Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

The last day of the year. Just a moment to reflect.

Overall, I was pleased with the year. Four marathons, two half-marathons, a 10K and a 5K. Fewer races than usual...better races than usual. Best news was no significant injuries. Yes, a wonky left knee after the Portland Marathon was a minor issue but was simply overuse. Paying attention to that has proven a helpful, long-term lesson.

Monthly mileage was sound. January and February were a step-back from late 2008...the pace was steady from that point.

2009 Monthly Miles

Stepping further back, I'm encouraged by the annual mileage. Since I started my current running era in 2004, this year was much closer the high mileage years of 2005 and 2006. By the end of 2006, I had some real ITB issues. I'm really pleased this year had solid, injury-free miles.
Annual Miles

The best race of the year? Gotta think the Illinois Marathon on April 10. When your fastest mile of the race is the 26th, something worked well. The most fascinating race? Clearly the Heart of America Marathon. Hard to describe how much fun this small, quirky race was...even more so to share it with buddy Darrell.

We start the new year tomorrow with a 4 mile run along the Wabash River with our local running club. The race calendar is taking shape, nicely...I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Thanks for persevering with me for another year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Three Levels

It is unusual for me to buy any photos from big races. Yet, when Brightroom made an offer for a digital greeting card this week, I took it. It is amazing to me how just one simple photo captures so much.

In this photo, I'm about 130m from the finish line at the Sunburst Marathon last June in South Bend, Indiana. Just outside Notre Dame Stadium, I have no recollection of the photographer (for reasons I will explain) though I obviously saw him.

This photo moves me, for three reasons.

First, it just shows the joy of running. While mile 24 had been really tough for me in this warm-day race, I recovered and was feeling awesome as I came to the end of the marathon. I was aware of the setting and absorbing all I could at the conclusion of nearly 5 hours of running. The smile is sincere, the enthusiasm real. It got even more exuberant when I got on the field. I'm deeply grateful to be able to run and, yeah, it shows.

Second, the location was profound. Many of you know my Dad played football at Notre Dame in the 1930s. The shirt I am wearing has his photo on the back and, symbolically, the races at Notre Dame are a way for me to honor him. I can share, in a small way at the same spot, some of his athletic achievements. I wish we could talk about this marathoning a big, burly football guy, I'm sure he would laugh and laugh, yet be fascinated and proud.

Amazingly, 42 years ago in the fall of 1967, I was at nearly the same spot. Here I am, as a High School Freshman, with my Dad and younger sister Anne before a Notre Dame football game. I guess Mom had the camera...I'm sorry she's not in the photo with us.

That was a memorable trip. We got out of school, drove the 600+ miles from Nebraska to South Bend to watch the Irish play Southern Cal and their newly-famous running back, OJ Simpson. Dad was in his glory all weekend, showing us around, giving us his take on that famous place.

So, no, I didn't see the photographer on race day this June. Instead, I was deep in thought and appreciation of Dad as I was nearly overwhelming.

As it is this Christmas week. After a year-long battle with cancer, Dad died on Christmas Eve in 1993. It's hard to believe that was sixteen years ago now. Yet all he modeled and taught my sisters and me lives on and lives strong. And each Christmas since, my thoughts go especially to him.

Third, the photo has the Notre Dame Library in the background with the famous mural well known to football fans. On one hand, it is cool to be photographed with a wonderful campus landmark, almost as well known as the Golden Dome.

The mural has deeper significance than just being "Touchdown Jesus" however. As a follower of Christ, it surprised and moved me to be photographed beneath this image. Jesus has his arms raised in a posture which both honors God and welcomes others. I pray my life might do both, in whatever ways possible.

Merry Christmas to you. Thanks for your friendship as we all persevere.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Unfrozen friendships

ORN (Sat):  8.3 miles total with 5 x 1 mile intervals at 8:25 average
Last week I wrote about my simple love of running in shorts during the winter.  While my midweek runs this past week were nippy (one needing 2 pairs of gloves), Saturday warmed to 36 and we had a light but steady snow. 
Which thrilled me.  It's a rare meteorological occurrence to have it both snowing AND warm enough for shorts.  I don't recall it happening for several years now.  Out the door I went to do the intervals the schedule called for.  It was a most enjoyable run.
As I turned into the wind around mile 5 of the run, it hit me that I had done this once before, a long time ago.  Oh yes, I said, I once ran a Half Marathon in Africa in such weather.  I could see it in my head...just couldn't remember when.  Pulling up the race history I pieced together from various calendars of running in the early 80s, I did the HM in Bloemfontein, South Africa on Saturday, April 26, 1980.  Did a 1:43:43 In the snow but I was only 27...may never see that speed again. 
Yes, snow in Africa.  With the seasons reversed there, this was an early winter storm that hit.  I had persuaded my colleague Hugh to run with me.  No tech shirts in 1980...just a cotton shirt.  And we nearly froze.  But we did get it done. 
Hugh was single at the time.  We had only one toddler.  A few days ago, we got a Christmas card from Hugh, with a terrific photo of him and his wife from their son's wedding last summer.  Hugh is just as good looking as he was in 1980, with only a touch of grey. 
Speed will inexorably leave us.  Friendships won't.  Hugh is still a pal.  Despite me freezing him out nearly 30 years ago. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Remarkable unremarkableness

ORN:  11.2 miles, with 4x1 mile intervals at 8:23 average
We got a break from the serious cold blast we had earlier in the week today which let me get out the door a little after noon in shorts in the sunshine and balmy 37 degree weather.  I love wearing shorts for winter runs.  I consider it my contribution to good mental health for the community at large.  People who drive by and see me can say "Well, shoot, I thought I was losing my marbles, but will you look at that guy?  Shorts in December?? Now that's crazy!"  And they feel a little better about themselves.  I'm happy to serve in this small way.
The schedule for the as-yet-unnamed spring marathon called for 11 miles with 4x1 mile intervals today.  The run was nice ... nothing remarkable.
Which made me think how remarkable that truly is.
It was a little over 5 years ago now, in the fall of 2004, I was just getting back into running.  Around this time of year, I went out one Saturday afternoon and, to my utter surprise and delight, ran 8 miles.  Eight miles.  EIGHT MILES!!  I was astounded, almost dumbstruck when I got home.  EIGHT MILES!!  I hadn't run that far in over 20 years and wondered if I ever would again.  And, for the first time, I did it.  It was a true milestone for me in the running sphere.
I hope I never forget that run.  And today I didn't. 
It struck me what an amazing gift it is that running is just a normal part of life now.  Today, for example, had the normal Saturday-types of things on the schedule.  Balance the checkbook.  Check.  Email a friend who had some career concerns.  Check.  Run 11 miles.  Check.  Pick up an extension cord at the hardware store.  Check. 
During the final couple of miles for today's run, over the same path on which I did the watershed 8 miler 5 years ago, I just chuckled and was thankful.  It is a true gift to have the health, time, ability and interest to run for a couple hours as a matter of course.  I never want to take it for granted. 
Persevere.  On the remarkable days and the ordinary days. 

