Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Taper

A first for me...taper, Christmas, New Years....MARATHON!! (oh, and half marathon also).

Santa was at my house. Hopefully, not the raging, roidin', virulent, Satan Santa shown in the picture below. Nothing was smashed or stolen. I think we must have gotten a visit from the friendlier looking one.

The kids are Wii bowling their little hearts out. My son rises 2 hours before anyone else so he can get his fill of Guitar Hero in before anyone wakes up.

I'm in Taper-Try-Not-To-Get-Fat-Eating-Snacks-While-Preparing-For-My-Marathon mode.

Last Sunday's 20 miler was done, sadly, on the treadmill. I was intending to run outside. The snow had melted the day before. Sidewalks clear. When I stepped outside at 9 AM however, there was a a strong, cold wind blowing. After debate and opting on the side of wimpery, I headed to the gym and the mill.

I capped off my peak training week with 40 miles last week.

10 on Saturday outside.
20 on Sunday inside.

Again, the Goofy Challenge totals 39.33 miles over 2 days. This past weekend's simulation was 76.3% of that total (30 miles divided by 39.33).

The last 25% will have to be purely grinding it out. Should be interesting.

Hope everyone received a visit from friendly Santa.

Happy trails.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Cheer

Merry Christmas.
Happy New Year.
All that jazz.
By the way, does anyone find this image of Santa disturbing?

I much prefer the less threatening, dopier original version.

My upcoming Goofy Challenge goals as well as a segment I lovingly call "Looking Back" and "Looking Ahead" coming up next.
Happy trails.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The BIG Week

Mileage wise, that is.

This is the week where I max out my long run and total mpw. I'm 3.5 weeks from the big event(s). Mentally, it's always nice to get this week behind me. I'll start feeling like the bulk of the training has been accomplished and I can start relaxing a bit.

Of course, the big mileage week is also hitting along with the first snow dump of the year. How nice.

Today on the way in to work, I literally did a 360 spin after gently (I thought) applying the brakes. Luckily, there was no oncoming traffic in the other lane.

The plan for this week:

Monday: 5 miles (completed)
Wednesday: 4 miles
Saturday: 10 miles
Sunday: 20 miles

Consecutive days = 30 miles of the 39.33 needed (or 76.3%).

I may do Sunday's LR on the treadmill. We'll see how Saturday goes first.

Last week, I accomplished the consecutive 9 & 18 mile runs for a total of 27 of the 39.33 needed (68.6%). The 18 was done on the mill. I was shedding sweat like a madman too. I drove off 2 runners who tried to occupy the mill next to me with my flying, spraying moisture. Whaddya gonna do? It wasn't intentional. They keep the gym cranked to like 85 degrees. You could work up a sweat farting.

I'm on pace to make this by biggest mileage month ever!

Happy trails.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Enough of the Whiny!

First of all, is that how you spell whiny? It's not a word I use often. Like persnickety. When did that go out of common lexicon?

You know what the funniest word is? Akimbo.

a'kim'bo (adjective)(adverb) "with the hands on the hips and the elbows turned outward"

I love that word. Try using it next time your spouse puts her hands on his/her hips in anger or frustration. Smile and say "Why are you standing there akimbo?"

Argument diffused!

But I digress.

In reading through recent posts, I've noticed I've become a bit whiny about recent leg issues. It's got to stop. And it is. Right now. Until further notice, unless I suffer from a serious injury setback, you will not hear any more complaints about various nagging muscle aches. It's part of the territory. I'll deal and move on.

I'm halfway through a landmark Goofy Challenge trial run. I rolled out of bed early, for me, and hit the road by 6:20 A.M. Nine miles later, I'm back and in the shower ready to get the kids to school. No worries, the lovely Mrs. Nitmos was home with the kids. As far as you know.

Tomorrow morning, I have the day off from work and will complete 18 more miles by lunch time. That's 27 of 39 1/3 miles. I feel like this will really tell me how prepared I am for this challenge. Again, speed is not a factor. Purely endurance. I have slowed my training pace back nearly 20 seconds per mile to accommodate this strategy.

Those 18 miles may - MAY - be done on the mill. I haven't decided yet. We'll see how much I feel like slipping around on sidewalks tomorrow.

Enjoy the release of baseball's Mitchell report today. We'll see what roided out freaks have been accepting applause and money under false pretenses over the last few years.

Alas, I'm feeling a bit persnickety(!) today.

Happy trails.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ho Hum. Another Week Closer.

First, it's with much apology that I inform you that my milestone 100th post was the one titled "Paging Dr. Jellyfinger". Ah, to undo the past! Wait! Blogger allows me to do just that but, no, I will let it stand.

This was a cutback week and a reprieve from the back to back weekend runs so not much to report. Only 27 miles for the week with a LR of 13.

In the ongoing Fall of My (leg) Discomfort, I have another little issue to report. My left knee swelled up after Thursdays run. I managed to knock out about half the swelling through RICE (or RIE as I really didn't compress at all) before testing it on Saturday's LR. I seem to be able to run on it just fine. Normally, I'd take a week off at this point to relax but, high mileage weeks and all with a marathon and a half staring me in the face, I gave it an easy go.

The run went okay. Post run, it briefly swelled again but has since gone back to minor swelling. Only a little bit of pain when I twist the knee a certain way but otherwise no issues walking or running. I have an appointment tomorrow to have this looked at. After never seeing the doctor for like 2 years, I'll be in his office twice within a week!

This week calls for 5 miles tonight. Nine on Thursday and 18 on Friday in the continuing effort to simulate the Goofy Challenge. This will be 68.6% of the total race effort!

On a side note, I was in the mall the other day and noticed a bunch of Brandon Inge (3b, Tigers) jerseys on the clearance rack. Out with the old, in with the Cabrera I always say.

Happy trails.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Paging Dr. Jellyfinger

So, I had my physical the other day...

Let's face it, when you are a man and the word "physical" comes up, the only thing you can think of is rubber gloves and K-Y jelly. Sophomoric, I know. But there it is.

I haven't had a full blown physical since high school and that didn't include the dreaded check of your, ahem, nether regions.

Frankly, I'm obsessing about this when I get seated on the doctor's table and the nurse goes through the preliminaries. She leaves. I await the doctor. I look around the room: flyers on how to control high blood pressure, growth charts, cotton swabs. Normal stuff. Except there on the desk is a singular rubber glove laid out next to a tube of...of...LUBRICANT! Ahhhh. This is cruel. It's left purposely in my viewing area. The minutes tick by (you always have to wait in a doctor's office right?) but that glove and tube don't move. My eyes keep coming back to it. I entertain thoughts of disposing of it. Maybe he would forget all about it if it's not there on the desk? Maybe that's the last one of each they have? Is that a tack on top of one of the fingers??

No. I signed up for this. Best to do what needs getting done.

The doctor comes in. We go through the various phases of the physical. This is all a blur. My only concern is when he is going to put on that glove. When? When! Stop torturing me!!**

We discuss my family medical history. We discuss the level of my physical activity and concerns about recent heart incidences with other runners. I'm hooked to an EKG. Little lines and hills scribble on a piece of paper. How can they get a fair picture of my heart when I'm staring at that glove? And the tube of lubricant? Oh, God, they must think I'm in the beginning stages of a heart attack.

The doctor informs me I have a bit of prehypertension (no kidding! it was full blown at that moment) which we'll monitor over time. The EKG revealed sinus bradycardia with the absence of symptoms. The doctor chalked it up to a normal condition for runners, bikers, other athletes, etc. In fact, most runners probably have this condition. It's a byproduct of the training. If you have an unusually low resting pulse, there's a good chance you have it as well.

Other than that, all checked out well and I'm good to go. No concerns. Not sure why I have a bit of high blood pressure though. I exercise. I'm not overweight. Don't smoke. I've cut down - and will cut down further - on caffeine and salt. Stress? Genetics? Must be.

But, wait, what about the glove? Hmm, I'm not saying anything. He's not doing anything. I'm getting dressed and leaving.

Somehow or another, I escaped the, er, invasive part of this exam. Looking back, I think his evaluation of my family medical history combined with my age made the "procedure" not necessary at this time. Or he was being merciful.

I can't help feeling a bit like the wallflower never asked to dance.

Now that this is behind me, my wife, parents and in-laws can feel reasonably comfortable that my heart isn't a ticking time bomb waiting to explode during the next race.

