Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

ORN: 16.1 miles, R4/W1, 2:50:30, 10:36/mile

The calendar year doesn’t really line up with my “running year”, as I enjoy winter running more than summer running. But, hey, using the term “fiscal year” for your hobby is a bit odd. So, a quick 2011 summary follows.

I was pleased with the year, completing three Ultras, four marathons, four half-marathons and a bunch of shorter events. Better, a touch of speed came this year, with PRs at the Half marathon, 15K and 10K distances and my best marathon time since my 2006 PR in Portland. No injuries, even better. And, as you can see from the annual mileage chart below, the best annual miles in this era of my running life.

  My graph

Why did running go well? At age 58, this isn’t supposed to happen, right? I’m not entirely sure. But one factor may well have played a key role.  This was the first full calendar year at my new lower weight. Whereas I had been in the 200-205lb range through 2009, I shed about 30 pounds in the middle of 2010 and held the weight between 175-180 for all of 2011. Cumulatively, that’s a lot less Joe to lug around. And I’m feeling great.

I’ll publish my 2012 plans in a bit. I’m looking forward to it but won’t be racing until the Kal Haven Trail 33.5 miler in late March.

 A brief family moment as well, with two pics from the year. In May, our youngest son Matt graduated from Wheaton College. He was on an ROTC scholarship, so was also commissioned as a new 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army on that amazing day in May. Oldest son David, who was in the Army, was in the commissioning ceremony.

From Matt's Wheaton Grad Weekend

Middle son Nathan was able to be here for Christmas and here’s a photo of our entire family, with the exception of Lt. Ely, who couldn’t get off.

From Family-General

From the left: Gretchen, Nathan, Nathan, Berneice, Susan, David, AJ, and me. It’s quite a crew...we are deeply grateful for each.

2011 is over...let’s make 2012 even better! Persevere.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Clean Really Muddy Running Shoes

My last post was long and philosophical.   This one is pictorial and practical.

The implication of running the HUFF 50K through lots of mud is really muddy shoes.  You can see me here around mile 29...check the shoes.

From Running-General

The shoes are supposed to be light grey...but are solid black.

When the race ended, I walked to my car and retrieved my cold, soggy feet from their mud-caked cocoon.  I sensed a photo series possible.

From Running-General
I stowed these beauties in separate plastic bags in the trunk of my car, letting them ferment.

The following afternoon, I laid into them.  First I removed the shoe laces.  Then, I put them in a 5 gallon bucket and hacked away with a stiff brush to get the bulk of the mud off.  Had the race happened in the summer, I would have done this with a hose in the backyard...but in the Indiana winter, it was a bucket indoors.

From Running-General
This is a time for "tough love"...scrub like crazy and get the gunk off.  No reason to be gentle at all.

Meanwhile, I rinsed and rerinsed the shoelaces and socks, then put them into a bleach solution.  This photo was after the third rinse, such was the grime.

From Running-General
At this point, I tried something new.  On the drive home from the race, Brian mentioned he had once just put his shoes right in the washing machine.  As I looked at my shoes, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried it as well.

I pulled out the insoles and threw in both shoes, sans shoelaces still.  I looked really hard in the owners manual to find the "Running Shoe Cycle" but didn't come across it.

From Running-General

So, I set the machine on a medium load to get plenty of water in the machine, hot water wash, warm water rinse, gentle cycle.  I put in plenty of detergent and four glugs of bleach just to de-gunk the puppies.  (I hope I haven't lost you in the technical language)

A half hour later, out they came.  Shoes were wet but clean.  The insoles held up well, it seemed.

From Running-General

I did NOT put the shoes in the dryer!  I just let them air dry for a few days.  Had I needed the shoes more quickly, I could have stuffed newspapers in them.  The shoelaces dried too.

Relacing the shoes, these babies were ready to go, looking none the worse for spending 7 hours and 50km tromping through mud and water.

From Running-General

This pair of Brooks Beasts (my 12th pair of Beasts, by the way...did I ever mention I like Brooks shoes??!!) now has 620 miles on them.  I wore them on a regular training run yesterday and they felt great. 

Hope you've had some fun with the photos!!  Don't ever give up on a pair of shoes just due to a muddy trail run!!



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Race 2011

ORN:  31.0 miles, 7:33:44, 14:33/mile

Quick Summary

This race was more than a running event.  The second of the two 15.6 mile laps was my hardest run ever. . And yielded the most profound insights I’ve ever gained from running.

Gory Details 

If you are interested in race details, there are some very good summaries out there, including these from  MeggieMary and Bri.

For me, the race was much more than a race, however. It was a truly profound moment which I’ll try to explain. This is a long, somewhat philosophical musing. Thanks for reading.

The HUFF 50K has been around for 17 years and holds a special place in my running heart. It was the first trail race I had ever run in December 2004 when I took their 10 mile single loop option. The race that day was the farthest I had run at that point, my first time ever to run on trails and was central in cementing my enjoyment of running. Funny to reread my blog post from the 2004 event...what did I know then about running??!! I  ran a portion of it again in 2005 (blog post here).

State park funding circumstances forced this race to move to a new locale this year, however. The race organizers did a nice job creating a new course at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park; a 15.6 mile loop which 50K runners would run twice.

The one uncontrollable bugaboo for Race Directors struck, however. We had 3+ inches of rain mid week which swelled the 8 lakes and connecting marshes at the aforementioned Chain O Lakes Park. This meant mud. This meant high water. And when the temps dropped on Friday into the mid 20s, it all turned into frozen mud and icy water.

Fellow Marathon Maniac and local club member Brian and I made the 3 hour drive to NE Indiana after work on Friday. Saturday morning dawned with light snow falling. The HUFF has become a big event, with nearly 900 total runners in the 50K, 50K relay and single loop runs. The cannon sounded at 8:15am and off we went. With temps around 28F and snow continuing to fall, the first lap went reasonably well. We got a tour of the park, saw where the really high water was and an early glimpse of the mud to come. I even found folks with whom to chat; that's me on the right.

From Running-General

I finished the first lap in 3:20:24, a 12:51/mile pace which I was quite pleased with in the circumstances.  A friend of my sister-in-law captured this photo of me at the halfway mark...still feeling good

From Running-General

 And then came lap two.

The temperature was now in the mid 30s, just above freezing. The 800 pairs of feet ahead of me had churned the turf and dirt into a slippery, sloppy mess. Little did I expect what awaited.

