Friday, November 27, 2009

Old Adidas Ads

I don't remember this ad campaign, but these are some fun ads.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Running hills in flat Texas

I know Texas isn't known for its hilly terrain. But just about any runner will tell you, if you don't find the hills, they'll find you eventually. Fort Worth isn't the Hill Country, but there's a neighborhood near me that has some challenging climbs.

These pictures don't really give the full picture.  You have to run the hills repeatedly in a short period of time to truly appreciate them!

This image captures the elevation change somewhat.  Funny how the long climb at the beginning of the run doesn't seem as bad as the short, steep ones in the middle. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Great Brazos Relay video

Kevin brought his video camera along and got some footage of the team.  Enjoy!

(By the way, the audio for the first 90 seconds or so is almost inaudible.  We introduce ourselves, make finish time predictions, and make inane comments.  Then once the race footage starts it's just music.  So feel free to mute it until we start running.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Running Strong at 70!

I saw this in the paper this morning, and have to say "Wow!" I sure hope I can keep going like that when I'm 70! You have to admire anyone of any age that can keep going for 72 hours straight! The 1/2 mile loop for 72 hours sounds impossibly dull. I guess the monotony makes the feat that much more admirable--the winner is the one who lasts the longest without going certifiably insane!

70-year-old is running for his life

Posted Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009

Special to the Star-Telegram

Finally confronting what he called the mess he had made of his life, Ed Rousseau had to make a choice.

He decided to run.

Forrest Gump’s jaunt appears a mere 5K compared to the miles the septuagenarian Rousseau continues to log. On Sunday, he completed the 72-hour portion of the UltraCentric Experience at Murrell Park in Flower Mound, going 205.328 miles.

That’s equivalent to running to Austin and then some.

But it was miles of a different sort that Rousseau was putting on that became the source of some major problems in his life.

“In today’s world, I’d be a felon,” said Rousseau, 70, referring to a sixth drunk driving offense more than 30 years ago. “I was a raging alcoholic at age 40.”

What better motivation to change than fear. Especially the fear of losing your job and, worse, your family.

“I was afraid at that point I was going to lose everything,” Rousseau said. “What do I do in the morning when the addiction is still there? I go for a run. That’s what running means to me.”

Soon, Rousseau’s life and change collided.

“I was sitting there looking out the window one morning trying to figure out what I’m going to do with this mess I’ve made of my life and a jogger went by,” Rousseau said.

“So I broke out some 30-year-old Converse All-Star basketball shoes from the back of the closet and some old sweatpants and I went for a run around the block. I couldn’t make it around the block.”

Rousseau has come a long way, literally and figuratively. To say he is devoted to his new life is an understatement. He travels throughout the country from his home in Minneapolis for races. Sunday was his 77th ultra marathon (ultra is defined as any run longer than 26.2 consecutive miles), and he has run 86 marathons.

His bad stretches now consist of nights like Thursday when he was the last runner to seek shelter during a driving rain storm that drenched the area around Grapevine Lake. He stayed on the USTF certified half-mile circular route for an hour by himself, now motivated not only to run but to break records.

Rousseau, who mentors recovering alcoholics, has gotten good at this, too. During this race, he set an American record in the 70 age bracket by completing 58.11 miles in 12 hours. The 48-hour American record is also likely his, pending certification. He completed 156 miles during that span.

Hung-Kwong Ng, 44, a software engineer from Orlando, Fla., was the event’s overall 72-hour winner. Proving that all terms are relative, Ng said he wasn’t really in shape for the race but nonetheless ran 243.54 miles. Fred Davis III ran 181.89 miles. Renowned ultra runner Amy Palmeiro-Winters, who runs with a prosthetic leg, put in 61 miles in 11 hours, 49 minutes, 4 seconds. That will be submitted for the 100K American record. A scheduled mountain bike portion was canceled because of the rain.

Rousseau said he got in about four hours of sleep during his 72-hour excursion. But whatever fatigue and soreness he’s feeling today beats the heck out of a hangover and a night in the county drunk tank.