Monday, December 07, 2009

It Snow Joke

ORN:  5.3 miles, R4/W1
We had the first snow of the season overnight.  It's always a shock to the system to get up and see the ground covered with white stuff.  A brutal reminder that baseball is really over, summer is gone and any illusion of warmth is smashed for the next three months in Indiana.  All the winter running gear is now in use; the temperature chart still works. 
It was fun, though, to confirm, visually, that I was the first person to move down my street this morning.  The snow was perfectly smooth, undisturbed, from curb to curb for the entire block.  By the time I got back, a couple of the neighborhood teenagers had headed off to early-morning school activities and the guy across the street was heading to work.  The work week gets going. 
And so do I. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not the decision I expected to make

ORN:  14.6 miles, R2/W1
Today was supposed to be a day of confirmation.  It was but not the way I expected it to be. 
The plan was to do a 22 mile run today, the final check up to clear the way for registering for the HUFF 50K trail race three weeks from Saturday.  I was really looking forward to this event...I've run the trails there twice and wanted to finish my first bona-fide ultra. 
Yet, in the back of my mind, I had to re-test my knee after the issues it showed me at Portland and then again two weeks after that.  So, I had not registered for the HUFF, figuring I would do the run today and then sign up. 
All was well until the 14.5 mile mark.  In a hurry, my LEFT knee gave me a bunch of twinges, the very same pain I felt in my right knee at Portland and then again later.  Whoa, where did that come from??  I took a walk break, tried again, and, yep, that same hard-to-describe knee pain.  I decided to shut it down.
My wife, a very insightful woman, had asked me to stick my cell phone in my fuel belt before I took off today.  "You remember you got stuck a long way from home last time you did this long a run."   Today was the first time I have EVER run with a cell phone.  And I needed it.  The knee let loose at the far point of the route.  I called, she drove...thanks, hon. 
So, what now?  I've seen pain both knees now.  I think it is best I forget the HUFF.  Maybe next year.  There is a spring marathon lurking...I think I scale back and ramp up for it. Lots of work I can do this winter on core strength too.
On Thanksgiving week, I have much to be thankful for.  Doing or not doing races is not the central thing.  Good health is and boy, have I been blessed on that count.  This will all be fine. 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wear Reflective Gear when you Run in the Dark

ORN:  7 miles total, 5 x 1 mile intervals, average 8:15/mile
Another gorgeous fall Saturday on which to run.  Sunshine, 53 degrees, no wind...I'll need to remember this during February. 
The schedule called for mile repeats, a workout I am coming to enjoy.  Times were solid; 8:16, 8:12, 8:21, 8:16 and 8:08.  Technique felt smooth. 
But that's not what I wanted to write about.
I left work on Thursday a bit after 6:00pm.  The sun goes down just a little after 5pm these days, so it was fully dark by the time I was driving home.  My favorite running trail crosses the street along the way.  As I drove, my mind still on a couple of vexing issues from the work day, I suddently saw a runner, in the street, crossing right in front of me.  I hit the brakes and nothing happened.  But it was way too close; I was truly rattled.
Why didn't I see the runner?  It was dark.  And when I finally saw the runner, all I saw was dark shorts, dark shirt and a pony tail.  She was virtually invisible.  Nothing to reflect my headlights. 
Don't do this.  Be responsible for your own safety.  During the long winter, many of us do most of our running during dark hours before or after work.  Here's some simple ways to be reflective. 
Pass this on to other runners or your local running clubs. 
Please be safe as you persevere. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Running Multiple Marathon makes Wall Street Journal Front Page

ORN:  5.1 miles, R5/W1, 10:48/mile
Folks, we made it.
No less a light than the Wall Street Journal published this article this morning, on Page One, no less describing folks who run not one, not two but multiple marathons each year. 
It's well done.  I was sorry Marathon Maniacs didn't get a mention but Marathon Guide,  the 50 State Club and Bob Dolphin both made the cut. 
So, maybe we're not crazy after all.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Can I put this day in a Bottle?

ORN:  18.4 miles, 3:21:15, R2/W1, 10:57/mile
It's a beautiful thing when a perfect fall day lands on the Saturday when you have a long run scheduled.  And oh how rare for such a thing to happen in Indiana. 
Yet today was just such a day.  In addition to the sunny, 58F weather, there was a Big Ten football game.  The underachieving Michigan State Spartans were in town to play our frustratingly inconsistent Purdue Boilermakers.  With a noon kickoff, activity was rolling early.  During the first five miles of the run, the south wind carried the Purdue Band's pregame show to my Indian Trail loop, enlivening the run.  There is a special sound to a college marching band.  Interestingly, since we don't have a music school at Purdue, all the band members are Biology or Communication majors.  What we lack in musical finesse we make up in volume. 
Grinding the run closer to campus got me in the flow with a lot of folks walking to the game.  Looping around the crowds tailgating, the smells made me realize why so many "fans" don't even bother with the football game.  By the time I got home, the Boilers were already ahead 10-7.  Alas, they could not hang on and lost the game.
Yet the run was good.  I had decided earlier in the week to seriously pursue entering the 50K trail race on December 19.  After my knee issues at Portland, I had thought about scrapping it.  Yet several of you urged me to not give up on it yet.  After the successful half marathon last week, I sat down, reworked my schedule and realized I needed a long run this weekend to have a shot at 50K.  So I threw in the 18 miler, and went out at a simple 2/1.  It was fun.  Just knocked off the miles...nothing hurt, nothing twinged, it was just enjoyable.  I'll do a 22 miler sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend and, if that goes well, it's game on for my first bona fide ultra.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon

ORN:  13.1 miles, 2:06:51
Quick Summary:
The race turned out to be an enjoyable 9 mile tempo run, followed by an easy 4 mile training jog.  As this was the first race I've ever run not feeling 100%, I was pleased.  The social interactions of the day carried the event.
The Gory Details:
When I got home from work on Friday, my wife asked me "So are you really going to run that race tomorrow?"  Like a stubborn runner (or maybe one who had already paid the entry fee and was determined to get his money's worth), I said "Sure.  What else would I do?"  I'm fortunate...she loves me anyway.
Last week was a long one, as I contracted what was eventually identified as a dandy upper respiratory infection.  After hoping to deny it all week, I relented and went to the doctor on Thursday. He told me it was a good thing I came in, as it could have morphed into walking pneumonia in a few more days.  (I resisted the urge to ask him if I could make it "running pneumonia") Some generic antibiotics and industrial strength cough syrup turned the direction of the fight on Thursday and Friday.  Yet, I knew I was not 100% for running on Saturday. But, hey, it was going to be a nice day, so I still ran. 
Race day came and Social Event #1 took shape.  Former work colleague and running pal Chris S. emailed me on Friday, asking if he could have a ride to the race.  We met up and had a marvelous conversation all the way to downtown Indy.  It was terrific to catch up and discuss items of substance all the way.  Chris had his best HM ever, finishing strong at 2:07:47. 
We scored a great parking place a half block from the start line by 6:30am and I headed for Social Event #2.  Mike is a blog reader and was in town to run the marathon.  He and I have emailed quite a bit about applying Galloway's methods.  I used the half mile to his hotel as a nice warm up and we had a terrific chat for about 20 minutes.  It was fun to meet up.  He had a solid run, finishing in 4:49:34. 
Back to our car (where my wallet was well secured) and I had to decide Which Shirt Or Combination Of Shirts To Wear For This Race.  It's getting ridiculous...I packed six shirts for this race...and changed my mind twice more on race morning.  Ended up choosing a single LS tech shirt from Rocket City.  The weather was amazingly warm for early November in Indiana...the high for the day ended up being 70.  The choice was still wrong...I should have gone short sleeved. Boy, do I over think this subject, though. 
The sound system for the starting grid was very good and I laughed out loud when one of the pre-race songs was "Billy Jean".  I had no illusions of running at a pace of 8:20, but there it was.  Just before the start, I saw ahead of me in the crush of the grid two work colleagues.  Jeremy was running his second ever HM, shooting for a sub 2.  He made it, at 1:56:12.  Chris F. was doing his first ever marathon.  An accomplished triathlete, he was using this to push the distance envelope of his running. 
The race started on time and 5,700 of us shuffled off.  Somewhere in the first mile, Chris F appeared from behind me and we decided to run together.  Social Event #3 was underway.
It was huge fun to run and converse with Chris from that point to the split up at mile 8.  While we regularly collaborate projects at work, being on the streets, sweating and taking on a big challenge allows us to go wider than mere work.  It was a terrific way to run.  We talked and talked and enjoyed it a lot.  The mile splits were consistent:  9:13, 9:15, 9:14, 9:01, 8:59, 8:51 over the first six.  Both of us were feeling somewhat for the right pace.  With my illness, I had no idea what to shoot for...a very unusual thing for me.  I decided, as Chris and I settled into a comfortable groove, to just see if I could hit 2 hours.  He was not sure just what to shoot for in the full.  I encouraged him to run slower than what he felt he could...and since he often trains at a sub 8/mile pace, 9s seemed reasonable. 
Eventually, the half marathon course separated. I was sorry to not be going with the marathoners but that's how it was today.  I wished Chris well and wondered how he would hold up.  I needn't have been concerned.  In his first ever marathon, he finished at 3:56:27.  Awesome.  I can't wait for the full report on Monday. 
After all the conversation, the rest of the race was rather quiet for me.  Somewhere after mile 9, I began to sense the lungs and legs were not pleased with the tempo I was holding.  Since I didn't have a plan and wasn't really too uptight about the race, I decided to listen to these twinges and set my watch to a 3/1 run/walk for the rest of the way.  The splits then jumped to the low 11s.  And that was OK.  The ego suffered a bit as I had so many people pass me the last four miles.  But, it wasn't a big deal. 
The finish of the race was well laid out...through downtown Indy, around the State Capital building, finishing at a new government center.  The final time was 2:06:51.  Not all that great, but it was "the best race conditions allowed."  Conditions today were governed by the illness all week.  Just the way it goes. 
It was a good day.  I truly enjoyed the time with Chris, Mike and Chris.  I'm trilled how that worked out.  Any race day is a good is a gift to simply be able to get out and run. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Running in Wheaton

