Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wintry Mix

It's not even winter yet, and already things are becoming challenging. Here are a few random short stories about winter running of late.

Didn't Get Far
Before the car's wheels make it from the driveway to the street, the mist is freezing on the windshield. This doesn't bode well for the entire drive down to Medina. I am going to meet Debbie Scheel and Michelle Wolff for our Saturday morning run. I drive (carefully!) up 303 to just before 42, and then turn around. Although it doesn't seem impossibly slippery, the freezing on the windshield continues. I love running with friends, but it just doesn't make sense to risk one's life in order to do so. Running alone is not so preferable... except when it's safer.

When We Did Make it
A weekend ago, I do manage to meet up with Michelle and Debbie for a run. Although we don't get real far - we each have our own little injury/illness/being out of shape crosses to bear - it's wonderful to get together again. Been a while.

Milling Around
One of the most major hazards of winter running is ... wait for it ... having to do it on the mill. Why a hazard, you ask? Because if you're me, you push yourself way beyond the point of ridiculous. And that's what I do Thursday, for the second time this week. This time I try a tempo run; Tuesday it was 3/4 mile intervals. This run - 3 miles at 7:30 or better pace, sandwiched by warmup and cooldown miles - actually goes okay. But afterwards, I certainly do feel the effects.

The Letter 'C' Part 1
I generally don't like running in the hood. You can't get real far, and the streets are concrete, rather than asphalt. But those two problems are less important when the weather's bad. You don't want to get to far from home anyway. And if there's snow and ice, who cares about the hard concrete? When a couple two inches fall all of a sudden, I decide to stay close to home. I used to consider it a 'U' but (sideways) 'C' is better because it's earlier in the alphabet. If I go around the outside of the 'C', and then return on the inside of it, I've gone about 1.1 miles. Three loops this way, and two shorter ones that avoid the inside part half-circle part of the loop, make five miles. I do this in that inch and a half of new-fallen snow, and it's a beautiful thing; almost what you'd call magical. I enjoy this run more than any solo sauntering I've done in a long time.

The Letter 'C' Part 2
When I run a course multiple times, I get to enter it into the list of courses available for Garmin selection and association. Since this is my fourth time on the course this week (I ran it once earlier as well), I'll have to elevate this one. Yes, fourth of the week, and second of the day. It's getting tougher to get double-digit mile runs in lately, but this second five of the day will do it. There's snow and a little ice in the roads as I circle around. This is my solo run after not making the entire trip to Medina. My leg muscles are feeling the strain of those slight slips that go along with each footfall/step. But, all in all, it goes okay. Slow, and fairly exhausting, but okay.

Sweet Potatoes: Not just Not for Breakfast anymore
A good after-run breakfast... Cook some oatmeal in a separate bowl (I just microwave it with water and a little salt). While that's cooking, take a leftover baked sweet potato, some Vega protein powder, some almond milk, a little splenda and about a pound of cinnamon and blend together. Mix this with the oats, and you get... Sweet Potato Oatmeal Delight!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Battle of Wounded Knee: Guess Who Lost?

The very last thing I expected was a large hunk of metal laying completely across the sidewalk. I was running along in the dark, minding my own business, when I suddenly find myself falling hard onto the ground. Sure was nice of someone to put that thing there. It appears that I don't even need trails to fall; I can do it on sidewalks too.

Bandaids and antibiotic cream have been applied. I think I'll be okay.

Monday, November 28, 2016

BW50K - 2016 Edition

It's necessary to mention the year, since I've done this one before. Actually, I've completed all six previous ones. Going into today's Buckeye Woods 50K, with my injury, lack of training, etc., etc., I knew that this one would be more of a challenge than most of the others.

About those others, here are the previous results:

2010: 4:46
2011: 4:50
2012: 4:57
2013: 4:45
2014: 5:59
2015: 5:17
2016: ?:??

The weather was absolutely wonderful for running. The temperature ranged from about 37F at the start, to around 47F by the time I finished. It was partly sunny, and there were light breezes. Just about perfect. So much so, that I nearly recommended cancelling the event. We sure have had a variety of weather for this run.
Finishing the first 5-mile segment with Keith Johnston    John McCarroll photo

Race Director Suzanne Sharp did her usual great job, and our club volunteers was wonderful as always. This year Alyssa Osborne also created hand-made, unique awards.

Oh, yes: my race. I done ok. I figured that a steady pace would be nice. Finishing under my previous Personal Worst on this course of 5:59 would be nice. But mostly, I just wanted to finish, period.

After running the first loop with my friend Keith Johnston, I mostly ran alone. I only saw others coming and going, and of course at the shelter after each 5-mile loop. It's always so nice to see all my friends out there having as much fun as I am. The injury didn't slow me much. The lack of training due to the injury did. The Achilles only really hurt bad for the last mile or so. After all that solo running, which happened to get slower as I went on, I was happy to finish in 5:49. My splits and other stats:
Later in the race. I changed because it got warmer    John McCarroll photo

For the numerically inclined, here are my splits. Notice the positive trend.
Also for the numerically inclined, here are some overall stats.

The usual fast folks beat me, but a bunch - there were actually a whole lot of starters - dropped down to 25K. I finished fourth overall; the third of my gender. And now I'm hobbling around as expected after a race like this.

