Monday, December 19, 2011

I Woke Up Lean and Mean

This is noteworthy because I do so fairly seldom these days. But I have been pounding out the miles, even some with some amount of quality. I stepped on the scale and it read.... 154~! That's the best since BT (Before Turkey).

And I ran well too. After a painfully slow start - the first three miles were at 9:30 pace that felt much faster - I did manage to get down to tempo pace for the required three miles. Today, this was four laps around the high school. Something of Substance - Not bad.

Then it was another slow struggle to get home.

Will I be able to keep the leanness and meanness up? Time will tell..

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things I Saw (and Heard) on My Run Today

A Run to Remember

It's a familiar story; at least this first part happens every time we are traveling... I wake up a few minutes prior to my 4:00 AM watch alarm. I stumble around the hotel room, trying to make coffee, get dressed, etc. in the dark, without waking Debbie. Eventually, I make it out the door as quietly as I can.

By about 4:40 AM, I've emerged from my hotel, the J.W. Marriott Guanacaste in Costa Rica. Whoa. It's really dark out. I've run in the dark before, but usually with at least some ambient lighting from streets or buildings. After I get away from the hotel itself (where lighting is toned down so as not to attract sea turtles away from their usual routes), there are hardly any other lights around anywhere. I can hardly see a thing.

There is no moon, so the stars are very bright. I look for the Southern Cross. I often see it whilst running in Hawaii, but many of those runs are in late winter and early spring. When I don't find it, I figure that it just hasn't risen yet. I do enjoy the other stars however. Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, is at it's highest point, with its pointer stars pointing out Polaris, the North Star, almost at the horizon. Orion is as spectacular as always, except it appears to be at some odd angle, with Sirius almost at the wrong side. My world is turned upside down (or, more properly, on its side). I can also make out the Milky Way. All of a sudden, I spot a shooting star. That's always a good omen.

I notice that it's surprisingly warm and humid. After only a few minutes of running, I reach what I call the loop road. Its a semi-private road at the Hacienda Pinilla, a resort area that consists of our hotel, a smattering of houses and condos, a golf course, and not much else. I figure the development isn't going as well as planned with the economy and all. It's a good place to run, because the road forms a five-mile loop around the area, and there's almost no traffic.

I ran the loop twice yesterday, so I'm familiar with it. There are a few easy rolling hills; some fields and open land; a golf course and pond; some woods and wilder areas. Perfect.

The goal is three loops today. If I can do each one progressively faster, all the better. I've started a little unevenly, unsure of my footing in the dark. That's okay - better to start slow than end that way.

After only about 15 minutes I'm already beginning to see the first hints of lighter sky to the east. That's also the point when I begin to hear the growling. It starts so low and seems so far away, that it's hardly noticeable. Although it's a scary deep/low growling, howling and roaring, my first thought is that it's only dogs barking somewhere very far away.

But it's not all that far away; as I approach the heavier wooded area, the sound gets louder and louder. It is almost impossible to describe. I've never heard anything quite so primeval; so prehistoric sounding. Am I scared? YOU BET I AM.

Could it be howler monkeys? I didn't think they'd be around here because it isn't exactly part of the rain forest; Guanacaste is a somewhat drier province of Costa Rica. I begin making a mental list of the various animals here that can kill me: jaguars, crocodiles, various snakes, etc. None of them sound like this. I conclude that I must have discovered some previously unknown nest of T-Rex's. And yet I don't turn back.

The noise level continues to increase until I'm past the most heavily wooded area, and then it gradually fades away. I guess I survived, but I never figure out what the heck the noise was.

A car, the first one, comes from behind and passes by. A couple hundred yards ahead, I see the tail-lights swerve around to the side of the road before it continues on. I don't find out why until I reach that same spot. There's a horse standing in the middle of the road, and because of the darkness, it wasn't visible until I was a few feet away. I think he's about as spooked as I am.

It's getting much lighter as I complete the first loop in one piece. That was slow, and I pick the pace up as I begin loop two.

The forest noises are still there, but I don't fear them as much this time. I reflect that this is a strange phenomenon: I still don't know what it is, but since I survived running by once, I figure that I can do so again. If it was something that would kill me, it would be just as deadly this second time around. But I do indeed survive once again.

This time I spot the horse ahead of time. I also see large birds on the road ahead of me. They look like eagles, but I'd learned that they were local hawks. They're on the road, pecking at things like crows do in our parts. When I come by, they grudgingly get out of my way.

The time for my second loop is indeed faster than the first, and after a drink from my stashed water, I begin the third one. The sun is up now, and it's getting even warmer than when I started. I immediately see two large, bright kelley-green birds making a ruckus in a roadside tree. It's tough to get a good look at their heads, but I decide they must be green macaws.

With about a mile to go I spot a dead snake in the middle of the road. It's brown, and not much larger than a garter snake. Just a bit further on, I spot a second dead snake. This one is also fairly small, but it is colorful.

Having dedicated a great deal of brain cells to learning the poem that could save my life, I recall the operative phrase now: 'Red followed by yellow will kill a fellow.' It looks like this:

red |yellow| black |yellow| red |yellow| black |yellow| red

The serpent's colors are red, yellow and black, in that order. Yup, it's a coral snake. The head is gone, but it's otherwise intact. I suppose that without a head it won't hurt me. But it occurs to me that I ran by this way twice before - what was it doing then?

I finish up with the third loop being my fastest. It was a good run.

A Little Follow-Up

Later that day I brought Debbie over to see the snake. She helped confirm that it was a coral snake.

I learned that it's rare to see a green macaw. But I'm certain that's what they were.

And the noise? The next day I see, and hear, howler monkeys from a boat, and I determine that that's what made the noise. A couple days later, I actually see them in the trees making their howls. Mystery solved.

Other Costa Rica Running

I ran that loop several more times during my stay. Once I actually did four loops, and even those got progressively faster.

Mid-way through our vacation, we moved to a different hotel (Marriott Los Suenos), several hours to the south. The running was not nearly as nice there. I did manage to do some beach running, and I also made a few trips up, and back down, a huge hill.

I actually found myself missing those howls.

Also check out our travel blog entry. You really should, you know.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Buckeye Woods 50K

I was the Race Director as well as a runner for the 2nd Annual Buckeye Woods 50K yesterday. What a blast!

There were 27 starters and 13 finishers, and the conditions were every bit as challenging as last year's. Last year it was a snowstorm, and this year it was rain, wind and mud.

I tried to stay in contact with the leaders (Dan DeRosha, Frank Dwyer and Bob Pokorny) during the early laps, but Bob and Frank got ahead after a while. Although I eventually caught up with Frank, Bob increased his lead and cruised to victory.

My main focus was to hold a steady pace. And I did so, at least for the most part. Most of the 5-mile laps were around 45 minutes, along with an additional minute or two at the aid station. My final loop was a bit slower at 48 minutes, but I'm pretty happy that I didn't crash. My finishing time was 4:50, good for second place, and a few minutes slower than last week's time.

As always, it was wonderful to see the even unfold, and to be out there with all my friends. Yeah - what a blast!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Glass

Why is it always half-something? Can't we just get that glass all the way full?

Speaking of Half-Somethings, I ran the CWRRC Fall Classic Half-Marathon yesterday. It was a great day for running in a lot of ways (the weather, seeing friends, etc). I ran a steady pace with splits of about 46.5 and 47 minutes to finish in 1:33:43, good for second in the Geezer division.

The glass is half-empty view: this is 5 minutes slower than my best half a year ago (1:28 and change at Stomp the Grapes).

The glass is half-full view: this is 5 minutes faster than the last half I did a couple months ago (1:38 and change at Sam Elpern Memorial).

If one wanted to consider the glass 3/4 full, they could say that I'm on the upswing, and that I'll be a holy terror in 2012. Watch out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


In 1914, the world had yet to witness:
-two World Wars, and dozens of smaller ones
-the Great flu pandemic of 1918
-the Great Depression
-Nuclear power and bombing capability
-the Internet
-Global Climate Change due to Human activity

On this date in 1914, Cecelia Horvath (my Mom) was born. Today we celebrate her 97th Birthday. She has led, and continues to lead a rich and interesting life.

What makes her most special is her optimism and enthusiasm. She is always positive; I simply cannot remember her ever saying anything negative at all, except for some occasional self-deprecating humor.

Cecelia has a bunch of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She enjoys being with her family above all else.

Happy BirthDay, Mom!

Monday, November 07, 2011


A friend who is not able to run due to recent surgery let me know that I ought to be thankful that I can run at all, much less manage a 3:22 marathon. This was in a response to a link I posted in FaceBook to my recent Blog entry about the Inland Trail Marathon. My FB message announced the link as, "My sad story." My friend understood that this was intended to be tongue in cheek, but still let me know that I ought to be thankful.

He's right. Anyone and everyone who is able to run at all should be thankful for that capability. All of us have different inherent talents and all of us train at some level. We should all give thanks for these things.

In case you didn't know, I happen to love running. I love virtually all aspects of it, and there certainly are many. And I don't think I take it too very much for granted. This appreciation was enhanced this injury-plagued year of mine. This is not to say that I couldn't be even more thankful - I'm sure I can. I'll keep working on it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Inland Trail Marathon 2011

Blame it on Ladd and Bob. They ran with me for the first 7.5 miles or so of the Inland Trail Marathon. And of course I wound up going faster than I had planned. I did inform them that I'd be blaming them for something, no matter how my race turned out.

