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.