Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

ORN: 7 miles total, 5x1 mile intervals, ave 8:37

On the last day of the year, a few reflections on the year in running.

Races. Short races were a real positive this year, while 3 of the 4 marathons were disappointing. A 5K PR, a solid half-marathon in heat and humidity and a flat out sprint in a 2 miler were fun. The marathon remains a commanding teacher. Its lesson this year: weather matters, so follow the new training pattern.

Training. The rhythm of three 5 mile training runs during each week and one race-oriented weekend run seems to work well for me and is sustainable. I was very pleased to come to grips with an approach to Heart Rate training in the late summer. Now, if I could only get all my gadgets to work together!! Guessing I’ll be in the market for a new Garmin sometime this year.

Distance. I finished the year with 1,228 miles. I was surprised when I ran the chart below. It tells the succinct story of this era of my running.

In May 2004, a job change substituted a 75 minute daily commute for a 5 minute drive. I plugged running into that gap. It was October before I found a pair of shoes that worked well and off we went. I ran my first half marathon in December 2004 and carried on with more HMs in 2005. In 2006, I ran my first two marathons. And, boom…after a PR of 4:21 at Portland, I had a nasty bout with both IT Bands inflaming. 2007 was a retrenching time; new shoes, adopting the Run/Walk approach and gradually building back. Since then, I’ve been almost completely injury-free. The look of this gradual annual mileage pick up is encouraging.

Weight. I have not mentioned in this space (and will only do it once, so here it is) a major event for me. In mid-April, I decided I was carrying too much weight, as I hit 205 pounds. With terrific help from my nephew, running pal and good friend John, we completely rebuilt my eating habits and got on a steady drop in weight, hitting my target of 176 pounds in early August. Since that time, I’ve kept the weight in the 175-178 pound range, even through the holidays. I feel terrific! And I have noted running is easier, my shoes last longer, I feel lighter on my not-so-tiny feet. I have embraced a new way to eat. Who’d a thunk I’d ever see a treat as being a big spinach salad on a Saturday afternoon after a long run?

Demise of the Running Blogosphere. The only real disappointment for me this year was how much quality blogging about running disappeared. Truly, this was the year the blogosphere migrated to Facebook. I get this somewhat…a simple status update is quicker on FB. But the good thinking, the careful thought, the insights and perspectives flowed through longer writing on blogs. And it is just plain disappearing. I’m keeping this blog going; I find it helps as a diary of things I want to capture. And I truly appreciate anyone who reads it and finds it helpful or funny or somehow interesting. I just miss the fuller interaction we had a couple years ago.

Overall, I found myself this year more and more grateful. Grateful for each day of health. Grateful to run. Grateful for a wonderful wife and fascinating kids (and now fascinating grandkids). Grateful for a comfortable roof over my head. Grateful for an interesting job. None of these things are entitlements. They are all gifts. And I need to hold each with an open hand and a generous heart.

Tomorrow, I’ll post on 2011 plans. Some fun stuff to continue.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and Running

ORN:  5.2 miles, R/W 6/1

This morning, I received an email from Brad, our local running club's Chief Communicator.  Along with some race results and announcements, he included his thoughts on Christmas.  They express, better than I can, many of my thoughts today.  So, I post them here for you.  

Today is Christmas Eve.  Below is a Christmas message that has my observations of the similarities of being a runner and being a Christian.
There are also similarities between our running club and what the Christian church should be.
Anybody can join: You do not need to already be a runner.  There are no minimum distance or speed requirements to join or continue membership. 
We rejoice in what others accomplish: We do not envy those who do things we have not done but instead celebrate with them.
We help each other without charging a fee: We gladly share everything we know with other runners to help them be better.
We do not condemn others when they fail: we know people who have dropped out of a race or had a time that is way slower than their goal.  We provide assurance that they have not failed as a person even though one particular goal was not reached.  We assure them that their options are to try again or instead recognize that being a runner does not mean that you must have a certain accomplishment on your log.
We all care about each other and provide things that are needed: People have given me sunscreen, a hat during a race (Sam Costa half), and words of encouragement.
We understand that there are universal rules and particular rules.  Certain rules apply to everybody (like staying on a course during a race) yet, most "rules" are in the "do what works for you" category.  For example, those who eat gel during a marathon do not pass judgment on those who do not and vice versa.
We accept those who join late in life the same as those who ran in high school.  We continue to accept people who do not reach their goals.  We simply hope that they will keep trying to discover their potential and be content.
I hope your experience with our local club (and runners in general) has been as positive as mine.
So what is Christmas?  It is simply one day set aside to celebrate the coming of the Christ.  Christ is simply a Greek word that means "anointed one".  The anointing refers to the Spirit of God being on him without measure.  Who is Christ?  Christ is like Pheidippides.   Pheidippides then ran the 40 km (25 miles) from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia (Iran) in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the word "We have won" and collapsed and died on the spot from exhaustion.  Christ also came a long way to deliver a message and then died of exhaustion.  In short, his message was "you need treat each other like runners instead of what you are doing now".
Merry Christmas and thanks for being a runner.

I wish each of you the very best this Christmas.  And may we each continue to persevere.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Frozen Bananas

ORN: 22.0 miles, R/W 4/1, 4:14:56, 11:36/mile

One of the distinct benefits of preregistering for spring marathons is that it provides a clear reason to get out in awful Midwest winter weather to do the necessary long runs. Today was one of those days.

The week has been brutally cold. Weather we normally see in mid to late January has hit already. Snow. Single digit and below-zero temps. I had two runs earlier in the week doomed to the dreadmill...if anything is motivating to go outside, that sure is it. I was antsy to get out and go for a long run today, though.

WL Trail near Cherry Lane

The run started at 14F and ended at a "balmy" 25F. I've discovered using hand warmers, polypro liner gloves and snowboarderdude mittens to be a decent combination to keep hands and arms warm. The run mostly just lumbered along. The footing was iffy...about 1/3 of the run was on snow pack, the rest on sorta dry pavement. I don't know if that contributed to my left IT band making noises around the 20 mile mark. That bad boy hasn't said anything for two years now.

The temps also triggered a new question for me. I've found eating bananas during a run to be much more enjoyable than packing gels. All fall, I simply stashed them along the route ahead of time. But how would they fare in this cold weather? I could not stash them the night before due to the temps, so I forward positioned them and extra water earlier in the morning. What shape would they be? I've seen frozen bananas come out of the freezer...none too appetizing.

Well, it seemed that the timing was OK but just barely. They hadn't fully frozen, though the skins were starting to darken. A bit "mushier" than I'd like but it worked. I also discovered I could peel a banana wearing snowboarderdude mittens as well...a skill I never figured I'd need but now have.

It's a long winter. But we persevere.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Self Diagnosis

ORN: (Saturday)  10.1 miles in 3" of snow

Early last week, I arrived home from work with an odd feeling in my left index finger.  It was the first really cold day of the season, though only in the upper 20s.  It's only a seven minute drive home for me but my car was cold by the time I got it started at 6:15pm.  I walked in, pulled off my glove, my finger tingling, semi-numb and visually much whiter than the other fingers on my left hand.  Instinctively, I ran a sink of warm water, stuck my hand in and it all cleared up in about 3 minutes.  

What was going on??

I replayed recent experiences.  As the weather has cooled, the simple cotton garden gloves I've used for years while running were not working as well.  I often came in from a run with my left hand really cold.  My system for running garb has held up for many years; why was it failing now??  I got some heavier garden gloves; I added a small plastic bag over the gloves to try to cut the wind.  It was still uncomfortable.

The white-finger-thing happened again on Friday evening during my short drive home.  Time to try to figure this out.  Enter the web. 