Unique finisher award, handmade by Alyssa Osborne

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's About Time

Only recently, as in the past week or so, have I finally been feeling a little better. Just a little, mind you. This, after six months of painful running. In case you needed reminding, those six months began at mile 45 (out of 50) at the Rock the Ridge race this last spring. I'm not sure what good any fore-knowledge might have done for me at the time. Perhaps I would have started to walk at mile 44 out of thoughts of prevention, rather than at mile 45 out of necessity.

Yes, six months of pain and suffering, in which I believe I only managed to do one other race of any significance, NC24. And after that one, it's really been downhill. Several weeks of only four to eight miles, along with some swimming, followed by a very gradual re-build of my mileage base; a mileage base that is still roughly half of what it had been earlier in the year.

Even though said pain hasn't completely subsided, progress continues, albeit in fits and starts. Some examples include 15 miles at Buckeye Woods a week and a half ago, a 20 this past weekend, a relatively fast treadmill run yesterday and an unexpectedly high-mileage 13 today at Hinckley with friends.

Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect and remind myself to be thankful for the ability to run at all. Okay, I'm reminded. But further, I'm happy to say that the pain isn't quite so awful in these recent days. Therefore, you know what time it is, don't you?

It's Time for Dan to do Something Really Stupid.

What would that be you ask (and you're asking an awful lot of questions today)? That would be this coming Sunday's Buckeye Woods 50K.

Why BW50K, you ask (and there you go again)? Because I've done all previous six BW50Ks. Because I started it all those years ago. Because it's a great event put on by our club. Because it's trails, yet, other than the distance, not un-doable (an issue for me). Because it's free. Because it's there.

See you on the other side of stupid.

Monday, November 07, 2016

No Better; Know Better

My Achilles is no better. But I'm running more again. And hurting more again. Yes, I should know better.

But I'm in a quandary. The Buckeye Woods 50K is looming: it's the Sunday after Thanksgiving. And I need to decide, a) Whether to try for 50K, b) Whether to try for 25K, or c) Whether to chuck the whole dang thing.

Here are the ... wait for it ... FACTORS TO CONSIDER ...

Factor 1 -> I started BW50K. I no longer direct it, but I still feel that to some extent, it's kinda/sorta my race. And it's fun.
Factor 2 -> I've run the 50K all six previous times. It's getting to be kinda/sorta what you'd call a streak.
Factor 3 -> During Sunday's course training run, whilst attempting to complete three 5-mile loops, I could only manage 2 1/2. This was due partially to my woefully undertrained status, and partially due to the Achilles pain. Achilles pain that permeates every waking moment activity, but gets worse as runs go on
Factor 4 -> I could just do 25K. That is, actually, a valid option. And I think I can run that far
Factor 5 -> Since my month long hiatus from running didn't appear to work, maybe I need to do it again, until I get it right?
Factor 6 -> That's enough Factors. The Decision 2016 Results will be posted here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ouch Again

The days spent running have become fewer and farther between lately. Following doctor's orders, I cross-trained (swimming) for about a month, and then started to run (very gradually and gingerly) again. The pain had subsided, although I know I wasn't completely cured. I did some four-milers, and I don't think I re-injured myself. Re-injury is something that I had managed to do a lot of when I was training harder, not so long ago.

I gradually increased the mileage of my runs, getting up to seven, then ten miles. Even then, I was generally not running on consecutive days. But this past weekend I ran about ten one day, and nine the next. Guess what happened? If you said, Dan, I bet you re-injured yourself, then ding, ding, ding -> you get the prize!

If only I knew how to run without pain. Maybe some day I will learn.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Toe to Tow Marathon, October, 1996

Twenty years ago, I drove from Michigan to Ohio, stayed with family, and toed the line at the 1996 Toe to Tow Marathon, now known  as the Towpath Marathon. I remember it well.

The course was not unlike the one they've had at various times. We took the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from Boston to Howe Meadow, then ran south a couple miles before turning north on the towpath. I think the other turnaround was around Pleasant Valley Road. We finished back at Boston Mills.

At the time, I was active on the Dead Runners Society and Michigan Runners lists. Here is my relatively brief description of the race:

Subject: Toe to Tow Marathon

  There are several races which are well known for their spectacular
  scenery. The Toe to Tow should definitely be one of them. With autumn
  colors at their peak, this was one of the most beautiful runs I've
  ever done. The setting is the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation
  Area, and the race is held on a canal towpath. The entire valley was
  aflame with bright reds, oranges, golds and yellows. I could go on
  and on....

  Oh yes. The race. After parking at a ski resort, we hopped on the
  Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad for a slow but (you guessed it) scenic ride
  to the start. Kind of unique. The first two miles were on a road to
  accommodate the 700 runners. About 350 of them were running the entire
  marathon, the rest were doing the relay.

  Once we got on the towpath, we stayed on it for the rest of the race.
  Although there are lots of little twists and a few tiny hills, the
  towpath makes for a great running surface. Most of it is hard packed
  dirt, with some tiny gravel. A few paved areas and wooden bridges.

  I ran a steady pace, completing the first half in a bit over 89 minutes.
  At the 18 mile turnaround I counted 20 runners ahead of me. Although
  I did slow a bit, I was able to pass 12 of them to finish 9th (I
  think). 2:59:32. 1st in the 40-44 age group. Not a bad day all around.


Not a bad day indeed. I remember how much I enjoyed the scenery in our wonderful national park. And I also remember how relatively easy it seemed for me to break three hours in a marathon. This was the seventh time I'd done it, and it was even the second time that year. After trying and failing from 1978 until 1989, when I finally succeeded, going sub-three now appeared pretty-darn doable.

