Saturday, May 31, 2008

Still Sick, Still Trying to Run

I did 6 more on the mill yesterday, and 15 on the towpath today. I'm sure that it's a sinus infection now, and am trying to deal with it accordingly. I'm a tiny bit better, but need to make lots more progress - especially before my next trip next week. Running is tough. It was very warm and very humid today and that made it tougher. I'm happy to have gotten through it though.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Still Sick and Weak, But I Ran Today

I've gotten incrementally better each day, but I'm still not well. I wish I knew what hit me - all my physical systems appeared to be affected. At least I've been sleeping ok after some trouble in that area over the weekend. My only real remaining problem is my sore throat and ligering weakness.

So I did manage a run today - the first since Saturday. I did 6 on the mill. Felt like 20. But I did get through it.

We all (Dave and Carol, Beth and Ed, and Mom) went to the Warsaw Grill today. It wasn't bad, and there was a cultural experience to boot.

Good movie the other day: Black Book. Best I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I've been sick. I felt fine when I returned home Friday, and I was even fine, although a bit tired, on Saturday. Then Sunday and Monday I felt really lousy. I caught a cold and have been weak - too weak to run at all. So I've been trying to get better with rest and zicam. Today I finally feel a little bit better.

Sunday we had the family over for a backyard barbeque. Monday we went to Mike Zielinski's mom's funeral. I'm supposed to be working right now, but things are moving slowly.

Back to running: maybe tomorrow I'll have my strength back.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Medina Heroes 4-Miler

The weather was perfect, but my running shape wasn't. I'd gotten off the plane at 6pm yesterday after flights of 3, 8 and 1 hour, not to mention airport time. So that's the excuse. Not to mention that I'm still recovering from an ultra followed by a thon.

I had figured that if I could do 7 minute miles, I'd be happy. Well I did slightly better than that, but only a bit. The first mile was fine at 6:18, but the rest were slower. I finished in 26:47, good for 3rd in my AG. I think I won it last year, but my time was slower then because of the rain.

After the run, Debbie and I met up with Bob Hart and Rita and George, who are visiting Ohio from Hawaii. It was great to see them again!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Running in Romania

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I had to get out and back early because of an early work schedule. Thought about 10, but could only manage 5. I did do a bit of exploring here in Bucharest. I mostly wanted to find the metro station. This I did manage to do. The run itself felt MUCH faster than it actually was. It was almost as slow as 10 minutes per mile, but I thought I was going at a smooth fast pace. Oh well, I’ll try again tomorrow.
The running around here really isn’t that bad. There are plenty of parks, paths along the river, and of course the route around the HUGE palace of parliament.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This run was pretty much like yesterday’s. I had a very slow start so early, and it just took a while to get moving. Once I did, it wasn’t so bad, but I still only did 6 miles at about 10 minute pace. Not so great.

I ran along the small river, this time further west than I’ve been before. There is a big lake and park there at the end, but I had to turn at this point as I was running out of time. Some time I’ll try to run around there once I reach it.

Even thought the running ain’t bad, I’m having trouble with loose dogs. They’re all over, and they’re scary.

Thursday, May 15, 2008
This run was even more like yesterday’s than yesterday’s was to the day before. I ran along the river in the same direction, but went a bit further at the lake. I saw a dam, but still no lake – I had to turn back because of running out of time once again. Today I ran faster, but still slower than 9 minutes per mile. At least each one got faster until I was at 8 minute pace for the last one.

Still feeling beat up. Don’t know whether to rest more or to run more.

Even with that beat-up feeling, I also feel the need for speed. Especially with all the slow miles I’ve been doing. Since the fitness center doesn’t open till 6am, I can’t use it in the morning. I have to eat and then go by 6:30 each day. So today I went down there at 5pm and stepped on the mill. It was hot in there, so I didn’t feel well. But I did get in 4 x 1200 @ 4:45; 6 miles altogether. A bit of speedwork is better than none at all.