Three specific events during lap two changed the tenor of the day, of the race for me

The Flop. In the 21st mile, we descended a deceptively short hill of about 80m. The churned up mud and left-to-right tilt of the trail turned the descent into an ungainly combination of running, surfing, skiing and snowboarding. There was no traction and no control. I made it ¾ of the way down when I lost my balance and went splat in the mud. I fell onto my right side, rolled onto my back, slid and ended with my head pointed downhill, my feet above my shoulders. Adding to the awkwardness, my right calf spasmed when I went down. Flopping helplessly in the mud with a locked-up right leg was not in the plan.

Wonderfully, a runner who was right behind me immediately came to my aid. Her quick thinking led her to grab a perfectly-placed tree trunk with her left hand as an anchor, reaching to me with her right hand, pulling me to my feet and letting me immediately stretch the balky calf. She stopped to talk with me, as did another runner. I was not hurt at all. But I was muddy all up my right side and back, clogging my water bottles, covering my watch and making a general mess. Plus, I needed to get to the bottom of the hill with 10+ miles still to go. The fall knocked the wind from my sails for a good while.

The Slog. During the first lap, a 2+ mile section of the loop along the western side of the park was mushy. 800 runners and 8 degrees later, this section (miles 23-25) was cold, black, churny, ankle-deep muck.

From Running-General
From Running-General
There was no running here. It was only one pitiful step after another. The area was flat. There was no drainage. There was no getting around the mud. It simply went on and on. It broke the soul. Indeed, it was the most discouraging portion of a difficult day. I truly wondered why I was doing this event or why I even bothered. I could only think of photos I had seen of agonizing troop movements during World War I across the water-logged fields of France in winter.  It nearly broke my spirit, it was so slow and difficult. Only a 2 mile stretch on a park road and some higher ground from miles 25 to 27 allowed some mental recovery before encountering the third stage.

The Thorns. Miles 27-29 were low-lying sections around one of the park’s lakes. While this trail might be a scenic, even romantic, walk during a mild spring afternoon, it was substantially overflowed Saturday.

From Running-General
This video by one of my fellow runners from this section is so real, it still gives me chills


 I had waded through some of these knee-deep water holes on lap one, including one nearly 40m long. Half-way through that traverse, my calves and feet felt nearly frozen. On lap two, I chose not to wade again, so discouraged was I from the Slog. The alternative, while less freezing, was more painful. Many of us bushwhacked around the 8-10 water-filled areas. I termed this part of the race the “Multiflora Rose 50K” in honor of the thorny, pernicious weed-plant which has invaded of our state’s woodlands. It scraped my legs and ankles as I scrambled to make progress.

The last two miles of the race were relatively clean, with the course moving to higher ground and then park roads heading back to the start/finish line. I had to walk all of mile 30...running just wasn’t going to happen. However, I was able to run most of the last mile, hitting the finish line in 7:33:44. But lap two was nearly a full hour slower than the lap one, with a pace of 16:14/mile. Not even a modest walking pace on average, such was the impact of my fall, the muck and the water circumvention.

When I finish a race, I’m usually euphoric, thrilled with what just happened. While my body felt fine this time, my spirit felt broken. I was deeply discouraged and I didn’t know why. It took me three days of reflection to grasp what happened.

I realized this race, lap two in particular, was a metaphor of something much more profound, something far larger than distance running.

Lap two was chemotherapy. Lap two was long-term unemployment. Lap two was raising a difficult teenager. Lap two was not what I signed up for.

Let me explain.

I entered this race wanting to run. To run a trail race. I was prepared and psyched to do a 50K trail race in cold weather.

I didn’t enter a Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder or any of the adventure races designed to put physical obstacles in the way. Not my style. Not interesting to me. Others may enjoy them but I don’t.

I signed up for a 50K trail run. And I couldn’t run. The trail was unrunnable over significant stretches. It was not the trail conditions themselves which broke me down, I came to realize, however. It was the complete and utter denial of doing what I had hoped and planned to do.

From this stems the metaphor.

I want to be healthy, we say. I want to live fully And then I’m racked with cancer. And the treatment is worse than the disease at times.

I want to work, we say. I want to support myself, my family. And then I’m unemployed. Have been for 18 months. No one even wants to interview me.

I want to love my teenager, we say. I want to communicate, appreciate, encourage, guide. And she rejects me. Turns her back. Yells at me. And worse. And has been for five years now.

These disappointments are examples of the many ways our lives become difficult, deeply discouraging. So much of discouragement stems from the dashed dreams, the hopes we feel have been unjustly taken from us. These dashed dreams can break our spirit. We didn’t sign up for the tough times.

You see, when I got done with lap two, I was fed up with that race. As runners, we are often full of bravado and enthusiasm, welcoming the pain, the difficulty of a race as a challenge, as a badge of honor.

I had none of that on Saturday. I hated lap two. If the Race Director were to call me today, offering me free entry into the race next year yet saying the conditions would be the same, I’d turn him down. I don’t want to do that again. I just want to run.

No one I’ve ever known would choose to go through cancer and treatment again. No one I’ve ever known would choose long-term unemployment. No one I’ve ever known would relish having another angry teenager around.

But we find ourselves in those situations. We don’t like them. We wouldn’t want to do them again. But in the moment, we have to do them. We have to keep moving. One step at a time, whether through freezing water or thorn-filled clambers on a non-trail. We flop and are so grateful for someone to extend a hand at the right moment.

The metaphor helps me have empathy for those with far more serious issues than mud and cold water that resolve in seven hours. Lap Two taught me all this and more, afresh. I hope it’s been helpful for you to read. It’s been helpful to me to write.



Sunday, December 04, 2011

Galloway Run/Walk Method: Update on 5 Years Experience

In September, 2008, I wrote a summary post on my experience to that date using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk approach to distance running.  Recently, several folks have asked me to update my experience and it seemed useful to do so as a reference.  

Jeff Galloway has suggested for some time now most of us mere mortal runners can go longer and farther by interspersing walking with our running.  I’ve been doing this since January, 2007.

It works. And I'm still enthusiastic about this approach to running.  

I run/walk virtually every training run I do.  It is simply second nature for me now.  The mechanics just are part of how I run. I don't think its a coincidence I can’t recall a single injury in the nearly 5 years since I started which has caused me to stop training.  And, in that period of time, I’ve finished 20 marathons/ultras and a lot of shorter races.  Given that I’m not anticipating a spot on the US Olympic Team, that’s all I could ask be able to run, enjoyably, injury-free, year round.  

