Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Summertime 20 miler

ORN:  20.6 miles, R3/W1, 3:41:14, 10:45/mile
After a less-than-enjoyable 18 mile run two weeks ago, I was antsy to run today's scheduled 20 miler.  It went well.  The day was heavily overcast, with humidity near 90% with off and on drizzle.  But the temps stayed in the low 70s due to the clouds and it was bearable. 
The run just sort of happened.  My banged-up left pinkie toe behaved.  Though I was aware of its presence, it caused no pain; mostly it was just sore.  I'm planning on running a 2/1 run/walk ratio at the HOA marathon in six weeks.  Pushing a 3/1 today seemed to help, especially given the likelihood of similar heat and humidity.
So, with a simple run just going along, the run became surprisingly musical.  (I don't like to wear earphones).  The sequence of songs for the 3+ hour run was enlightening and perhaps says something about me. 
Around mile 7, the trail runs along some farm fields. It struck me just how much the corn has grown in the last week or two, now sporting the tassels which shift it from deep green to a greenish- yellow hue.  And, at that point, the most wonderful of lullabys, George Gershwin's Summertime from Porgy and Bess, got into my head.  Indeed, catfish are jumpin' in Indiana rivers now and though we don't have cotton, the corn sure is high.  This song, regarded by many experts as one of finest songs ever written in American has always moved me.  Its gentle, rocking rhythm is coupled with lyrics which express the hopes and dreams of every parent.  It is a universal song.  It allowed a wonderful reflective time for me as I ran.
Until mile 14. 
During a walk break, a gangly high school freshman training for cross-country clomped past me. On the back of his T shirt was a bold "We Are the Champions" statement for some team he'd been part of.  And this jolted me from the peaceful "Summertime" to Queen's ubiquitous stadium anthem of the same name.  Yeesh.  What a contrast. 
A mile or so later I managed to shift from this abrasive piece to another slow, reflective song, 40 by U2.  It's slow refrain, "How sing this song?" has resonated with me.  In many ways, the song is about perseverance.  We sing this song at our church as well (yeah, you read right...we sing stuff by both Martin Luther and Bono) and I find it attractive and reflective to me.
The run was just that good.  During the last mile, my legs felt heavy and my feet hurt, but I took the long way home and made the last mile 1.6 miles, just to work through the heaviness.  The run and the music were great. 
Persevere to your own music, my friends.  

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things that go "Bump" in the night

This is the two weeks of July in which baseball intersects running for me each summer.  I just finished up this afternoon umpiring 17 games in 9 days for our local district Little League baseball tournaments for various age levels.  It makes for a lot of late nights but also a lot of fun as my local umpiring colleagues and I attempt to give the 10 through 12 year old All-Stars from communities in an eight county area a good baseball experience.  It also gave new meaning to the term "intersects."
Last Wednesday night, I worked two games, got home late, showered and tiredly plunked one of my three bags of umpire gear on our bedroom floor.  (Note:  if you've never been around a baseball umpire, it is hard to imagine just How Much Stuff one needs.  Yes, I have three bags of umpire gear.  Yes, most of it smells funny too.)   Sometime in the night, I got up to go to the bathroom.  On my sleepy walk to crawl back into bed, I whacked my left little toe on the hard corner of the Bag 'o Stuff.  Wow, it hurt, but I managed not to wake up my sleeping wife.  Back to sleep. 
On Thursday mid-morning at work, in my Official Business Person Leather Shoes, I started to notice my left foot hurting badly.  I could not figure out why.  I replayed several incidents from the previous night's game.  Was it a foul tip that hit me?  No.  Did I jam my foot when running down to cover third base?  Couldn't remember it.  But, wow, the the foot hurt.  Only at the end of the day, when I was changing socks to go umpire again did I see the very red, swollen, angry-looking little toe did I remember the bump in the night.  I guess I really was sleepy when it happened.
So, I gimped through seven more baseball games.  For the most part, it wasn't a big factor in umpiring, though I had a few cases where I forgot and tried to brake and pivot on the left foot and was instantly reminded of the injury.  I did try to run, though, on Friday morning, because the schedule called for 5 miles.  And I like to keep my schedule, just like Darrell does.  Out the door I went.  And a quarter mile into the warm up, it was very obvious that pounding the swollen pinkie was a non-starter.  Nothing I could do but let this thing heal up.  So, I also had to skip the scheduled 7 one-mile intervals set for Saturday.  And I like that workout.  But it was a no-go. 
The toe is getting better each day, so I'm hoping to run again this week, but we'll see.  20 miles are on tap for next Saturday... another much-loved distance. 
Man, if this is the worst problem I ever have, I'm really blessed.  And, at the same time, I clear the floor now before I go to bed.
Persevere.  Through whatever bumps happen in your night. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Glimpse of African Running

