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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Go Long and Get Home

ORN: 22.3 miles, 4:03:11, R3/W1, 10:55/mile

In a quest to settle whether or not to run a 6 hour trail race in three weeks, I set out to do a long run this morning. Since I needed to be home by 10am, I was out the door at 5:15am and got it in.

I was astounded, frankly. I settled into a groove and just stayed there. After 3 hours, I felt great. As I approached 4 hours, I still felt fine. After I got home, the Garmin’s tale was encouraging. The pace of almost all 66 three-minute run sequences were in the upper 9’s per mile, even the last ones. Steady. Enjoyable. What a gift to be able to just walk out my front door and run. I don’t take it lightly and feel for my pals who are sidelined currently.

So, I’m on for the DINO 360 Minute Trail Race on July 5 (or, as we say in Indiana, cinco de Julio). If I finish, it will be a number of firsts for me; my first ultra, my longest trail race ever (previous high…13 miles), my first long run in heat. So much for the mantra of “nothing new on race day.” Therefore, I’m asking for nutritional advice, please.

I tried to practice fluid and food today…please let me know if I’m on the right track for race day:

  • Fluids. I drank 50 oz of half-strength Gatorade during the run today and another 20 oz immediately afterwards. I had evidence (three times, actually) I was not dehydrated. It was humid today and the temp ran from 68F at the start to 78F at the end.

  • Gu. I had a Gu at 1:20, 2:20 and 3:15 after I started. I’ve discovered if I eat half a pack, wait about 5 minutes and eat the other half that it sits better on the stomach.

  • Crackers. I packed a bunch of Wheat Thins in the little front pocket of my fuel belt and ate 3-6 per hour, one at a time during walk breaks. My thought was the salt was helpful, as well as a few carbs.

So, veteran trail ultra runners, what advice would you give me, the newbie, to prepare fluids and food for a six hour trail run in the heat?? I’d really welcome your comment on what I did this morning and what I’ve forgotten.

But, why did I have to be home by 10am?? Because at 11am, we gathered to celebrate the 2nd birthday of our granddaughter Berneice! Hard to believe it was two full years ago she was born…and what a two years it has been. Susan, David and I had a chance to have a good hug over that fact during the party. The little gal is quite a cutie…she has a sweet spirit, is starting to talk well and loves to be with the extended family.

Rejoice with us. And persevere.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Revenge of the Humidity plus odds and ends

ORN: 6.7 miles, 1:13:07, R2/W1, 10:55/mile

Summer came onto the Midwest with a vengeance this week and, as is my usual habit, it took me completely by surprise. Friday morning had temps in the upper 70s at 5:15am with 95% humidity and I wondered why I felt so lousy. This should not sneak up on me, but it seems to have done so. Once again, I drag out the small towel to carry, the big towel to stash at the end and use water on every run, not just the long ones.

This morning’s run was also hot but had a treat. We spent the weekend in St Louis with Gretchen’s brother and wife. They live near the famous green space in the city, Forest Park, a 1,300 acre point of beauty. The Park has parallel running/walking and bike paths around its circumference. I did one wonderful lap this morning which was a solid 6 miles around the Park. It was so cool to see new things on the run. Parts of my route today were along the path I took just over two years ago when I ran the St. Louis Marathon, the first marathon in this era of my running. I backed the pace off to a very easy 2/1 R/W and it held up fine, despite the 85 degrees, 90% humidity.

I’m truly wondering at this point if I’ll be set for a 6 hour trail run four weeks from yesterday. It could be every bit as hot and humid on July 5 in southern Indiana. I have a 22 miler scheduled for this Saturday…that will tell me more.

A few more unrelated items:

If you like Dave Berry, you will likely enjoy reading my nephew John’s very funny write-up of the non-running events of last weekends trip to South Bend. You can find it here on our family blog. Lots of photos and will give you a glimpse into our extended family.

What is Joe doing? I’ve had fun lately with Twitter. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a simple way to link people, asking the question “What are you doing?” which you answer in 140 characters or less. Very much “micro blogging.” I added my last five entries to the sidebar of this blog. Or you can follow me here.

Final race photos Not everyone gets to charge onto the field at Notre Dame stadium…John and I were able to do so…it is still a rush.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Race Report: Sunburst Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:55:33, run, 8:50/mile

Quick Summary

The final race in my spring half-marathon series came off better than I could have ever dreamed. Running all the way on a humid day with my nephew John, we beat our 2 hour goal by 4.5 minutes, felt great at the end, absorbing all the family history captured on the campus of Notre Dame.

All the Details

This weekend was more than I could possible capture in a blog post. At levels multiple, it was more than I could have imagined. I’ll just write here about the running parts; family memories and connections ran even deeper.

All of this came about due to some amazing things happening for my nephew. John is the oldest son of my oldest sister; I was in fifth grade when he was born, so over the years we’ve grown to be much more like brothers than uncle/nephew. John had an amazing epiphany a year or so ago, resulting him deciding to lose over 60 pounds by the end of 2007, gaining significant improvement in his overall health. To secure these excellent health gains, he began to run in late January this year. He had actually run a half marathon and some shorter races near his home in San Diego in the mid 90s, and, like many of us, came back to running as an effective way to get and stay in shape.

In February, he and I began toying with the idea of doing a race together, someday. After a lot of discussion, the Sunburst half marathon seemed to make sense. The time was right, the family connections with Notre Dame were profound, his training could lead to it…so he and I booked it. It proved to be a solid goal for John to pursue and a wonderful chance for me to host him.

