Thursday, November 29, 2007

This week

I've been running, but not particularly well. I did the 20 on Tuesday, 13 on the mill yesterday (wasn't the greatest, but I did manage 2 x 3-mile tempos) and then 4 really bad mill miles today. Been busy with work. Maybe next week will be better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today's Running

I managed a half-way decent long run today. First I did 8 outside at just under 9-minute pace. It was getting too late to be out, so I did the rest on the mill. There I picked it up more and more until I did the last 4 at MP. All in all, not bad.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recent Running

2 days in a row I managed 7 slow miles. Yesterday was going to be the good solid run. It did start out that way - I took off for my 15/16 mile route and after a 9 minute mile, I got the pace down to 8:30 or so. But after about 8 miles my pace began to slow as I started to labor more. Don't know what went wrong - I just got tired. I cut it short by heading back on 303 to make it 13. Disappointing.

I've also managed to feel a twinge of PF in my left foot over the last couple days. Scary.


It was wonderful to have the girls (and Barry) home. We had lots and lots of fun. Nothing new or spectacular. Some shopping, some games, lots of eating. But it was great.

Yesterday was the Krizak brunch. Lots of fun there too. Good to see everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Of course I was sore and tired for a couple days. The ride home was tough. I slept *really* good that Sunday night. And of course I took Sunday and Monday off of running. But then a funny thing happened. I was able to run again on Tuesday. Half-way decent, too. I did a 3 and a 2 mile loop in the morning, and then another 3 at lunch. About eight and a half pace, starting slower and ending faster. Today was even better: 10 in 80, including - get this - and actual 4-mile tempo run at the track. I wasn't able to run this well for the entire 2 weeks after Inland Trail. Things are going well.

My weight isn't. Not that I'm overly worried about it - it's just funny. Monday morning I felt dehydrated, so I thought my weight would be really low. It was 165!! 8 pounds higher than a couple days before JFK! Where did that come from? All I can figure is that it's the salt tabs. "Down" to 161 yesterday. I'm hoping to not be too bad off coming out of the holidays.

We've had mom here for a while now. It's like having a child around the house. Not bad, just something to always be aware of. She really likes the senior center, so we'll start taking her twice a week.

Valerie, Veronica and Barry are coming in today. Can't wait.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

JFK 50 Mile Run

The Joy is in the Journey.

It's been said in many ways about many different pursuits. And of course it applies to running... in spades. And it also applies to travel associated with running.

Brandon, Mike, Steve and I left for Hagerstown and had a pretty nice, smooth trip. Except for the snowstorm through a good part of PA. It was pretty bad when we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial (not much there - an open field with a flag at the exact spot, some personal mementos posted on a board, and a tiny building with one volunteer to tell us all about it). And then it got worse at the higher elevations. This didn't seem to bode well for the next day's running of the JFK 50-Mile.

When we arrived at Hagerstown, things were much better - no snow and not quite so bitter cold. We checked in and drove to a couple parts of the course.

Now it was getting exciting. And of course I was getting nervous. Scared to death is probably a better way to put it. It's been 5 years since I'd run this far. And I had hardly trained for it. Trained for marathons, yes, but trained for ultras, no. Not at all.

JFK is as much a mecca for ultra runners as Boston is for marathoners. There were about 1,500 starters, and we all crammed into little Boonsboro High School before the start. Northeast Ohio was very well represented, and we bumped into several of the other Buckeyes. Even the long walk down from the high school to the start in the small town evoked thoughts of Boston.

The Joy is in the Journey. As soon as we started, the similarities to Boston ended. The first two plus miles are up, up, up. So much so that many of the smarter runners took to walking the steeper parts. Since the narrow Appalachian Trail was at the end of this road section, it was important for us to sort ourselves out before we started on it.

I had a good position going onto the AT, but this turned out to be a bad thing. I'm not a good trail runner, and that's being generous. The good, and even average, trail runners passed me by the hundreds, and this was tough for both them and me on this narrow, rocky trail. Did I mention that it's rocky? There are more rocks on this small section of trail than in the entire states of Ohio and Indiana combined. You can check my facts at

The AT was also steep. Extremely so - especially early on. The first three miles continued the climb that began on the roads. We hit a summit at that point, and the rest was a bit better. But I was doing a lot of walking. Not only on the steep sections, but also where the rocks, which were often covered by a deep layer of fallen leaves, were treacherous. Hundreds of runners continued to pass me. I eventually found some runnable parts and got into a bit of a slow rhythm. I ran some parts with Brandon, and others with Dan and Rita.

