Saturday, June 27, 2015

Milling Around

It's a little before 4:00 AM, and I'm stumbling around the house like usual, except more so. Last night’s large quantity of pizza, wine and beer may be a factor. Outside, there’s a downpour of biblical proportions. A nice, easy, dry twenty-miler on the treadmill seems to be in order.

Last night I’d seen the forecast and cancelled plans to run on the towpath with Christine Orwin and her sister. Despite the prognostication, I had still held out a tiny bit of hope that I would be able to run outside today. My Medina friends, Harold Dravenstott, Debbie Scheel, Michelle Wolff and Will Bertemes, were planning to start at 5:30 AM at Panera. I could join them, or possibly just run by myself from home. The treadmill would be my last resort.

But now with the rain coming down this hard, there was no way I would step outside. I sent a Facebook message to the group: “I’ll be milling around.” And by 4:30, I’m on the thing, gradually increasing the speed whilst changing channels before finding a Rick Steves episode.

Did I ever mention that I hate treadmills? No, I don’t generally like running in rain either, but which is worse? This would be a good test: would I be able to stay on the thing for 20 miles, like I used to? The answers to these questions turn out to be: yes, treadmills and no.

It’s 5:00 AM, and I’m changing channels, looking for anything interesting, when I come across the one that shows the weather radar 24 x 7. It’s still green (meaning light rain) in Medina county, but most of the yellow (heavy rain) has moved on. Maybe I can still join the Medina gang!

I finish my fifth mile. Thank goodness I was able to get even this far. I clean up as fast as I can, and hop in the car to drive down to Medina. It’s still raining, but not so hard. It occurs to me, and this thought is later confirmed by Michelle, that my message about ‘milling around’ could be a little ambiguous. At the time I had only meant that I’d be running on the treadmill instead of joining the group, but it could also be taken to mean that I’ll be there to run with them.

At 5:30 I pull into the Panera parking lot, and Debbie and Michelle are already there. Will and Harold join us shortly, and we’re off.

The light rain is now coming down in buckets once again. The funny thing is, we don’t mind. Running in the rain really isn’t so bad; it’s usually just getting started that’s tough. We’re actually having fun, running through puddles and getting soaked. At some point, you can’t get any wetter.

A couple hours later, I drop the gang off and run out again for a final mile of these fifteen. I was going to get my twenty in today even if it killed me.

But it didn’t. In fact, it was fun.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All About Me

I suggested that our company employee newsletter include an article about how I am the Race Director for the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. I offered to write the article myself, since I'm capable of doing so.

They liked the idea, but preferred to send one of their own writers, Sharon Joles. She interviewed me, and indicated that the article would be more about me than the race. That wasn't my original intent, but I still think the result is fine:

The North Coast 24-hour endurance run: Yes, you get to stop for a bio break, and other questions ...




It’s spring in Cleveland, 80 degrees and muggy. But it’s Cleveland, so wait a few minutes and the weather will change. A common sight around Campus II is people out exercising and enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings, such as the North Chagrin Reservation. On such mornings, long before a standard workday begins, you may see Project Portfolio Analyst Lead Dan Horvath out for a run. In fact, any number of your coworkers may be running on the campus or in the park. There’s a large running community at our company, with skills ranging from beginner to elite-level runners.

The runner
Dan talks about how long he has been running with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’ve been running since the 1970s; about 40 years,” he says. “I belong to the Medina County Road Runners, which is a great running club. I always have someone to run with, and my running friends provide extra motivation.”

Dan runs fifty to sixty miles a week, although right now he’s recovering from an Achilles tendonitis injury and taking it a little easy while he heals. He runs daily, explaining that, addict that he is, it’s difficult not to run, even when injured.

“I've competed in 100 marathons, and 23 ultramarathons including one 100-miler,” he says. “An ultramarathon is anything over 26.2 miles. The 100-miler was on extremely rough terrain. Many of these races take place on trails and you never know what challenge you may find. I was just glad to finish that one.”

Dan explains that ultramarathon distances also include 50-kilometer races, which are 31 miles, and 100-kilometer races, which are 62 miles. For those wishing to go the distance, there’s something for everyone

Race director by default
“In 2008, I was talking with a local elite ultra-marathoner, Connie Gardner, about a recent race where a measurement error cost her the American record for a 24-hour race. She wanted a do-over. I said I wanted to run one as well, and we both exclaimed that we should have one here.”