All the result of a no-nonsense cop and a tough judge. And the will to change.

“You can have fun after alcohol,” Rousseau said. “Even at age 70.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Great Brazos Relay: And the Last Shall Be First

Last weekend 7 teams of 7 runners embarked on a race destined to become a Texas tradition. The inaugural Great Brazos Relay drew 49 enthusiastic runners for a logic-defying 120 mile relay race from the campus of Baylor University to Lake Bryan, Texas. Six of the teams consisted of Baylor students. The seventh team was made up of runners who are, well, a little bit older. That seventh team, CJ's All-Night Runners, included: me and a Baylor Chamber of Commerce pledge brother (both of us 40), two other Chamber alumni (35 and 42), a current Chamberman, and two other friends (37 and 30). With an average age of 35, we decided we would take on these ultra-fit, zero-body-fat college athletes and see how we compete.

Modeled after relay races such as those put on by the Ragnar Relay Series, this relay will take place each year on the weekend of the Baylor/Texas A&M football game, changing direction each year to end up on or near the campus of the home team. We gathered for the race on Friday afternoon at the Baylor Ballpark. We fueled up on bananas and granola bars, got thoroughly hydrated, and sent the first 7 runners on their way at 2 p.m. Throughout the next 12-18 hours, each runner would run 3 legs, taking turns driving, running, sleeping, and eating (and pooping by the side of the road, as one of our team members who shall remained anonymous did!) until they reach the final destination at Lake Bryan.

Several times we got a kick out of the age difference. At one point we were visiting with Ricky's fellow Chambermen (who stayed with him all night long! Talk about dedicated friends!). I told them Pat and I had pledged Spring of 1989. "Yeah," one replied, "I was born in 1989!" Another girl had a sticker on her car from a dealer in Corpus, where I grew up. I asked her if that was her car, to which she politely replied, "Yes, sir," as if I were one of her parent's friends. Actually, I'm probably as old as her parents!

The running abilities of our team varied somewhat. We had Ricky, the current Chamberman and member of the Baylor Triathlon Club, who ran a 3:17 marathon last weekend, and Kevin, who ran cross-country in college, where he still holds his school's record for the mile at 4:06. We figured these guys would make up for some of the slowness of us older guys. I must say, however, that the old guys on the team exceeded their own expectations and predictions for their pace times.

I ran the 7th leg. When I took the baton (actually a slap bracelet), we were definitely in the mix. I followed a girl who started out a few minutes before me. I could see her a couple hundred yards in front of me. I ran hard trying to catch her, but never could. I imagined her trotting along with little effort while I was huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive. I did close the gap quite a bit, but she was too fast.

By the time I was getting ready for the 14th leg, it had already become clear that we were not going to catch the collegians. Two of our team were struck with IT band pains and could hardly walk, much less keep up their paces from their first legs. But the whole team pressed on, giving our best effort to finish well.

My brother Mark, who had been setting out the course markers, surprised me by stopping by to run with me for a few minutes. It was nice to visit with him. How often do you get to chat with your brother while running on the highway in the middle of the night? After he left to go home to his warm bed, it was a long lonely run, and I swear it was all uphill. Who assigned me this blasted uphill run? Oh yeah, I assigned the legs.

I should add one not-so-minor detail about this race. I am not exaggerating to say that it rained all night long. Constantly. Sometimes it was a mere mist, sometimes a downpour. Most of the time it was a gentle, soaking rain. With temperatures hovering the the mid- to high 50s, it was perfect running weather. But waiting around at exchanges for your turn to run, it was freezing! We were soaking wet for much of the time. Most of use went through several shirt changes, and the cars, full of wet towels, clothes, shoes and socks, took on that distinctive smell of wet, sweaty men.