After this race, I repeatedly tried and failed to break three hours some more. I came close a few times, but never got there. Maybe it wasn't so easy after all. The 1996 Toe to Tow marathon wound up as my final run in 2:xx:xx territory.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Only in Dan-Land

Only here in Dan-Land would this happen: a swimming injury. Can you believe it?

Been cross-training, mostly swimming and some weights. Almost no running since NC24. Trying hard to heal this heel. And it may be working; I'm feeling better. Of coiurse I'm sure re-injury is just a long or a hard run away, however. I'll try not to. I'm really working hard to be smart about this for a change.

But injured from swimming? It should be impossible to hurt myself swimming, right? Only an idiot... okay, I'll stop. I won't even finish that thought...

Don't worry, it's not serious - just a stiff neck. It's exacerbated when I do turn my head to breathe in the water, but I'll live.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Issues (No Running Content)

This is a recent Facebook post. I don't generally get political there, or here, but the environment is important to me. I may take this stuff seriously enough to begin a separate blog - something like don'tpoopinthepool. If that happens, this will be the first post, and I'll remove it from this mostly running related blog. But for now....

Which issue do you think is the most important one facing our country? The collective answer will surely help to decide the presidential election. Many would probably say the economy and jobs, or terrorism and safety. Race relations, gun control, health care and abortion would certainly be on the list as well. Although these and other problems are certainly important to all of us, in my mind, the single most important issue facing our nation, as well as the entire world, is the environment.

If we don’t take steps to care for the planet we live on, how can we possibly take care of one another? On the other hand, if we do look after Planet Earth; if we do clean up our act, we will surely then look after the people on it as well. By putting Planet Earth first, our lives, and those of our children and grandchildren, will undoubtedly reap great rewards. It’s that simple, and it explains why I see all other issues as pale in comparison.

Environmental matters include concerns over the oceans, overall water and air pollution, but especially climate change. The related science is backed up by systematic study after study, with conclusions that are indisputable.

News of the environment is nearly always bad. Most notably, climate change has resulted in unprecedented global temperatures for every single month since last autumn. The warming of the Pacific Ocean has been a partial cause, but this El Nino year is far worse than any other in human history.

Most importantly, there is something we can do about it. We can reduce, re-use and recycle. We can turn our thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer. We can drive less and walk more. Mostly, use common sense in order to have a smaller footprint. Helpful though they are though, these are small things. There is a much more effective way to influence the environment in a truly positive way, and it doesn’t hurt a bit: Vote for the right people, especially in the Presidential race.

One candidate is on the record as saying, "Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I'd be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it's very hard on our business." Another time, this person used the term, “hoax” in relation to global warming three times in one sentence: "Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay? It's a hoax, a lot of it."

Although this person’s personality, mannerisms and speech are abhorrent to some, other people feel that he, and the party that he represents, is right to deny climate change and science in general. If climate change is a hoax, then surely all of science should also be in question, and we may as well exploit, squander and pollute Earth’s resources to our collective hearts’ content.

The other political party does not have an unblemished record in regards to environmental matters. They’ve made blunders, bowed to political pressure in some cases, and most importantly, dragged their feet on much needed environmental legislation. But at least they acknowledge that the science is legitimate.

And they do try. Our president angered many when he issued executiveorders to bypass Congress in order to meet agreements he made with the Paris climate accord and with China’s President. I feel that if there was ever a justifiable need to bypass non-existent congressional approval, this was it. It was right to give us a fighting chance, a baby step, in fighting climate change.  This party’s 2016 candidate also acknowledges science. I am confident that she will continue the course of caring for the earth.

I understand that there is nothing I can say here to change anyone’s mind that’s already made up. But for those who haven’t decided, for those who may not bother to vote, please consider: the choice is stark. One candidate believes in science and will most likely at least try to care for the environment, and therefore our heritage. The other will deny science and exploit earth’s resources for extremely short term gain for a few, and long term disaster for all.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


This is it. No more discussion about what a great event we inaugurated and put on every year. Enough talk about how I got to this point. Now I am here with about 200 of my best friends, about to start running the 2016 NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run, also known as NC24.
Early on       Pat Dooley photo

They truly are among my best friends. I see many of them only one long day a year: this event. Others are more frequently familiar because they live closer by. Regardless of proximity, I love them all dearly. I've said this before and I'll say it again now: ultrarunners are the best people, period. Too bad we are not in charge of the planet. It would be a better place.

The horn sounds, and I begin running in the morning rain with Frank Dwyer, Ladd Clifford and Phil Apel. They have high hopes of big numbers, and they're smart enough to be patient about it. Me, not so much. I only want to go as far as I can before the Achilles Tendonitis (AT) Pain begins to take hold. I know from experience that once it does start, it only gets worse as time, and miles, go by. This pain point usually commences between an hour and an hour and a half (6-10 miles) into a run. If today's run is to follow such a pattern, I may not get very far at all. I figure that even under the very best of circumstances, 50 kilometers will be today's upper limit. Regardless of how I manage today, my plan is to then go home, get some food and rest, and then return in the morning to possibly walk a few more 0.90075 mile laps. Those will be tough no matter what.

The rain stops, and it gets warm and very humid. Although the humidity will be tough for everyone, I'm not too worried. I will be leaving at some point, so it will affect me less than the others. Speaking of others, I continue to talk with many old and new friends along the way. Sometimes this requires me to slow down or speed up a bit. But that's okay. I'm feeling fine.