Saturday, May 17, 2008
I thought about not running because I’m so beat up (I took Friday off), but I woke up early and what the heck. I did the usual run along the river, but went on a bit more – it took a while to get over to the lake (I did a roundabout route), but I finally made it. It wasn’t a beautiful lake, but it was big. The biggest problem was the dogs. There were even more there any other places. Altogether 8 miles in 72 minutes. The miles generally got faster as I went on.

Sunday, May 18, 2008
This time I was tired and sore from all the walking yesterday and not from running. But I was determined to run 15 or so, and I did. I got out a bit later than usual, and boy was it warm. I ran along the river on the other side of town – heading southeast rather than northwest. After a while I turned around and then did the usual part again, followed by a bit more around Izvor park near the hotel. The miles generally got faster as I went on – the last few were my best. I did the 15 in 2:12.

Still got to get faster. I think I’m gaining a lot of weight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I was determined to pick up the pace. One problem is slow starts. Others are the dogs and darkness. Today, I thought I’d just run loops around the Palace of Parliament and adjacent Parcul Izvor. It turned out to be only about 2.25 miles around, but it was enough to help me get moving at a half-way decent pace. After a couple 9-minute miles, I got down to blisteringly fast sub-8 minute miles. I was really flying! (wink). I did 3 laps, each a bit faster than the last, and a bit extra to make it 7 miles in 59 minutes. Boy am I good (wink). The best part was not having to stop or worry about dogs or open manholes. I may do this one again.

In the late afternoon I hit the hotel dreadmill for some speed. I did the same workout as I did last week – 4 x 1200 in 4:45. Why is this so difficult for me? 1) I’m still beat up. 2) I ran in the morning. 3) It’s bloody hot in there. 4) I’m old, slow, bald and fat, not necessarily in that order. But as with last week, I got through it. 6 in 42 and a half. Swim afterwards.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I started a little slow, but this time I didn’t get moving until late in the game. In the middle I felt dizzy. I ran in familiar places – the river and Izvor park. I find that I do go slower along the river – probably because it’s darker and I’m less sure about the footing. Also there are more intersections. Not the greatest. 6 in 55. Only one more day of running here in Bucharest – tomorrow. Then it’s back to running at home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008
This would be my last outside run for this trip. I wanted good quality and decent amount of distance. Turned out to be so-so in both aspects. I mainly ran the usual loops around the big house because I can usually run the fastest doing that. I managed 8 in 69.

Well I did do one more run – late in the afternoon on the mill. Same as the last two of these – 4 x 1200 in 4:45, altogether 6 in 42.5. Once again it practically killed me. Now that was really it for the trip.

Monday, May 12, 2008


It seemed like such a great idea at the time. Training partner Dave Gajewski had told me that he’d talked to Mike George, and that Mike would be doing the Prague International Marathon (PIM). Mike had mentioned his plans to me months earlier, but I’d forgotten. That’s when the wheels began to turn. I’d be in Europe, and traveling from west to east that very weekend. In fact, I’d probably be flying right over Prague, if I didn’t decide to stop there anyway. So decide I did, and after some extremely complicated travel planning, I found myself trying desperately to get myself into the correct mindset on the day before the event.

It’s not just mental; the other half is physical. What was I thinking? That running 100K, immediately sitting on airplanes for the next 12 hours, putting up with jet lag whilst in Portugal and then trying to run a marathon in Prague a week later would be no big deal? Did I think I’d no longer be feeling the effects? Did I think, 100K one weekend and a marathon the next one – what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, the answer, evidently , is yes.

The event itself ought to be a big deal for all the participants. Prague is the most beautiful city on the planet, and I’d heard generally good stuff about the marathon. There are many who strongly believe that a marathon is a great way to see a city. What a fantastic idea: combine running a marathon and travel. I myself am not so sure, but I do know a bit about Prague, having been there twice. I think its fine to just walk around on my own time to see things at their own speed. But I suppose I signed up because I was most interested in the experience. The experience of running in this wonderland, the experience of running an international race, and the experience of doing something different and interesting in between work weeks.

