Saturday, June 24, 2017

A (Nearly) Midsummer Night's Run

It's a couple days past Midsummer, and our runner is generally recovered from his Midsummer Night's Run. It is, however, most definitely a night's run; he had gotten out of his car and began this journey at 3:59 AM.

"Egads," he thinks, nearly out loud, except that wasn't the word he used. "I forgot to start my watch!" It's 4:05 AM, and a lot of thoughts run through his not-so-clear-thinking head. Can he count these 6 minutes and approximately 0.6 miles at all? Should he go back and begin again? Forget the whole darn run, and just head back to the car and go home?? "Don't panic," he calms himself down. "The time and distance can be added on later. Whew, that was a close one."

The run continues. It's been a long time since he's even attempted this 24-mile jog on the Lester Rail Trail. The route is only three miles each way, so our runner does it with four six-mile out and back loops. After an hour, our runner returns to his car for a pit stop. His earlier panic attack is a thing of the past; he's feeling pretty good right now. And due to the early morning twilight, it's nice to be able to remove the headlamp.

Our runner ruminates about how, eleven hours earlier, he had been still undecided about whether to try to run 100 kilometers at the Eagle Up Ultra in Canal Fulton. He had ultimately decided - wisely, according to his wife - that although his Achilles Tendonitis pain has subsided some, he's just not ready to go that far. At least not without a great deal of pain and suffering. Not to mention time.

The second loop is a minute or so faster than the first. Will this trend continue?

Now it's getting much lighter. The morning is pretty, and it even feels a little cooler and less humid than earlier. It's strange doing a run this long all alone. He used to run alone nearly all the time, but running with friends, especially for long runs, is usually preferable. Today, though, being alone isn't so bad. Our runner finds himself enjoying this run, and more so with each step.

That's not to say that it's easy. It takes some concentration and effort to keep this pace going. Our runner is now trying to do each loop a bit faster than the last, and of course the final lap is the toughest.

He makes it. 24 miles done. Midsummer night running, but not necessarily night running, is over. Until next year.

Friday, June 23, 2017

~ A Midsummer Night's Run ~

Lord, what fools these mortals be!
~ Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.
~ A fairy's answer to Puck's question, "whither wander you?", A Midsummer Night's Dream

There are lights in the woods!
~ Danny Boy, A Midsummer Night's Run

The Summer Solstice is also known as Midsummer, which is this day. Danny Boy finds himself frolicking at Mugrage Park, alone in the deep, dark woods. He spots lights between the trees in the deepest parts, and he gets spooked a bit. They're probably fireflies. Or something reflecting the light from his bright headlamp. It's possibly even cars from Route 18, which, although beyond the immediate area, really isn't all that far. One thing Danny Boy is sure of, is that they aren't wood nymphs, elves, fairies or gods of some sort. No, those things aren't real.

A huge crowd of at least three or four had been expected for this "Mugrage Park Course Familiarization Run" event. But it turns out that Danny Boy is all alone. They must have good excuses, he thinks. He's okay with that. But who in the world could not want to run around in circles through the woods at 4:20 in the morning?

After about five miles, a nymph named Frank Dwyer shows up. By now it's getting light, and Danny Boy removes his headlamp before joining said nymph for another five miles. Danny Boy is okay with that.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this,--and all is mended,--
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear
~ Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Green Jewel 50K: Danny Boy Strikes Again

If only spring could have lasted one more day. Even though the calendar indicates that we have another ten days, it sure felt like summer all at once, after the cool weather for the past week.

4:04. Danny Boy hits the split button on his watch to record the time that he achieved the marathon distance. That’s not too awful, he thinks. Now he only has five miles to go at the 2017 Green Jewel 50K. If Danny Boy can only manage ten, or even eleven-minute miles for this last little bit, two good things would happen: a) Danny Boy would finish in under five hours, and this is important for some reason that he cannot manage to articulate right now, and b) Danny Boy would be finished, off his feet and out of this blasted heat. The problem is that in his heart of hearts, Danny Boy knows that even this relatively pedestrian pace, and therefore the a sub-five finish, is not going to happen today.

Did we mention the heat? This year the Green Jewel reversed course to go from Brecksville to Rocky River, and also changed months, from March to June. Now, instead of rain or ice, we have brain-baking heat and humidity. And such warmth wouldn’t be so bad if Danny Boy had been used to it. But after a cool May and early June, he’s definitely not acclimated.

Did we also mention that Danny Boy absolutely loves the Cleveland Metroparks, through which this the Green Jewel traverses? So much so, that he has run several of them, including the very first one, and also last year’s edition.