I ran all my legs in my Vibrum Five Fingers. I forgot that last time I ran in them in the rain, the seam rubbed me raw in one spot. If I had been thinking, I would have put on my anti-chafing cream, which works well, but I wasn't thinking, so I have big marks on my foot. I won't be running in them for a few days, and I'll try to remember putting on the anti-chafing cream. I was pleased to learn that Kevin is a barefoot running enthusiast. He had his VFFs on and some of the college kids were gawking. After he walked by they asked me, "Is he really going to run in those things??" Funny.

Selfishly, I am thankful that I did not have to run in the hardest of the rain. Nor did I have to run on that muddy, muddy road that Ricky ran on! I am sure that in the light of day, with the sun shining and the ground dry, this looked like a perfect place to run. The course description called it "a well-maintained gravel road." But in the middle of the night, in a steady rain, after many hours of rain, it was slippery, sloppy, deep, and wet. Ricky heroically powered through, got past the mud, and finished that leg despite his injury.

In the pre-dawn darkness, I began my third leg. Since one of our runners had to drop out due to injury, we had to move everyone's leg up. So instead of running the last 3.6 mile leg, I ran the penultimate 5.1 leg (which also seemed to be all uphill!). But that meant that Pat, our lead-off runner, would have to run a fourth leg. He was more than willing, but I felt sorry for him, so when I passed off the slap bracelet to Pat, I kept running, and ran the whole last leg with him. The sun came up, and shortly we entered Lake Bryan Park. As we entered the park, we were greeted by a bunch of cars full of college kids cheering for us as they left. Looks like we missed the awards ceremony.

When Pat and I got to the finish line, we met the rest of our team, Ricky's faithful companions, and the race organizers. Four of us took our final lap--the other 3 were in no shape to run--then had our own awards ceremony. We may have been last overall, but we were first in the open division! We got our first place mugs, finishers' shirts, and some snacks, and took off for the showers. (Actually, I was visiting with Kelli, the race director, and then turned to go back to the car, but my team had left me! Luckily, I remembered that Kelli had called Eric earlier, so I used her phone to call him to come back and get me.)

Our total time was 17:21:56, an average pace of 8:49 minutes/miles. Not too bad, especially considering our injuries. But not fast enough to compete with the college kids. We finished about 45 minutes behind the slowest team, and, I think a full 3 hours behind the winners. But our course record for the open division will stand for some time!

This was a fun course, especially given the setting. The stretch of Texas between Waco and College Station is not the most interesting, but there were some nice views, at times, some fun runs, especially when we got off the larger highways, and friendly officers of the law. I'm glad Kelli and crew put this together and hope it will grow, not just with Baylor and A&M students, but with the general running community as well.
I didn't get very good pictures.

Ricky, Shawn, and Eric gearing up.

One of the exchanges. I obviously do not have the knack for flash photography with lots of highly reflective surfaces.

Kevin, Eric, Rich, Shawn, Pat, and me waiting for Ricky.

Shawn's car, a little worse for wear. I hope he managed to fumigate it before his wife saw it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things Seen While Running: Animals That Don't Want a Piece of Me

After yesterday's downer posting, I thought I would feature some of the more friendly animals I encounter.

These geese live around the lake by our house. Sometimes they hiss at me, especially if they have babies. But usually they just ignore me.
I don't know about these guys. Why have a donkey and goats in your yard? I guess they never have to mow. The donkey came to the fence and let me pet his nose.
These folks are Going Green with their 100% natural eco-friendly alarm clocks.

This ferocious feline did not want anything to do with me. She simply turned her back and ran away. I took these pictures yesterday, the same day as the dog pictures, but I wish I had my camera this morning. I saw 2 big feral pigs in the ditch beside the road! Big, black, and hairy, they ran off when I approached.

I went by the scene of the canine fratricide. There were no dogs in the yard. I'm hoping for the best.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things Seen While Running: Dogs That Want a Piece of Me

One of my favorite places to run is a neighborhood a couple miles south of my house. But to get there I have to pass the House of the Vicious Dogs. If I leave early enough, they won't bother me; they tend to sleep late. But most of the time, they are there in the yard. The yard has a gate, but I have never seen it closed. They come after me, barking and baring their razor-sharp teeth. So far I have kept them at bay with my commanding, authoritative voice. But one of these days, they may attack, so I decided I'd better document their efforts.

