a “Yacht Club” in Indiana, but we ran right past two of them this morning. We saw no corn fields, I should add.

The gun went off right on time at 7:30am. After the usual bobbing and weaving to find a spot in which to run during the first mile or so, all 2,100 settled in to the pace. The three of us ran together, going through the first three miles at 9:12, 9:21 and 9:04. It felt comfortable. We swung onto the West side of the lake and I was surprised at how quickly the miles started clicking by, averaging around 9:15.

Somewhere in this part of the race, I had a first. On a residential street, a guy rolled the window down on his car while driving along on our right and asked how far we were running. After replying, he looked at me and said “Joe? Yeah, you’re Joe!! Joe the Umpire!!” I guess somewhere along the line, he and I crossed paths in Little League baseball and he remembered me. I honestly have no recollection of the guy; perhaps I called his kid out on a close play at the plate. Nevertheless, he remembered me, identified me, and we chatted about baseball for a few moments. After he drove on, a couple of ladies who heard the entire exchange as we ran along chuckled and said “Well, at least you’re not a fat umpire.” I’ll take that as a compliment.

We rounded the south end of the lake and headed up the east side. We hit some hills here which were short but steep. During mile 9, Christina had some pain in her foot and opted to fall back and walk a little more. Around mile 10.5, Mat felt some calf pain and urged me to go on. I was actually feeling pretty good, so pushed the pace a bit. Mile 11 came through at 9:01, mile 12 had a dandy hill which took 9:24. But the last 1.1 was flat, so I opened it up. By my calculations, I figured I had a shot at a sub 2 hour time, but I knew it was close. Mile 13 came through at an amazing 8:08, and the last tenth took only 46 seconds. I was initially disappointed to see my watch read 2:00:24 at the finish. But, considering my 2:02 target and the wonderfulness of the day as a whole, I was happy.

Mat and Christina came across the line at 2:06 and 2:04 respectively; they were pleased. Mat seemed to strain his Achilles tendon, so we got some ice at the first aid tent and headed home. It was fun to be with them both.

In analyzing the race, I think I had a negative split. My first six miles took 55:38, my second six 55:51. Throw in the 8:08 mile 13, I will assume the second half was faster than the second.

Results on line were also surprising. In my age group, I was 40th out of 124…I don’t think I’ve ever been in the top third before.

I thought much about buddies Darrell, Sarah, and Mary Gee while I was running today. Each is off the roads, dealing with injuries. It isn’t fun to be on the sidelines. I’m empathizing with you each, knowing it hurts. Do persevere in your rehabs. You are not forgotten.

So there, race #4 of my five race spring series is done. The emotional highlight comes up in two weeks, when my nephew and I will salute my Dad with a run to Notre Dame Stadium. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On Being Grateful

ORN Saturday: 18.1 miles, R4/W1, 3:13:18, 10:41/mile

Resting squarely at the intersection of my professional interest in management and my personal interest in running is the blog From Where I Sit by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is the CEO of a large book publishing company and I’ve come to respect his views and appreciate his transparency. He’s also a runner.

In January, he invited folks in his company to run one of two half marathons on April 26. Nearly 180 signed up and 135 completed the races. He invited their feedback and published Half Marathon 2008 Testimonials last week.

Most of these folks had never run a half before; many had never run a race before. It was a sizable accomplishment, mind-boggling for many. Setting a goal to do something difficult; getting through the inevitable ups and downs of training; having the sense of accomplishment; knowing the support of others in pursuing the goal; all of these and more came through in the comments.

Which was a wonderful reminder to me. Those of us who run distances regularly can forget just how cool it is to actually run 13.1 miles for the first time. And it is wise to never forget it, as we never know when an injury or life-change can take that ability away. It sure hit me yesterday when I set out to do 18, having run a half marathon last week, with another one set for next Saturday. Even crazier was how enjoyable the run was, so much so I was really disappointed when it was over; I could have easily done another five. Dare I take that for granted?? The gift of health is simply too precious to be looked at lightly.

Persevere. At any distance or situation.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Race Report: One America Mini Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, run, 2:03:45, 9:27/mile

Quick Summary What an event. This was my fourth straight year running this mega-race of 35,000 and it is always full of surprises. I shot for a 2:05 in humid conditions and was pleased with my time even though I did not get the negative split I had hoped for. I did have two conversations, however, which made the entire day worthwhile.

The Gory Details The drill for this event is pretty familiar now. Up at 4:30, wheels turning at 5:00, leave car in the same parking garage, marvel at the spectacle before the race actually starts. Running buddy Jess drove and ran the race with his son Josh who had just finished his last Mechanical Engineering final exam at Purdue around 10pm on Friday night. The joys of youth…it was not a biggie for him to sleep five hours and run 13 miles.

I was a little blasé about this race going into it. I don’t know why…perhaps the bigness of it; perhaps the warm weather; perhaps its familiarity; perhaps I was just mentally tired. I don’t know. My goal to “Run the best race conditions allow” still held, though. The mix of this blah feeling and humidity added up to shooting for a 2:05 and wearing my clunky shoes to avoid any injury.