It appears I have a thing called Raynaud's Phenomenon.  It's really not a big deal and treatment falls in the category of the old joke:  "Hey, doc, it hurts when I do this."  "Well, then, don't do that!"  A decrease in circulation creates some pain in cold temperatures.  It's probably related to the sense of arthritis I've seen developing in the same finger over the past six months or so.  My mother had real issues with arthritis in her hands.  We are forever swimming in our own gene pool.  

The solution??  One local friend dryly suggested I quit running until April.  Yeah, right.  I got some good input from several friends on FB and came up with a new plan.  I picked up a pair of nylon-covered mittens, in size XL so I can wear liner gloves underneath.   Then, I tried out a hand warmer for the 10 mile run I did in the snowfall on Saturday...boy, was that effective!!  I was amazed at how the simple hand warmer in the closed space not only kept my hand warm but it also kept entire arm was warmer as well.  But I don't like the idea of a throw-away hand heater, even though they are so very inexpensive.  So, I ordered some reusable hand warmers this afternoon.  

So, I'll soon have to update my temperature chart.  No surprise to you who follow this blog...I'm a systems geek and updating the system is part of the fun of running, applying the principles of kaizen.       

Winter is here, we're looking at single-digits overnight most of this week.  And we persevere.  


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Race Report: Attica Turkey Trot 5K

ORN: 5K, 23:35, 7:37/mile

On a bit of a whim, I decided a week ago to enter this enjoyable small race in the little town of Attica, Indiana, about 30 miles from home. It fit well with our Thanksgiving Day plans. Plus, coming 11 days after a marathon, I wanted to see, again, how quick I could do a 5K in that setting. Earlier this fall I surprised myself with a good 5K just after the Chicago Marathon. Was that a fluke??

The day dawned with drizzle and temps in the low 40s. Low 40s are nice...drizzle, well, we'd tolerate it if necessary. As it happened, work colleague Michelle, a talented triathlete herself, wanted to run as well, so we went down together, having a enjoyable conversation all the way.

I have had a strange attraction for the little town of Attica ever since I was an undergrad at Purdue. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1972, I rode a bike to Attica and back. For some reason, I always associate Attica with that moment of simple, sophomoric enjoyment. As I ran through most of the town today, I also realized Attica is oh-so-similar to the little town of Auburn, Nebraska where I grew up. The houses, the was all familiar. I almost expected to see my Aunt Alice walk out the front door of a couple of the homes. Nostalgic or not, it was fun to participate in an event in Attica.

About 230 folks came out to run or walk the event, many in a preemptive strike on the gravy and pie which awaited later in the day. The race started on time and off we went.

I wanted to see if I could push myself enough to get under 24:00. So, I set the training assistant function on my Garmin to help me hold the correct pace. The start was down a long, gentle slope (we don't have Real Hills in this part of Indiana, remember) and mile one clicked at 7:32. So far, so good. Mile two was mostly flat, but we retraced The Slope at the end of the mile, yet it came through at 7:34. Encouraging. From there I started to play the game "catch the second person in front of you" and managed to do that with quite a few folks. Mile 3 blew thorough in 7:23. It could be. The last tenth went in 1:05, which my Garmin said was at a 7:12 pace. I beat the goal, my watch showing 23:35.

Michelle finished shortly after and we decided we simply had to have our photo taken with the Official Race Mascot. Several folks suggested it was a dangerous day to walk around as a live turkey, yet the fowl humor didn't seem to bother anyone.

When I got home, I dug out my race records, wondering just what my PR was for 5K. Amazingly, this time beat it by a full 30 seconds. I haven't set a PR at any distance since 2006. Nice to know it is still possible.

It was also humorous to note on my Garmin that my PR race effort had burned off all of 489 calories. Hardly enough to cover one piece of my mother-in-laws Most Delicious Apple Pie. Oh well...I'll enjoy it anyway.

I've reflected a lot as well. My niece's husband underwent serious surgery on Wednesday...he'll be laid up for several months and, in his early 30s, may have some life-long changes in front of him. My heart goes out to him and his family. I interviewed a gentleman on Wednesday who had terrific talents but, in his mid-50s, had been out of work for 18 months now and was feeling down, overqualified, desperate. I ached for him and wondered just what we could do for him. We've invited a guest for Thanksgiving dinner who had no family at all to be with this year. I feel deeply for her.

And here I am. Healthy enough to pop out of bed, run a 5K race at age 57, laugh and enjoy it. Having a job that is interesting and challenging and has a promising future. With four generations of family gathering around our table in an hour or so for an enjoyable meal in the context of functional relationships.

I dare not take these blessings casually or with a mood of entitlement. These things are a trust not a possession. I pray I can use them well, for good and not just personal gratification.

Of the many things I'm thankful for, the gift of health and the gift of friends who enjoy it as well is high on the list. My very best to you for a most Happy Thanksgiving.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Race Report: Veterans Marathon 2010

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:49:53, R4/W1, 11:03/mile

Quick Summary: nice to have a good marathon. Cool weather made all the difference making this oh-so-friendly, small-town run through Indiana countryside a pure joy. This race is about the way I should be running marathons...nice to know it can actually happen.

The Gory Details:


The Veterans Marathon is in its second year. Columbia City is a small Indiana town near Fort Wayne, just a couple of hours from my home. With an 8am start time, I decided to save hotel bills and do a day trip. Up early, I backed out of the garage at 4:05am and figured I'd see virtually no one on the road. To my surprise, though, there were quite a few pickups on the road...but why?? Then my fuzzy brain reminded me this was the first weekend of deer season for firearms. Oh well...

Got to the start area in plenty of time, stashed bananas (more below on that), picked up my bib and still had time to relax, stretch well and work though one stubborn work-related matter in my mind. About 200 marathoners and 250 half marathoners gathered at the start line and off we went at precisely 8:00am.

The Race

The truly remarkable thing about this race was that there really was not a lot of amazement about it! It was, quite simply, a chance to execute a plan for a marathon and let it just gradually happen.

The first half of the race looped east of town. We were on county roads past harvested corn and soybean fields, small woods, hog farms and lots of the rural homes which fill the Indiana countryside. The first half of a marathon is always fun, as people are chatty and upbeat...nothing hurts too badly yet. Quite a few of the half marathoners were first timers. It was fun to chat with them, sense and remember the excitement of taking on something previously unimaginable. Some were clearly struggling as we headed back to town in miles 10-11 or so. It was fun to encourage them and let them know the thrill of accomplishment they would soon sense. I hit the halfway point at about 2:19, feeling fine, knowing the race had hardly begun yet for me.

As expected, the size of the field dropped dramatically as we headed west of town for the second half of the race. Not many conversations now but not for a lack of friendliness. We quickly got back into new rural areas, this with more roll to it than on the first half...I enjoyed the variety. Around mile 16, David fell in with me. He had never really run a disciplined run/walk pattern and asked if he could piggy-back off my 4/1 rhythm. We had a nice chat and he thanked me for pulling him through to mile 20.5, when he wanted to walk a little more. Before I knew it, we were at mile 23 and it hit me solidly that this race would be different. I still felt fine, mentally engaged and aware of form and posture. We made the last turn back towards town at mile 24. The only real problem in the race came during the first half of mile 26. My left leg protested and just plain hurt. I held onto the 4/1 though and as we entered town again, I could clearly see ahead of me the final stretch down the town's main street and the right turn to the finish line. The leg didn't hurt any more, I picked up the pace, realizing if I hustled I could get under 4:50. Oh, the allure of those round numbers. I hit the mat, hit my watch to show I had 7 seconds to spare and smiled ear to ear. Marathon #18 was done and it felt fantastic.


Yeah, I'm analytical. It's how I learn! But rather than looking at per-mile splits, a topical analysis is more appropriate for this race. Here goes.

Weather. Since the cramping episode I had in Chicago five weeks ago, I went through all my marathon records. What was the common denominator of good vs lousy marathons?? It was clear...the temperature on race day. Under 60, it goes well. Over 60, highly likely to be tough. It's not more complex than that. The weather matters more than anything else. So, the start temp on this day of 43 and the ending temp in the low 60s was fine with me.

