Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Thought, Therefore I Was

Rene Decartes walked into a bar and ordered six shots with six beers. The bartender lined them up, but then decided to ask, "are you sure you can drink all these?" Descartes paused, then said, "I think not." And then he immediately disappeared.

I love that one. Last week's long run went well. I managed the distance without mishap, and the old AT didn't hurt overly much afterwards. I began to think that perhaps I'd be able to get through the upcoming Buckeye Trail 50K after all. This week's long run is a different story.

It's mile twenty. This is where the Wall occurs for many runners. After hours of hard effort, a runner's glycogen becomes depleted, often at this point in a race, causing any effort at forward motion to be extremely difficult. Proper nutrition, sensible pacing, not to mention training, can help stave it off. Personally, I run so slow, and tend to my nutritional needs well enough, that I hardly have to worry about the Wall at all.

But this day, it rears it's ugly head. Things had been going fairly much like they had last week: I'd started on the Lester Rail Trail at four and run close to six miles before meeting up with Michelle Wolff, and run about twelve with her, and finally am now just finishing up with six to seven more. The difference between the last run and this one, however, is that this one started out in pain. By now the AT is really killing me. I believe it was Thursday's speedwork that really did me in.

Now I am really hobbling. The nine-thirty to ten-minute pace has suddenly changed to twelve to thirteen minutes per mile. It's like running through thick gelatin, and every time my right foot strikes the ground, I feel that shooting pain. Step, ouch, step, ouch...

The doubts creep in. Can I make it to twenty-four again? Should I even try? And of course, why am I even doing this?

Here are the answers. Yes (I do make it, but slowly), probably not (but I do), and mostly for training in case I still, in spite of everything, want to try BT50K.

At this point, I think not.

But I still haven't ruled it out completely.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

It's Now or Never

Partial lyrics from the song, It's Now or Never, by Elvis Presley

It's now or never, come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling, be mine tonight
Tomorrow will be too late
It's now or never, my love won't wait

These lyrics, along with other random thoughts, were going through my head at various times during this morning's run. The now or neverness refers to "training" for the upcoming Buckeye Trail 50K (BT50K). Yes, "training" is in quotes for a reason. It's only three weeks away and I'd sure as heck better get moving - especially by doing 20+ mile runs, of which I've done nearly exactly zero (notwithstanding last week's 18) in the past month and a half. In a recent blog post about Critical Success Factors (CSFs), I pontificated that at least one CSF for being able to complete a 31-mile run is to be able to run at least 20-miles. Today's saga begins at 3:00 AM.

3:00 AM
I'm awake before the 3:40 alarm. Must have had the old internal alarm at an early setting, even considering having been up late babysitting the grand-kids. I'm up drinking coffee and packing for my journey in no time at all. A CSF for long runs is providing oneself enough time to run. And for someone who does not like to be running late into the morning or worse, this means starting early.

4:00 AM
The run has begun; I'm a few minutes into it, on the Lester Rail Trail. I am beginning to think more seriously of making this a 24-miler. 20 would be acceptable, but 24 would be that much better. And I'm on the course where it's happened in the past. It takes four six-mile loops on this trail. Sounds tedious to some, but it usually (when I'm in shape) works out for me, You can call me lots of things these days, but 'in shape' isn't one of them. Guess I will see how it goes. The moon is setting in the west, and it's very pretty.

4:30 AM
The fireflies are making this an enchanted run. I fancy that they're blinking back at my headlamp, but it's more likely that they're just lighting up because they can. I am thoroughly enjoying myself in the dark here. I do need to be sure to save some energy for the later miles. In other words, enjoy, but not so much that I'm speeding up in an unsustainable way.

5:00 AM
Michelle Wolff has joined me as planned. and we're beginning another 6-mile loop. We discuss our (running) plans for the day. She's considering doing two 6-milers, and I've only got three to go. I'd gotten myself some water and gel, removed the headlamp, added a hat, and doused myself with repellent. The sun isn't above the horizon yet, but there's a pretty glow to the northeast.

5:36 AM
"What was that?" asks Michelle. We quickly turn back and retrace a few of our steps on the trail. There, crawling along, is a crayfish that Michelle had nearly stepped on. After discussing lobster dinner, I also wondered out loud if the little guy was running the entire six miles. Michelle mentioned that he may have a tough time with the couple road crossings. Not for the first, or last, time today, I swallow a small bug.

6:05 AM
The craw-dad is still close to where we'd last seen him, but he is still on the move. The 17-Year Cicadas, asleep during my first loop, are now singing away. I also spot a few of them alongside the trail. They're a whole lot of fun.