ORN:  7 miles total; 5 x 1 mile intervals, average 8:28
We are in Wheaton, Illinois visiting youngest son Matt during Parent's Weekend at Wheaton College, where his is now (amazingly) a junior.  Fascinating to watch him grow, spreading wings, flying.  We're so thankful for our three sons...words fail me to even express it. 
So I won't try; instead I'll talk about running.
In between events with Matt, I managed to get in today's required workout, 5 x 1 mile intervals.  I ran the Great Western Trail, part of the DuPage County Trails in the suburbs west of Chicago, which had an entry spot about 200m from our hotel.  It is an extensive rail-to-trail system...looking at the map, I think you could easily do a 30 mile run and not see the same thing twice.  Packed gravel made the surface wonderful on the legs.  Darrell once ran these trails while in Chicago on business.  This has to be a huge plus for any runner living west of Chicago. 
Despite a 20mph west wind and 41F temperatures, it was most enjoyable.  Individual splits were nice and even:  8:29, 8:27, 8:30, 8:26, 8:26.  The run was smooth and not maximum effort; I felt good all the way. 
And one weird thing.  I've noticed this before but only figured it out today during the last interval.  When I run at an 8:20 to 8:30 pace, the cadence of my foot strike is precisely the same as the core beat of Michael Jackson's song "Billy Jean".  Seriously.  And so I end up with that song stuck in my head during intervals. When I put this together, I felt like I should run with my left glove on and my right glove off.  Oh my.
My biggest tip of the hat today goes to long-time blogging buddy Waddler who does much of her training on this same trail system.  I thought of her a lot during the run, as next Saturday she goes for her first full Ironman distance at the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon.  She has worked oh so very hard for this, with not a few obstacles to overcome.  She has truly persevered, in the greatest sense of that word.  My prayers are with you and your whole family this week, pal.  Keep moving forward!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Split Time Clarification and updated Plans

ORN:  4 miles, R4/W1
Blogging buddies Darrell and David joined in the analysis on my last post, wondering how on earth I tied with Jeff Galloway at the Portland Marathon when my splits were better than his for 18 miles. 
Boy, I love number crunching. 
There was no's how it works.
The reason is that those paces were cumulative paces to that point in the race.  They were not paces between the mile markers.  Thus, when I slowed from a 10:30 to a 10:40 pace between mile markers 17.5 and 20.0, the actual splits included miles at 12:05 and 12:15.  Ouch.  Conversely, when Jeff pushed his cumulative pace from 11:11 at mile 21.1 to 11 flat at the end, meant he was probably doing 9:30-ish over those last miles. 

I also wondered; with Jeff doing a 1/1, just how fast did he actually run during his one minute of running? Loading info from his 21.1 mile split into my run/walk pace calculating spreadsheet, he held a 8:53 pace in each run segment. That sure seems doable. Makes me very curious to see just how this might work for me.
And, while I'm at it, the cube root of the arc tangent of the number of shopping days 'til Christmas is 0.356. 
Thanks to many of you for your responses to my post on recurring knee pain.  With your input, and my own consideration and reflection, the pain seems to simply be a case of overuse.  I had only four weeks between the HOA Marathon and the Portland Marathon...that probably triggered the knee pain on that race day.  Attempting 20+ miles then only two weeks after PDX was more of the same.  Duh.  This informs my planning for future races, eh??  I've done some hard running but nothing long in the past two weeks and it feels fine...the legs are fully back. 
The realization also altered, nicely, my immediate racing plans.
I had planned earlier in the fall to run the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 7.  However, while gimping down the long hill past the Adidas offices at mile 23 of Portland, I decided I needed to scrap that race.  But, alas, a light came on in my brain last week; that event in Indy also has a half marathon!  So, I've signed up to do 13.1 that morning.  My failed 20 miler turns out to be a perfect "last long run" for a HM.  Game on.  Just a little shorter game now. 
And the 50K trail race on Dec 19?  No decision yet. 
Thanks a ton for all your input, folks, I truly appreciate it and learn from all of you. 
Go Phillies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meet up with Jeff Galloway in Portland

ORN: 5K time trial @ 8:28 pace

Moments after crossing the finish line at the Portland Marathon two weeks ago, I received my medal from a helpful volunteer and turned to look at the finish area, pondering the moment. I saw a runner who finished just after me, wearing a "Galloway Running" shirt. I greeted her, mentioning I used Galloway's methods too.

"Well," she said, "Jeff is right there," motioning to a man just a few feet away talking to someone.

The lady was none other than Barbara Galloway, Jeff's wife. And in short order, less than a minute after we both completed a marathon, I was talking with Jeff Galloway.

I've written extensively on this blog about my application of Jeff's run/walk methods over the past three years. I was surprised and thrilled to be able to tell Jeff himself of my appreciation for what he has done to help me and so many others. In fact, as I told him, it was an ITB injury I suffered at Portland 2006 that triggered my first use of his plans in early 2007.

Jeff was very gracious to chat with me for several minutes in the amply supplied food area of the marathon (thanks for the white grapes and string cheese, marathon organizers!). We moved beyond my own experience, as I asked Jeff how his business was doing and how his seminars went at the Expo the day before. In one way, this mere conversation is testament to his training techniques; within 2 minutes of completing a 26.2 mile run, we were sane, breathing normally, speaking of broader issues...who would imagine that??

Jeff had some other folks walk up to greet him, so I got a photo with him, asked him to take the photo above of me with Barbara and I thanked him again. It was great to talk with someone who has done so much for running.

Later, I got thinking about what had happened. If Jeff finished the race just after I did, we must have run about the same total time. What run/walk plan did Jeff himself use? And what could I learn from this????

When I got home I pulled up the race splits for me and for Jeff. Sparing you the extra numbers, here is the cumulative race pace at each timing mat along the way for the two of us. (Interestingly, Barbara's splits were identical to Jeff's...they were together the entire race).

Distance... Joe's Pace ...Jeff's Pace
6.2 miles... 10:26 ... 10:59
8.9 ..........10:25 ... 11:04
13.1..........10:24 ... 11:04
17.5..........10:30 ... 11:05
20.0.........10:40 ... 11:10
21.1..........10:48 ... 11:11
26.2..........11:02 ... 11:00
Time ......4:48:55 .... 4:48:16

As described in my race report, my run went well through mile 18, when right knee issues slowed me down, evident in my paces. Jeff, on the other hand ran a very steady pace, and then accelerated over the last 5 miles. I ran a 3/1 run/walk. What did Jeff run? Same course, same day, virtually the same time...what was his running strategy? Could I learn it? Wouldn't it be interesting to compare??

