Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Doubts

After some long runs of 30, 30 and 40 miles, I was feeling pretty good about my chances of running well at the Freedom Park New Year's Eve 24-Hour Run in North Carolina. Inevitably, I'm not so confident as the day approaches. For one thing, as always I ate too much during the Christmas holidays, and I'm feeling sluggish as a result. But the worst thing is the weather. I've been saying right along that I wouldn't mind it being cold, but cold rain, snow or ice would be very bad. And guess what? That's what's in the forecast.

I guess I'll just have to make the best of what nature gives me. I need to relax and not worry so much about my performance. My mantra: don't worry about how far or fast, just run and have fun.

Last Saturday there were a bunch of us MCRR folks down on the towpath, and along with Dave, we did the usual 14 mile route. It wasn't as fast as last time, but it was still pretty good. I did nine on Sunday, including a 4-mile tempo run. And today I did 11 on the mill because there was yucchy snow outside.

Back to the holidays, they were really nice. Iris and Mike and Iris' Mom a couple days prior, Sandy and Nancy's for Christmas Eve, John and Jill's for Christmas day, then Val came in and we partied some more with folks coming over Sunday. Party, party, party. Now I'll party my way down to North Carolina!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Voices and Me

They are nothing if not consistent, those voices. All week they’d been telling me to do a 14-miler on the towpath on Saturday, followed by a really long run of 30 to 40 miles on Sunday. They never wavered. Thus I found myself going a long, long way this morning. But let’s start at the beginning.

The voices can be good (“go for it - you can do it”), or evil (“you’re having a bad day, so you may as well quit right now”). Much of the time, I’m not entirely sure whether they are good or evil. When they say something like, run about 50 miles over a weekend, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Some would probably simply classify it as a stupid thing, and I don’t have a good come-back for that. Except perhaps to say, lookyahere: I’m planning to be running even more than that on New Year’s Eve, and I’ve got to be ready. I do know that I have to do what they say, because I don’t know what would happen otherwise.

The weekend of running began with Saturday’s run. At Station Road Bridge, I met up with Ladd, Debbie, Dan DeRosha and Chuck. We did what is a familiar route for me: south to Lock 29 in Peninsula and back. It’s 14 miles of familiar towpath trail. The inch or so of snow didn’t bother us as we started out slower than nine minute pace, gradually picking it up the whole way. Chuck picked it up even more with about 4 to go, and I went with him because the voices told me to. Our last three miles were all under seven minute pace, something I haven’t managed to do in a couple weeks. Would I be able to recover from this towpath trail tempo trot in order to run long the next day? I felt tired, but otherwise fine. Time would tell.

Good thing I got a nap because Saturday night’s MCRR party at Second Sole went on till 10pm – way past my bedtime. Good time, by the way. Why would my bedtime be so early, you ask? Because the voices are also consistent about telling me to get up extremely early for my runs, and the longer the run the earlier the start has to be. This is another area where the voices work in mysterious ways. My best guess is that they don’t want me to spend the entire day out running.

It was about 3:18am when first the alarm, and then the voices, told me to get out of bed. Even though yesterday’s run on an inch of snow on the towpath wasn’t bad at all, I wasn’t excited about seeing the same thing this morning. Actually the snow is fine; it’s the accompanying ice and slush that I dislike. The voices know that I feel this way, so they told me it was ok to begin my run on the treadmill. Working with the voices, I had refined my plan a bit: I’d do something on the order of six 6-mile segments. Yes, for some reason, 36 total miles sounded about right to both the voices and me. I had been thinking of doing my outdoor 6-mile loop those six times. Now on the mill, I thought I’d take a break every six miles, although I’d still have to figure out how many such segments to do before heading outside. At each break, I’d chug some Vitargo that I’d mixed on Saturday. Vitargo is pure carbohydrate with no sugar that you can supposedly take gallons of without upsetting your stomach. It has to be mixed well, preferably in a blender. Another thing going on was the brand new shoes: Nike Lunar Glides for the mill work, and another pair of Pegasus 25’s for the outside stuff. I’d really liked my previous pair of Pegs.

I fired up the mill at 3:55am, turned on a movie, and quickly got down to 7:30 to 8 minute pace with .5% elevation. I pretty much stuck to that pace and to my plan to break every 6 miles. I found myself staying on the mill longer than I thought I would. In the process, I watched a Val Kilmer movie where he was an assassin with amnesia who was supposed to kill the president, a really silly documentary where Ben Stein compared some professor’s firing to the Berlin Wall. The professor had taught about “Intelligent Design”. We don’t waste our time arguing about the world being flat, or at the center of the universe anymore because these concepts are so totally disproven; to continue their debate would waste everyone’s time. It’s exactly the same with creationism and climate change denial. There is simply no scientific evidence to support the concepts (they’re not even theories), and yet some people want to continue to ‘debate’ them. And everyone’s time is, indeed, wasted. Except mine; I was getting my miles in. I also watched part of a Denzel Washington / Whitney Houston movie, and a bit of Fox News, where they had a "debate" about whether climate change was real.

Before I knew it, I was getting a lot of mill miles in. The most I’d ever done was 24. This day I stepped off the mill at… 24 miles, and then prepared to finally go outside. It was 7:20 or so; I’d done pretty good so far. I think the Vitargo had helped. By the time I’d gotten my clothes over my sweaty body and got outside, over a half-hour had gone by. The other breaks had been much more efficient. I had also put the Pegs on – my feet had begun to take a beating from the Lunar Glides. The Pegs felt better.

As I started out, the voices informed me that it wasn’t a good idea to continue with the plan of doing two more six-mile segments. Since that last break had taken so long, perhaps it would be better to simply stay away from home for the entire final 12 miles. In retrospect, I think the voices were incorrect about this one, but at the time, I did as suggested.

Running through jello. Know the feeling? I knew those first few outside miles were slow, but I didn’t know how slow until I glanced at my watch at mile three: 28 minutes. It occurred to me that it would be a long morning. But then something funny happened: I started running faster. As I did one loop around the high school, and then ran up to and around North Park, the miles got faster and faster. Not blazing fast, mind you, but down close to 8 minute pace. The final four miles home were a little slower again, but still under nine minute pace.

Why did I think the voices were wrong about my ability to take a break and get back on the road? Because I was able to do so, for four more after the twelve. Even the extra four (on my familiar four-mile loop course) were pretty good – about 8:30 per mile. So the entire 16 outside miles were completed in two hours and nineteen and a half minutes. Add this to the 24 mill miles, and you have a pretty good day of running.

Now I think I’m ready for the 24-hour run, if only the weather will be good for us. Let’s hope the voices cooperate.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Donning Our Gay Apparel



Last night was the holiday beer/cheer run with the Medina County Road Runners. Everyone dressed for the occasion, including me. Yes, my apparel was pretty darned gay. But then, so was everyone else’s. I stayed away from the drinks at the couple of bars we visited, but I did partake in the running and caroling. Anyone who saw me would be hard-pressed to agree that I was really sober.

We didn’t run very far last night, but it’s been a good week, mileage-wise. I didn’t run last Saturday because I was flying back from Boston. So Sunday was to be another big day, and it was. Like the previous week, I started early at Hinckley, and was joined at 5am by Dan D. and Ladd (who was new for this week). Also like last week I did nine three+ mile loops and enough extra miles to call it a 30-mile day. But this 30-miler was much slower than that of the previous week: 4:50+ as opposed to 4:30. The reason for the slow running is the cold and freezing rain that was with us for most of the run. The worst part was the slippery footing. Good thing I had those other guys with me because on this day, it would have been really easy to quit and go home early.

Not only did Sunday’s run go slowly, it also beat me up quite a bit. I took Monday off, but managed to run 10-11 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Some of those runs were pretty darn cold. No stellar performances, but I am getting those miles in.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Running in Beantown (no, it’s not the Big One)

The Big One will be next April. This was just a one-week gig for work. And speaking of work, I spent much of the time navigating my way between several offices located around the city. I decided to stay in Quincy because it was at least somewhat close to some of the offices.

Unfortunately, Quincy isn’t the greatest running area. Boston does have some wonderful running routes, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get to them from the hotel. But then things turned out slightly different than expected.

Wednesday’s run was about as expected. I wanted to get 10 in, and I did. Those 10 came and went without me going too far from the hotel. It was snowing when I started, and the snow became heavier throughout the run, so the last thing I wanted to do was venture too far. The solution was to run multiple ¾ mile loops around the office park. Add to those loops several runs up and down the hill leading to the Marriott, and you have your 10 miles.

Thursday’s run was more adventurous. Waking up at 2am, getting out of bed at 3:15, and out the door at 4:30, I thought I could get a long one in. And a long one it was, although I had to call it quits after 2 hours, 42 minutes. I simply ran out of time. So with the slow pace I’m calling it 18 miles. The course turned out to be a good one for running after all. Down Center Street into Quincy, then onto the Furnace Brook Parkway for several miles. Other miles along Quincy Harbor and Wallston beach. These all turned out to be pretty durn good routes for running. All-in-all it was a pretty nice run. Slow, but nice.

I'll probably do a couple more tomorrow.

Monday, December 07, 2009

FWIW

"How should I train for the 24-Hour Run?" wondered Dan DeRosha.

There's something about the phrase, "For What It's Worth", that I really like. It's a shorthand way of saying, "You may want to disregard everything I'm about to say, but in the event that you do still want to listen, here it is..." Or, "I may not be the best authority to give the following advice, here it is..." And so on... In this case, I certainly did qualify my response. Of course that qualification included the fact that my previous experience with 24-Hour runs has been to a) run one with really lousy results, and b) be the race director of one that I didn't run at all. With those caveats, I gave the following advice: "Run a lot."

Back in the seventies, when running was at best a fringe activity, and running marathons was truly "out there", a friend and I trained for and ran the first Cleveland Marathon. As someone queried, "Wow, a marathon! How did you train for it?", my training partner, who did not want to waste the effort of explaining his training regimen to someone who wouldn't understand, or really care anyway, answered, "I ran a lot". Now it was definitely not my intention to brush Dan off with such an attitude. In fact, I was quite serious: to train to run a lot, you ought to... run a lot.

And over this past weekend, run a lot we did. On Saturday we hit the towpath along with Dave. I did 14, while Dan went on to do several more. These miles were at a really good pace; well under 8 mpm for the last few.

Sunday Dan and I got together again, this time at Hinckley. It was cold and dark at 5am, but that was to be expected. We did seven (I think) 3+ mile loops around the lake. Some were on the all-purpose trail, and some on the dirt lake trail. I even did a couple more - enough to call it 30 miles in all.

Today I did 10 more miles. Although these were slow, I'm very happy that I could run at all, given the past weekend.

So yes, FWIW, I've been running a lot.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

After some peer pressure from Ladd and Dan D., I signed up for the Freedom Park New Years Eve 24-Hour Run. To be honest, that peer pressure went both ways; I had been looking at the race myself. The problem is, now I have to train for it.

