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.