Expectations were decidedly not high. Although I've been saying that I'm on the upswing, I was still certain that I still lost a bunch of fitness in the past few months. So the plan was to go out at an 8-minute pace, and possibly try to pick it up in the second half. Negative splits always feel good. A sub-3:30 would be fine with me, thank you.

Except Bob, Ladd and I didn't go out at an 8-minute pace. We went out at a 7:40 or so pace. I didn't complain too much. The cool temperatures and slight headwind felt fine, and I wasn't hurting.

When Ladd and Bob turned around to run half-marathoner Marsha in, I maintained the same pace, more or less, for the rest of the first half. It was fun seeing Marsha and the other MCRR half-marathoners go by. I turned around with 1:41:20 on the clock. Near the turnaround I saw Michelle, Dan and Jack. Cool.

Now I began to think I might be able to run 3:20 or even slightly better. All I needed to do was to maintain a 7:30 pace for the entire second half, and I'd have it in the bag. Now the wind was partially to my back, and I did do several consecutive 7:30's. It felt good to run strong and pass people.

Somewhere around mile 20 or 21, the math started to not work out quite so well. I hate when that happens. There I was, running with the same, or slightly more effort, yet those 7:30's were slipping north. With a couple miles left, it began to appear that a sub-3:20 was out of the question, and then my hamstring began to cramp. Not a total knot, but almost. I knew that I had to slow it down some more or risk winding up with a hamstring turned into a pretzel.

The wind was in my face for the tough final 3/4 mile, and I slowed even more, coming in at 3:22 and change. This was good for first in the Geezer Division and 13th overall. The medal says, "First Place Overall", not "First in Age Group".

I do really love this race. It's straight, out and back, usually great weather, straight, flat, fast and straight. Some folks don't care for the straight part, but it don't make no nevermind as far as I'm concerned. I only wish I had been in slightly better shape today.

So what can I blame Bob and Ladd for? If I'd gone out at an 8-minute pace, I'd have done much bigger negative splits (as it was, my second half was faster than my first by about 20 seconds). But I probably would have still been slower overall (but perhaps felt a little better physically). So maybe I should thank them. Nah.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Could it Really be This Simple?

No, I don't mean as simple as trying to look like Roy Heger. I mean as simple as watching my weight. But since I mentioned (and included a photo looking like Roy, I suppose I ought to say a little more about that.

I stood in for Roy so that he could run his own Run with Scissors race this year. Debbie, with encouragement from Shannon, decided to dress me up like Roy for the occasion. It was quite a hit for the race.

This came a day after Debbie had dressed me up like Lady Godiva for Connie's Halloween party. Yes, that was quite a hit too. And no, I'm not afraid to do anything these days.

Back to weight watching. A few weeks ago Debbie and I got back on the Weight Watchers diet. Now I've lost six or so pounds, and I'm feeling great! The PF still hasn't gone away entirely, but it's much better. And so are all the other little injuries I'd been plagued with lately.

Now I've got to get into shape for this Sunday's Inland Trail Marathon. In fact, I did lose quite a lot of fitness since June. It won't be back by Sunday, but at least (I think) I'm back on the upswing.

My theory is that putting less weight on these old joints for seventy miles per week makes a huge difference in regards to injuries large and small. Could it have been this simple?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Race to the Death

Author's note. This went into the latest MCRR Newsletter. I haven't been doing much actual racing lately, but it's good to think of these things now and then.

Have you ever had a Race to the Death? You know, a race where you're near the finish, and A) you are simply *not* going to let this runner coming up from behind pass you, or B) you are going to catch and pass that runner ahead of you before the finish, no matter what. *That's* a Race to the Death; you're going to beat that other runner, even if it kills you.

What's that? You mean you *haven't* had a Race to the Death? Actually, I haven't had all that many myself. I'm so well spent by the end of most races of any length, to care much whether I'm able to pass or hold anyone off. You can just call me, "Kickless Dan".

Having said that, I actually have had a couple (only a couple) memorable moments. Once as part of a relay in Michigan I had a sandy trail leg. I was being stalked by an Ohio guy who was even older than I. I ran faster and faster, trying to hold him off, but he kept pace. Finally the single track opened up to a two-track trail for the final mile and a half. He pulled up even, but I simply was not going to let him pass. We sprinted to the finish in what I'd call a tie. After we both collapsed at the exchange, we talked and over the years have became friends.

Some of you may know Joe Salwan. He's in my age group, and we've had a pretty good rivalry over the years. It all began at the 2000 Buckeye Half Marathon, where I passed him with a mile to go, but then, after some back and forth battling, he passed my in the final tenth of a mile in a final mad sprint to the finish. Yeah, he got me... that time.

Mayor Ladd Clifford usually beats me by exactly one minute. Whether it's 5K or 50K, Ladd gets me by that same amount. At one particular 50K we'd run most of the way together and I thought I could at least tie him when, with a mile to go he learned that he had the opportunity to catch Charles Elkins before the end of his 3rd (of four) loop, so he took off. Ladd not only beat me by a minute (again), but managed to catch Charles before he began his final lap - something we'd both promised not to do. So at that point he had two of us mad at him. I still haven't forgotten.

And then there's Dan vs Connie. To the best of my knowledge, the *only* times I've ever been able to beat Connie is when she is racing a week after a race of 100 or more miles. Competitive as she is, she still doesn't like getting beat, especially by the likes of me. So naturally I had to say some smart remark as I passed her near the end of a 5K after she'd run a 100-miler the previous weekend. The same thing happened on the brick road at the finish of the Twin Sizzler - smart remark from me, and Connie had done Western States just a few days earlier. The best one came at the Akron Marathon, a week after she'd run 141 miles at NC24. I passed her as she stopped at an aid station for some water (at about mile 20). "Don't you know how to run and drink at the same time?" I asked as I went by. We had recently practiced just such a thing. I managed to get a really mean look out of her that time. Never mind that Connie has absolutely killed me on other occasions (when she *hadn't* run 100+ the previous week); I got her those times, and she ain't getting them back.

Are you a runner or a racer? The experiences noted above to the contrary, I'm probably more of a runner myself. But I do love racing, and I love rivalries. I even love my rivals. They are what make it all so much fun, and most are my friends and MCRR members. Without them, what's the point in racing?

Most of all, I love a good Race to the Death.

Okay, I'm Going to Run Inland Trail No Matter What

There was this story about the great Finnish Runner, Lasse Viren. In the 1972 Olympic 10,000, he and two other top runners got tangled up and fell. They say you could see it in their eyes: two of the guys became dejected because they realized that now they wouldn't be able to win. They thought they might be able to win if everything went right for them, and it hadn't. Viren had a different look: he was thinking about *how* he was going to win now. He'd gone into the race thinking that he was going to win no matter what. Viren won, and set a world record in the process.

So, still fighting these injuries, and still wondering what bad thing could be next, I'm going to run the Inland Trail Marathon November 6.

More on racing in my next post.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Question I'm Afraid to Ask

Up and out of bed at 3:45am, I don't actually get out the door until 5:30. That's par these days. It just seems to take that coffee longer and longer to begin to achieve the desired affect.

In order to run fast, you've got to start fast, according to Michigan runner Terry Elsey. Although this concept can be taken too far, and it's always good to finish strong, Terry nevertheless has a point. The days I start really slow, I quite often manage to simply stay slow. Today I start relatively fast. The PF has generally gotten better, although it's still not 100%. As I've tried to pick things back up again, I seem to have acquired some other new aches and pains, including a very tight right hamstring (the PF is in my left foot).

Tired of feeling weak and slow, I've been losing weight (finally working with Debbie following, loosely, the Weight Watchers plan). I've also been minding my strength and other training. Using the new hang bar is a good thing. My mileage is back up to 70 per week, and I've been picking up the pace. Just a bit.

It's been obvious to me that I need to work on this intensity stuff, and so I have. I did one interval session on the mill early last week, and then a long run on Friday. Saturday I tried some gentle speedwork, and that's when I noticed the tight ham for the first time.

Today I fail my attempt at a tempo run (during miles 2-4). My definition of tempo has always been and is still three consecutive miles under seven minutes without a stop. My time for these miles is 22:07, but I'm not too discouraged. I'm still in the midst of my comeback, I tell myself. It will take time to come all the way back.

I forge on, moving slower and slower as I go. Even so, it feels like I'm running fast. I finish the 11-mile route in 1:33. That's also about par these days, but it should've been faster considering the tempo attempt.

As I'm approaching the house, I see Rita coming my way. I decide to turn and run back out with her a while - I wanted to get a couple more miles in anyway. Rita is telling me about her daughter's wedding and her own injury problems. I'm listening intently, when my foot catches something and I yell out, "Yeow!". It's that darn tight hamstring, and now it's suddenly a full-blown pull.

I hobble back home, which luckily isn't too far.

Now I fear that I had better call it quits for the year. I'd been considering three races: Inland Trail Marathon, the Fall Classic Half, and the Buckeye Woods 50K. They're generally all in jeopardy now, especially the first two.

The question I'm afraid to ask? Okay, here goes: "What more can go wrong?"

