Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Year in Review

Totals: 2021 -- 1,636 Miles Since 2004 -- 24,565 miles This year was quite a pivot point for me personally, as I retired from my day job and now have had a full calendar year to try to figure out what my life now holds. One component to that is running and the year contained a lot of useful learnings. For the year, my monthly miles (the figure of merit, in my estimation, of running) left me with a “bleh” view...yet I learned from it.

I am not pleased I had only five months over 140 miles and only two over 150...I’d like to see all months at 140 at least. Yet, the low months came as I tried to figure out my new daily routines in retirement (I finally got that solidified in November...). August was super low as I took on an interim consulting gig and grappled with where and when to run in a different town. So, while I’m not impressed with the chart, I do have a much better grip on my daily running routine and my long-term running trajectory. Thank you, Hal Higdon. Stepping back further, here are my annual miles since I started this era of running in May, 2004.

Whereas I felt “bleh” examining my monthly miles, I’m quite pleased looking at the total miles for the first year over 1,600 miles since the excellent training year of 2017. In many respects, I think I “refound” my rhythm in running in 2021 and I’m very pleased it shows up in the aggregate miles for the year. I turned 68 this year and I feel no need to lower the mileage totals, despite what many would say. Given the further clarity on training plans I found late in 2021, I’m quite excited about what 2022 will hold. Specifics of 2021 included 18 races of varying distances, including six marathons and four ultramarathons. I never get tired of race day! The camaraderie, the vibe, the competition with oneself and others, the ups and downs of each event...they just never get old. I’m so thankful to be able to still participate. Clearly, the highlight of 2021 was finishing my 100th marathon/ultramarathon. This took place on September 25 in, of all places, Ely Minnesota at the Ely Marathon, made even greater by having two of our sons join me...three Elys, running Ely in Ely. Just amazing. It was a phenomenal experience alongside a major milestone. You can read my race report if you wish.

Onward to 2022. Thanks for reading. Persevere. .

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Race Report - HUFF 50K Trail Race 2021

ORN:   50km, 8:04:51, 15:33/mile, R/W 3/1, 142nd of 157 overall, 5th of 6 Men 60-69

Summary:  The HUFF 50K Trail Race is one of my favorite races of the year.   This was my 11th consecutive start and tenth finish.   Overnight rain and 34F temps made this year’s run a muddy one.   It was hard to run on much of the course but I never tired nor doubted I’d finish.   Nevertheless, this was the slowest of all my HUFFs. 

Gory Details: 

In my blog post about last year’s HUFF, I noted the silly idea I had to sleep in my car near the start line the night before.   Remembering that ill-fated plan, I booked a room in Columbia City and drove up on Friday, December 17, 2021 for the race.   I picked up my bib, had dinner with a fellow runner and slept well.    

Interestingly, the company who did race timing for this year's HUFF used a returnable chip on a Velcro ankle strap, as opposed to the now-more-common disposable chip on the back of the bib.   Think mud on Velcro here...more later on this.

I was up early and scored a good parking spot at 6am of race day.  I enjoyed breakfast and a nap in my car...I like an unrushed approach to race morning whenever possible.   I was pleased to see the number of runners up from what we had a year ago...the 2020 HUFF was one of the very few live races a year ago.

The weather dictates the nature of each HUFF.   This year the theme was “mud”.   While it had been dry for most of the week, it began raining in the area around 6pm on Friday and continued uninterrupted through noon on Saturday.   Overnight, it was often heavy...during the first portion of the race it alternated between a steady rain and a drizzle.   But wet it was.    

Off we went, right on time at 8am.  It appeared 200 or more runners started th 50K.   Another 150 or so would start the single loop race an hour later.   

The first four miles were reasonably runnable.  Once past the first Aid Station at the School House, however, we turned west and ran along the entire north boundary of the park.   Easily 70% of this full 4 mile stretch was gooey.    I slogged along, though, and felt OK.   The Rally Camp Aid Station at Mile 8 was quite understated this year but marked the end of much of the  mud and the start of the hillier portion of the course.   Familiar territory all for me.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of the final 7 miles of the loop.   

Even with the leaves gone, the woods are full of life and scenery as the route criss crosses the long ridge winding through the park around each of the connected lakes.   Photos don’t do it justice and I drank it in.  

Finishing Lap One, I made a few gear changes at my car.   The rain having stopped, I swapped my rain jacket for a windbreaker, swapped one soaked knit hat for a dry one, grabbed a pile of peanut butter filled pretzels and headed back out.   I had contemplated changing into some dry socks too but decided it wouldn’t be worth the time.   That was one good decision on the day.  

I ran Lap Two almost entirely alone, encountering only two other runners in the entire loop.   The rain was no longer falling from the sky but that which had fallen filled up the rivulets draining onto and through the trails.   The 700 or so footfalls which had preceded me by this point had churned the mud into a muck often over the tops of my shoes.   More than a few times I felt my foot begin to come out of my shoe as I moved forward.   I carefully avoided that...retying a shoe over an even-muddier sock while sitting on the soaked ground didn’t seem a good idea.   