Here they come, dashing toward me out of the gate.

They jump at me, but fear my wrath should they dare to come closer.

They left me alone, again driven away by my intimidating glare and forceful commands. Also, for the first time I heard someone at the house yelling for the dogs to stay in the yard. I'm thinking I'm going to drop a letter in the mail to politely ask them to keep their dogs in the yard. Otherwise, I might have to show them some dog-fu!

These guys want a piece of me too. Lucky for them, they are secure behind the fence.

These little guys are cute, but they think they're vicious.

Fratricide is as old as Cain and Able, as Romulus and Remus. Today, I had the sad opportunity to witness a canine fratricide. In this yard live 3 dogs, one large and 2 small. When I came upon the yard, one little dog came to the fence to bark at me. I wondered where the other two were. I saw in the flower bed that the big one seemed to be wrestling with the other little one. After a moment, I realized that it was no friendly, two-sided sparring, but a one-sided, brutal attack.

In this picture you can see the poor little white dog's legs, trying to get the big dog off of him. I shouted at the big dog, but he ignored me.

Finally, the big dog walked away. I went down the driveway at the side of the yard for a closer look. The little dog was still breathing, but based on what I could see, it doesn't look good for him. That pink at the neck is not a collar, but a wound. Needless to say, I didn't choose to enter the yard so I could knock on the door and speak to the homeowner; I didn't want to get in the same yard as the big dog.

Poor little guy. Looks like a cutie. I'll have to check in on him next time to see if he survived.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stuff I Like: Vibram Five Fingers

Last week I ran over 56 miles in my Vibram Five Fingers, including interval training, hills, and a long run of 17.75 miles. I'm not completely ready to give up regular running shoes yet, but I sure do like running in these.

I first read of them in a Runner's World column last year. I saw a pair at Luke's Locker and laughed. Then I talked to a guy running in bare feet at the White Rock Marathon last year. Interesting, but not compelling. Then I read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. I usually resist getting on any kind of popular bandwagon, but I readily admit to buying into the minimalist running philosophy that he describes in the book.

The idea is, basically, that running shoes tend to cause injury by encouraging improper running form. The cushioning encourages harder heel strike, leading to jarring in the knees. The extra support inhibits natural motion and strengthening in the foot. On this last point, my chiropractor made a good analogy. She said that a back brace is designed for added support, but her patients end up relying on it too much, leading to further injury. So might too much support in a running shoe lead to injury.

I'm no expert in biomechanics, engineering, anatomy, sports injuries, or anything else that matters. But the growing number of people who promote running in VFFs, minimalist shoes (like the Tarahumara huaraches McDougall describes), or barefoot make a lot of sense to me. I do still like having some protection for the soles of my feet, so I'm not sure I'll be running barefoot. I enjoy running in my VFFs, enough that I'm considering running the White Rock Marathon in them.

By the way, they're great for climbing, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Runner's Rule Book

I know I wrote yesterday that Christmas thoughts are premature, but maybe it's not too early to add a book to your Christmas list for the runner you love. This sounds like a fun read. I saw this review in the Star-Telegram. Sometimes the links expire or require log in, so I reproduced the whole story below. When I get my hands on a copy, I'll post a review a

A passionate marathoner offers advice and insight at a steady clip

Posted Friday, Nov. 06, 2009

Runner's World executive editor Mark Remy is the kind of guy with whom you’d want to go for a run. A veteran marathoner with a childlike love for the sport, Remy would not judge you for wearing a cotton T-shirt, he thinks the whole pasta thing is overblown and he might offer a trite slogan just when you need it most.

Best of all, Remy loves running. To spread the gospel and to help nonrunners and runners coexist peacefully, Remy has created a witty collection of the unspoken rules of the sport. They can be found in his new book, The Runner's Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know--And Then Some (Rodale, $17.99).