Why does this method seem to hold injuries at bay?  Jeff has long held breaking up a long run with regular walks is worth a lot.  I agree.  So many times, especially during marathons or long training runs, I’ve felt fatigue or discomfort start to set in.  Amazingly (and it still truly amazing to me), I’ll go to a regular walk break, collect my thoughts, perhaps extend it by 10-15 seconds, and the situation improves.  Often, after one or two more of the regular walk breaks, I’m back to normal.  It’s happend too many times to dismiss as mere coincidence.  The variation in pace/muscle/jostle/mental rhythm is restorative.  

In addition to this, I’ve come to appreciate other benefits of run/walk in the past few years.  

Run/Walk allows for real fine tuning during a race or run.  On several occassions, I’ve been deep into a race when weather or fatigue simply causes the run to start to head south.  If I was simply running, I’d be forced to slow down.  But, as the mind gets mushy during a long run, that can be hard to do.  It’s been much better to throttle back to a lower run/walk ratio.  The shift from a 4/1 (run 4 minutes/walk 1 minute) to a 2/1 is invigorating, as odd as that may sound.  It allows a much more precise improvisation as the need dictates. The associated precision builds confidence. And confidence is huge, mentally.

At a macro level, run/walk also allows specificity in training.  For example, last summer, as I planned out the race calendar for this fall, it became evident that the Veterans Marathon on November 12 might be a chance for a “quick” marathon for me.  As a result, I began to train towards running a 6/1 pattern for that race...doing most of my training at 6/1, mentally preparing for the running sequences longer than my base ratio of 4/1, constructing some intermediate time windows for this pace. And, in this case, it worked.  With that race under my belt, I’m now looking at a series of maintainance races during the long winter months.  Time is not a big concern in these events, so I’ve dialed much of the training back to a 4/1, content to simply get the miles in and keep running.  And I might even run two of them at a 3/1 or 2/1. Looking farther ahead though, I just signed up for a race in May which may led itself to a 6/1 or 7/1. I can mull the plan during the long cold runs in the next few months.

Yet, what about racing?  Can you ever go “fast”?  Are you doomed to slow running?  Here’s how I’ve made sense of this.

For half-marathons and shorter, in moderate temperatures, I usually run continually.  Over the past 13 months, I’ve set PRs at the 5K, 10K, 15K and half marathon distances.  How does this work??  Again, I’m not entirely sure, but I think part of it is the fact that using run/walk in all my training allows me to pack on more injury-free miles.  And the larger mileage base allows me to run the occasional race hard.   Put another way, it keeps my legs fresh enough to go hard.  Functionally, I set the pace for these races according to what I can comfortably hold through the run segments of my normal training--it’s not like I can suddenly do 6 minute miles.  Yet, with a decent training base, you can go hard for shorter races.  And it’s kind of amazing to me that I can even consider a half marathon a “shorter” race.  

How do I keep track of running and walking?  Do I stare at my watch all the time?  No way..that would be awful.  I simply use the Timex Ironman 100 lap watch.  It has an interval timer feature in which I can set up my walk and run breaks.  Geek note-- I always set my walk time as segment one, my run time as segment two and set the watch to loop back continuously.  Why?  Because at the end of segment one, it beeps for two seconds, whereas at the end of segment two, it beeps for 10 seconds.  When I’m running, I need a stronger reminder, as my mind often is off on some other topic.  While walking, usually for one minute, I don’t need much of a signal to begin to walk again.  End of geek note.  

Hope all of this is helpful for you.  If you have questions, feel free to get hold of me.  

Persevere.  Whether running, walking or both.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Report: Veterans Marathon 2011

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:36:57, R/W 6/1

Quick Summary

It was a fantastic weekend with my nephew John, which happened to feature a marathon.   The race set up well and turned out to be my fastest marathon in over 5 years.

The Gory Details

This race was the result of a year-long discussion between John and me.   In 2010, we ran two big city marathons together in Los Angeles and Chicago.  Wouldn't it be cool, John suggested, if we contrasted that with a small-town Midwestern marathon??

The Veterans Marathon on November 12 filled the bill perfectly.  In the small town of Columbia City, Indiana, about 2 hours from our house, it's a half marathon/marathon with around 500 total participants.  What a contrast to the mega-events in LA and the Windy City!!

John flew in on Thursday from San Diego for a family meal.  Friday let us visit my workplace, walk some of the running trails I enjoy and then head across the northern Indiana flat lands to Columbia City.  It took us less than 60 seconds to pick up our bibs.  We drove the course before sundown and relaxed in the Lap of Luxury of our spacious hotel accommodations.

Race morning dawned with nearly perfect running weather.  It was sunny and 40F at the start.  The small town touches were all over the place; the local veterans group presented the colors, the Columbia City HS Band played the national anthem and at precisely 8:00am, a cannon blast sent us on our way.

John and I both felt the cool weather and flat course augured well. For John, that meant a run in the 4:15-20 range.  For me, it meant a gear shift from usual run/walk ratio of 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking to a 6/1.  We decided we'd do a solid run together for the first 3 miles and it was huge fun.  You can see it here in this photo from mile 2.5.

From Running-General

We split up around mile 3 and John had a wonderful run.  He enjoyed the entire scene of small-town Indiana.

From Running-General

For my part, I settled in and tried to execute my plan for the day.  I have not run a marathon at a 6/1 run/walk, yet had done all my long runs this fall at that ratio.  With the weather in the 40s, I planned to see if I could run "hard" and get under 4:40.  This required me to maintain a 9:45 to 10:00 pace during the run sections, for an aggregate 10:30/mile pace overall.

I don't think I've ever mentioned here the Universal Pace Chart I developed for myself a year or so ago.  It takes three even paces but adds 30 seconds/mile from mile 19 on in.  As a result, it allows me to project, at any mile, what my final time will likely be.  I have this laminated and carry it with me.  For an engineer, it's a treat to look at a sheet full of numbers every so often.
From Running-General

From Running-General
The plan worked.  At mile 6, I was 2+ minutes ahead of the 4:40 pace.  It was 3+ by mile 10 and I hit the half marathon split at 2:15:00.  Miles 13-17 were the toughest of the race, as the wind had some up and we were running straight into it a 15-20mph wind.  At mile 16, I was only 45 seconds ahead of the target pace.  Mentally, though, I knew the legs still felt good and I'd have the wind at my back soon.  By mile 20, I was 90 seconds ahead of pace and at 24, the gap was a full 2 minutes.  Mile 26 was exactly 10:30 and I hit the finish mat for an official time of 4:36:57, 3 minutes under the target.

From Running-General

John had a solid race as well, holding off leg cramps in the last three miles to notch a 4:25:29.  He got his wishes of a small town marathon with good weather.
It was a terrific weekend with a great friend to whom I also happen to be related. The running was also good but that's not the key.  It's the friendship that counts.