It's great to see this event coming together under the new leadership of Brian Polen. From my perspective - now that of a runner/participant - everything is just fine. I talk with Brian now and then. I also talk with Michelle Wolff, who's manning the aid station. As with all ultras, the organization team and especially the volunteers are wonderful.

The AT pain begins at about mile 20. At least that's where I first notice it. This is really great. It's the most consecutive pain-free miles I've managed in months. But now I have to slow down and accept that it's going to get worse, mile by mile.

And of course it does. It also doesn't help that I'm woefully under-trained. That's due to the AT as well.

I had been running at a decent pace. Although the AT doesn't allow me to run very fast, it doesn't appear to help when I run super-slow or walk either. Most of my miles have been in the 9:30 to 10:00 minute per mile range - about what I train at. But now that I'm slowing down, everything is getting tougher. The marathon distance is achieved at about 4:27, and then I slow down even more. Michelle runs a lap with me as she's finishing her shift. She mentions that I look very much like I'm in pain. Others, like Blondie Hinton, say the same thing. I guess it hurts just to look at me. Funny how that works.

Now that I've only got a couple to go before my wild 50K dream is achieved, I stop to ask the medical folks for an ibuprofen tablet. I know they don't like to dispense them because they're somewhat dangerous for ultrarunners, but they do give me just the one.

And that does get me through it. I'd begun to walk, but now I can run, albeit slowly, my last one or two laps. I get to 50K at about 5:45 or so. It's hard to say exactly because I run an extra half-mile to finish the entire lap. I am absolutely euphoric about getting this far.

I go into the medical tent, and they stretch me out and we discuss my AT. heading to the car, the pain is still there, but things are definitely better than they would have been had I not stopped.

I drive home, shower, then along with Debbie, travel to the Winking Lizard to meet some friends for dinner. They have a special clam bake dinner for a couple weekends, and boy is it (and the beer) good! Maybe food tastes better after you've run, and eaten only junk all day. Afterwards we convene at our place a while longer. We laugh about how I am in the middle of a run.

Sleep does not go well. It always surprises me that I don't sleep like a log after a hard running effort; quite the opposite. I'm not sure why; it seems to defy logic. I wake up between 1:30 and 2:00, and that's it; I'm up for good. After some coffee and other preparation, I'm on my way back to Edgewater.

At 3:30 AM, I'm back to running around in circles. I go extremely slow at first, but then a funny thing happens. I begin to feel better, and I pick up the pace. The second (or third?) ibuprofen in the last 24 hours probably helps as well; I'm not in too very much pain.

My stomach doesn't feel so great, however. Maybe it was all that food. Or beer. Or the pizza, toasted cheese, and other junk that I sample here. Most likely, it was the ibu. Although three or so in this extended length of time really isn't all that awful, I virtually never take this much. And as mentioned, it's best to do none at all.

I continue to talk with friends that I see. There aren't so many out during these wee hours, and some are like zombies. But others are happy to talk. I also see Brian, and he is highly positive, encouraging me and everyone else to keep going. As these new miles begin to take their terrible toll, I begin to think about what the heck I'm trying to accomplish here. Maybe I can get up to about 20 miles for this day, giving me a grand total of 50+ for the event. I've got plenty of time.

Although the AT pain continues to be manageable, everything else is beginning to hurt, and I'm starting to feel just plain exhausted. After 10 or 11 miles I take some breaks, and also begin walking. This is just as others are waking up and getting going. It's just starting to get light.

The humidity never ceased. In fact, it's probably worse now than ever. I'm having some chafing issues, but I'll spare the details.

After running with some more friends along the way, I make it to 50, and even a mile or two more. It took me about as long to do this 20 as it did to do 31 yesterday. I quit just a little before the final horn. I've now greatly exceeded all my mileage goals. I should be extremely happy at this point, but mostly I'm just tired.

I am in awe of some of these other folks, elites and local friends alike. How in the world can they do two and three times the miles that I did? My 52 nearly killed me.

And now it's time for a break. A long one.

One of my final laps                                Larry Orwin photo

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Courage to Start

There is a book and a website called, The Courage to Start, by John "The Penguin" Bingham. A tag line is,
"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." Bingham
also wrote a popular running related blog and Runners World column, both entitled, The Penguin Chronicles. Now retired, the Penguin is famous for encouraging new runners to begin and to run more. His stories celebrated his own and other new(er) runners' experiences.

I never paid a whole lot of attention. I figured that although I wasn't the fastest runner around, I certainly also wasn't the slowest. Celebrating "newbieness", much less sluggishness, was not what I was interested in. Regarding that tag line, I also wasn't impressed. I nearly always started, and finished, whatever I wanted. What did any of it have to do with courage, anyway?

Fast forward to 2016. I've been battling an Achilles injury for three years now. Although the pain has subsided at times, even allowing me to get back to running a few marathons and ultras, it has never gone away completely. And it's been at its worst for the past few months. I hobble through the training miles, but speed and distance are both very painful prospects.

After organizing the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run in 2009 because I wanted to run the thing, I will finally get that chance in a couple days. But with this constant pain, I really ought not even try to think about any long distances. At NC24, however, there's no such thing as a Did Not Finish (DNF) status. Anyone who shows up and runs at least one 0.9 mile loop can claim a finisher's medal. Even so, I have often wondered if I'd have the courage to start.

