Saturday, December 21, 2013

Twist and Shout

Two Weeks Ago...
"EEEEOOOOW!" I was on my sixth and last five-mile loop of the Buckeye Woods 50K, running with Patti Tomasello and Shari Geiger, when I experienced a sudden, excruciating pain in my left knee. I stopped running, and Shari and Patti did as well out of concern. I must have twisted it, and/or landed funny, but the pain was huge. My fleeting thoughts turned to wondering whether I'd have to walk the final two and a half miles of the race.

I didn't mention this incident in my race report, because just as suddenly as the pain appeared, it went away. In less than a minute, I was once again back to running the same pace with my friends. My knee didn't bother me a bit for the remainder of the run.

Today at about eight-thirty...
"EEEEOOOOW!" It had, until this point, been a good day and even a good week of running. For the week, I'd done all my runs at my new company's fitness center treadmills as well as outside in the adjacent park with long-time running partner Dave Gajewski. After an easy recovery week following BW50K, these runs had gone pretty well. Today's running had been going even better. I'd done the Hinckley nine-mile big loop at a faster than usual pace with Will Bertemes, Brian Becker and Renee Harden. I'd done a three-mile lake loop with a larger group who showed up at eight o'clock. I'd just started on my second lake loop, when I felt that sudden pain once again.

This time it wasn't on a dirt trail with snow and rocks and roots; I was on a smooth bike trail. I wish I knew what caused the twist of the knee this time, or that other time for that matter, but there it was. Rob Lisy and the others stopped with me out of concern. "I'll be fine, I said. The same thing happened two weeks ago." Sure enough, I did recover and continue my run once again.

Today at about eight-thirty-seven...
'EEEEOOOOW!' Okay, time to stop. I'd only gone another three-quarters of a mile, and it happened again. I slogged back to the car, done for the day.

Now I'm getting a little concerned.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Buckeye Woods 50K – One for the Ages (Well, Pretty Much, Anyway)

“How many people are ahead of you?” Connie Gardner had appeared at the BW50K start/finish/aid station to help a bit, and had decided to join me for my third five-mile loop. I had run the first two with Jeannine Nicholson and Beth Bugner, and I was glad to also have Connie’s company for this one. I hadn’t really thought about it till now. “Oh, a bunch,” I answered, “at least seven or eight.”

Jeannine Nicholson, Beth Bugner and Fancy Pants Horvath     photo by John McCarroll

But then I thought about it some more. “Wait a minute,” I said, “I think most of them are doing the 25K. There’s only one of them that I know of who’s doing the fifty: Pete Schwanke. But he’s good; he ran a fast time here last year.” Connie, never one to mince words, said, “Let’s get him!” Sure enough, I did pick up the pace for that lap. But then I was running with Connie; a faster pace probably would have happened anyway. I may have made a little progress in this new quest for first during that quick forty-one minutes, but I knew I would inevitably slow down in the second half. My only hope was that Pete would as well. Wouldn't that be neat, I briefly fantasized, to win my own race?

I did slow down;  Pete didn't. I could tell by where we’d pass by each other going opposite directions, that he was gaining, not losing ground on me. The best I’d be able to hope for this day would be second. And even that would be a challenge.

“Dan…” (pregnant pause)…  “Do NOT let her catch you!” Harold Dravenstott said this to me as we made the final turn towards home on my last lap. I had a mile and a half to go. “She” was Nicole Gareri, who was coming by at a high rate of speed in the opposite direction, only a quarter mile behind. Nicole was last year’s winner, and she was about to win and finish strong once again this year.

As if I needed another challenge. We’d been running on hard packed snow and some ice for the entire race. The air was cold, and the wind had picked up a bit. I had been happily running this last loop (my slowest at about ten minute per mile pace) with Patti Tomasello and Shari Geiger, thinking I’d be thrilled to simply finish in vertical fashion. Except now I had to try to respond to Harold’s call to action.

I did pick up the pace as best I could, and I barely stayed ahead of Nicole. She finished just behind me.

Just happy to finish    photo by John McCarroll
With over sixty runners, BW50K was bigger by far than ever before. Our new rule that you had to be a club member to run this free race paid off big-time: we had about 25 people join the club. And several, including Patti and Shari, completed their first ultra. I think everyone had fun. With the race growing as it is, however, I won’t be able to organize it next year. I hope I can find someone to take it on.

I’m pretty proud of my second place finish as well as my time of 4:45. I’ll go as far as to say that this is (just about) one for the ages. It’s a legitimate distance, trails, and although there are no hills, the conditions were tough. In spite of that, this was my second best trail 50K ever. Even the other three that I did here were slower by a minute or more. The only faster one was at Another Dam 50K in the heat a few years ago.

But that’s a different story.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cleveland West Road Runners Club Fall Classic Half Marathon

Yes, that's a mouthful. And there's plenty to say about it as well. Luckily for you, dear reader, I am in a brief (vs boxer) sort of mood today.

I carpooled with John Pavlick and Amy Grentzer, The weather forecast had been for snow showers with 1-3 inches possible, along with a low of 19, a high of 26, and extremely cold winds. Sure enough, it was 19, and those extremely cold winds made it feel like it was in the low single digits. The snow didn't materialize, however. But standing around before the start was C. O. L. D! We saw some other friends and were able to commiserate a little. Once I started to warm up, things felt better. Except whenever I ran into the wind.
Before the start

And once the race actually started, I began to warm up some more. I went right out at my usual 7:30 pace, and actually felt okay. I'd averaged 7:30 at my last half - the Inland Trail Half - only a few weeks ago. I'd been thinking that I could do better this time, and maybe I could.

But then I turned around, and felt the wind in my face. This race, which I've done more times than I can count, is a double out and back on the Valley Parkway in Strongsville. It winds around a lot, but there are no hills. One of the neat things about it is seeing all your friends, regardless of your speed or their speed, so many times during the race. This year it was no different. Except that everyone was so bundled up, it was at times hard to recognize everyone.

Oh yes, the turn. As I headed back north and west the wind nearly stood me up. And it felt as cold as ever. I went by many of the 5K runners for my first circuit through the start/finish area. My time was something like 49 minutes and change. I'd slowed down a bit.

Somewhere in the middle
Now came the second half. Could I pick it up? I ran much of the way with Eileen Meisler. There was quite a bit of back and forth with her and a few others. As we turned back for the final 5K, that wind hit once again. But Eileen got ahead of me and picked it up some more. I tried to follow.

I did manage to pass her and a couple others in the final 1/2 mile, but one guy passed me. I think those last two miles were my fastest. My time was 1:39:19. That was tough!

Once again, it was fun, but C. O. L. D. to hang out at the finish, talking with everyone about that cold wind, and how cold we all felt. Naturally that only made us feel colder. I changed, but my hands were still freezing until John lent me his warm gloves.

I found out that I was second in my age group, but a matter of seven or so seconds. I hadn't seen the guy, but then remembered that the awards were based on chip time; he may have been behind me.