Thanks for listening.  Persevere.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Race Report: Adams Mill Covered Bridge Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:51:35, 8:32/mile


On a perfect fall day for running last Saturday, another PR flowed in this small, local half marathon on the nearby countryside.  Better still, an enjoyable day with three work colleagues.

Below, I have some photos of the day, many thanks to Half Fanatics pal Mike Hoyt.  Following that is a painfully detailed write up of the race which I sent to my nephew John.  So, whether you like photos or excessive levels of textual details, you'll have something to like here :-)  .

The Pix

Every race has a theme.  This one evolved into an outing with three work colleagues.  And it was ultimately a really good day for the home team.

Post Race: Mike, Joe, Cara, Wendy
From Adams Mill HM

I am really lucky to work with some terrific people at a company doing some neat things.  And some of these fine folks enjoy running as well!!  With this half marathon in the small town of Flora, about 20 minutes from us, on a quiet weekend in late October, all four of us decided independently to take it on for different reasons and ultimately helped each other achieve much more than we thought possible.

Race day came with perfect conditions, at least for me.  A big blue sky, temperatures in the low 40s, no wind and a mostly flat course.  It turned out to be a small field, as well, with only 81 runners showing up.

We started on time, heading straight south for 4.5 miles across the dead-flat farm country of our part of Indiana.  

From Adams Mill HM
I hope this incredible flatness, here at mile 2, does not create a phobic reaction for any of you from hillier locales.  But this is pretty typical of how our area looks, particularly once the corn is harvested.  And look at the blue sky!!  Horizon to horizon...spectacular on the prairie.

Before we got to mile 5, we took a turn to the races namesake, the Adams Mill Covered Bridge.  The curves and bridge were surprisingly motivating.

Covered Bridge

From Adams Mill HM

Just before the turn around, the road flattened out and we enjoyed running next to Indiana's top cash crop, ready for picking.

Running next to cornfield
From Adams Mill HM

We retraced our route.  With one mile to go, I knew I'd have to hustle to get to my 1:52:00 goal.

One mile to go

From Adams Mill HM
And so it was a welcome sight to me to see Mike, who had already finished, coming back to meet me.  He pushed me in the last 250 meters, and helped me get the goal!

Mike pacing Joe at end
From Adams Mill HM

Our work team did well!  Mike finished his first ever half marathon in 1:39, taking sixth overall.  Cara finished her third HM, 21 minutes better than ever.  Wendy finished her first HM, meeting her goal of feeling strong at the end.  So strong, she was able to happily hold her 1 year-old daughter just a couple of minutes after crossing the finish line!  And I was pleased, setting a PR by almost 2 minutes.

Wendy with Hannah
From Adams Mill HM

And now a wordy description of mileage, distance and other numeric detritus

Well, we got to the site with plenty of time.  I have learned  I need to warm up if I want to run hard.  So, I ran about 1.6 miles and stretched well.  We lined up and took off just past 9am.  I had set my Garmin for even splits (8:33) and had a pace chart to boot.  Miles 1-4 were flat and straight south from Flora.  They went in 8:30, :33, :52 (one more pit stop) and :41.  So I was 24 seconds behind pace at 4 miles.  

At mile 4.5 ish, we made a left turn and had some scenery.  We did a cool sweep down a curvy road to a covered bridge (thus the name of the race) and an old corn mill, now a museum.  We then climbed up out of this made a right, ran about a half mile into the tiny town of Cutler, Indiana.  Population of maybe 100.  Tiny little town and we did a nice loop of about 4 blocks and headed back from whence we came.  Miles 5-8 were 8:22 (w/ downhill), :38, :38, and :25.  I really enjoyed this part of the course...the relief, the very visually appealing curves and slopes and turns, the nice little loop through Cutler.  Also saw a lot of folks coming and going, since Cutler had the half-way mark.  And, at mile 8, I was only 15 seconds behind target pace.  

I should comment on hydration and calories.  I carried no water on this race, having decided aid stations were going to be adequate and the coolness would not make water a big deal.  There were 3 aid stations, so we had 6 opportunities to grab a drink.  I took something at 4 of the 6 and only had about a three gulps at each.  And that worked real thirst issues.  As for calories, I had a small squeeze bottle of JoeGu and I used it 3 times.  Probably the equivalent of one Gu pack but spread out.  It gave me a small boost, seemed to work.

We climbed up out of the valley, turned right and were back, headed straight north, back to Flora.  Mile 9 was uphill for an 8:42 but mile 10, back on the flat, was 8:42 as well, putting me 33 seconds off the pace after 10.  I was surprised to see the 8:42 there.  I had a straight shot into Flora and this became a bit of a mental search.  How badly did I want the 1:52?  Not like it was a world record or anything.  Yet, I really did want to see if I could pull it off and I felt OK.  The legs felt good.  But I was fully by myself...with only 80ish runners, we were royally spread out, I hadn't passed or been passed since mile 5.  So I settled on just to amp up the pace a bit, knowing I needed to feel like I was pushing it.  I checked the Garmin (which I had set on training mode, so my indication of pace was whether or not I was gaining on the imaginary competitor...I started to steadily gain).  But I was startled to go through mile 11 with a split of 9:08.  What??  I really didn't stress much... I knew I was running faster and experience says this had to be a mis-measured mile.  I kept pushing.  When I got to mile 12, the split was 7:56.  I knew I wasn't that quick!!  So, mile 11 was long, mile 12 was short, I was OK with that.  Yet, I was still 30 seconds off my target.  I had only recovered 3 seconds in 2 miles...not enough.  Could I push hard enough to do an 8:00 mile in mile 13 and carry that thru the last tenth? 

I tried to dial it up.  We had a long straight run towards the finish, interrupted by a short 4 block jog in and out of suburban Flora  (I'm sure necessary to get the distances right).  I was trying to catch a guy I had been chasing for 6 miles and was slowly closing on him.  Further, I saw my work colleague Mike who had run a 1:39, getting 6th overall, and had come back out to help me run in.  He saw me coming towards the last turn to home, with about 250 meters to go.  I turned the corner where he was standing, looked at my watch, which said 1:50:30.  I told Mike "I have 90 seconds to get across the line...take me in!!!"  

He relished that job and off we went.  Mike right in front of me, making me stay up with him.  Mike ran varsity cross country at U of Toledo, and quickly got into the "coach" was really cool.  I've never had this happen before.  I locked in on staying with Mike, listening to him urge me to get my knees higher, pushing off stronger on each stride.  We blew past the guy I had been trailing and pushed really hard for the end.  I was thinking we'd be close to 1:52.  I saw the official clock as we got close and it was only at 51:30!!  And, so, when I crossed, hit my watch, and I had it in 1:51:37.  I went from 30 seconds behind the pace at mile 12 to 23 seconds to the good at 13.1.  I'm still stunned it happened.  Just did the math...8:30 for 1.1 miles, which is a 7:44 pace for that distance.  Wow.  Mike's help was huge...and I think he had fun helping the old guy hustle to the end.  