Said Metroparks are as beautiful as ever today, but Danny Boy is having some amount of difficulty appreciating them as the race is progressing. It’s tough to look around and enjoy one’s surroundings as one is nearly facing the ground as part of one’s marathon shuffle. And these final five miles in Rocky River Reservation are arguably the most scenic of the bunch.

The morning had started well enough. Danny Boy had been well aware that the early hills would be tough, and they didn’t disappoint. Once they were done however, he had quickly recovered, and was rolling along, talking with friends, and enjoying himself. A 2:20 first half was not bad at all. But that was about the point when it began to get really hot.

An hour goes by. And then some. Danny Boy shuffles along, and manages to finish the race. The final five were a real struggle, however, and as he had suspected, extremely, even sufferingly slow. The clock says 5:15. It’s a relief to be out of the heat.

Danny Boy had a lot of time to think in those five plus hours. Therein, he resolved to no longer, at least for the near future, harbor any thoughts about running longer distances. Running, after all, is stupid.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Danny Boy Runs the Medina Half-Marathon

Short Version: Danny Boy ran the Medina Half-Marathon today. Now his toes are worse.

Long Version: Danny Boy ran the Medina Half-Marathon today. After volunteering the previous years, but running the course as a training run many times, this would be the first "official" one. He starts slow, running with the 2:20 pace group, and then eventually catching the 2:00 pace group. He talks with several folks along the way, including pacer Shari Geiger, who introduces Danny Boy as a "legend".

The moniker appears to stick for the remainder of the race, as other friends and acquaintances, new and old, keep referring to him as such. Some of this may also due to Danny Boy's blog post about the very first Cleveland Marathon. The thing is, he's not feeling very legendary. First, there are the toes. They're bad; really bad. They're so bad that Danny Boy has had trouble just getting socks and shoes on. Although he's got them wrapped up pretty good now, they are beginning to announce their presence.

And then there's that other result of last week's Cleveland Marathon: general soreness and fatigue. This is taking its toll: even though Danny Boy is speeding up just a little after those early easy miles, he's still not exactly setting the world on fire. He's doing about nine minutes a mile - almost exactly the same pace that he did at last week's thon.

As the runners approach the half-way point, they run along Medina Lake. Danny Boy likes this part. It certainly is scenic. There are puddles along the trail, and most runners skirt around them on the adjacent grassy sides. Danny Boy does this too, until he sees Angela Demchuk running right through the middle of the puddles, experienced trail runner that she is. Danny Boy follows suit, and this suits him well.

Danny Boy struggles on the uphill sections of the course. Although there are no huge hills, there are plenty of smaller ones. Appropriately named Foote Road is Danny Boy's biggest challenge.

At mile nine, Danny Boy gets some Gatorade from an aid station, takes a gulp, and nearly upchucks entirely. It was thick as pea soup, and sweeter and saltier than anything you could imagine. The volunteers had evidently not diluted the super-concentrated solution with water as instructed. Good thing Danny Boy is able to spit most of his big mouthful out without swallowing much. Disaster averted.

The later miles get tougher and tougher for Danny Boy. He's still maintaining the same pace, but now he's going anaerobic. Just before he begins to redline entirely, he hits the twelve-mile mark and starts on the final downhill mile. Downhill, that is, until the very last uphill climb to the Medina Square. People cheer as the legend comes in and crosses the line. Danny Boy loves it when the Square is alive with activity, as it is now. The volunteers are great!

Danny Boy's time is 1:57 and change. He's sixth in his ancient age group. His pace is only a second or three better than last week.

Now his toes are worse.
Yes, they're worse

Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Cleveland Marathon Race Report

My friend Brian Peacock once wrote a piece call, The Long Walk. It's about the long, slow, painful walk back to the car after a marathon. Having parked in what I thought was the perfect getaway position, today's Long Walk was coming as a bit of a surprise. It's pouring rain, and this distance of about 3/4 mile seems to be taking forever. I can't fathom how only minutes earlier, I was running at full-tilt, whereas now I'm having trouble just walking in a straight line.

After this unexpectedly Long Walk, I finally stumble over to the car. What did that take me - thirty minutes? Seemed like hours. It takes a further inordinate amount of time to simply place towels on the front seat and change my shirt, all in preparation for the even longer ride home.

The arrival downtown had, it seemed, gone well. I didn't mind jogging a ways to the start, figuring that being so very close (or so I thought at the time) to the finish would more than make up for it. As I line up in Corral 'C', I strike up a conversation with Joe Jurczyk. It had been a while since we'd seen one another, so of course we talk, and talk, and talk some more, both here in the corral, and also for the first seven miles.

