Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tales of the Kid, Part 3: No More Running Left in Me

The Kid is awake at 3:30 AM, a little before his alarm goes off. "Perfect," he thinks, "Now I can get a lake loop in prior to the 5:00 AM lake loop, which, of course, is prior to the usual 5:30 AM Big Nine Mile Loop."

Getting up in the early AM hours at all seemed problematic for the Kid. The previous morning he had gotten up at 1:45 AM in order to pick up his friends, Larry and Chris Orwin at 2:45, and get them to the start of the Burning River 100-Mile race by 3:30 for the 4:00 start. He had then made his way over to the Medina County Road Runners aid station in order to help out for about four hours. He had then managed to squeeze in a run on the towpath with some fellow MCRR volunteers, and had then gone into work for his 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM shift. And then he had gone home and crashed.

But after that, the Kid was just getting ready to drive some of Chris' pacers to various locations, when he received a call from the one called the 'Mountain Goat' to inform him that Chris had unfortunately dropped out. "I have no more running left in me," she'd told him.

No more running left in me, thinks the Kid, is a good way of saying that I just can't do this anymore; I've had enough. Or, in the words of famous runner Forrest Gump, "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now."

Now that the Kid was off the hook, he was able get some additional rest and this in turn enabled him to wake up at an early hour for the second morning in a row.

So the Kid starts running around Hinckley Lake at 4:30 AM. He finds himself moving at a pretty decent clip - about nine-minute pace. The 5:00 AM crowd, Debbie Scheel and Caitlin Oblander, show up, and they begin another lake loop. This one's faster, and it has the Kid huffing and puffing a lot.

At 5:30 AM, the 5:30 crowd, Brian Rosenstock, appears, and the four begin their Big Loop. This doesn't go quite so well for the Kid, and he has a tough time keeping up, but Brian kindly stays with him.

The Kid is getting pretty tuckered out, more so as the run progresses. As he finishes up, Debbie and a few others (the 7:00 AM crowd), are milling around. Debbie asks the Kid if he wants to run another lake loop with her.

"No thanks," says the Kid, "I have no more running left in me."

MCRR BR100 Aid Station                 Photo by Jim Perichitti

P.S. Larry did, remarkably, make it to the finish of the BR100. That's quite an accomplishment. He evidently had just enough running left in him.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The New Dan

I would have liked to call this, The New and Improved Dan. But contrasting the New Dan with the Old Dan, the one who wakes earlier than usual to get extra miles in, there is precious little improvement to speak of.

Those eighteen coming a week after the thirty-five, were evidently a bit too much for me; it was a lousy week of running. I even had to take a day off. Besides the ever-present Achilles Tendonitis pain, I've now got some severe butt pain to go along with it.

It's piriformis syndrome. I've had it before, and this too shall pass.

I Wake, Therefore I Run

I suddenly bolt straight up to a sitting position. "Are you okay?" asks Debbie. "Fine," I answer. But I'm not quite fine; both arms had fallen completely asleep, which immediately awoke the rest of me. Having had this experience in the past, I know that this too, shall pass. It's 2:00 AM.

It does. And I actually get back to sleep, only to be re-awakened just before 3 - this time by a sneeze.

And now I'm up for good. I may as well run.

I had already been planning to run; there was a Hinckley lake loop planned for 5:00 AM, and then the usual 9 a half-hour later. Now I'd be able to start at 4.

This was the Dan of Old. Dan of Old didn't mind getting up even earlier than normal to run. If he awoke earlier than planned, it was an opportunity, not a problem. An opportunity for extra miles, that is. Dan of Old would do this, even if he ran a 35-miler just the previous Sunday.

I manage to run two lake loops before the 5:00 AM group shows up, and we run another all together. Now it's 5:30 AM, and the larger gang arrives, thirsty for our Hinckley Nine.

These nine are unsurprisingly slower and tougher than those first nine around the lake. But luckily, no one else feels like running fast today, and we all stick together.

Eighteen hilly miles. It was a pretty good day of running, and the best part is that I'm done. And that it's only a little after 7:00 AM.

Monday, July 06, 2015

MP6: Split Personality -> The Runner and The Race Director

“The more I run, the more Chris Orwin laps me,” says the Runner, “I’d be way better off to just quit.” He had been closing in on 36 laps at the Mugrage Park 6-Hour Run (MP6), and was moving slower and slower, eventually getting down to ‘ultramarathon shuffle’ pace. Worse yet, Jeannine Nicholson and Ladd Clifford, talking and laughing the entire way, had begun to lap him as well.

36 laps, the equivalent of 50K, was a milestone for many of the MP6 contestants, and it was a major goal for the Runner as well. But he also thought he might even be able to go a little further. Debbie Scheel and Larry Orwin, who had both run brilliantly this day, were wise enough to quit at that point, and were now relaxing near the Mugrage Park shelter. They, along with a couple of the volunteers and other bystanders, were watching everyone else keep on trucking around the 0.876 mile loop.