But my heart, not to mention my legs, didn’t seem to be into it. That previous week in Portugal wasn’t a banner week of running for me. Even though Lisbon is great for running, I wasn’t able to do much at all. I was tired and sore, but mostly just didn’t have the gumption. Call it post-ultra depression. It’s interesting that poor Mike wouldn’t be able to do the PIM due to an injury. Here I am complaining, and he would only be able to watch.

Maybe a miracle would happen. Maybe I’d feel fine, run well, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. On the other hand, miracles are called that because they rarely happen.

Before the start, Old Town Square was buzzing with activity. Announcers making announcements in a variety of languages, the crazy Brazilians marching around, flaunting their half-nakedness (make that three-quarters), being made to line up in a narrow corral 35 minutes before the start. No liquids of any kind, except some that were for sale (where the heck was I going to have money, up my… oh never mind). Did I mention the porta-johns? I counted ten. That’s 10 for maybe 10,000 runners counting all the events. One per 1,000 – you gotta like those odds if you’re a porta-potty.

Prague is at her most beautiful when it’s bright and sunny, especially early and late in the day. This would be one of those days – not a cloud to be seen. Unfortunately, along with the sun came warm temperatures. It felt about like it was in the low 70s at the start, and maybe about 80 by the time I was coming to the finish. Enough for me to call it a scorcher.

I had met Mike and his family at the expo the day before, and we did dinner together. Call it a mini-Dead Encounter. I mentioned that I’d start running at about 8 minute per mile pace and just try to hold it. Mike said that they’d be on the course, cheering me on as I passed by several times. And so they were. After a spectacular but narrow start at the square, we took a few turns before going over the famous historical Charles Bridge. This was even more spectacular than the start. Mike somehow picked me out of the crowd during those early miles, as well as a few other times. It was great to have my own cheering section so far away from home.

The course is pretty flat. It runs almost entirely along the Vltava River; the only hills are the bridges and underpasses. So we began running north on one side before coming back south on the other and returning through Old Town. From there we went south along the river some more, turned back to the north at the half-way point, and then crossed a bridge and did the same thing on the other side. By mile 20 we were back to old town one more time, and then repeating the north part of the course before coming in for the finish.

The person who invented cobblestones was not a runner. In my humble opinion, the (say about 3 total) miles of these babies – mostly around Old Town, but other parts as well – were more of a factor than the heat, or any of the hills. We runners quite literally went through great lengths to avoid them when such a thing was possible at all.

I did begin at 8 minute pace, but many of the miles were just a bit faster. I was informed that there’d been about 4,000 marathoners last year, but maybe they exceeded that for 2008. The crowds never let up. And even though I ran a steady pace, many were passing me for much of the way. Many of these may have been relay runners however. I’m not sure where the half marathoners were.

Somehow, I managed to keep that pace the whole way. The one thing I didn’t want to do is to die, in any sense of the word. I’d been thinking that 8 minute pace would bring me in at about 3:30, so this wound up being a goal. After half-way (about 1:44), I was still on pace, but it seemed to be getting more difficult. By about 30k, the heat really began to get to me. By 20 miles (about 2:38), I saw Mike and family for the last time, and it was downright hot. But I wasn’t going to die. And die I didn’t. Suddenly no one was passing me anymore. I did the final 10k in 49 or 50 minutes; about the same as the first 10k. I finished in 3:28, pretty durn pleased with myself. I guess it was a miracle.

I never saw Mike and family this last time into Old Town. Now at 12:30pm, Old Town Square was absolutely filled to the brim with people. So many that I could not for the life of me get to the metro station. I wandered around for 45 minutes until I stumbled upon a different one. Yes, you guessed it. I had to get to the hotel and shower before heading to the airport. This time it was Bucharest or bust.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Running in Portugal

Monday, 05-05
I really had to force myself, but I managed to get on the mill and do 3 miles. It wasn't easy on those extremely tired, sore legs and feet. But I actually felt better afterwards.