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Turning the Corner

Have I gotten out of the downward spiral? Is my running finally improving once again? It's hard to say. I am certain that I'm not where I was a year, or even six months ago. But maybe... just maybe, I'm better than I was a month ago. In addition to training a bit harder once again, I've also lost a few pounds. That never hurts.

The PF is still there. I'm trying hard to simply keep it from getting any worse. I believe that I may be succeeding, at least in that effort. I still believe that that's the main culprit in my loss of fitness since Mohican. I'm just getting tired of excuses.

And I'm tired of not racing. All my friends are doing Chicago, Towpath, Columbus, etc., and here I am, marathon-less. Who knows? Maybe I'll still think about Inland Trail in November. Stranger things have happened.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Slow Disease

NC24 is now history. It was another insane weekend (not to mention week, month, year), and another successful race. The thing took a lot out of me. But that's not what this will be about, and it's not an excuse. This is about a condition that I seem to be having lately: Slow Disease. Having had this plantar fasciitis (PF) injury all year, it shouldn't be a surprise that I lost some fitness. The only questions where, how much, and when would I take notice of it.

In spite of the fact that I acquired the PF in January, the first half of the year was actually pretty good. My speed did suffer, but I made some of that up with mileage. I made good showings at the Mad City 100K, the Cleveland Marathon, Another Dam 50K, and a couple others. And then came Mohican.

Although I was by no means fast before that debacle, I have definitely been a different (read: slower) runner afterwards. I've had a couple not-so-bad moments, like doing okay at the Moebius Green Monster 50K, and winning my age group (with a fairly slow time) at the Perfect Ten-Miler. But I would still say that I'm in a downward spiral. Those times/results would have been better a year, or even six months ago. And then I tried to run the Sam Elpern Memorial Half-Marathon a week ago.

I'd been in Connecticut all week again, and working my butt off again. Last time it was mostly painting; this time it was virtually all painting. I'd never thought that painting was that strenuous. But it wore me out, and my training runs that week sure showed it. On one occasion I hit the track, and the best I could do for mile intervals was the 7:30 range. That's pretty bad for me. So I shouldn't have expected much when I showed up at this Norwalk, CT club half-marathon.

It started and finished at a school. I started well enough, going well under 7 minutes for the first downhill mile. Now, if I could only keep this up, I thought. I couldn't. I couldn't even come close. Almost all my miles were in the 7:30 range again, with a couple slipping almost to 8 minutes. That's pretty ridiculous. The course was hilly, so of course that and the heat slowed me down a bit. But 7:30 miles? I finished in 1:38 for an average pace of... you guessed it: 7:30 per mile. The course was no more hilly than the Stomp the Grapes Half I did last year, ten minutes faster. Ridiculous. Oh. Said that already.

Since then, the downward spiral has continued. I've only run a few miles a day for the last week now. I did get one 15-miler in, and that almost killed me.

I'm not sure I know where the mojo went. I have to say that along with the ability has come the desire. I just don't have the will to train hard any more. For now, anyway. We'll see what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What If the Best Runners Came, and Nobody Cared?

The title applies to the IAAF World Championships that I wrote about in my last post, I Don't Get It. There, the best track and field runners in the world showed up, and no one seemed to care.

The title also applies to the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. This one's my baby, and it's only a week away. And since it's the USATF National Championship, the best ultrarunners in the country show up to compete, and once again, no one seems to care.

Oh, some do. Virtually all of the participants, volunteers, families and organizing committee care very much. But where is the media coverage? Why doesn't the city come out and support the race? A National Championship event coming to Cleveland? Why isn't the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission at the forefront of promoting and garnering support for the run? Why isn't the Plain Dealer covering it?

You got me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Don't Get It

Disclaimer: I am a runner. Anti-Disclaimer: I felt this way before I was such an avid runner. Although it's hard to say for sure. That was a long time ago.

The reason for the claimer, disclaimer and dis-disclaimer is that I am about to commence a rant about track and field. What don't I get? Why isn't 'Athletics', as T & F called in other parts of the planet, the most avidly followed and watched sport? How is it that the IAAF T & F World Championships are relegated to a network called Universal Sports that nobody seems to watch, along with a couple brief recap shows on NBC?

The 'Worlds' are surely the most important track meet on the planet next to the Olympics. Like the Olympics, they occur every couple years, but on the odd ones. I often feel that I'm the only person I know who eagerly anticipates and avidly watches them. Most of my friends, even the runners, don't even seem aware that they're going on.

I have a difficult time understanding why this is the case. Surely the drama of a 1500 meter race far surpasses that of an NBA game. The raw power and speed in the 200 meter race is definitely more exciting than that in an NFL game. And a 5000 or 10000 meter race is much more engrossing than any Major League Baseball game.

Nope. I just don't get it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Green Monster

I don't know why in the world I thought this would be a good idea. Maybe because my friends were doing it? Because it was an inaugural event? That it would give me a slight amount of redemption, or at least put me back on the right path after Mohican? In any case, there I was at Steve Godale's first annual Moebius Green Monster 50K, trying mightily to not fall completely by the wayside.

It was a pretty good first four 10k loops. It was the fifth one that got me. The first three were in the 55 minute range, and the fourth was right at an hour, so I thought I'd have an easy sub-five hour run. Not bad on a fairly tough course.

"No hill higher than a two story house", they said. Maybe, but there were a *lot* of those house-sized hills. And roots. And rocks. And mud. Although the mud wasn't as bad as it was for last week's training run there, it still slowed me down some.

The PF is still around, but wasn't especially bad this day. I believe that I've lost a lot of fitness because of it however.

Would I even make it through the last loop?

5:01. That was my finish time, after the final, very bad, loop. I think I was in fifth place, but what a struggle. The best part is, it's over!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

and the Other Half is Physical

The title of this post refers to the Yogi Berra saying that baseball is 90% mental... and the other half is physical. That saying naturally applies to running as well, except more so.

This morning I find myself stumbling into the bedroom closet just as the 0400 watch alarm is about to chime. I almost always beat it, no matter how early its set. Trying to keep quiet, I dress into my running clothes and swig down a 5-hour energy. Maybe this will get me out the door faster than the usual coffee.

It’s been tough to get going lately. This is at least partly because we’re in Connecticut, trying to perform major surgery to Veronica and Barry’s house: mostly painting, plumbing and taking stuff to the city dump. So that may be a good portion of the physical part of why I’ve been tired and sore. But even before this week, most of my runs have been slow and tired. It could be my continuing injury saga, or the ongoing oppressive heat and humility. Maybe that is 90% mental part.

But I think the mental part goes further. My heel is, actually, beginning to heal, as is the rest of me. At least it’s better than it was. Even so, I am still burned out. I have a decent run now and then – including a tempo run at North Park last week and another here on the Housatonic trail. Most runs, however, are as tired and slow as ever.

I want to get out by 0500 in order to have enough time to run 20 miles and get back at a decent time. I sit at the computer first to check email and weather. This is always a Big Mistake. It certainly was Saturday, the last time I tried to get out for a long one and wound up starting so late that I settled for 10 instead. Yesterday I couldn’t get out the door at all.

Big Mistake it is again. Besides attending to NC24 matters and other things, I talk with Veronica a bit. I’m out the door at 5:45. This is much later than planned, but I’m determined to do 20 anyway. Debbie will just have to wait for me to begin painting a little later than usual. Since it rained quite a bit yesterday, I decide not to do the trail today. Instead I go down the hill and up the other one on Daniels Farm Road to the track. Those first three miles are slow ones, but with the hills and waking up (still), I’m not concerned.

It’s the fourteen miles at the track that weigh on my mind. The sun is already up as I start my circuits. It gets early early around here. (This is another Yogi saying – “It gets early late around here” or something like that.) That’s not so bad, but now it’s getting warm as well. And humid.

I am dripping with sweat as I complete my first track mile in something like 8:50. The next several are progressively faster – in the 8:40’s, 8:30’s and then some in the 8:20’s. By the time I have 10 in, I’m feeling like I’m doing well and am fairly pleased with the progression of the mile times.

"You're in fantastic shape" says a high-school soccer girl who's nearby when I stop for a sip of my water. She'd been there for almost the same amount of time that I was. "Thanks, I say. And so are you", since all high-school soccer kids are in great shape. At this point, however, the heat is beginning to get to me. The sun is beating down, and I only have a half-bottle of water left. I should have brought more. My mile times begin to slow. I’m putting in more effort than ever, but Miles 12 and 13 are close to nine minutes. I decide to try at least one more, and it comes out closer to ten minutes.

I decide it’s time to head home. I suppose I could slog through it, but that trend is very discouraging. I do slog the final three and barely get back in one piece.

So at least I got 17 in, but it wasn’t the 20 I wanted. Is it physical, or is it mental? The answer is yes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Bad Millennium

Word has it that legendary sea explorer Jacques Cousteau and his ship discovered a sunken boat from ancient Greece. Among the artifacts brought up was a bottle of wine. Cousteau opened the bottle and took a good swig. He immediately spat it out, saying with Gallic aplomb, "That was a bad century!"

One more story: five or ten years ago, some radio announcer said this about the Chicago Cubs: "Any team can have a bad century... but now they're having another one."