To stay comfortable, I dressed in layers, knowing it was forecast to warm during the morning. I started in 2 short-sleeve tech shirts, fashionable tube-sock arm warmers, cotton gloves, a cap and a sweatshirt. I peeled the sweatshirt at mile 4.5 (stashing it by a telephone pole, where I retrieved it later). At the halfway point, I stopped at my strategically-parked car, pulled off one of the T shirts and swapped the cap for a visor. The gloves came on and off depending on the relative wind direction. Around mile 15.5, I peeled the arm warmers and ran the rest of the way in just the Brooks ID T-shirt. It all worked. And I've come to simply face it, the weather is THE BIG DETERMINANT of how a race will likely go.

And there are some other helpful factors.

Pace/Effort. Since August, I've been experimenting with using heart rate as the guide to effort, rather than an arbitrary pace target. I shoot for the mysterious Zone 2 heart rage range, which for me has evolved to 113-133 bpm. This serves, wonderfully, to hold one's pace down early in the race and help to pick it up towards the end. When coupled with the run walk, I have found the amount to which my HR falls back during a run break to give a clear reading of fatigue and breathing. Thanks to Wes' advice, I didn't worry too much if my rate crept over 133 later in the race either. Overall, though, I saw my heart rate get to around 135-140 at the conclusion of each run sequence and it fell back during the walk break, never staying elevated for long periods.

Not content to ignore pace, even if it became a dependent, not independent, variable, this spreadsheet-loving engineer added a laminated pace chart to this mix. Now, I can extrapolate to an expected finish time from any mile marker (email me, if this is an interest for you). All in all, it worked. The 4:49 was what this day had. It became evident that would be the finish time by mile 6 and the projections stayed that way all day long. I was fully satisfied with it.

Nutrition. I tried two new things on the food front for this race. Pre-race, I ate more food and good quality food in the time about 2 hours before the race. In all, I took in about 800 calories, including carbs (bananas, whole-wheat bread) and some good protein (lean turkey, low-fat Swiss cheese) between 4:30 and 5:30am. Filling the fuel tank, so to speak.

During the race, I ate bananas, not gels. Using Google maps, I found spots in the first and second halves of the race I would pass twice. Then, in the pre-race darkness, I stashed two bananas at each spot. Further, I put one banana in my car, which I parked on the course, two blocks past the mid-way mark. So, about every 4-5 miles, I had a nice banana. This worked wonderfully. It sat fine on my stomach, gave me a healthy 110 calories each and kept me fueled. Now, I realize I'd never be able to do this in a big-city setting but on small races, it is clearly possible.

Hydration. The third leg of the stool was drinking. Rather than taking salt tabs, I found a electrolyte powder mix which I put in my 10 oz water bottles I carried. In all, I drank 70 oz of the electrolyte mix, plus another 20 oz of water. The mix tasted better than regular water, making it more likely I'd drink it. I had no cramps at all. I'll take it.

General Race Organization. In addition to factors I could control, this small race was just well run. Rather than the usual T shirt, covered with advertising, we received a nice fleece top with a discreet race logo only on it. What a nice treat! The mile markers were clear and accurate. The aid stations were wonderful!! Most of them outside of town seemed to be simply parties folks organized in their front yards! They were very friendly and helpful. Many folks sat out on their driveways, warmly cheering all of us on. It was a treat to be part of it and I hope to run this race again.

It was a good run and a great way to conclude the major races for 2010. Thanks for listening.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Race Report: WRRC Summer 5K Series- October

ORN:  5K, 24:29, 7:54/mile

What fun!  The last in our local running club's summer Wednesday evening 5K series for the season was a treat.  This event is the opposite of the Chicago Marathon from 10 days ago and both events were enjoyable.

I worked till 5:45pm...drove home, changed into running gear, was out the door at 6:05pm.  I ran the mile to the local park where this race starts and ends.  I signed on a list, paid nothing (the race is free to club members) and chatted with a few folks.  In the "its a small world" department, I chatted with John, who had run portions of a marathon in Rhode Island last weekend with fellow blogger David .  David had texted me about it Sunday...what a hoot!  John asked me about it tonight.  Just a hoot.  

At 6:30pm, all 18 of us lined up, Tony said "Go" and off we went.  The sun was nearly down, the almost-full moon was above the horizon, fall colors in full bloom.  We ran past the Farmer's Market (didn't realize our local farmers raised tie-died T shirts but I guess they do), and curled around the pond and the park.  

This is just the third time I've run since the marathon, so I had no idea how I would handle pace.  So, I just let it flow.  Amazingly, the first mile clicked through at 8:01, a pace I seldom get to. But I felt OK.  Without really trying, mile two sped up, going down at 7:56.  Hmmmm, this feels fine, so I pushed it harder; mile 3 came in at 7:42.  Pushing hard over the final tenth at a 6:54 pace, I finished in 24:29.  I was thrilled to see "24" on my watch at the end.  I looked at my race records when I got home and this was the third fastest 5K ever for me.  Go figure, ten days post marathon!!  

The small group gathered under a gazebo with some pizza and cookies.  I rewarded myself with a chocolate chip cookie and jogged home.  I walked in the door at 7:12pm and Gretchen and I sat down to dinner 5 minutes later.  

What a fun evening.   Grateful, often, for life in a small town.  



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Race Report: Chicago Marathon 2010

ORN: 26.2 miles, 5:40:40, R4/W1(mostly), 13:01/mile

Quick Summary:

Huge. Colossal. Massive. A ginormous street party. The Chicago Marathon was this and more. It was a marvelous experience, even for a guy who normally does not like crowds. I was thrilled to participate.

And the race went well for 23 miles. Bummer that a marathon is 26.2. Severe calf cramps and some dehydration on a day with temps in the upper 80s made for a less-than-desirable finish. Yet that does not color the entire experience.

The Gory Details


The key highlight of this race was a chance to run again with my nephew (but more like my brother, John. We ran the LA Marathon together in March and now it was my turn to host him for another Big City Marathon. He flew into O’Hare mid-day on Saturday. We met up, checked into our hotel near the airport, hopped the CTA train and then a city bus to McCormick Place to register.


After working through that crowd, we walked around the finish area at Grant Park, visualizing what we hoped we’d feel like at the end of the race Sunday. It is a very cool finishing path…we both wanted to feel strong at that point and enjoy it.

Race Day

We were up at 4am, out of the hotel and on the CTA platform at 5am.

5am platform

It was a fun ride downtown on the train…as you might expect the only folks on a subway train at 5am on a Sunday all had round, orange plastic loops on running shoes and seemed anxious to chat with other perfect strangers with loops. We were in Grant Park before 6am, found a place to lie down and rest for 45 minutes or so, watching the sky brighten over Lake Michigan. It was terrific. The crowd began to build and by 7am, we got into the starting grid. We wished each other well and John worked his way to the 4:15 area, while I was quite content to park myself with the 4:45 folks.

start grid

Wow, what a pack it was! Estimated 40,000 people or so. It was palpably different than the half-marathons I’ve run with similar sized packs, as fundamentally different as the half marathon is from the marathon.

The Race

The gun went off right on time at 7:30am. Twenty-four minutes later, I was across the starting line. I anticipated a very frustrating first 2-4 miles, hemmed in on every side by runners too close to one another. Wrong. By the time we cleared the tunnel at the half-mile mark, I had plenty of room to run without bobbing and weaving much at all. It was a very pleasant surprise.

We wound through the heart of Chicago’s loop for about 3 miles. What crowds! Amazing energy and enthusiasm…hard to describe. We then turned north and the run was terrific. Temps at this point were in the low 60s but we also had full shade from the tall buildings and low sun angle.