Maybe next year will be my year. Oh yes. I do have at least one more race for this year. Some little thing called BW50K.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Early was Late

In the PBS documentary, The Civil War, historian Shelby Foote describes an incident where Confederate General Robert E. Lee was awaiting the arrival of General Jubal Early and his troops in order to help at the battle of Gettysburg. Lee was upset because "Early was late," he said.

On Saturday I decided to run on the towpath with Dave Gajewski, Kevin Jones and Larry Orwin and wife Christine. They are a fast bunch, but I felt up tot the task. So much so, in fact, that I also decided to arrive early to do some extra miles. I'd had thoughts of stretching the 12-14 they'd planned on, up to 20 or so. But due to some early morning procrastination, I had the consternation of arriving only about ten minutes early, resulting in the frustration of only winding up with 13.5 for the day. The pace was a good one, however.

Had I run longer on Saturday, I wouldn't have felt the need to also run on Sunday, but now I did. In fact, I decided to arrive early for the Hinckley 9-mile loop organized by club members including Shari Geiger. If I could arrive an hour and a half early, in fact, I could get two loops in. But due to some early morning procrastination, I arrived a little bit later than that. This time I did get some decent miles in, however. I did two lake loops and almost enough other stuff to make nearly nine. So this time I wound up with a bit under 18 for the day.

31 for the weekend, and 71 for the week (the most since Cleveland) isn't bad. I guess that if you fail enough, all those failures added together can still be pretty good.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Every Hour, On the Hour

Instant Relief! That's what I felt as I started the fourth six-mile out and back loop on the Lester Rail Trail for the second time.

The first time hadn't gone so well; the PF pain had gradually gotten worse during the third loop, and it was excruciating at the first start of the fourth. As I returned to the car, I changed from my Montrail Mountain Massochist's to my Hoka OneOne Stinson Evo's. I'd also been thinking about quitting altogether; Nineteen miles wouldn't be all that bad after that half-marathon 48 hours ago. But dad-burn it, I'd never failed to complete a 24-miler here on the Lester, and I didn't want this to be the first time. Even so, it'd been a while. Quite a while.

The Hoka's, with the Powerstep insoles, provided the instant relief from the PF pain that I'd hoped for. This truly amazed me. It's too bad that the rest of me was in pain as well, and I had a long way to go.

The first three laps had gone quite well. I arrived at 4:00 AM, in order to get a loop in before Jack Reilly showed up at 5. Jack only did one loop with me, so I was back on my own for the third loop at 6. All this running had been at close to nine minutes per mile, and I was pleased as punch about it.

But then came those final six. Even without the PF pain, they weren't one bit pretty. Can you spell 'ten thirty miles?' Somehow I made it though.

This had been a test; a test to see if I could/would do the full 50K at Buckeye Woods in December. I guess I passed. This means that as of now, I may consider going for it. But I got a long way to go.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Inland Trail Half-Marathon

'It's so boring!' That's the number one complaint about the Inland Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon over the past few years. The marathon was out thirteen miles on the Inland Trail, a rails-to-trails bike path, and back. The half was point to point; they bused the runners out to the marathon turnaround point in Kipton, and they just ran back to Murray Ridge School in Elyria. I've run the marathon three times, and I've never experienced said boredom. But then I can't remember being bored on any run at any time. 'I've experienced many different problems during my various runs,' I like to respond, 'but boredom isn't one of them.' In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed each of my races there at/on Inland. It helps that I’ve also run them well.

After listening to all the other runners' complaints about the race, the organizers decided to change the course this year. We ran on country roads and through subdivisions for the first eight miles before finally getting onto the Inland Trail itself. Then we stayed on the trail for the final five miles of the half. The marathoners would continue on for a much longer out and back portion. Having been part of the silent majority who actually did like the old course, I didn't know what I'd make of the new one. But I figured it would still be small (it was), and fast (it was), so I thought I'd give it a shot. I drove in with Jack Reilly and Michelle Wolff.

The early November weather was, as usual, absolutely perfect: upper thirties to low forties, a few decorative clouds and a very light breeze. But speaking of breezes, I was pretty winded during the first half-mile, until I backed off just a bit. My time was 7:22. Boy, would it be great if I could maintain that pace.

'Hello? I'm running a race - what do you want?' I, along with a couple ladies in the vicinity had to laugh at overhearing (we couldn't help it) Shelby Buell's phone conversation early in the race. I tried to kid Shelby about it, but he didn't hear me. By mile five I was averaging about 7:30 per mile. Not bad, if I could only maintain that pace. Where have we heard that before?

A few miles and a couple gels later, I got onto the Inland Trail. The country roads and subdivision hadn't been bad - except some runners didn't like the half-mile of rough gravel road at mile seven - but now that we were finally on the trail for which the race was named, I realized how much I missed the old, 'boring' course. It was beautiful with the remaining fall leaves decorating the sides of the trail, and it was quiet to the point of being serene.

There was an aid station as I turned onto the trail, and I took a quick sip of water. Soon thereafter, my GPS notified me that I'd run eight miles in almost exactly sixty minutes; I was still doing 7:30's. A minute and a half later, at mile 8.16, I spotted the eight mile marker. Until that point, the course markings hadn't been very much different from my GPS. But surely this was a mistake; the next miles would be shorter, and everything would be in sync again.

A couple things happened at mile nine:

1) I spotted the first half-marathoner coming back at me on the trail. The turn-around was at mile ten, so he was about two ahead of me. I decided to begin counting everyone who was in front of me.

2) I spotted an aid station up ahead and took a gel, anticipating that I would be able to wash it down with a cup of water. But the table was not manned. Or even womaned. And although there were some water coolers, there weren't even any cups. The gel wasn't going down so well, but I guess I'd manage. Surely there would be more water ahead; they wouldn't make us run the final five miles of a half-marathon without water, would they?

3) Mile nine was off by the same amount as mile eight.

The turnaround was just after mile ten. *Their* mile ten. I'd counted eighteen runners ahead of me. One of them appeared to be about my age. But surely he'd be in some other age group. There was no more water. Surely they'd have someone manning the one at mile 9/11 by now.

It was still dry. I took another waterless gel. Picking it up a little, I passed Shelby and a few other runners. According to my watch, my final two miles were my fastest: 7:08 and 7:07. I figured there were only fourteen ahead of me as I made my final turn onto Murray Ridge Road. The volunteer said, 'only a half-mile to go!' I wanted to yell back, 'but I've got 12.9 *now*! How can there be a half-mile left?' But I didn't; he was only the messenger.

At mile 13.3, I finished in 1:38 and a half. Just about the seven-thirty pace that I wanted. And it was good to finish strong. Not strong enough, unfortunately, to win the age group; that other guy beat me by four minutes.

But I'm still pleased with my performance. I did what I was capable of. And I really shouldn't complain about all those minor trials and tribulations. Surely they really do go with the territory.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Success! Well, kinda

Obsessed with time as I am, I wait for the two-mile mark on my six-mile route and note that the GPS watch alerts me right where I think it should, and at that point I also start up my normal watch. Two watches? Well, I do have two wrists after all.

There actually is a reason, but I have a hard time explaining it. What happens next during today's run will help. I run this course fairly often, and I know where the mile splits are. Or at least where I have always thought they were. This is only the first or second time I've done this run whilst donning my GPS. Comparing the GPS miles with my own 'traditional' splits would be illustrative.