Some of the humorous rules include "Do whatever it takes to finish ahead of a costumed runner" and "Call them running shoes." says of the book, "With 100+ rules that cover the basics of running, racing, track etiquette, and apparel and gear, including hilarious running commentary on running culture, The Runner’s Rule Book will be the reference guide you’ll turn to again and again for answers to your burning running questions."

Remy recently answered a few questions about The Rule Book and running culture.

Which rule do you always end up breaking?

I wouldn’t say I always end up breaking it, but . . . probably Rule 1.47: Let Angry Motorists Go. When I have a close encounter with a driver — e.g., he or she rolls through a stop sign or blows around a corner without looking my way — it’s awfully hard for me not to express my displeasure. Especially if that driver is on the phone. This is why I don’t run with a large stick.

Are runners a misunderstood group, and if so, why?

I think we are, sometimes, to nonrunners. If you’re a nonrunner and you see some poor sap out there in searing heat and humidity or driving rain or a snowstorm, running hill repeats or a 20-miler or whatever, you’re bound to find it puzzling. And actually, for a lot of runners, I think that puzzlement is a source of pride.

Which rule or rule of thumb generated the most debate at

I would say Rule 1.20 — the one suggesting that ice baths are bunk. I know that many of my RW colleagues swear by ice baths after a long run or race. Not me. I still maintain that ice baths are an elaborate practical joke being played on runners: "Dude, you know what you should do after your run? (snicker) Go sit in a tub full of ice water. (snicker) No, seriously, it’ll be great." I’m not falling for it!

The running tips speak to experienced runners, novices and nonrunners. How hard was that to pull off?

Well, that’s gratifying to hear, because it’s just what I was aiming for. Not that hard, really. As a former nonrunner and novice, and current "experienced runner," I like to think I can relate to all three groups. Although I’m apparently still unable to refer to myself as an "experienced runner" without putting that phrase in quotation marks.

Are you tempted to kindly tell people running in place at stop lights to relax?

Sometimes. Then I remember Rule 1.13: Keep Unsolicited Advice to Yourself. And I move on.

Why do you love running so much?

Where should I start? I love running’s simplicity. I love the fact that it hurts sometimes. I love that our sport’s stars are so accessible, and so down-to-earth. I love how a 45-minute run on a bad day can act like a "reset" button, leaving me refreshed and energized. I love how each time I run a marathon, I swear them off forever — then keep signing up for marathons. I love that when I ran my first Boston and made the final turn onto Boylston Street to the finish, I cried. (What other sport packs that kind of emotional punch?) I love being part of such a fantastic global community; as a group, runners are the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. And I love being able to eat ice cream pretty much with impunity.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Things Seen While Running: Premature Christmas Decorations

I love Christmas. Don't get me wrong. But there's a time to celebrate. I understand that retailers have had a tough year, and they're trying to get in early on the Christmas season profits. I confess that I have begun Christmas shopping myself. (Don't tell my boys, but I took advantage of a discount on a possibly-tough-to-get-closer-to-Christmas video game system.)

But houses decorated for Christmas way before Thanksgiving drive me nuts! The other day Kelly had an appointment in north Hurst. I rode along with her and ran home and saw these decorated houses. This was on Monday, November 9. What is that, 45 days or so before Christmas? Ugh. A couple days later I saw some houses with Christmas lights already up and lit! Wow.

(These people should have someone bring in their papers when they're out of town so burglars don't know they're gone!)

I mentioned this to my wife and she tells me KLTY is having a "Christmas preview weekend," playing Christmas music all day! Two weeks before Thanksgiving!

By the way, this run was fun, simply counting the towns I ran through: Hurst, Colleyville, Euless, Bedford, Fort Worth. Five cities in 11 miles. I'll have to starting mapping out some runs to see how many cities I can run through in one run.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Losing Weight and Gaining Speed

During the months after I started running, I began to drop pounds. Within a few months, I lost 20-25 pounds, a noticable change. Besides running, I stopped drinking Dr Pepper all the time--that probably made more of a difference than running--and tried to start eating better, specifically, not so much ice cream and sweets, more fruits and veggies. But for well over a year I have remained steady, hovering in the low 170s. I still have a gut; maybe I always will.