I mention these things because I seem to be having a bad millennium. I can actually trace the badness back to the previous millennium, to an injury I incurred in 1997. Something called plantar fasciitis. Until that point, I'd been having some very good years, but after that, they weren't so stellar. Sure, there were some ups and downs, but the ups were never quite as up as 1996 and before. And the trend continues into this millennia that we now find ourselves part of.

It's to be expected that there will be good and bad days, weeks, years, etc. And this year I actually have had some really good running days. I've blogged about those. And I've also blogged about the bad ones.

This week, month, season (being summer) have all been mostly bad however. Last weekend's running was actually better than expected, with 14 on the towpath Saturday followed by two Hinckley loops Sunday. It was Monday through Thursday that weren't too good. They old PF is as bad as ever, and the groin pull has been re-injured.

Maybe I should just give up and wait till the next millennium rolls around.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Yin and Yang

Patient: "This PF really sucks. My heel is killing me."
Doctor: "Have you ever had this before?"
Patient: "Yes, a couple years ago."
Doctor: "Well, you've got it again."

That's one of my dad's old vaudeville jokes. But it also sums up my experience with PF treatments. I've had this latest round since January, but I've managed to get some half-way decent running in throughout the first half of the year. The PF pain has come and gone, and I've been fortunate that for most of the time it's been gone.

But it has definitely came back with a vengeance during and after Mohican. It's strange how I knew going in that that run would be a watershed for me, but didn't know just how until now.

It's also funny how, even when the pain is there, I can still occasionally run fairly well. And other times, not.

Case in point: I went out for a run Saturday morning from our hotel in Gettysburg. We were there for the Living History with Barry and Veronica. I absolutely love the landscapes there; what a serenely beautiful area to stage a bloody battle. I had this one day to run, and I surely wanted to take advantage of it.

It was still dark when I started, so I did some loops around the roads (mostly Presidential Circle) surrounding the hotel, movie theaters and other hotels and restaurants. The number of loops turned out to be nine. I figured them to be just short of a mile, and I challenged myself to run each one a bit faster. I even did the last four at something like tempo pace.

Even though I was feeling some pain, the run was going quite well. Now I had 5-6 to go to complete what I wanted to do today. So I ran out away from these local roads... and almost immediately into the National Park. This surprised me, since I had believed that we were far away; this must have been a different part than that which I was familiar with. The landscapes were beautiful in this part as well, and there were cannons and historical markers all over the place.

So the run began with a good effort, and ended with a scenic run through history.

Monday was the Fourth of July: time for the Medina Twin Sizzler 5k/10k. I'd taken Sunday off, and although the 'ole PF was hurting, I had hopes of running at least close to last year's times.

It was great to see all my MCRR and other friends. The town square was buzzing and alive with activity. The 5k didn't go according to plan. Just after that downhill start my PF began hurting more and more. And, like Mohican, everything else began to hurt as well. I was even having trouble catching my breath. I came in at 21:30 something; about a minute and a half slower than last year. And this one just about killed me. How in the world would I be able to even get through the 10k?

After 2 uphill miles there, I was having trouble keeping an 8:30 pace going. Then we hit some down-hills, and I managed to take a minute a mile off that time. For this race my time was 49 minutes. I'm almost positive that's a Personal Worst. By a lot.

And now I'm really hurting. (I think I've said that before...)

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yeeeoww! I stopped and yelled this out during this morning's run on the Lester Rail Trail. The cause of this joyous noise was a sudden excruciating pain in my groin. It must have been what they call a groin pull. The pain went down my entire right leg.

The run - four 6-mile out-and-back loops on the Lester Rail Trail - had been going fairly well up until that point. It's too bad that that point was only about 150 yards into the run. What to do? I nearly walked back to the car in order to drive home and call it a day (at 5am). But no, I decided to try to gut it out, at least for a while. Sure enough, after some slow shuffling, I eventually got to a point where I could run again.

And speaking of pain, most of it went away fairly quickly in the days following Mohican. I say most because the pain in one particular body part (my heel) decided to linger longer. Yes, my PF continues to be as bad as ever. I wish I knew the exact moment in the race when it occurred, but I suppose it really doesn't matter.

Although I knew that Mohican would be a watershed for me, at least for 2011, I had in fact been running better (read: a bit faster) in the weeks leading up to the race. So it's not too surprising that I'm running relatively fast once again. I've got some tempo runs and speedwork sessions under my belt. It's just too bad that these types of runs hurt my PF the most.

Now I'll have to try to make something of the July 4th Twin Sizzler races in Medina. With a groin pull now to go along with the PF, it should be interesting.

I managed to get through today's 24. I even managed to run fairly well - under 8:30 pace, for the middle two laps. The fourth lap proved difficult, however. This may have been a result of all the other follies.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I now believe it was the plantar fasciitis that got me. It didn't necessarily appear that way during the run. Sure, my heel hurt, but everything - every bone, muscle, tendon and brain cell - hurt as well. Every stride, every footfall, was painful. I'd felt this way before, but never with 87 miles yet to run. And that's the part that was hurting those brain cells. I think that by favoring my left heel, combined with the twisting, turning, uneven surface of rocks, mud and roots, I caused additional bio-mechanical problems that brought the house down.

Everything about this run was truly a love-hate thing for me. I loved driving down to Mohican the night before with friends Ladd, Frank and Marsha. We three guys had planned to stay together as much as possible for the first half. I loved seeing old and new friends at the check in, dinner and meeting Friday night. I've said it before and I'll say it again: ultrarunners are some of the best people I know. I hated not being able to sleep more than two hours in our tiny cabin due to the campfire smoke that was like being two feet away from a chain-smoker.

The start was okay. It was not too hot, but extremely humid due to the rains the night before and earlier in the morning. After a half-mile or so, we reached the single-track trail. I'd anticipated that there may be a slow-down as we 300 or so runners (about half were 50-milers; the rest of us were centurions) entered the trail. What occurred, however, was a total traffic jam. Who wants to totally stop running, when there are 99+ miles to go? Eventually, we started walking, single file, up the switchbacks. Since the race had started at 5am, it was still dark, so the line of flashlights traversing the winding trails was surreal.

After about 10 minutes of walking we began shuffling on some of the straightaways. There were some extremely muddy areas, and without trail shoes, I began having some difficulties already. As unique an experience that this single-file trekking in the dark was, I hated it. I had absolutely no control over whether I could run or walk; I absolutely had to do what the group was doing. Worst of all, when I could run, I didn't really want to - it was that tough out there already.

Even several miles into the run, I was still with groups of runners going single file. The larger group had broken into smaller ones, but it was still impossible to get around them. And I was still at their mercy in regards to walking or running. Naturally the steep sections were for the walking, but there seemed to be way too few flatter areas. I even asked Ladd at one point: "Do you think there will be any areas where we can run for more than just a couple minutes?"

Ladd, Frank and I were never far from each other. After a couple hours, we could finally stay together for a while and avoid those groups a bit more. It was probably about 7 or 8am when I started to notice the scenery. The woods were truly beautiful, and, now away from the crowds, I thought about how much I loved this.

But not for long. Things were already starting to hurt. Ladd said we were 13 miles in at about the three hour mark. This was actually a good, smart pace, but it was beginning to get tough for me to keep up. Not to mention painful. How would I be able to do it for 87 more torturous miles?

I forgot about all this for a while as we crossed a stream several times and then climbed up and over a small, muddy cliff. This half-mile or so section may have taken a half-hour or more. It was fun, but also frustrating. The rest of the terrain was also terrible, but that part was the worst. Yes, it's the old love-hate thing on steroids. There was actually a very nice running section between the dam and the covered bridge aid station, but it's too bad that this was only about a half mile long.

After that aid station I found that I couldn't stay with Ladd anymore at all. He wasn't moving that fast, but I just wasn't able to hold even that pace. My overall pain was increasing, and the humidity made it difficult to catch my breath. This was shaping up to be an anaerobic ultra run for me. I made a couple remarks about all this to Frank, but I think he was having at least some difficulty as well.

By the time we got to the final aid station before the completion of the first 27-mile loop (mile 22 or so), I was totally spent. I did get a word in to Ladd and Frank that I didn't know if I'd be able to complete the loop, much less start the next one. I don't think Ladd believed me.

At this point things got worse and worse. I had been thinking that perhaps I'd recover and at least go on to some extent. Before the start, I'd had no contingency plans at all; I was going to finish no matter what. Now that ever step hurt, I was nearly in a panic - wondering whether I could make it back for even that first loop. My movements were slower and slower and more and more runners began passing me. I knew several of them, and they tried to encourage me. It didn't work. There was just too much pain and suffering. I was hating every minute. It didn't help that when I did try to run I tripped and fell. This was on top of a few other minor falls earlier in the run.

Eventually I saw it: a way to get back quicker: a short-cut! This would eliminate the extremely vertical final two-mile section of the course. Since I was going to be dropping, I had no qualms whatsoever about taking this route back in.

The 25 or so miles had taken me six torturous hours. It was such a relief to get off those terrible trails. For all I know, I may have been the first to drop. But I didn't care one bit.

Now I've been in a lot of pain (still) and am unable to run. Regarding trail hundred-mile races, I'd say they're out of my system for good.

Couple additional thoughts:

$200 for this race was way too much. I'd even be saying that if I'd managed to finish. The aid stations and support were okay, but not to the extent that they justified this cost.