Now I think I will have that courage. And I'll even finish. It just won't be with a sizeable mileage total.

NC24 - Thanks

Frank Dwyer and Larry Orwin presenting the award to me

A year ago, prior to the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run start, I was presented with this award telling (accusing?) me that I was the 'Best Race Director Ever'. I was duly impressed and flattered. I said thanks and everything, but there was no time to reflect or linger; it was time to get the race started. Beginning this year, I've managed to pass the RD duties and overall race organization on. I wish Brian Polen and his new team all the best for this and future years. I have every confidence that they will do well.
It occurs to me that I haven't thanked our previous team enough. Yes, I have thanked them, but it can never be enough. I don't think I've ever dedicated an entire blog post to what I consider the 'Best Race Organization Team Ever'. I am therefore herewith going to do this now.
Here are most of the members of the NC24 Race Organization Team. These folks made the race the great success that it has become. They dedicated themselves to excellence, and they achieved it beyond our collective wildest dreams. In absolutely no particular order:
  • Shannon Fisher put on the most and the best food ever available at any race ever conceived. Because of her and her team, NC24 was a veritable smorgasbord... that also had a race. 
  • Scott Stuetzer arranged for awards and did almost all the back-breaking labor for set-up and take-down.
  • Roy Heger rented the truck (and even put up with some damage to it one year), the power generation, and some of the awards. Roy also drove the truck, even when sleep-deprived after running the race every year.
  • Frank Dwyer, our financial wizard and registration guru, was a right-hand man to just about everything. When I say I couldn't manage NC24 without these guys, I'm thinking mostly of Frank. He also ran the race every single year.
  • Jan Roe helped Shannon with the food, check-in and the volunteer coordination. She would have also won the nicest person of the bunch award, had there been one.
  • Charles Elkins purchased and developed our timing system after there had been problems in previous years. He did this entirely on his own, and the new system is the best in the business. Charles also arranged for drinking water (no small task), porta-potties and dumpsters.
  • Felicia Fago helped with the food and the volunteer coordination.
  • Crystal Friend also helped with the food and the volunteer coordination.
  • Barb Clutter was abandoned as the only volunteer at the aid station  in the middle of the night one year. After that she became the lead volunteer coordinator and we never had another problem.
  • Larry Orwin arranged the dinner for out of town guests.
  • Debbie Horvath coordinated the post-run breakfasts, corralling a Boy Scout Troop for this in recent years. She also put up with the RD for 364 days a year.
Others have come and gone. Some of them have also done a whole lot of good stuff. And I haven't even mentioned the dozens of fantastic volunteers who have helped at various times over the years. They were/are the best of the best.
I always hesitate to publish a list such as this for fear of missing someone. If you served on the race committee, and I didn't mention your name, please consider that I'm an old man and I just can't remember everything anymore. It's definitely not that you weren't appreciated.
Thanks to all. And now let's all enjoy the new incarnation of NC24.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Only in Chicago

Only in Chicago can you go out of your hotel, located on Higgins Road, near O'Hare Airport at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, and be met with traffic galore; cars were speeding by as if it were the Indy 500. My sleep-deprived and slightly under-caffeinated brain was having a great deal of difficulty comprehending the situation as I began my run by trying to get across the street without becoming roadkill.

Slowly, it 'dawned' on me (yes, it was early, so this pun is intended) that there must be some kind of problem on adjacent Interstate 90, causing all these cars to be re-routed here onto Higgins. I ran along the road, facing all this zooming traffic, until I could see for myself what was wrong.

I90 had been reduced to one lane, and traffic was very much backed up trying to merge together for what appeared to be miles. A great many of those cars were exiting right in front of me. Mystery solved. Except for two related, but minor questions that would linger, probably forever: why the lane closures (construction?) and why was there so much traffic on a Sunday morning anyway?

Curiosity satiated, I could get more serious about my run. Too bad I was already 'running' out of time; I had to get back for breakfast and getting packed to go. I would wind up with only four sluggish miles this day.

I'd run out of time the previous day as well. But that day I'd at least managed 11.5 miles, close to my distance goal. And I was able to explore some parks and school grounds.

We were in town along with Veronica and Barry and the kids, to visit Valerie and to see the sights. And oh, the sights we saw. It was a good weekend. Except for the running part.

Monday, September 05, 2016

TM Speech: Born to Run (Yes, there's some running content)

Dearest Readers,

I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

Born to Run

I sat straight up in bed, laughing uncontrollably. My wife was startled, and asked what the heck was going on. This was unusual behavior for me. I had been reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, and I’d come to the part about the scientists trying to chase down an antelope in order to prove a theory. The theory was that humans had evolved to run by chasing down prey.  The scientists were also runners, and that certainly helped, but the experiment didn’t work; the antelopes being singled out and separated for hunting kept circling back to the herd in order to become lost in the crowd. I found this so amusing because the dumb animals kept outsmarting those brainy humans. 

I want to tell you some more about this theory, about some of my own running experiences, and most importantly, why I want you to run.

The book became a best seller when it was published in 2009. There are several themes and stories, including a case for the use of minimalist running shoes, background about the Tarahumara tribe of runners in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, and quirky American untrarunners. The story culminates with a secret race between the top American ultramarathoners and the best Tarahumara runners.

I want to focus on the theory put forth about human beings evolving to run in order to chase down their meals. Persistence hunting theories abound. They postulate that early humans, who have so few natural predation features – no protective fur, no claws, no sharp teeth – began to use our superior endurance to run an animal to exhaustion. 