So I emailed Jeff and simply asked him! The email found its way to him and he graciously answered my question. He told me he wanted to run a negative split so ran a 1/1 run/walk, through mile 23. Yes. He and Barbara ran one minute and
walked one minute. For 23 miles. From that point, they ran continuously the rest of the way, getting the negative split Jeff wanted. Arm in arm at the finish line.


And, that's when I saw both of them...calm, happy, conversant. Romantic even, in a running sort of way.

What to make of this?? Why do I subject my readers to such arcane analysis?? In his books, Jeff repeatedly makes the point that seemingly severely slow run/walk ratios work wonderfully well for recreational runners, allowing folks to lower the risk of injury and keep a steady pace for long distances. Jeff obviously follows his own advice, enjoys traveling with and running with his lovely wife and is happy to help others do the same.

His advice has been a huge help to me for three years now. He "walks the walk" (pardon the pun) and has been very gracious to so many, many runners. It's worth noting, even to this sort of detail.

Persevere. At any pace.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why we have running blogs

Click on the cartoon to see all the panels....

 Thanks for listening to me talk about my hobby!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


ORN:  20.4 miles, R2/W1, 11:12/mile
Well, that was disappointing.
After the problems with my right knee over the last 8 miles of the Portland Marathon, I decided to forgo my planned run of the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 7.   As a result, I refigured my training plans for the rest of the year and I was quite pleased with the layout.  It meant I got to do more long training runs here at home.
The first one was set for today, a 23 miler.  I was quite excited about it.  I modified the route and timing, so I could make a big loop through the Purdue campus before the start of the big football game today with Ohio State, just to enjoy the atmosphere.  (Little did I anticipate my Boilers would upset the #7 ranked Buckeyes!!  What a wonderful surprise!)
The run was nice...I took it easy at a simple 2/1 pace and enjoyed the temps in the low 40s.  But, out of the blue around mile 19, I felt my right knee start to lock up again, just as it did two weeks ago in Portland around mile 18.  Today, by mile 20, I simply could not run.  I had to walk the 2.5 miles back home. 
Which gave me time to think.  Re-think.  Wonder.  Question.
And after all that, I'm not sure just what I'm going to do.  Part of me says to bag racing for the winter and work back towards a spring marathon.  Part of me says to not panic, stay with the plan.  Part of me says to follow advice of a lot of trainers who say to NEVER do a training run longer than 20 miles. 
I truly welcome your comments and advice.  I trust the educated input of all of my blogger pals. 
What is clear, is to persevere.  In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Portland Marathon in Pictures

ORN: 8.3 miles, 3/1, felt good, first run post-marathon

Whew, what a week! After flying back from Portland on Monday, work requirements consumed the full week and then some. Only today did I get some space to post photos, as promised. Hope you enjoy them.

The primary reason I went to Portland was to be with son Nathan. He has worked there for seven years now and is just a great pal. Numerous circumstances had intervened and we haven't seen him in person since last Thanksgiving. So, this proved to be good timing all around. I can't describe just what a quality time Nathan and I had. We hung out, played baseball, ate together, had marvelous conversations. Above, Nathan, another pal of his from Purdue and I found a sports bar Saturday morning displaying the Purdue-Northwestern game on a big screen. We may have been the only three guys in Portland watching that rather inconsequential game, but it was sure fun, despite the Boilers fumbling six times and losing.

I was able to meet up with Michelle and Eric on Saturday afternoon at the Expo. Thanks to Michelle's internal-Starbuck's-seeking-guidance system, we found a version of the java shop to sit and talk for close to an hour. Common interests, much wider than just running, allowed for a wonderful time together. Awesome.

Race day dawned and I accepted an invitation by Sarah to meet up with her and other Maniacs at a running store just two blocks from the start line. I had a great time meeting her, hubby Marc and their fine son. The little guy was quite happy to take my camera and shoot the above photo. A terrific conversation, just before the gun.

Nathan and I worked out several spots for him to meet me during the race. Here's a photo he took at one spot. We actually connected four times and it was a big boost each time. Fresh water, a dry towel, a change of shirts...he was there, with tons of support.

I also tried something for fun and carried a disposable camera with me for the race. So, when I heard someone yell "Hey, Joe" at mile 7, I could record the greetings from Jenny and Eric! They were on the course rooting on their pals and I was honored to be included among them! I saw them three times on the day, a nice treat to have friends so far from home. I was sorry to not have a chance to speak more with Jenny and hear more of her recovery from her attempt at a 100 mile race earlier this fall.

On the out and back section from miles 6 to 10, I saw Michelle and her pal Margaret, whom I had not met before. Three maniacs, looking slightly maniacal and loving it all.

I should add a note about my bib. When I registered for the race, I decided to see if I could have some fun by putting my alma mater on the bib rather than my name. Being an "average Joe" and all, why not do something different? It turned out better than I expected. Standing around in the starting grid, I met a lady who was a fellow engineer, graduating just a year after I did. She even lived in the same dorm where my wife lived when we first started dating. During the race, I got a lot of "Go Purdue!" greetings from folks. I even go one sharp rebuke from a lady who graduated from our arch-rival, Indiana University.

Somewhere around mile 20, I saw this sign, saluting someone with the same name as my wife. I had to stop and snap a photo. My wife rocks too!!

Ultimately, the race ended. I must say the last mile of this marathon was a fantastic experience. Having run the course before, I knew what to expect and where I was. My right knee was hurting, I was going slowly but decided to just absorb the atmosphere.

As I did, I noticed odd expressions on the faces of so many people. I couldn't quite figure it out, as I was smiling and having a great time. It finally hit me, though, what was going on; it was as if they were watching a train wreck. Interesting, yet a bit gruesome, yet something not to miss. So many people were struggling, it must have been tough to watch. So, as I came by, smiling and laughing, folks seemed relieved...someone was still alive on the train. It was pretty fascinating and I enjoyed it.

In the food area just past the finish line, a lady walked up and said "Thank you so much!" Turned out that as we crossed the Broadway Bridge just past mile 24, I had talked briefly with her and her friend. She was doing her first marathon and was struggling a bit at that point. I offered some encouragement and then moved on. She said as I pulled away, she and her pal decided to "hitch on" and stay with me the rest of the way and they did. She wanted to thank me for the help and the pal snapped this photo. Cool...I've ridden others' coattails before, I'm glad I was able to help her. And it was nice for her to say thanks!

I have one more story from the food area, with photos, but that'll be a post on its own.

And what a treat to work through the crush of people and find Nathan in the family reunion area. It was a great day and special to spend it with my son.

Hope you enjoyed the was fun to put together.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Race Report: Portland Marathon