My first ultra, and my only other 24-hour run was Olander Park in Toledo, about 17 years ago. I had had a very good running year, but I did not take that particular race seriously. It was more of a lark type thing. As one may expect from such a thing, the run did not go well at all for me. I got 51 miles in, but I quit running and went home after 10 1/2 hours. I actually got depressed from running in the dark. Some of my other ultras have gone better because I've actually trained for them.

I pledge to train for this one. I plan to get a couple 30-mile runs in, but I'll have to make sure to have the time (and weather) on my side. If I mess up this one, it won't be for lack of training and trying.

This week's running has gone better than last week's. I did a lousy 4 on Sunday, and then 22 Monday. That Monday run was broken up as two 6-mile loops and then 10 on the dreadmill. The outside stuff went well, but the treadmill part didn't. At least I got through it. Tuesday was better. I did 11 with the early morning Medina group, and then hit the track with them again in the evening for some 400s and 800s.

After a day off, I hit the roads again this morning for 13 miles, some of which were loops around the high school. I'm trying to get used to running in circles, you see. It wasn't a bad run - I averaged about 8:15 or so.

I may do my first 30-miler as early as this Sunday.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

Yes, Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is more of a season than a day. And let me be clear: I like it that way. This is the holiday when it's only about family getting together. IMHO, it's the best of all holidays.

Veronica stayed with us for a week, and it was wonderful to have her around. She helped out a whole lot, especially with the preparations for Thanksgiving Day itself. Valerie and Barry made it in on Thanksgiving Eve, as did the usual bunch for Thanksgiving Eve dinner featuring my two lasagnas. We also had the usual bunch for Thanksgiving Day itself. Lots of fun and good food. No one starved.

Barry and Veronica ventured out before 5am on Black Friday. They did get the deals they were after, as well as a GPS for us. Then we all went to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens where they had Christmas displays and their usual indoor gardens. I think that turned out to be a good activity for everyone.

Valerie left Friday, and Barry and Veronica went home Saturday. The house is nearly (except for Mom) empty again. Sigh.

Did I run during the week, you ask? Yes, but poorly. After that pretty-good half marathon, my runs were slow and then got worse. Worst of all was an 11-miler on Black Friday morning. We got a snowstorm, with about 3 inches falling during the run. I often used to enjoy these kinds of runs in new snow, but I wasn't dressed properly, and this one turned out to be miserable.

To recap, it was a wonderful week with the family, not so wonderful running-wise. I did manage to get my 70 miles in however. And I should be thankful that I'm not injured. All I really need to do is continue to maintain this mileage level, and also lose those extra ten or so pounds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 CWRRC Fall Classic Half Marathon


Ninety Minutes. It wasn't too big a deal for much of my running career. I even broke 90 for a tough half (Stomp the Grapes) last year. But this year has been even more mediocre than last, and I haven't come close for the two halves I've run. Therefore today's expectations weren't high: to run around 92 minutes. Even that seemed a bit ambitious. That's 7 minutes per mile, and it's what I did here last year on a cold day. Yes, if I could do 92 minutes today, it would be a good one.

Temperatures were nice - low 40s and some fog. I started a little too fast, but I felt good the whole time, so I stayed with it. I came through the half-way point at around 44 and a half minutes. This was going better than expected. I did begin to slow down a bit in the second half. A couple energy gels perked me up some, and I did pick it back up, but I never got the pace back to as fast as those first few miles.

I passed a few runners in the final miles, and was closing in on a guy who looked to be in my age group, when we suddenly ran out of real estate. He was in my age group, so I missed out on an AG win by about 10 seconds. Sound familiar? My last three longer races have been like that, except that I did win one of the three. Although I did not manage to break 90, my 90:42 time was a good one. I'll definitely take it.

One other thing to add: I absolutely love this race. I see so many new and old friends that it's like a homecoming run. I'll never stop doing it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long on Lester, Achieving Eightness, and Other Stories

After Saturday's 14 on the towpath I hit the trail again on Sunday. This time it was the Lester Rail Trail for my usual four loops of six miles. I say usual because that's usually what I do run there. It has, however, been a while since I've run there. It's much simpler to just run from home, but I like the softer surface of the trail as well as the lack of traffic. The goal was, as usual, to run each loop a little faster, and this time I succeeded: the approximate times were something on the order of: 54.5, 51.5, 50, 47.5 minutes. Good trend. I'm reasonably happy with it.

It took a lot, however, to get down to eight minute pace for that last lap. This has been the case quite a bit lately: it's just tough to run the kind of speeds that used to be routine a couple years ago. In fact, it wasn't so far back in the past when I would average eight minute pace for the entire year! This year my average pace per mile has been hovering around 8 and a half. Is it any wonder that my race times are also slower?

How was the rest of the week, you ask. It's been going ok, and I'm reasonably happy with it. Slow going Monday morning and then evening with the MCRR gang prior to the meeting (and it was a good meeting, with Mark Croghan as the speaker). A little better for Tuesday's twelve, and then better still today (Wednesday): I just barely managed a tempo run as part of the 11-mile course, which I completed, along with an additional three, at exactly eight-minute pace.

I signed up for the Fall Classic Half this Sunday, and then just yesterday learned that there's a little 5k in Brunswick on Saturday. Now running the 5k would probably slow me down to some extent for the half. But I'd like to do the 5k, and I really don't know how much slowing would occur. Decision time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Floors and Countertops and Appliances, Oh My

As with the countertops, the floors - just finished a couple days ago - look great. The scary part is that some of the bills are now starting to come through. Then there's the really scary electrical problem the other day - the light fixture in the back bedroom shorted out two circuits. Oh and the weird car problems. You'd think it was Halloween again. I got it- it was all the stuff leading up to yesterday: Friday the Thirteenth. Scary.

We visited with Mike and Iris and Bob and Linda at the Rafalski's last night. Lots of laughs.

Taking Mom out for her birthday tomorrow.

Recent Running

After Monday's long run, I took Tuesday off, ran my 11-mile loop on Wednesday, including a pretty-good tempo portion, and then on Thursday drove to AND FROM the Stop&Go to run with the MCRR gang. I also ran a few extra with Ladd afterwards. Friday was an off-day, so I felt fairly well-rested for today's run on the towpath with Dave. We did the usual - from Station Rd. to Peninsula and back for a 14-mile total. And it wasn't a bad run at all - about 61 minutes out and 54 back. Now I will try to recover for a long run tomorrow.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Joke and The Challenge

After last week's fiasco with being locked out of the car and having to run home, Ladd, Chuck and I joked about me running all the way to the Stop&Go, running the loop with the MCCR gang, and then running back home for a grand total distance of 26 miles.

But then yesterday I started to think about it. I had been considering a long run for sometime during the week. Monday would be a good day for it because the weather would be good and I could work around any possible conflicts. And I like to try different things to inject some adventure into my running. Some, but not too much. So at some point during my muddled thinking yesterday, this whole concept began to change from a joke to a challenge. It would be tough: I'd have to leave the house by 3:30am to arrive in time for the 5:05am start. I'd have to plan for my hydration, fueling and bathroom needs. I'd have to run fast enough to get there on time, and then fast enough to get home by 8am. Yes, it would be a challenge for sure.

Awake before 3am, I was out of the house and running by 3:33. I didn't think that nine minute miles would be a problem, but there was that pit stop along the way. Arriving after everyone left would be a disappointment. I had started fairly slowly, but got faster as I went on. I could still feel yesterday's race in my old legs. But at least I was moving in the right direction. I made it with a couple minutes to spare.

Jeannine, Ladd, Marsha, Steve, Chuck, Shelby and I had a nice run together. The only thing was that it felt like a fast pace but it turned out that it really wasn't. We were several minutes slower than last week's run, but it still felt pretty durn fast. Of course everyone thought I was nuts. "Last week I forgot the keys, this week I forgot the car." And so on. Afterwards we talked a bit, and Jeannine donated some water. I took a gel and used the restroom before continuing my Odyssey.

Now I had to get home, and I had an hour forty-five to do it. At least I knew the distance. I started slow, but once I got north of the Medina square, I felt better and began to run better. I took one last gel with some water at the golf course and then embarked on the final 4.5 mile leg up Hamilton and Substation. By about 7am, the traffic was picking up, making the running less safe and definitely less pleasant.

By about 7:45am, I was back home. The last 10 were a bit slower than the first 10, but not by much. The challenge was met. I don't think I'll feel the need to do this particular sort of thing again, thank you. Now excuse me; it's time for a nap.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dick's Horseradish 5K

Run the course, run the race, run the course. That always seems to be the plan for 5k runs, especially when Connie is involved. Today it was Ladd, Chuck and I, along with Connie making the trip to Canton to run Dick's Horseradish 5K. The weather was perfect - just about 50F and clear.

After the warmup run of the course, we started the race. As always, there was a mad sprint at the start. I was determined not to start too fast, and I didn't. The first mile, the hilliest, as in about 6:27. The second mile was close to the same. I felt pretty good, so I tried to pick it up for the third mile. It turned out to be only a little faster than the first two, but just enough to pass a few folks, including Connie just before the finish. "You're not going to let an old man beat you, are you?" I shouted as I went by. She only replied, "you're not old!". I think she lies. I was also trying to catch Ladd and Chuck, but I wasn't able to.

I hit my watch as I crossed the line: 19:59. I usually lose a second or two somewhere, and sure enough, the official results did show me at 20:02 or something like that. Oh well. I wound up second in the age group. Don Cassidy was first. Oh well.

It was my best 5k in a couple years, so I'm pretty happy with it.

I

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Stupid Dan Tricks, Number 3,247

Today's plan was to run 6.2 miles at 5am with some of my MCRR friends. We met at Stop&Go at Sturbridge and Rte 3, south of Medina. And we had a very nice brisk run, finishing the hilly 10k loop in a bit over 50 minutes. Afterwards, we talked for a couple minutes and everyone left. I then realized I had locked my keys in the car.

Now it was a bit after 6am, and I was ten to twelve miles (wasn't at all sure) from home. I didn't want to wake Debbie up, but I did have to get home by 8am for a meeting. Would I make it? Only one way to find out.

Luckily, it wasn't as far south as I thought, and I was into Medina in no time. Then it was past Walmart, Second Sole, and up to Hamilton. At this point I knew I was only 4.5 miles from home (via Substation) and I'd been running at a good clip, so I'd make it in good time. Of course I did slow down for those final miles on Substation, but I did make it.

Final tally: 9.91 miles in 83 minutes. Only the final four were slower than 8 minute pace.

Other stupid Dan tricks: after Sunday's marathon, I did a couple on the mill on Monday and didn't feel too bad. On Tuesday, I DID feel bad as I did my 11-mile loop at an excruciatingly slow 9 minutes per mile. Wednesday was decidedly much better: I did my 12-mile route to/around North Park under 8.5 minutes per mile, with a nice strong finish.

Now I have almost all the miles I wanted for the week and it's only Thursday. I DO need a rest.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Inland Trail Marathon

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: *almost* nothing feels as good as running strong at the end of a marathon. It had been a while: nearly all my recent efforts have been marked by either a gradual slowdown or an outright crash and burn. But I was determined not to let that happen at today's Inland Trail Marathon. I would be running it for the third consecutive year of the four years of its existence. It is fairly scenic, very straight, very flat and very well managed for such a small race. I always run fairly well there, in part because the weather's always perfect.

