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.