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:48:55, 11:02/mile, R3/W1
Quick Summary:  On a perfect day for running, I had a wonderful race for 18 miles.  Then my right knee stiffened for still-undetermined reasons and the pace slowed.  Other than that, it was a wonderful race packaged into a fabulous weekend to be with my son and a terrific time to be with many running friends from the PNW.
The Gory Details:
Pre-race:  This whole trip fit into an opportunity to spend a weekend with our son Nathan who works in Portland.  So I flew out on Friday, spent all of Saturday with him. 
I worked out a chance to have an extended conversation, at a Starbucks of course, with Eric and Michelle on Saturday, meeting at the Expo.  What a treat that was, our conversation ranging far beyond running. 
Sunday morning, I was able to meet up with Sarah and her family, which was also a treat.  Hubby Marc ran the race while their son did a kid's two miler.  Very cool. 
The Race:
The race itself had multiple facets, more than a single blog post can capture.  Suffice it to say, this was a bona fide "Big City Marathon", the full opposite of the Heart of America race Darrell and I ran just four weeks ago. 
The gun went off on time at 7:00am and I was a bit surprised at the time it took to get enough space to run comfortably. My target time was 4:40, with the intention to do a 3/1 throughout. The combination of the big crowd and width of the streets seemed to combine to make quite a crush of people.  For me, it was well into the 5th mile before I could find much of a rhythm.  I hit the 5 mile mark 40 seconds off my projection.  I was not too concerned. 
We then moved into a long out and back section through an industrial area.  There I got into much more of a flow yet at mile 10 I was 1:30 behind schedule.  I wasn't quite sure how that was working but it was what it was. 
We moved through a residential area and the onto a long flat road towards the major climb in this course.  I hit the half-marathon mat at 2:16:18, which was OK but not great.  Yet, by mile 16, I was only 20 seconds off pace.  The reason for that was I factored in two 12 minute miles for the big climb up to and over the St. John's Bridge.  On the down slope of the bridge, I was feeling good and looking forward to the rest of the race.
Somewhere around mile 18, I felt an odd twinge in my right knee.  This was really strange...I have felt nothing in my right knee for over a year.  My left knee, a few things but not the right.  What was this about?  It got painful in certain settings, particularly any down slope.  It really preoccupied my mind for a mile or so.  What was I going to do??
I kept focusing on hydration and form and tried to observe.  What I came up with was; the 3/1 still seemed to work; running on the flat was easier than running a hill; I had to back off the pace when I ran; and I was frustrated because EVERYTHING else was working so wonderfully...the knee was slowing me down  
But by mile 20,  I came to grips with reality; the 4:40 was gone.  So, could I not just enjoy the rest of the race and do the best I could?  Yeah, that became the new plan.
At mile 20, I was a full 4 minutes behind plan.  Going down a long hill to mile 23 was awful...the knee was very balky on that slope and I was reduced to a 1/1 run/walk when I should have been gaining time all the way down.  But, the knee just would not take it any other way. 
At the bottom of the hill, the knee and I made a truce and I did the 3/1, albeit slower, the rest of the way.  I enjoyed all the scenes; I was even "interviewed" by the announcer at the Red Lizard Pacing stop at mile 24 as I ran.  At mile 25, I decided to see if I could run the rest of the way...which I did.  I really enjoyed the build up of the crowds to the finish line; I was smiling all the way, just like a silly teenager.  I hit the finish line just less that 10 minutes under my target. 
Post Race:  Lots of stories here...that will wait for another day.  Suffice it to say, I felt wonderful, despite the kneww...I grabbed about four hand fulls of grapes, got some other food, talked to folks, walked around, absorbing the wonderful atmosphere.  In the crush of people, Nathan and still managed to find each other.  We made the long walk to his car, which felt fine, I showered, we found a dandy place to have lunch and discussed nuance of how a young employee speaks difficult topics to his boss.  Cool that not all chatting has to be about running. 
So much of what I experienced in the race happened with people.  I carried a camera with me for the race and got many of these moments in images.  With my schedule, it will be late in the week before I can post all the pictures but some of the stores are both amazing and cool.  But, gotta have the pix to tell these stories!  
I am disappointed in how the race went, I can't gloss over that.  It was the perfect situation for a very good time and this surprising knee issue just got in the way.  Yet, the old saying "Every marathon has its lesson" is true here and I'll reflect and perhaps write on those lessons. 
Next Steps:  I need to ice and rest this knee.  I've also decided not to run the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 7 as previously planned.  It just doesn't make sense.  I will plan on running the HUFF 50K trail race on December 19....that could be a lot of fun. 
Thanks for listening.  Jenny, Sarah, Eric, was awesome to see you all.  Thanks for welcoming me a bit into your worlds.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heading for Portland, with a salute to Nebraska along the way

ORN:  4 miles, easy
I head into marathon #2 of the fall, The Portland Marathon this Sunday.  It will be a treat to be there again, three years after my first running of the race.  That was only my second marathon of the current era and remains my PR at 4:21.  It also marked my first major run-in with the dreaded ITB Syndrome.  From all I learned and changed following that race in 2006, I've come to enjoy running more and more.  10 marathons later, I can hardly wait to motor up that steep incline to the St. John's Bridge and see the fantastic view.  I'll be spending the weekend with our son Nathan and that is the real treat of this trip. 
While I'm not really tapering (this race is designed as a training run, in preparation for my key marathon in Indy on Nov 7), the usual taper madness is here.  Odd niggles and glitches, funny pings in legs and ankles.  Glad I know what it is.  Race week is always fun for such reasons.  Race day weather looks nearly perfect to me... start temp of 49, and into upper 50s at the end.  As usual, I'll pack way too many shirts, dithering until race morning on the final combo to put under my Maniac shirt.
Here's my plan for the race.  I'll do a 3/1 run/walk the whole way, looking for 10:20 miles through mile 19, then adjusting for a possible slowdown to 11:20 miles the rest of the way in.  If it works, I should be finish around 4:40.  Anything under that will simply mean I could carry the pace past mile 19 and didn't bonk. Over that, well, that means I have learned something.   
If you are utterly bored beyond words on Sunday morning and want to see if I'm anywhere near these paces, click here on race day and put in my name or my bib, 4981.  Try not to be too dazzled. 
On a different topic...I got an email today from Bill, asking me if I could post a link to a race he was promoting on October 10.  I didn't recognize the race, nor did he have an address on his email.  But I did recognize his area code: 402.  Won't make sense to most of you, but 402 is eastern Nebraska, where I grew up.  That was enough for me!  Turns out the Market-to-Market Relay is an 84 mile trip through the beautiful hills and fields and trails of Nebraska, wandering from Omaha to Lincoln.  While some may snicker at using "beautiful" and "Nebraska" in the same sentence, this really is a nice part of the state.  Part of the course is just 30 miles from where I grew up.  A few teams are still looking for runners...if you are interested, you can try here.  Boy, there are just so many interesting races in October!!
I'm looking forward to seeing my son, running, hopefully seeing some of you and enjoying the beauty of Oregon in October.  I'm thankful, daily, for the ability to do this.  It is a gift.  

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Also Titled:   Race Report:  Apple Popcorn Festival 10K
ORN:  6.2 miles, 1:00:16, 9:44/mile, which contained a 5K time trial at 26:02, 8:24/mile
One of the fascinating parts of having adult children is the stories which start to emerge, observations on their parents' sincere yet sometimes-bumbling attempts to raise them well.  The ones we've heard (so far) are mostly funny; I'm guessing there are a lot more which we may never hear.
A popular point is our (apparent) lack of spontaneity.  Yeah, we usually plan things out pretty well and don't just jump up and say "Hey, let's go to a movie this afternoon!" or "Hey, let's call Wilbur and Myrtle and go out to dinner in the next 6 minutes!"  Certainly, my approach to running might serve to bolster this perspective.  Planning races 8-18 months in advance; implementing training plans to target the chosen races; making charts for what to wear in various temperatures; figuring out how to remember my wallet when I travel; all might lead one, perhaps, to say I'm not one to do a lot on the spur of the moment. 
So, today's race stands as an anomaly. 
Friday night, we were out with some friends (event planned 4 weeks ago) and got home around 9:15pm.  I checked email, where our local running club had just notified us of a 5/10K race this morning at 8am, less than 11 hours from the time I saw the notice.  My seemingly-rusted wheels of action began to churn.
You see, I knew from my training plan (set out 3 months ago) called for a 5K time trial today.  I began to wonder, why not do it with some other folks rather than by myself?  The race was in Brookston, a small town just 15 minutes from our house and only cost $15.  So, how could I do it?? I figured I could enter the 10K, use the first 2 miles as a warm up, then, using my Garmin, run a hard 5K past the mile 5 marker, then jog it in for another mile as a cool down.  By 9:30pm, I had decided to enter a race in the morning.  Boy, what a free spirit I am.
I rolled out of the house at 7, cash in hand.   I was signed in by 7:25am, even had time to read part of the morning paper before walking to the start line about 7:55.  And, after some amiable discussion, some guy yelled "GO" and the 100 or so of us gathered took off. 
The course was a simple out and back on county blacktop.  We ran through corn so high and so close to the road that it actually blocked off my GPS signals at one point.  Yeah, it's fertile here in the prairie.  I could see at least 40 new wind turbines visible, kind of a cool image of progress here in the flat lands.  The temperature was in the low 60s and the sun felt good. 
I did a 3/1 to warm up and then took off at the Mile 2 marker.  My target, working off of several predictors for my target marathon time of 4:30, was 26:25.  I had programmed that into the Virtual Partner feature, which guided me.  I tried to focus on form, especially a more mid-foot strike than full heel strike.  It felt pretty good.  My splits were 8:27, 8:24, 8:19 and 0:52 (a 8:03 pace) for an aggregate of 26:02, an average of 8:24/mile.  The time was nice...the negative split was even more pleasing to me.  I then jogged the rest of the way.  I felt a slight twinge in the right Achilles as I I didn't push to get in under an hour (hey I have the Portland Marathon, (planned)  in just two weeks).  Total time for 10K was 1:00:16.  My slowest ever 10K.  And it was fine.  Because I had planned the workout and plunked it into a spontaneously-selected race.  
And maybe that's a good combination.
Mega-shout out to my nephew's wife Ginger who finished her first-ever 10K race this morning as part of the US Air Force Marathon events.  She ran a 1:03, so we were, figuratively speaking, running together.  Also, kudos to blog reader Mike who ran the full  Marathon at USAF today. 
Persevere.  Even on the spur of the moment.  