This was also yet another tempo attempt. Those haven't been going so swell lately - ever since that vacation. The funny thing is that the regular weekly speedwork does still seem to be going good. But tempos? Not so great. A case in point was Saturday's Pause for a Cause 5K in Medina. According to said trusty GPS, my mile splits were 7:18, 7:31 and 6:32, along with 1:40 for the final .1, which was more like .2. If I can't do 3 consecutive sub-seven minute miles in a race, how the heck can I do it in a training run?

My GPS tells me that mile three, the first of my three tempo miles, is also where I thought it
should be. The GPS therefore agrees with my watch for that first mile split time. And - yay - it's sub-seven.

I cross back over Pearl Road, turn right, then left for a nice downhill portion of the course. I cross over the traditional mile four and hit my watch again. Sub-seven again. Double-yay! But the GPS thinks I've got a way to go yet. It doesn't tell me that I've hit mile four for quite a while. When it does go off, the time is 7:18. Not so good.

A little chagrined, I continue south, cross over Center Road, and keep going. Now on the Dead Presidents streets, I come around and wind up heading north once again. I cross the traditional mile five point and hit my watch again to get the split. Great news - it is also sub-seven. I did it! Except the GPS is once again saying, literally and figuratively, not so fast. It once again waits until 7:17 or so to tell me that I've completed another mile.

I certainly do know what to do about all this: toss that dang contraption in the trash. Facts can be such pesky things.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

9:30 Now and Eventually a Wannabe

Two days in a row I got myself caffeined up, and then shot out that door. I was gonna get a fast start, and continue on to a fast overall run - something of substance - if it killed me.

After some lackadaisical running after returning from vacation, I did manage a decent speedwork session at the track on Tuesday. The yassos went well, and they sure felt fast. But then looking back in my log to just a few weeks earlier, they were somewhat slower.

All this was okay, I told myself. As long as I can eventually bounce back, there's no shame in having a few slow weeks. But how long is eventually?

For both days, that lightning-fast first mile came in at 9:30. Of course this is another case of, it felt faster. Much faster. For both days, I did get a little faster for subsequent miles, but not where I was; especially not where I want to be.

Hmmm. Wannabe. Maybe I'll get there eventually.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Running in Alaska

This is a chronicle of my running adventures in Alaska during our September 2013 trip.

First Run in Anchorage

Bears! Bears? Here? Couldn't happen, could it? It hit me at 58 1/2 minutes into my planned two-hour run. Only a minute and a half before I would be turning back anyway. Why do these things always occur to me at precisely these times? 

Here's a grizzly Debbie and I spotted
from the car a couple days later
The run had begun innocently enough. I'd started off running north from our Anchorage hotel on A Street, towards downtown, until I hit the Chester Creek Trail. One of several all-purpose trails crisscrossing the city, this one's very nice. It's wooded, and alongside a nice creek. The path passes through tunnels and under bridges, so you hardly even know that you're in a city. There is even some lighting - which helps at 4:00 am.

The Chester Creek Trail took me west, past a large lake, and ended at the Coastal Trail. I turned left to go south. Now I was running along the shore, but things were just a little surreal.

There are wooded areas, but some homes and roads to my left, along with the water to my right. Except I never saw, heard or smelled any ocean. No ocean breeze. No crashing surf. I believe it's a very protected bay or inlet, and the tide was way out, such that the ocean was both close by and far away at the same time. It is quiet and mostly dark, although I could see fairly well with the lights of Anchorage behind me.

As I venture on, there are fewer and fewer houses and roads, and more and more woods to my left. At some point the trail veers away from the coast, and into the woods. Now, further away from the city lights, and in these deeper woods, the thought of bears popped into my head.

They wouldn't roam this close to Anchorage, would they? And they wouldn't be out in the dark, would they? Even if so, they surely wouldn't want to fool with some silly, solitary, skinny old runner traveling stupidly through these woods, would they?

This is how I manage to spook myself every time. Naturally I become more and more afraid, the more I think about it.

My fear isn't quite strong enough to override my plan to go 60 minutes before turning back. It occurs to me that these last ninety seconds of continuance in this outward direction, given that I'm already thinking about bears and other wind things in these woods, are the dumbest of all. But I'd planned to go an hour each way, and dad-gum it, I was gonna do it!

I come to a park - one of several along the way, and turn back. I pick up the pace; no doubt partially due to all this newfound adrenaline in my system. I find myself getting back so quickly that I even tack on a couple extra couple miles back on the Chester Creek Trail. It is still dark when I got back to the Springhill Suites, but the city has begun to wake up. For Debbie and me, it was time for breakfast.

I never did see any bears or even any wildlife of any kind during this run. Except in my mind.

I learn later on that Anchorage is one of the only cities in the world where human/grizzly encou ters have been documented.

Heavenly Healy Happenings

You might say I'm a little out of my element. I'm starting out for another run in the early morning darkness, this time from the Denali Lakeview Inn B&B in Healy. Yesterday's imaginary bear encounter had spooked me, but the Inn's posted notice about a grizzly sighting at the lake - which is all of about ten feet from or room's deck – has spooked me more.

Healy is ten miles north of the entrance to Denali National Park. Debbie and I had explored the park on our way up here yesterday, and we'd be doing more hiking there later today. It's a wonderful park, and it and the surrounding areas are burgeoning with bears. But we didn't see any. Perhaps they would reveal themselves to this goofy, lone runner.

Running in Healy with my
flashlight and bear spray
This time, I've got a flashlight, because it's so darn dark out here. I'm dressed fairly warm, since it's around 33 degrees. And did I mention that it’s snowing? Yes, snowing - on the 29th of September. But the real reason I'm out of my element is because of the bear spray. I cannot say that I've ever carried bear spray during a run before.

Since the can is about the size of an 8 ounce bottle of shampoo and sits in a holster-like pocket, I have to attach it to a belt in order to wear it, and the only belt I have is a leather one. It's all a bit awkward.

It's a mile and a quarter on deep, dark Otto Lake Road up to the highway. I run so slowly that it's almost like walking. It takes me fourteen minutes and change.

Now on the highway, I head south towards the park. I had thought that there would be lights, traffic, and other human activity here. There is nothing of the sort; it's nearly as dark and deserted as Otto Lake Road was. Eventually a few cars do go by at seventy miles an hour. The snow is still falling, but it's not sticking to the ground in these parts.

I know that I'm surrounded by the park's mountains. They're all around me - we saw them yesterday. But I can't see them at all due to the darkness and snow. It's actually pretty eerie.

I decide to go by the mile markers, so I do two of them and a bit more before turning back at three and a half miles and 37 1\2 minutes. Now I pick it up, finally doing sub-nine minute miles, based on the markers. I'm back to the B&B in only about 30 minutes, and it's already beginning to get a little light.

For the second straight run, there was no bear encounter.