A high point in the race for me, a die-hard Chicago Cub fan, came midway in the eighth mile. I had planned this ahead of time but didn’t know if I could pull it off…but I did. The northernmost point in the course was the corner of Addison and Broadway, where we turned south back to the loop. But, like all true Cub fans, I also knew that had we gone just a few more blocks west on Addison, we would have arrived at Wrigley Field. So, this was key geography for the runner/baseball fan. Fortunately, there was also plenty of room between the runners taking the corner and spectators on the other side of the barricade. I just eased out of the pack and led the crowd, Harry Carry style, in a loud rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” It was a hoot…folks really got into it. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to singing at Wrigley.

The run back downtown was enjoyable. Cool, tree-lined residential areas and shops gave way to skyscrapers.
Joe at mile 10

We then headed west and crossed the half-way mark and the run remained most pleasant. My pace through mile 15 was marvelously consistent in the 11:30s, doing a 4/1 run/walk ratio and keeping my heart rate in the low 130s during the run segments. I felt terrific and was enjoying the whole thing.

And then.

At the 15 mile mark, we turned back east to downtown and moved, in the space of two blocks, from tree lined streets to open, unprotected strips of asphalt. I notice my heart rate head up, so I slowed down. On my later analysis, this was the key slowing point in the race. I added a full 45 sec/mile to my pace and then more. I still felt fine but had to slow to keep the HR in the 130s.

At mile 20, we turned from 18th Street south onto Halstead, and there was a bank at the corner. Its trusty time and temperature sign said “88F”. That really startled me. It wasn’t humid, so I wasn’t sweating all that much but the heat was certainly building. Right at the 20 mile mark. Great. So, I just kept moving and threw in some extra 30 sec walk breaks to keep the HR in the 130s. I was still drinking water, taking a Salt Stick capsule at the top of each hour and a Gu at the bottom of each hour. Experience told me to just keep doing the right thing and I’d get home OK, even if slowly.

We crossed the Dan Ryan Expressway, hit mile 23 and turned north again on famous Michigan Avenue. Psychologically, this was wonderful…I knew the next three miles were dead straight on Michigan and the next turn would be the penultimate one, heading to the finish line. The scenery improved a bit and I just focused on keeping moving.

Then Ruth passed me. I had seen this peach-shirted lady with the imprinted name quite a bit over the past four miles or so. She was a calm race walker who kept a steady pace. Except she usually passed me while I was walking. This time Ruth passed me while I was “running”. Hmmmm, I say to myself. She’s walking faster than I’m supposedly running. Maybe I should just “walk” with Ruth? I tried this for a while but at the mile 24 marker I found my left shin and then my left calf would cramp up at her "blistering" pace. I smiled and realized I was done and visualized a giant fork poking me. All I could do was just walk it in.

So I did. The hoped-for triumphant run up Roosevelt, followed by the left into Grant Park to the finish line was, instead a calm walk, focused on keeping the leg relaxed and not cramping. I at least had some fun with it…smiling at a cop who recognized I was struggling and getting a sympathetic high five from him…reflecting on how fortunate I was to have health to even attempt such a thing. And, out of all the many runners streaming across the line at the same time, I actually heard them announce my name and home town. Again, perhaps an act of empathy for the guy walking across the finish line. It was nice.

And marathon #17 was over.

Post Race

I struggled for the next 45 minutes or so. No way to sugar coat it. If I stopped moving, one or both calves locked up. I was not the only one, though, as John showed with the photo he took just after he finished an hour ahead of me.

injury at end

John and I found each other and it was great to see him. He was a huge help as I slowly got my wits about me. [In fact, the only fly in the ointment of the whole day happened about this time. I had set down my gear bag while walking around and someone grabbed it and took it. Glad I had nothing in it I didn’t mind losing.]{Ed note: this changed...see below}

By the time we got to the subway station, I could stop and sit without cramping. The 40 minute ride to the hotel in the air-conditioned train, sipping a bottle of water was what I needed. By the time we got off, I was conversant again. A shower and a rest and some light food put everything back into perspective. By 6pm, we hopped in my car, zipped down to Wheaton College, picked up my son Matt and the three of us sat for 2 hours talking into the evening.

Post Race Reflection

Why the cramping? Why has this come up in yet another marathon? I gotta think it is my approach to electrolytes. Clearly, water plus Gu plus Salt Sticks was not adequate, certainly not on a hot day like this, despite the fact I have trained in heat all summer. I’ll figure this out. Because, even in the moments just after crossing the finish line, I was looking forward to “getting back on the horse” for the next marathon I’ve signed up for in five weeks.

This is long, I know. But, as my long-time blogging pal Sarah and I agree, this blog is mostly for my own record. And I hope it is helpful as well for anyone who cares to read.

Persevere. Cramps or not.


Postscript: Five days after the race, I got a phone call at work from the Chicago Marathon office. They found my gear bag...what did I want to do with it?? Amazing and totally impressive. I gave them info to pay for the shipping and it arrived back at my house three days later. While there was nothing huge in it, a couple of items I was glad to get back since I could. More importantly, it spoke volumes about this massive event paying attention to the smallest of details. I was and still am impressed. With this level of detail, it's no wonder why this is such a marvelous event.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Race Report: Tippy Connect/Tri N Run 10K

ORN:  10K, 55:19, 8:56/mile

It seems a little odd, in a way, to run a race as a planned part of the taper into the Chicago Marathon, but it worked out today.  This race was set up as a fund raiser for a local senior center, had a good bit of advertising, was run on the same route I use for all my long runs, was 8 minutes from my house and, hey, I needed to pick up some special drafting instruments at a store next door to the start.  Enough of a reason, right?? 

I suspect the sponsors were disappointed.  Despite their publicity efforts, only 25 of us ran the 10K; the associated 5K had barely 50.  The grey, chill and drizzle probably held down the walk-up registration, as did another 5K race in town at the same time.  In a small community, that pretty much divides up the few runners available.

With a marathon in 8 days, I had planned to run this easily, probably at a 9:30/mile pace.  I set the Garmin up to monitor such behavior and off we went.  Mile one flowed at 9:21, but then it got flat.  I tried to hold back, but mile 2 hit 9:07 and mile 3 flowed at 8:46.  We then went out to do the 5 K course again and the hill held mile 4 to a 9:15.   A long conversation with a guy I know from church held mile 5 to 8:57.  However, he then challenged me to catch his father-in-law (who was still in sight) over the last mile or so.  Off I went...mile 6 clocked at 8:10 and the final 0.2 was at a 6:48 pace.  And I didn't even catch him!

I did get a nice workout though, which I had wanted just to break up the taper madness a bit.  So this was not too long of a run, no walking at all, yet a modest level of intensity.  Average HR for the race was 141 bpm, which is evidence of some effort but not too much.  And have I mentioned how much I enjoy Race Day??  Even a little race like this is fun.  

So, it is now one week until John and I join 40,000 of our closest friends in Grant Park in downtown Chicago for a shuffle through the Windy City.  The early look at Chicago weather on October 10 is fine, if not perfect; low 50s at the start, heading to the upper 60s by the finish.  I'd like it 10 degrees cooler but it's way better than the heat wave they had just a few years ago there.  I'll update my status there via Twitter/FB while up there; a blog report will follow.  

And did I tell you I signed up for another marathon on November 13?  More on that to come.    




Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tapering into Football

ORN #1: 11.7 miles, 2:01:40, R6/W1, 10:24/mile
ORN #2: 0.25 miles, no time, all run, lots of chatter

The beautiful fall weather continues. My first long run of the taper was useful and thought provoking on Saturday (but that's not unusual). During the taper, I'm trying to follow the concept of shortening the mileage but keeping the intensity. With temps in the upper 50s, that was not hard to do. I used a 6/1 and kept the HR up...I was pleased with a sub 10:30pace. The legs were stiff-ish throughout, probably from 23 last Saturday. Interestingly, around mile 8, the legs were neither more nor less stiff than in the early miles, so I pushed the pace with no ill effect. After one day off last week, I go back to the usual schedule this week. I may well run a local 10K race next Saturday as a final "tune up" before Chicago on Oct 10.