Monday, September 14, 2009

Heart of America Marathon: One more inspiring story

ORN:  5 miles, R/W 2/1...felt good
One more story from the Heart of America Marathon a week ago today.  This one was a real treat and inspiration. 
Long-time readers of this blog might recall my story of The Man in the Yellow Shirt.  Briefly, I ran the last 7 miles of the Indianapolis Marathon in October 2007 with a man who had lost one and a fourth lungs to cancer over the years and had had a laryngectomy.  Yet, he was finishing up his second trip through 50 States at that point and just enjoyed running.  We swapped several emails that fall and I've been inspired since.  He told me he kind of liked that yellow, long-sleeve shirt and it had become a bit of a trademark for him. 
Fast-forward to last Monday.  Around mile 8 or so, I noticed a very familiar looking running gait, well ahead of me.  Very efficient, very experienced, very steady.  I recognized the wide-brimmed floppy hat but the man was wearing a long-sleeve white shirt.  Could it really be, though??  Was he here again?  He had told me in Indy he wasn't sure how many more marathons he'd do once he finished the 2nd 50 states. 
On the walk up the infamous Easley Hill at mile 12 with Cristy (MM  1473), she confirmed this was indeed the man I had run with in Indy.  She and Bill (MM1472) have run with him frequently through the south.  I caught up at the top of the hill, shook his hand and said how happy I was to see him again. I then had to ask "What's with the white shirt?" 
He laughed and told me he had bought this white shirt this summer but only decided that morning to wear it for the first time in a race, leaving the yellow shirt behind at the hotel.  We had a nice chat, working the rolling hills on that part of the course. 
Then it was me who got left behind.  Around mile 16, he slowly pulled away, along with Bill and Cristy.  They gradually moved on and ended up beating me by over 8 minutes.  We laughed again at the end. 
And I'm still inspired by the Man in the Yellow (or white) Shirt.  With no fanfare or desire for attention, he just keeps running.  I'll protect his privacy...but appreciate him with me. 
Talk about perseverance...he has it in spades.   

Friday, September 11, 2009

Heart of America Marathon; photos

Like Darrell, I'm still enjoying a good bit of "afterglow" from the fun and tough Heart of America Marathon on Labor Day. Here are a few photos to capture some of the essence of this terrific marathon.

I mentioned the course wound down to the banks of the Missouri River. Here I am in front of Big was really cool to spend 15 minutes or so "running upstream" with this magnificent river beside us.
Joe at Missouri River

This race is the opposite of a big-city marathon. On the afternoon before the race, Darrell poses with the entire finish line complex. Yeah, it was just this big. A single line painted on the cool! Coupled with a card table for the clock and a few volunteers, it was all we would need on race day!
The Finish Line

And how about traffic control? These stickers on the parking meters along one block sufficed!
Downtown Traffic Control

At the banquet the night before, past winners and special guests were invited back. To my utter surprise, two of them were from just near my tiny little hometown of Auburn, Nebraska! with Tim Hendricks and Lou Fritz
In the middle is Tim Hendricks, who won the race in '69, '71, '72, '73 and '75. Tim told me of his amazing running history, from Omaha South HS to Peru State College to the US Navy and an amateur career that included competition in presitgious cross-country events in Europe. Reflecting on all of this, he felt that winning the HOA probably convinced the Navy to not send him to's that for a real prize for being quick over 26??

On the right is Lou Fritz, a local running hero from my home area whom I had never actually met until last Sunday night. He holds the HOA record for finishing 25 consecutive HOA Marathons, ending his streak in 1991, running all but two of them under 3 hours! I introduced myself to Lou after the banquet and his eyes lit up. It turned out (and I had completely forgotten) that while we lived in Africa from 1976-1981, I had seen his name in a brief article in Runner's World (which my Mom had mailed me). I had clipped the article, mailed it back to him. When I told him my name he said "YOU ARE THE GUY WHO MAILED ME THE ARITICLE FROM AFRICA!!" He said he still had it in a file of his running memorabilia. Amazing that he would remember that, instantly, when I said my name. He also knew two of my cousins who still live in SE Nebraska and had heard my uncle died just a week earlier. Yeah, it's a small world.

And finally race day. Two certifiably crazy guys got up way before dawn to enjoy the simple pleasure of running a very long way.
Darrell and Joe at 5am, rarin' to go

The gift of health and life and friendship is a precious one. Persevere and be thankful for each of them, along with Darrell and me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Race Report: Heart of America Marathon

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:54:29, R2/W1, 11:15/mile
Quick Summary: 
What a fascinating, fun, tough, amazing, surprising marathon!  A true small-town gem with a brutally hilly course in the middle of the American heartland.  I was thrilled with the race, felt good throughout and logged the 4th annual marathon with Darrell.
The Gory Details
This race was so fascinating, at many levels, I struggled at how to capture it.  I'll do it differently than we go.
The Race Setting
This was the 50th consecutive running of this race, making it the fourth oldest in the US.  It has been a small event throughout, run by local track and distance-running enthusiasts.  Indeed, this year's starting pack of 312 was double the annual turnout.  At the pasta dinner the night before the race, it was fun for Darrell and me to be a "fly on the wall" and watch the local folks celebrate an amazing accomplishment. 
The race was the exact opposite of a big-city marathon.  No chips, no big crowds, no bands, no amped up excitement.  No big fee either...$25 got you in to run.  Yet, it was so very, very genuine, Darrell and I both found it wonderfully enjoyable. 
We met a lot of other Maniacs, which was fun.  Darrell got more names and numbers than I did and captured them nicely in his write up. 
The Course
At the center of this race, though, was the course.  Configured like a lollipop, the "stick" heads south of the college town of Columbia along a main city thoroughfare.  From mile 3.5 to 20.5 however, it loops on some wonderful, narrow, county roads working generally down to the banks of the Missouri River.  At the river, we ran a rail trail for about a mile, watching the mighty river flow along.  Since I grew up in SE Nebraska just 7 miles from the Missouri River, it was a bit nostalgic for me.  The loop continues back towards town by farms and rural homes, both old and new, until rejoining the "stick".  The course retraces on past the start line and finishes in downtown Columbia.
And what makes the course are the hills.  No doubt about it, this is about as hilly as one can get in a non-mountainous part of the US.  There were six major climbs, four of which were after mile 12.  The last one, a long grind to the mile 24 marker, was a particularly tough one. 
It seemed appropriate to run this course with a "Maniac" shirt on.
My Race
I really didn't know what to expect about my performance.  I simply wanted to be under 5 hours and vertical at the end.  Yet, being a card-carrying engineer and all, I couldn't help but put a laminated split chart together.  Working off the course profile provided at the web site coupled with my plan to just do a 2/1 run/walk, I laid out splits for the race. 
The weather was actually helpful.  Even though we started in a heavy haze with very high humidity, the temps were about 62 at the start and never got over 70, due to heavy cloud cover.  The gun went off exactly at 6:00am and we were off.  Darrell had done so well in his training I didn't want to hold him back, so we agreed to run the first mile or so together and then he'd take off.  After we shook hands and he powered up the first major hill, I settled into the pace.  It was well before dawn when we started, so it was mile 6 before I got a good look at my watch and my chart.  I was pleased at that point to be 6 seconds ahead of pace.  We rambled towards the river and at mile 10, I was nearly 2 minutes ahead.  We did the river and the huge Easley Hill and by mile 15 I was still nearly 2 minutes ahead of my projections.  More steep hills awaited, though, with mile 20 coming midway up hill five of the six; I was leaking and only 17 seconds ahead. 
The final hill next to the Missouri football stadium was a bear...I hit mile 24 at it's top and I was 3 minutes behind.  I was not in pain but the cumulative effect of the hills on this flatlander was showing.  I smiled, was grateful to be out there and figured I could gut out the last 2 miles, deciding to simply enjoy it, "running the best race conditions allow" and so it was.
I finally made the last turn towards the finish, crested a small rise and ran well the final 700 m to the finish line.  It felt was terrific to see Darrell sitting on the curb clapping along with a lot of other Maniacs.  I hit the finish four minutes over my target and that was fine. I felt good and enjoyed myself and was indeed sub 5 and vertical. 
On the question of nutrition and hydration, the plan I've concocted over the past year seems to work.  I drank 110 oz of water during the race, refilling my bottles along the way.  I ate four packets of Gu and took four Salt Sticks.  I had no cramping or nausea at the end of the race. 
I'll blog more later with stories of people, humor and just odd things about the race.  Plus, I have some photos to post. 
Adding it all up
Darrell summarized the race best as we drove back to St. Louis afterwards.  He observed this race attracted two kinds of people; a) local runners who took pride in their own event and b) hard-core marathoners who wanted some sort of a challenge.  There were no celebrities, no trendy fashionistas, no office politicians.  Just folks who really, really liked to run and found the hills and heat and humidity a delightful challenge.  Great folks all.  And it made for a wonderful event.
Mega-thanks to my pal Darrell.  I can't say enough about how much fun we had doing this for the fourth straight year.  I'm really glad it worked out, getting him another state and giving me a chance to find a new event.  Thanks, Darrell, it was a pleasure...we'll start thinking now about where we'll be next fall.
Persevere.  Over any hill life throws at you. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grocery shopping made interesting