Talking takes energy, but it also helps take one's mind off the tedium of pounding the pavement. Now at mile 8, it's beginning to feel real. It's in the sixties, mostly cloudy, and a little humid. I would prefer cooler and drier weather, but things could be much worse.  I had been running at what felt about like nine-minute per mile pace, or perhaps a little slower. I pick the pace up, but just a little. I eventually catch the 8:58 pace group, and also run with George Themelis on and off for a while.

I am enjoying the course, and the race in general. There are enthusiastic crowds along the way - more than I can remember. But then, it's been a couple years since I've run CLE. And of course they change the course just about every year. I'm guaranteed a course PR for the day.

I pass half-way in 1:59. Can I hold this pace for another half-marathon? Having not run a marathon, or much of anything for that matter in a while, I have no idea. But it's safe to say that I don't have an over-abundance of confidence yet. I'm taking this one mile at a time.

What bothers me most (it's always something), is the mileage markers. They appear about a quarter-mile later than my Garmin indicates. I know, I know.: they measure courses slightly longer than the stated distance to make sure there are no questions about certification. But lookyahere: this may end up costing me, big time. The first digit of my time may wind up being a four, rather than a three, all because of this extra quarter-mile I am running.

After a while, I settle myself down. It is what it is. Going in, I truly tried to fight off any tendency towards expectations of any kind. A steady pace would be nice, but I wasn't even going to let that concern bother me. I was just out here to have fun. I only need to keep telling myself that.

We arrive in the western suburbs a little before the 17.5 mile turnaround. I see Ron Ross on and off. Just before the turnaround, I spot Ladd Clifford, Rob Lisy and John Pavlik. I look for Theresa Wright, but can't find her. Ron pulls ahead, and I lose sight of him as it begins to rain.

The rain is a light drizzle, and it feels wonderful. Around mile 20 (right around three hours), I am somehow able to pick up the pace a bit. We are running through the Edgewater neighborhood, and there are nice views of the lake, and downtown. Those views don't last a long time, however, because the rain begins to come down harder. It still feels great, though.

At about mile 21, I see Ron up ahead once again, and I make an effort to catch up to him. He's running a steady pace, just like he always does. This means I must be accelerating. Well, that may be too strong a word, but I am running a little faster once again. It takes me until about mile 24.5 to catch up to Ron completely. We exchange more pleasantries, and then I take off for the final assault on the Detroit-Superior Bridge.

It's a tough climb, and I slow down considerably. But once at the top, I pick the pace up once again for the final 3/4 mile. It feels great to run fast at the end of a marathon. In fact, there's no feeling in the world like it.

It's a downpour as I cross the line. My time is 3:56:54. I am thrilled.

But now it's time for the Long Walk.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Revco-Cleveland Marathon Race Report - May 14, 1978

Here we are at the start. That's me on the left in my best white cotton attire; Paul Coleman on the right. I can't remember the name of the guy in the middle.

Sorry if this race report seems a bit late. Since this year will see the fortieth running of the Cleveland Marathon, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at the first one.

I had trained hard the previous winter and spring. A lot of the daily running was done at General Electric's Nela Park campus where I worked. On weekends, I did my long runs in the Cleveland Metroparks, usually Bedford, North Chagrin and South Chagrin Reservations.

My training partner was Paul Coleman, with whom I worked at GE. That made things convenient; we could easily walk over to meet up for those weekday runs. We also ran many of our weekend long runs together, and we met at a couple previous races as well.

The thing is, there wasn't a lot of previous races. There weren't a lot of races, period. The only ones I had done leading up to this race were several months earlier: the Inaugural Johnnycake Jog 5-miler and the Cleveland Heart-a-Thon Half-Marathon.

Cleveland Heart-a-Thon- L to R: Ken Bubnik, Paul Coleman, Dan Horvath, Dave Murphy
There wasn't a whole lot of information out there in those days, either. We knew about running a lot; we knew about interval training and long runs. We even knew about carb-loading. But I didn't really know how I was going to pace myself, or what a marathon would even feel like. And as you can see from the photos, I had my very best white cotton t-shirt and shorts to wear. In fact, it's safe to say that I didn't know what the heck I was doing at all.

I did know that cool weather was best for racing. I had therefore lucked out on this day. It had drizzled overnight, but had mostly stopped. The temperature was around 55F. That's absolutely perfect for a first, or any marathon, but not so wonderful for Mother's Day, which it was. It also wasn't the best for spectators, which included Debbie.

Revco was the first official Cleveland Marathon. There had been some others in past years, but this is the one that stuck. In later years, Revco was bought out by CVS, and sponsorship changed over to them. Rite-Aid now sponsors the race. Not a year has gone by when it hasn't been sponsored by a drug store chain.