As far as we know.

Happy trails.

** Level of fear greatly exaggerated for comedic effect.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dreading the Mill

My cherry was popped.

On the treadmill, that is. I went 36 years and over 8 months before stepping foot on the evil "dreadmill" as I see it referred to by others. But yesterday's freezing ice/rain made it near impossible to run outside. I had to get my miles in. Normally, if the conditions are just too harsh, I skip the run and reschedule for the following day. However, for this training session, I'm intent on getting back to back workouts in to simulate the Goofy Challenge. I needs to get my miles in on schedule!

After Saturday's 8+ miles (8.22 miles @ 7:12 pace) on a clear snow less day, I watched the storm roll in that evening and knew Sunday was in jeopardy.

Sure enough, Sunday saw that sidewalks and roads covered in a nice thin sheet of ice. Rain pelting down. I'm up for running in some less than desirable conditions. But ice skating without skates? In the rain? No thanks.

I needed my miles though.

No choice. Time to head for the gym and the treadmills.

I've never been on one before. Frankly, I didn't even know how to work it. I stood there trying to look cool quietly checking everyone out to pick up some tips. I turned it on. And started walking. And walking. How do you get this thing to go faster? I didn't want set it too high and then zip off the back crashing into the mill behind me. I've seen that in movies.

Finally, I figured it out and started moving. After a couple of minutes, I got the hang of it and let go of the side rails. And off I went.

16 miles and a couple of hours later, I was done. It really wasn't that bad except I stopped on 2 occasions to get some water and was completely dizzy while trying to walk away from the machine. It felt like the floor was still moving. Weird.

I had it set to 8 minute miles (7.5 mph). I really felt like the thing was going much faster than that though. I felt like I was going at my normal outdoor pace which would have been around 7:40/mile for this type of run. Probably just a dreadmill newbie getting used to the idiosyncrasies of a hamster wheel.

24+ miles for the weekend. 61.5% of the Goofy Challenge total.

This week will be a cutback week. I'll lay off the back to back weekend workouts and my long run will only be 13 miles. Hopefully, the weather will be okay.

Happy trails.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Real Pain in the Ass

Literally. Well, except I think it's more in my right groin.

I've been complaining recently of various right leg pain issues. The hamstring has been the culprit on multiple days. Sometimes the right calve. Sometimes the IT band is tender. Sometimes my glute and/or groin. Every other run leaves me with a tender area somewhere on my right leg.

I think I'm getting into mind game territory now. I've been monitoring this for the past several weeks. Here's what I've noticed. When I'm distracted (listening to music, taking in the scenery, etc.), I have very little - if any - muscular discomfort after a run. If, however, I focus on my "tender" right leg during the run, I end up with greater leg pain.

It seems like I might be changing my stride a bit, or overcompensating, to protect whatever muscle group I feel needs protection and thus irritating another muscle group. It's all in the head. I need to forget about a sore hamstring or sore glute and JUST RUN. It's changing my stride. I've noticed I start running more on the outer edge of my foot once some groin soreness starts...which exacerbates my calf, etc.

Head games. I need to focus (or, not focus maybe in this case) and get back into my easy, natural stride. I believe that will clear up some of my leg issues.

I've been slowly coming to this realization over the last few weeks but last night was the clincher. After a couple nice, pain free runs over the weekend. Last night, I went for a 5 miler and was concentrating on nearly every foot fall. About 3 miles in, I noticed I was now running on the outer edge of my I compensated the other direction...made little adjustments, etc. In the end, my right glute and groin were back to being very sore again.

Maybe I'll bring a book and read the next time I run. You really have to concentrate on Don Quixote.

The Future

I'm reading Mike and Lisa's plans for 2008 races/events and it's got my juices flowing. I'm already anxious to throw some more races on the calendar but no. No. I need to get Disney in the bag first.

I think next year I'm going to again focus on some 5k's. I've only done 1 since 2004. I think I have a sub 19 minute one in me somewhere.

All of this will be spelled out in my anxiously awaited 2008 New Year's Running Resolutions due late this year! All runners should make their own.

Happy trails.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I loves me some statistics! And look, I found another statistic to play with.

22.5/39.3 = 57.25

As in 22.5 miles ran this past weekend (7.5 on Friday and 15 on Saturday) and 39.3 for the distance of the Goofy Challenge in January. It sure seemed like a lot of miles but as I was endlessly looping the one mile snow and ice covered trail at the Civic Center park in Traverse City, MI, I was working through some long division to come up with the actual percentage. (Really, I came up with 57.4 but who's counting?).

Only 57 and a quarter percent? I was pretty whipped by the end on Saturday. This body isn't used to running on consecutive days. And I still need to go another 42%, or 16.8 miles, in just under 7 weeks???

I'm officially slightly concerned that this is going to turn into another 10 mile walk to the finish. However, the next 3-4 weeks are crucial mileage building weeks. I should feel a lot more comfortable come Christmas. I'll peak out my training for this on Dec. 23rd with a consecutive day runs of 10 & 20 miles (or 76.3% of the total race distance for you fellow statistic geeks out there). The other quarter of this "challenge" will come through sweat and tears (but hopefully not blood) on the day of the race(s).

Traverse City had a nice round of driving snow and ice over the Turkey Day weekend. Both runs were in the 27 degree range with about an inch of fresh snow covering a layer of thin ice on my path. This caused a few slip, sliding saves to prevent a crash to the ground. It also forced me to slow up a bit. I averaged around 7:30/mile on Friday and 7:45 on Saturday. And very little leg discomfort afterwards (yes, I know you are still there cursed hamstring).

The plan this weekend is for 24 total miles (61.07%) split 8 and 16 as well as a short run during the week.

I do enjoy running in the winter. It's quiet. It's cool. It's usually real relaxing. I could do without the cool breezes that turn my sweat into tiny little icicles jabbing me all over though. Besides that, what fun!

Hey, look at that! I'm 7 weeks through my 14 week training plan for this race.


Happy trails.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Off With Its Head!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I look forward to the pleasantness of turkey flesh being digested deep within me. MMMM, turkey.

This week, a 5, 7.5 and 15 miler planned with the last 2 on back-to-back days as I continue to ramp up the training. I am now starting the "building mileage" phase after creeping slowly upwards over the last 2 months. Overall, my legs are fresher...but not free of discomfort. My right hamstring refuses to cooperate.

I'll need to live with it at this point. I took it easy last week. Really, over the last 2 weeks I've cut back a bit on mileage and pace with so-so results. The legs are back to about 75% but start complaining around the 10 mile mark.

I shall proceed with caution.

Enjoy the time with friends and/or family.

Go Lions.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ambercrombie Daisy May

Thanks for:
  1. Sitting in the back window of the car like a lion resting on a rock.
  2. Those ears that looked like two rugs tacked to the side of your head.
  3. Going head to head with a bunny in a bowl of rabbit food to see who could eat more the fastest.
  4. Posing in the wife and I's engagement photo so many years ago (in between barks at the photographer, of course).
  5. Graciously accepting the arrival of two kids who took attention away from you.
  6. Sitting by the front door when we left and being there when we came back. Every time.
  7. Learning to snap a dog biscuit off your nose (sometimes).
  8. Knowing the difference between regular food emerging from the food closet and microwave popcorn (your only allowed human food).
  9. Barking at the neighbor dog. Only to snort and walk away when he returned a bark.
  10. Allowing my daughter to lay on top of you to give you hugs (I could hear you groan sometimes).
  11. Following your mom around everywhere she went. Even if it meant getting stepped on sometimes.
  12. Your silent protest hunger strikes that lasted nearly 2 days upon returning to your regular food bowl after visits to the grandparents and the special treat of another dog's food (and whatever else "fell" off the table).
  13. The little tuft of hair on top of your head, if we let it go too long between hair cuts, that stood up making you look like Alfalfa.
  14. Signaling with your body and eyes that it was time to go and saving us from having to guess.
April 1993 - November 2007

Thanks for the memories!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another Successful Weekend

I'm sitting here thinking that I haven't posted in awhile so I should put an update out there but...WHAT?