Well, a long post for a mere half marathon.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Thanks for persevering. 


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Race Report: Heritage Trail Marathon 2011

ORN:  26.2 miles, 5:18:13, 4/1 R/W, 12:03/mile

Quick Summary

You know a race is fun when you are sad to see the finish line, knowing the race is over.  It's even better when such a race is a marathon.  Better yet when you run the last half of the race 2.5 minutes faster than the first half.  Yet over the top better when your fastest mile of the day is the 26th. 

All of this and more in the Heritage Trail Marathon on October 2.  A perfect weather day on a fun, local trail made for one of the best running experiences I've ever had.  Here's the whole story.

The Gory Details

Lots of pix in this race report, thanks to the race organizers who published nearly 1,500 images to the web, all free to download.   What a treat!! 

This is a local race, a mere 10 minute drive from my house to the starting line.  So, unlike my usual race morning routine, I could "sleep in" until 5:30am, have a warm bowl of oatmeal in my own kitchen and then take a short drive to the start.  Check in was simple and well before sunrise.  Chilly thermometer at home said 40 when I got up. 

When checking in, I got my first surprise of the day.  I learned the organizers had to alter the course for the marathon.  Where the original plan has us running the full 13.1 mile length of the Wabash Heritage Trail and then back, trail construction and a logistic conflict with another event in downtown Lafayette forced them to make the course a 6.55 mile out and back route, which half-marathoners would do once and marathoners would do twice.  Understandable, given the circumstances.  But, as a card-carrying overthinker, it took me a while to re-orient my race plans regarding hydration, aid stations and landmarks for effort assessment.  (photographic note:  when training for this race during August I shot a photo album of the trail and two short videos from around mile 2 and around mile 4.5)

I worked through it OK and the sun came up on a clear, beautiful day for running.  Musical Note #1 happened when the organziers gathered the 200+ total participants in the marathon, half marathon, 15K and 5K runs for some instructions about the trail and then we sang the National Anthem together.  It was a nice touch and we didn't sound bad at all!  The event began as they launched each of the four events at five minute intervals.  The 46 of us running the marathon gathered first and took off right at the appointed 8:00am start time.  I'm in the back of the pack here, just behind runner 143.

The initial out section served to help me find the day's rhythm.  The trail was narrow and, with the early pack, not one where I could do my usual run/walk for a while.  We were also eventually passed by the leaders of the half marathon and then the 15K fasties.  I wasn't sure just where the aid stations were, nor how I was going to reload my water bottles along the way.  Not unusual, really.  But, by the time I got close to the turn around point, it was starting to settle in.

Musical note #2.  Just after the turnaround, I met local running friends Tony and Lu who were taking a slow approach to the half marathon.  Tony had bragged on his lovely wife Lu's birthday at the start when we talked.  As I saw them running towards me, I broke into a loud version of "Happy Birthday", and noticed that "Lu" is the perfect name to sing that song to!!  Try it...all four lines rhyme...even better if you use "Lu-Lu" for the name.  She must have liked it...I got a hug on the trail.

On the first trip back, things quickly fell into place.  I reoriented my earlier thinking to the reality of the aid station locations as they were.  The traffic thinned, the blue sky was gorgeous through the trees, my blood was warmed so the long sleeves and cotton gloves were perfectly comfortable.  The legs felt good, though I knew full well that good legs at mile 8 were necessary but not sufficient for a good race. 

Musical note #3.  Figuring I'd be alone a lot in this small race, I took along my mp3 player, plus some new earbuds from Yurbuds.  They had advertised them as having a "lock in" feature which kept them from falling out of your ears, something I've been annoyed with every type of ear bud I've used.  And they were falling out.  But, putting my proclivity to overthinking to good use, I realized how I could rearrange the cord to keep them in.  I sat back and enjoyed my favorite local station.

I got back to the start/finish line, feeling good.  I reloaded the water bottles, reoriented the cord, smiled for a photo and went out for another 13.1 miles. 

And the race got really fun.  Fully familiar with the altered course, still enjoying a perfect fall day, pretty much by myself all the time, dialed into the tunes, it was a treat to keep going.  On my way out, I started to see the leaders on their way back.  Boy, were they moving.  But, hey, so was I, just not as quickly.  The 4/1 run/walk cycle was feeling just fine.  In fact, somewhere in the 15th mile, I recall feeling sad a walk break sounded.  I smiled, knowing I needed to walk, but was glad I was so antsy to keep running.  I got to the turn around point once more, 20 miles into a trail marathon, and grinned more...I still felt fine and I was 6+ miles from home. 

Musical moment #4 hit around mile 22.  Todd Agnew's "Grace Like Rain" came on the radio, a marvelous arrangement of the familiar tune "Amazing Grace".  It's a favorite of mine for several reasons.  And it made me laugh.  I recalled being around mile 22 of the US Air Force Marathon in 2009, hearing this song play at an aid station.  I was dehydrating badly at that point and the song was a huge encouragement to me.  How funny that the same song would come on again at about the same point on a day when I felt terrific!

Before the race, I had decided a great race on this course would happen if I still felt good at the last crossing of the Wabash River, about 3 miles from the finish.  Well, I crossed the Wabash, felt good, and grinned again.  Let's let it open up and run well to the end.  And so I did.  It was pure joy to move smoothly, comfortably, confidently through the woods with 23 miles behind me.   When I came to the small marker indicating one mile to go, I scrapped the run/walk and pushed the pace near as I could tell, I ran the last mile between 8:30 and 8:45, my best mile of the day.  Across the finish line, marathon #23 in the books.

Why did this race go well?  I think several reasons.  First, the weather was perfect.  It was in the low 40s at the start and was perhaps 55 at the end.  No wind.  A flat course along the river with firm footing helped, even with all the logs we had to go over.  I had enough miles in the bank.  In otherwords, all the factors lined up for a good race.  And it was good. 

Long report...a good race, worth remembering.  Thanks to Planet Adventure for a good organization.  And thanks for reading.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Medals4Mettle: Letting Go to Lift Up

While preparing for the Illinois Marathon last April, I got a note from fellow Marathon Maniac and Illinois resident Scott Dahl, setting up a MM Photo Op for the event. In that communciation, I learned of an organization in which Scott is active. Medals4Mettle is based on a simple and compelling premise: Runners give their medals as encouagement to children fighting long-term illness.