The race went off on time. I was seeded into Corral F (out of the 26 total corrals, A-Z), so got a clean start and crossed the start line about 3.5 minutes after the gun. As I have done in recently, I eschewed the run/walk sequence on race day, choosing instead to run continuously and walk through the water stops. The early miles were smooth; my chip time over the mat at mile five was 46:13, a 9:15 pace. Mile 6 dropped to 10:00 though, as I had to make a “pit stop” just outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The next four miles averaged 9:20 but my 10 mile chip time showed miles 6-10 slowing to a 9:25 pace. The humidity was taking its toll. The last three miles were 9:37, 9:26 and 9:37, with the last bit of a rush to the finish line at an 8:40 pace. No negative splits today. Final official chip time was 2:03:48, an overall 9:27 pace.

Yet, I enjoyed the day, more than I thought I would. As is often the case, people win out over raw numbers. Two conversations touched me; one poignant, the other invigorating.

Along the front stretch of the Speedway, I came up behind a guy with a t shirt commemorating a soldier who died in Iraq. I asked him if this soldier was a relative or a friend. He told me the story of the loss of his brother-in-law seven months ago. The pain was real for him and I felt for him. It is a mystery to me why some things happen; why my son made it home from Iraq, safe and whole, when others do not. It is inexplicable. I could only share with him my sympathy, how sorry I was for him and, as the father of two soldiers, my inadequate yet sincere identification with his family. We shook hands and he seemed to genuinely appreciate the conversation. I hope it was an encouragement.

The second conversation began in Corral F at the start. I noticed a young woman with lettering on the back of her shirt “Run with endurance the race set before you.” That’s an alternate reading of the inspiration for the title of this blog. I walked over, we chatted briefly and wished each other well. Well, around mile 11.5 I noticed that same shirt as we were in the home stretch. I said hello again and we started chatting. Lynn is an effervescent person doing her first half marathon, her longest single run before today being one 10 miler. We had a lot in common, even to the detail of finding deep metaphorical and spiritual significance in ITB injuries. We talked and talked. Then, with about a quarter mile to go, I invited her to open it up to the finish line; she did, enjoying the sprint to the finish and she had her first HM in the bag. As we headed out, we realized we both have blogs; hers is here. Lynn, it was a treat to meet you!!!

One funny note. I got home, showered, donned today’s race T shirt and went to the grocery store to pick up some items for supper. As I walked out of the store, a mid-40ish woman glared at me and said sternly “Why aren’t you hobbled like I am??” She was shuffling along, stiff and sore from running the race today and obviously upset not everyone felt that way!! Sorry, Ma’am, I feel fine!!!

So, a race I was rather neutral about turned into a most enjoyable event. Persevering through meant everything. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bits and Pieces

ORN: 4.1 miles, R6/W1, 10:04 pace

“Hectic” doesn’t quite capture the past three weeks. I have had many blog postings in my head and no time to post. Here’s a quick update.

Gone Fishin’
Two weekends ago, four of us middle-aged guys went fishing for two days on a big lake in southern Indiana. I’m pleased to report the fish were very safe. Mike (on the right) and I had nary a nibble in two days; Jess and his boat mate caught these three whoppers and let us hold them for the obligatory “fish picture” before we released them.

While the catch was light, the time together was awesome. Getting away with guys who enjoy each other, sitting in a small boat with gentle waves in a quiet cove on a remote lake, sitting up at night discussing issues from the Purdue football team to substantive poverty problems in our city, all made for a wonderful time.

Saying Goodbye
Last weekend, I attended a funeral for a family matriarch. My father’s oldest sibling passed away quietly at the age of 94. The funeral was a celebration of a life well lived. Mary Alice was the family historian and a source of stability to several generations. While her body eventually gave out, her mind was sharp to the end. My cousin John reported a lively debate she sparked with him only a month ago over the pros and cons of stem-cell research. Yeah, she was sharp. We’ll all miss her.

Many of my cousins gathered and we had a wonderful time remembering Mary Alice and catching up with each other. My sister Marge is in front, the rest are cousins. Neat guys, we have much to be thankful for.

Getting Things Done
If any of you have read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, you know it is a terrific method of handling all the “stuff” that comes our way, keeping it organized and then getting the right things done. The staff there recently heard of my implementation of GTD and asked me to write about it. They published it on their blog here. If you like personal productivity issues, you might enjoy it. If you just want to see my handwriting, well, you can see that too.

Let’s go racin’ boys
Half Marathon #3 in my spring series of 5 happens on Saturday. The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is Saturday morning. Along with 35,000 of my closest friends, we’ll wind through Indianapolis, do a lap at the Speedway and run back downtown. Fishing buddy Jess and I are running again, this time also accompanied by Jess’ son Josh doing his first half marathon. Josh will finish the last Mechanical Engineering final of his sophomore year at Purdue around 10pm on Friday night, so he’ll be ready to run. The weather looks to be muggy, with a chance of showers and temps in the low to mid 60s. I’m thinking I’ll punch a 2:05 target into the Garmin, enjoy the sights and the crowds, try for a negative split and just enjoy myself. No PRs this week. And that's OK.

Persevere…no matter how hectic life gets!