I don't have much to report. Things are moving along. I'm in the pre-holiday lull before the Christmas - New Year's - Florida - Disney Marathon storm that is gathering and about to descend. Christmas shopping is ongoing. Big gifts are purchased (yes, the Wii is safely tucked away from the kids' eyes). Football is being watched. Scientists around the world are trying to figure out how the Detroit Lions have a 6-3 record at this point. Yes, we all know they'll finish something like 7-9 but don't spoil our fun! I recently upgraded my tube TV to LCD /HDTV and, frankly, can't take my eyes off of it. My eyes are sore by the time I go to bed.

I'm managing to get in 25 mpw still. I'm in quasi-marathon training/nurse muscle soreness mode. In other words, I'm still running but I've cut back about 25% on my original long run goals and slowed down 15-20 seconds on my usual per mile training pace. I may not be in "peak" condition by the time Disney rolls around but I should feel a lot better going in. I feel like my groin, hamstring and calves are almost back to normal. About another week or two of moderate training should find me largely leg soreness-free. I hope.

This past weekend, I completed a 7 miler and 13 miler on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Basically, that is half the distance the Goofy Challenge will present in a little under 9 weeks. I did both at an easy 7:30/mile pace (normally these runs would have been in the 7:10/mile range) and had very little soreness afterwards (the rt. hamstring still barks a little). This is a cutback week. My long run will probably be no more than 10 miles as we are heading out of town for a little R&R. We've had a recent sadness in our house and everyone is looking forward to getting out of Dodge for a few days. More on that later.

The wife and I are addicted to HBO and Showtime TV shows. We don't have a HBO or Showtime subscription but rent the series after they come out. On our rental list is (or has been depending on if the series has ended): The Sopranos, Oz, Weeds, Sex and the City (chick TV, I know), Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, and F/X shows Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck. We are currently finishing The Sopranos final season. We'll miss ole Tony when he's gone.

Happy trails.

Monday, November 05, 2007

1000 Miles and Olympic Trials

I admit to forgetting all about the Olympic marathon trials taking place on Saturday. However, I came back in just as Ryan Hall was passing the 24 mile mark and caught the ending. What a great finish!! It wasn't a close race but packed with emotion none the less.

My first thoughts after seeing Ryan Hall in the lead was how Michigan's own Hansons-Brooks team was doing. Sure enough, Brian Sell had overtaken a cramping competitor and moved into 3rd place ultimately securing an Olympic spot. That was a lot of fun. I wish I had watched the entire race.

Obviously, the news about Ryan Shays put a damper on things though.

All in all, it appears U.S. long distance running is on the upswing. A few years back, I couldn't care less when the Olympic marathon was taking place. Now, I'm eagerly awaiting Beijing!

On another note, I'm slowly building miles again for my upcoming marathon - unbelievably only10 weeks away now. I'm way behind my training plan weekly long run goal. Example: Sunday was planned for 17 miles. I did 11.5.

I am unconcerned. I'm readjusting my plan for the Disney marathon. It's all about fun and finishing. Time goals are completely out the window. Plus, I still have some nagging muscle pain in various parts mainly in my right leg. The legs need rest. So, build slowly, get prepared, but don't overdue it pushing too hard. That's the theme of this training session.

I'll probably hit one 20 mile run before the race and that's it as far as 20+ milers.

On a third(?) note, I hit a bit of a milestone with Friday's run. 1000 miles for the year. For me, that's a personal high.

Not much of note going on these days. Just keepin' on keepin' on.

Happy trails.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Double Header

For most runners, I doubt it's any big deal to hit the pavement two days in a row. Even 3,4,5,6 or more days straight. For me, it's not very common. I tend to follow a run one day, rest the next day, run the next, rest, etc. pattern. Typically, I only run 3 days a week. There are a couple of reasons for this but it all boils down to the fact that I don't have enough time in the day (or week) to spend running 5 or 6 nights as much as I might want to. So, three nights a week is pretty typical.

With the Disney Goofy Challenge looming, I figure I need to get the ol' legs in condition to handle the pounding they are going to take. This was my first of several planned back to back weekend days of running. Only 6 miles (Saturday) and 9.5 miles (Sunday) but I wanted to start slow lest we have any problems with the groin or hamstring - both of which are still reminding me that they didn't enjoy the Chicago Marathon!

Overall, I would say it was a success. I felt pretty good. I could feel the aforementioned muscles groups starting to tighten up by the end of my 9+ miler on Sunday but, considering that is the farthest I've run since Chicago, I was okay with that.

I'm looking to get a copy of Run Less, Run Faster soon. From what I've heard of this study, it sounds like a fit with my own training technique. I'd love to see an "official" study backing it up. As I mentioned, I only run 3 days a week. Due to this, I tend to push a bit harder figuring my schedule contains a lot of down time to rest fatigued muscles as it is. Frankly, this "philosophy" - if you want to call it that - has come about purely by accident through my schedule and my own simmering competitive need to run to a level which satisfies me. When I first started marathon training, I felt like I was wasting training days by going at a pace a minute or more slower than my typical comfortably hard pace. Of course, I know there are multiple running coaches out there just waiting to correct me on this mistake in my training plan but, for me, it's what I mentally need.

So, it would be neat to see what this new book says. Running less but running faster sounds to good to be true.

The plan going forward is to do back to back weekend runs with steadily increasing mileage about every 3rd week through December. I think that'll be enough preparation.

After all, I'd hate to be pulled from the marathon course by a paramedic wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Official

I don't know why I had been waiting to register for Boston. Registration opened in early September. I think I was waiting to see how I did at Chicago this year. If I BQ'ed again, I would have had the option of Boston in either 2008 or 2009. This would have afforded me some wiggle room if I just couldn't make it next spring. As we know, that didn't happen.

So, why wait? If this last marathon taught me anything, it's that you can never predict what is going to happen on race day. I shouldn't pass by the opportunity and assume it's going to happen again. It may not.

Let's get busy living:

Dear (ME) ,
This is to notify you that your entry into the 112th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2008 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.
We look forward to seeing you in April! Best of luck in your training!
Boston Athletic Association
I'm in...pending the ominous "provided the information you submitted is accurate" statement.
Disney Goofy Challenge and then Boston. My dance card is full for awhile.
Happy trails.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


This is the bookend post for the Chicago Marathon. End of sentence. End of discussion. Time to move on.

Mentally, I'm already on to my next race. But I said I'd have one more Chicago post and I'm a man of my word...

We've all discussed the situation ad nauseum. These are my final thoughts from the event:
  1. The Chicago Marathon is a great race. 2007 was a fluke.
  2. Obviously, the race directors weren't prepared for the heat and conditions. I have no idea what goes into race planning for this type of event but to say runners shouldn't have taken multiple waters at each station is ridiculous. This should have been an obvious (and predictable) reaction by runners in the heat. No excuses, please.
  3. Race directors all over the world just got a reality check about what can happen when you assume things are going to happen....and then they don't. This should be a good lesson and will benefit all races (and thus, us) in the future. Plan for the worst. Not the expected.
  4. Ending the race was the right call. The worst thing you can do is continue with a failed strategy once it has become clear it's not working (no political commentary here. I'm still talking about the race people!).
  5. I hold no grudge. Easy for me as I had water o'plenty and was able to finish. But I hear the issues and complaints and am sensitive to them. I don't think the race directors wanted or desired this result. I think they care very deeply about their race. I don't think something like this will ever happen again. I suspect they got trapped into thinking they could out guess Mother Nature and were burned. A human error. I make them all the time. If they don't learn from it, well, that's a problem then. I'm willing to bet the lesson was learned. Hard.
  6. The Chicago Marathon is still a great race! I'll be back one day. 2007 is chocked full of memories.

Okay, turning the page....

I'm busy making my plans for the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend now. I have 12 weeks to train after taking a week off from running. Normally, I follow the slow, elongated 18 week training plans. I'll be jumping into this with both feet 1/3 through the plan then.

For me, this will be a Fun Run (I know those words sting in light of recent events but, hey, we turned the page right? Let's reclaim the true meaning of those words!). Time does not matter. I need to be able to hump around the theme parks after the races with the kids so I will not be killing myself in the races. I may even stop to take a few pictures along the way this time.

I am signed up for the Goofy Challenge. This means I have a half marathon on Saturday, January 12th and the full marathon on Sunday, January 13th. I'll need to incorporate some back-to-back running days in my training. This is something I normally never do.

I'm looking forward to it.