After about 14 miles on the AT, there was a steep descent leading down to the towpath. What a relief! The AT had been really beautiful. I'd like to return and hike some of these areas some day. But run? You gotta be kidding.

The towpath began at mile 16, and I had run, if you want to call it that, that first section in 3:08 or so. We would be on the towpath for just over 26 miles, and it occurred to me that I ought to be able to do those in about the same time as the previous 16. That, of course, might be conceivable if A) I'd been in good shape and B) I hadn't just completely trashed my legs on the AT. So yes, I had thoughts of at least running well in this section, but even that was in doubt; how much damage had I done to myself? If I continued at the pace I'd been going, I'd be in danger of not finishing at all.

It turned out that I *was* able to run again. And fairly well, too. My GPS told me I was doing my early towpath miles at 8 to 8:30 minute per mile pace, with a couple even faster than 8. I don't know how I was doing it, but I was doing it. And I was passing hundreds of those runners that had passed me. I ran a bit more with Dan and Rita, and some with Terry Hawk.

This towpath is not unlike the one I'm used to, except that it's a little softer, and many sections were covered with fallen leaves. Some said it was boring, but I didn't think so. There is the Potomac on the one side, the rocks, hills and cliffs on the other, and nice fall foliage all along.

I hit mile 25 in about 4:25, and I was still passing gobs of runners. It began to dawn on me that a PR was possible. I wasn't entirely sure, but I thought I'd done my other 50 in 8:30 or so. I'd run the distance a couple of other times as well, as part of the Mohican 100 and the Olander 24-hour run, but those were much slower still. The Chicago 50-miler had been five years ago, during an excellent year of running, and, being along the lakeshore, it was about as easy as a 50-mile run can be. JFK is coming at the end of a mediocre, at best, year of running, and the course was extremely tough. To beat 8:30, I'd need to do the second 25 miles in close to 4 hours for a big-time negative split. But I was running well, and my confidence was up.

Guess what happened next. Yes, I started to slow down a bit. I guess I was starting to tucker out. Now I was doing 8:30 to 9 minute miles. Some were slower than 9 minutes. I was also losing a lot of time at the aid stations. As with most ultras, they were well stocked with soup, GU, chips, pretzels, powerbars, coke, gatorade, pb&j sandwiches, etc. I would often stuff a bunch of pretzels into my mouth and then realize that I had absolutely no saliva with which to process them. So I'd take a big swig of water to mush them up. I'd usually take a GU too, and sometimes soup or an electrolyte tablet. So the miles where there was an aid station would take me 10 to 12 minutes instead of the usual 9 or so. Although slower now, I was still passing people. Just not so many. A few were keeping pace with me. And although slower now, I wasn't crashing completely; I was still holding my own.

According to my GPS, I finished the towpath 7 hours, 8 minutes after the start. And 4 hours and 1 minute since I began the 26-mile section. Not bad at all. The joy is in the journey. Yes, I really was enjoying myself.

The last 8 miles would be on asphalt roads. Immediately off the towpath I was met with an extremely steep hill. It felt strange to have to walk again, but I suppose I needed the break. After 5 plus minutes of this I could run again and eventually came to a sign that said 8 miles to go. Wait a minute. I thought it was 8 miles from the towpath, and my GPS now said 42.4 miles. Looks like I'd be getting a bit of extra mileage for my money today. A bonus! I was also met by some guy standing in the street in front of his house, yelling very bad words at passing runners and traffic. This was followed later on by a few locals holding signs that said things like, "JFK Runners Go Home - You're not welcome here on our roads". Strange.

Now I'd have to hoof it to get that sub-8:30. I'd have to average something like 9:30 or 9:40 per mile. And 9:20 to 9:30 pace was about what I was doing. Those early road miles were very hilly, so it was tough. Not to mention that all those previous miles had taken their toll. Could I do it?

In a word, yes. I kept that pace going all the way in, doing my last mile in a blistering 9:09. I finished in 8:28. It's been a long time since I've been so ecstatic with one of my runs, but this was ultra running as good as it gets.