The race started and finished at my Alma mater from only a few years prior, Cleveland State University. The course took us west through downtown, over the Detroit-Superior Bridge, and over to the western suburbs mostly along Lake Erie, before returning back mostly the same way. Some people thought a flat, out and back course was boring; I loved it.

Gathering at the start of a race was a new experience. It was great to meet up with Paul and a few other friends. Paul had unfortunately sustained a recent injury, and would be running at a slower than usual pace. I would be running on my own.

And even though I didn't know much, I thought I might be able to run a fairly fast race. I went out at a sub-seven minute per mile pace, and held it steady. I don't believe I even went over seven minutes until about mile 18.

Ah, yes. Mile 18. That's where the wall decided to rise up to meet me. I had been thoroughly enjoying this race, and I was thrilled at how well I was doing. But now it started to hurt. Every muscle, joint, bone - everything hurt. I was surprised at how sudden it had occurred. In fact, I don't know that I've had a wall experience that sudden or intense since.

Now each step was painful, and I still had miles to go. The Detroit-Superior Bridge was at miles 24-25, and going up was a real struggle. I remember passing a wheelchair contestant, who was having a tougher time than I was. But as I was running down the other side, Whoosh! He glided past me like I was standing still.

I somehow made it to the finish line, and then directly into the medical tent, where I called for Debbie as they fed me ice chips. Debbie found me, and she was very worried. They were about to give me an IV, but I began to recover, and so they just stuck with the ice chips.

My time was 3:04.

It was a couple days later, back at the office when some co-worker asked Paul and I, "You guys ran a marathon? How did you train for it?" Running a marathon was pretty darn rare back then. Paul, who at the moment didn't want to go through the trouble to explain all the intricacies of our training regimen to a non-runner, shrugged and said, "We ran a lot."

I'm coming into the finish on Euclid Avenue. I don't look so good, because I just ran a marathon. I wound up in the medical tent after I crossed the finish line.

The 1978 Revco-Cleveland Tshirt is now part of one of my running tshirt quilts. It hangs on the wall of my office.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Yah, so 800s are aretty good training

Part 1: Continents Don't Move

Debbie, in her early school years, observed that Africa and South America appeared to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When she remarked to her teacher that perhaps they were once attached, the teacher ridiculed her, famously saying something to the effect of, "Don't be silly; continents don't move!" She never forgot about this, and when continental drift theories came about - by this time Debbie was an adult - she wanted to go back to that teacher and say, "See, I was right, and you shouldn't have ridiculed me!"

Of course the teacher probably would have responded, "huh?" And of course Danny Boy now (very mildly) makes fun of Debbie, saying that she was probably the first person on Planet Earth to notice such a thing.

Danny Boy himself made a Great Discovery once. He noticed that running 800 meter repeats with times in minutes and seconds amounts to good, challenging training for a goal marathon time in corresponding hours and minutes. So, for example, if one wanted to train for - let's just take some wild goal here - say, a four-hour marathon, one would run one's 800 meter repeats in about four minutes.

Except that at the time Danny Boy made this observation, Danny Boy was running marathons in around three hours, give or take. He was therefore running his 800s in the 2:50s. But that was then.

Along came a guy named Bart Yasso. In an article in Runners World, he made this same observation, suggesting that one should do ten of those 800s with times in minutes and seconds corresponding to the hours and minutes of the goal marathon, He called these, "Yasso 800s".

Too bad Danny Boy was probably the first person on Planet Earth to notice such a thing.

Part 2: Today's Yassos

Danny Boy has been hitting the track about once a week. As noted in an earlier post, he's lost a minute a mile, and he still doesn't know where to find it. But he keeps trying nevertheless.

He arrives at the Mayfield track at 5:10 AM, and finds the lights on. This is unusual, but in a nice sort of way, since Danny Boy can see what the heck he's doing as he embarks on his Yasso Journey today.

Danny Boy actually manages to do his first few 800s under four minutes each. That's when the kids arrive. A couple dozen strapping young men run onto the football field, and begin doing all sorts of exercise drills. Danny Boy had been afraid that they'd be moving onto the track itself at some point. If that happened, Danny Boy wouldn't be able to complete his workout, and wouldn't that be a tragedy?

But it doesn't happen. Danny Boy is not able to claim any excuses, and therefore has to complete his workout. He does get all his Yassos in as planned.

What with this workout, and last Saturday's 23-miler, Danny Boy is now almost done training for this Sunday's Cleveland Marathon. Only five or six more workouts, and he will be trained. He'd better get moving.

A (Nearly) Midsummer Night's Run

It's a couple days past Midsummer, and our runner is generally recovered from his Midsummer Night's Run . It is, however, most def...