Nearly every animal anywhere near our size can run faster than we can. No creature – not even a horse, can run as long as we can. We have big butts, forward facing eyes, heads that remain steady on our shoulders and a cardiovascular and respiratory system second to none.  We’re built to run long distances. And we truly are capable of running an animal down until it drops. Our scientists were not overly deterred by their initial failure. They were eventually able to discover a primitive tribe in Africa’s Kalahari Desert that continues to hunt this way.

Not all anthropologists agree with the theory, but none can dispute the fact that our physical characteristics do make us efficient long distance runners.

We are all runners. Some of us do it daily, some not so much anymore. Nearly all of us did it when we were kids. Here are some reasons why I think I was born to run.

I eat like a horse. People that know me say, he’ll run it off. They’re partially correct about that. They also say that that’s the reason I run – so I can eat. But they’re wrong about that.

My BP is 105 over 60. My resting heart rate is in the 50s. My cholesterol numbers are good, especially the good cholesterol which is excellent. My blood glucose levels are also fine. The health benefits of running are huge, and they’re well proven. But that’s not why I run.

I am able to claim some pretty good accomplishments – running 100 miles, completing over 100 marathons, qualifying for and running Boston 10 times. But as proud I am of these things, and as much as I like to brag, that’s not why I run.

Why do I run, you wonder? I’m glad you asked!

I’m competitive by nature – mostly with myself. I like to constantly challenge myself with new and difficult goals. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. I also enjoy competing with others (sometimes by age group), but I recognize that I can only control (to a point) what I can do, not what others can do. And I prefer to remain friends with those I race against, as much as I also want to beat them. Regardless of any accomplishments I may be able to claim later, one of the reasons I run is the challenge – to defy what others may consider limits. I run to push boundaries.

These competitors, and others that I simply like to meet and run with, have managed to become some of my best friends. In fact, family notwithstanding, runners are some of the best people I know. I run for friendship and camaraderie. 

I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to run in wonderful locations all over the world. I’ve run in dozens of States, I’ve run on every inhabited continent, and I’ve run in hundreds of places in between. Some of the locations have been incredibly scenic, others merely serene. When I ruminate on this, it’s the quiet serenity that I appreciate most. I run for serenity.


I’ve told you about myself. I’ve managed these accomplishments, made many lifetime, lasting friends, and enjoyed the experience of running in all these wonderful places. Yes, I’ve been fortunate, but yet I’m about as ordinary as you can get. I could go on about how average and commonplace I am, but I’ll spare you. I mention this, because you may think that you could never do some of these types of things. But you can!

You were born to run. If I can inspire even one of you who haven’t been getting out to get outside and do it, or possibly get one of you who does run to get out more and enjoy it more, I’ll consider this speech an enormous success.
You can do this!

There are many ways to get started.

Try an app, like couch to 5k. These work for a lot of people.
Join a club, or otherwise meet up with like-minded folks. Nothing is as effective in getting yourself out the door than having to meet someone at a specified time and place.
Sometimes we can lose our focus and motivation. Don’t overthink it. Just pick a direction – hopefully a safe, and maybe a scenic one – and go!

Once you do begin, you can start to challenge yourself. Set personal goals – one at a time if necessary. It’s like sex. The more you do it, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you enjoy it. By all means, be patient; you’ve got your whole life to do this, and again, like sex, it’s best not to rush it.

There is no goal is too lofty. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and I’m living proof. After all, you were born to run.

TM Speech: The Glass is Half Full - The Power of Positive Thinking (You Guessed it: No Running Content)

Dearest Readers,

I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

The Glass is Half Full - The Power of Positive Thinking

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Singing: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life….” That is from a Monty Python Movie called, The Life of Brian. Jesus and several other men are being crucified, and one guy, who is dying on the cross, begins singing that happy song. Soon the others join in, and everyone is smiling and thoroughly happy. It’s a preposterous scene, even for Monty Python.

But ludicrous though it is, it demonstrates an important aspect of human nature: the power of positive thinking. Those guys are going to die, but they seemingly couldn’t be happier. 

In the words of author/minister Norman Vincent Peale, “The way to happiness is to keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others.” Positive thought makes positive people, and positive people accomplish great things. Not the least of which is personal happiness and fulfillment.

Optimism comes from the Latin word optimus, meaning "best," which describes how an optimistic person is always looking for the best in any situation and expecting good things to happen. Optimism is the tendency to believe, expect or hope that things will turn out well. Even if something bad happens, an optimist sees the silver lining.

The emerging field of positive psychology studies the positive impact that optimism has on mental health. Other research shows that optimism may be good for physical health too—optimists are sick less and live longer than pessimists. Apparently, a positive outlook on life strengthens the immune system (and the body's defenses against illness), cardiovascular system, and the body's ability to handle stress.

Fake it Until You Make it
Can You Boost Your Bright Side?

Although a positive personality is something we’re often born with, there are steps you can take to improve your outlook and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Simply smile more.

A University of Kansas study found that smiling—even fake smiling—reduces heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations. So try a few minutes of YouTube humor therapy when you’re stomping your feet waiting in line or fuming over a work or family situation. It’s difficult not to smile while watching a favorite funny video.  

Practice reframing.

Instead of stressing about a traffic jam, for instance, appreciate the fact that you can afford a car and get to spend a few extra minutes listening to music or the news, accepting that there is absolutely nothing you can do about the traffic.