As muddy as it was, though, I found the day very pleasant.   Temperatures were flat at 34F / 1C all day, with very little wind in most of the woods.   It was quite comfortable.   It simply wasn’t very runnable.   For much of the course to the Rally Camp Aid station, I just had to walk to avoid falling.   

Experience may also have helped.    During Lap Two, I thought repeatedly of my first running of the HUFF on this course in 2011 and my long blog post on that race.   I anguished over the mud that day....fell once...felt defeated mentally through it all.   It all came back to me.   On this day however, despite similarities in conditions, the mud was simply mud.   The race was simply a race.   I was grateful to be in the woods and doing an ultramarathon.    I truly enjoyed the final 6+ miles on the hillier (and less muddy) portion of the loop and was grateful I could comfortably run a ridiculous distance like 50 kilometres.   

The highlight of the last section of the race was the final aid station, a loud, fun event.  I loaded up on flat amazing elixir found only at ultramarathons.   Man, the sugar and caffeine tasted good over the last couple of miles.     Back to the main road, around the lake, through the Boat Ramp parking lot, up the hill and across the finish line.   One more HUFF in the books.   

I got the muddy gear secured in a bag.  Those Velcro timing chips??  Volunteers at the finish line asked us to pull them off and put them in a bucket.   Oh my...what a sloppy, stinky mess that looked.   Glad I wasn't the one having to clean them to reuse!!   

I didn't rush off, took care rehydrating with chocolate milk and more PB Pretzle Balls.  I ultimately got on the road and slept very well that night.    

I was very pleased with how un-sore I felt in the several days following the race.   The only surprise was a rash on the top of my feet, which I attribute to abrasion from the mud and grit that soaked my shoes and socks for eight hours.  It cleared up fairly quickly, but I've never seen this before.  

Overall, my experience at HUFF served to confirm the choice I made after analyzing the Monumental Marathon in early November and determining I just needed more miles to make this all work.   

Thanks for reading.   


HUFF History

I went back and listed all my times for HUFF...Clearly “Each year the course is the same; each year the race is entirely different; you have to always adjust.”   

2011  7:33:44    High Water year link

2012  6:36:49 link

2013  6:32:01 link

2014  6:19:28 link

2015  5:59:51    Course and 50K PR link

2016  7:23:12 link

2017  DNF...ran one lap only in near blizzard (and didn't write a report)

2018  6:46:46 link

2019  6:25:42   Best running conditions link

2020  7:09:29 link

2021 8:04:51

Monday, November 15, 2021

Race Report-Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2021

 ORN:   26.2 miles, 5:07:32 (11:45/mile); 3,441 of 3,947 overall; 30th of 37 M65-69

             first half:  2:21:17     second half  2:46:15


I started the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021 with high hopes of a clean run of 4:45, setting me up for a winter and spring of solid training.   During the 21st mile, those dreams crashed in a hurry.   

Gory Details:

The Race Itself

This is about the eighth time I've run this event and it's grown to be

a major event in Indy, not just a major running event. The impact

on hotels and tourism is significant.

The drill is familiar now. Up at 4:20am, out the door before 5 and

in a good parking spot by 6am. I was able to walk around the

early morning preparations at the finish line and get ready to go

with little rush.

By 7:30am I was in the grid but not seeing the pacing group signs.

Since my plan was to hang with the 4:45 marathong

group, this was a bit disconcerting. But, about 15 mintues before

the 8:00am gun, I spotted the pacers, well behind me in the packed

grid. So, as the field started to move out, I stood still and slid in

behind them. Better that way than trying to move up in the packed field.

And that's how the race went. I settled in and stayed with the 4:45

pacers. I actually knew one of the pacers, as it turned out and it was

nice to see Heather again. Through mile 14, it was easy.

At mile 14, though, I really needed to find a portapot. When one

appeared, there was a line but I had no real option. It took me about 2

mintues to wait but I then took off at the same pace we had been running.

I lost sight of the pacing group but still felt comfortable all through the

hills around Butler University, past the Museum of Art and down the

lonely stretch by the White River. I was encouraged.


Midway between mile markets 20 and 21, my race fell apart. Quite

literally, in 500m, next to some abandoned baseball fields, I went from

feeling fine and optimistic to being reduced to a mere shuffle interspersed

with much walking. My legs haven't hurt that much in a long time.

I slogged to mile 23.5, made the right turn onto Meridian street, a major

milestone on the route and it didn't get any better. Especially discouraging;

the 5:00 pace group passing me at mile 24. Other than a nice conversation

with a guy from Iowa and a laugh with a DJ in front of the Murat, it

was a slow slog to the finish line. I was quite disappointed

with the 5:07 on my watch.

My mood lifted somewhat with a nice chat with Carlton Ray,

the race founder and Board Chairman of the race's parent organization,

whom I've met several times now.