Back in Anchorage

There are supposed to be northern lights in these parts, but I'm not seeing them. After a snowstorm changed our travel plans, I'm back in Anchorage earlier and for more time than expected. That's fine in several ways, including running, since this is such a runnable city. Back to the aurora borealis. The sky is completely clear for a change, and the stars are out. The bike trails I am running on - some of the same ones as before - go through the city, so there are city lights, but they also take me through some parks where I can see the stars better. Unfortunately - really, this time, considering the possible bears from previous runs - no aurora.

Now for my next run in Anchorage, I decide to do a faster run. 'Faster' being a relative term. It's fun to do these great trails, but most of my running here has been painfully slow; I'm simply not pushing myself. To exacerbate the problem, all this dining out is helping me to pack on the pounds. The best I can do is about eight-minute pace for the route back. Feels like seven. But I may as well call it a small victory and be happy with it.
The Coastal Trail in Anchorage

On yet another Anchorage run, light rain is falling, and it's 42 degrees. I usually don't like these kinds of conditions, but I am not bothered by them for this run. It's a run of exploration and discovery. Heading south on A/C streets for the first time, I'm trying to boldly go where no Brunstuckian has gone before - mostly I'm trying to find a different bike trail that's supposed to cross by here. Alas. I am not able to locate it. This turns out to be a slow, soggy slog of un-discovery. But I'm not totally devastated, for I've survived to run yet another day.

Now it's my last run in Anchorage; we're moving on to Homer later this morning. I'm heading north on the coastal trail, and the clouds, like everything else in Alaska, are awesome. They're hanging low around the buildings, and are glowing in hues of bright blue and orange. I figure that the lighting is due to reflections of the city lights. I continue north on the trail. I'm moving at a solid eight minute pace today, and get to the five-mile mark in under forty minutes. It took me forty-five minutes the other day. It helps to have someone chasing you. What is it with these Alaska runners? The other day I was moving really well at well under eight-minute pace, and a guy actually passed me up! Now I am squarely on the north side of downtown, with nothing much north of here. And there's still that  blue glow to the north. Could it be northern lights?

I never actually find out. I do some more miles up in that neck of the woods before turning back. I maintain the eight minute pace for fourteen miles - this is one of my best runs here in AK. I never find out about the northern lights.

Heavenly Homer - and the 'Race'

The Homer Spit is a narrow peninsula jutting out from Homer into Kachemak Bay. As Debbie and I drive out to the end of it, I figure that this would just have to be the course for my run tomorrow. That had become my plan... until Debbie picks up a just printed copy of the Homer News, which informs us that there's a half-marathon here in Homer this Saturday, the day after tomorrow, the day we'd planned on driving to our next stop, Seward. This changes everything.

The Homestead Trail where we hiked
one day, and where I ran the next
I'm running alone on the race course, but not as part of the race itself. The plan had been for Debbie to drop me off at the high school for the start of the half and pick me up at the finish, since the run was point to point. But now we'd learned that the race starts at 10; not 8:30 as stated in the paper. Check in began at 8:30. 10 would have been too late for me to start; we had wanted to get a reasonably early start on the drive to Seward. The race check-in lady had told me that I could run on the course anyway, since the trails were already marked.

The Homestead Trail
The trails lead up. Way up. It would have been a very tough half-marathon. I told Debbie that I'd meet her at the hotel in an hour or a bit more (I’d be doing less than thirteen), and we'd be on our way after that. Luckily, I'm in fairly familiar territory, since we had hiked these trails the day before. Even though the course is tough, it's a perfect day for running (about 40F, sunny, and no wind), the leaves and general scenery are smashing, and I'm having a great time.

I do eventually decide to turn back towards town, cutting back down closer to the Best Western where we're staying. I encounter a middle-school track, where I manage to get a tempo run in. It wasn't easy, but it felt good when I stopped. What an enjoyable and memorable run.

Stupendous Seward, and a Marathon of a Different Kind

I'm running scared once again. But to call this shuffling 'running' may be pushing it a bit. Like a complete idiot, I'm without my flashlight and my bear spray.

I am on the Mount Marathon race course. The road went uphill until it ended, and now I'm doing this shuffling on a dark, rocky, uphill trail. The Mount Marathon race is held July 4th, and it takes runners up, and back down this 3,000+ foot mountain, all in just 3.25 miles. Course record is 43 minutes.

I look up. Although there are tall, steep mountains all around, I can still view enough of the dark sky to see the brightest stars I've seen in years. And I'm really not all that far from town. What self-respecting aurora borealis wouldn't show itself in a sky like this? Alas, there are no northern lights this day. But I do indeed enjoy those stars.

Oh yeah. I'm supposed to be running. I'd actually come to a complete stop for a time, not even walking. I head back down into town in order to do some real running. I turn south to the end of the road on that end, but that gets dark and a bit scary too. Debbie and I would hike here on the coastal trail later in the day.

I finish my run in and around town. This was probably my slowest run during the trip. But no less memorable.

In fact, they were all memorable, every dang single last one of them. Where will this running stuff take me next?

To read more about this Alaska trip, including some exciting hikes, please click here.

To see all our Alaska photos, click here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Year and Thirty Hours

The NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run (NC24) has been my baby from the beginning. Not that this particular baby isn't shared. Several people helped me get it off the ground, and many others have helped along the way. But I've always had my hand in it, and it's gotten deeply into my soul. How's that for mixed-up metaphors?

After three years as sole RD, last year I shared the Race Director duties with John Hnat. This was with the understanding that he would take over as solitary RD this year. John decided to step down, however, and Hugh Patton took over. And then, around the June or July time frame, Hugh left the picture too. Now we were left with, once again, me. I suppose that shows that what goes around really does come around sometimes.

If I was going to be RD, I suppose that it was a good thing to take over in July, rather than have it go all year. This way, it may have taken more of my time during the final couple months than it would have otherwise, but it may have been less work overall. At least it only went on for a couple of months, intense though they were.

Another good thing was that our same team of race organizers was in place. These people are simply the best at what they do, and NC24 could not take place without them. I need to tell you all about them now. Here is the gist of a Facebook post I made the other day:

NC24 would is *nothing* without all the fantastic volunteers and the best organization team on the planet. Let me tell you just a bit about the latter (in no particular order):
Roy Heger gets the power generator, rents the truck, handles tents and other big stuff. You will find Roy out there running the race, as usual.
Shannon Miller Fisher puts the shirt order together, procures the food and supplies, and coordinates all of the stuff throughout the event.
Barbara Gibson Clutter coordinates the volunteers, and also helps coordinate registration.
Larry Orwin is coordinating the Friday dinner. He also runs NC24.
Jan Roe helps Shannon with the coordination of food and supplies throughout the event, and also helps with registration.
Scott Stuetzer procured the awards and medals, and also loads and unloads the supplies from the trucks, day and night.
Charles Elkins times the event and also rents the porta-johns and dumpster and buys the water.
Frank Dwyer manages registration and the finances of the event, keeping us in the black. He also runs NC24 every year.
Debbie Horvath helps to direct the Boy Scout troop in the serving of breakfast.
Me? I don't do a darned thing.

So in the final couple months (which was actually a compressed year), our team put together, as always, one heck of a race. On race day itself, several of us arrived at 6:00 AM to prepare for the 9:00 AM start. There was a nice, steady rain, except that at the time we didn't think it was so nice. We got everything unloaded, the tents erected, and everyone checked in as efficiently as possible.