I showered, ate, met up with my friends and other Ohioans, and then bussed back to the other school. A bunch of us went out to dinner, and of course everyone had a joy of the journey story to tell.

PS: I just peeked at my Chicago Lakeshore 50 results from 2002. 8:26. So JFK wasn't a PR. Or was it? JFK is OFFICIALLY 50.2 miles. So I hit 50 in 8:26 for sure. It's a tie. But JFK is still the better of the two - it's my best ultra of all time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Disappointing Runs

After being so happy with my run at Inland Trail, my running since then has been downright lousy. I suppose that's to be expected, but since I finished so well, I was hoping to at least hold my own - especially after a week or so.

So when last week's running was slow, I wasn't concerned. I did manage a speedwork session where I did 4 x 1-mile at about 6:53 pace - about a half minute slower than the previous week. I thought this was fine. But Saturday's 13 (after 3 on the mill) on the towpath were really bad news. I had hoped for 20+ that day. Likewise, Sunday's 8 were very slow.

Today would be my day - I was hoping for a solid tempo run as part of my early morning 11-miler. Didn't happen. I just couldn't get moving fast enough. I wound up with 10 in 79+, followed a couple hours later by 3 in 23.5.

It just seems like running at a decent pace is a real chore, and then I don't feel like putting in the distance.

None of this bodes well for JFK this Saturday.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Marathon Heaven

Ever have one of those marathons where everything goes right? Me neither. At least not for a long, long time. But today’s Inland Trail Marathon happened to be a real keeper.

If your idea of marathon nirvana includes tens of thousands of runners, big expos, large numbers of spectators, big city scenery and landmarks, balloons, Kenyans, warm weather (forgive me, I’m not quite over Chicago yet), etc., then the Inland Trail Marathon probably wouldn’t be up your alley. But it was up mine. Cool overcast weather, no hassles with registration or the start, something like 100 to 200 runners, plenty of water and Gatorade, a 12+ mile rails-to-trails asphalt trail through woods and rural parts of Loraine County, and, did I mention good weather? That’s my marathon heaven, and this was it.

Of course there had to be one missing ingredient: me being in shape. I kinda figured that I was in about 3:15 condition, but it had been a while since I’ve even run that well. Could I do that today under these perfect conditions?

Temperatures were in the upper 30s at the start. (It was 48F when I finished.) There was a slight headwind that would be with us for the first half of this out-and-back course. That headwind felt mighty cold for the first mile or two. But after that it felt great. I started off at a 7:30 pace, which I figured would get me close to my goal. All I would need to do is to pick it up just a bit for the last couple miles. Right. Not to mention that negative split marathons had always been a rarity for me, especially of late.

Although most of my early miles were in that 7:30 range, I hit the halfway turnaround a bit slower than I’d hoped, in 1:39. I would have to pick up the pace earlier than planned. So I did. I started doing 7:10 to 7:20 miles. Maybe I was helped by the tailwind, or maybe it was the energy gel that I was now taking every 3 miles or so. Note to self: beware of PowerGel Tangerine 2xcaffeine AND 4xsodium. It was among the most foul-tasting messes that I’ve ever put into my mouth. On the other hand, it may have helped.

There had been perhaps 30 people in front of me as of the half, but I was picking many of them off now. I hit the 20-mile mark right around 2:30. Would I be able to keep that pace up until the finish? Short answer: yes. My last 6 miles were 7:11, 7:12, 7:17, 7:07, 7:16, 7:01. It’s always nice when mile 26 is your fastest. In fact, there’s no feeling in the world like it. My time was 3:14:40 and I was 2nd in my age group. This would’ve been disappointing during some of my better years, but here in 2007, I’m thrilled with it. Marathon heaven.

Recent Running and Social Events

Bin tapering for the week, so the only run of any substance was an 11-miler that included 4 x 1600 at about 6:22. The rest were mostly pretty short.

Went to a charity reverse raffle with Debbie's family but mostly my cousins. It was fun to see everyone. I've volunteered to try to put another social occasion together.

We went to dinner at Olive Garden with Kathy, Mike and Jessy last night. This was after a hike at Happy Days.

North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

Since I have participated in the Ohio Challenge Series many years, I've done this race many times, albeit many moons ago. It's a fun...