Build resiliency.

Resiliency is the ability to adapt to stressful and/or negative situations and losses. Experts recommend these key ways to build yours:
• Maintain good relationships with family and friends.
• Accept that change is a part of life.
• Take action on problems rather than just hoping they disappear or waiting for them to resolve themselves

It’s Contagious

Both pessimism and optimism are contagious. If you associate yourself with optimistic, happy people, you’re disposition will reflect those qualities. So of course you should, when possible, spend time with positive people.

Smiling is contagious. Laughing is contagious. I mentioned the health benefits of smiling; they’re even greater for laughing.  If I start laughing, most of the rest of you will as well.

TM Speech: The Art and the Joy of Movies (As the Name Implies, No Running Content)

Dearest Readers,

I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

The Art and the Joy of Movies

Our Art Form

For some cultures, like 19th century Germany and Austria classical music was the predominant art form.
The ancient Greeks invented theater.
Sculpture was extremely important to the Greeks and also ancient Italy.
England and Ireland, and China can lay claim great literature.
Painting is most famously attributed to France and other parts of Western Europe
For other cultures, architecture, modern music and dance have.
What is our culture’s art form?
Western Civilization’s and specifically the United States’ art certainly include all the forms I’ve mentioned. But what will we be known for, in perpetuity? I think the answer is film.

What is a movie, and how or why can it be considered art?

A great movie can transport you to another time or place. It may be a time or place you could never get to yourself, Or it may be something as mundane as everyday life. 
It can inspire or depress you. It can make you laugh or cry. It can do all or none of these things.
Movies enable us to forget about of the day-to-day drudgery of our lives for a period of time.
You can get lost in a great movie.

Most films begin as a business idea; it’s often all about profit.
Producers pull together writers, directors and actors, and they also arrange for funding.
Directors take the work of the writers, and work with the actors to create the magic we call a movie. At its best, this is the art of film.

Dan’s Ten Best

Do you have an all-time top ten movies list? When you love great movies as much as I do, it’s fun to think about your favorites.
A couple caveats:
Genre doesn’t matter much to me – I like movies of all sorts. The main question is this: is it a good story?
Does the picture do what was intended? Some have modest goals, but exceed them. Some have difficult goals, and fall short. A few are both ambitious AND also succeed in accomplishing what they set out to do.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • Gone with the Wind

    • The Wizard of Oz

    • 2001: A Space Odyssey

    • Casablanca

    • American Graffiti

    • Giant

    • Ben-Hur

    • The Godfather

    • The Right Stuff

    • Animal House

    • Dr. Strangelove

    Yeah. I know it. There's actually one more than ten there. But it's my list, and I can do what I want.

    Don't Like My List?

    TM Speech: A Run Through History (Yup - check it out if Running Content is what you seek)

    Dearest Readers,

    I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

    A Run Through History

    Held every four years at the sanctuary of Zeus
    War and other hostilities were halted during the Games
    They were for men only. And naked ones at that. Women eventually began their own games
    Wrestling and running were the main events. To our knowledge, the main distance was 1 Stadia/Stadion – about 200 yards
    The ancient Olympics were permanently halted in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I decreed that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated

    We all know about Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC, don’t we?
    BUT - did you know...
    The distance was about 25 miles
    He ran 150 miles (Athens to Sparta) during the prior days
    The first marathon run for competition was in the modern Olympics (inspired by a poem)
    The marathon distance was changed to 26.2 miles in the modern Olympics in order to run by the Queen of England
    In 2010 we celebrated the 2500 year anniversary – how’s that for a tradition
    The entire Pheidippides is probably only a myth. But it sure is fun

    Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894
    Panathenaic Stadium was restored for the new games held in Athens
    Games began in 1896
    Events included different running distances, including a new one called the marathon, to commemorate the legend of Pheidippides
    First “Competitive” Marathon won by a Greek named Spyridon Louis
    Held Every Four Years, just like the ancient ones
    Interrupted by World Wars I and II
    Women’s track events were added in 1928
    Until 1984, Women were not allowed to run distances farther than 1500 meters

    Or third, if you count the one by Pheidippides
    Guess what? It’s Boston – 1897
    Founded by Boston Athletic Association, inspired by first Olympic Marathon
    Boston’s Long History nearly matches that of the Olympic one
    At the 1908 London Olympic Games, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria wanted the marathon race to begin at Windsor Castle outside the city, in order for the Royal family to view the start
    This made the distance 26 miles
    Runners ran an extra 385 yards around the track as they finished in the stadium
    Boston and other marathons adjusted their distances

    Katherine Switzer entered the 1967 Boston Marathon as K. Switzer. RD Jock Semple tried to manually remove her, but her boyfriend intervened. 
    These photos appeared in Boston Globe
    Bobbi Gibb had run it in 1966
    Women were officially allowed to enter Boston in 1972

    From Cleveland / Ohio State
    American track and field athlete and Olympic gold medalist
    At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Owens won international fame with four gold medals
    As the most successful athlete at the games and as such has been credited with single-handedly crushing Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy

    Became the first to run under 4 minutes in the mile – 60 years ago in 1954
    Since then as many as 1,000 runners have broken the barrier, a select few whilst still in high school
    Very few of them have been able to do it on a cinder track as Bannister did
    Sebastian Coe was the logical successor to Bannister

    F: Won Olympic Marathon in 1972
    J: Won 1st Women’s Olympic Marathon
    Boston, Chicago Winner
    Former WR holder

    TM Speech: 180 Steps (Actual Running Content Included at NO CHARGE!)