ORN:  7 miles total, with 5 x 1 mile intervals at 8:22
One of the useful byproducts of my reflective drive home from the Rocket City Marathon nearly two years ago was settling on a global plan to run marathons more frequently.  In so doing, each one becomes a little less of a huge event.  This showed itself yesterday.
On a muggy, overcast Saturday morning , I tried to improve on the interval workout that whipped me badly three weeks ago.  Big difference?  I ran with water, taking a single 10 oz bottle in my belt.  It made a difference.  All five miles were consistent, within 9 seconds of each other, averaging 8:22.  Interestingly, this pace, according to Galloway's Magic Mile Calculator puts me right at my usual marathon target time of 4:45.  I enjoyed the workout and felt strong at the end.  And, kind of a hoot to do a speed workout just a week ahead of a marathon.  I note that Darrell may have done the same.
Later in the day, I made a trip to the grocery store.  As I maneuvered my cart, I noted a perky young mom with two kids in her cart stop, look and start smiling at me.  I did not recognize her at all; it quickly became clear.
"Did you run Sunburst?" she asked, expectantly. 
At that point, I realized I was wearing my Sunburst Marathon T shirt from 2008.  It made sense...she had just run her first-ever half-marathon there in June and it was, in her words, "one of the best days of my life!"  We had a long, wonderful conversation right between the dipping chips and cheese cooler.  What a hoot to talk about the race, why it was so enjoyable, the amazing experience of running down the tunnel onto the Notre Dame football field, the impact family has on running.  We both chuckled as well about the audacity of starting a conversation with a total stranger based on a T shirt.  Yeah, we'd both done it.  I suppose that is evidence that one really enjoys running.
Next Monday, Darrell and I take to the heat and hills of the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO.  It's our fourth now-annual fall marathon together.  He will fly east to St Louis on Sunday...I'll drive the 4.5 hours west from home, swoop by the airport to pick him up and we'll drive the 90-ish miles farther west to Columbia.  We will have pasta with other runners Sunday night and then run on Labor Day at 6am.  It's a small race...latest info says about 175 runners total.  I was really surprised to note about 40% of the field has never run a marathon seems a tough time of year and tough course to make one's maiden marathon voyage.  So, it will be fun and a challenge.  Early weather predictions point to a starting temp of mid 60's heading to upper 70s by the finish.  Darrell and I have coordinated our outfits and, with neither of us uncomfortable with overthinking race-day details, we're figuring out just how we'll run it.   One thing is sure; we won't be fighting the wildfires Darrell is avoiding in Southern California this week. I'll update my Facebook page from site and blog later about the event. 
Enjoy your week.  And persevere.   

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Running Stores

ORN; 4.6 total w/ 5K time trial of 25:59 (8:21/mile)...felt good
Hang with me here...this is story mostly about people and business, set in a running context.  It's quite a contrast between two running stores and two approaches. 
On April 27, I blogged about the offer I had from the folks at New Balance-Harrisburg.  In short, they offered to send me a free pair of running shoes if I would a) post a link to their store for a year and b) write about the shoes they sent me.  As I have a keen interest in digital marketing, I said yes to the offer. 
I posted the link.  But, to briefly recap, problems began when I asked the marketing folks to help me decide which NB shoe would be the best for me, a big, hulking overpronator who really likes my Brooks' Beasts.  I got no response from anyone who knew about shoes.  At all.  So, resorting to my own research efforts via the web, I "guessed" a pair of New Balance 1123 motion control shoes.  Just a few days after I ordered them, they arrived, just as promised. 
I wore them for about three weeks.  My initial response was "Man, is that a straight shoe!"  Whereas most running shoes have a more or less inward curve, this shoe looked like a 2x4 with laces on top...dead straight!  I put them on and they felt a bit awkward, but motion control shoes do that anyway. 
After 50 miles of running in the 1123s over three weeks, I was disappointed.  My legs and feet never got comfortable.  Of more concern, as I began to see a wear pattern develop on the shoe, it was obvious the shoe was way less effective on controlling my overpronation than the Beast.  So, I pulled it from my running shoe rotation.  The shoes do, however, serve me when I mow the yard. 
Still, I wondered, what would have happened had someone really wanted to help me select the right shoe? 
I found out, once again, last Tuesday while in Chicago taking son Matt back to Wheaton College for his junior year. 
After getting Matt settled (and a tough good-bye it was for this Dad!),I drove a few miles south to visit Naperville Running Company.  I first learned of this store from blogging buddy Waddler and wrote about them in February, 2007 after my first visit.  As described in the link, John deduced Brooks Beast would provide relief from the ITB pain I had.  Since then, I've purchased more Beasts via mail order from the store.  But I wanted to take another hard look at the Beast... Brooks has slightly altered the design... is it still the best shoe?? 
I had emailed Kris, the store owner, a few days earlier and asked if I could see someone on Tuesday afternoon.  He said they'd all be there, so when I walked into the store around 3pm I was thrilled to see John again, the same guy who helped me 2.5 years ago.  
I brought three pairs of Beasts with me and, as he did in February 2007, he first combed the soles of the shoes for clues to my foot pattern.  It was like watching a crime specialist at the scene... no detail was too small. He asked me about my running pattern... he was surprised and complimentary to learn I'd run 10 marathons since we last talked.  He then asked about changes in my running, weight, other factors.  He pronounced the wear pattern "good" but was also empathetic to my concern about knowing if the Beast remained the best shoe for me. 
After all this talk, he disappeared to the back room finding what he thought would be the best candidates.  The Beast was one, of course, to serve as a "control".  He brought the Asics Gel Foundation as well, which I suspected was also a good candidate.  But, most ironically, he also grabbed the New Balance 850!  I laughed to myself and thought "this will be interesting"; I had mentioned nothing of my contact with the NB store. 
We quickly dismissed the Asics shoe...the posts just didn't feel comfortable.  The Beasts felt very good.  But the NB850 was very nearly as good as the Beast!  John let me try both of them and then we went to the treadmill.  They had a video camera set up at the rear of the 'mill recording the street-level view of my running gait.  John reviewed it, and let me watch in slow motion, analyzing each foot's strike in each model. 
Bottom line:  the new model of the Beast looked perfect.  The NB 850 looked almost perfect.  Only the slightest of difference at foot strike was observable.  Both John and I agreed the NB 850 would probably work fine if we had had any concerns with the Beast.  But it was not wise to throw out the incumbent unless there was a much stronger alternative. 
I walked out with a new pair of Beasts.  More importantly though, I walked out with strong level of confidence I was wearing the model of shoes best suited for me. 
Contrast these two running store experiences.  Just from the conversation we had, John pulled out the 850s as a possible shoe for me.  Surely someone at the NB store could have figured out the same thing for me.  Had I tried the 850s, I would have given the NB Harrisburg store a much better review.  But no one did...and thus, you get the scoop like this.  This is how digital marketing works...nothing gets hidden. 
Mega thanks to Kris, store owner, and John, a terrific shoe fitter at Naperville Running Company.  Retail is tough; retail for a hobby is very tough; retail for a hobby in a recession is super tough.  But, from the looks of all the activity in the store on a Tuesday afternoon, this team is doing all the things they need to do.  Customer service sets this store apart and far apart are they set.  If you are anywhere near Chicago...and if you aren't, phone or email them, they might still help you.   
This is great marketing.  The brand of Naperville Running Company lines up with Brands that Matter, as described by my favorite marketing dude, Seth Godin.  There may be lessons here for your own business...consider it carefully.
Thanks for hanging with this long post.  But I'm impressed and I can't tell you how grateful I am. These guys have persevered and sure help me do the same. 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last Long Training for the Whole Fall...Done!