And 300 runners (plus marathoners later on) is way too many for these trails. 40 to 50 should be the maximum.

I was amazed at how much my well-meaning friends were disappointed for me (for, not in). They wanted to do anything and everything to help. But nothing would do. I only needed to get off my feet. And to never think about anything like this ever again.

I should also mention that Patrick Fisher was to pace me for the final 23 miles. I'd been thinking that there's be none better. He felt bad for me, but there was nothing he could do at that point, either.

It was great to see Debbie and Kathy there at the start/finish area. I was sorry to disappoint them most of all, but they gave me encouragement anyway. And a nice ride home.

I am amazed that anyone can complete a race like this. It's not just 100 miles. It's 100 miles over the roughest terrain imaginable. Yet, Ladd and several others did make it. I'm in awe.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Out of My System

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that's the way I'm looking at this upcoming Mohican run. Maybe it's good to be apprehensive and anxious. I am, in spades. The thing about getting it out of my system is that the voices had been working on me for some time now. "You MUST do a 100-miler," they tell me. "The sooner the better," they go on. Assuming I can complete Mohican, I'll be able to silence those voices and move back to the normal ones. You know, the ones that tell me to run 3 shorter races over a weekend and such.

And this brings me to my goals:

1) Finish the race
2) Don't drop out
3) Run 100 miles and get to the finish

If I do accomplish all that, it would be nice to finish in a half-way decent amount of time - mostly because I get kind've tired at night.

One other thing: I hate trail shoes and carrying or wearing anything (that I don't have to for modesty). This means that I'm having trouble with water and that I'll probably run the race in road shoes. I'm just not a trail dog. Arf.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

... and Run Like a Turtle

So the whole thing goes,

Eat like a horse,
Drink like a fish... and
Run like a Turtle

This is one of Roy Heger's favorite mantras. One can do far worse than trying to emulate Roy, although I've joked with him that my goal is to be the exact opposite of him in every way possible. Just call me the anti-Roy. This is all the more interesting because many have compared Roy's appearance (beard, long hair, hippie clothes, etc.) to that of Jesus Christ. I suppose this would make me the anti-Christ, although I'm not really all that devilish. Okay, maybe a little.

This year, though, against all my most basic instincts, I've somehow managed to become more like Roy. Not in looks, mind you. But I've been running more and more miles, doing them slower and slower, doing them more and more on trails, and now I'm going to (be trying to) run a 100-miler. It's almost impossible to get more like Roy than that. Unless, of course, I was going to be doing multiple 100-milers. Or running them over impossible terrain. This one (which is tough enough) will most likely be plenty for me, thank you.

Back to turtles. I love running fast. Check that. I love being able to run fast. Of course in order to be able to run fast, one must run fast, at least at times. And this is something that simply hasn't been happening along with all those miles. I did manage 6:50 for two consecutive miles at the MCRR 'Quickie' a couple weeks back. And I also got down to sub-seven pace with the gang on the Lester Rail Trail the other night. I can't even call them tempo runs until I can do three consecutive miles at this pace, but these two efforts almost killed me. Today at the Trumbull HS track, I couldn't even come close. Heaven help me at Twin Sizzler and other upcoming shorter races.

So now I'm scared to death about next week's race, and I'm also afraid that I'll never get my mojo/speed back, afterwards. I supposed I should only worry about one thing at a time. Just call me Touche' Turtle. But ya doesn't have to call me Roy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I Lied

In an earlier post I said that I'd decided against Mohican. I'm sorry to say that I lied. I know this hurts my constituents and especially my family, so I'd like to apologize to all of them, and sincerely ask for their forgiveness. I also hope this doesn't spoil my chances for re-election.

After a better-than-expected run at Another Dam 50k, my excuses (not in shape, can't handle trails, heat, etc., etc.) dried up. So rather than continue to be called a chicken by Ladd and Frank, I went ahead and registered for Mohican. Lord help me..

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Another Dam 50k (Millenium) Run

You can just call me Millennium Man. That's because I wound up with number 1000 at this year's Another Dam 50k Run in Englewood, which is near Dayton, Ohio. I suppose calling myself Runner of the Millennium may be taking things a bit too far over the top.

"Just run real fast so that you're done before it gets too hot." This was my advice to anyone concerned about the anticipated heat for the day. We'd been hearing that the high would reach 94F. But they could be wrong, and even if they're right, 94's not really so bad, is it?

"Dan, do you remember the trails being this tough?" asked Ladd between huffs and puffs. My answer was, "Now I do!" It was just beginning to get hot. The first (of four) laps went fine, although the trails were indeed tougher than I remembered. One good thing: they were much less muddy than last year.

Ladd stayed with Jeannine as I ventured on ahead; Janet, Marsha and Charles were out there as well. I saw some of them coming and going from time to time. That's what makes AD50k so much fun. Not to mention the road trip aspect of it.

Yes, the trails were less muddy. Except for the second lap, that is. A brief heavy downpour occurred as I started that second circuit. The cool rain felt wonderful, and I was enjoying every minute of it. Then three things happened in succession: 1) the rain stopped; 2) the trails became muddy - really muddy; 3) the heat returned, this time accompanied by gobs of humidity. The mud was especially thick and heavy. All this made the second loop, which had started out so nice and cool, a tough (and slow) one.

The third loop, on the other hand, went extremely well. The mud had dried up as fast as it had appeared. The heat was still increasing, but for some reason that didn't bother me at this time. Roughly two miles of the 7.9 mile course are exposed to the sun. This includes the dam itself. The rest of the trails are nicely shaded; very nicely shaded. The one turned out to be my fastest, and it's where I felt the best.

So now, 3 hours, 30 minutes into the run, I had another hour and 10 minutes to finish in 4:40. Why is that important, you ask? Because 4:40 is the course record for men's grand masters division. Beating this time would put me in the record book and also net me a $75 gift certificate to a local running store. That's $25 for winning the division and a $50 bonus for breaking the record.

One hour, ten minutes is what I'd been averaging, so it wasn't an unreasonable expectation. Except, that is, for the heat. It was 11:30am, and the temperatures were really getting up there. It was taking it's toll, but I was going for it anyway. Gauging my pace on the times I hit the aid station, I had a chance as of the first stop, but almost not at all for the second. I never gave up the effort, but I just couldn't make it in the time I wanted.

The result was a 4:43. This was still good enough to place me 8th and 1st among the grand masters. It took almost forever to cool down and clean up. I learned later on that Dayton's high for the day was 98F! But running fast did get me out of the heat that much faster! My advice proved correct for a change.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

And Now for Something Really Different

That would be, of course, a hundred-miler. Really different for me, anyway. And I don't take this stuff lightly.

It was ten years ago that I did Mohican. I've told everyone a bazillion times, but I may have never mentioned it here in the 'ole blog: Debbie, who was my support crew, made me promise to never do another one of these things ever again. In a moment of weakness, I agreed. The funny thing was that I wasn't that bad during or after the run; she was just worried about me.

Now, a decade later, Debbie is letting me out of my solemn promise. But I've decided not to do Mohican. It's Burning River or Bust. More on all this later - just wanted to get this out there.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Fun Run that Wasn't

In the days leading up to the second annual Emerald Necklace 100k, it became clear that we wouldn't have too many runners actually running 100k. In fact, it was beginning to look like there would be only one or two of us out there. After double checking with all the potential runners, I decided to make it only 50k.

In the mean time, I learned about a Burning River Training Run, which was to cover the first 18.6 miles of the course, and ALSO a 33 to 40 mile run with Lloyd, which would also cover the beginning part of BR100, but then keep going up to Station Road and then some. This latter run was to celebrate Lloyd's birthday, thus "40 on my 40th".

Since I'd only be doing 31 on Sunday, 33 to 40 on Saturday sounded pretty good. In fact, this would give me even more that the planned 62 for the weekend. I'm just so brilliant.

It was already getting warm when a bunch of us met at Station Road and carpooled up to Squire's Castle in North Chagrin Reservation. There we met up with a much bigger bunch (the ones doing 18.6), and headed south. There was such a big group that the start actually looked like the start of Burning River itself. Everything seemed fun and exciting at this point.

The first 10 or so miles of BR100 are on the road, so of course I very unwisely stayed with the lead group of Brad, Steve and Rachel. Along the way we did encounter a few others, including Tim. When we hit the trails after the polo grounds I mentioned that I needed to slow down a bit and I expected the group to just go on. But we all slowed just a bit and stayed together. This (still going at a pretty good clip on the trails) turned out to be mistake number two for me. I should say, however, that at this point I was still very much enjoying myself. The trails were not too rough, but they were more than a little muddy, and we ran through several ankle-deep streams. Our legs were pretty well caked with the mud.

When we reached the 18.6 mile point at Shadow Lake, Tim, Steve and Rachel were done, and Brad and I went on. The problem was that I was done too, and yet I was only about half-way home. I stayed with Brad for a few more miles and then told him to go on; I needed to slow down. Way down.

Now as it became warmer, I entered Bedford Reservation and things became tougher and tougher. I stayed on the trails at times, but opted for the all-purpose trail more and more as I went on. The two main reasons were that I thought it would be fewer miles, and that I wouldn't have to pick up my feet as much. I did take one tumble on the trails along the way. I was suddenly very much not enjoying myself.