Tuesday, 05-06
I went over to the City University Park / Trail system. My legs were still tired and sore, but I sure needed to get moving. I've run here many times before - the longest route is 1.55 miles around the perimeter. There are other trails in the center. It's a nice run - I always enjoy it. The only thing is that one can get tired of doing so many multiple loops. I did 4, and then a bit more in the center for a total of 8 miles. Each loop was a bit faster, until I got down to 8 minute pace.

Wednesday, 05-07
Two goals today: get finished early because of an early (9am!) start at work, and also to do something of substance. Another problem is that for some reason it doesn't get light until later on in these parts and I didn't want to run around the park in the dark. So I hit the mill. I did 9 x 1200 at 4:45 for each. It wasn't a bad workout - I'm still sore, but I did fine.

Thursday, 05-08
Very slow going today. I'd hoped to feel good and do 12 or so, but I went so slow, I only had time for 10 (98 minutes!. The huge hills in Monsanto park were tough, but my legs were so tired that I couldn't get going in the flat areas after the hills were done. After running around Monsanto, I headed back to the University to do a couple more miles on those flat trails. Just didn't have it today. On the plus side, however, it was a beautiful run.

Friday, 05-09
Just 3 miles on the eliptical trainer. That's it for Portugal. Too bad I didn't have the ability to run more during this stay - it's such a great place to run.

But now it's on to Prague and then Bucharest.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Next: Prague

My work schedule was not changed, so I am going to run Prague. I've never done an international marathon before, except for Detroit, which ventures into Canada. And Prague itself is truly wonderful. So I ought to be extremely excited.

But after the emotional and physical smorgasbord that was known as the Green Jewel, my heart and head just aren't into it. This is not to mention my legs and feet.

It's early Tuesday morning here in Lisbon (another great place, by the way) and I'm going to try to head out for a run.

I'm taking this one baby step at a time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


When I first began running in the 1970’s, I’d meet up with friends to run in the Cleveland Metroparks. At about this time, I looked at a map and thought: wouldn’t it be cool to run the entire chain of parks that form the “Emerald Necklace” around Cleveland? It never occurred to me that the distance involved – 70 to 80 miles by my reckoning back then – would be a problem at all. I hadn’t yet run my first marathon at this point; distance was no big deal. The main reason I never attempted such a run is that I simply never got around to it. I figured the day for this would come, however.

Time passed. I moved away. I moved back. I ran marathons and dabbled in a couple ultras. As I found myself running in the metroparks again, I began thinking of running the Necklace again. But I still never got around to it. Perhaps the day would still come. Then I received the email about the “Green Jewel” 50k and 100k runs from Vince Rucci and Joe Jurczyk. That’s 31 and 62 miles for the metricly-challenged. This was what I’d been waiting for my entire running life that spans 33 or so years. Someone – guys who know how to put on races such as this – had finally gotten around to it.

So of course I was ecstatic. There was only one very small, itsy bitsy little problem: I’d have to fly to Lisbon, Portugal for work on that very same day. I picked the latest possible departure, 5:50pm, even though this would make for a more circuitous route – through Memphis and Amsterdam. 5:50 would give me ample time to finish, would it not?

