Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

A few random Christmas related thoughts....

Why do I suddenly stop myself before I say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays".....I don't think it's because I feel the people I'm speaking to are anti-Christmas. I think it's because I want to make sure the people I'm speaking to aren't part of the ridiculous 'War on Christmas' crowd. You know who they are. Nice job at making people think twice over a simple holiday greeting (holiday, ofcourse, deriving from the roots 'holy' and 'day' and, therefore, very religious in its own right) . I've never been rebuffed by a holiday greeting by anyone except those not liking my choice of words as they weren't "Christmasy" enough. Good grief.

Why are office Christmas parties becoming so rare? We don't - and haven't for several years - have them at my office. Most people seem to like and want them. They don't need to cost much if run like a potluck. I think once offices cut them from the budget it is just easier never to restore them once business picks back up.

Christmas doesn't feel much like Christmas when there is no snow on the ground. How do the folks in the South and West manage? Can they relate at all to Frosty the Snowman?

I must confess that the Rankin/Bass movie productions from the 1960's - you know the ones (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin' To Town, etc.) - finally seem so old and worn they are almost unwatchable. At least, my daughter seems to like them. So maybe they still have their magic for the younger crowd. And I'm just getting old.

I defy anyone to not break into a chuckle when Ralphie actually does shoot his eye out in A Christmas Story. Though my favorite part is when he describes his father "weaving a tapestry of profanity that is still floating somewhere over Lake Michigan". Wonderful.

When is the last time you actually drank Eggnog? I'm sure people do but I don't believe I've had a sip since around 1986. And it wasn't very memorable then either.

Happy Holidays (or, Merry Christmas, if you prefer). It's time to take some vacation days, enjoy the holidays, do some running, watch some football, drink some wine and rum, and generally relax. See you all next year.

My New Years wish: Our world leaders find a way to bring peace and hopefulness to the innocents caught in the crossfire.

Oh, and a nice Rose Bowl Michigan victory wouldn't hurt either!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2007 Bayshore Marathon Goals

First of all, I had a terrific 10 mile run this past Sunday. The weather was 50 degrees with some sun and I was able to wear shorts!! I forgot how nice it is to run without something (i.e. pants) wrapped around your legs. I finished the 10 miles in 75 minutes (7:30/per mile pace) and I really wasn't looking to push speed...just enjoyed the run and the weather. One of those nice days when everything seems to be working and you don't even feel tired. Too few and far between though unfortunately.

On to the topic at hand: the plan and goals for the 2007 Bayshore Marathon. There is plenty of time...still 5 months to go...but winter running can pose some problems and slow the progress down. For me, at least, it does. Normally, I only get out once a week in the winter. There are all sorts of excuses I use for this...too numerous to go into here. This year, however, I'm determined to get out at least 3 times a week through February before diving full bore into Bayshore training.

The plan is to maintain a high level of conditioning for up to 8 -9 miles through February. That means, coming out of winter, I would be in great condition to set a PR for a 15k if need be. Then, start building miles again as the snow melts. I don't want to try tackling 16, 18 mile runs on ice covered sidewalks. I'll use this time to rest the body and focus on "perfecting" a shorter distance...hopefully building a good platform to start from once the serious marathon training starts at the end of February.

I guess I'll be loosely following Hal Higdon's Intermediate I plan. I don't follow any plan right to the letter. I like to develop my own system...listening to my own body...and trying out my own ideas. If I feel like pushing harder one day, I do so. If I feel like relaxing and just enjoying a leisurely run, I do so. I don't like to feel confined to a running schedule. However, I do monitor the recommendations of the expert plans. Mainly, I watch to make sure my long run goals for the week are following the progression the plans suggest. I might go a couple miles farther or a few shorter but as long as they are within range, I'm good to go.

For Bayshore, I'm going to keep my goals reasonable. I did 3:36 in Chicago. I need under 3:16 for a Boston Qualifier. If I really bust arse, I might be able to get that at Bayshore. However, I'm expecting to only make an incremental improvement...a stepping stone to get me within range. So, the goal is to run a 3:27 marathon which is a 7:54/mile pace. I feel this is very doable. In Chicago, my splits were 1:49 (bad start)/1:47. In Traverse City, I'd like to hit 1:40/1:47. This is my reasonable goal. My stretch goal would be to hit 3:23 (1:38/1:45).

Ofcourse, this statement of goals is still 5 months - and a lot of running - away from the event. I reserve the right to modify them as training progresses. For now, this is where I'm at mentally. At least, I can obsess over this for the next several weeks. I am nothing if not a geek for statistics.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Ice Marathon and George Washington

What do the two have in common?
Nothing, as far as I know, except that they are both topics within this single blog entry.