And then they were off. This is where I get the most satisfaction as RD. Seeing it all unfold. Seeing the volunteers working so hard to please the runners and attend to their needs. And mostly seeing miles of smiles on the runners' faces. It all makes everything we've been doing worthwhile.

The rain tapered off, but we were left with strong wind coming off the lake. This is nothing new, but it never makes it easy. For the first time ever, I managed to get out and do two things that I've never done at a previous NC24 event: I took some pictures, and I got a run in. The run didn't come until 10:00 PM Saturday, but it turned out to be just the right time to do it, as things were settling down somewhat.

On Saturday, several runners and crew members spotted some individuals taking runners' belongings. The park rangers apprehended two of the individuals. I don't believe anything that was extremely valuable was lost. This was an unfortunate situation however, and to have anything at all stolen is terrible. We will take some steps to try to prevent this from happening in the future.

Also on Saturday, we were treated to a wonderful sunset over Lake Erie. The day had turned out to be a pretty one, after all.

Sunday morning came soon enough. There were, as always, some tremendous performances, including those by the top men and women, and also by one Leo Lightner, who apparently (it has yet to be ratified) set US and World age group records. What an inspiration!

And then, just like that, it was over. Breakfast was served, we tabulated the results, and presented the awards. Even though we were all tired, this all went as smoothly as possible. The cleanup was also fairly efficient, thanks to the help of the team of organizers and volunteers. When all was said and done, I'd been working on NC24 for thirty hours.

Thirty hours of ups and downs, laughter, inspiration and being on my feet. It was all great, and as Brian Peacock would say, the best part is, it's over.
At the awards             photo by John McCarroll

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Random Thoughts During Today's Run

I've done some eighteens, some nineteens, and plenty that were less, but still in the upper teens. I haven't done a twenty, however, since the Cleveland Marathon in May. This from a guy who used to do weekly twenty milers all year around, whether there was an upcoming marathon or ultra, or not. Those long runs went on for the vast majority of my running life.

But when I quit marathoning, there was no need to keep doing runs of twenty miles and longer. So I got a bit lazy. By cutting these down a bit, and by taking at least two days off per week, my weekly mileage is also now lower. Not that things aren't okay, they are. Witness my last post where I talk about a pretty good speedwork session.

When there are this many things going on, however, it gets a little tough to get even these 50 weekly miles in. Some of those 'things' include this weekend's NC24. To get up to fifty for the week, I set out to do twenty today.

It wasn't pretty. I thought a lot about bonking, which I did early on during the initial 16. I used to love that course. It's on country roads, and it's fairly serene. Just me and the road. I suppose I bonked because I ignored one critical success factor for long runs: get adequate nutrition and hydration from the start. Back in the old days, I didn't need no stinkin'  nutrition and hydration. But now I do.

My early 8:40's somehow morphed into 9:20's, and I finished the 16 with positive splits. Now I needed to do 4 more. In the old days, I'd try to make these the fastest of the bunch. And I did manage to do the final five of Saturday's fifteen at sevenish pace.

Not today. I got some water and a gel, and hit the trails at Heritage park. Would you believe 13 minute pace on that hilly, wet grass?

At least now I don't need to worry about another run until post-NC24 Monday.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

As Good as it Gets

3:12 for that first Yasso. Not bad, but now I'll want to run the next nine 800's the same way. There's nothing worse than having your first interval (or mile, or whatever) be your best. The idea here is consistency and sustainability. Will I be able to? Last time - I've been doing them at 5:00 AM with friends every other Tuesday - I averaged about 3:15, and 3:13 the time before that. But this time, the weather's as good as it can be. It's in the forties, clear, and the winds are calm. The stars are bright. In fact, I call this as good as it gets.

Although there have been some hot days, including a couple record-breaking mid-nineties days last week, we've had some nice running weather lately as well. Saturday was very nice, and my semi-long 15-miler with Christine and Larry Orwin on the towpath went quite well. Christine and I ran the last 5 at 7:00 to 7:15 pace. Of course, I'm only trying, as always, to roll with the punches.

Today, Jack Reilly and Donna Hoffmeister are my companions on the mostly dark track. We had done the warmup together, but since we run at different speeds, our intervals are mostly by ourselves. My second one is... 3:12 again. This is still good, but I continue to wonder if I can keep it going.

Turns out that I can. I feel absolutely great, and I do keep running consistent times. I even throw in some 3:09's and some 3:07's. My average for the ten 800's winds up at 3:10.

Yup. That's as good as it gets.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Races

There have been a couple times that I ran 3 races in three consecutive days. At least one of those was over a Labor Day Weekend. It almost happened again in 2013, but in the end I decided that two was enough.

Saturday's race was the Celebrate Westlake North Coast Challenge 5-mile. This is another big prize money race, and as with several of my recent races, all the best runners were out there. The heat and humidity were oppressive. I ran a fairly steady (only just) sub-seven minute pace to finish in 34:36. That's almost exactly to the second my time for the Canton Football HOF Festival 5-miler a few weeks ago. This time I won my age group, and I would have actually received some prize money if two 65-69 year-olds hadn't beaten me. I didn't feel so bad about that, however. Those two were Ron Legg and Terry McCluskey.

Just before the start - Larry, Christine, me and Debbie
photo by Larry Orwin
Sunday's race was the South River Winery Run 10K. One thing was similar to the previous day: the heat and humidity. Otherwise it was a different experience altogether, running through all the vineyards. And it was fun too! Too bad that after that previous day's race, and with the tough terrain (I actually 'threw' a shoe that flew out and away from me when I stepped in a hole), I was suffering from slow disease. My time was 49:44, and I won my age group there as well. Not that the competition among the geezers was especially keen this time. I was well behind Chris and Larry Orwin, and I was even beaten by Debbie H., who walked the 5K a few seconds faster than my time for the 10. It was nice to have the wine afterwards.

After the run and some wine - me, Debbie, Larry's friend, Christine, and Larry
photo by Larry Orwin

Although there were options for races on Labor Day itself, I thought it would be too much labor for this tired body. Instead I did 10 easy Medina miles with Debbie Scheel, Michelle Wolff and Shari Geiger.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What in Blue Blazes?

I've just learned that the old phrase "What/where in Blue Blazes..." actually translates to "What/where in hell...". Maybe a little appropriate for one of these runs.

Blue blazes also mark the Buckeye Trail, and they also mark other ones as well. Some of those others are in the Colis P. Huntington State Park in Redding, CT. After reviewing the trail map, it appeared that the Blue Trail was the "main" one, and that following that most of the way around would be an ambitious run. I'd planned to do a longish run of about 15 miles, give or take, and figured that such an endeavor would be good to do on trails such as these.

When I'm running well, it's reasonable to assume that I can run 15 miles in two hours, or possibly a bit longer. Well, I did run for two hours and three minutes, but I only ran nine (9) miles. That's almost unbelievably slow. The problem was those terrible tough trails. There were rocks of all sizes, ruts, roots, twists and turns, hills, you name it. I started slow and simply got slower and slower. Four miles an hour for the first four, then 5 MPH after that.