Today was no exception on any of those counts. The weather was once again exceptional: mostly cloudy with very light winds and temperatures in the forties. I ran most of the first half with Chuck D. We both wanted to pick it up about half-way, but we both figured that Chuck would pick it up faster than me. I hit that half-way mark on this out and back course at about 1:42. I had been thinking that it would be 1:40 and that a 3:20 finish would be nice. Regardless of the time, I just wanted to be strong through the finish.

Chuck was well ahead of me as I turned and picked it up to a 7:30 to 7:45 per mile pace. He ended up with a great second half and a great all-round effort. I think I hit mile 20 at about 2:33 or 2:34, and I picked it up just a bit more, to 7:30 or better for each of the final 6 miles. I passed several people, including one guy who turned out to be in my age group. I finished very strong and crossed the line in 3:20:30, good for the age group win. Note that the opposite occurred (I was the one passed in the final mile) at the Towpath Marathon a couple weeks ago.

It may be obvious, but I'm very happy with this one. I finally did what I thought I was capable of, and I actually got that rush as I finished strong. Just to temper that optimism just a bit, here's a disturbing trend of my Inland Trail times for the past three years: 2007: 3:14, 2008: 3:17, 2009: 3:20. I'll try to reverse this in 2010.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Near Tempo Experiences (NTE's)

Near Death Experiences (NDE's) are well documented cases where people near death experience various visions. You can guess what a Near Tempo Experience would be - a close, but unsuccessful encounter with a tempo run. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I've always defined a tempo run as three or more consecutive sub-seven minute miles. Tempo runs were never really easy, and I've had other attempts that failed. But by and large, most of the time, when I wanted to do one, I could do it.

Not so lately. I've recently had more failures than successes. A failure would be any of the three miles at over seven minute pace. Today's run was a case in point. Twice I tried to get down to seven-minute pace, and twice I failed. Not that the ten-miler in 79 minutes was bad, mind you, it just wasn't as good, or as tempo-y as I wanted.

Signing up for Sunday's Inland Trail Marathon. It won't be one of my fastest.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Felt Like I was Flying

I felt surprisingly good this morning. Got out early and did my 11-mile loop, followed by my 3-mile loop. The running was strong and smooth, and I felt like I could keep on going and going. That's the good news. Only one little problem: these things called chronometers. They time your activity, and when that time/duration is combined with a known distance, your running speed is determined. And that running speed on this day when I felt like I was flying, pretty much told me just the opposite: that I was grounded. So whereas, for these sorts of training runs, on a good day when I'm in really good shape I'd average around 7:30 per mile, and on a good day when I'm in decent shape, which is as good as I got this year, I'd average about 8 minutes per mile, and on a good day these days, I averaged about 8:20 per mile. A month or two ago, I'd be disappointed to run so slow when I felt so fast, but today I'll just have to take what I can get.

Since I did feel so good for today's run, I probably *will* run the Inland Trail Marathon this Sunday. I'd been leaning against it, but now I'm leaning the other way. It'll be slow, mind you. Very slow. But it would be nice to run a smooth, strong, pain free marathon, regardless of what the chronometer says.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Run with Scissors


Training since the Towpath Marathon two weeks ago has been pretty abysmal. That cold didn't help, but even since it's been better, the running hasn't improved. But maybe it would all come together for Run with Scissors.

Since Roy Heger was such a great help for NC24, I asked what I could do to help with is race, Run with Scissors. He said, "run it". In other words, he needed runners more than he needed helpers. So although I knew that RWS is not my type of race, I lined up, and figured I might as well do the double, not the single marathon. After all, I ought to get my money's worth, right? Roy had made it clear that anyone could change events.

It was a cold (37F) start in the dark. I took the early start option in order to give myself enough time to do the entire 54+ miles. Note that each of the RWS "marathons" were something like 27 1/2 miles. And the reason these things aren't usually my cup of tea? The tough, tough, tough, and extremely muddy CVNP trails.

My new cheap headlamp wasn't doing too well on those trails, and it wouldn't get light for another 3 1/2 hours, so I was very lucky to catch up with Jim Fisher, who had a great little flashlight. Jim and I wound up running almost the entire way together. Nice conversations.

The pace felt easy, but soon the mountainous hills and the mud began to take their toll. I simply felt beat up. All along we talked about whether to do the double, but this seemed less likely as we kept going. At the 10/11 mile mark by the Covered Bridge they handed us scissors. At about half-way, we came upon a skeleton sitting on a chair and holding some books in the middle of a stream. We had to cut out a page and bring it back. Of course there were artistic pictures of nude models in the one book, and of course that's what I cut from.

That middle loop on the Perkins Trail turned out to be the toughest. As we returned to the covered bridge, it was beginning to get light. Now we were able to pick up the pace a bit. It felt like we were flying, but we were probably only doing 10 to 11 minute miles. We did manage to run the rest of the way at that decent pace.

Also as it got light, the great fall foliage in the valley began to really show itself. It was almost beautiful enough to make the whole thing worthwhile. Almost. As we came in at 9:35 or so, it was painfully obvious that neither of us would be heading back out for round two. We were just too beat up. Enough is enough. I'm glad I did it, but NEVER AGAIN!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Running in the Smokies and Other post-TP Running

Only slow going for the few days spent in the Smokies. It was VERY vertical there, and I was mostly shuffling around. It even took a while to find my way into the close-by park, but even that run wasn't the greatest. Another problem: a post-TP cold.

This, the following weekend is better. I did about 11 muddy trail miles with Dave and then with Roy as an orientation run at the covered bridge yesterday. Today I did the old Substation 20 mile course, and it was slow, but fairly steady.

This is another situation where I've got to train a lot and then taper for the Run with Scissors. I'm duly concerned.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Towpath Marathon 2009

The Towpath Marathon remains one of my favorites. Maybe it's just the familiarity, but the Cuyahoga Valley in general, and the towpath trail area in particular are, in my humble opinion, extremely high among the most beautiful places on the planet in which to run (or walk, or crawl or slither for that matter). The best time of year to experience the the Cuyahoga Valley is surely autumn. So it's no mystery why I like this race so much. This fall has been as beautiful as any in recent memory. Something about having plenty of rain and generally cool to average temperatures in recent weeks and months. So today the valley was ablaze in glory; a feast for the eyes. I just can't imagine a more beautiful place for a race. Add to this the great temperatures (mostly in the 40s for the entire time of the race), and you have the perfect day for a marathon.

Too bad I would actually have to run 26.2 miles to get the full enjoyment. The percentage of marathons where everything goes well - I feel good throughout, I run a steady pace but finish strong, I finish with a time that I had planned for, I place well, etc. - is exceedingly small. And the trouble is, it's getting smaller. On the other hand, the number of marathons that are complete disasters isn't that large either. The vast majority are the type where I just gradually slow down during the race, don't finish strong, and therefore fail to accomplish my time goal, whatever it is. Those goals always seem to be reasonable when I think about them before-hand. And I keep ratcheting them down toward slower and slower times.

It was fun to talk to several friends, including several from MCRR, before and during the race. Couldn't stick around afterward - I had to open the store at noon. In fact, I figured I'd have to run a 3:20 to finish at 11:20, get over to the car and drive to Medina in order to open in time. So this would be my time goal. 3:20 cand be a tall order, but I thought I just might be capable.

After starting out with Debbie Scheel, I picked it up and eventually caught up with Jim Chaney, who was practicing at 7:37 pace in order to be the 3:20 pace leader in Columbus next week. This suited me just fine, so we ran together for many of the middle miles. Went through 13.1 in 1:39+. I slowed a bit at mile 19, and Jim dropped out as planned at 20. That, of course, is where it got tough for me. Those last miles were generally painful - nothing specific, just general pain. And of course they were slower than the rest. The wheels never came off completely, but they were wobbly. I'd say the last 6 averaged between 7:50 and 8:30. I passed a few, and a couple passed me, but I was mostly running alone. In the last mile I heard footsteps behind me and picked it up to try for a strong finish. A man and a woman still managed to pass me in the final 10 yards or so. And wouldn't you know it? He was in my age group. I finished in 3:25.

A couple unknowns: 1) were there any other geezers ahead of us?, and 2) in the event that they score age groups by net time, where did that guy start in relation to me? The results aren't posted yet, but whatever will be will be. Right now I just want the pain to mercifully go away.

And remember how I figured I needed a 3:20 to get to the store by noon? With my 3:25 I got there at 12:05. Don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

NC24: A Race Director’s Perspective



It all started with a little conversation about a year ago. “We should have one around here”, said Connie Gardner. She and I had been discussing other 24-hour events. “Yeah,” I said, “I want to do one too.” Connie immediately started to say that we would be able to attract the best ultra runners in the country, including several who lived nearby in Northeast Ohio. Whoa, thought I - we weren’t even off the ground yet. But this talk did turn out to be the start of what was to become the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run.

My first call was to my friend, Joe Jurczyk. Joe has directed more ultra events than I’ve even run. Calling Joe turned out to be the best thing I did, as the race wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without him. I also contacted several other experienced ultrarunners, including Rita Barnes, Dan Fox, Roy Heger and Shannon Fisher to form the core race committee. I can’t imagine a better group of people to put on an event like this. “Anyone want the RD job, so that I can run the race?” I asked. Nope, it would be me.

Determining an appropriate location and date took longer than I thought it would. It was March before we settled on Edgewater and the first weekend in October. Edgewater is a scenic state park on the shore of Lake Erie, just a couple miles from downtown Cleveland. There is a .9 mile all-purpose trail loop. The only concern would be the wind coming off the lake – we would just have to hope for the best. The first weekend in October was one of the few early autumn weekends without some other major local marathon or ultra event.

Early on, we managed to convince the American UltraRunning Association (AUA) that we had organized our race committee and chosen a location and time frame well enough to qualify our event as the 2009 U.S. National 24-Hour Run National Championship. The AUA would have liked for us to offer substantial prize money to further legitimize the event and attract more high-profile runners, but by starting later in the year, lack of major sponsorship was a problem. I was concerned, in fact, about getting enough runners to simply break even, given our other expenses. Who would be on the hook if we didn’t? Me. Within the last couple months we finally did land some sponsorship, thanks to the hard work of committee member Charles Elkins as well as several others. And we also saw the number of race entries increase such that we eventually exceeded 100 runners.

Several of those runners signing up were the best in the country. It became very obvious that we would have a “dream” field of top runners for the event. The AUA announced that the national teams would include the top three Americans at NC24, provided that they also met a minimum standard of miles. We were also attracting a wide variety of other runners: everyone from experienced ultrarunners to those who had run marathons but nothing further and wanted to see how far they could go.

Monthly meetings became weekly ones as the race date approached. Training runs were held. I answered email questions. Meetings and other communication took place with our timer, Jim Chaney of Terry Lewis’ RS Racing Systems. The course was certified. Volunteers were recruited. Also lined up to help were Dr. Andrew Lovy and his medical students, as well as the Podiatry College. Shannon ordered the food and Roy got the generators. I helped where I could, and also kept an eye on the weather. Before we knew it, race day was upon us.