Happy trails.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon in Pictures

We're off! (Me = navy blue shirt , left of center - Perry the Joggler directly behind me in red shirt)

Feelin' good...7:15 ish pace and still happy. Steers salute!

Still running fine here...

Getting a little hot....

Halfway @ 1:36:09...but something is not right!?

Who am I kidding? I saw the camera and pretended to run. Legs are all knotted up below the knee by this time.

Final stretch on Columbus. D'oh! Leg cramps!

I guess I'll have to walk a bit.

Made a slight jog/shuffle even!

Reunite with the wife (sporting her Nitmos #1 fan shirt, of course)

Reunite with Mike and a joint Steers salute! Why we choose to wear navy blue on a sunny 90 degree day remains an open mystery.

Thanks to my wife Jill, Fun Guv and Marathon Foto for the visual aids.

I think one more post wrapping up Chicago ought to do it.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TC Connection

In the days since the Chicago Marathon, I've come to learn that the runner that died due to a heart ailment (and heat, in my opinion) was originally from my hometown, Traverse City, MI, prior to becoming a police officer in Midland, MI. In fact, I've now learned that this man graduated from the same high school and the same graduating class as me. The class of 1989.

I checked my yearbook last night. Sure enough, there he is. I can't say as I knew him. It's a large high school - one of the biggest in Michigan at the time - so it's not unusual to be unacquainted with fellow classmates. I recognized the picture though.

Weird. What a small world.

I've been considering the idea of getting a full blown physical for awhile now. I can't say that I've really ever had a complete one before. I'm not sure if heart ailments - like the one that struck the Chicago runner - could be discovered during a routine physical though. In any case since we engage in a sport that demands a lot physically, it might be time to check into getting myself Checked Out. Why not?

That's the least I can do for my wife and kids.

This hit a little too close to home. Literally.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Tale of Two (Half) Marathons

Or, Marathon Hell.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. This is my 2007 Chicago Marathon experience. Heavy emphasis on worst of times.

In a word: Surreal.

My time? Pathetic.

Am I disappointed? Only a little in that you always want to have a pleasant experience after so much work and effort to get to the starting line. It was not in the cards on Sunday. I'm very happy to have finished though. It was a crazy day. There were times I thought I'd have to leave the course.

In the matter of one mile, I went from debating whether or not I should keep my 7:20 pace for another mile or so to Will I Be Able To Finish?

But I'm getting ahead....

The gory statistics:

Chip Time: 4:18:12
Pace: 9:50

First Half time: 1:36:09 ( 7:20 pace)
Second Half Time: 2:42:03!! (12:20 pace?!)

You can see where the problems started.

The Start

I started in corral B and, let me tell you, it was nice to be so close to the starting mat. I crossed a short 90 seconds after the gun and was able to lapse into pace right off the bat. I even ran much of the first mile near The Joggler guy (the dude that juggles during the whole marathon). That was neat to see him work.

Miles 1-9

I was moving pretty good here staying around a 7:12 pace. I felt the heat. There was a point around the mile 5-6 range where it seemed like I really needed a water station and one never came. It might have been mental just due to the heat and crowd but it did get to me a bit. Though I was right on my goal pace through the first 1/3 of the marathon, I knew in the back of my head that this was going to be no PR race for me. The heat was already dragging me down a bit. I took in the sights of North Chicago...the fans...the buildings...I really tried to see everything this year. Last year, I didn't even look up. At 15k, I was at 1:07:15 (7:12 pace). On pace!

Miles 10-13.1

I noticed something "not right" happening during these miles. I was really starting to wear down quickly. I think some dehydration was setting in. I pulled back on my pace a bit and tried to just keep moving. Even though I really wanted to stop and walk a bit, I kept pleading with myself to make it across the half marathon mark before taking a walking break. I was taking fluids at every aid station but, in hindsight, probably not enough to replenish what I was losing from the sweat just running off of me in buckets. By the time I crossed the half mat, my leg muscles were starting to twitch a bit and were feeling very heavy. At the half-marathon, 1:36:09 (7:20 pace). I wanted a 1:35 at this point but, considering the conditions, I was still alright with this time.

So here I am at the half marathon mark, unknowingly dehydrated, sensing something is not right but unable to really do anything about it other than take in extra helpings of fluids at every aid station. I've never experienced a race dehydration or cramping situation - even in training - so what happened next was a complete first for me.

Miles 14-15

I started cramping in my left calve just below the back of the knee shortly past the half mark. A knot developed that caused me to kick my leg out to the side and I immediately stop running to work it out. I walked a bit and ran some more. Another 1/4 and the cramp returned. I dramatically slowed my pace. At this point, I knew I was in for some trouble but wanted to just get to the finish no matter how long it took. PR's, a second BQ were out the window. Maybe still beat my 3:36 Chicago time from last year? Maybe! Here I was walking to mile marker 14 after knocking out my goal times for the previous 13 miles. Despair! Helplessness! I was still able to run a bit though. Short walk breaks, longer run segments...I'll get there eventually.

Miles 16-18

It ain't happening. I can now no longer sustain a run past 20 steps. Both my left and right calves are horribly cramping whenever I go into a running gallop. I can walk though. In fact, I can power walk. No problems with cramping there but just during a running motion. Chicago PR is now gone. There is nothing left but to get to the finish line. Please don't let the cramps get so bad where I can't even walk. Every 1/4 mile or so I'd give another attempt at a run just to check things out and - BAM! - cramps, knots, general unhappiness. The legs below the knee are a mess. Looks like I'm walking to the finish now. How about that. I never would have thought this would happen. Heck, just a few miles ago I was moving through the course alright.

Miles 19-23

More power walking. I'm amazed that I can really move the legs fast while walking but absolutely cannot get into a run without the cramps returning. I think I can finish now. Thankfully, the cramps aren't hitting during the walking stride. A slow tour of the Mexican Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. Interesting. I didn't get to take these in last year but I sure got a look at them this time. I'm slamming Gatorade and 2 waters at every station, eating bananas, and taking anything anyone was handing out. I was not going to DNF. I was not going to fall over on the side of the road. I was seeing people getting medical attention all along the route now. That's enough to keep you sane, realistic, and accepting of food and hydration. Somewhere in here I recorded a 5k time of around 45 minutes! Well, there's a first for everything right?

Mile 24

Another attempt at a run leaves me with a bulging right groin after just 3 steps. How about that? It's actually protruding an inch. Another new experience. I guess I'll continue power walking. The legs are shot.

Mile 25-26

Yep, more power walking. Of course, I'm envious of those still running and looking reasonably fresh all things considered. More power to them. All around me I see people wearing 3:20 pace team bibs. I'm not the only one struggling. As Mike pointed out, it was Night of the Living Dead as there was a veritable zombie march coming down Michigan Ave trying to get to the finish. Various temperatures on store fronts read between 92 and 98 degrees. Last year I saw people walking and pulling off at this point of the course as I ran by and I wondered what it would feel like to be so close but unable to run. Now I know. Except, I had been walking for much of the past 10 miles.

Right at the 26 mile sign, I heard a police officer on a bullhorn imploring people to stop running and to please walk to the finish. I didn't know what that was all about. I learned after finishing that they had already closed the race and were re-routing people to the finish as quickly as possible. At the 26 mile marker, try telling people who just went through hell to walk to the finish. People were starting to run as fast as they could now. I tried on Randolph St. I couldn't.

The Finish

Coming down Columbus to the finish, I was both thrilled and disappointed. It is a long, freakin' way to walk 10 miles. Much easier to run it I think. I was thrilled to be done but very disappointed that this was how it turned out. I tried to run again at the 200 meter mark. More cramps and knots aborted it again. At the 100 meter mark, I did in fact manage to run across the finishers mat. A small accomplishment in a disastrous second half of the race. I earned that medal, I thought.

Despite my time, I think my feeling of accomplishment still overwhelms my sense of disappointment. That was a race so far out of the norm that time, records, and other goals had to go out the window. I am envious of those who ran a smarter race and were still able to come close to their goals. I feel for those who were unable to finish. I think, however, that the circumstances of this particular race should not leave anyone feeling disappointed in their own efforts. How can you properly prepare for something like this? I could have done better with early race pacing and hydration but you live, you learn.

I had a great weekend in Chicago nonetheless and the experience taught me a lot. I have many interesting memories and stories attached to that finisher's medal.