My second run in Redding was a bit faster. I ran 13 miles in a bit over two hours - just about the same amount of time it took me to do nine miles the day before. Even this run was still not fast by any means. For this run I took the short route over to Joel Barlow High School, ran around the trails through the woods a few times, and then hit the track.

The trails there were more gentle than the ones at the park, so I was doing these at a "speedy" eleven minutes per mile. There was a mile of them, and I did a couple loops as well as some back and forth around the school grounds. I had seven miles done by the time I hit the track. Once there, things got faster: I did five 1200's in (a respectable) just under five minutes each.

That proved to be a good way to top off my Connecticut weekend running.

Hill Yes!

Debbie Scheel wanted to do the Hinckley loop backwards. This threw us all for a loop, so to speak. We nearly always run this hilly, 9.2 mile route around Hinckley Reservation in a clockwise direction, and for good reason: the (substantial) downhill sections are less steep that way. Of course this makes the uphill sections more steep, but that's not so bad. Steep downhills: bad; steep uphills: not quite so bad. But backwards we went. The final mile down Bellus is the most painful downhill part, but somehow we did it.

We'd started at five, and now at six-thirty, it was only beginning to think about getting light out. Debbie and a couple others were done; Will Bertemes and I were set to do another. There were other MCRR runners around, many making snarky remarks about this "marathon training" I am doing. (It's not - really!) The others would be running their own pace, so it was only Will and I doing the loop in the correct direction this time.

And that one went well too. After not doing Hinckley for some time, and especially after not doing two loops at Hinckley for an even longer time, this was a pretty good day.

Do you think I'll ever get back to doing three loops?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Avoiding Meteors, Postscript

The day after I had so successfully avoided any Perseid meteors, I saw one.

On a cool, crisp autumn-like morning, I got to the track at 4:45 AM - before everyone else. Right off the bat, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. Moments later, I noticed that I could spot, for the first time this season, the rise of Orion. It's like the return of an old friend. I know we've still got some warm days coming, but fall is on the way!

This morning was as good for running as it gets. After an unsuccessful attempt at a tempo run, I did get one in when Frank showed up a wee bit later. This was not unlike some of my other attempts at achieving escape velocity.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Avoid Meteors

This is really about how to avoid seeing meteors, not how to avoid being hit by them. To accomplish the latter, I strongly suggest cave-dwelling.

No, this is about the former. Let's just, for the sake of argument, say that the Perseid Meteor Shower is going on, and you do not want to see it. Here is what you should do.

1) Begin by running the Perfect 10-Miler, as I did this past Sunday. Run fairly hard, so that you feel beat up afterwards.
2) Follow that up with an MCRR Club Picnic, where you eat way too much barbeque.
3) Try to run on Monday, but only make four miles at slower-than-snail pace.
4) Show up at the track for the usual 5am workout on Tuesday. Attempt the 'Michigan Workout', which consists of several mile intervals along with a 1200, 800 and 400. Don't run any of this stuff extremely fast, because you're still recovering. But do run fast enough to be beat up even more.
5) Hit the track again Tuesday evening for the MCRR track meet. Now run much slower than you should (and slower than mostly everyone else), but still go through the motions of the mile, 100, 400, 5000 and the shot put. Become still more beat up.
6) Tuesday night, set your alarm for 4am in order to get up and run yet again the next morning.
7) When the Wednesday alarm does sound, wander around the house, trying to wake up. Be sure to check Facebook, email, etc. Drink a little tea. Take your good old time.
8) Get out the door at 5:45am, thinking it will still be dark. Notice that the sky is already getting light, and the clouds are fall-like. It's only about 50 degrees here in mid-August. Couldn't be better.
9) Run on the trails at Heritage Farm. Since it's fairly light with the sun rising, don't observe any meteors.

And that's how!

Perfect 10-Miler

This was the tenth anniversary of the Perfect 10-Miler, and I had done all of the previous nine. I drove up to Lyndhurst with Felicia Fago, Angela Demchuck and Patrick Fisher. The weather was about as good as it gets in mid-August - relatively cool, and not humid. With that, and the fast course in mind, my hopes for a good run were reasonably optimistic.

In recent weeks I'd done two five-milers around 35 minutes apiece. I wouldn't be so foolish as to hope for 70 minutes on this day, but if I could keep most of my miles around seven minutes, I'd be happy.

I did, and I was. Most of the first four miles were very close to seven minutes, but I slowed a bit for miles five and six. This was mostly due to the long hill on Belvoir Blvd. Mile seven was screaming fast as always, and the last few were back above (but not my too much) sevens.

I finished in 1:11:29, after splits of about 35:30 and 36. I won my age group. My overall grade: not bad at all.
Angela Demchuck, Joe Jurczyk and me in the middle          Felicia Fago photo

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Escape Velocity, or, Today's Two Tremendous Tempo Training Trots

I've been doing my tempo runs on nearly a weekly basis. Lately I've done several at the track. This can be a good thing because: a) There are other runners doing the same thing, so I generally don't have to do these runs alone, and b) The precise measurement makes the pacing a little simpler.

The Runner's World definition of a tempo run makes it sound fairly simple and easy. My own definition is even simpler, but probably not as easy: Three (or possibly more) consecutive miles, each one better than seven minutes. Sure, I also throw in warmup and cooldown miles.

Lately, when I've scheduled a track tempo training trot, I sometimes arrive at the track early enough to attempt an additional one before the rest of the gang arrives. This means getting there at 4:45 am or so, as everyone else shows up at 5:15. I have managed to do several tempo trots in this fashion (both with and without the rest of the gang), but the most recent attempt did not go so well. I couldn't achieve escape velocity, which means I couldn't get the miles under seven minutes each. When Will Bertemes showed up at 5:15 that morning, I gave it another go, and did managed to get to the desired pace.

Today I arrived early once again, and immediately - there was no time for a warmup - started banging out sub-seven minute miles. And I made it - barely. When Will showed up, he and I ran together (again), and I managed (again) to achieve escape velocity once more.

That's the Tale of Today's Two Tremendous Tempo Training Trots.

Monday, August 05, 2013

It Takes a Village

After several weeks in a row where I did a race, it was a bit unusual to encounter a raceless weekend; unusual, but relaxing. I was able to concentrate on simply running longish run on the towpath. I did 14 with Larry Orwin, and then 4 more on my own. That was the furthest I'd gone in a while.

During the run, we discussed Larry's experience at the previous week's Burning River 100-mile run. I had also been talking with other BR100 Warriors. I absolutely love hearing those great stories.

Larry's may be even more poignant than most. He had gotten married to Christine the previous day. His family was visiting from out of town (I met them when they came into the store), and they were able to attend the wedding as well as to help Christine support Larry during the race. The race itself did not go as well as Larry would have liked. Even though he was very well trained, the extreme mud during the race caused some severe foot problems, and that caused him to have to drop out.

What struck me, however, was the team support that he and other runners received. He had Christine as well as those family members to help get him as far as humanly possible on this day. Besides hearing about this from Larry and others, I was able to observe it myself from my position of race volunteer.