The set-up, the registration, the pre-race meeting all went by much too fast for me; it almost seemed like a blur. I’m just happy to have had all the great help from Shannon and the volunteers. I thought things would settle down as the race got going. They didn’t. There were probably too few volunteers for the first five or six hours, so I had to help at the aid station and wherever else I could. I also checked in with the Jim several times to make sure the timing was going well. And I did sneak a little time to watch the race unfold.

And watching that race unfold turned out to be a most satisfactory activity. Now and then I had to stop myself from doing something that seemed important at the time, to just think: this is what we’ve all worked so hard for. These runners were the best in the country, and here they were, doing their thing. It was incredibly exciting. All of the runners were truly an inspiration, and any of us who watched the event won’t soon forget it.

I never slept, or even sat down. Some of the runners, especially some of the top finishers could say the same thing. The one aspect of the day that we had no control over was the weather, and the weather held up just fine. There was cloudiness, some wind at times, but no appreciable rain. The temperature was mostly in the fifties. The wind calmed down during the night, so that was actually the most comfortable time. Shannon and the volunteers kept the food coming at all times.

Of course there were a few race-day glitches. The most important one was traffic control at the parking lot entrance. I had several conversations with the park rangers about that, and we eventually got it under control.

By and by I managed to talk with most of the volunteers and most of the runners. What a great bunch of people. UltraRunners rule! Eventually the event ended and for me, once again, time speeded up. We had to do the final measurements to determine the winners and places. The winners, by the way, were truly spectacular. Earlier along the way we also had to work with three age group records. For more on the race itself, check out our website. The awards ceremony went well, but of course this also felt like a blur to me.

And then it was all over, but the clean-up. Where had the last 30 hours gone? If certainly didn’t feel like a day at all. Was it worth it, and would I do it again? You bet!

Recent Running and Prep for TP

I'm not real hopeful about the upcoming Towpath Marathon. Last weekend took a real lot out of me. Not the running (I didn't do any), but just staying on my feet for 30 plus hours. But I'll still go out and do my best.

I ran 8 1-mile intervals on the mill last Friday. Still tired on Monday, I managed to do a slow 10. Yesterday was a little better: I managed to get a tempo run in during my 11-mile loop, but the rest of the run was fairly slow.

I'll try to get something decent in tomorrow, and then begin my two-day taper.

For what it's worth, I'm even less confident about the Run With Scissors event coming up later in the month.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Last Long Run Before TP

Yes, I'm registering for the Towpath Marathon. The race is October 11. Today was my last long run: 24 miles in the cold rain. It wasn't too bad at all, even though I hate cold rain.

Got out at 4:30 and did the 11-mile loop in 95 minutes. Then the fun began. After a pit stop, I went back out, heading up to North Park. Arrived (4 miles in) in 33.5 minutes, ran around for another 8.5 minute mile and then did 10 more laps around the lake, averaging about 2:50 for the .36+ mile loops. Not bad. Got back at 8 minute pace to complete the entire last 13 miles in 1:44. Pretty strong and smooth the whole way. I'm happy with it.

The strange thing is that my sprained right hand is now swollen and sprained once again. It must be from clenching it whilst running in the cold rain.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicago

No, this isn't about the upcoming Chicago Marathon. No, this isn't about Chicago's bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics. It's only about a nice family visit, with Debbie and I driving over there to see Val and Dan.

Traffic was bad, and it was worse because we decided to save on tolls, thereby taking some less desirable routes. But we made it and went out for Chicago Pizza and a movie on Friday, and Mexican food and a play ("Fake") on Saturday night. We also went to the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday (good for the laughs). All in all, it was a very nice visit.

I didn't run Saturday, but we did a *Lot* of walking around the city on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday I got out early, heading over to the lake from our Courtyard Hotel. Then I turned south and ran about 6 miles total before turning around. It was out in 51, back in 45. The sunrise, the lake and the Chicago skyline were all spectacular.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run

The NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run is becoming a full-time job. Luckily, I do have some time to devote to it these days. This is fun, but I'll be happy when it's done!
Check it out by clicking here. And check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer article.

Debbie and I managed to dismantle the counter tops and sink to prepare for the new counter tops. We've also been putting in the ceramic tile in the laundry room in preparation for the new washer and dryer.

Never a dull moment.

More Yassos, and a Long Run

Once again on Tuesday I found myself starting to do 10 x 800 at the track. My first two were just about like last week: both in 3:10. But with this week's heat and humidity and bugs (I guess they weren't midges, but they were still getting into my eyes, mouth and nose), it was tough. So there I was, really struggling, with eight more to go, when Frank showed up. Running those last 8 with someone else made all the difference. Yes, they were still tough, but I managed to get through them - something I may not have been able to do otherwise. I averaged 3:08 - just about like last week.

After some shorter stuff yesterday, I tried to get up early enough today to do 24 or so. Didn't happen - I slept in until 4:30. So ok, I probably wouldn't do 20, and I'd have to move it anyway. I did a few (actually four) on the mill before heading outside. That mill running included a 3-mile tempo run. The ten miles outside included a 3-mile tempo run consisting of 4 3/4 mile laps of the high school. When I got back home I was feeling beat, but I still had six miles to get up to 20. But traffic was getting bad, and I wanted a softer surface, so I hit the mill once again. And once again, I included a tempo run. So I got my 20 in, with some speed as well. But it really wasn't all that pretty.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hey Naked Man


Yes, that was me. an on-coming high school girl yelled that at me as I was running the out-and-back Race with Grace 5k in Medina today. And yes, I deserved it. I showed up in my pretty pastel pink/lavender/blue women's small running shorts, and I had my shirt off. The result wasn't pretty. I also took some ribbing from my friends who probably haven't seen me in them, at least not for a while.

The hilly Race with Grace was hilly. And there were some hills too. So it was a tough 5k, but it was fun to be with the gang. After a warmup that consisted of running the course, and a slower start, I did the course in 20:25, and then we all ran the course again. I was pretty happy with the performance - I wound up first in my age group and won a rose bush.

Yesterday (Saturday), Dave and I and a few others ran the towpath from Station Road to Hunt Farm and back. That's 10 miles each way. We went out in 87 minutes, and then back in 77 or so. The best part was finishing the last mile in 6:30.

So it was another decent weekend of running. I'll take it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Appliances and Mom

A couple weeks ago we got our new dishwasher. After a couple very lousy attempts, I eventually got it installed. After spending $1,000, we determined that it doesn't clean dishes very well at all. Then we figured out why: it's hooked up to COLD water. The last one was too, but maybe that one heated the water itself fast enough not to matter. We are now using the temperature boost, and things are a bit better. I'll hook it up correctly one of these days.

And now we've noticed that the washing machine leaks all over the floor. It's old, so time for a new one. Also time for lots of research on the best to get. This ain't easy.

Finally, Mom's been here for a few weeks. She's doing fine, and she puts up with all our appliance woes. Debbie interviewed Mom for StoryCorps. The interview was placed on a CD and will be at the Library of Congress.

Terrible Tempo Training Try

After last week's terrific tempo training try, I was expecting something similar today. As always, I consider any run where I do 3 or more consecutive miles under 7 minute pace a tempo run. I did last week's tempo run during miles 2-4 of my familiar 11-mile route. When I tried to do it again today, it didn't happen. I *felt* like I was running fast, but I was slow by about 30 seconds over the 3 miles. My overall time for the 11 (87 minutes) was the same as last week's.

Now I should say that I did indeed have some terrific Tuesday track training the other day. I finally got up to 10 x 800, and averaged 3:09. The important thing is that they were consistent, and I got through the entire workout.

Other than a smattering of other slower runs, there you have it: terrible and terrific all in the same week. On the whole, howeve, I think things are looking up.

Plans are for a long run Saturday and then a series 5k Sunday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Yes, It Was Interesting

I noted that I'd been running better, but that this weekend would be a test. Probably an interesting one.

And it was. Saturday I met Dave at his place and we ran a long route down into the valley, along the towpath and then back up the parkway. I was a bit concerned about that back up part. But I kept up with Dave, and we did just fine. It turned out to be about 20 and a half, and we did it in something like 2:57. Not bad, especially considering those huge hills.

Sunday was probably even more interesting. Ladd and Frank picked me up and we drove to Edgewater, arriving at 5am. We'd thought about doing 20, but had time constraints. We started slowly, but gradually picked it up. Then, as it began to get light, we started to run through some bugs. Then there were more and more of the bugs. Clouds of bugs. Bugs going into our eyes, ears, mouths, noses. Yechh. The problem subsided as the sun came up, but by then we were running out of time. We'd seen some other interesting stuff as well: a beautiful night sky and sunrise, thousands of seagulls, etc.

I did manage to run the final 4 of the .9 mile loops at a pretty good pace. Altogether I did 17 at an average of just under 8.5 min per mile. Not bad.

So that sums it up: not bad.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Running Better, But There Will Be a Test

After some really lackadaisical running early in the week, things began to pick up a bit. Speedwork wasn't so bad, but Sunday and Monday were, and I also took Wednesday off. Drinking from the firehose at work hasn't helped either.

Yesterday I got out early, started fast, and actually got down to tempo pace for three of the eleven miles. Finished in a decent 87 minutes. Not bad. Today I did 6 in 48. Not too bad for an easy day either.

The weekend should be interesting. I'll run long with Dave on Saturday. And then long again Sunday at Edgewater.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Drinking from the Fire Hose

That's me with work this week and last. It's cutting into my running time, $&%$#-it!

After that blue line run I was pretty beat. I did 10 on Sunday, woke up early to run on Labor-Day Monday only to fall back asleep with my running clothes on. This after 3 cups o joe. I did get in a couple that day. Yesterday I only had time for 3 in the morning, but I did make it to the track.

Had a decent speedwork session with 6 x 800 averaging about 3:08. Slow, but not too much worse than my other speed sessions.

I've got to get up early for tomorrow's run before the fire hose starts back up.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blue Line and Other Runs

Last week I was still feeling pretty darn sore. I did get 10 half-way decent miles in on Thursday.

And then came Saturday. Saturday was the day for the blue line training run. The city of Akron has a blue line along the course of their marathon. And the plan was to run it for 20 miles or so. A bunch of us MCRR runners carpooled it over. As always, it was good fun. I ran with Dan the whole way. It was tough to stay with him for the last 5, but I managed. We averaged just under 9 minutes per mile.

Today it was a slow, tired ten.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Lakes Endurance Run


I had been searching for a 50-mile or 100-kilometer race for this approximate time period, and the Great Lakes Endurance Run 50k/100k in Fayetteville, near Syracuse, NY fit the bill. The 100k race would be 8 12.5k loops on mostly dirt trails, around lakes, through forests and fields. Yes, there were some steep hills, they said, but nothing technical. From the time I signed up, I was mostly concerned about the weather. If it was to be a scorcher, I didn’t see how I’d be able to get through it. As it turned out, it wasn’t hot at all, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.