My second run of the day was a treat and perhaps the first of many. We had our grandkids over all day. When I returned from my outing, I asked the three of them "Who wants to go for a run?" Young Nathan jumped up and so out we went. I said "Let's see if we can run all the way around the block without walking!" He was game. And off we went...a steady jog and we made it. What a treat! Hope we get to do that more.

On the beautiful fall afternoon, I then took both boys on an outing I often took my own sons on when they were little. With Purdue playing at home, we went down to see the fourth quarter. It's a great value with little traffic, park for free, walk in for free, find an empty seat (plenty of those available, sadly, for Purdue football this season) and enjoy the sun, the crowd and a box of popcorn, if not the game (yeah, Toledo beat the Boilers; a win for the MAC, Darrell!).

Drew, Joe, Nathan

A good day, all the way around. I'm blessed and thankful.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Three is wiser than two

ORN:  23.0 miles, 4:19:50, R/W 4/1, 11:18/mile

Today was the day Indiana runners dream about all year...a fall day with sunshine, clear skies and comfortable temperatures.   Shoot we get 4, maybe 5 days like this each year...and if it falls on a weekend, it's even better...and if it falls on a day when you have a long run scheduled, well, that's just amazing.  

A bonus was a home football game for Purdue with a noon kickoff.  My loop through campus allowed me to share a bit in the fun, pregame atmosphere.  There is something fun about the drum cadence from a big marching band.  It's a hoot to jump into a touch football game with some college kids as you run by.  It's fascinating to watch the people trooping to a game.  

Three weeks until the Chicago Marathon, so today is the last long run.  I had 22 on the calendar and it went well.  I ran today the way I plan to run in Chicago, a 4/1 run/walk ratio, using heart rate to indicate effort.  During the first 16 miles of the run, the pace was steady and it all worked fine.  Over the last 7 miles, the temperature had risen to the upper 70s and my HR was up, more and more.  I found it worked well to simply slow down to get to a proper zone.  That got me home fine.  Due to a slight route change, I had 22.7 miles as I neared home...I went a bit farther to round it off to an "even" 23.  

One perplexing thing during the run...the legs seemed "tired", more so than I anticipated they should be.  Why??  Later in the day, I realized the likely reason.  All my reading on training and all the training I've done in the last four years counsel to separate long runs by three weeks.  And I have not.  I did 22 on August 21, then did the 30K race two weeks later and now 23 in two more weeks.  Yep, the legs were tired and the two-week separations explain why.  Particularly at age 56 (nearly 57!), that timing is key.  

So, I'm glad to have three weeks before John and I line up with 40,000 of our closest friends in Grant Park and begin a tour of the Windy City.  An intelligent taper should leave the legs fresh and ready to run early and run often that day.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heart Rate Approach Summary

ORN:  6 miles total; 4x1 mile intervals @ 8:18/mile average

Boy, the fall weather sure helps the enjoyment of running.   It's been a long, hot summer and I'm grateful for the cool down!

I mentioned in last week's race report I was fleshing out a new-to-me method of incorporating heart rate training to my running, using the Labor Day 30K as a shakedown for the method ahead of the Chicago Marathon on October 10.  As promised, here's my method as it has evolved over the past 6 weeks.

The Background:  The whole concept of HR training has had appeal to me for some time now.  Yet, to read about it, it seems so very complex and many who write about is seem combative.  Battles over this method and that method of zone calculation.  How to plan training.  Expensive devices.  All of this was off-putting to me, even though the concept of using one's own heart rate as a simple and reliable method of bio-feedback made abundant sense.  My effort here, therefore, has been to simplify the thing enough to the point I could use it.  

Further, I've been so pleased in using Galloway's run/walk approach ever since my injury in the 2006 Portland Marathon I was not going to reject that.  It has saved a number of injuries for me and all I really want to do is to continue to run long distances pleasantly.  

Yet, in the two marathons I did this spring, they were less than pleasant at the end.  Thus, I was open to change. But how?  Here's what I did.  

The Actions:  First , I bought a simple HR Monitor.  For $60, I had myself a simple Polar FS2c monitor.  All it does is measure HR and tell you, at the end, what your average and peak HR was.  Simple.  

Second, I had to calculate my Zone 2 (Z2), the seemingly magical zone where one burns mostly fat, not glycogen and keeps you going for a long time.  This was more annoying than I anticipated; but using 5 different methods of calculation, I found none of them differed by more than 3 beats per minute.  Shoot, I won't be fine tuning it that much.  So, by fiat,  I declared the reasonable Z2 for me of 113-128 beats per minute (bpm).  (Yes, Wes, a larger range than I first published here). 

Third, I set a plan combining Run/Walk and HR training that is simple.  I plan to run a 4/1 run/walk ratio (run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute) at Chicago.  And, when I run, I will not use a Garmin to check the pace; rather I will simply hold my pace to stay in Z2.  

Fourth, I changed my mind about finishing time.  I chose to accept whatever time this plan gives me for the marathon.  Finishing well now trumps hitting a particular time goal.  

The Implications:   It means I no longer try to predict what time I will run on a particular day or course.  Instead, I simply take whatever the weather and the course and my conditioning allow.  It means my pace per mile might change.  If the HR gets over 128, I slow down.  If I can't get it up into Z2, I speed up.  If I tire towards the end of the race, my HR will tell me and I will slow down.  I will record the times at each mile but will not be a slave to it.  It means my HR should come back to Z1 during each one minute walk break.  If it stays up, I need to back off more.  It also means I'll probably run longer (no more 1/1 or 2/1 ratios) and probably run slower.  I hope it means I'll be stronger at the end and enjoy it all more.  Indeed, if it works, it will better allow me to achieve my general goal to "Run the Best Race Conditions Allow." 

The Prototyping Test:  So, I took this plan and executed it at the Labor Day 30K last Saturday.  I did not run the race to see how quick I could run 18.6 miles.  I ran it to test the method for Chicago.  Success would mean feeling strong at mile 18, feeling like another 6.2 would be no big deal. 

And it worked.  The course for the 30K was a set of rolling hills.  I could see the HR go up on the uphills and be unchallenged on the downhills.  I saw the HR drop off during the walk breaks.  I felt it stay low through the first five miles, then go level for the next ten or so.  Around mile 15, it felt a big odd, staying up during the walk breaks.  I walked a little longer once, ran a little slower the next run segment, focused on breathing; and it all came back to normal by mile 16.  I passed a lot of folks the last three miles and at the mile 18 marker, said "this is good" and opened it up the last partial mile.  And, according to my new and improved laminated pace chart (that's another blog post sometime), this effort would have netted me a 4:42-4:45 marathon.  And I'd be thrilled with that.  

So, that's the plan.  Yeah, I'm a systems geek, so such efforts fascinate me.  It worked well in the race last week.  It worked wonderfully in my 22 mile training run on Aug 21.  I'm set for another 22 miler next Saturday...we'll test it again.  

Hope this makes's the first time I've tried to explain it all in one place.  Feel free to comment or make further suggestions.



Sunday, September 05, 2010

Race Report: Labor Day 30K

ORN: 18.7 miles, R/W 4/1, 3:19:53, 10:42/mile

Quick summary:

What a fun, unusual, well-run event, just west of Detroit. On hard-packed dirt roads under a full canopy of leaves, the cool weather allowed for a visually and physically pleasant shakedown of my fall marathon plans.

The Gory Details

The Labor Day 30K bills itself as an excellent training event for fall marathons and that it is. Most of the runners I talked with were using it as such.

My own objective for the day was a) to simply have a race and b) to shakedown a new approach to long races, following less-than-satisfying performances in two marathons last spring. Both objectives happened, in spades.