For each of the past four or five years, I've done some sort of volunteering at BR100. I am always very impressed at the team support that the runners get. The family and/or friends make it their mission to help their runner keep going. And the runners themselves depend heavily on these folks; they understand how much they need them. You can witness this at many ultra marathons, including the one I'm in charge of: the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. It's simply amazing what a team can accomplish.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pro Football HOF Enshrinement Festival 2 & 5 Mile

Harold, Alan, Patti and me       Harold Dravenstott photo
That's the official name of the race. Good thing I didn't spell out Hall of Fame; we could have had Post Title Overflow.

This would be the second week in a row for a large and prestigious five-miler. This time the race was the Canton Football Hall of Fame Five-Mile. I met up with Patti Tomasello and Harold and Alan Dravonstatt for the ride down to football-land. Like last week, it's a fur piece. Unlike last week, the weather actually did decide to cooperate. As we arrived, we all noticed that it was relatively cool, and, more importantly, not humid.

Like last week, my goal was to keep the miles under seven minutes. This really shouldn't be such a big deal for me; I do my weekly tempo training runs at this pace. As it turned out, the first mile was fine, and the second mile, very downhill-ish, was screaming fast. Even mile three was okay, but mile four was uphill, and it was my first over seven minutes. Could I hold it together for the fifth?

This race is in the Ohio-Subway Challenge Series. Since I used to participate in the series, I was familiar with the race and the competition. It's the same old group of arch-nemisises: Ron Legg, Al King, and, in my very own age group, Don Cassidy, Vince Russo, and Doug Hradek. We all pretty know the general pecking order, and where we each fit in that old food chain. (Like that? Doing my best to mix my metaphors here.)

I thought that Alan and I would run pretty much together, but I didn't see him after the first half-mile. I also didn't see Don after the first half-mile; he was moving fast, and was well up ahead by the first mile mark. I did see Vince for pretty much the entire way. I caught up with him around the McKinley monument - mile three - mumbling 'hey Vince' as I went by. That was about all the conversation I was capable of.

Vinced passed me back a short time later, saying, 'you probably have another thirty miles to run when we're finished.' My brain tried to say something like, 'no, I'm no longer running so many miles.' Unfortunately, this came out of my mouth something like this: 'noarghh!' I noticed, however, that Vince was breathing very heavily as he tried to maintain his slight lead.

Not that I wasn't doing the same thing. But it was good to know that I was making him work. I passed him once more around the four-mile mark. It felt like I was pouring it on for my final mile, but in reality I was only maintaining that seven minute pace. Then came what's known there as 'Heartbreak Hill': a short but very steep hill leading to the finish,

Trying my darndest to stay ahead of Vince, and also to keep my overall time under thirty-five minutes, I somehow managed to (barely) do both. I finished in 34:49 by my watch (34:55 on theirs). That was good for second in the age group, well behind Don, but just ahead of Vince.

This was much hillier than last week's run, but also much less humid. And about 3/4 minute faster. Looks like cooler/less humid wins. Now I will take a week off from racing, before my next big push.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Johnnycake Jog

Here I am prior to the start. Thanks to Chip Jenkins for the photo
As I've been fond of telling anyone who will still listen to me, the very first Cleveland Marathon in 1978 was also my own very first marathon. Similarly, the very first Johnnycake Jog 5-mile in 1977 was my own very first road race.

Back in those days there weren't nearly so many road races as there are today. I remember going in not knowing what to expect. I drove up with my training partner, Paul Coleman, in his conversion van. The reason I remember that little detail is because of the aftermath.

It was a hot one. Ninety-five daggone degrees. And that year they held the race at one o’clock in the afternoon. In the heat of the day. Relentless sun beating down. Mad dogs and Englishmen. Cook an egg on the sidewalk. You know all the sayings.

I wish I could remember my time. I do remember how I nearly collapsed due to that heat. When I came back to Paul's van, my skin was bright red from heat - not sunburn. And it seemed that I just could not cool down. Paul, who felt nearly the same way, opened the cooler in his van and got out some large blocks of ice that we proceeded to rub all over our bodies. Funny how you remember something like that.

Thirty-seven years later, it seemed as though this time would be different; cooler temperatures were in the forecast for Sunday. Too bad they were wrong. It was still hot, sunny, and extremely humid.  I drove that long trip to Painesville with Chip Jenkins. I saw Becky, Mike and several other acquaintances once we got there. I also saw plenty of other top-notch runners as well.

The heat caught up with me soon enough. I'd kind've hoped to keep all my miles under seven minutes. Didn't happen - beginning as soon as mile two. Even so, I thought I might still be able to break 35 minutes as I turned onto Mentor Avenue for the final straight, flat and hot, hot, hot final mile and three quarters into the sun.

Would I be able to pick it up? In the words of grandson Malcolm, nope. I kept loping at the same old just-over-seven-minute pace to finish in 35:38. That turned out to be good for second in the geezer division and one second ahead of third.

Maybe I'll get faster NEXT time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Midsummer Morn's Steam

My first thought at 3:55 am is this: I slept well, but not enough. The air conditioning (it's the latest thing) helps. We try to hold off turning the darn thing on as long as we can, but yesterday we gave in, and of course kept it on for the night.

As I start ambling/stumbling around the house, I shut down the A/C and proceed to open windows and doors to let the cool night air in. The only problem is that the night air is not the least bit cool. After all the nice cool weather and rain, Summer has finally arrived. With it comes the warm, humid nights that I'm not very fond of. Not that I'm fond of the humid ninety-degree daytime heat either. But it would be nice if it cooled down at least a little more at night.

The coffee takes longer than I had hoped to have its desired effect. I don't get out the door until - get this - 6:15 am. What did I do for those two hours? I checked email, turned on the tv to check the weather, did some push-ups, fed Rosy the cat and rubbed her belly... all the usual stuff that could be accomplished in 30 minutes if I'd put my mind to it.

But that's the key. With the coffee not working as speedily as I'd like, I have no mind at all.

I'm about 45 minute too late for the country road course that I used to do regularly, and wanted to get back to but haven't been able to because I haven't been getting up and out early enough to get onto the course early enough to beat the traffic on those country roads that I can't stand and is somewhat dangerous so instead I have to do what I've been doing instead for a while now, and that is to run up to North Park and five times around and back to make it a ten-miler. Don't you just love that sentence? I don't know what got into me, but okay, I'll return to English now.

The heat is stifling, and the sun has only begun to rise. The humidity is so high, I'm sweating before I even take my first step onto our street.

I've run my first two miles in seventeen or so minutes - faster than my usual early miles. But it's time to start moving even faster - down to sub-seven pace. Yes, it's tempo time again. I've been just barely making it through these workouts - defined by me as three or more consecutive miles at sub-seven pace. And they don't seem to be getting any easier. The steamy weather doesn't help at all.

I do two miles, the ones leading up to the park, in 13:30. That's pretty good, and I think those miles are fairly accurate. Now I have two miles to do at the park, which consist of five laps around the lake, along with the short trip there and back from the entrance.

I know that I've got to do the first and last laps, which include the there and back parts, in under 3 minutes, and the middle three laps at sub-2:40 each. To summarize, I make it through each lap with no more than a second or two to spare.