Now I have a new motivation to lost some more weight. I have seen several sources correlating weight loss and faster race times; for instance, for every pound you lose your pace will improve by 2 seconds. Since my pace has not improved in training as much as I'd hoped it would, I'll start trying that strategy.

Since my marathon PR is 3:51, a pace of 8:49, and my goal to qualify for Boston is 3:20, a pace of 7:38, that means I have to improve my pace by 71 seconds per mile. So I only have to lose 35.5 pounds before White Rock to qualify for Boston! That will put me at about 139 pounds. Awesome! Now, please don't offer me any candy, ice cream or Dr Pepper!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Making Time to Run

For most of the past 2 years, I have worked the night shift. In fact, about the time I started running regularly I started working at night. I'm not a vampire; I work 1:30-10, so I can still get to bed by 11 or so for a normal sleeping schedule. I typically get up in the morning, get Chloe on the bus, take the boys to school, then I can come home and run at my leisure. I have come to take that schedule for granted. It's really ideal for getting my runs in.

For the last 2 weeks, I had training at work 8 to 5 everyday. I had to pass the taking-the-boys-to-school duties to Kelly for 2 weeks, but I loved being with the family for dinner and bedtime! What a rare treat! I usually only see the kids in the morning for a few minutes and on weekends. But for 2 weeks the kids, rather than a dark, sleepy house, greeted my when I got home from work, and I ate dinner at the table with my family rather than in the break room at work. Quite nice.

However, I really struggled with running. The first week, I was still recovering from Palo Duro. Well, that was my excuse. I finally got up on Wednesday morning to run. I got up a little before 5, got out the door as quickly as I could, and got back home barely in time to get ready for work. Not much kid time that morning, either. I'm not a big fan of getting up early anyway, but that morning came too early. I didn't try that again.

On week 2 of the day schedule, I resolved to get back into training mode. I do have the White Rock marathon coming up, after all. I didn't want to get up early enough to run, and in the evenings, once we fed, bathed, loved on, and tucked in the kids, I wanted to hang out with Kelly. Then once I got her tucked in (she usually goes to bed shortly after the kids), I didn't feel like getting out and running for a couple of hours.

On Wednesdays, Kelly and the boys go to church for AWANA. I decided I would get my long run in while they were at church. So shortly after they left, I took off. Ugh. I started out too fast, then started feeling especially sluggish. About halfway through, I made a decision to do something I had never done before. I called Kelly as she was leaving the church and asked her to pick me up on her way home. I kept running while waiting for her, but ended up running only 12.2 miles instead of the 20 I set out to do.

All in all, I had a rough couple of weeks getting my runs in. Maybe I benefitted from some time off, but mostly I think I missed some important training time in these last crucial weeks before White Rock. I'm back on schedule this week, even with working some overtime. I'll have to work extra hard to get my pace down over the next few weeks.

After these 2 weeks, I have a new appreciation for runners who work a regular schedule and can still get in their miles. Granted, it would be easier to get in my miles if I was training for a 5K, but running 40-70 miles per week requires a bit larger time commitment.

Despite the drawbacks of my current work schedule, it has enabled me to have a great running program. I would love to eat dinner with my family every night, to tuck the kids in, to be able to relax with Kelly in the evening, and, let's get really crazy, go to church with them and help with soccer practice! I hope to get back on a schedule like that soon. When I do, I'll have to do some serious adjustments so I can keep up the running. Until then, I'll keep pounding out the miles whenever I can.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

I love to run. I especially like to run long distances. I also watch lots of movies. (For some of my movie reviews, go here.) I had heard of this movie title, and think of it frequently when I am out on a long distance run. I usually don't feel particularly lonely. Alone, but in good way. I like this title because I like the loneliness/solitude/aloneness of the long distance run.