After a little bit of confusion, I found my way to Alexander Road, where I got some water and encouragement, knowing that I was almost there. I had thought that this was about mile 30, and therefore must have had only about 3 to get back to the car. The options for 36 and 40 miles were to include extra running in Brecksville Reservation; 33 would be fine for me today, thank you.

It turned out that the Buckeye Trail was early on in the section after Alexander Road - not long after the Bike & Hike Trail started. I didn't see it. I went on, and on and on. And let me tell you, that Bike & Hike Trail should be renamed the Bake & Hike Trail. That's certainly what I did (bake, not hike) for those four or so miles. The worst part about being lost is the thought that you're going all those extra miles for nothing. And suffering mightily for it.

Of course I did eventually get back, covering the last part of the run on route 82. I figure that I probably ran an extra 3 or so miles, so I'm calling it 36. I've had some really bad runs, but this has to rank up near the top (or should I say bottom) of that list. All I could think about is how much I hate this running stuff. This was the first fun run that wasn't for the weekend.

So what was I going to do about Sunday? I was so beat up that I could hardly move, much less run. At the same time, I began hearing from folks saying they also wouldn't make it to the Emerald Necklace. The two people that I thought would show up, John B. and Joe J., showed up. I was there to send them off, but told them that I couldn't run a step if my life depended on it. Joe did manage to finish. For me however, this was fun run that wasn't number two.

I suppose most of the problem is that I hadn't fully recovered from Cleveland. None of my runs in the past week were very good. But this was as bad as it gets. I now need to reconsider which, if any, 100-miler to do. And I need a long rest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today's Speed, by Dan Horvath

Today I felt an almost religious need
For some honest-to-goodness speed
When the body arrived at the track
The brain said 'hey, gimme some slack'
And the legs weren't having any part of this creed

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

Before I get to the race itself, a note about chemicals. Ad for a chemical company: 'without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.' My chemical of choice when it comes to running is called caffeine. It generally takes a cup or two of coffee, sometimes just tea, to get me out the door for a morning run. I'll also ingest something of the sort for races. I believe that aside from the obvious effect of waking me up, it benefits running in other ways as well: enhanced awareness, lower perception of pain, etc. Before a big race such as Cleveland, I'll often go a few days without caffeine so that the effect will be greater on race day.

That said, I'm usually pretty careful about not taking too much. I don't want to be too dependent on this, or any other chemical. But for the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, I think I took more than I ever have in one day:

-two cups of green tea early in the morning before I left (I had to wake up before driving to Connie's.)
-a no-doz type pill (200 mg) a bit before the start since I wouldn't be able to get coffee.
-3/4 of a bottle of 5-Hour Energy that they handed out before the start.
-another bottle of 5-Hour Energy that I had stashed in my shorts pocket after about an hour of running.
-4 energy gels that were laced with caffeine, taken during the race.
-a cup of coffee after the race (in the Key Marriott Fitness Center where we got to change and take showers).

The effect on the race? I'll get to that. But the effect on me? I was shaking like crazy well into the night, and almost didn't sleep at all. This must be what speed is like. (I had previously thought that caffeine's effects last 4-6 hours regardless of how much one ingested. I no longer believe this.)

The day was foggy, misty and cool. In other words, perfect. My plan was to begin with the 3:20 pace group and to try to pick it up in the end. I'd be happy with anything under 3:20 on this day, since I haven't been putting in the speedwork or shorter races like I did last year when I did 3:13. I'm also a few pounds north of last year's weight. I would've liked to run with Ladd and Connie, but I felt they would be just a bit faster, and I wanted to be more conservative.

Naturally all those plans went out the window as soon as the gun went off. After lining up by Browns Stadium with Ladd, Connie and Bob, I saw only Bob after the start, and I stuck with him for the first 5-6 miles. This was not smart on my part. Bob was running conservatively and wisely; I was not. You'd think after 90-some marathons and gobs of ultras and other stuff, that I'd know better.

I ran alone when I finally wised up enough to just let Bob go. After only a couple more miles, who should catch up with me, but Ladd, of all people. I had assumed right along that he was way up there, and that perhaps Bob would catch him. But no, Ladd was running smart. I decided, still fairly unwisely, to now stay with Ladd as the course took us from the very nice west side neighborhoods back into downtown. We said a fond farewell to the half-marathoners, and began heading east, past Playhouse Square, and eventually out towards University Circle.

The Cleveland Marathon course seems to change almost every year, and 2011 was no exception. Whereas we still go west for the first half, and east for the second half, those loops themselves were almost backwards from last year. I don't have a complaint about this, but it would be nice if they could settle on one course or another.

It was at University Circle, mile 17 or 18, where I lost Ladd. I was slowing just a bit, and he was still very steady. I could only hope that he'd be able to maintain his pace for a personal best. My favorite part of the course, MLK Blvd., through Rockefeller Park, came next. I was doing everything I could to try to maintain my pace, but I think I was slowing still a little more. Jim caught me and we chatted a bit before he went on after a personal best. With all these potential personal bests around me, you'd think... Oh never mind.

We hit mile 20 just as we got up to the lake at Gordon Park. I decided, after all that caffeine, that it was now or never. I'd run a pretty decent 20 miles (in 2:29, give or take), and a 45-minute final 10k would bring me in at a time similar to last year's.

I was surprised that we only stayed near the lake for a mile or so before making several turns. Mile 20 wasn't bad, but I slowed some more for the next few. With a mile and a half to go, I pushed as hard as I could to try to stay under 3:17. I don't know why that number is significant, but it seemed like it was at the time. The finish in front of Browns Stadium (the start had been in back) was pretty cool. I was going full tilt, and probably making all kinds of strange faces from the effort.

I made it in 3:16:xx - just barely under my 3:17 goal, and well under the original 3:20 goal. I could finally relax my face!

After I got my medal, I said hello and congrats to Bob, Ladd, Jim, and some other folks. It was a good day for a lot of us. Within a minute or so, we heard the announcer say, "Here comes Connie Gardner from Medina, Ohio. Congratulations, Connie, you are a *Marathoner*!" I don't think he knew who she was, but we sure gave her some $h!t about being a *Marathoner*!

I didn't know how I did in my age group. I was encouraged to not see too many geezers who looked to be my age, anywhere nearby at the finish. I later learned that I was first in that geezer division. That's a first for me at Cleveland (or any other medium/large marathon for that matter).

I suppose I'd have to say that chemicals do mostly work. And I can't wait till my next chance to abuse them.

Monday, May 09, 2011


The morning run wasn't going well at all. I was tired and slowing already, and I'd only just made it through the three miles over to the Brunswick track. Perhaps if I'd had a plan that was more clear...

The Hinckley Hills that I ran with the gang on Saturday were challenging as always, but the distance (14 miles) was lower than usual for a variety of reasons. Having just returned from some decent running in Omaha, and with Cleveland looming a week away, I didn't need a ton of miles on Sunday either. But I did want to do something, anything, of substance. I'd read that the Hanson Brothers call some of their workouts SOS, or "Something of Substance" runs. I presume this means that there's some kind of quality speed involved. In my case, needed intervals, hills or a tempo run. This was, then, my own goal for Sunday: Anything of Substance.

Too bad I didn't know what. The excuse here is that I never know if the Brunswick HS Track will be open or not. Many days I run the three miles over there, counting on doing a specific speedwork session, only to find it locked up tighter than a drum. Today was not that day... Many days I have a really bad first couple miles, decide that this wasn't my day, and bag the whole run. Today was not that day, either.

The workout du jour turned out to be 5 x 1200 at about a 4:58 average. Not great, but it *was* substantive. I'll have to take it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nowhere to Run

Almost invariably, wherever I travel, I can find a decent area in which to run. I'll often scout something out on Google Maps ahead of time, then head that direction from the hotel. Other times I just let serendipity lead the way for me. It helps that most of the hotels I stay in are located in decent areas. Not so much for the Courtyard in La Vista, Nebraska.

Same Treadmill, Same Workout, Same Result

I was here in La Vista in January, when the weather was incredibly cold - below zero and lots of snow. I spent the entire week (the running part of it anyway) on the hotel treadmill. One of those runs, a speed workout consisting of 8 x 1-Mile, resulted in my first bout with Plantar Fasciitis in quite a while. Since then, I've had the PF more or less constantly, although it hasn't slowed my running down too much. Actually it has, speed-wise, bit not mileage-wise.

So since there was a cold rain on Tuesday morning, I decided to hit the mill here once again. And since I needed speed, I decided to do 8 x 1-Mile again. And by now you've figured out what I'm going to say next: ouch! Yes, the PF, which never went completely away, is back in full force, or at least as bad as it was in January.

Other La Vista Running, Part 1

I did venture outside later in the week, and I wasn't pleased with the running possibilities; not at all. Every direction I went, there were concrete roads, traffic, and generally poor places to run to.