Fairly early in the run with the Sharpes and Rob.        Photo by John McCarroll
The Race Director (RD) is pretty much out of it at this point. And this is a good thing, since the Runner needed to be in charge now. Oh, the RD did stop to talk to the wonderful volunteers (including Harold Dravenstott, Rob Lisy, Renee Harden and most especially Ron Ross) every couple laps as the Runner came by, but since said volunteers had everything well in hand, he could go back into seclusion. He managed to be able to spend most of the race there in that secret place. Both the Runner and the RD appreciated that.

Things hadn’t been so easy for the RD in the days leading up to MP6. He had originally planned this to be a low-key ‘just show up and run’ event. Debbie had reserved the Mugrage Park shelter all day for the MCRR picnic, and the RD had thought that since the picnic would be in the afternoon, it would be nice to hold a little run there in the morning. To emphasize the small, easy-going nature of his planned event, the RD even began using the tagline, ‘If you think the Buckeye Woods 50K is getting a little too big and well-organized, this is the event for you.’

The RD needed to figure out some way to time a six-hour run, however. Timing such a thing amounts to counting laps and multiplying the total by the lap distance. Will Bertemes offered to pay for the timer. But that would entail finding and hiring someone. Hugh Patton, who’d timed Outrun 24, offered to do it for free. Will then offered to donate the money toward race expenses anyway. The RD determined that hats would be valuable mementos for the participants, and began working with Brian Polen of Vertical Runner to acquire them.

All of this was good stuff. But it did make work for the RD, who found himself reluctantly getting further away from the desired ‘just show up and run’ mentality. Then some problems arose. First there was some trouble just getting the permit. This shouldn’t have been a problem, since MCRR already had the shelter, and the county parks folks had told him the permit was coming. But it took some prompting before it finally did arrive. Then there were the hats. Actually getting hold of Brian and picking them up turned out to be a bit messy, requiring re-arranged schedules and so forth.

The kicker came at 9:30 PM the night before the race when the RD received the notification from Hugh that he wouldn’t be able to make it. The panic lasted an hour or so until he went to sleep, and then resumed with a vengeance as he awoke at 3:00 AM. During the ensuing two hours, he actually came up with an Excel spreadsheet that he thought might be workable: a volunteer would type the bib numbers of the runners as they went by, the lap data points would be time-stamped and counted. Bib numbers? The timer had said he’d bring those as well, not now the RD had resort to bringing a pile of his old used ones from his various races over the years.

None of this was good for the Runner. All the Runner had wanted to do was to run his best for the six hours, hopefully achieving at least 50K. But now he had a multitude of trials and tribulations, all because of the RD’s distinct lack of contingency planning.

But somehow, things did manage to work themselves out. The hat and the permit issues got resolved. And as he arrived at Mugrage, laptop, old bibs and other equipment in hand, relating his woes to Ron, the other volunteers and early-bird runners, the RD realized that this timing issue, too, shall pass. Ron preferred to simply make tick marks on paper to the training required for the spreadsheet, but it wasn’t a problem and that was that.

And the RD found that he didn’t need to worry any longer. Now the Runner could remerge from oblivion and take charge.

About half way through in the nice wooded section. Photo by John McCarroll
Take charge he did… at least for a while. He found himself with the lead pack for about the first ten laps. Talking with Larry, Chris, Debbie, Rob and the rest was fun and entertaining. At one point Debbie and Chris were talking shop, including that they would both like to work in an Endoscopy unit. The Runner suggested that they start a website: Let the record show that the Runner has not tried to determine whether such a site already exists.

Being in charge didn’t really last all that long, but the Runner also enjoyed the company of the other runners as well. He took turns running with Caitlin Oblander, Bob Pokorny, Beth Bugner, Suzanne and Jack Sharpe, and of course Ladd and Jeannine, and probably a bunch more.

By the time he was nearing thirty laps – the marathon distance, the Runner was slowing down quite a bit. Larry was just about done with his 50K, and the Chris lapping thing had begun in earnest. She just never slowed down. And Ladd and Jeannine were remarking that they could walk faster than he could run. Those two were actually running faster as the race went on. Had he been even a little lucid, he couldn’t have agreed more. He slowed even more in the next few laps, hitting the 50K mark about five hours, eighteen minutes into the run. He took a much needed break.

The RD came out for a moment to worry about running out of water. The Runner told him to shut heck up (without using the word, heck), and then went back out to see how much further he could go.

Fairly far, it turns out. The Runner gets some kind of second wind, and runs four more laps at about the same pace as some of the ones in the middle of the race. Along the way he finds himself running at various moments with ebullient as always Angela Demchuck, Roy Heger, Suzanne (again) and Kenny Welch, all of whom are all enjoying their runs way too much.

The Runner realizes that he was enjoying himself too. Mugrage is a pretty little park, and it is a beautiful day. But then all too soon, the six hours are coming to an end. The Runner hoofs it in for the last half-mile to try to keep ahead of Ladd. He wanted to allow for the possibility that he and Ladd were at the same mileage, in which case the question of who crossed the line for their final lap might be relevant.

It isn’t. Ladd had 42 laps, whereas the Runner winds up as the second male with only 40 (which is 25 miles). But both Ladd and the Runner were ‘chicked’ twice: by Chris (49 laps!) and Jeannine (43). The RD, the Runner, and everyone else had a blast.
Here is everyone who was still around as the race ended.                  Photo by Felicia Fago

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.