Since daughter Veronica and son-in-law Barry also live in an easterly type direction, we decided to combine our trip to Syracuse with a trip to Connecticut in order to pay a visit. Now Syracuse and Fairfield/Norwalk are a good five hours apart, but they are still both in that same direction from Cleveland.

After an early morning run, we drove through some substantial rain for a good bit of the long haul to Norwalk. Veronica and Barry are in the midst of a two-stage move – they’re in an apartment in between the selling of their condo and the buying of their house in Fairfield. We stayed in the now empty condo, sans cats as well as Barry and Veronica. Then we spent the next day (another rainy one due to the remnants of storm Danny) with Veronica as she took Friday off. Saturday morning we were able to see the place they’re buying, as the beginning of their inspection. It’s a very nice multi-level house with lots of room to grow. It does need some work, but it’s in move-in condition. Debbie is delighted.

The drive to Syracuse was also a wet one. But after we arrived, the skies really opened up. Yes, it was a gully-washer of biblical proportions. There was flooding everywhere as we went to dinner, to pick up my number and to check out the park. I had thoughts about switching to the 50k or not running at all if the downpour continued. It didn’t, so I was still stuck in the 100k. We did a fair amount of driving as I was showing Debbie the way from the hotel to the park (since she’d be going back and forth), and then becoming lost myself. Now regarding the weather, I was no longer concerned with heat, but mud and standing water. The rain did subside in the evening, but it was forecasted again for Sunday.

We arrived early enough to set up my box of supplies at the start/finish/main aid station area. It seemed that whilst I had only my Nike Pegasus road running shoes, shorts and a singlet, all or most of the other runners were adorned with full trail running regalia, including headlamps, excess water bottles or camelbacks, heavy-duty trail shoes with gators (gaiters?), etc. I felt extremely inadequate, but luckily the race got started soon enough so that I didn’t have much time to think about it.

It was still dark at 6am, but as we started running, it got light so soon that I hardly used my tiny handheld flashlight. The weather was very nice – clear and cool, probably in the low 60s. Right away, seven or so runners took off ahead of me, and everyone else sauntered slowly behind. There were about 32 starters. I talked with a couple folks during that first of the eight loops.

The park is called Green Lakes State Park due to the color of the water in the two lakes. It’s actually a very pretty turquoise color due to silt left over from the glaciers during the ice age. The course took us half-way around the first lake and then half-way around the second lake for a total of a mile and a half or so, all on soft, shaded trails. This was followed by a short, but very steep uphill section through old-growth forest until the Serengeti. The Serengeti is about four miles of single-track trail through rolling, grassy hills. Some of the higher areas afforded beautiful vistas of the surrounding hills, valleys and towns. There were two aid stations in the Serengeti (someone please tell me why runners need to carry water bottles when there are these aid stations never more than 3 miles apart). After the Serengeti the course takes the runners back down the wooded trails, back down the steep hills, and back around the opposite sides of the two lakes. The entire course was quite beautiful.

Even after walking the steep uphill sections, dodging the muddy areas and traversing the downhill ones very carefully, I finished the first loop in a good time: one hour, eleven minutes for a 9:11 minute per mile pace. This was much faster than anticipated; would I pay for it later? Time would tell. I ran mostly alone, and hardly ever saw other runners. The 120 or so 50k runners had started 45 minutes after us, but it would be a while before I encountered any of them.

Laps two and three were similar to the first one. Each was only a few seconds slower than the previous one, and this was due mostly to how much time I spent at the main aid station. Each time through I took some electrolyte tablets and tried to get some calories and fluids from the volunteers. Sometimes I lathered more anti-chafing cream or put some sun lotion on. I took mostly fluids from the two aid stations in the Serengeti. By about the third loop I began passing the slower 50k runners. During the third and forth loops I also ran several miles off and on with Randy Miller from New Jersey. Randy had run Burning River and knows Connie Gardner, but then who in the ultra-world doesn’t? Randy had also won this race in 2007. He told me things would get more interesting during laps 5, 6 and 7. I didn’t doubt him.

Debbie was back to greet me as I came in for the end of the 4th lap. I’d done 50k in 4:54. That’s pretty good; I probably would have placed fairly well for the50k. Too bad I still had another 50k to go. Debbie told me that I was 7th or 8th. My mantra, however, was, “Don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about place. Worry about finishing the race.” Having repeated this to myself several times, I couldn’t help but remember my only other 100k race. The one where I absolutely had to finish within a certain timeframe because I’d had a flight to catch. I’d done that one in 10:26, and that included an extra 3 miles of being lost. On the other hand, that was on roads, making for faster running. And this is not to mention that although there were some challenging hills for that race, they were nothing compared to these steep ones that kept on coming each time I repeated a lap. One thing I knew for sure about today’s race: the second 50k would be slower than the first. I was most definitely getting tired as the hills were taking their toll - especially the down-hill ones.

The clouds began to gather during the 5th and 6th laps, and by the end of the 6th it had begun to rain. The rain was cool and felt great. But as predicted, each lap continued to be a little slower the previous one: 1:24 for lap 5 and 1:29 for lap 6. That’s 10:54 and 11:32 minutes per mile, respectively. I was still running mostly alone, but still passing some 50k runners. There were a lot fewer of them by the time I was on my seventh loop.

Time for some more math. I know about the mantra – I was still repeating it. But on the other hand, it sure would be nice to finish in under 11 hours. To be able to say I did my 100k in ten-something just sounds better than eleven-something. I realize that this is arbitrary – I would be saying the same thing about 10 or 12 hours, had those been where I was at. But the fact that I’d done that last one in ten-something made ten-something something to shoot for once again, despite my mantra. But to break 11 hours I’d have to average 1:35 for each of the final two laps. These are slow times, but with my slowing trend, my ability to run even this fast was highly questionable. More math: a lady at a checkpoint near the end of loop 7 told me that I was in 4th place. How could that happen? I had recently passed one 100k runner that I knew of. Perhaps some of the others that I’d thought were 50k’ers were actually 100k’ers. Or perhaps some runners had dropped out. Most likely, it seemed to me, was that she was just plain wrong.

When I came in at the end of lap 7 it was raining hard. The rain had stopped for a while, but now it was back. The trails had now become much more pervasively muddy. Poor Debbie was freezing cold, but I felt great. Except, that is, for my extremely sore muscles and feet. I got some soup but tried not to linger too long; I had an hour thirty-eight minutes if I still wanted to break 11 hours. I still wasn’t sure about my place, but Debbie did tell me I was doing “great”.

Lap 8 was even more painful than 7 had been, and I was now walking even the gentle uphill sections as well as the steep downhill ones. Those downhills were killers – I almost had to stop and think about them as I was about to head down. I was still running the flats, however. The half-way point went by in about 52 minutes, which would indicate a 1:44 or so lap, which would indicate something slower than eleven hours. By now I knew I’d be able to finish no matter what – even if I had to walk the rest of the way – so I took satisfaction in that. Somewhere about half-way a runner named Mark from Florida caught and passed me. I eventually caught him again, and we ran together for a while. This was his first ultra, so I complimented him on doing so well. We agreed about how the downhills were killing us. “Let’s just get through this thing” he said, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Together we picked up the pace. As the steepest downhill approached, he let me get ahead of him, and this surprised me because I thought I’d be the one having the roughest time there. This somehow got my competitive juices flowing, and I picked up the pace even more as I started the final miles around the lakes. I was actually running fast again!

As I approached the finish I didn’t think I’d run fast enough to break 11 hours. Moreover, I wasn’t so sure I’d even able to continue to stay ahead of Mark. But I did, and I did. I finished in 10:59, or as I like to say, “ten-something”. Better yet, I finished in 4th place overall. Among the three runners ahead of me were Matt Chaffin, whom I knew by name because he is on the national 24-hour team and will be running in the NorthCoast 24-hour run, and Randy Miller, who had run a much more steady pace than I, with nearly even splits. How did he do that? Randy also took the top prize for runners 50 and older, so I was out of the money, other than a consolation prize of a padded sit-upon stadium seat.

That was really tough. I can understand why this race sees so much attrition. I’m not sure how many of the 32 starters actually finished, but quite a few, including some that had been ahead of me did not. Ultrarunners like to say that because of the generally softer surfaces as well as slower paces, ultras are much easier than marathons. After Green Lakes, I’m not so sure I still agree. Did I mention that it was tough? But the course is very pretty and the race organization was really great. Not sure whether I’ll be back, but I’d surely recommend this one to anyone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pause

By the title, Pause, I mean that this upcoming race *gives me pause*. The upcoming race, the Green Lakes Endurance Run of 100k ought to give anyone pause. But after those two 30-mile training runs, I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be. The race is this coming Sunday.

I ran the Wooster Heart and Sole half marathon with the Medina gang on Saturday and had a blast. Not one of my greatest (excuses include 7 hours in the car the previous night and catching a cold - both related to a visit to Michigan), but I was still happy with it. I ran with Rachel and Ladd for much of the race, but they pulled away in the final miles. Even so, I ran very negative splits including the final 5k in under 21 minutes, and this made it all fun. Finished in 95:59 according to my watch.

After taking Sunday off, I ran 3 times Monday and twice on Tuesday including a decent but not great speedwork session. Today I did the familiar old 11-mile course.

My cold is mostly better and my weight is back down. Best news of all is that it looks like it may be cool for Sunday's race.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Long and Hot

After deciding to do another very long run, the question was, when? I showed up for speedwork last night figuring that that meant Wednesday would be out for the long one, since I'd need more time to recover. But the track was out of commission, and I only did 3 miles of hills in Reagan park. So when I woke up *very* early, it was out the door for a long one.

Yes, I started at 3:30am. I beat most of the sun, but not the heat - it was in the 70s, and humid already. I did the 11-mile loop, then the 7-mile Sleepy Hollow route to the track. Most of this was just a bit slower than 8 1/2 minutes per mile. Once at the track I thought I'd pick it up, but I barely maintained that pace for the 9 miles I did there. The last 3 miles home were pretty durn awful - 9 1/2 minutes per mile. I was hurting.

But I got my 30 in, and the time, 4:23, although slower than last time, wasn't all that terrible.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Perfect Race

It's called the Perfect 10-Miler, and I've done every one of them since the inaugural one 5 or 6 years ago. For some reason, it's often my best run of the year, all distances considered. Connie and I surmised that this may be because it's short, but Ladd's GPS confirmed that the distance was correct today.

And today once again I did run my best race of the year. It's been a long time since I ran a race that I was proud of. Got one today. My final time was 68:40. Still slow compared to other years, but I'll take it. I'll also take the first place in my geezer age group.

It was great fun to have so many Medina area folks driving up to Lyndhurst for the race.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Short Post About a Long Run

The alarm went off at 2:55am. I was in the car by 3:30, and at the Station Road Bridge parking lot before 4:00. Yes, this it was time for another long run, this time longer than most. I had to begin training for my Green Lakes 100k run that's 2 1/2 weeks away.

Taking off on the dark towpath, I went north for 4 1/4 miles, returned to the car for refreshments, and then did it again. The second time was a little faster. Now it was 6:30: time to meet Dave.