Starting with the former, how tough (and slightly crazy) do you have to be to run in the Antarctic Ice Marathon? Now, I'm up for a challenge as much as the next runner but, c'mon, spending 4- 5 hours or more battling the elements while racing across the frozen tundra (and I ain't talking Lambeau Field here) for 26.2 miles? I bet the crowd support at this event would best be described as "sparse". There are 9 competitors in this years event...placing your odds at winning around 11%. Not bad. Included in the field is England's Tim Harris who will complete his seventh marathon in seven weeks on seven continents which is apparently some sort of world record. No word on what kind of vacation time this guy gets. I want his job.

If you don't think that's quite enough of a challenge, I guess you might be more interested in the ultra marathon (62.1 miles) kicking off a few days later at the same location? Apparently, there are 3 French participants planning to complete both the marathon and the ultra.

The marathon is scheduled for December 12th while the ultra kicks off on December 15th. Good luck. If I can collect enough cans to arrange for the $15,000 registration fee, maybe I'll join them one day. That must be one helluva participant t-shirt.

As for the latter, George Washington, I must confess to being slightly amused while recently reading a bio about him regarding the venomous attacks on his personal character he absorbed while president. He was labeled as "treasonous" and senile by his contemporaries, namely Jefferson and Madison, for espousing Federalist views. I found it especially ironic considering the current political climate in which those who disagree with President Bush have been labeled as unpatriotic, treasonous, and cowardly. Jefferson and Madison, anti-federalists, were the pre-cursor to the formation of the early Republican party. The war of words has been there from the beginning, I guess.

Fortunately, old Georgie knew better than to stoop to his rivals level and remained above the fray. He was aware that history would stand taller than petty partisan bickering.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I had fully intended to state my training and race goals for the 2007 Bayshore Marathon with this morning's post. Here I was getting my work day in order, grumbling about the number of things I need to accomplish this week, and cleaning out my Inbox after taking a few days off when I came across an email from a buddy. Normally, we chat about politics or social issues. Since we both seem to sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum, the debates can get lively. I was expecting another debate to begin while opening his email. What I found instead was a truly inspiring that will stick with me for a long, long time. I'm thankful he sent this to me at just the right time. I immediately stopped complaining and reminded myself how lucky I am.

For those of you who have run a marathon...a triathlon...or never had to overcome much at all, prepare to meet a man and his son who you will never forget. This is a man who would not give up on his son no matter what the experts told him. A man who pushes, pulls, and carries his child through marathons, triathlons, and, for that matter, life. He does it so he can give his child moments of joy they share together.

Maybe some of you have already heard this story before. I had not. Please click the link below and be prepared to be inspired like never before. Don't forget to watch the short You Tube video at the bottom of the article as well. What these two have accomplished is nothing short of amazing. If you are prone to crying, make sure you have plenty of tissue by your side. Really, just when you want to give up on the human race after watching the death and destruction on the nightly news, you are reminded again about the strength and depth of the human spirit.

Meet Dick and Rick Hoyt


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sidewalk vs. Road Running

This is a question I've pondered for quite some time and I guess I just have to ask out loud: if a perfectly viable sidewalk is present, why would you run on the road?

Let me explain the motivation for asking. I live in your typical midwestern suburban subdivision...plenty of sidewalks, plenty of traffic on the one lane roads. Perhaps because I'm near almost all of the schools in our community, traffic can be very intense at times and , no doubt, many of those cars are filled with teenagers engaged in usual teenager distractions. Not to mention parents dealing with cell phones, kids, coffee, and their favorite radio station.

Now, I understand the benefit to running on the packed dirt on the side of the road as opposed to the hard concrete of the sidewalk. Believe me, whenever my knees ache a bit after a long run, I wonder about the pounding they took every step of the way on the concrete. On a typical run, I'll pass 3-4 people running along the side of the road during this intense period of post-school, post-work traffic while I scamper by 8 feet to their right on a safe, smooth, well-lit sidewalk. I've watched the cars come to almost a complete stop because they couldn't veer into the oncoming lane due to an opposing vehicle. And I've seen other cars make the veer with little warning or window to make the move. Now, I've driven on these same roads thousands of times myself and, being a runner, I am very diligent about keeping an eye out. However, I can't say that there haven't been times where I've been momentarily distracted enough to find myself kicking up dirt and gravel along the shoulder and thinking "thank God there wasn't somebody there." And, at night, forget about seeing anyone on the side of the road if another car is blasting their headlights in your eyes.

My point is...why would you put your safety into the hands of hundreds of potentially distracted drivers when you can control it yourself? Sure, my knees may not last as long...maybe 15 years from now I'll be kicking myself (if the prostheses allows ofcourse) for not saving my knees and joints the wear and tear. However, I may also have successfully avoided being run down in the street by a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix whose driver dropped their CD case on the floor moments before coming upon me.

I guess we all have choices to make. Certainly, the roads, the availability of another option, the intensity of the traffic, the degree of your death wish all play a factor in your decision on where to run. For me, while my knees hold up, I'll be on the sidewalk. The road runner may be glancing at me with that knowing he-is-killing-his-knees smile. That's okay. Because I'll be looking at that approaching SUV and hoping the driver is paying attention.