When Scott explained this to me and after I looked at M4M's web site, it grabbed me. What a beautiful yet simple thing!! The group was started by a surgeon who is also a triathlete; he had a child as a patient, fighting a long haul disease and, somewhat spontaneously, gave the child a recently earned medal from a tri. He wanted to salute the "mettle" the child required to deal with the illness. The child was so pleased and so encouraged by the simple gift, he realized he had stumbled on to something. He began involving other athletes and the idea took form.

Scott described this and I realized I could easily be part of it. Over the years, I've placed medals and race bibs behind the door to our home office, below. It's a quiet, out of the way part of the house.

Yet for what reason did I need the medals? Did any local sports reporters clamor for the opportunity to photograph them? Did any family members stroll up to the room to marvel at my athletic prowess? Did I receive email requests for me to pose in front of them? Laughable suggestions, all. The only purpose they held was for some periodic reminisence. So, it seemed logical I could part with them for more noble use.

I knew this information in April. And I knew how I could send them to M4M. And I didn't take any action until now. Why?

At one level, I simply needed to get around to it. But there was a deeper, more self-absorbed reason which I had to acknowledge if I was to be honest. This was the real cause the four-month delay.

I liked having the medals. In some way, they gave meaning, identification. To look at them was to relive some day gone by. Keeping them was to somehow seek to cling to a moment which was done, over.

Years ago, I heard a quote I've never forgotten: "If you own something which you can't give away, you don't own it, it owns you." I realized the medals were starting to "own" me in some way. Not at the depth of control of the "precious" in Tolkien's Ring Trilogy, yet there was a cling. This realization both frightened me and spurred me to action.

It was a strange, yet good sensation to begin pulling the medals off their ribbons, one by one (M4M adds their own ribbon to each medal, so asks folks to send in medals without the ribbon). It was a healthy lifting of some strange attachment. The half-marathon medals, interestingly, were not a big deal to part with. But the marathon medals were. It took work to pull each one off its ribbon. I laid them all out on the desk and smiled. Each one had a special memory of a marathon which went well or terribly or alone or with friends.

I ultimately chose to keep two medals; my first half-marathon medal at the Indianapolis Mini-marathon in 2005 and my first marathon medal of this era, St. Louis in 2006. All the rest went into the box. 

And it was fine to send 4.5 pounds of medals out the door. Shoot, I still have all the bibs. I still have all the ribbons, many of which are specific to a particular race. And, I pray, each of those medals will bring a smile and a bit of encouragement to a kid and his/her family facing a much bigger challenge.

If you'd like to be part of this wonderful and simple project, all you need to know is at the M4M web site. I'd like to know what, if any, mental process you might work through in so doing.

I know I'm glad I did.

Persevere. The kids sure will.


Monday, September 05, 2011

Race Report-Blueberry Stomp 15K

ORN:  15km (9.3 miles), 1:17:52, 8:23/mile
Had huge fun today, Labor Day 2011, running the Blueberry Stomp 15K road race in Plymouth, Indiana.  The race fell nicely into my fall race plans, helping build towards three marathons later in the fall.  About a 90 minute drive away, it was easy to get to and offered a good distance.  I had run this race in 2005 and was looking forward to running it again.
After a brutal heat wave last week, a massive cool front came through over the weekend and the temps were perfect for running.  The thermometer read 53F at the start and could not have been much over 56 by the end.  A refreshing breeze of cool, dry, Canadian air made us forget, for a little while anyway, the mean heat we've had this summer. 
I wasn't quite sure what the legs would allow today, given a hard half marathon just two weeks ago.  So, I decided to see if I could carry a pace of 8:50/mile and see how I felt.  The weather was just so very, very nice, I did feel hopeful, though.
The race started right on time with what seemed like 500 or so combined 5K and 15K runners.  In the first mile, I found myself running comfortably yet was surprised to see the first mile come along in 8:37.  I tried to hold back the reins, yet miles 2 and 3 went by in 8:28 and 8:34.  The 15K route made a large loop of country road past past some stately manors.  Mile 4 checked in at 8:33.  I was still feeling good, so decided to let the pace improve a bit.
Mile 5 and 6 were 8:20 and 8:31 and we were heading back to town, feeling good.  So, what was possible??  I picked up the pace.  Mile 7 and 8 were in 8:10 and 8:07.  The last 9.32 miles went by at a pace of 7:59 and we were done.  The final was 1:17:52, which eclipsed my former 15K PR (set on the same course in 2005...I don't often run 15K) by over 7 minutes.  The aggregate pace was 8:23/mile and the entire race seemed to pass oh-so quickly.
The fun part of this race comes at the end, though.  The running event is simply one part of the larger Blueberry Festival, a carnival of activities over the whole Labor Day weekend.  The high point is a big parade on Labor Day morning.  The start of the race preceeds the parade, though many folks had already staked out prime viewing spots along the way.  Thus, we had a nice crowd on the way out.  On the return trip, however, the parade was in full bloom, going south, while the 15K runners were strung out, running north, in a lane along the left side of the road.  I decided to have some fun, giving official "parade wave" to the float carrying Miss Blueberry and her court (they got the joke) and doing an air guitar with guys on a float for a local radio station. 
But the real fun was seeing a bunch of guys walking along wearing t-shirts with a huge "Joe" emblazoned across a silloutte of the state of Indiana.  Turned out it was a campaign effort for Joe Donnelly, currently representing that part of Indiana in the House of Representatives but also hoping to make a run for the US Senate in 2012.  In the moment, I mostly thought it was a cool T Shirt, for obvious reasons.  Better, though, as I ran past the T-shirted dudes, I saw a guy in a tie-less white dress shirt shaking hands with folks on the side of the parade route.  Man, I said to myself, that has to be Joe!!  So, even with 200m left in the race, I peeled back and said to him "Are you 'Joe' "?  He grinned and said yes.  I ran up and shook his hand, telling him I was Joe too!  I guess this meant we were both, simultaneously, shaking hands with Joe.  In a nice bit of clarity of thought, Joe said to me "Hey, I'm messing up your time!"  I appreciated his awareness of the moment.  I pointed out I was not on the bubble for making the Olympic team and just was having fun.  He got the joke and the political moment made us all smile. 
It was huge fun to be able to run well on a perfect day.  It doesn't always happen...savor it when it does. 
Persevere.  And give a politician a smile if you have the chance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Race Report: AFC Half Marathon 2011

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:54:47, 8:46/mile

The Quick Summary

Wow, what a fun weekend in San Diego! We had huge fun running America's Finest City Half Marathon, and even more fun with family. On a perfect day to run, I had my quickest HM time in three years.