With 17 under my belt, I told Dave that I had to get 13 more in, and that I had to do it in well under 2 hours. So we headed south and turned around just before Peninsula. I got back just in time.

I'm very happy to have this one in - not sure if I'll do another before the event. I'm lucky the weather cooperated - it was humid but cool. Best of all is that I kept the pace to a very steady 8 1/2 minutes per mile.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Committed

With all my travels this year, it's been tough to plan for any races. The best option, I recon, is to plan for something in the near future when I'm fairly sure that I'll be in town. So I did some research and came up with the Green Lakes Endurance Run 100k, in Fayettville (near Syracuse) NY. The event is August 30.

Holy cow. Did I say, 100k? That's a long way. And did I say August 30? That's 2 1/2 weeks away! I'd better start training.

I'm going to have to get a 30-mile training run in sometime this week. Looks like the best day will be Thursday. Stay tuned.

Yesterday I ran 6 on our subdivision trails in the morning and then had a very good track workout with the gang. I averaged 3:05 for my 800s, and even did two of them under 3 minutes. That's way better than what I've been doing. Been losing some weight, so maybe that's helping. Or maybe it's just that all the hard work is finally paying off.

Today I ran an easy 4 miles to loosen up. Tomorrow is the big test.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Running is Consuming my Life

Last weekend was bad; this one was just as bad.

This one started Thursday with a solid 12 that included a 3-mile tempo run around the H.S. (4 laps)

Saturday morning: run 17+ with Dave and Amy. A lot of this was on the very difficult but enjoyable Buckeye Trail. The last part was back on the towpath. Of course the trails slowed us down, but this was a decent run.

Saturday afternoon: Work at the running store as usual.

Saturday night: out to Thyme Restaurant in Medina (yummy), back for a nap, and then over to Edgewater for the NC24 training run. I didn't actually run - Debbie and I walked after we talked with the other runners - but we didn't leave until 1:30am.

Sunday morning: I started with Ladd from his house, we met Chuck at Root Middle School, then ran the rest of the five miles to Panera. Once at Panera we picked up Charles, Marsha and a few others. Then it was 16 miles on the concrete streets of Medina. I don't like concrete, but it was otherwise a nice route.

Ultimately, it was the heat that got to me. I did manage to get 25 in, but those last couple with Ladd and Chuck were pretty difficult. Happy to have this under my belt. So yeah, I'm consumed.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

When Coffee Doesn't Work

Better to start off with, "*Why* coffee doesn't work." That's easy: it's because one still isn't getting enough rest. As to the "when", that's easy too: one takes as long as two hours after getting out of bed before getting out the door, and even then running the first few miles excruciatingly slow.

That was the case today, and also on Monday after the decent amount of sleep Sunday night but the sleepless Saturday night. Monday I only did a few in the morning and then a few more at lunch. The lunchtime run was better.

Yesterday I showed up at our track workout still dragging. I did 8 x 800 with Chuck, Dan and Jack, starting slowly and then doing the last three really fast (for me). It turned out to be a pretty good workout.

Today, after not enough rest after the speedwork, the coffee didn't kick in until I hit North Park, 4 miles into my run. Until then I'd run at 9 minute pace or slower, but the 4 around the park were better at 34 minutes, and the final 4 coming home were better still at 31 1/2 minutes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Long

That describes my whole, entire day for the last two in a row. Friday I awoke early to a steady rain. Having planned to run long, and knowing full well that such a thing is competely impossible in the rain, I hit the mill. I watched an old movie on TCM as well as some other stuff, and did 24 miles in 3:05. Not bad, but I know I cannot do so well outside. Wish I could.

The long day continued at the store and in the evening when Linda and Bob and Iris and Mike came over for a bbq and then to later watch South Pacific on our new blu-ray player/theater (it had just been re-released). A late night, but nothing I couldn't handle.

Saturday would be a tougher one to handle. Here's the play-by-play:

5:00am wake-up, get ready and drive to Station Rd.
6:30am run with Dave and Amy. It's very nice of them to start up early in order to run with me. We ran an easy hour plus on the towpath like old times. Except a shorter run. I figure I got seven in before having to take off.
8:00am arrive at the Alexander Road aid station to help at the Burning River 100 Mile Run. It was kind've fun helping set up and then watching for the top runners to come by. Ran a couple miles into the course to place signs before Mark Godale came in. This was at mile 31.8, so the top runners weren't too very spread out yet. But even this is relative: they were often 15 minutes or so apart. My job was to direct traffic as the runners crossed the road. I could only stay until the first 15 or so came in; had to get to the store.
11:00am after stopping at Panera I arrive at the store wearing my BR100 volunteer t-shirt. As expected for a Saturday, it's pretty busy. I only work for a little over 3 hours.
3:00pm arrive at the Happy Days visitor center for BR100 volunteer assignment number 2. This is at mile 70.5 or something like that. All the volunteers are dressed in tie-tyed volunteer shirts and there are peace symbols everywhere. After once-again running into the woods to place signs, I settle in and kibitz with everyone. Lots of comings and goings. Once again, I only see the top 10-15 runners come through before I have to take off. At least I helped a little.
5:45pm arrive home and eat a quick dinner with Debbie. I tell her what a wonderful event the BR100 is. I tell her how much I truly enjoy being a part of it. She already knows this. I take a power nap before flying back out of the house.
8:30pm arrive at Boston Store, mile 60 point something. I am to perform a "runner sweep", which means I follow the last runner to make sure they make it on the dark trails. I wait for the last runners to come through. I find it interesting that so many hours ago I was at mile 70 watching for the top runners, and now I'm at mile 60, watching for the slowest runners. Some of them are fine, whilst others are beat. Some drop out. I wait some more.
9:55pm I take off with the last two runners, a husband and wife from Frederickm MD, who are running together. We do a fast walk on the trails of which I'm a little familiar - it's on the Buckeye Trail 50k course. I say running. It was really just a fast walk. And some of it, over the rough trail portions, wasn't all that fast.
11:55pm We arrive at the Pine Lane aid station at about mile 65. We had just come up on a couple other runners, but all of them, including my couple, dropped out at the station. We were still under the cut-off time, but they were sure they wouldn't make the next one. So now I have no one to sweep. I take off running to try to catch the next last runner.
12:15am I catch up to Kim Love from Newcomerstown, the new last runner. She is very upbeat, and is actually walking at a pretty good pace and occasionally jogging.
1:00am Kim and I catch and pass Sheryl, who is now the last runner. I stay with Sheryl, who is moving noticably slower. The conversation is slower as well.
1:50am arrive at Happy Days aid station with Sheryl. It is a beacon in the darkness. She is under the cut-off and although she had been getting prgressively slower, decides to push on to the next aid station.
3:45am Sheryl and I arrive at Pine Hollow, 30 minutes past the cut-off. Only a couple guys stayed to wave us in, and they had removed all the food! Oh well. This stretch from Happy Days to Pine Hollow had been comically difficult. Instead of going around the ledges, we were often routed through, over, beneath and between them, crawling in a couple places. We both supposed that this may have been fun during daylight hours, but was genuinely silly in the dark. It had rained for the last hour or so. As we hung it up, Sheryl thanked me profusely. She had tried, unsuccessfully to finish other 100's, and this is the furthest she'd got.
4:00am I am back at the Boston Store and getting into my car. A guy had given me a ride back here. I'd done my job: 15+ miles of mostly walking on the extremely dark trails, making sure no one was left behind or lost. Now the ride home would be a tired one. It had been one heck of a 24+ hour day for me.

Now I feel like *I* ran 100 miles, even though I most assuredly did not.

And yes, I know. The length of the post also goes along with that title.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dodge-Ems

When I was a kid, Dodge-Ems was one of my favorite rides at Geauga Lake and at Cedar Point. Now I continue to enjoy them as an adult.

At Sunday's Double Trouble Race I had a near collision. I was running into the driveway near the store, whilst several runners were running out. With watching the traffic and following the instructions of the volunteer, I almost had a head-on with a guy. Luckily we both swerved out of the way at the last moment.

Similarly, at last night's speedwork, we had the usual large turnout, with several different groups doing different workouts. It's almost impossible to keep out of the way of other runners the entire time. So when we had near collisions, someone had to get out of the way quickly.

By the way, I felt lousy last night, and several folks were tapering for various events, so I almost talked myself out of running hard entirely. But while others did go off to do other things, I managed to run 4 x 1600 by myself. These averaged 6:44, so I still have a very long way to go. But at least I did something of substance.

Today I ran down Substation, starting my run at 5am. I usually enjoy this road because it's pretty and generally quiet at this hour. But not today. There was tons of traffic. And I figured out why: 42 is closed at Kingsbury. So now Substation will have all this traffic for another week or so.

Today's run was so-so. I got 13 in, but they were really slow miles. And they kept getting progressively slower.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Every Time I Think I Simply Cannot Run Any Slower

I do. Forty-Five (45) minutes for a 10k. And Double Trouble is a fast course at that. Last Year I ran this race full FOUR minutes faster! Woah.

Today I did 13 slow ones. My thighs felt like hamburger.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Rhapsody of Running in Romania


A Rhapsody of Running in Romania

Four twelves and a twenty-two. That’s the plan – for each of my two weeks here in Romania. The first week would start on Monday morning and I would do my four consecutive early morning 12-mile runs, take Friday off, and then do my 22-miler on Saturday morning. The second week would have to start with the 22-miler on Sunday morning, followed by an off-day on Monday, followed by the four twelves on Tuesday through Friday. How else to keep up with the 70-mile weeks and also accommodate my travel schedule? Of course the more important question is this: will my body be able to accommodate this schedule?

But whilst we’re discussing goals and objectives here, we should mention that there is one overriding goal: to return home as a better runner. This almost never happens because it’s so tough to control eating and training in general. But this time will be different.

Into the Early Morning Darkness
On Day 1 I woke up much earlier than the planned 3:30am. Did I mention the early hours? I have to be at the office at 7am each day. Working backwards, it’s about a ½ hour taxi ride from the Marriott to the office. I need 20 minutes to eat breakfast. I need 20 minutes to shower and dress after the run. And I need ½ hour or more to wake up before I get out the door. So that’s how I came up with the 3:30am wake-up idea.

I was out the door by four, just as planned. I started running around the Palace of Parliament in the early morning darkness. The Palace of Parliament is one of the world’s largest buildings – second only to the Pentagon, according to the Romanians. Whatever it’s rank, it *is* big. I remembered from my previous trips here that this is an easy and safe loop, but I couldn’t remember how far it was (maybe 3 or 4 miles?). My loop times were 18:00, 16:40 and 16:05, so it evidently was not as far as id’ thought. At least I was moving fairly fast, and getting faster. But I was also getting bored, so I did some smaller loops wound the adjacent park (Izvor Park).

My first day of running – about 12 miles in 1:41) is deemed (by me) a success. Now to keep the trend going.