Of course, the overall feeling of the day has to be one of sadness for the individual who died and the others left in critical condition. It's so wrong to have that attached to an event that should be uplifting and empowering. A tragedy.

What an experience. Standing so bright eyed and and anxious at the starting line, I had no idea what the next 4+ hours would hold. It was not what I was expecting.

More to come.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Big Dance

...with the Devil?
Nah, I hold no animosity against the marathon course. In fact, I think the marathon wants us to complete it. It just wants to make you earn it first.
I think of Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore imploring the golf ball to drop into the hole. It's your home. Go home. It's our course. Run it well. Get to the finish line!!

I'm locked and loaded for the Chicago Marathon. One more short 4 mile warm-up tomorrow night and it's rest, relax, fuel up, and explode onto the streets of Chicago!

I'm looking forward to the expo. Maybe I'll try and corral Hal Higdon and Dean Karnazes into a photo. I'm sure no one else will be trying to do this right?

This will be my third marathon. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Somehow, I feel free from the pressure I experienced with the first two. Maybe because I no longer lack confidence in handling the distance? I know I can run 26.2 miles. The only question now is how fast?

Over these last few years, I've made a complete transformation from a part-time runner trying to stay in shape for basketball season to a full blown marathoner with little time or desire for hoops anymore. In effect, I'm my own Happy Gilmore (of course, his was hockey to golf).

I may or may not see any fellow bloggers out on the course. I wish for all of you a terrific race! I continue to enjoy the benefits of our shared experiences though and look forward to reading your race reports next week.

See you Friday, Mike, for our drive to Chicago.

Good Luck Chicago Marathoners!

Next post: 2007 Chicago Marathon Race Report

As always, a special thanks to the wife and family for continuing to support my "habit".

Happy trails to you.

Now let's kick some ass. Weather be damned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ear Candy

Things have been busy at work lately. The nice thing about my job is that I generally work alone and can put on the ole headphones and rock out whilst drawing a paycheck. I'll zone out working away and, next thing I know, the album has recycled three times and it's lunch time. Good deal.

With the marathon approaching, I'm overdue on loading my MP3 up with new tunes. Of course, I won't be wearing my MP3 during the race. That would be against the rules. And I'm all about rules.

So, if I theoretically were to bring my MP3 along for 26.2, here's what I might listen to:

Icky Thump by The White Stripes

I've been rocking out to this recently. Some good stuff on here for those for the taste for something, er, different.

Minutes to Midnight by Linkin Park

This is a good album. At first, I thought it was of lesser quality than their two previous efforts but, after repeated listenings, I'm into it. Just a bit poppier (look at that, I just made up a word) than the last two.

I'll mix some of these songs in - with Springsteen's new album coming out next week - along with my traditional standbys (more Springsteen, some AC/DC, Green Day, more Linkin Park,The Killers, etc) and, viola, a nice, happy run it makes.

Last year, I wore my ear buds the entire way at the Chicago Marathon but never once turned my MP3 on. The same may happen this time. But I'll at least be prepared for those long, never ending miles past the half way point when the crowds grow sparse.

Question for my few readers: Has anyone successfully used their Garmin, or other like device, during the Chicago Marathon? I've heard it said that you cannot get a signal during this event for some fairly obvious (and tall) reasons. Just wanted to confirm this with anyone who has first hand knowledge.

Happy taper trails.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Checking My List; Checking It Twice

Or, Life as an Anal Retentive.

I admit to slavishly following routine. Typically, I'm very organized, write lots of lists, and keep to my schedule. That doesn't mean I'm really uptight though. In fact, most people who know me describe me as very laid back. There has always been this dichotomy lurking within. To the outside world, I'm an easy going guy always up for doing something fun (rather than work). On the inside, I'm quietly counting every penny spent, meticulously planning my upcoming days - nay, hours - and fretting over last minute changes to my schedule.

When it comes to planning trips, er races, I usually mull over the slightest details constantly. I've checked my hotel reservations at least 3 times. Yep, still reserved. Go figure. I'll probably check a few more times also.

I've had internal debates about whether or not I should wear those shorts on today's run. Those are my race shorts and I want them clean for the marathon. Yeah, I know I have 2 weeks to wash them but maybe, just maybe....well, I'd hate for them not to be ready.

Did you know the weather constantly changes in the Midwest? I do. I've grown up here. However, that doesn't stop me from checking the weather channel constantly to see what might be happening in the Chicago area on October 7th.

I pretty much know to the second when we'll be hoping in the car to drive over. And when we'll be at the registration expo.

And my 13 miles this weekend? Despite the cold that prevented me from breathing most of the night and despite the Vicks vapor rub odor permeating the air within 3 feet of me, there I was getting those miles in. The schedule said to do them so there I was.

All of this may seem like a drag to others but, for me, it's somehow fun. There's probably some sort of psychological Need for Control thing going on here (I am the youngest of three brothers). I've given up trying to fight it. Embrace it! Revel in it! Quietly.

Happy trails.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2007 Chicago Marathon Goals

I've held off declaring any goals for this race because, frankly, I haven't been driving towards any in particular. Normally I decide pretty early in the training cycle that I want to go after a certain time or pace and then work towards that. My original intention going into 2007 was that this would be the race in which I would be attempting to qualify for Boston. Instead, after a stronger than expected training period into the run up to the Bayshore Marathon in May, I was able to accomplish that main goal one marathon early. So, as a result, I haven't been overly driven to achieve any particular goal this time around.

I've enjoyed the training this summer. I continue to get excited as a marathon approaches. I'm looking forward to running my next few for pure enjoyment rather than a time goal. I'm sure next year I'll raise the bar a bit and set a new time goal which will have me sweating and fretting again. For now, I'm just going to have some fun at Chicago 2007.

That being said, I did want to comment a bit on my summer of training. As I mentioned, it has been enjoyable but it has also been the most painful training period to date. I've had nagging heel and ankle soreness as well as a near debilitating right leg muscle soreness that has plagued me over the last few months. I pressed on (though I probably could have benefited from a week or so off) and feel pretty strong and ache-free - just in time - as the taper begins.

I've wondered why these various aches and pains have suddenly arisen during this 3rd marathon training session. Likely culprits? (1) A culmination of 1 1/2 years of straight training (2) Lack of focus on pre/post run stretching. This is an area I need to improve on going forward. (3) The introduction of some trail running which unexpectedly beat the crap out of me. My lingering ankle pain is a direct result of this type of training.

I don't have any regrets. You live, you learn. Certainly, I've been luckier than some friends of mine who have been sidelined for long periods of time smack dab in the middle of their training cycle. So, no complaints here. It's part of the process right? It's supposed to beat you up a bit.

So, as far as goals, here they are in all their mundane glory:

1) Have fun.

I know. Kinda silly and generic. I always have fun at my races. This time, I really want to enjoy the experience free from the overwhelming anxiety I get pre-race. I think not having a HUGE ALL IMPORTANT time goal will help alleviate much of this distracting, nervous energy. This won't be my first marathon. This won't be my end all, be all Boston qualifying attempt. So, I think I'll be able to relax a bit and really take in the experience. I'm not sure when I'll run Chicago again so I want to soak it in this time.

2) Beat 3:16

Why not get another BQ in the back pocket for 2009 in case it's needed? I think this is very doable depending on the normal things like weather, injury, etc.

3) Beat 3:12:19

And set a new PR. Frankly, I don't think this is in the cards. I expect to come in somewhere between goal #3 and goal #2 time-wise. But never say never. Chicago is the windy city. Maybe it'll be at my back the whole time right? I'm going to try a different strategy for this marathon just for the learning experience which may impact my ability to set a PR. Instead of going out strong, hitting 7:05 miles and then holding on at the end as I chase my goal (as I did for Bayshore), I'm going to stick close to 7:20 miles for the first half marathon, try to bump that up a bit to 7:15 miles for the next 5 miles or so. I'm trying to maintain more endurance for the dangerous post 20 mile zone where I normally start bleeding seconds like a madman. While working out this new strategy, I think a PR my not be possible and I'm completely comfortable with that.

That's it as far as goals.

I hope to be reading everyone elses in the coming days.

Happy trails.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Lied

My next post (this post) isn't going to be my Chicago Marathon goals.

I feel the need to comment separately on my last 20+ mile training run. Twenty miles is still an unusual and significant event that I can't let it go by without mention.
So, here goes...