6:45 AM
Michelle is done. She probably ran around ten miles. I stop to talk before she drives away. I tell her how a fly bit my calf - one of the few areas that I didn't spray. I get some more gel and water before taking off for my final seven and a half.

7:20 AM
I am back at the car once again. I could have simply run by the parking area for my final four and a half, but thought I'd better get even more gel and water. I am still not sure whether 24 is in the cards for me today. It's getting warm, and that doesn't help. At least I'm nearly to 20; I can quite soon if I want. But 24 still beckons. The fuel will help.

8:05 AM
The fuel did indeed help; I made it the entire way. I finish up a bit slower than I started, but all in all this was a pretty good long run.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Home Runs and Critical Success Factors

There was a dearth of major league home runs back in the eighties. It had been several decades since Babe Ruth had hit sixty in one year, and even twenty-plus years since Roger Maris had hit his sixty-one in nineteen sixty-one. The question arose, why can’t any of the players approach those totals anymore.

The answer came back this way. No one can hit sixty home runs anymore because no one can hit fifty.

Yes, the home run kings in those years would hit in the neighborhood of forty-five to forty-eight. Only very occasionally would anyone even get close to fifty.

And then came goosed up balls, smaller parks and, most of all, better chemicals. But that’s another story.

What does this have to do with running, you ask? These questions and their answers come to mind:

Q: Why can’t you run sub 3:20 marathons anymore?
A: Because I can’t run 3:40 marathons.

Q: Why can’t you run 100 miles anymore (I only did once, by the way)?

A: Because I can’t run 100 kilometers anymore.

Q: Why can’t you run 30-mile training runs anymore?

A: Because I can’t run 20-mile training runs.

This gets into the area of Critical Success Factors. A Critical Success Factor for completion of the Buckeye Trail 50K (BT50K) is to be able to run twenty miles. Since RTR, I haven’t been doing long runs. In fact, I’ve hardly been running at all. Part of this is due to vacation, part to the illness. And then there’s always the Achilles Tendonitis. We’ll always have AT.

Yesterday, with BT50K looming less than a month away, I decided that it was now or never for a long run. Long is, as always, a relative term. I’ve always considered 18 miles, or roughly 30K to be the minimum to be considered a run long. I didn’t have a great deal of time; I’d have to hoof it just a bit. Did I manage to get at least 18?

Yes. The run was not half bad. It could otherwise be called a success.

Of course the AT is worse than ever. But that’s another story.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


What makes a run an epic? There can be no doubt that epic is in the mind of the beholder. For any runner, some runs will be epic whilst some will be ordinary. With these thoughts in mind, here is a list of attributes that may make a run into an epic run.


  1. It has to be long. Certainly there have been some great 100-meter races, run by some great runners. Maybe you can call some of these runs epic. But I can’t. In my mind, the run has to go on for some length to be epic. Of course distance is relative.
  2. It has to be difficult. Of course as we age, more and more regular runs begin to become difficult ones. Like distance, general level of difficulty will always be a relative thing.
  3. It has to be unique in some way. Maybe a new distance, a new time, or simply a challenge that’s new in some way. As with distance and difficulty, eve uniqueness is relative.
  4. It has to be storied. This is the very definition of epic, “a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.” You guessed it: even story-ness is relative.


There you have it. If a run is long enough, difficult enough, unique enough, then of course there will be stories about it. Therefore, of course, number four is the most important.  Did I also mention that the items in the list are relative? What’s epic for me may not be for you, and vice versa.


Having said all this, my Rock the Ridge 50-Mile run was epic almost any way you slice it. I’m sure there are runners out there for whom RTR would only have been a walk in the woods. But for most of us, it would probably be nearly as epic as it gets.


It does get a bit more problematic with everyday runs. Some of my runs in Europe were pretty darn cool. Up and down along the Danube, two loops around Lake Bled; those were epic, or nearly so. But then there’s everyday runs at home.


RTR was only a bit over a month ago. I anticipated easing up afterwards, especially with the two weeks of travel that followed; I simply didn’t expect to run much at all in Europe, much less do any runs of the epic variety.


But it was worse than that. I got sick during the trip. It was a sinus infection that got progressively worse the longer we (Debbie had it too) stayed. Then it got worse still after I arrived home. After a dose of antibiotics, and some pain management for my continuing Achilles Tendonitis problem, I’m finally back to running again.


But I lost a lot of fitness. A real lot. Now a ten-mile run, something that as little as a month and a half ago was a something I at for breakfast, might be epic. In fact, yesterday’s ten – the usual park bike-trail variety of a run, could be considered epic: it was long (relatively so), difficult (much more than it should have been), unique (it had been over a month and a half) and (now) storied.


Epic is as epic does.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...