• How late can Dan leave from North Chagrin Reservation and still make it to the airport in time for his international check-in? Figure 4pm, assuming a 45-minute trip, and the fact that international check-in in Cleveland really doesn’t require the two hours they say it does. Arriving at 4:45 ought to give me enough time.
• What time would Dan need to finish, in order to leave at 4pm? Say, 3:30 if Dan stops at a nearby friend’s house for a shower, or 3:45 if Dan was to attempt to clean up with baby-wipes, towels soap, and a couple gallons of water. Going home for a shower is so far out of the way that this idea was eliminated from the list of possible options. Add to the mix here that Dan would also need to bear in mind that the parking area was a half-mile away from the finish.
• Would Dan be capable of beginning the 5am race on time, and completing the 100k by 3:45pm? Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter. Here’s the math: Dan did two 50-mile runs in just about the same time: 8 hours, 25 minutes or so, roughly 10 minutes per mile. If Dan ran this same pace (not a sure bet), and then managed to run the final 12 miles at 10 minutes per mile, or two hours (also not a sure bet), that gives Dan a possible finishing time of about 10 and a half hours. And this would bring Dan in at 3:30pm. Cutting it a bit close, wouldn’t you say?
• Would any other alternatives be worth considering? Yes, but.. The most obvious and practical alternative was to run the 50k and call it a day. But Dan really wanted to do the whole enchilada. Another possibility was to begin 60 to 90 minutes early. Since it was a “fun run”, Vince said this would be ok. The only problem is that I’d have no support unless Debbie did it, or until I was slowing enough for the late aid stations to become situated. Thus the answer to this story problem is: Naaah.

The number of starters was somewhere in the teens. Among them was several very accomplished ultrarunners, some of whom I already knew. This didn’t matter too much to me; after all, I wouldn’t be contending for the win or anything of the sort. No, I only had to finish by 3:45. After a brief delay (causing me to think about running a second or two faster per mile), I kissed Debbie goodbye and away we went.

The run would be mostly on all purpose asphalt trail. There would be some roads and about 3 miles of towpath. The start was at the Rocky River Marina, and we were to proceed south through Rocky River and Mill Stream Run Reservations and then eventually east to Brecksville Reservation, Northeast through Bedford and South Chagrin Reservations before finally turning due north along Chagrin River Road to finish at North Chagrin Reservation. Debbie was to drop me off at the start, head home for a while and then meet me at the 49-mile aid station and support me from there until the finish. At that point she would, of course, drive me to the airport. This way, I would be able to stop and quit if 3:45pm was to occur before I arrived at the finish. I didn’t want to DNF, but I would if I had to in order to make my flight. Sound like a plan?

As of the start, the predicted rain seemed to be holding off. It did begin to drizzle after an hour or two. And then it almost never stopped. But early on it was light, and the temperatures were in the 60s, so it didn’t bother us much. I ran with the lead pack, generally Dave, Lloyd and Kevin. I was running much faster than necessary – about 8:30 to 8:45 per mile - but I felt fine and I didn’t think it would hurt me. Would it? Lloyd dropped back, and later on, Dave did as well. I ran several miles with Kevin, who’d done only one other ultra. He hadn’t even planned to go as far as 50k, but was only trying to do a long run in preparation for the Cleveland Marathon. I think he did manage to finish the 50k, but I’m not sure because he dropped back at about mile 26.

Now I was running alone, and a thought occurred to me: I could quit at 50k in Brecksville, and be the winner; the 50k champion! Although I’d won one other low-key ultra, another long-time goal of mine has been to actually win a race of any kind. No matter whether it’s some small fun-run; I just want to win! And I could do it by simply quitting as I came to the Brecksville aid station. The temptation was very strong. But so was the desire to do the whole Necklace. So whereas I was sure a couple of those ultra legends behind me would pass me up in the second half, relegating me to some kind of top-5 finish, I still wanted the whole enchilada.

So on I went. I had felt fine at that half-way point, and my time, something like 4:40, was downright good. This is just over 9 minutes per mile. I’d been running faster than this, but as always I’d lost a lot of time at the aid stations. I knew I’d slow down in the second half because the hills were much tougher there.

And so I did and so they were. Getting up into Bedford Reservation was tough, and my pace slowed considerably. I walked a couple of the very steep sections. But I was still moving forward, and I still saw no sign of Dave or Lloyd or anyone else except Vince and Joe. These guys worked their butts off, leapfrogging each other to set up the aid stations. Along the parkway past Bedford, Joe stopped to let me know that there would be none of the planned aid at mile 49 (Harper Rd), but that there would be aid at the last station at the Polo Grounds. I said this was fine because Debbie would be around to help me by that time.