As mentioned previously, my right knee and leg muscles have been complaining a bit lately. Enough, in fact, where I would report it on my personal pain/annoyance/concern scale at 3 of 5 (5 high). It had my attention.

I think I found the source...and the cure.

New shoes.

Funny how having a little bit more padding and stability in my shoes can make such a big difference. I felt I could squeak out another 50-60 miles out of my old shoes to get me through the last 20 miler this past weekend before starting the break in of my race shoes during the taper. It didn't work that way. I had to break them in early. The legs needed it.

Here's how I know the issue is with my shoes.

During the previous Saturday's 16 miler, I started experiencing sharp right leg muscle pain that almost caused my leg to lock up on me. In fact, I had to walk a bit to loosen it up after I stopped for my last water/GU break. This was on the heels of the pain developing during my Higgins Lake trail training run two weeks ago.

During the week, my 6 miler in new shoes went fine. No pain.

My 9 miler, in old shoes, left me back in pain again.

I was still a bit sore (and concerned) going into Saturday's scheduled 20 miler. I started out with a bit of pain. In fact, it slowly got worse during the first 5-6 miles. I stopped for a water/Gu break and, afterwards like magic, no more pain. I completed 21.0 miles and barely felt sore afterwards. I was wearing my new shoes.

I'll still be proactive by icing down a bit and elevating but I'm reasonably confident that my shoes were the source of the problem. In fact, almost every time I start getting leg muscle pain, the shoes are the problem. Time to stop trying to squeak a few more miles out of those old kicks!

21.0 miles
2:34:27 time
7:24 pace

I looked back at my last LR before Bayshore in May and I ran the exact same distance in 2:34:50. Based on this, I'm reasonably certain I'm still in the same shape as I was for my last marathon despite the fact that I dramatically reduced my speed training this summer. I'm happy about that!

Also, I did make it into the book store this weekend. I decided on Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. I can already taste the words dripping with satire. Mmmmm. Brain candy!

Glad to see people are still reading Faulkner and, well, just reading. Seems like a lost art these days.

One complaint: Why can't you find Sinclair Lewis' (pictured) work in your typical book store, they might have one or two but never his entire selection. He's the first American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Get with the program people!

Happy trails.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Egads, Time Flies!

Is it Friday already?

Is it taper time already?

Is it Fall already?

This summer sure has flown by. I can't believe I'm looking at another last, big long run before the marathon. This time: Chicago.

I've been dealing with some slight discomfort and swelling on the outside of my right knee and a bit of pain in the right groin area. It starts aching a bit around 5-6 miles in and sometimes bothers me the next day. Illotial Band anyone? I'm hoping to knock this LR out this weekend and then employ some liberal R.I.C.E treatment for 2 weeks. I suspect I've worn my shoes a bit too long and they aren't giving me the cushioning/support I need. I always start to get various aches and pains when my shoes break down (and I'm tardy in replacing them). I have another set already being broken in for the marathon itself. I'll just slide them into the rotation a week or so early and see if that helps. No biggie.

This weekend, I'm planning a 21 miler. I may need to run without the MP3 as mine is hosed. Curse the new Windows Vista! Every time I need to recharge, Vista starts messing with my MP3 one way or another. I think it may have finally screwed it up beyond repair. I'll be performing an emergency resuscitation procedure on it this evening.

Last night, I knocked off 9.7 miles @ 7:16 pace.

Quickie Book Review:

Finished Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild about confused, adventure seeking Chris McCandless and his two year odyssey living a meager life through the Western United States before his starved body was found in an abandoned bus in Alaska.

You can't help but feel for the young man, a bit misguidedly consumed in a search for a meaningful existence. Like in Into thin Air, Krakauer does a fine job delivering the facts -wrapped in speculation and emotion - in nice bite size, easy to swallow pieces. A very interesting read. Especially if you have a bit of wanderlust lurking in your own heart.

Also, I've removed Team of Rivals from my current reading list. I got a bit into but, frankly, found it extremely dry and bit to detailed. I love history. I love details. However, the 3 non-Lincoln characters examined in the book (Seward, Chase and Bates) were described so similarly that I had a difficult time keeping their identities distinct. It was a bit frustrating. I know the book has won rave reviews but, for me, it didn't spark. Perhaps I'll come back to it one day and really enjoy it. This happened before with Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. I became so frustrated with the confused, first person narrative of the retarded Compson boy that I set the book aside only to return to it years later, finish it, and immediately place it on my personal Favorite Books list.

Next post: Official 2007 Chicago Marathon goals.

Let's see how this long run goes first!!

Good luck, fellow Chicago runners, knocking out this last LR.

Happy trails.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's the Difference?

So, trail running versus road running. There really isn't much difference is there?

At the base level, not much. Running, sweating, hydration, fatigue. They all come into play on the trail as much as the open road (or sidewalk as the case may be).

I have tons more experience running on a flat, paved surface than a sandy, root filled trail. However, I have completed a few trail runs this year (one race, two training runs) and there are a couple of things that have jumped out at me, both literally and figuratively, that is different.

Intensity. A good trail (defined here as containing slopes, loose sand, low hanging branches and high arching roots and maybe a river or two to cross) demands much more total and immediate concentration. You simply cannot lapse into that "runner's coma" like you might during a long road run in familiar territory. The moment you start thinking about Aunt Petunia's apple pie is the moment you get lashed across the face with a low hanging branch or step on a sand colored rock twisting your ankle. You must concentrate. And you must do this from start to finish. You don't realize how much effort it takes to focus on each foot fall until after you're a couple miles in and fatigue starts affecting you as much mentally as physically.

Conditioning. It's a lot of work weaving through a forest trail and over terrain in which your foot slips a bit on each step. This seems obvious but it did catch me by surprise. I run marathons, right? How hard could 10 mile trail runs be? Answer: Pretty exhausting. There are a bunch more muscles that come into play to stabilize your knees and ankles as you bounce across the uneven trail to basically keep you upright. Count me as someone a bit naive to this. I nearly collapsed my left ankle about a dozen times during the 10 mile race I did. I just wasn't used to the need to balance while running. I'm currently paying the price for this lack of strength in my stabilizer muscles. My left ankle muscles (ligaments?) have been sore for 4 weeks. The outer edge of my right knee is sore since the Higgins Lake trail over a week ago. So much so that I still have a slight limp during regular walking this week. I'm finding it hard to keep up playing soccer and basketball with my kids in the yard as the side to side motion is killing me. Thank God Chicago is flat...and paved.

Fun. Though it's a bit more grueling, I've really enjoyed the few trails I've ran and hope to do more. I'm currently scouting for a pair of good trail shoes. It's fun to become "lost" in the trees hearing no one ahead or behind you, wondering where the trail ends, only to emerge into a open field and parking lot. There's always a new challenge around each bend....loose sand, a rock strewn path, an unexpected hill. It keeps you on your toes. There is a feeling of accomplishment when you've completed a difficult trail run.

Plus, it's just a nice change of pace if regular road running has grown a bit routine. Try it!

Happy trails.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Roosevelt's Tree Army

Summer is coming to an end. The kids are in school. Football is starting. This is a great time of the year. I love the fall except for one thing: it leads to winter. My least favorite time of the year.

This past weekend, summer came to a close for us with a camping trip to North Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon, MI. Decent campground with a beautiful lake and beach. Alas, no pictures to accompany this post as the family and I enjoyed the beach without a camera tagging along.

I managed a 14 mile long run on Sunday. The first 7 miles were off road through the Civilian Conservation Corps trail. Again, I found the trail portion of the run a lot more challenging than expected. Loose sand, small hills, roots, twists, turns....I flashed back to the The Legend trail run I did a few weeks ago. I was very happy to emerge from the trail and return to the nice, flat campground. Don't get me wrong, trail running is a lot of fun. It's just a lot more physically demanding - much more than I wanted to get into for a weekend long run. A few more miles along the beach and through the campground and 14 miles done! Two more LONG, long runs to go for this marathon training session!