ORN:  23.8 miles, R3/W1, 4:32:13, 11:   /mile
Today was the last long training run for the Heart of America Marathon.  Due to the sequencing of the fall marathons, it is also the last long training run I'll do on our local roads until late November. 
And there wasn't a lot really memorable.  I simply started early and kept running.  Temperatures were set to be well over 90 today here, so I walked out the door at 5:45 and got home around 10:30am.  I held the 3/1 ratio through the first 22 miles, but backed off to a 2/2 at the end.  The heat got intense and I was pretty well ready to be done. 
Only two really interesting stories; one odd, one funny.  The odd one occurred at mile 3, still before sun up.  I was moving down a dark street when a dog came running out of a garage at me.  He chased me a while, jumping, nipping around my elbows, as I just tried to keep going.  His owner walked into the street and tried, meekly to get Brio to come back, which he did after a block or so.  Not my idea of fun.  But then I hit one of my turn around points and was back in front of Brio's house again 10 minutes later.  By then, with more light, I could see it Brio was a lab or lab mix, still a puppy and just playing.  That helped.  But why do dog owners assume their unleashed dogs don't bother others? 
The funny story happened around mile 21.  I saw a lady I know enough to recognize but don't know her name.  She was walking her dog (on a leash!!) and, remembering she has seen me running before, asked "So how far do you run?" 
I said "It varies...but today I'm doing 23."
A long pause, with a puzzled look.  "Miles?"
"Yeah, miles.  I like to run."
"Well, doesn't that take you all day to do that much?"
"Actually, I'm almost done...heading home, only 3 more."  (it was not yet 10am at the time)
I hope I can talk to her more...but it was a little hard for her to fit together. 
Stats on the run.  I drank 95 oz of water ( 21 oz/hour), a little low, I think on such a hot day.  I took one Salt Stick per hour and ate 3 Gu's.  All of this was on top of one slice of bread and butter.  I could have used some more calories, I'm thinking.  But no cramping or nausea at the balance must have been OK. 
Three weeks now to HOA Marathon.  It could well be just as hot and muggy as it was here today.  So, this was good prep.  I will use a 2/1 there, though...they have hills, we don't. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Add the Portland Marathon to Fall Schedule

ORN: 5.2 miles, R6/W1
A few weeks ago, I published my fall race schedule.  
I now can add one more... The Portland Marathon on October 4!!
This is a real treat for me.  I ran Portland in 2006, which was my 2nd marathon of the current era.  Thanks to Darrell's introduction, I there met many of my PNW running friends:  Michelle, Eric, Jenny, Sarah, and others.  They welcomed me into their fold and have stayed in touch...what a treat.
Well, it worked out again for me to be in Portland again.  My middle son, Nathan, lives and works in Portland and a lot of things fell together for me to go visit him; as a bonus, the dates lined up with the Marathon.  So, I'm going to fly in on Friday evening, head back on Monday morning and enjoy the weekend with Nathan.  He said he was looking forward to trailing me around the course.  I registered for the race and have my bib number already:  4981.  I even asked the nice folks to emblazon "PURDUE" on my bib.  Should be fun.
I see Michelle is running Portland again.  I hope we can connect!!  It would be great to see any of the rest of you who might be running!!
So, the fall has three marathons and an ultra set now.    
Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, Missouri on Labor Day, September 7. 
Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, November 7
Huntington Ultra-Frigid Fifty, a 50 km ultra in Huntington, Indiana.  Persevere. 
I'm pumped.  We'll see how the body holds up. 
And I'll be persevering. 

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Back from vacation, learning an old lesson

ORN: 9.4 miles total, with 7 x 1 mile repeats, average 8:56 (but averages are deceiving)

You'd think I would have learned this by now. But apparently not.

Hydration matters.

Running last week on vacation in northern Wisconsin was awesome. The cool temperatures, dry air, beautiful woods to run through, stress-free atmosphere all worked together to make a great week. I ran hard, felt good, enjoyed every step.

And, as often happens, I somehow thought that what had happened would continue to happen.

When we got home Saturday night, we were greeted with a classic set of the "Indiana Ninety-fives"... 95 degrees with 95% humidity. Out the door at 7am this morning, it was already 76 with very high humidity. The schedule called for 7 one-mile repeats. I decided, with the heat, to be happy with 8:45s.

The real problem, though, was I decided to not take any water with me. Shoot, I figured, it would "only" be about 9 miles total and, shoot, I didn't need much water in Wisconsin and, shoot, I don't really want to put on my water belt, because shoot, I don't like how tight I have to cinch it up around my waist to keep it from bouncing.


It all worked fine through the first four intervals. All within 4 seconds of each other at 8:41. Felt good. My shirt was drenched in sweat, though, and it was just awful outside. The fifth interval slid to 8:59 and the last two were a real struggle, at 9:17 and 9:36, respectively.

Worse, I hurt like crazy. My feel, my hips, my quads all ached, in a way they haven't in a long time. This is, for me, one indication of dehydration...somehow the joints are less "lubricated." I drank about five glasses of water in 45 minutes once I got home; I had clear evidence that in that "mere" 9 mile run, I indeed had dehydrated.

You'd think I would know better. Perhaps it's good to relearn this on a non-race, short day out.

I'm gonna counteract this by wearing the belt on each of my runs now...even the short ones, while it is still this humid...which will be through much of September. It also makes me wonder if I shouldn't investigate a non-waist-oriented water device.

Enough on this, though. We had a fabulous vacation and here are a couple of photos of the fam.

The Fam, at Schoolhouse Beach
Here we all are, at a favorite spot. I'm in the back. From the left, is son Matt, son David, his wife Susan and my wife. Drew had the "binocular eyes", then Nathan and young Miss B. It was awesome to spend a full week together.

G and me
My lovely wife and me on a fire tower. In the background is Lake Michigan and, on the horizon, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Yeah, the sky was really that blue.

Vacation or no, do persevere. And drink plenty of as I say, not as I do!!