He flew in Thursday night, had supper with us, David, Susan and Matt. Friday, he and I drove across the flatlands of northern Indiana to South Bend. After getting our race packets, we toured the course. Since John has spent virtually all of his life in southern California, our open agricultural lands, lush green grass, tree-lined streets, even the pop-up thunderstorm we had Friday night all were wonderful reminders not everyplace is a desert, packed densely with people. He also found what we call “hills” to be hilarious…after his training in San Diego he called them “speed bumps.” This proved to be an ongoing joke all weekend.

Among the gazillion things John and I have in common was a love for getting to races early, leaving nothing to chance. So, we were up at 4:50am and at the starting line at 6:00am, not minding our race did not begin until 7:30. We watched the marathoners start at 6, then scored a nice park bench from which to watch the masses of 5K runners prepare, then sprint off at 7:15am.

We had decided to go for a 2 hour half marathon. Our training distances and paces were virtually identical; I knew we could stay together. However, I had my doubts as to whether or not the humidity would take too much of a toll. Yet, John was really keen on getting under 2 if we could. So I told him I’d go for 2 with him, but not 1:59…only a 2 hour race. Agreed. I programmed the Garmin for this time and made the mental calibration.

We lined up in the grid, stood for the National Anthem, then looked at each other, almost incredulous all the preparation had some to fruition. It was an amazing feeling. We both wore shirts with my Dad’s Notre Dame football photo on the back from 1937…we were running to honor him, to carry on what he taught us and it was all coming together as we stood there. The gun sounded and we were over the start mats in less than a minute, along with a thousand other half marathoners.

The first couple of miles were, as usual, a matter of finding a rhythm. Around mile one, John commented “so this is what humidity does?” as he found sweat building up on his forehead and shirt. Yep. And, right on cue, we encountered our first “hill”; a 200m long slope that perhaps had 40 feet of vertical rise. “These are hills, John,” I countered. We grinned and motored on.

We turned onto some residential streets with trees on both sides, touching at the top, a complete shaded canopy in which to run. The sleepy St. Joe River lazed along on the right. It was awesome; John was entranced, I was thrilled to have the Midwest look so good.

Having driven the course the day before, we knew what to expect. Miles 2 and 3 went smoothly. The Garmin told me we had a couple hundred feet in the bank for our goal. I had to remind John at several places we were OK and should save some gas for the end. We only walked at water stops; taking 20-30 seconds to hydrate well, collect ourselves and start again. It seemed to work well. Before we really knew it, we had done 7 miles and were over half way done with the race. We felt fine, yet ran conservatively. I was starting to think we just might be able to hang on, if we ran intelligently.

We crossed the St Joe River around mile 9 and began meandering towards the Notre Dame campus. A year ago, I bonked in this part of the course, so wondered just what would happen this year. This time, we just ran, holding the pace, doing miles slightly over or under 9 minutes. We popped out of the loop and I remarked to John “Boy, that loop went quickly.” Sub 2 looked more and more possible.

Just before mile 11, we encountered the only real “hill” on the entire course, a modest incline about 400m long with maybe 100 feet of vertical climb, which we had come to call "Mount South Bend. John and I broke (as we are both prone to do) into British accents as we started, speaking of the ascent before us, the thin air, the challenge of the peak, the place we would plant the flag. Laugh as we might, John attacked the hill with vengeance and left me and all my fellow Hoosiers in the dust. He paused at the top, waiting for me; I pointed out all his hill running proved itself. We had the time lost on the “mountain” made up in another 600m and passed the 11 mile mark.

The previous day, we had agreed we’d assess our condition at 11 miles and determine if we needed to push hard to the end or could enjoy the approach to and run on the ND campus. The Garmin told me we had nearly 300m in the bank; we agreed we’d enjoy and absorb the event.

And, boy did we.

The emotional high point for the race came a few minutes later. Due to road construction, we had a slight change in the race route from previous years. This time, the course turned onto the famous Notre Dame Avenue for a block, significant because it lines up perfectly with the famous Golden Dome of Notre Dame. John and I ran down the middle of the road, taking in the scene my Dad described to me many times as first seeing as a college freshman from the farm going to the big college to play football in 1933. I was flooded with memories of Dad and all that meant for him, all he gave to his children and grandchildren. It was astounding; lasting only a minute or two, it is indelibly imprinted on my mind.

A couple more turns and we were alongside Notre Dame Stadium. One last right and we were in the tunnel at the north end of the stadium, pulsating with the Notre Dame Fight Song. John and I barreled onto the field; I grabbed his hand around the 20 yard line and we ran across the finish line, hands linked, arms in the air. It was an awesome finish to an awesome run. Punching my watch and seeing 1:55 only made it better.

Wanting to absorb as much of this as we could, we hung around on the hallowed turf of Notre Dame Stadium for a full hour after we crossed the line. We talked with lots of folks we had run with; we talked with race officials; we marveled at the stadium; we remembered my Dad; we soaked in everything. When we left, we left satisfied.

Analyzing our splits later revealed we did the first 6 miles in 54:02 and the second 6 miles in 54:01…incredibly even, despite the “hills.” Throw in our last 1.1 at a 7:57 pace, this is a negative split. I was stunned when I saw this.

The drive home had much conversation, revealing one very fascinating story. John and I were both amazed that on a humid day with wind and temps in the mid to upper 60s, we could put down a 1:55 half marathon. How could this have happened? We realized two key things took place. John wanted to go for a sub 2, a goal I would not have done on my own. During the race, he kept pushing that pace. That was good and vital. With the experience I have from running more than John has and running in humidity, I helped to hold the pace in check through the middle miles of the race, when John said he would have been temped to crank out some 8:15 miles. That was good and vital. As a result of working together, we beat our goal AND has gas left in the mental and physical tanks to finish strong, absorbing all the race had to offer. Yeah. We need each other. It’s a story that extends far beyond running.

Much, much more happened…this is just the running side. Thanks for coming along for the ride. And keep persevering.