The Gory (and Pictorial) Details

A trip to San Diego from Indiana for a long weekend means a lot of early mornings. I was out the door at 4am on Friday morning and, despite a flight cancellation causing me to fly from Indy to Houston to Denver to San Diego, I got there just a little after lunch. My sister picked me up and we got to visit a wonderful agency where she volunteers in San Diego, The Tomorrow Project, which gives many job skills to underpriveleged women. It was terrific to see how my big sis was contributing in her retirement.

Her oldest son, John, is technically my nephew but we are way more like brothers. He picked me up late afternoon and we headed to the expo to get our bibs. Walking in, a strange, impish idea hit me. I asked someone "Just where are the bibs for the elite runners?" She pointed, we walked over and I explained to the volunteer that I was hoping to just stand there, that this was as close as I'd ever be to elite status. She grinned and said, "Shoot, why don't you just hold one?"

"Elite" runners?

And so we did! It seems the #2 had already been picked up, but #1 and #3 seemed just fine for us!! We got photographic proof of our brief touch with world-class status.

From there, John, a two-time veteran of the AFC HM, drove me over the last half of the race. This proved very useful on race day, as the course gradually climbed in the 11th mile, then found a long steep up-hill grind over the last two miles.

We then headed to enjoy an evening of Major League Baseball. We went to Petco Park to watch the titanic struggle between the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres. Since both teams were at the bottom of the National League East and West, it seemed only logical to wear a Cubs jersey to represent the bottom of the National League Central.


Thanks for StubHub, we got terrific deals on seats just 6 rows from the field right at third base. We were so close to the field, we could analyze whether the container in the right hip pocket of third-base umpire Tony Randazzo was a tin of snuff or a small package of sunflower seeds. (During the middle of the 5th, we confirmed it was the seeds, fortunately). John and I love baseball and we were able to get so close and analyze all the ins and outs of a tight, 4-3 Padre win. It was probably the most enjoyable major league game I've ever attended.

Saturday was a relaxing day with my sister and brother-in-law, capped off with a great pasta dinner and long conversation with John and his wife. We hit the hay early because Sunday was going to be a long day.

And so it was. The alarm went off at 3:30am, John and I headed to Balboa Park just before 4 and were on one of the 106 bus loads of runners hauled from the finish line to the start point at Point Loma at 4:40am. At the Point by 5am, we had two hours before the 7am start. And this time was sweet. It was dark and we found a quiet spot overlooking San Diego Bay. The cool quiet was a terrifically pleasant experience. As the sun rose, the marine layer kept the temps right at 60F for the entire 2 hours of the race...perfect running weather. At the right time, we did a short warm up run, and walked to the start grid, positioning ourselves about a third of the way back from the front. Despite our very ordinary four-digit numbers, we were ready to go.

At the start

The race started on time, we crossed the finish line two minutes after the gun sounded and the race was on. John and I wanted to run the race fairly hard, so had decided to try to hold to 8:40 miles, run together through mile 10 and then see how we felt for the final uphill climb. The first two miles were rolling, then we had a nearly two mile run downhill. The course then flattened out and we settled into a rhythm. We hit the 10K mat together in 52:41, a pace of 8:30, feeling good. With the early downhill, we were pleased with this pace.

The 10K mat

We turned onto Harbor Island and ran the "T" section of the course, emerging at mile 8. We shared some M&Ms, stayed hydrated and kept moving. It was terrific.

At about this time, far ahead us, a 23 year-old Kenyan, Weldon Kirui, won the race in a blistering 1:03:18. Why was he so fast? Take a close look at his bib number:

The Winner #3

Yes, he wore Bib #3. If you zoom in on the original photograph, you can actually see John's fingerprints still on the corners of the bib. The inspiration was unquestionably the difference on race day. John is truly linked to running greatness, yet, in humility, did not want to detract from Mr. Kiruri's moment in the sun and so hung back in the pack.

Meanwhile, back on the course, we kept rolling along. Just before the 10 mile marker, though, I noticed John was rolling better than I was. We chatted about it and I sent him on his way with an encouraging fist bump. I watched him pull away steadily, looking strong. He kept a very strong pace, motoring up the two hilly miles in 8:13 and 8:11!

John finishing

John finished in 1:51:07. Breaking that down, from the 10K mat to the finish, he ran at an 8:29 pace. Wow...8:30/mile for first 10K of the race which had a big downhill, then 8:29 for the final 6.9 miles with a 2 mile grind uphill. That's an awesome finish and great pacing.

After John moved ahead, I hit one of those half-mile or so patches where I had to re-calibrate and reorient, both in mind and body. That seemed to help and then the hills began. The same two miles mentioned above took me 9:55 and 9:40, respectively. Such is the advantage John has by being able to train regularly on hills while I live in a remarkably flat area. That hill was just plain tough but I did run it without walking.

One of the most amazing experiences of this race for me occurred at the top of the hill, as we turned off the climb and onto the mostly flat final half mile in Balboa Park. I suddenly felt like I was's hard to explain but it was almost like coming out of a slingshot. I looked at my Garmin and saw a pace of 7:45 and it felt fine.

Joe near finish

I pushed hard to the finish, hitting the line at 1:54:47. I had wanted to go under 1:55 and had 13 seconds to spare. My pace after the 10K mat slowed to 9:00/mile but that's just the way it was on the hill.

John found me shortly after I crossed the finish line and we had a most wonderful time reliving the race. We hung out for 30 minutes or so, enjoying the entire atmosphere, even with our humble, four-digit bib numbers intact.


The rest of the day Sunday was more family. My sister, BIL and I joined John and his wife, daughters and boyfriends for supper on their new patio. What rich time together! It ended too quickly...up at 4am on Monday to catch a 6:30am flight home.

On reflection, the weekend was simply marvelous. It also says much. The baseball was perfect. The run was awesome. But, ultimately, baseball (like the Cubs) fades. Eventually I won't be able to run. Yet my family will always be there. And quality of the time with them eclipsed all the other terrific experiences of the weekend. Thanks, to all of you for your hospitality!

Persevere. Especially with your family.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Race Report: Eagle Creek Trail Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles (-ish); 3:05:07

Quick Summary:

Wow! How do you capture fascinating, tough, gritty, enjoyable, glad-it-is-over, all at once?? I'm not sure...but that was what Planet Adventure's Eagle Creek Trail Half Marathon turned out to be. On a brutally hot, humid day, we ran a very technical, demanding course. I gave it a hard effort throughout; yet that effort earned me the slowest HM time I've ever had. And I wasn't the least bit dissatisfied...I simply "ran the best race conditions allowed."

