Thursday, July 02, 2015

To the Nines

According to Wikipedia, to the nines means "to perfection", "to the highest degree" or to dress "buoyantly and high class". The phrase is of Scottish origin, and was also used in a Robert Burns poem in 1800. I had always thought that it was only related to dress, but evidently not.

Nine is the new eight. That’s in terms of minutes per mile. The vast right-wing majority of my running miles had, up until only a few years ago, been at near eight minute pace. Nowadays, if I can get down to sub-9 pace, I call it a good run. And there aren’t all that many good runs.

Nine is the new ten. This time, it’s in terms of miles run on my mid-week, medium-long runs. Oh, I can still do ten once in a while, but I often find myself running out of time and having to cut the run short by a mile or so. This is at least partially due to running those miles at such a slow pace.

Nine miles per day was, in fact, my average mileage for the entire year for several of my “good” years. No longer. In this case, Eight is the new nine.

I could go on about how I dress to the nines for some of my runs – especially those that involve other runners – but I’ll spare you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Milling Around

It's a little before 4:00 AM, and I'm stumbling around the house like usual, except more so. Last night’s large quantity of pizza, wine and beer may be a factor. Outside, there’s a downpour of biblical proportions. A nice, easy, dry twenty-miler on the treadmill seems to be in order.

Last night I’d seen the forecast and cancelled plans to run on the towpath with Christine Orwin and her sister. Despite the prognostication, I had still held out a tiny bit of hope that I would be able to run outside today. My Medina friends, Harold Dravenstott, Debbie Scheel, Michelle Wolff and Wil Bertemes, were planning to start at 5:30 AM at Panera. I could join them, or possibly just run by myself from home. The treadmill would be my last resort.

But now with the rain coming down this hard, there was no way I would step outside. I sent a Facebook message to the group: “I’ll be milling around.” And by 4:30, I’m on the thing, gradually increasing the speed whilst changing channels before finding a Rick Steves episode.

Did I ever mention that I hate treadmills? No, I don’t generally like running rain either, but which is worse? This would be a good test: would I be able to stay on the thing for 20 miles, like I used to? The answers to these questions turn out to be: yes, treadmills and no.

It’s 5:00 AM, and I’m changing channels, looking for anything interesting, when I come across the one that shows the weather radar 24 x 7. It’s still green (meaning light rain) in Medina county, but most of the yellow (heavy rain) has moved on. Maybe I can still join the Medina gang!

I finish my fifth mile. Thank goodness I was able to get even this far. I clean up as fast as I can, and hop in the car to drive down to Medina. It’s still raining, but not so hard. It occurs to me, and this thought is later confirmed by Michelle, that my message about ‘milling around’ could be a little ambiguous. At the time I had only meant that I’d be running on the treadmill instead of joining the group, but it could also be taken to mean that I’ll be there to run with them.

At 5:30 I pull into the Panera parking lot, and Debbie and Michelle are already there. Wil and Harold join us shortly, and we’re off.

The light rain is now coming down in buckets once again. The funny thing is, we don’t mind. Running in the rain really isn’t so bad; it’s usually just getting started that’s tough. We’re actually having fun, running through puddles and getting soaked. At some point, you can’t get any wetter.

A couple hours later, I drop the gang off and run out again for a final mile of these fifteen. I was going to get my twenty in today even if it killed me.

But it didn’t. In fact, it was fun.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All About Me

I suggested that our company employee newsletter include an article about how I am the Race Director for the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. I offered to write the article myself, since I'm capable of doing so.

They liked the idea, but preferred to send one of their own writers, Sharon Joles. She interviewed me, and indicated that the article would be more about me than the race. That wasn't my original intent, but I still think the result is fine:

The North Coast 24-hour endurance run: Yes, you get to stop for a bio break, and other questions ...




It’s spring in Cleveland, 80 degrees and muggy. But it’s Cleveland, so wait a few minutes and the weather will change. A common sight around Campus II is people out exercising and enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings, such as the North Chagrin Reservation. On such mornings, long before a standard workday begins, you may see Project Portfolio Analyst Lead Dan Horvath out for a run. In fact, any number of your coworkers may be running on the campus or in the park. There’s a large running community at our company, with skills ranging from beginner to elite-level runners.

The runner
Dan talks about how long he has been running with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’ve been running since the 1970s; about 40 years,” he says. “I belong to the Medina County Road Runners, which is a great running club. I always have someone to run with, and my running friends provide extra motivation.”