A word about the CCC Museum from which the off road trail began. There is a museum dedicated to the roughly 100,000 folks that made up "Roosevelt's Tree Army" in the 1930's until the advent of WWII revitalizing Michigan's natural beauty. I got to thinking about the power of collective effort in our Me First society. Now, I'm no socialist. I believe strongly in the rights of individuals to pursue their own personal ambitions and wealth (as long as it doesn't trample on others). I think this benefits society on the whole. However, this is not absolute. There is room for us to band together collectively and create something for the benefit of the whole...whether it be building national highways, revitalizing our park system, creating a social security safety net, or - maybe one day - health insurance for all. These ideas didn't seem so extreme decades ago. Before the days of the Red Menace and Rambo films. Before hyper capitalism. During my time on the CCC trail, I wondered if a politician could get away with creating a 100,000 person corps to PLANT TREES in this day and age. I think not. They would be labeled the worst kind of government fat cat, spending tax payer money, tree hugger.

All I know is that I enjoyed my time on their trail. I'm glad it was there for me and others. If it cost someone a few tax dollars to create it, well, so be it. Thanks. It was worth it.

Anyhow, I had no intention of going off on a rant.

I feel a post coming on soon on the differences between trail and road running. It is significantly different to warrant its own discussion.

Also, I need to finalize and make official my 2007 Chicago Marathon goals. I hope to do that soon.

Happy trails.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Overreact Much?

Sometimes I wonder if maybe the terrorists haven't "won" after all.

Here's a story, a couple days old, of a running club in Connecticut busted for putting a white powder trail marking down on the ground for its members to follow. Does the reaction seem a bit much? Do you think someone might have put 2 and 2 together on this before sending in the National Guard???

Much Ado About Nothing

Man, I'm going to be more careful about where/how/when I eat a powdered sugar donut next time. I'd hate to be thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and tossed into a squad car because I dared to make a stop at Dunkin' Donut near a Nervous Nellie onlooker.

In other news...

Lansing has caught its serial killer! Apparently there had been one stalking the streets but the public only became aware of it after the 4th murder. I guess what we don't know can't hurt us?

Serial Killer Caught!

To celebrate, I went for an evening run last night after sundown. I'm not going to lie to you, I was going a bit faster than normal. What if they got the wrong guy, right?

8.75 miles
7:05 pace

It put a little giddy-up in my stride. Spooky stuff.

Time to head to the bathroom where I'll be taking great care NOT to do any toe tapping. Geesh, I think back to all those times where I sat there humming a little tune unknowingly tapping my foot. What people must have thought!

Wow, what a world!

This weekend: Camping @ Higgins Lake, Michigan. 15 miles on a nature trail path. Should be fun.

That completes the week in odd news.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Running List

So waaay back last spring when I finally decided to attempt a marathon, I, of course, went overboard and immediately jotted down a list of marathons I'd like to do in the future. Keep in mind, I hadn't actually completed the first one. Or trained for it. Or knew if I would even enjoy it. Knowing myself like I do, I figured everything would go well and I'd have so much fun I'd want to do more. And I was right!

Every day at work, I open my desk drawer to grab my pen and deposit my car keys and the first thing I see (besides my kids pictures) is that list I jotted last year of marathons I hope to run some day. Now, it has a few check marks next to a couple of the ones completed.

Some on my list are logistically and financially doable - and will be done - within a few years. Others will be more of a challenge.

I think it would be a nice accomplishment to complete the 5 marathons comprising the World Marathon Majors (Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York) but I'm not sure how often I'll find myself in London or Berlin. And convincing the wife (and myself, for that matter) to spend hard earned money to fly to Europe - twice - just to run a marathon could be a difficult sell. Maybe, Maybe for London but Berlin? Not a chance.

Here's my list of marathons I definitely want to run. I'd be curious to see anyone else's Must Run list. If you are reading this, take a turn and post yours. We might all learn of some new, exciting races out there.

In no particular order:

1) Chicago Marathon (accomplished 10/06; again on 10/07/07)
2) Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati - gotta admit I find the name funny and the medal is cool.)
3) New York Marathon
4) Bayshore Marathon (accomplished 5/07; Traverse City, MI; my hometown;beautiful run.)
5) Walt Disney World Marathon (registered for 1/08)
6) Country Music Marathon (Nashville - a friend recommended it)
7) Honolulu Marathon (do I need to give a reason?)
8) Boston Marathon (scheduled for 4/08 when I register next week)
9) Detroit Marathon (probably doing this next fall)
10) London Marathon

Happy trails.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Feelin' Good 20

My original training plan called for three 20+ mile runs prior to Chicago but I think I'm only going to do two with the other being shortened to 18. That's just the way it's working out.

Yesterday was the first 20 miler and it went pretty good.

You'll recall that after my 18 miler nearly two weeks ago, I was a little down on myself for taking it a little lightly and struggling through the run. This time I prepared a bit better. I took in a good, high energy breakfast, stretched properly, and "psyched" myself up for the longer distance. With more attention to the pre-run preparation, the 20 miles went a lot smoother. I learned a good lesson which I'll benefit from going forward. You can't cut corners when taking on a run of this distance.

I'm also trying to teach myself to run slower at the beginning and fall into a slightly quicker pace after a couple mile warm-up. I've been busting out of the gate at marathon pace on every run lately. This is a bad habit I've developed and I'm trying hard to correct.

More than the previous two marathons, I've also noticed that it is taking me longer to get warmed up. Previously, I could fall into a run after just a 1/2 mile of warm up. Now, it seems like it takes 5-6 miles before my legs loosen up, heart rate stabilizes, and I'm feeling really good about my stride. Perhaps my body has adjusted to expect longer miles now after a year plus of marathon training. Or am I just fatigued from too much running? Interesting. I'll have to monitor this as the weeks roll by.

I was planning to hit a couple 5k races next year. I'll be curious to see how this elongated time to warm-up plays into shorter race distances. Maybe I'll need to run a few miles before the 5k?

20 miles
2:26:24 time
7:19 pace

Happy trails.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eight Mackinac Miles

This past weekend, my family made the trek north to Mackinac Island (pronounced "mack-a-naw") for a couple days of tourist trap type fun before the kids go back to school. Mackinac Island is located just off the shore between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas and in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge, for those of you unfamiliar with Michigan geography.

Mackinac Bridge
It's famous for fudge, horses, bikes, no cars allowed, the Grand Hotel, some of the tackiest gift shops imaginable and some beautiful and historic island scenery. If you go, explore the island's many trails and forget the downtown gift shop trash.

Fort Mackinac on the hill (view from ferry dock)

We stayed at the 150 year old Lake View Hotel on the west end of downtown. I've stayed there a few times now and it hasn't disappointed. A good base from which to launch island exploration.

View downtown from Fort Mackinac (Lake View Hotel arrowed)

There is a paved, flat 8 mile path that winds along the edge of the turtle shaped island. I've always wanted to run it. I've biked it numerous times (including again this visit with the kids). Tuesday morning, I finally got a chance to do it.

The alarm went off at 6:45 AM. It didn't take me much to get out of bed. I left the room as quietly as possible while the wife and kids slept.

It was already light by the time I took off. In hindsight, I should have arranged to start my run as dawn was breaking. I suspect that would have been spectacular.

I passed about 10 people along the way - about 4 runners, 2 cyclists, and 4 photographers - but the path was largely my own. Quiet. Birds singing their morning songs on my right; the wind and waves rushing ashore on my left.

British Landing. Arch Rock. Fort Mackinac. All came and went.

Back into town, I toyed with the idea of a second loop but knew we had other plans that morning. I circled back around, took one more look at the distant Mackinac Bridge, and re-entered my hotel to find my kids and wife still asleep.

I did the 8 miles in about an hour. I didn't have my watch or Garmin functioning to know for sure. I now realize I need to invest in a small, runner friendly camera in order to capture some of these images 'on the run' as they occur.

It was about as nice of a run as you'll ever experience. I can't wait to do it again.

Happy trails.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Time for a Reality Check

I have weekend plans that will prevent me from completing my 18 mile LR this Sunday. So, last night, I set out to knock them out a couple days early which lead to....a reality check.

Maybe it was the heat.
Maybe it was the after effects of Saturday's trail race.
Maybe it was just too much after a full day of work.

Or maybe it was something else.

Last evening's 18 mile run was about as tough of a training run as I've ever had. After 13 miles, my legs were dead. My hamstrings were throbbing. My energy was zapped. I felt an obligation to trudge on and "get the miles in" though.

My legs have felt heavy lately on every run.