I had quite a driveway moment coming home from work this afternoon.  I was listening to Marketplace on Public Radio when I heard the story of Kenya's Salina Kosgei, the winning woman at this year's Boston Marathon.  If you have five minutes, click on the link and listen.
What got me was a particular combination of factors.  My wife and I worked in Africa from 1976-1981.  We grew to love the continent, with all of it's massive problems and incredible potential.  I first started running in Africa and it was there I ran my first two marathons.  I love the fact that Africans are the world's elite distance is one point of genuine dominance for a continent that lags behind in so many, many ways.
More than that, though, this reporter captured the humility of an African champion.  The difficulty of her life, her love of running, the support of others, the mindset of never being far from poverty while wanting to give back in a very real way. 
It touched me.  Perhaps it will be meaningful for you as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Fall Racing Plans now set

ORN: 5.2 miles, R5/W1
A couple of years ago, I was sitting at the table, calendars and race brochures spread before me, when my wife grinned.  It was the look that told me a bit of sage wisdom was about to follow.  "You know, I think you enjoy PLANNING running as much as you enjoy running itself."
She had it pretty much right, as usual. 
I am usually working about 12 months or so ahead on race plans, as all of that gives shape to daily runs.  So here is what the rest of 2009 is looking like for me.
My good pal Darrell and I have worked out our now-annual fall race.  We'll be running the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, Missouri on Labor Day, September 7.  He wants to notch the Show Me state in his marathoning belt.  It worked well, schedule wise, for us both.  So I'll drive, pick him up at the St Louis Airport and we'll head to the middle of Missouri.
The race itself is kind of interesting.  Not a household name in marathoning, this year will nevertheless be the 50th annual running of the event.  It will be small, looks like a couple hundered runners max.  And early September can still be hot and humid along the banks of the Missouri River.  Plus, a confirming email from the organizers I got last week noted:
HOA is one of the oldest and toughest courses in America. It began on Labor Day in 1960 with five runners, two of whom completed the course. Running guru Hal Higdon calls it a "down-home country course," and he lists Easley Hill as one of the 10 toughest climbs in the nation.
Whoa.  Here is Hal Hidgon's description of running the 2001 Heart of America Marathon at age 70.  Darrell, bring plenty of water bottles for your Fuel Belt. 
The month of October has several possibilities, still to be determined.
A target race will happen on November 7 at the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.  It falls at a perfect time, is an hour from my house, has a race-day packet pick up, so will be simple, logistically.  I'm also seriously considering if I can target this as a race to try to get under 4:30.  I'm getting familiar with the marathon now.  But can I also run one hard?  A flat course in cool weather may be the right way to test the theory.  Stay tuned.
I'll then finish out the year with a differnet sort of target, running the Huntington Ultra-Frigid Fifty, a 50 km ultra in Huntington, Indiana.  The HUFF is the first trail race I ever did, as I ran their one lap (12 mile) option in 2004.  I really want to do a legitimate 50K now.  December 19 will be the day.  Mud?  Ice?  Snow?  Could be any of them. 
I actually have a couple races penciled in for 2010 but that's another story.  And my wife is grinning as I plan all this out and that's a good thing.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Local runner hit during pre-dawn run

ORN:  9 miles total, with 5K time trial @ 26:06
We got the sobering news this morning of a local runner hit and left by a car.  He is still in serious condition at a local hospital, with what was reported to be a broken ankle, broken shoulder and other abrasions. 
This whole thing happened around 4:30am Friday on a well traveled road about a mile and a half from our house.  The driver hit the man, then took off and has yet to be found.  Very sobering indeed.
The situation also struck a chord with me.  Some of you may remember my long-term running goal of running at least a half-marathon on the day of my grandkids' weddings.  Well, the man who was hit was 86.  Shoot, that could be me in 31 years.
Three things struck me from this event, as I read the details, knowing the area.
First, the runner was apparently not wearing any reflective clothing.  This is a simple, defensive and necessary thing when running in the dark.  At that hour of the morning, most drivers are sleepy and NOT looking for anything on the road.  There is a lot of reflective gear out there; use it.  I'm particularly fond of a small LED blinky thing I got at a bike store years ago which I clip to the back of my waistband.  My wife read the article first this morning, showed it to me when I got in from my run and gave me a hug, saying "Thanks for always running all lit up like a Christmas tree." 
Second, it appears this man was running on the right shoulder, with the traffic, and thus got hit from behind.  We need to run on the left side of the road, facing the traffic (unless we're in England..then reverse it).  I'm a morning runner and probably once a month I take some evasive action when I see a car approaching and I'm not confident the driver sees me as well.  Running on the left adds a good 12 to 15 feet between you, the runner, and any car coming from behind.  It may have made the difference for this gentleman. 
Third, pick your path.  The traffic patterns in our small community make the road he ran on a main thoroughfare.  Even at 4:30am, if anyone is heading across town, they will use this road.  It is also a long, steep (well, steep for Indiana) hill.  Purdue and High School cross country teams use it repeatedly for hill work.  But it always bothers me to see runners on it...there is not a lot of margin for error, nor much room to jump off the road.  Finding less traveled streets or trails is worth the effort. 
Let's hope this man can recover.  And do take care out there.