Dan runs fifty to sixty miles a week, although right now he’s recovering from an Achilles tendonitis injury and taking it a little easy while he heals. He runs daily, explaining that, addict that he is, it’s difficult not to run, even when injured.

“I've competed in 100 marathons, and 23 ultramarathons including one 100-miler,” he says. “An ultramarathon is anything over 26.2 miles. The 100-miler was on extremely rough terrain. Many of these races take place on trails and you never know what challenge you may find. I was just glad to finish that one.”

Dan explains that ultramarathon distances also include 50-kilometer races, which are 31 miles, and 100-kilometer races, which are 62 miles. For those wishing to go the distance, there’s something for everyone

Race director by default
“In 2008, I was talking with a local elite ultra-marathoner, Connie Gardner, about a recent race where a measurement error cost her the American record for a 24-hour race. She wanted a do-over. I said I wanted to run one as well, and we both exclaimed that we should have one here.”

Thus the idea was born to hold a 24-hour race in Cleveland, sponsored by Dan’s running club. This is what led Dan to becoming not just a runner, but also a race organizer.

“I opened my mouth, raised the idea, and I’ve been the race director for our 24-hour endurance race the last seven years,” he jokes.

A 24-hour endurance race is an ultramarathon race that spans a 24-hour period, and the courses tend to be loops of 1 – 2 miles. The runners try to run as many miles as they can in the 24-hour period. They can leave the course to eat, rest, or take “bio breaks.”

Dan handles the coordination of the event, which is a volunteer-driven effort—everything from the food (one of the favorites is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to hiring the park ranger and coordinating the other volunteers who work the 24 hours with him. He cheers the runners on and offers encouragement when their mental focus is waning during the race. He also obtains assistance if a runner needs medical attention. It is a 24-hour endurance race, after all.

They’re going the distance …
“Our race is held at beautiful Edgewater Park, near downtown Cleveland, Ohio,” Dan says. “We use a paved bike trail that is officially measured by USA Track & Field. USA Track & Field is the official governing body for track and field, distance running, and race walkers. The official trail length is 0.90075 mile. We measure the distance each runner travels using RFID trackers on the runners to count the number of laps completed.”

The top three finishers get prize money, and since this event is an official USA Track & Field event, the distances calculated for the winners can earn them a spot on the USA Track & Field National Team. This team represents the United States in the World Championships. The current course records are 158.5 miles (176 laps) for men, and 147.9 miles (164 laps) for women.

Each year, the race draws about 200 hundred runners from all over the US, Canada and Europe. There are runners from age 12 to 87 and everywhere in between. Many run the race every year.

The challenge and sense of achievement is a testament to the mental toughness and physical endurance of the competitors. It is enough to continue to draw the runners to this race.

Don’t quit: There is a bathroom ahead
“Our race is unique in that the runners can leave the race when needed to eat, sleep, or attend to the needs of nature,” Dan explains. “The runners must reenter the track in the same location they left for their miles to be accurate and officially measured.

“With a 24-hour race, some runners need to take a break at some point to sleep. Some lay down to rest and end up sleeping the entire night. It’s a physical and mental battle to return to the race. It makes it easy to quit.”

Sign me up
If you’re dedicated (or crazy?) enough to want to try this race,
registration is open for September’s event. You can find more information about the race on Facebook.

Alternatively, if you just want to see what it’s all about, you can head out to Edgewater Park and say hi to Dan, and root on the other runners.

And if by chance you see Dan on the course, be sure to save him a peanut butter and jelly.

Written by Sharon Joles, contributing writer

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

You Got a Lot a Love

This came from an individual who looked like he could be homeless, but who was nonetheless cheering the runners on during the waning miles of the Detroit Free Press Marathon. I had never heard the phrase used in this context before.


The Freep in those years – the late eighties and early nineties - passed through some highly questionable parts of Detroit, and this neighborhood was particularly blighted. There were no other spectators, and even the runners were sparse.  At that instant, it was just that one guy and me. He pointed at me as he said it.  I’m sure I was gritting my teeth, grimacing in my usual way. I remember that I was trying hard to maintain the pace that had felt so easy during the early miles, a couple hours prior.


Yet it gave me pause. At that point in my race, perhaps almost anything would have. But I like to think that I found some meaning and inspiration there. I like to think that a lot of love is an entirely appropriate description for what I had been experiencing at that moment.


The moment I describe here comes to mind as we all decompress after the Medina Half-Marathon. This is a huge and wonderfully successful event for the small town of Medina, Ohio. The dedication, long, hard work, and attention to detail of Race Director Beth Bugner, her immediate organizational team, and all of the hundreds of volunteers undoubtedly requires a lot of love. A real lot of love.