Second Verse, Just Like the First
Day 2 was very similar to day 1. Once again I didn’t sleep enough, waking up before 2am. Once again I started slowly, but ran some decent middle miles. This time I did one loop in 14:52 – way faster than yesterday. Only one problem/caveat: I measured the course on mapmyrun.com and learned that it’s only 1.85 miles. So 14:52 is something like 7:45 pace, while yesterday’s 16:05 was about 8:30. I also looked at my times for these loops in 2008 and 2006. They were faster still, with some of the fastest under 14 minutes. Still, my 14:52 felt pretty decently fast. Some of the other back and forth to Piata Unirii (trying to find the best way to walk there to catch the metro) and Eroiler were also at a decent pace. So I’m calling this another 12 miles in about the same time as for Day 1.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen
The saying about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the mid-day sun almost applies. For one thing, there are plenty of wild dogs running around all over in Bucharest. It’s almost impossible to avoid them. And although I haven’t been running in the mid-day sun, it’s been getting hotter here in Bucharest. It was probably in the low 70s as I ventured out into the early morning darkness this day.

This time I ran on the bike path along the canal. I ran here last time – it’s an ok run, but it’s a bit scary in the dark, what with the dogs everywhere and the possibility of tripping over something unseen. It’s 3 miles to the place where the path splits just before the lake, and I did this in a slow due to the darkness 28 minutes. I got back much faster since it was getting just a bit light – 25. Then I did 3 laps around the Palace. The first was a minute faster than yesterday, which was a minute faster than the day before. The other two were a little slower, but still better than 8 minute pace. After a little more running I was able to call it 12 miles in 1:40. Still hanging in there.

Hot and Nasty
Each day in Bucharest has been hotter than the one before. That goes for the early mornings as well. It was probably well into the 70s when I started my Thursday morning run. At least it isn’t too humid. After sleeping well the night before, I had another night with only a couple good hours. That has nothing to do with the heat; it’s the “nasty” part.

I started with 3 slow but increasingly faster loops around Izvor Park. I like this the best for running whilst it’s still dark – there is some lighting, the footing is good, and there aren’t too many wild dogs. A few homeless people sleeping on benches, but they haven’t bitten or chased me yet. As it got lighter, I went back to the Palace Loop area across from the hotel to start my terrible tempo training run.

It had been a while since I’d done a tempo. At 1.85 miles, I’d have to break 13 minutes in order to call it sub-7 minute pace. This would be yet another minute faster than yesterday, which was a minute faster than the previous one, and so on. I think my PR on this course was 12 fifty-something from 2006 when I was in shape. Would I be able to do it now? The answer turns out to be yes, barely – I did loops of 12:58 and 12:53. Not bad.

I did yet another Izvor park loop and finished up, getting my 12 miles in at 96 minutes, and so far fulfilling my goals. Tomorrow I get a day off before Saturday’s long run.

Not According to Plan
Although those first four runs were exactly as I’d planned, Friday turned out differently. I really wanted to catch up on sleep, and to just rest my bones before running long for two consecutive days on Saturday and Sunday. Didn’t happen. I woke up at 2am as usual. Out of bed at 3:30. I have no idea how I’m surviving on 3 to 4 hours sleep per night, but I don’t nod off too much during the day. So since I was up, why not go for a little run? It would actually be helpful to not have to do a long run on a day when I also wanted to do something touristy, like riding a train to Transylvania.

Thought I’d saunter around town and explore a bit. I’ve seen nice-looking bike paths through parks at the north end of town (I’m on the south side), but the problem is always getting up there: I’d have to run straight through the city center. So north I went. And I didn’t get there. I was just too tired of fighting the busy city sidewalks, traffic, dogs, etc., etc. I turned back after Piata Romana, did some dipsy doodles on old cobblestone and brick streets, and wound up in the Botanical Garden. So running in the northern parks also didn’t go according to plan.

Once in the Botanical Garden, I started to really enjoy the run. That’s got to be the prettiest running in Bucharest. Too bad it’s such a small park. Despite its size, I still managed to get lost. This, when it was getting late. Once I found my way to the exit, I had to hoof it to get back. And this, of course, was not according to plan.

I’m calling it 14 miles in a little over 2 hours. Probably being generous with myself this time because it was really slow going.

I got out of work at a decent time on Friday, so I hopped onto the mill for more. Running outside when temps are in the mid-nineties was not an option. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a bad mill run. I got 8 in, to get up to 70 for the week, and I was even able to get my weekly 800s in as well. It was 8 x 800 in 3:11 (15Kph). Not bad.

A Long Hot Long Run
My Facebook entry for today: ran in the heat for 3 hours, 10 minutes and then walked for several more hours, mostly through many of the fine, but too small for much running mileage, Bucharest parks. Among them: Parcul Izvor (where Madonna will perform on her Sticky and Sweet tour a day after I leave), Gradina Cismigiu (the botanical gardens), Parcul Herastrau, Parcul Kiselef, and Parcul Carol (pictured).

Yes, it was hot. But I ran ok for the first half as I stayed close to home. I did about 5+ loops of Izvor park, along with a few other nearby dipsy doodles, then did one loop around the palace to get up to 10 miles. Now it was getting lighter (and hotter), and it was time to explore a bit more. That’s when I slowed down. Mostly because I didn’t know where I was going. I did make it to Parcul Carol, and then I ran around there for a half hour or so before heading back through Izvor park one more time. I did the whole thing in 3 hours, 9 minutes. Calling it 22 miles. That accounts for a couple slow miles at the beginning, some sub-8s as I got moving, and then some other slow ones finding my way to, and around, Parcul Carol. Not too bad for such a hot day. I would’ve preferred to finish at top speed though.

Side note that you may have noticed above: Madonna will perform on her Sticky and Sweet tour on the 26th of July – just after I leave. I’m actually happy that I won’t be around.

Time Constraint
I got out the door later than I wanted on Monday morning. The weekend, the running, walking and general traveling, had taken its toll. I’d have to do today’s twelve in a relatively fast 95 to 100 minutes in order to get to the office in time. Naturally this didn’t happen. After a slow start, I did get moving fairly fast for a few of the laps around Izvor park. But then I slowed again for the final four miles – two laps around the palace. So it was 1:41 and change – still not so bad. And I still made it to work on time. Barely. I may standardize this 12-mile course: “over to Izvor, around the outside, 5 inside laps, over to the palace course, and 2 times around the palace before going back across the street”

Tempo Training Attempt
I figured it’s something like just over .9 miles around Parcul Izvor. I figured that to get to tempo pace, I’d have to do 3-4 consecutive laps under 6:30. If it was going to be 4, I’d do a tiny bit more and call it a 4-mile tempo run. So after a warmup of a few miles, I started. 1st lap: 6:36. Hmmm – could I still call this a tempo? 2nd lap: 6:32. Still slow by 2 seconds. Then 6:26 and 6:16. So – is this tempo training? After figuring it out on mapmyrun, I now know sure that it’s .91 miles around. And now the math: I really had to do 6:22 per lap for sub-seven minute miles. I only did one lap as fast as I needed… and this means I can’t call it tempo. The last few miles, including a last loop around the palace were pretty slow. Altogether I did the 12 in 96 minutes. Not too bad, but I want to be faster!

Tineretului
The name says it all. It is actually a place fairly nearby, according to my client, Dan, that is a decent sized park and a good place to run. He was right, but I have a tough time saying it and remembering how it’s spelled, so I just like to call it, “Tiramisu park.”

To get there, I ran through Parcul Carol, past the meanest of the wild dogs (got to go around the right side next time), out the back entrance, turn left on the busy street, and half a mile down a hill. By this time I was over 2 ½ miles into an extremely slow run. The entrance way was huge, and there were some booths and stands in the process of waking up. I went to the paths on the right and wound up on a bike trail. Although there were many other paths going all sorts of directions, I stayed with that bike path so I wouldn’t get lost here in the dark. And it was very dark.

I felt like I was running around the perimeter, since there was a wall to my right. I was also up fairly high, as I could see down a bit in the just-barely getting light morning. There was a lake down there, and I could also make out some buildings in the distance, which may have been the city center. About 45 minutes into the run I came to a guarded gate that I ran through and came to something that looked like an opera house or something similar. I turned back, running out towards a different exit, but then back around on the bike path once again, and back through Carol and over to Izvor park where I did a bit more before calling it a day. My slowest 12-miler yet –I’m tired and my thighs feel like hamburger.

Tempo Training Attempt Two
Out the door and over to Izvor park. The plan was to try again for a tempo run now that I’m more sure of the distances and the times I need to do them in. This would be the last run I’d have to do to make reach my stated Bucharest running goal. Might as well make it a good one.

After one dog in the Marriott driveway scared the bejeebers out of me, I reached the start of my Izvor park course intact. Like usual, I did one big loop around the perimeter followed by one fairly easy inside loop, after which I’d start my tempo attempt. I was feeling fairly decent and confident. The tempo attempt was stopped dead in its tracks by the vicious dog attack yet. The dogs in Izvor are usually not so bad, but this morning they scared me more than any had yet in Bucharest, and that’s saying something.

That had shaken me up some. After only one Izvor lap, I ran back to the start of my palace loop, figuring I would do the tempo attempt there. I’ve noted before that this course is interesting and familiar, but the footing isn’t so good, especially the 25 to 30 percent that is uneven bricks instead of asphalt sidewalk. There are also several curbs around the driveways to negotiate. But I was in no way about to do any more running in Izvor today.

First loop: 12:54. Second loop: 12:48 (a PR!). Third loop: 12:58 (!!) That was 5.55 miles at tempo pace – much more than expected. I did some more at a fast pace, so I’m calling it six.

Turned out that my last planned run here was by far the best. Goals– including the one to return a better runner – met!

Who’d’ve Thunk It?
I thought I was done for the week. Had my 70 in, and everything was fine. Didn’t get any speedwork in, other than the tempo and near tempo runs, but that was ok. Then I got out of work a bit early on Friday, my last day. You guessed it: I hit the dreadmill and did 800s. Six of them – a couple less than last week, but I didn’t want to over do it. Now I’m really done.

For more on my travel adventures, check out the travel blog.

For more on running in Romania, along with other daily activities, check out a day in the life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Day in the Life


A Day in the Life

Need to clarify that title: “A Day in the Life of Dan.” No, that still doesn’t really cover it. How about: “A Day in the Life of Dan Whilst in Bucharest, Romania.” OK, that should do it.

Why a day in the life? Just thought it may be interesting to document such a thing. The events described here take place on Monday, July 20, 2009, but they aren’t at all dissimilar to those of my other days in Bucharest in 2009. And they aren’t that dissimilar to my days in Bucharest in 2008. And, come to think about it, they aren’t that terribly dissimilar to events I’ve encountered in other countries and clients.

3:20am: I am awake and out of bed. The alarm won’t go off for another 20 minutes, but waking up before that has been par for the course for this trip. One would think it would be difficult to wake up and that I would want to sleep longer due to the time change. But I’m somehow getting by on very little sleep, and waking up at an early hour (last week it was often earlier still – like 2am) is part of that. I think my body has been thinking that I’ve been taking afternoon naps, because that’s what time it is back home.