The rain was making it tougher, and my miles slowed even more on the parkway. Now I was doing 9 and 10 minute miles, with a couple even slower. I still wasn’t worried – I told Debbie at 49 that I thought I’d make it, especially now that she was there to support me. 50 miles went by in 7 hours, 50 minutes. I picked up the pace going downhill through South Chagrin, but then slowed for some of the rolling hills along Chagrin River Road. I’d be on this beautiful but narrow and dangerous road for about 9 and a half of the final 11 miles. Debbie stopped every 2 or three miles to give me water and food. It was rolling terrain; I’d slow down or walk the uphill sections, but then run at a still decent pace for the downhills.

Just when I was starting to become really optimistic – about not only finishing, but possibly even winning – something really funny happened. Debbie disappeared! We’d agreed that she would meet me in the quaint village of Gates Mills for more aid, and I ran right through without seeing her at all. Oh well, I thought, maybe she’s just on up ahead. I went up an extremely long, tough hill; one that I hadn’t expected. I was walking in the now-driving rain when Vince drove by. We exchanged a couple words and agreed to see each other at the finish.

The big hill finally ended, and I crossed Mayfield Road, but one thing didn’t seem quite right. The sign there indicated that I was on Old Mill Road, whereas I thought I was to stay on Chagrin River Road. But I had certainly not made any turns, and surely Vince would have told me if I was off course. So I continued on across – I knew I was heading north, so things couldn’t be that bad, could they? Yes, they could. About a mile later I came to a “no outlet” sign. The only option was to turn left, but I knew that wasn’t correct either. I was at mile 59, and possibly nowhere near the finish! Worst of all, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do. Knock on someone’s door to ask directions? At that point God sent a cop down the road, so I flagged him down to ask directions. I knew I needed to get to North Chagrin Reservations just north of Wilson Mills Road. There was no easy way, but I could take the left back down to Mayfield Road, then take SOM Center road up to Wilson Mills and find the finish from there.

I knew that this was miles and miles out of my way. But, thought I, it’s the only sure way to get there. At least I was familiar with it. The skies opened up for the hardest rain yet. It came down sideways, and it now felt cold. But I was running fast. I was only doing 9-minute miles according to my GPS, but they were much faster than the previous 10 or so and they felt like some sort of land speed record. Would I make it in time? Where in the world did I go wrong? Would I even find Debbie?

At least the last answer was yes – she saw me as she was driving along SOM Center. We were both very surprised to see each other. I told her to park at the pool as instructed, and that I’d go and finish and then come back and we’d leave. I still didn’t know if I’d make it, but, eventually, I did. My GPS told me I’d done 64.5 miles in 10 hours, 25 minutes. I didn’t really expect a huge throng of people; this wasn’t quite like winning the Boston Marathon. But there was no one; not one person around. No one to acknowledge that I’d won. Very strange. I looked for a while, but eventually had to get going. It was 3:34 pm, and I still had to run the ½ mile back to the car. I started doing the baby-wipe thing at 4:40, doing some changing in the car as Debbie drove me to the airport. We called Vince to report my winning time; he was heading over to the finish.

Debbie and I figured out how I’d gotten off course: in Gates Mills Chagrin River Road turns right, goes across a bridge, and then continues north. In the rain I didn’t see the sign and just went straight. This was then Old Mill Road that took me up the hill. Debbie had parked and was walking over to the bridge to tell me about it, but I must’ve come by before she could get there from where she’d parked the other side.

I made it to the airport in time and I don’t think I smelled too bad. Baby wipes are wonderful. However, of all the suggested post ultramarathon recovery procedures, such as ice, rest and massage, spending 13 hours in airplanes and traveling through 4 airports immediately after the run is not one of those that is high on the list.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...