It almost didn't matter, because
a) my foot was hurting
b) I was tapering for the Cornbelt 24-Hour Run, so I didn't need a lot of miles
c) I was beginning to come down with an awful cold


I had decided to be as prepared as I could be for the Cornbelt 24. I packed gobs of gu, oodles of other odds and ends, several changes of clothes, etc. I bought a preponderance of Powerbars, a clutch of Cliffbars, and even some bottles of Boost. My work would keep me in Omaha over the weekend, and I'd decided that for something to do, I'd drive five hours east to the Quad Cities area in Eastern Iowa on Friday night, run the race Saturday morning until Sunday morning, and then drive back to Omaha on Sunday in order to be at work on Monday. Yes, I had it all figured out. Hey, maybe I'd even run well. At least I was giving myself the chance.

It was about midweek when my cold hit, and it hit hard. I'm a baby about these things anyway, but it was surely a bad one. How in the world was I going to run all day and all night with this? Would exposure to the elements for that long cause me to develop something worse, like pneumonia?

Of course there was the option of showing up, doing just a few miles, and simply running according to how I was feeling. Even this little bit would have seemed okay - at least I'd have tried. There was only one problem with that: the five-hour drive to get there. As bad as I was feeling, I wasn't sure I could even get through that in one piece. The one-hour drives to Lincoln were bad enough.

So I ditched the whole idea. It's disappointing, since I had begun to think I could possibly have done quite well. And in addition, I also wanted to see another one of these events in action. All in all, I probably made the right decision, however.

So then there was Lincoln.


When I was originally making my travel plans, I thought: "I wonder if there are any nearby marathons during the weekend that I'll be in Omaha." Sure enough, there was one, in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 1! Alas, several weeks ahead of time, it was SOLD OUT already, at 10,000 runners for the full and the half. I didn't think there were that many people in all of Nebraska! At about the same time, I realized that I was having a difficult time getting hotel rooms for Thursday through Saturday night. Lincoln was an hour from Omaha, could the rooms be sold out because of the marathon?

Ironically I did find a hotel in Lincoln for Thursday and Friday, but not Saturday, when that one was sold out as well. After rearranging my plans anyway, I wound up back in La Vista for Saturday night. I also found out that what was filling up the Omaha hotels was the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting.

My run in Lincoln was actually pretty good. I went south on 27th street for 2 1/2 miles and then east on a (concrete) bike trail for another 2 1/2 miles before turning back. There were a few mile markers, so I could gage my speed. And that speed was about 8 1/2 minute pace outbound, and better that on the return; almost tempo pace for me these days. And my cold? I was beginning to feel better, and the running seemed to actually help.

But note that the running was ten miles, not ten times that amount.

On Saturday I visited the marathon expo. It was just a bunch of runners. I then made my final drive from Lincoln to Omaha. About half-way I stopped to visit the Strategic Air Command Air and Space Museum. SAC had been in place during the cold war years to be the nuclear deterrent to the USSR and other threats. Part of the US Air Force, SAC was the outfit that had all the heavy bombers and also the ICBM's. I was pleasantly surprised by the museum; there were plenty of huge planes inside, including a B-29, a B-52 and a B-1. The World War II exhibits included a sample plane and information about Doolittle's bombing raid on Tokyo. It was all quite impressive, to say the least.


I found it! A place to run from my La Vista hotel. This, after not finding anything the week before, and then spending part of the weekend in Lincoln. I had done some more searching, this time for trails, thinking that I'd probably have to drive to a park somewhere to get to them. Voila! Wehrspann Lake Park (part of the Chaco Hills Recreation Area) is only a short three miles away, and there are six miles of trails there, mostly around the lake.

Like everything else around here, the trails are concrete, but that wouldn't be a problem this time: once I got there, I ran along the grassy trail berms. It was a nice park, and it even had some small hills. I ran around the lake, taking a shorter route that cut part of the trail out by crossing over a bridge over the lake part-way through. I called this a five mile loop. Then I went around again, taking the longer route, which I called six miles. After doing about three more miles in the park, I went back to the hotel, trying to pick the pace up as best I could.

It was enough to call twenty miles, and I'm happy I did it. The cold continues to improve. Later Sunday I drove downtown to take a long walk along the Missouri Riverfront. Turns out there are plenty of nice places to run (and walk) there too. There's also a neat new pedestrian bridge crossing the river to Iowa. I did this walk too, but then just turned right back.

Later in the week I made my way to and around the park three more times - each time for the six-mile loop along with the three miles each way to and from the lake. Each run was a little faster, and my cold continued to improve. It's good to run again!

So it turned out that after finding no places to go at first, and after not being able to make it to my 24-hour run, I did eventually discover places to run.

Monday, April 18, 2011


GCM stands for Glass City Marathon. I ran this one in lieu of Boston because it's easier, cheaper, less time consuming, etc., etc. I'm happy I did.

There were a bunch of us Medina County Road Runners who made the two-hour trip to Toledo. Debbie Scheel, Michelle Wolfe and John McCarroll shared the ride with me. John and I also shared a room at the Roof. We went to the not-so-big expo and then to dinner at Bravo. I believe there were on the order of 15 of us at the table.

I'd forgotten how noisy cheap hotels can be on Saturday nights. I guess I'm spoiled. I wish I could blame my slow time on lack of sleep, but that wouldn't be entirely fair. It would be more appropriate to blame my absolutely stupid 20 miles of running (11 on trails at night) on Thursday.

Although I was pretty beat up from Thursday (as well as the previous weekend's 100k run), I felt okay at the start. Connie, Ladd, Debbie and I stayed together in the early miles before I fell behind to try to stay with the 3:20 pace group. This wouldn't be bad, thought I. If I could stay with them and possibly even pick it up a mile or two out, I'd be able to call it a 3 hours, 1x minute marathon, and I'd like that.

But then something funny happened at about mile nine. We passed Debbie, and instead of staying with the group, I ran with her. At that point I was still feeling extremely good, and truly thought I would be able to continue to hang with them. For some reason, however, I made a split-second decision to stay with Debbie. I could see that she was struggling, and I could also see that the pace group almost immediately got way ahead of us. In my mind, now that I'd decided to run with Debbie, I was locked into staying with her for the entire race. In any case, I honestly thought I'd be able to help Debbie recover and begin to get her pace close to what it had been.

She didn't. We slowed quite a bit during those middle miles. The easy pace gave me a chance to admire the scenery. The course had changed entirely since I'd run this race before. The change was definitely for the better: starting at University of Toledo (where I went for my freshman year of undergraduate studies), through neighborhoods and parks, on roads and bike trails. Although the leaves weren't out yet, a few flowers were, and even the bare trees were pretty. The finish was inside the UT Football Stadium.

And speaking of pretty, it was pretty darn windy! I'm not sure of the wind speeds, but they were extremely strong, and seemed to be getting stronger all the time. Luckily those winds were in our face mostly in the first half, and mostly at our backs in the second half. Debbie did manage to pick up her pace a little by about mile 20. Even then, she had some foot cramps that slowed her down. As the finish approached, so did the 3:40 time barrier. Don't ask why this is a barrier, just accept that it is.

I pushed hard to beat that, and I encouraged Debbie to do the same. I finished in 3:38.

So that's another one for the books. At some point I'd like to get back to last year's levels, but that probably won't happen any time soon.

Thanks to Wendy Kouvaras for use of the photo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mad City 100k

The piper would need to be paid. It was just a matter of how much.

I was about to break one of the cardinal rules of running. You know the one: Thou shalt not try for a PR in the 50k en route to a 100k run. Just after one of ten 10k loops of the Mad City 100k, I did some quick math and analysis in my already rattled head. It went something like this.
Let's see, 52 plus minutes for that lap. If I can just do four more 53 minute laps, I'll beat my 50k PR of 4:25. But how much would the piper charge for something like this? Hey, maybe little or nothing! Maybe I do 4:25 or so for both the first half and the second half!! Or even if not, maybe I can just go back to the original plan and still wind up with a fast time.

That original plan had, I thought, been a good one. Since my previous three 100k's were all in the range of 10 to 11 hours, I felt that anything under 10 hours on this day would be a great and wonderful thing. Since the Mad City 100k consisted of 10 10k's, something I can actually get my head around, the math is easy: just do each one under an hour. Note the overuse of the word "just" here and in the previous paragraph. There were other sensible parts of the plan as well: E-caps, gel and Perpetuem every lap; stuff like that.

Mad City, so named because it's in Madison, Wisconsin, serves as the USATF 100k National Championship. Therefore, the best ultrarunners in the country were present. The weather at the start was cloudy with temps in the upper 40s; they would rise through the 50s during the day. In other words, absolutely perfect. RD Tim Yanacheck started us off and almost immediately the 30 runners separated themselves into three groups: the fast folks - about 20 of them - ran up ahead. The slower folks - 10 or so - fell back. The third group consisted of me, all by my lonesome, in the middle.

We left Vilas Park, ran on bike trails and roads, went through some neighborhoods, past playgrounds, through an Arboretum and other small parks including wetlands and woods, all the while keeping Lake Wingra on our left. There were a few rolling hills. The toughest was through a neighborhood around mile 2.5. Those hills were enough to slow me down some, but they really weren't bad. In fact, they helped break up the monotony. Each of the six miles were marked by a pillar. All in all, it was a very nice course to be traversing ten times. I do need to mention, however, that the hills did increase in size every time through.

After that first time around, I thought, "this is easy". Sure enough, I was able to run the next three laps in right around 53 minutes and I was on my way. Lap five proved more difficult. I was still maintaining that same pace, but it was tougher and tougher. That's when I really started to wonder some more about paying that piper.