A bonus for the event was some extended time with my Mother-in-law! No, she didn't run but logistics worked out for me to drive her to spend the night with my sister-in-law and family who live in Michigan, on the way to the race site. With all the jokes and chuckles about MIL's, I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with Sue. I truly enjoyed the 9 hours in the car with her up and back. We covered the waterfront several times and even enjoyed a complete Cub-Mets broadcast on the drive home Saturday.

The race was in and around the little down of Milford, Michigan. Easily 3/4 of the miles looked just like this; it was a very satisfying and enjoyable visual surrounding. The other miles were through the village. All in all, the course was well done and accurately measured. It was steadily rolling as well...lots of ups and downs. This is helpful for me, the flatlander, as hills are so hard to come by here in north-central Indiana farm country.

The race started right on time, a fact I always appreciate. About 600 of us trundled off on the unusual 30K distance. The weather turned unusually cool the night before the race, with temps in the low 50s at the start and never getting much beyond 60. The wind added quite a chill, being 20-30mph all day. Fortunately, the heavy tree cover tended to break up the breeze, so it wasn't a huge factor. Clothing-wise, I found this to be the perfect day for cut-off tube socks on the arms.

My main objective for the race was to test the new strategy, combining the Run/Walk pattern of Galloway with the effort-control provided by using a heart rate monitor. I'll write about the plan in a separate post. I was pleased with how it went.

The really great part of this race was there is nothing remarkable to report! The run was, simply, a most enjoyable jaunt through wooded lanes of Michigan. I had some very nice conversations with folks along the way. Mostly though, I simply marveled at the scenery, so very, very different than what I run in all the time and a far cry from the urban setting I'll run in Chicago in five weeks.

After the eight-mile mark, the miles really started to seem to click by. That's a day when you know it is going well. I kept the 4/1 run/walk sequence and it held up well. I even skipped several of the walk breaks around mile 7-9, as I was in a fascinating discussion with a fellow runner. The legs barked at me a bit around mile 15 on one of the hills but that didn't last long. As I passed the 17 mile marker, I felt strong and picked up the pace. We turned back to the finish line just after the 18 mile mark and I opened it up and ran the last 0.7 at an 8:15 pace. I felt strong at the end, satisfied with a good run.

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy "Race Day". The atmosphere, the energy, the challenge, the need to think on your feet to changing circumstances, the ebbs and flows; all so enjoyable. This race had all of them and ended well.

Five weeks remain till Chicago. I'll do another 22 mile training run in two weeks, then a 10K race the week after that; those two runs should finish off the training. And, if Chicago goes well, some other plans for the rest of the fall may unfold nicely.

A good run, a good trip, a good long weekend. I'm grateful.



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Heart Rate Monitor, Training??

ORN:  7 miles total, w/ 5x1 Mile intervals, at 8:22/mile average

For some time, I've been intrigued, at a distance, of the concept of heart rate training.  The concept sure made sense...our physiological self-regulating system, links heart, lungs, blood, brain, conditioning, effort, weather, fatigue and the orbit of Pluto into a single parameter, the rate of the beating heart.  And it seems to make sense that factor could help guide training.

So, about three weeks ago, I popped for a simple HR monitor, the Polar FS2c, an entry-level device.  It finally arrived in the mail and I diddled with the chest strap to figure how tight to make it work but still allowing me to breathe.  The bigger issue, however, turned out to be resolving what on earth my Zone 2 rate range was.  As I dug into it, I found a lot of harping back and forth by various proponents.  All heat but little light, it seemed.  It was so confusing, I almost bagged it...people, please!!!

But then I found a triathlete who compared five different methods of measuring Z2, showing the final results just were not all that different from each other, ideologies notwithstanding.  Long story short, I settled on my Z2 at 113-123 bpm.  

So, I'm starting to use this routine somewhat, mostly to guide me to stay in that spot where I can keep going for a long time, allowing this remarkably efficient computer system to guide me to the pace that is right.  A lot to learn but I may write more about it as I move into the fall marathons.

Next Saturday is a fun shakedown for these marathons, at an unusual distance.  The Labor Day 30K will let me test a number of modified systems for the fall.  See the race report next weekend.  

Persevere.  And be grateful for your heart.  


Saturday, August 21, 2010

A long run success

ORN: 22.0 miles, R/W 3/1, 4:10:09, 11:23/mile

Last winter, I showed you some photos of my favorite running route in the midst of Indiana snow and cold. I also promised you a view of the same spots when it turned green.

Winter, near Morehouse Road

Summer, near Morehouse Road

Winter, near McCormick Road

Summer, near McCormick Road

Quite amazing how the same turf can seem so cold and dead, only to be vibrant and alive a few short months later. We have extremes here in Indiana...these photos capture both ends.

Two weeks ago, I ran past these spots on what turned out to be a really lousy 22 mile run. Post-run cramps were severe. You gave me some great counsel, though!! I re calibrated, got back on the horse, and went out for another 22 mile run this morning. And it went great.

A couple of things were different and contributed. I focused on hydration, starting the day BEFORE the run. I scrapped my usual Diet Cokes on Friday and focused on water and teas, hoping to get all my cells "plump" with water before I started. Then, I ate more before I ran, combining some proteins, cheese with a banana before I even headed out the door. During the run, I started drinking water earlier and kept up the pace, taking in over 80 oz of water during the 4 hours on the road. I also stashed four more bananas along my routed...they sat well. I'm really liking them, instead of just the sweetness of a Gu pack. Also, the weather was in the low 70s for the whole run. 90+% humidity but low, heavy cloud cover with drizzle for the last couple of hours. The lower temperature and lack of sun was a real plus.

I was able to hold the 3/1 run/walk for the whole distance and felt strong at the end. I could have clearly run 4.2 miles further today. I soaked in a cold tub of water afterwards with no cramps, no yelling, no pain and no hassles. A very good run.'s something from the "Gee, you don't see that every day" department.

To get all the miles in, I added a loop through the heart of Purdue's campus. Classes start Monday, so the place was lively with students moving in and the ones already there happy they had not flunked any tests yet.

As I ran down Waldron Street, I heard singing. Odd, at 9:00am on a Saturday morning. I noted it was coming from the Phi Mu Sorority house. Well, as I slowly got near the house, the front door swung open and out came a line of girls, gussied up in very nice summer dresses, walking in single file, while other girls, in the house, kept singing. Not only were they walking in single file, but each girl was in an identical "fashion model" type walk...left hand on her stomach, right hand out in the air. Out they walked, turned around at the end of the sidewalk and then back into the house, like a fashion runway.

I am not making this up.

I got laughing as I ran by. Shoot, it is 9am on a Saturday and these are college kids? Doing this, for some reason? It was a hoot. I started clapping as I ran by, it was so funny. A couple of girls saw me and I got this look from them: "Yeah, this probably does look dumb, doesn't it? Hope you don't know my Dad." And the singing continued.

I never did the fraternity this probably has deep meaning. But I didn't get it, though I did see it.

So, persevere. But do avoid the high-fashion walk...I don't think it helps a lot.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

A perplexing long run

ORN:  22.0 miles, 4:12:07, R3/W1, 11:28/mile

Help me figure this one out, folks.

In getting set for the Chicago Marathon, the long runs are now on the schedule.  Today's 22 miler was the first.  We got a break in the weather and the early morning temperatures were in the (gasp!) mid-60s.  It was a joy to be out at 6:30am in the relative cool weather.  

The first 10 miles of the run were a joy.  The next 12 were on my familiar out and back winding down to Purdue's campus.   I had stashed 4 bananas along the route for calories during the run and they worked wonderfully, sitting well on my stomach.  I was on my way back home, with 20 miles in the bank when I started to feel the length of the run.  But, I knew right where I was and continued the 3/1 run/walk ratio comfortably.  I went through about 60oz of water and had taken four salt tabs as well during the entire run.  