I haven't lost my enthusiasm for running. I'm still as passionate as ever and look forward to my upcoming races and goals. After some consideration, I think what's going on here is a couple of things. First, there is no doubt that the heat of this summer is starting to catch up with me. I expect it's affecting everyone to some degree. And with the Chicago Marathon approaching, and the correlating increase in weekly mileage, this is a potent combination.

I think, however, I've become a little too cocky. Not in the I'm-such-a-great-runner kind of way. That's not true at all and I remain humbled before this sport. I think I'm getting comfortable running long distances (which I'll describe as 12+ miles). I'm no longer nervous or fearful or excited by a run of 18 miles. Just like I wasn't anxious at all before my 10 mile trail run - and that kicked my butt. I step out the door to run 15,16,17,18 miles, whatever, without a second thought. Previously, I would mentally (and physically) prepare myself for this time of run. I'd psyche myself up for an 18 miler. I'd consider my diet and physical activities in the hours preceding a run of this distance.

Lately, I've just been lacing up the shoes and running out the door. No preparation. No concerns.

And it has made for some tough runs.

No matter how many times now I've run half marathon or greater distances, it is still a demanding distance. It requires some mental and physical preparation. I need to remind myself of that and get back to being a wee bit fearful. Or one of these times I'll pay the price.

I'll be better off in the long run.

On a side note, Good Luck to Mike and Lisa as they tackle their Night 20! We should establish a southeast-south central Michigan running club. Steers Running Club perhaps? Run with the Steers, maybe? A little take off the running of the bulls in Pamplona? White ties...just a thought. (I'll let Mike explain someday the derivation of the Steers being a founding member and all).

Last night: 18 miles @ 7:24 pace.

Happy trails.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Legend Trail Race Report

Saturday's Legend 10 mile trail race setting the scene:

My first trail run. It's only 10 miles. How hard could that be? I did a 17 mile run last weekend and will do 18 miles this week. Not to mention the two marathons in the past year and several training runs in the 20 mile range. Okay, so it's a trail run. Big deal. I'll get up Saturday morning and treat this like an intense 10 mile training run - which I was going to do anyway this weekend.

That was the plan. Total confidence. I didn't even think much about it the night before.

Saturday morning, the wife and I herded the groggy kids into the car and drove the 20 miles to Sleepy Hollow State Park just north of Lansing, MI.

This is a small race. I was expecting about 150 ten milers (turns out there was 203).

The 5 mile run got going first. I watched them take off and disappear into the trees. Flat, packed dirt trail. No problem.

We were up next...and were off. I'm thinking: enjoy the experience, don't worry about pace, this will be a fun, new experience, etc.


Right off the bat, about a 1/4 mile, a dude misses the path around the closed (and locked) gate and slams into a 3 foot steel post landing on his side in the road right in front of me. He was okay though and continued on. Warning received. I better take this a bit more seriously.

The first mile was mostly on packed dirt and downhill through a winding dirt forest path. This fed my overconfidence. First mile: 6:20. This is way faster than I wanted to be going.

Second mile, it all caught up. Guess what? After you go downhill for a bit, there is payback on an uphill path. That goes up, up, up, up...never severely so but constantly and seemingly without end. Now I realize how I did the 6:20 first mile. The first mile hill must have went straight down and I didn't even realize it.

After mile 2, I'm already begging for a water station. It was about 70 degrees at the start but, trapped in the trees and brush, it feels like 80 or 85 now with the foliage creating a sort of devilish blanket.

I decided to get much smarter about my pace and settled in at a goal of 7:20 miles. At mile 2.5, there is a brief 6 foot river crossing - just big enough to require a couple ankle deep foot steps in the muddy river. Okay, so 7.5 miles left now in soaked socks and shoes. Another new experience.

By the half mark, I'm already contemplating a walking break. I never would consider this at this point in a typical road race. The rolling hills are non-stop. Of course, you don't feel the down hills but you sure as hell feel the up hills. And it seems like it is all up hill!!

I carried on until mile 6 when a large drop (I considered sliding down on my rear but took one look at the tangled roots and rocks protruding down the hill and gave that idea up) knocked the wind out of me. I gave myself a 30 second walk break.

Miles 6-8 I spent a lot of time questioning why I didn't start with the 5 mile run. Also, I'm considering the 50k trail run next year. At this point, thoughts were passing through my head like "you would never make 31 miles of this" and "are you freakin' crazy?".

By the time I hit mile 9, I caught sight of a man who had flown by me around the half way mark while I was despairing about my lack of trail running conditioning. He was within sights again. With 1/3 mile to go, I zoomed past him and found extra life to sprint into the finish (maybe because that part was flat and on a concrete surface?? back in my element??). That felt great.

Post race with the kids

I remember saying to my wife afterwards "I think this was harder than the marathons." In hindsight, I don't think it was. It was tough. It was more of a challenge than I expected. The constant up/down, twisting, turning, and need for total concentration just made it different than road marathon running. There is constant strain on the legs as you go through patches of loose dirt, take last second leaps over knotty roots coming up from the trail like little mountain ranges, while watching for low hanging branches. I think I nearly twisted my ankle about a dozen times but managed to catch myself before it went to far to cause injury. Plus, you can't zone out and just run. Concentration is required to stay on the course. For about 4 miles I was running by myself, I couldn't see anyone ahead of me and only heard the occasional crunch of branches behind me to indicate the presence of someone else. They mark the course with ribbons tied to trees but, if you zone out, you might wander off one of the crossing trails. I did, briefly, but looked back and saw a ribbon and had to run back to the course. I wonder how many people got lost??

Wife, daughter, and bad rocker poses.

It's a great run. Lots of fun. I was exhausted for the next 36 hours however. I'm sure I made the classic road-runner-doing-a-trail-run mistake though as far as underestimating the demands of a trail run. Next time, I'll know. For those of you considering a trail run, be forewarned.

In the end, I finished 1st in my age group and 24th overall of 203. My time was 1:13:08 with a pace of 7:19. I would not be happy with this for a road race but I'll sure take it for my first trail run. I got a nice little The Legend beer pilsener award based on the result. I enjoyed some Heineken from it later that evening. It always taste better when guzzled from a Major Award (to bad it doesn't light up and go in the front window - anyone get that reference??).

Happy trails.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


As I mentioned, last week was spent in Traverse City and my time there coincided with the 3rd annual Traverse City Film Festival. It's becoming a very popular event increasing in size, scope, and, so far, regional popularity every year. The festival was founded and still run by uber-liberal (though more of a populist in my opinion) Michael Moore.
There is delicious irony in the success of the festival in this area of Michigan. Traverse City is notoriously conservative politically. So, here is Moore, a nearby resident in the area and the devil incarnate to many a conservative, working in partnership with the bedrock conservative groups in T.C. to bring the film festival to life. I guess when there are dollars at stake, political differences fall to the wayside!

The wife and I made it to only one ticketed film - a documentary involving the 2004 election - hosted by Moore and then sat in on the post-film Q&A with him and noted 60's documentarian D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Don't Look Back [Bob Dylan]). That is, until the clock struck 12:30 AM and our Cinderella carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin (re: the parking garage was locking its doors at 1 AM).
We also took the kids to the free outdoor flick Raiders of the Lost Ark at the downtown Open Space park. I have to say, I've seen the film many times but never noticed the frequent slamming of port-a-potty doors on the soundtrack or the image of an electrical box in the lower half of the screen for the entire movie. Go figure. ;)
I did learn that the State Theatre, a T.C. landmark (shown in picture above) and my former employer (projectionist, circa 1990), will be re-opening full time in November (thanks to Moore and the film festival). Hooray!! These old theatre's are classics and need to be renovated and saved whenever possible.

This Weekend:
My first trail run, The Legend, is this Saturday morning just north of Lansing, MI. Ten miles of off-road fun. I'm very curious to see how different it is from a road race. I need to get some rest though. Sunday's 17 miler wiped me out more than I care to admit. Last night's 6 miler was tough in the humidity. And to top it off, I was awoken at 3:30 AM last night (morning?) as work needed me to stare at some computer code to fix a problem as if the brain functions at this hour.
I have discovered that Girls Gone Wild seemingly has an unlimited budget to advertise between the hours of 3-5 AM on Comedy Central. Who knew that so many 'normal, every day college freshman willing to bare all' also resemble your garden variety stripper?? I'm sure they are just regular women choosing to pull their tops up though right? Not strippers. Nope. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Happy trails.