I've accomplished my mission - over three miles (actually, four) at sub-seven pace. And now the heat and humility have really gotten to me. I stop to stretch and get a drink of water.

It's really tough to get moving again, but somehow I even do an extra couple miles on my way back, for a thirteen mile morning. Another (barely) successful tempo run. A decent amount of mileage. Probably a record number of buckets of sweat.

After yet another run in the still hotter afternoon, I'm ready for a day off.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When to Back Off

I thought I was finally getting smarter.

The smart people say that you need to back off your hard training when you feel an injury coming on. After all those years of running, I never really figured out how to do this. It seemed as though the injuries would come on suddenly and without warning... and then I was stuck with them. This wasn't all that bad, because I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time injury-free.

But the last couple years were different. Now I was spending most of my time:
a) about to become injured (but I didn't know enough to back off).
b) injured.
c) recovering from injury (but a new one was probably coming on, so go back to a).

I didn't like this. So around the beginning of this year I made a conscious decision to run a bit less, and to try to get a little smarter about this injury thing. I was going to back off when I felt an injury coming on. I wouldn't worry about losing fitness or about my weekly mileage numbers.

It worked. By no longer worrying about training for marathons, my weekly mileage was also no longer a concern. It went from around 70 miles per week - my "standard" for many years - to 50 or less. And as a result (I think), I haven't been injured for over six months. What a relief after those injury-prone years of 2011 and 2012.

Until now. Even though the mileage is down, I've tried to work on the intensity. Every Tuesday is track workout day, and I have also tried to get in one or two tempo runs, or a race, each week. And now I'm experiencing a bit of plantar fasciitis in my right foot.

It's not bad. Maybe if I back off, it will get better faster. Maybe I'll be smart about it. But then there are some races coming up. And I don't want to lose this fitness....

Thursday, July 04, 2013

New Stuff

The whole gang - just before the start    thanks to Marsha Clifford for the photo
Those of us who've been around awhile are well aware that the Half-Marathon is the new Marathon. Those who've been around even longer know that 5K is the new 10K. Believe it or not, 10K's used to be one of the more common race distances. Now I'm here to tell you that 21 minutes is the new 20 minutes for a 5K goal.

There was a time - not all that long ago - when two (count them, 2) 5K's in a row at sub 20 minutes were the goal. Even sub 39 minutes for the 10K was doable. As recently as 2006 I was still doing 39 and change. There were some 41's in 2007 and 2008. It looks like the last time I broke 20 minutes in the 5K was at this race (the Medina Twin Sizzler) in 2010. In fact, as far as I can tell, my last sub 21 was that year as well.

Not that I'm obsessed with numbers in general or specifically with race times. I'm much too far gone for any of that. Pilots say that any landing that you walk away from is a good one, so I've been going along those lines with my 'any race that you finish in vertical fashion is a good one'... But dad-gum it if I would really, really like to have a good race once in a while.

Well, it happened. At today's Medina Twin Sizzler 5K, I decided to concentrate on, and only do the 5K. For one thing, I've never done well at the 10K. For another, more important thing however, Veronica and the Grandkids are visiting, and I wanted to get back home relatively early so as to spend time with them. So I figured it's best to not even worry about that second race this time. Recent speedwork and tempo running haven't hurt, and it all turned out as well as could be expected.

It was warm and extremely humid. The Medina square was alive with activity. The whole gang was there. There was, as usual, a good sized bunch of runners at the start. The first mile was down, then up for a 6:44. The second was also hilly, but slower, for a 7:08. The final 1.1 miles - mostly downhill - were 6:55, for a finish time of 20:49 by my watch. That was also good for first in my ancient age group.

Now the question must be asked: can I knock a minute off this time for my next 5K? And then do two in a row for a sub-40 10K?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Edge

When I lived in Michigan, I occasionally ran with a guy in our neighborhood named Terry Elsey. Terry is about my age, and we were already getting a bit long in the tooth at the point in time when we ran together. In his prime however, Terry had been one of the fastest guys anywhere. I learned a few things during our runs. Here are a couple of them:

1) You could pick up discarded Marlboro packages, collect the UPC's, send them in, and receive some pretty neat stuff. Over a couple years, I wound up with backpacks, a roller duffle bag, cargo shorts, and other things that I can't remember. Terry, having more and longer experience with these pickups, got even more stuff. Marlboro stopped the program about ten years ago.

2) It's good to have "an edge". We would do a run through Farmington Hills that I had figured was something on the order of 11.7 miles. "I call it eleven," said Terry. When I told him that he ought to record his running data more accurately, he said, "I convince myself that I'm running slower and fewer miles. That's my edge."

When Terry ran a race, he knew subconsciously that he could run faster than his training log indicated. It must have worked for him; he sure won his share of road races.

My edge for many years has been that I ran a lot of miles. Sure I trained hard as well, but I always thought that when I lined up for a race, I had at least one advantage over my peers: that I (generally) ran more than they did. I was at least somewhat competitive, so it worked, although not as well as Terry's edge worked for him.

Now that I've retired from marathoning, I've cut back on my overall mileage. After years of seventy mile weeks, I'm now doing about forty to fifty. The really good news is that I've now gone about six months without a major injury. It's possible that there's a relationship there, somewhere. But aside from that bit of cheer, I think I may have lost my edge.

The plan had been to get faster at shorter distances by training faster for those fewer miles. I'm working on this. Both last week and this week I managed to get in both an interval workout and a tempo run. This is pretty much the kind of training I'd been planning on and hoping for. So maybe my new edge can be that I run fast nearly all the time.

I like this idea, but it sure didn't work for me at the Towpath Ten-Ten 10K the other day. Maybe I am still a work in progress.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Towpath Ten-Ten Un-Race Report

It's so much easier to write a race report when it goes well. It occurs to me that the same is true for reading said report. At least now you know how this one is going to go.

Expectations get you every time. I used to expect to do under forty minutes for a 10K, and the only question was how much under forty could I go? Not having done too many 10K's in recent years, I wasn't real sure, but based on recent training, as well as fairly recent 5K, 10-mile and marathon races, I thought 43 or so minutes - about seven minutes a mile - was doable.

Not only was it not doable, it wasn't even close. The Towpath Ten-Ten is a 10K and 10-mile race on the paved part of the towpath in Valley View and Cleveland. It's flat, and with the solid surface, ought to be fast. I chose the 10K because I wanted to go especially fast this day. The first mile actually did go okay, time-wise. It was right around seven minutes.

But I was already suffering. The rain had tapered off, but it was now extremely humid. I'd run in humid conditions before, but that thick air was affecting my breathing more than usual this day. And then there were my GI issues, about which I won't elaborate.

I slowed to eight minute pace and that was that. Even holding on to that was a chore. I finished in a little under 49 minutes. I think that's a PW, but I'm too lazy to check. In case you're bad at math, that's six minutes slower - a minute a mile - than I expected, and 10 minutes slower than where I'd like to be.

It appears that those expectations need further adjustment.

Whitefish Point Marathon Race Report

The Route from Paradise to Whitefish Point and back If you want to get to Paradise , you have to go through Hell first. Or at least n...