A lot of love is also a fitting description of the work that the Medina County Road Runners Board of Directors puts in. This is particularly true of President Angie Kovacs. As I write this, the Board will soon be deciding on positions for the upcoming year, so we could wind up with a different president. Regardless of her position however, Angie puts in gobs of time to institute the framework to ensure that the club activities and events are the best they can possibly be.


These folks do it for the love of running, and for the love of their fellow runners. And I think that’s really it. I like to think that I’ve still got a lot of love too. But it’s also good to know that I’m not alone.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Get thee to a softer surface, say my trail running friends. And I don't disagree. I used to get about a third of my miles on trails, although much of this was on that trail I call the towpath. At the mention of that name, my trail running friends fall all over themselves to be the first to blurt out (think Crocodile Dundee here), "That's not a trail!"

But it is fairly soft, and that's the point.

Why am I thinking soft these days? It's the same old story: the Achilles Tendinitis pain. The level of pain has waxed and waned over the past two years or so, but it's never gone away. Lately I've learned that running fast, relative as that is, aggravates it more than most efforts.

A month or so ago, I was beginning to feel a little better, and I ran the 20-mile drop. Although it hurt afterwards, the pain was manageable. Then I did a couple 5K's. Reaching speeds approaching 7:30 per mile (did I mention that speed is relative?), I felt like I was running quite fast. At least I was moving. But then, the old AT really let itself be known.

Okay, it was time to back off a little. Then, guess what? I started feeling a little better and running a little better, and I followed that up with another 5K a week ago (the Hyland HY-5, 22:49 or so, no placement in Age Group). Guess what? Pain again. Big Pain again.

Now I'm back to slow running once more. And of course that makes me soft, but this is not the point. In fact, I forget what the point was...

Oh, now I remember: soft surfaces. I ran 10 of today's 16 miles on dirt, cinders and grass on the old, almost non-existent track behind the middle schools. Around and around I went, slow and not too steady. At least it was slightly decent mileage.

And guess what? It hurts.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A Fairy Tale: Better. Worse. Better.

Once upon a time there was a boy named Dan. Dan used to be an okay runner, but then he got old and injured (note that cause and effect are beyond the scope of this fairy tale). The injuries lasted for quite some time, but the Achilles pain (the longest-lasting of Dan's injuries) began to subside, little by little. All this happened a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away.

Feeling a bit better, Dan began to run a bit faster and farther. He even entered a few little races.

But then the Big Bad Pain returned. This time it was Mr. Pain-in-the-butt Piriformis, along with the other villain Achilles Tendinitis. ,.. and Dan was unhappy.

Over the last couple weeks, Dan worked on his exercises in order to keep those bad people at bay. Maybe it's working. A little.

Dan had a nice run with friends this morning in the Chippewa Lake area. Time to pick things up again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Watch Thinks I'm...

In some ways, my Garmin 620 thinks I'm really slow. All it sees are my daily slogs where I either a) run very slowly but manage ten or so miles, or b) run much slower still for only a few miles. Occasionally, it sees me running somewhat longer on weekend days. But now that I've done at least a couple races, it can observe some slightly faster running. 'Slightly' being the key word.

A week ago I ran the Victims' Rights 5K in Medina. This free event is tiny in numbers and takes place during a weekday evening. My time was about as expected: 24:30 or so. That's close to Personal Worst territory, but I wasn't totally unhappy with it. One must take what one can get these days, and I would have been happy with anything at all.

And my watch was happier still. 'New 5K PR!', it exclaimed. Since it and I have only been acquainted since mid-January of this year, I suppose that that's about right; I never have actually run faster than that this year.

If it was happy then, it was positively extatic on Sunday, when I ran the Race for Brunswick Blue Pride 5K in 23:19. 'New 5K PR!', it exclaimed for the second time in four days. And once again I felt it was about right. Nowhere near the race times I managed a year back, but one must, as they say, take what one can get.

So yes, my watch thinks I'm slow. I get it. I am. But in some ways, it thinks I'm actually better than I am. I only wish I knew why. It calculates my VO2 Max on an ongoing basis, and it has me at 56 now. I don't know what that means, but it's the best it's been for the year. Good to see that steady improvement. I think it bases it's race prediction times on VO2 Max, although I'm not sure.

My race prediction times are: 19 minutes for 5K, 38 minute for 10K, 1:24 for a half-marathon and 2:57 for a marathon.

I have a lot to live up to.