And had some fun conversations as well...see the last story below.

Lots of photos today. A couple are mine but most come from Dave Mari, Michael Hoyt and the race organizers, who provided thousands of hi-res photos free for the download. What a concept! Enjoy.

The Gory Details

The race site was just under an hour from our house so it was easy to be out the door by 5:15am and have plenty of time to get parked, get the packet, relax and prepare for the (scheduled) 7:35am start.

Somewhat spontaneously, a Marathon Maniac photo-op happened before the race. Almost magically, folks with Maniac singlets appeared from all directions and we had quite an assemblage. Equally quickly, cameras appeared everywhere...maybe 20 or more folks snapping pix all at once. As close as I'll ever come to being a paparazzi subject! Since I was only running the half, I didn't wear my Maniac shirt but slid in the back of the photo anyway.

Maniac Meetup

Not surprisingly, in the middle of this photographic extravaganza was our irrepressible fellow Maniac, photo dude and friend to all, Dave Mari. I first met Dave at a MM photo meet-up before the Austin Marathon last February. Dave runs almost every weekend somewhere, camera in hand, meeting tons of folks. Amazingly, he actually remembered me and greeted me by name. It made for a fun start to the race.

Dave and Joe

The race had multiple events. The marathoners started first, albeit 20 minutes late. We half marathoners started 10 minutes later. After a similar gap, the 15K participants took off, followed by 5K runners. All told, 500 runners participated.

Did I mention this was a trail race?

Driving across the flatlands of northern Indiana, you'd be hard pressed to think there could even BE a trail race here. Much less find one inside the city limits of Indianapolis (Mayor: Peyton Manning). Even less find an elevation chart like this:

elevation chart

But the organizers put this all together and presented it accurately as a tough, largely single-track trail race.

The course had four real sections. The first 3+ miles were the toughest, a gnarly, twisty, narrow, up and down, course through the woods. As we started, this predictably turned into a woodsy conga line. The line carried me along with everyone else. I managed to recover from 5 near trips and falls and just kept moving.

conga line early

Just before we finished this tough section, a group of 15K runners blew past us at a rare, sorta-open section of the early course, braving stickler weeds to do so. And one of them looked familiar.

"Are you Margaret?" I yelled. Surprised, she turned and said "Yes!" "Did you work at Athletic Annex many years ago?" "Whoa, that was a long time ago, but yes!" she replied, moving out of earshot. "Great, I'll find you later!" and off she went, really moving quickly down the rough terrain.

Eventually, we burst onto the second section, a city thoroughfare, Indy's busy 56th Street. This 3/4 mile section was dead flat over a reservoir. We then reentered the park for the third portion with a much more runnable, if still up and down, trail.

Runnable Section

It was funny how much easier it was to do hills on nicely prepared stairs than a rooted trail!


While my splits were around 15 minutes/mile in the early conga line, then around 9:30 on 56th, they converged to the expected 11:00 on these more runnable sections with the pack thinning. I felt fine, despite the heat. I carried my own fluid and the Elixr tabs I'm now using in water make a huge difference. At a key intersection, I saw Dave again and, true to character, he snapped a photo! We had a nice chat, as we both caught our breath as best we could in the stifling humidity of the woods.

Joe mile 7ish

The fourth section of the course was a flat, scenic run on a causeway around a portion of the reservoir. It looked nice but was tough to run on. The rock base was made of large, sharp, quarried stone. Uneven and, were one to fall, quite able to inflict some dandy cuts or scrapes. So I took it easy, stopped to chat with a couple of fishermen and kept moving.


Coming off the causeway, we retraced our steps back to the start. The runnable part of the course was enjoyable and I kept moving well. The temperature climbed to the mid 80s, as it was about 10am when we reached 56th Street, out of the shade and under the sun.

The final section was every bit as demanding as it was at the start, only more so on tired legs with higher temperatures. We had fully 50 downed trees like this to climb over or under on the 3.5 mile trek back to the start. It took plenty of concentration, besides the obvious physical effort.

Trees in Trail

I felt fine but, as I met many marathoners heading out for their second lap, I was very glad I had fought the urge to enter this race as a marathon in early August. I truly don't think I could have done it in this heat.

It never gets old to get closer to the finish line. As I crossed ditch after ditch and climbed dead logs galore, I could hear the music and loudspeaker getting closer. It was fun to pop out of the woods and make one more circle of the grassy area to cross the finish line.

Finish Line

The time of day was 11:04 as you can see; my race time was 3:05 and I was fully satisfied with it, as surprising as that might sound. I was more effort I could have really put out in those conditions. And that was fine.

The organizers had some good fluids and food available at the finish. That and a seat in the shade was all I wanted for 10 minutes post race.

But then I remembered one task remaining. Where was Margaret?

I got up from the picnic table, started looking at each knot of people still standing around and finally saw Margaret and her husband getting ready to leave. I reintroduced myself and asked her if I could tell her the story.

With Margaret

On November 27, 2004, I met Margaret. (I wrote fully of this encounter that evening on my professional blog here.) I had just restarted running in May 2004 but was fighting calf and Achilles tendon pain. So, I went to a real running store and met her. She didn't try to sell me a shoe. Rather, she sat and asked me questions. We talked for 20 minutes before she even brought out a pair of shoes. Then she took more time, pondered what she saw as I ran up and down the sidewalk outside the store. We tried, retried, talked, observed, and re-tried. I found several possible pairs. The Brooks Adrenalines turned out to be perfect. I bought them and the pain was gone inside of two weeks. It was a wonderful "coincidence" to tell Margaret this story while wearing the Brooks singlet which the company gave me 18 months ago as part of a promotional program. She got me started with this excellent company.

My encounter with her on that chilly grey day in November 2004 was a central step in my running. It got me running, year round, pain free. And I've never forgotten it. Nor forgotten Margaret.

I've actually seen Margaret twice in the intervening years; both times as she blew past me in a race in Indy. I've never had the chance however to stop, talk and fully express my thanks. Saturday was the day. She was wonderfully gracious and, predictably from our first meeting, more interested in knowing how I was doing than receiving my thanks. Yet, it did bring a warm smile to her and I hope a bit of encouragement, probably of a different kind from knowing she had just finished the 15K as 3rd female overall and first in her age group.

You never know what bit of interaction can have a positive impact.

The race "medal" was made from a downed tree branch from this park and will be unique part of my collection.

the medal

A fun race. Be like Margaret...just listen well to someone today.