The last mile was tough.  The temperatures had climbed to the upper 70s by then under full sun and it was hot when not in the shade.   I altered the pace to a 1/1 and that seemed to help, but I was truly done, like "put a fork in him" done.  I certainly did not feel like doing another 4.2.  

I got home and then things got interesting.  I immediately ran a bath tub of cool water as I usually do after long runs, had more water and some iced tea and climbed into the bath.  While the legs felt good in the water, my upper body was still hot and sweating.  Then, the weirdest thing happened.  I got a set of cramps in both my calves that I have never experienced.  It was very painful; I yelled out involuntarily with the pain.  The calf muscles just seized up, shortening and causing both toes to point.  There was seemingly nothing I could do.  I pressed on the pointed toes and gradually got the cramp to ease but it happened about six times.  It was questionable just how I was going to get myself out of the tub!!!  Eventually, I did but it was an effort.  I limped to the shower, cleaned up and had no more incidents.  But, boy, were both calves (particularly the right) were very, very sore, as were my feet.   The shower helped, as did some varied, healthy lunch offerings and plenty more fluids.

But, man, what happened??  I'm stumped.  When I encountered cramps before, I have always found taking electrolytes to really help.  But I did this Salt Stick each hour of my run.  I drank quite a bit, near the 20 oz/hour target I shoot for.  So where did the cramps come from?  

One possibility is simply a training explanation.  I looked at my log for the past four weeks, which read 18 miles, 4 miles, 25 miles and then 37 miles this week.  The effort I had in umpiring baseball clearly lessened my miles.  So, I'm really wondering if I simply ramped things up too quickly and the endurance conditioning of the vital calf muscles is not there yet.  But I don't know.  

So, I welcome any input you might have.  

Persevere...cramps happen.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where did July go?

ORN: 9 miles, with 6 x 1 mile intervals @ 8:31

The month of July has dissipated and I'm in a bit of a tizz over it's departure. We were in Bermuda for the first week of the month. Upon our return, I plunged into the annual process of umpiring numerous Little League Baseball tournaments. The effect was that I've been umpiring for 12 of the 15 evenings since we returned. To say the least, this leaves blogging long in the dust, along with most everything else besides work and communicating the barest of essentials with my wife and family.

It all tied up on Friday evening, when I was at first base for the Indiana state final game. The game went well, a crisp, 3-1 affair in which the umpires were invisible and the winner was clearly the best team. Here's our umpiring crew; I'm the third from the left.

The late nights have clearly affected the preparation for the fall marathons. I don't think it is insurmountable, however. I've simply lost some miles and at least one 15+ mile training run that got cut short. Replanning the schedule, I did mile repeats today which went well. Next Saturday will see a 22 mile effort.

I've added one more race as well. On the Saturday before Labor Day, I'll be running a 30K race in Michigan as a shake down for the Chicago Marathon set for October 10. I'm also looking at another marathon in December; the date will depend on some work events. It is possible, however, I'll run Rocket City again.

Nice to have some sanity back. The regularity of running and the discipline of training is central for my own perseverance.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Great week in Bermuda

We got home around midnight Saturday from a terrific week in Bermuda. Relaxing, great conversation, saw some wonderful things while we were there. Bermuda is quite a unique place, a fascinating combination of British, American, Caribbean and a touch of African cultures that defies description. The people were contagiously friendly and polite...we were quite taken by the place.

If you'd like to see some of our photos, here's what I uploaded.

Run? Yeah, I got to run. The roads are very narrow, tight and twisty, so I was pleased to find the Bermuda Railway Trail available not far from where we stayed. I did all my running there and shot a video one day...enjoy.

It was a great way to celebrate our 35th Wedding Anniversary. While we were there, we decided another 35 would be a fine idea.

Persevere. It makes for both good running and a good marriage.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Chicago Cycle Starts, Bermuda Beckons

ORN:  18.5 miles, 3:24:46, 11:05/mile, R3/W1

Now, all is in order...the training cycle for the Chicago Marathon is in synch.  Due to hitting some company targets last winter, we shut the place down today, Friday, making a four-day weekend for all.  Talk about a morale booster...that one really worked.  

So, I went running on a Friday, not a Saturday.  The run went well...temps in the mid 50s at the start, the low 70s at the end.  Felt really good through 16, the last 2.5 were a bit of a struggle.  I attribute that do doing 16 miles last Saturday as well.  

And tomorrow, Saturday, my lovely wife and I head for a week in Bermuda to celebrate our recently observed 35th wedding anniversary!!  Never been there before, sure looking forward to it.  We rented a small cottage for the week and, thanks to Google Maps, I found a super place to run while I'm there...about a half mile from our place is a 4+ mile path right along the ocean.  A far cry from Indiana running, for sure.

Perseverance works for a good long marriage.  I have much for which to be thankful.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Race Report: A "Double" at the Hog Jog 2010

ORN:  2 mile Race:   15:17, 7:39/mile
           10K Race:      57:55, 9:21/mile

Summary:   The schedule clarified last week and I ran two, not one, race this morning, a first for me.  Ran the two-miler hard, just to see what I could actually do...I was thrilled to be under 16 and even happier to be well under that mark.  I ran the 10K as a comfortable workout and ended up having a nice negative split with no walking.  All in a wonderful farm area not far from home.


Pre Race.   Last Sunday, I was working over my training plan leading to the Chicago Marathon on October 10.  Something seemed out of synch though.  Once I laid it all out, I realized the alternating weekends of long runs and speed workouts that the plan called for were off kilter from events in our own schedule.  So, I just shoved things a week one way and  all fell into a fresh, refreshing alignment.  

First on this list was the chance to run a very popular local event, the Hog Jog.  It's been around for thirty-seven years now.  As the name implies, it's run in and around hog farms around the little town of Flora, Indiana, the center of one of the biggest hog producing areas in the Midwest.  If for no other reason, the T-Shirt from this race is a fun possession for most local athletes.  I've run it a number of times and was glad at first to see it fall on "speed weekend" for my training.

And, then, when I looked the site, I had a crazy idea.  They now have a 2 mile run at 7:30am, followed by the Main Event, the 10K at 8:15.  I said to myself, "Self, why not run both races?"  I've never run two races on one day before...but why not try?  So the idea took quick root and I registered for both.  I was pleased to see they allowed one to have a free entry into the 2 mile race if you had a full entry in the 10K.  Sweet...2 races for a mere $15.00.  Looking at both the weather and my training plan, I decided to run the 2 mile flat out and use the 10K as a nice training run on what was looking to be a very hot day.  

Up early, I really enjoyed driving the back country roads allowing the shortest route for the 25 miles from our house to Flora.  If you buy and sell grain futures, I can tell you, corn is looking terrific here so far.  I got registered, was able to run a couple of miles to warm up well and we were ready for this small "adventure."

2 Mile Race.  The gun went off right at the scheduled 7:30am start time.  I set up my Garmin to pace me through my objective...a pair of 8 minute miles.  Early on, I had to grope a bit to find a rhythm.  But in a half mile or so, it seemed to land in an OK spot.  I did notice lots of folks around me breathing heavily, while I was still comfortable.  But how to pace in a race so short?

I went through the one-mile marker at 7:49.  That was encouraging, as I felt pretty good.  It was so odd, though, to be a mile into the race AND have only a mile to go...boy, that's an adjustment.  So, I shifted into "finish strong" mental mode, just moments after ending the "start comfortably" mental mode.  I picked it up and started picking out runners 3-4 places ahead of me and passing them.  The pace gradually picked up and, amazingly, we had one more turn and I could see the finish line.  I kept pushing and finished the second mile in 7:26, for a race of 15:17. 

Sweet...on a warm, humid morning I had satisfied my curiosity as to whether or not I could still get below an 8 minute pace.  I got well below it and probably could have been near to 15 flat had I planned accordingly.  Yet, how often do you see a 2 mile race???  I've never run that distance before.  

