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.