3:30am: I am dressed into my running clothes, eating an apple, and going to the Concierge Room for coffee. It is open 24 hours and there’s a machine that makes good cappuccinos. I’m also carrying a disposable cup that I’d squirreled away because I knew from experience that they are sometimes out of them in the Concierge Room. That’s not the only thing I had squirreled away. Other objects include the apple and several bottles of water, all available from this room. As I arrive, it turns out that one other cup is available this time. I make a cappuccino in one cup, then the other whilst I slurp down the first, then a third back into the first cup. I will take those two filled cups back to my room. But before I leave, I take a walk around this large room. I’m not sure why the previous night’s activities here interest me so much, but they do. Although the folks who work here make an effort to keep the room clean, there are almost always some areas of leftover food and other stuff from the late night people. You never know what it’ll be. The most interesting leftover find is an occasional amorous couple in some interesting state, who are surprised to see me coming in for my morning constitutional. They often look guilty and leave immediately. One reason for some of the late-nighters is the fact that this fancy-schmancy hotel includes a casino. Today the place is empty however.

3:40am: “You have very nice Moose-Clees”. A well-dressed but slightly mussed-up woman in the elevator lobby of my floor is addressing me as I am trying to get back to my room with a couple coffees. “Thanks” I say, trying not to make eye-contact. I scurry along. “Especially your legs”, I hear as I’m being followed down the hallway. I quicken my pace even more. Luckily there’s a guy coming the other way. I think she turned to follow that poor soul, wherever he may have thought he might be going. Jeepers, it’s not enough to be chased by dogs every day, now it’s crazed women too. Once safely back in my room, I reflect that the whole episode was unreal, but it really did happen.

4:00am: I turn on the TV to have something to watch whilst doing my push-ups. Sky News has a live broadcast of Neil Armstrong making a speech at the Smithsonian. Yes, today is July 20, the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Armstrong’s speech is, of course, the night before in Washington, but there would be other festivities later today. I am deeply moved by this hero’s wonderful speech.

4:40am: I head out for my run. This is the latest I’ve gotten out yet, and it places a real time constraint on the run itself, not to mention the rest of my morning routine, since I have to be at the office at 8am. Why did it take me an hour and twenty minutes from the time I awoke to the time I’m walking out the door? There was the attack-woman and the Armstrong speech, but the worst thing was: I checked facebook and email, which I simply shouldn’t do before running – it takes up too much time.

4:44am: Whilst exiting the posh Marriott I run past the hotel door man, the taxis and a few other folks and stray dogs milling about. The people who haven’t seen me running by during the other mornings give me strange looks. It’s a little cooler this morning than previous ones, but it’s still warm – probably middle or upper 60s. I do some quick calculations: let’s see: I have to be finished by 6:20am, so this means I have to run my planned 12 miles in something like 96 minutes. That’s 8 minutes per mile. This pace wouldn’t have been a problem for the Dan of Old – even the Dan of 2008. But for some reason it is so for the Dan of 2009. I have done one of my daily runs that fast, but I’m not sure I can do one today. I figure that I’ve got to try.

4:54am: I arrive at the southeast corner of Parcul Izvor, the place where I start my timed loops here. Parcul Izvor is the location of Madonna’s planned concert on July 26, the day after I leave. This morning it is dark and quiet like it is almost every other morning. I make one circuit on the perimeter of the park, followed by 5 loops on the paved trails on the inside. These inside ones are, I figure, just short of a mile, so I time each one and try hard to get them well under 8 minutes. No one is sleeping on park benches today as they have on previous days; maybe that is only a weekend thing. When they are there, I always try to run quietly when I pass by. Also today there are fewer dogs running around than usual. They’re there, but just not so many.

5:52am: I arrive back across from the Marriott. I’ve been successful at getting down to a good pace but have to run some more: 2 circuits of Palatul Parlamentului, the Palace of Parliament, are planned. These loops are always interesting, and I’d do more of them and less in Izvor Park except that: the footing is not as good as it includes some very uneven bricks, when its early, its darker in spots and hard to see where I’m stepping, and there are more dogs – some in and around the gates - who tend to chase me. Other than that it’s fine. By the way, the dog problem is seemingly worse everywhere else in Bucharest. This is why I run more and more of my miles in these areas.

6:27am: I have made my two circuits of the palace, jog back over to the Marriott and stopped running. Only one dog had seriously chased me today. And this time I had counted (because counting is what I do) the gates to the palace: there are twelve. About half have armed guards who are sometimes opening them as I run by. Those two loops were much slower than I had wanted; I guess yesterday’s long run and walk did indeed take its toll. As I go up to my room I do some more calculations: I am going to really need to hurry getting showered, dressed and eating in order to make it to work on time.

6:40am: I am in the Concierge Room, trying to ingest as many calories as humanly possible in an extremely short time. Some would say that this is an area in which I excel. Still not a good way to enjoy fine dining. I grab eggs, bread, peeled/sliced kiwi, yogurt, Dannon Actimel (which I’m not sure, but I think may be good for me) and my favorite: smoked whitefish. I often skip lunch, so I don’t worry too much about all this food. I’ve done worse on other trips.

6:56am: I am now walking to the metro station. I could take a taxi, but this will probably be quicker, and it will also keep me from running out of cash. I used to walk a mile and a half to the Piata Unirii station where I catch the M2, Linia 1 or whatever line to Pipera. I get really confused about the names of the lines and the M codes for the metro trains, but I have learnt which go where to get the correct ones. I say I used to walk to Unirii because I’ve also learned that there is a closer station called Eroilor, although it involves making a connection. It turns out that I can usually save several minutes by walking less. My walk to Eroilor is an interesting one, past the military compound, and through the mixed use neighborhood. The houses are strange to me: they appear to be made of concrete or maybe stucco. They are fairly big, usually with 3 floors or so, but there are no yards or anything. They may be multiple unit things, but I’m not sure. Besides the dwellings, there are occasional bars and restaurants, most of which don’t look so great. The other walkers and I have to squeeze by the cars parked on the sidewalk.

7:10am: I arrive at Eroilor station. It’s a relatively quiet one. In fact, it’s nothing compared to Unirii and Pipera. For some reason today’s walk took a minute or two longer than usual, so I hurry down the metro stairs and happily catch a train.

7:13am: The train takes off after sitting for several minutes. I’m not sure why. I have a seat as it isn’t too crowded. But for some reason the trains on this line are all very hot and stuffy. It may be because they are at a higher level than the other line. So now I’m sweating a lot, even though the walk over had been cooler this day. Other mornings saw me sweating profusely as I got into the train. I’m not too concerned about the heat here today because it’s only two stops before I get off for my connection at Piata Unirii.

7:20am: Piata Unirii station is as crowded and crazy as ever. And it’s a long, crowded walk from one line to the other. Did I mention that it was crowded? I walk past the newspaper and bakery vendors, through the long, crowded tunnel, past the McDonalds, past more vendors and down the stairs to the M1 Linia 2 line.

7:22am: I am lucky enough to catch the train bound for Pipera without much of a wait. It is hard to believe how many people are cramming themselves into the train. It occurs to me that they need crammers here like they have in Japan to push everyone into the cars. Somehow I get in, but only barely. Everyone in the entire train is touching several other persons. Since I’m near the door, I have nothing to hold onto. I put my hand up to the ceiling to keep from falling into someone else. At least I wouldn’t fall to the ground. Others are doing the same. As the train moves along, a few get off at some stops, more at others. There will be six stops before I get to Pipera.

7:36am: The train arrives at Pipera. It’s the final stop on the line. Although there are fewer people on the train, it’s a mad rush when the doors open.

7:38am: I’m now walking out of Pipera station, and this is the craziest place of all. People walking in every direction, but mostly out. Vendors are selling newspapers, magazines and bakery. There are cars, trucks, vans, buses and trams all over the place, headed in every and any direction, each following whatever set of traffic laws that they deem appropriate at the moment. I must look for the company bus or van of the client I’m working with. They run about every ten minutes at this time in the morning. It is provided for the employees, free of charge. The one I’m looking for will be one of several different vans or buses that have the company logo on a sign in the window. It may be across the busy street in a tiny parking lot, it may be turning around, it may be parked illegally on my side, or it may be traveling slowly back to the office, all the while trolling for more employees. What’s really confusing here is that there are so many other vehicles from other companies doing exactly the same thing. Heaven help me if I board the wrong one and end up at some other company.


7:42am: I spot Bogdan, one of my clients, who is also looking for the company vehicle. Working together, we spot it – it had turned and is stopping to pick us up. As I board, the atmosphere suddenly changes: it’s tranquil and reasonably cool. Aaah, the wonders of air conditioning. Let the driver worry about negotiating through all the traffic. Bogdan and I converse about Pipera. It is an extremely fast growing suburb north of Bucharest. Only a few years ago it was farmland and the Pipera station was nearly deserted. Now there are a great many new office buildings, many of which house multi-national corporations. There are also new residences. The only problem is the (lack of) planning. The infrastructure has not even remotely kept up with the development. This is obvious to anyone who checks out at the amount of traffic – the roads simply can’t handle it all. And that traffic includes an occasional horse-drawn cart. I’ve been told that some of the residences were built before the roads, and now with these big houses are placed at odd angles, the roads will never be able to get to and through them. It’s like the Wild West out here.

7:50am: I arrive at the office with minutes to spare. I go to today’s conference room and wait for my clients to show up.

8:05am: I meet with my clients and do my counting. Dan, Gloria and the rest of the bunch are wonderful folks to work with.

12:00noon: I skip lunch because I had enough calories for breakfast and the cafeteria isn’t so great. I just sit in the conference room and continue to work.

4:40pm: I’m finished with my meetings. I head outside and look for the company bus or van. You guessed it: I go through the entire morning commute in reverse. For some reason the trains and metro stations aren’t quite so crowded at this time in the afternoon. Perhaps it gets worse after 5 or 6pm.

5:20pm: The walk back to the Marriott is a hot one. The worst part is the last hill just before the hotel driveway because it’s also the place where the sun is the hottest. I also have to scoot around even more cars parked on the sidewalks prior to that hill.

5:35pm: Half-starving, I have gone directly to the Concierge Room. They put hors devours out, and sometimes I can get a salad or some veggies along with something hot. No salad today, so I get some carrot and zucchini sticks. The hot food is breaded/fried fish. Poor selection on the veggies, but the fish isn’t bad. I’ll give today’s food a C+. It’s never been above a B-.

5:55pm: I call Debbie using Skype.

6:15pm: Our call ends abruptly as Skype crashes. I don’t think this is Skype’s fault; the internet connection is flaky. The funny thing is that it was better here in years past. By an unspoken agreement, I don’t try to call Debbie again – we now expect to be cut off at any time and therefore discuss anything important first. Today as usual we had done so before getting cut off. Now it’s time to catch up on my work and email. This ends up taking up the rest of my evening.

9:00pm: I’m in bed, reading. I didn’t have time to turn the TV on, but that is a good thing. There is less stuff on here than home. Here there are only three or four English language channels, and those are pretty boring. Time to zonk out so that I’ll be able to run tomorrow, when the whole thing starts all over again.

Ouch II: Danny Boy Falls for Nothing

Danny Boy is awake at 3:30 AM, which is a little earlier than planned. Good, he thinks; he may be able to get an extra mile or so in. Eleven...