One small competitive note occurred to me as I got ready for this race last week.  The 2 mile run is one-third of the US Army's Physical Fitness Test, along with pushups and situps done in 2 minutes.  With one son just out of the Army and my youngest having just left Friday for four weeks of ROTC summer camp at Fort Lewis, Washington, I just wanted to see how I might compare with how they have done.  The PT test is age and gender graded, so there is comparison possible.  Thus, when I got home I looked up the standards on line and, being 56 years old, I saw I scored at 96% of maximum.  And, even better, if I could do this same time in October, when I turn 57, I would grade out at 100%!!  Ha!!!  Need to ask the two guys just what their best run score was...just to see if the old man can hang with the young dudes!!

10K Race.  I went back to my car, swapped my lighter Brooks Adrenalines for my normal Brooks Beast shoes, got a dry shirt and met up with local running pal Greg.  We walked down to the start line and had a wonderful conversation.  Good thing...he's so fast, the only time I ever talk to him is before the gun.  

Right on time at 8:15am, the gun sounded (and yes, they used a real starter's pistol...a nice touch) and a pack of about 300 took off through the corn fields.  My aim in this race was to simply enjoy the run.  The temperature was rising, now above 75 and quite humid.  The course wound a bit through Flora (including a run, literally, down "Easy Street"...yes they have a street named "Easy" in little Flora, Indiana), then out onto county roads, through more corn and bean fields and past the requisite hog farms.  I was a little stiff early but got more comfortable, particularly after each water stop, where I walked and took a full cup of water.  

The mile splits indicated the subtle acceleration I was sensing was real:

1- 9:27

I hit the finish in 57:55, feeling quite good.  Amazingly, the two runs gave me two negative splits for the day...the first 3 miles of this race in 28:42, the second 3 in 27:34.  I like negative splits...they are rare.  

After the race, the organizers were cooking up pork burgers for all the participants...a yummy way to end a fun morning and it fit, fully.  

A nice day in the Midwest summer.  And keeps me on track for Chicago.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Modified Saturday Morning

ORN: 8.0 miles, R5/W1, 1:27:27, 10:56/mile

In the summer, Saturday morning always means an early alarm to get in a long run before the heat takes over too badly. Today was no different for the alarm but it was different for the activity.

Over the winter, it hit me that one thing a grandfather could do was to take his grandkids fishing. Not that I know anything about fishing...but it still seemed like a good thing. So, I've been trying to learn about local fishing and have actually landed quite a few fish in the area. Surprisingly, I've come to enjoy fishing. It's the opposite of running with respect to effort but much like it in that it gets me outside and in a reflective activity.

So, this morning was the first try to take my twin six-year old grandsons fishing. I picked them up at 7am and we had overcast, reasonable temperatures at a local pond.

Determined Fishermen

Nathan and Drew were understandably excited to go and off we tromped. We had some bites but landed no fish. Yet, that didn't seem to be a big problem as we had a marvelous time together.

From the pond, we headed to a local diner for pancakes and chocolate milk.

Drew, Nathan with pancakes

It was a great morning and a good choice on what to do on a day that saw temps into the 90s with very high humidity.

I finally got out for a run around 11am, intending to do 14 miles. About six miles into it, the sun came out and the heat was awful and I cut it off at 8 miles which was fine. It was a wonderful morning.

Persevere. Even if the fish don't bite.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Race Report: Sunburst Half Marathon

ORN:  13.1 miles, 2:02:07, all run, 9:20/mile

Quick Summary:

I enjoyed this race about as much as any I've run in the past year.  It was one of those wonderful but elusive races where I was in touch with the pace all the way to the end.  With the hot temperatures and 95% humidity, it was the best race conditions allowed. Emotionally, it was once again a great way to honor my Dad as well. 

The Gory Details:


This was the sixth year in a row I've run this event (doing the half 5 times now...I ran the marathon last year), the most I've run any single event.  I know the drill pretty well now, so decided to save a few dollars this year and not go up the night before.  Up at 3:30am, I was on the road 10 minutes later and parked near the starting line in downtown South Bend at 5:50am.  It took only 2 minutes to get my bib and goodies, I watched the marathon start at 6:00am and then had plenty of time to get ready and stretched before the HM gun went off at 7:30am. 

My goal for the day was to get under 2 hours.  My training and other indicators indicated this was possible.  The weather forecast projected temps in the low 60s at the start, with a breeze from the North.  Alas, 'twas not the case...a still, muggy overcast morning awaited us.  The air was fully saturated with the thick, heavy humidity characteristic of Indiana summertime.  I debated scaling my goal back to 2:05 but decided to leave it as 2:00 and see what happened.  My plan all along was to run continuously, not using a run/walk approach.  I also "ran light" not carrying any water, instead choosing to walk a few seconds while taking water at each of the plentiful aid stations.  I had one Gu with me, planned for mid-race.


The gun went off exactly on schedule at 7:30am and what fun it was.  This race is 50% bigger than it was just three years ago and there was a jolly mood in the pack.  I set my Garmin for the 2:00 goal and proceeded to see how well I could handle it.  

Did I mention the humidity??  Before mile 1 was over, I had sweat pouring into my eyes.  Before the mile 2 marker, my singlet was soaked and by mile 3 my shorts looked like I had just climbed out of the pool.  However, I was running comfortably, noticing my breathing was a lot easier than many around me.  By mile 5, I was about 20 seconds behind my pace.  A quick pit stop at mile 7 took another 45 seconds away.  At mile 8, a Notre Dame student I was running with asked how close we'd come to her goal of 2 hours.  I predicted 2:02 at that point.  Maybe I should be the weatherman.  

What was fun, though, was feeling fully in touch with the pace and the conditions.  I pushed myself yet had a feel for how to avoid going over the edge.  Miles 8, 9 and 10 were actually well under my 9:20 average and I was enjoying myself.  A big hill (well, big for Indiana) at mile 11 slowed things a bit but I felt strong heading into the final stages of the race.

The last 1.5 miles of this event, as the course approaches the Notre Dame campus from the south, are always moving for me.  As many of you know, my Dad played football at Notre Dame in the 1930s, so participating in an athletic event on that same turf is meaningful at so many levels.  Each year it hits me in a different way.  In this race, as we motored through some wonderful new commercial buildings along Eddy Avenue, I just got laughing.  I thought how funny Dad would find it to see this wonderful renovation of an area which was not nearly so nice when he was in South Bend.  We crossed onto the campus, made our way past the unfortunately-named Mendoza School of Business, along the west side of the stadium and my thoughts of Dad just grew.  The smile on my face, of fondness and gratefulness, was impossible to wipe off.  As we turned into the tunnel and charged onto the north end zone of Notre Dame stadium to the 50 yard-line finish, it was once again a moment of great joy, and one which honored my Dad's memory.


The organizers of this race, in concert with Notre Dame officials, really make this a memorable event.  Cold towels and abundant quantities of Popsicles are unique additions to the usual post-race fare.  The chance to simply stroll on the hallowed turf of Notre Dame stadium is a thrill for any sports fan and a personal treat for me.  I enjoyed this time as usual, then headed out, riding the well-organized shuttle bus service back downtown to my car.  A quick trip to a public restroom let me shed my soaked gear for some dry shorts and a clean T shirt, much appreciated.  As I started the car to drive home, the clouds finally let loose with a dandy, soaking rain.  I was home a little before 3pm, with quite an amazing 12 hour adventure done.

A nice surprise awaited me when I looked at the official results.  In my age group, I placed 13th of 53, in the top quartile.  I leafed back through other race results and couldn't find an example of doing that well.  I was astounded.  While I was pleased with the results, I had no idea it would have put me that high.  I was just over halfway up for all men, 420 of 845.  So, my 56 year old psyche was also satisfied.  

So, a nice race and a nice day.  I move on now to mostly just training through the summer heat for a couple of fall marathons. 

Thanks for listening.  Persevere.