    Dearest Readers,

    I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

    180 Steps

    Like many others here at Progressive, I am a data person. Let me share some data with you. I have been running more or less regularly for over forty years. I’ve documented more than 93,000 miles. That’s getting close to 100,000, and it’s also close to four times the circumference of the earth. Not to mention 40% of the distance to the moon. I have written multiple articles about running for a national magazine, published a book, written a blog, served as a running club president and worked part-time at a running specialty store. Included in all those miles are over 100 marathons and over 30 ultramarathons.  Is that enough to establish some credibility for this subject? And yet even with all those miles, I still try to improve my running form.

    I know that some of you are thinking, “I’m not a runner. What do I care about running form?” But you are a runner. Maybe you don’t run every day. Maybe it’s been a long time since you have run. But you almost certainly did run when you were a kid. And you can and should run now. Running is natural for us human beings – as much as walking. In fact, running is more efficient. This is a good subject for another speech. You can expect to hear more about this particular topic in the near future.

    Others of you are thinking, “I am a runner, but what do I need to know about running form? Isn’t it just putting one foot in front of the other?” Now we’re getting somewhere. Paying just a little attention to your running form can have a very positive effect. It can make you a more efficient and effective runner. Besides improved performance, you help reduce the possibility of sustaining an injury.

    I mentioned that you ran when you were a kid. Almost everyone runs when they’re a kid. Next time you see kids running, pay attention to their running form. In fact, you may be able to picture it in your imagination right now. That form is nearly perfect, isn’t it? Kids – at least while they’re running - tend to have great posture, a light, efficient footstrike and fast cadence. These are the elements of good running form that I would like for you to take away from my speech today.

    Everyone stand up. Your posture should be tall. You should reach for the sky with your head. Now lean forward just a little so that your heels are off the ground. Now pump your arms forward and back. Feels like you want to run, right? Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle, with your forearms facing out. But having said all that, you should be relaxed. Especially your hands and your face. You can practice these posture suggestions even without running.

    Heel to toe is the best way to land, right? Wrong. Your foot should land directly underneath your body, and in about the middle of your foot. If it lands in front of you, you are over-striding. Faster runners do tend to have a longer stride, but the ones with good form still have their feet actually landing underneath their bodies. This ensures that you place less stress and weight on your landing. You will land more towards your mid-foot, rather than your heel. Less force on your feet and lower legs is always a good thing.

    Finally, your cadence, or turnover, should be around 180 steps per minute. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Many of us do tend to take less. I believe I average between 160 and 170 steps. By taking more steps you can, but you don’t have to run faster. You can run smoother and with greater efficiency. You can actually count your steps – just count each time one foot hits the ground for a minute of running and then double it.

    Please remember these things about good running form: Posture, footstrike and Cadence. But mostly, if you’re not running now, get out and do it!

    TM Speech: Where is Everybody (Not Even A Tiny Bit of Running Content)

    Dearest Readers,

    I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

    Where is Everybody?

    What scientific discovery will be more profound, more efficacious to our daily lives than detection of other intelligent life in the universe? Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? If so, why haven’t we been able to make this discovery already? In short, where are they?

    Is there intelligent life on earth? 

    Anyone following our presidential elections may wonder about this. 

    Like it or not, we are advertising our presence by our transmission of radio waves. For nearly 100 years, we’ve inadvertently transmitted our radio and tv broadcasts as an ever-growing sphere from our solar system. These waves have now reached any planets of stars as far as 90 light years away.
    We have also made some conscious attempts to specifically announce our presence – we’ve made specific broadcasts, and we’ve sent messages on the Voyager spacecraft.

    Is there extra-terrestrial life? 

    Scientists are pretty sure that life needs planets to live on, but as far as we know, there’s no life on the other planets within our solar system. What about planets circling stars other than our sun? The first exoplanet was confirmed in 1995, and since then several thousand have been discovered. Most do not appear to be able to harbor life, but a few may be of the right size and in a habitable zone.

    Does life always evolve into intelligent life?

    Just because a planet may be able to harbor life, does that mean that life would develop there for sure? There have been some basic experiments showing that the building blocks of life do develop spontaneously when conditions are right. 
    Even if life does develop and evolve, would it necessarily become technological? Dolphins and Chimpanzees have highly developed brains, but did not become technological. 

    What is the lifespan of technological species?

    How long do we think our civilization will last? Will we destroy ourselves in a flash, as in war? Or possibly destroy our own ecosystem? How long would other technological species live?

    Are we listening?

    What are the chances are that the distances may be too vast for in-person visitation? What about radio waves – why can’t we detect those from other civilizations? We are trying! The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) does listen in. The best scenario would be a specific broadcast to provide a key to understanding the message, and then to say who and where they are and finally to say hello.

    But Where are they?

    Given the billions of stars and planets out there, why haven’t we heard from them already? Even given the vast distances, why don’t they just come over? If they prefer to stay at home, why don’t they just send a radio signal to say hi? Or, like us, say something even without intending to? Here are some possible reasons:

    1) We really are alone. We’re the only intelligent species anywhere.
    2) Everybody is listening and no one is talking. Maybe on purpose. (Prime directive)
    3) We just haven’t found them yet! The discovery is right around the corner.

    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...