I got the official printout of my splits, hard data which confirmed 

what my legs felt.  

But there were no triumphant whoops or euphoric embraces

this day. I just found some chocolate milk, talked with

a couple of guys from the race management company who

I know, got in my car and drove home.

My Analysis

I went into the race with a goal of running a 4:45 marathon by running with the 4:45 pacing group from the start to the finish of the race.    

4:45:00 for 26.2 miles is a pace of 10:53/mile.   

Here are my individual mile times from my Garmin: 


Lap time


over miles:










































1 to 20














21 to 26

Consistent through 20, in fact 16 sec/mile faster than required on average.   Failed during mile 21.   Pace fell to barely a walk for the final six miles.   

So, the race did not go as I had planned.   The question now is Why?   

Stay with me a moment, as I provide background to how I’m trying to answer the marathon question.   

I’ve been doing a lot of specific reading and thinking over the past 10 months on predicting business performance.  It’s been a general topic of interest to me, though, for many years now.   How do we arrive at predictions?  In my work experience, it seemed most often we made forecasts based on hunches, intuition and often unwarranted optimism.   And we were seldom accurate, which bred skepticism and cynicism about both.   

My thinking on the topic was first piqued about fifteen years ago, after I read and digested the book “Moneyball”.   No surprise I liked this book, as it combines two of my favorite topics:  Baseball and organizational change.   The book sought to answer a predictive question, central to baseball;  How do we predict if a player will be successful in the major leagues?   The compelling answer--a scout or manager’s “intuition” was far less accurate than simply calculating how often a hitter could reach base (more is better) or a pitcher’s ratio of walks and hits given up per inning pitched (less is better).   In addition, shockingly, the ability of most players to field their position defensively was irrelevant to their success.  A few simple measures outperform human judgements.  This really ticked off grizzled baseball veterans.   And has ultimately changed the game, profoundly. 

Coming out of the 2008 stock market crash, I dove into another predictive question:  How do you select stocks which will yield profits over the long term?   Compellingly, I came to see that stock index funds outperform human picked stock funds.   Index mutual funds are run by an algorithm, allocating any investment equally across the entire target index of the fund.   Costs are nearly zero to administer such a fund, the performance of which mimics the market and, over time, the market rises about 6.5% to 7% per year.   It works.   And I’m retired based on that decision. 

In fields as un-alike as baseball and stock picking, simple algorithms and metrics outperform human intuition or judgement.   

It was therefore with some interest that I picked up a 2010 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by the Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman last March.   He cogently describes how our minds use both quick intuition and slower analysis to help us function.   And how we get tricked by these two at times.   He devotes over a fourth of the book’s 600 pages to the specifics of predicting business outcomes.  He builds a nuanced logic that simple formulae will generally outperform human judgement in most business cases. Further, he describes how best to develop such formulae to specific how will a new product perform, or how might a marathon runner succeed.   

Which brings me back to the question at hand;   Why did I perform so poorly at the IMM?   More specifically, why did I hit my target pace 20 miles in a row and then fall apart in the space of about 500m during mile 21??   

My intuition (my quick thinking) on race day and the day after was a) blame myself for choosing to hang with a pace group which diminished my focus on hydrating or b) blame the organizers for having so few portapots on the course when I really needed to pee a couple of time (these two blames seem self-contradictory, don’t they ?) 

Then, I slowed down and asked what is predictive of carrying through The Wall that hits at mile 18-21 for most normal humans in a marathon?    I looked at my own data.   

So here’s my chart of monthly mileage, going back to the start of 2017

I worked hard all of 2017, leading up to my BQ in November 2017 at Monumental, this very same race, with average monthly miles in the 135 range.   What have I done lately??   My monthly miles in 2021 is hovering around 115.   20 miles a month lower, 5 miles a week.   Not shown on the graph above...the 2021 miles are also slower and less focused than the 2017 miles.  

Looking further, I ran a lot of miles during the winter of 2018-19, leading to the 2019 Boston Marathon.   While my 4:40 at Boston was disappointing, two weeks after Boston I ran a 4:09 at the Wisconsin Marathon.   I’ve not come remotely close to that 4:09 since.   

My conclusion?   I have to add more miles and better (i.e. quicker) miles to my training if I want to get to even a 4:30 marathon.    It’s just not complicated. 

Secondarily, I need to learn to run a steady pace with long run intervals and short walk breaks.  My training since Boston has been mostly at 3/1 or 2/1 run/walk ratios (3 minutes run/ 1 minute walk).  I have to stretch that out to 8/1 or 9/1.   The fact I ran solid for 21 miles tells me I can do the longer runs.   Yet I need the walk breaks to eat, hydrate and adjust gear in a marathon.  I really think it also helps preserve my legs.   I will also need to adjust targets to allow for about 2 minutes per marathon to stop and pee.   Ugh, my 68 year old bladder is not what it was at 48 :-).  

So that sets up my winter training plan. Can I get quicker through the spring? It's up to the process.