I got my 50k PR: 4:24:17. And then almost collapsed. Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but as I started the sixth one, I knew I was in trouble. Everything started to hurt. Nothing specific, just general pain, and a lot of it. The piper had begun taking his payment already. This lap took me on the order of 59 minutes (and my pace slipped from 8:30ish to 9:30ish); just right according to the original plan. But would I be able to do four more?

Yes and no. Yes I was able to do four more. No, I couldn't keep them under an hour. In fact, they were all just over an hour. Not by much, mind you, just a minute or so off each time. I had taken an ibuprofen tablet for the pain - something ultrarunners are never supposed to do - and that seemed to take some of the edge off. Maybe it's just the placebo effect.

Throughout the race I'd seen fairly few other competitors. There were 50k runners and relay runners. There were 100k runners that I lapped and some that lapped me. But I was still surprised at how few I saw in general. Near the end of lap 10 I did see two others however. One came from behind, and although I tried to hold him off, he passed me with about a quarter mile to go. The other was ahead, and I recognized his shirt and running style. It was Bob Pokorny, whom I'd driven up with. I hadn't seen Bob for the entire time. After the other guy passed Bob, I pulled even with him. Hey, I was finally running with someone! We only had about 100 yards to go, and I suggested we tie. Bob had crashed much harder than I had, and he agreed. We finished 15th and 16th, with a time of 9:31.

Note to self. Next time, stick with the plan! It may not get me there that much faster, but it would definitely get me there with less pain.

RD Tim and his volunteers did a great job. Except for the pain, it was a pleasure!

Then came the (even more painful) ride home, but that's a different story.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Slick Speedwork

Unfortunately, this title is intended to be in the literal and not the figurative sense of the word.

Debbie and I drove through constant rain and snow during our trip to Connecticut yesterday. This made for a somewhat stressful drive. Veronica's part of CT experienced mostly rain. As expected, we're having a great visit and are especially enjoying Grandson Malcolm.

It was clear and in the mid-thirties (I thought) when I started running Saturday morning. Things were still damp from all the rain, but this didn't appear to be a problem as I ran downhill from Veronica and Barry's place, and then up (way up) Daniels Farm Road, past Daniels Farm and Daniels Farm School, to the track. With all the miles I've been doing, more than ever I had a need for speed.

After 36 (24 out and 12 in) on Thursday, along with other long stuff during the week, I haven't been very speedy at all lately. My (current) theory is that running slow doesn't make you slow; not running fast makes you slow. And if you're doing gobs of your miles slowly, that puts you (read: me) squarely in the latter category.

For this attempt at a Something of Substance run, I figured I'd do some mile intervals at the track for the quality part, and then enough other jogging around to call it 14 for the day and 100 for the week. As I hit the track and tried mightily to pick up my speed, I immediately realized that (whoa!) the track was covered with a thin layer of ice. That put a quick damper on thoughts of any real speed.

I tried to go fast anyway, but when the first mile went by at about 7:37 - about a minute slower than I'd have liked - I began to think it would be a Nothing of Substance run. I did three more icy mile repeats anyway, each one faster than the last, but still pretty pathetically pokey. At least I somehow managed to not slip enough to fall completely.

So I ran back down Daniels Farm Road, back up to Veronica and Barry's place, did some half-mile loops around the block, and stopped when I thought I had 14.

Nothing of Substance, but more miles for the week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

going long

Again and again I pound out the miles at the expense of quality. But now I have a reason: I signed up for the Mad City 100K. Plans are to travel to Wisconsin and run this April 9 race with Connie and Bob. But holy cow. I'd better train. And that means even *more* miles.

So last Sunday, after getting home from California the morning before, I ran on the order of 33 miles at Hinckley. It wasn't all 9-mile loops, although there were a couple. There was some back and forth, and also 8+ miles of trails as the first loop of the first annual Buzzard Run 50K put on by Roy and Shannon. That, incidentally, was a blast - it was near the end of my odyssey, so it was rather slow, but still fun. Part of the run was with Dan and Becky.

That wasn't enough. I wanted to do a *longer* one, and I wanted it to come in 6-miles increments because Mad City consists of 10 10K loops at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So Wednesday I ran my own 6-mile loop 3 times, did some additional stuff around the school, and came back with 24 miles. Then I hopped on the mill for 9 more. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to quit at 33 for this day as well. Not quite as far as I wanted, but it would have to do.

Today I did 21 at Dave's. We did his favorite loop into the valley and back out to his place. It was cold, but the run went fairly well.

Now, about running long, here is my weekly mileage:
Sunday: 33
Monday: off
Tuesday: 10
Wednesday: 33
Thursday: off
Friday: 4
Saturday: 21

I'll leave the math as an exercise for the reader.

Will the madness ever stop?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In my post about the Green Jewel 50K, I mentioned the concept of setting a PR so far ahead of one's previous best, that it could be called "Beamonesque". Of course I was recalling the Bob Beamon long jump in the 1968

I now find myself in Lake Forest, CA once again, and I'm once again running the 10-mile Portola Hills route that I described in my Running in La-La Land post. Note that there is neither a lake nor a forest here. But it's really nice, nonetheless.

Ukrainian Athlete Sergei Bubka, made his living as a pole-vaulter. But he wasn’t just any track and field athlete; he was a world record holder. He would famously predict another world height record to the promoters of any and all events where he was invited. The promoters would happily pay a bonus for such record performances, and Bubka would come through for them.

The thing was that he would only break his previous record by a small amount each time. He wanted to continue making such a good living with the bonus payments he constantly earned. Had he ever broken the record by a large amount like Bob Beamon did, he would’ve had a much tougher time breaking it again the next time.

Last time I ran the route 3 times, and I got a bit faster each time. Those times were pretty darn slow however. I’d like to point out, however, that the elevation gain during this 10-mile run is pretty darn significant. It appears that I run from an elevation of 300 to 400 feet, all the way up to 1600 feet at about the 4-mile mark. From there it’s down to mile five before turning around, climbing the mountain, and heading back down the other side.

After an improvement of something like four minutes for those three runs, I was wondering whether I could continue that trend this week. I’d be doing the run as many as four times; that’s a lot of improvement. One thing in my favor was that I knew the course well by now. Another was that the weather, which was excellent last time, would be even better this week – the morning lows would be in the low 50s.

So for my first trick, I wanted to at least break 90 minutes; something I couldn’t accomplish at all last time. The problem is that the elevation gain in the first half is so darn high, that it’s tough to even make 10 minutes per mile for that portion. But Monday morning I did succeed: I went out in 48 minutes and got back in 41 for an 89 minute run. Would I be able to beat this?

Tuesday’s splits were 47 and 40 minutes for an overall time of 87. That’s real improvement. But was I holding enough back to break this course PR the next time.

That answer would be yes: Wednesday’s splits were 45.5 and 39.5 for a time of 85 minutes. Surely I’d now hit my lower limit on speedy times. But I only had one day left. I’d run on Friday, but I’d probably do a shorter route. I had this one major run left. There would be no tomorrow.

Instead of my usual 2+ cups of coffee I use to get myself out the door, on Thursday I did something I hadn’t done in a while: I took a caffeine pill. And I washed that down with a little coffee. Hey, I just *had* to get myself going. And get going I did. I went out in 44 minutes and came back in 39. That adds up to 83 minutes for this, my course PR.

Sergei would be so proud of me.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

2011 Green Jewel

I've been putting in the miles, and my 50K PR, at 4:46, is mighty soft, so I went into this one *expecting* a PR. And not just an incremental one; I wanted to be Beamonesque, and really put one out there. But before I get to a description of the run, I just have to list the excuses:

1) I flew in from Boston last night, arriving at 8:30, which is pretty nearly my bedtime. I don't often run well the morning after a late (for me) flight.
2) With all the traveling, I've naturally put on a few pounds. This is never helpful.
3) The weather was fairly awful. The constant rain was bad enough, but the cold wind never let up, and seemed to be constantly in our faces.
4) Said rain caused flooding at many points along the way. The water (more like rivers) running across the all-purpose trail at many points was bad enough, but in some places there was thick mud on the asphalt, with water on top of that. It turned out just like ice.

Okay. Even with those caveats, I was still going for it. And that means, of course, that I went out too fast. I ran alone most of the way, but that was fine. I probably averaged 8 minutes per mile for the first half, hitting the mid-point (maybe 14.5 to 15 mile) aid station in Berea at 1:58.

Things went downhill from there. Actually uphill, but my pace slowed considerably. I hit mile 24.5 - the final aid station at about 3:25. Would I be able to do those final 7+ hilly miles in a bit over an hour to break 4:30?

It was tough. I was doing only marginally better than 9-minute pace on those parkway hills through N. Royalton and Broadview Heights. I hit Brecksville Road at about 4:17. Now I had a (steeply) downhill mile and a half to do in 13 minutes. Would I be able to?

Yes. I finished in 4:28 - a PR by 18 minutes. Almost, but not quite Beamonesque. (By the way, google Bob Beamon - and the 1968 Olympics - if you want to know what I mean by that.) Patrick told me that I'm not allowed to complain about any run that results in a PR, so I won't.

It was wonderful, once again, to run with all my MCRR buddies. Everyone did well!

(photo courtesy of Dan DeRosha)

North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

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