Thus the idea was born to hold a 24-hour race in Cleveland, sponsored by Dan’s running club. This is what led Dan to becoming not just a runner, but also a race organizer.

“I opened my mouth, raised the idea, and I’ve been the race director for our 24-hour endurance race the last seven years,” he jokes.

A 24-hour endurance race is an ultramarathon race that spans a 24-hour period, and the courses tend to be loops of 1 – 2 miles. The runners try to run as many miles as they can in the 24-hour period. They can leave the course to eat, rest, or take “bio breaks.”

Dan handles the coordination of the event, which is a volunteer-driven effort—everything from the food (one of the favorites is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to hiring the park ranger and coordinating the other volunteers who work the 24 hours with him. He cheers the runners on and offers encouragement when their mental focus is waning during the race. He also obtains assistance if a runner needs medical attention. It is a 24-hour endurance race, after all.

They’re going the distance …
“Our race is held at beautiful Edgewater Park, near downtown Cleveland, Ohio,” Dan says. “We use a paved bike trail that is officially measured by USA Track & Field. USA Track & Field is the official governing body for track and field, distance running, and race walkers. The official trail length is 0.90075 mile. We measure the distance each runner travels using RFID trackers on the runners to count the number of laps completed.”

The top three finishers get prize money, and since this event is an official USA Track & Field event, the distances calculated for the winners can earn them a spot on the USA Track & Field National Team. This team represents the United States in the World Championships. The current course records are 158.5 miles (176 laps) for men, and 147.9 miles (164 laps) for women.

Each year, the race draws about 200 hundred runners from all over the US, Canada and Europe. There are runners from age 12 to 87 and everywhere in between. Many run the race every year.

The challenge and sense of achievement is a testament to the mental toughness and physical endurance of the competitors. It is enough to continue to draw the runners to this race.

Don’t quit: There is a bathroom ahead
“Our race is unique in that the runners can leave the race when needed to eat, sleep, or attend to the needs of nature,” Dan explains. “The runners must reenter the track in the same location they left for their miles to be accurate and officially measured.

“With a 24-hour race, some runners need to take a break at some point to sleep. Some lay down to rest and end up sleeping the entire night. It’s a physical and mental battle to return to the race. It makes it easy to quit.”

Sign me up
If you’re dedicated (or crazy?) enough to want to try this race,
registration is open for September’s event. You can find more information about the race on Facebook.

Alternatively, if you just want to see what it’s all about, you can head out to Edgewater Park and say hi to Dan, and root on the other runners.

And if by chance you see Dan on the course, be sure to save him a peanut butter and jelly.

Written by Sharon Joles, contributing writer

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

You Got a Lot a Love

This came from an individual who looked like he could be homeless, but who was nonetheless cheering the runners on during the waning miles of the Detroit Free Press Marathon. I had never heard the phrase used in this context before.


The Freep in those years – the late eighties and early nineties - passed through some highly questionable parts of Detroit, and this neighborhood was particularly blighted. There were no other spectators, and even the runners were sparse.  At that instant, it was just that one guy and me. He pointed at me as he said it.  I’m sure I was gritting my teeth, grimacing in my usual way. I remember that I was trying hard to maintain the pace that had felt so easy during the early miles, a couple hours prior.


Yet it gave me pause. At that point in my race, perhaps almost anything would have. But I like to think that I found some meaning and inspiration there. I like to think that a lot of love is an entirely appropriate description for what I had been experiencing at that moment.


The moment I describe here comes to mind as we all decompress after the Medina Half-Marathon. This is a huge and wonderfully successful event for the small town of Medina, Ohio. The dedication, long, hard work, and attention to detail of Race Director Beth Bugner, her immediate organizational team, and all of the hundreds of volunteers undoubtedly requires a lot of love. A real lot of love.


A lot of love is also a fitting description of the work that the Medina County Road Runners Board of Directors puts in. This is particularly true of President Angie Kovacs. As I write this, the Board will soon be deciding on positions for the upcoming year, so we could wind up with a different president. Regardless of her position however, Angie puts in gobs of time to institute the framework to ensure that the club activities and events are the best they can possibly be.


These folks do it for the love of running, and for the love of their fellow runners. And I think that’s really it. I like to think that I’ve still got a lot of love too. But it’s also good to know that I’m not alone.

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