Unfortunately, I like the title of the movie much more than I like the movie itself. Originally released in 1962, the style reflects the times. There is some quality acting, to be sure, but the editing drove me crazy. Flashbacks can, of course, be very effective in films, but here they were just jarring.

The long distance runner in question, caught in a petty burglary, gets shipped off to a reform school which looks more like a private prep school than juvenille hall. The teachers notice his speed during a soccer match and recruit him to run the distance race against a neighboring prep school. As part of his training, they entrust him with the freedom to leave the grounds and run through the countryside. The movie flashes back to the events that landed him in reform school and culminates in the big meet with the other school. I won't tell you who won.

Like I said, I didn't like the style of the movie, and am not too fond of the story, and was pretty disappointed in the ending. But one thing I LOVED about the movie: the long distance running itself. When Colin leaves the school gates and runs through the fields, his joyful running inspired me. Leaping and bounding like a deer, or, more simply, like a child at play, he runs and runs.

Oftentimes, this joy and abondonment is missing during my runs. I tend to have a goal time and pace, a pre-set schdule for the day's run, and a focus on my GPS. I want to meet certain goals, but I also want to capture that joy of running that Colin displays. It's the same kind of attitude that Christopher McDougall conveys in his book Born to Run. His accounts of the running of both the Tarahumara indians of northern Mexico and American ultrarunners beautifully convey running for the love of running.

Bottom line, for the movie alone, I'll give the movie 2 stars.
But for some running inspiration, it earns 4 stars.

Monday, November 9, 2009

50 Miles at Palo Duro Canyon

I wrote a few weeks ago about my longest, slowest run yet (Captain Carls at Inks Lake 60K, 8:35:44, avg. 13:49 min/mile). On October 17, I topped it with an even longer, slower race. At the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon, I ran the 50 mile race in 11:47:08, avg. 14:09 min/mile. I had a terrific time! So that's the brief version; for more details, keep reading. I won't have my feelings hurt if you stop here!

This was the first race I've been to where I spent the night on the road. Kelly tried to arrange it so she could go with me, but there were too many things to coordinate and not enough people to step in, so I ended up going solo. I ended up camping with the Buckleys, a nice couple from Euless. They are Palo Duro Canyon veterans--on a first-name basis with the rangers--and were terrific hosts and companions. She was running the 50K and he provided race support by patrolling the trails on his mountain bike.

I arrived Friday afternoon in time to admire the beautiful canyon. I had been there as a kid, but I'm not sure we got past the amphitheater where they perform the musical "Texas." It's really awe-inspiring, especially in contrast to the pancake-flat surrounding topography. I got the tent set up, unpacked, and headed over to the race registration and pasta dinner at WTA&M in Canyon.

The lobby was full of runners waiting to pick up their race numbers and packets. I quickly realized that the line was for the 20K. There was a shorter line for the 50K, and for the 50 mile packet pickup, there was--no one! Nice not having to wait in line! At dinner I sat with a group of runners from Austin. I had not met any of them before, but they came with a big group, some of whom I recognized from Inks Lake.

After sitting by the campfire for a bit chatting with the Buckleys, I hit the sack. In the middle of the night I realized that my Therm-A-Rest Pad, which Mom bought me when I was in scouts, no longer holds air. The sleeping bag from the same time is still warm, though, thankfully, since it did get pretty cold.

I got up bright and early for the 7 a.m. start, had some juice and a Carrot Cake Clif Bar, and headed down to the starting area. It was chilly, definitely sweater weather, but not too cold in my shorts and sweatshirt. I think it was in the mid- to low-40s. We started before dawn, so most of the runners had headlamps or flashlights. It was nice meeting other runners, trying to stay warm while getting my drinks and snacks ready, with bagpipes playing in the background (a Palo Duro tradition). Finally, we all gathered at the starting line and were off.

A few yards after the starting line, we hit the trail, which was single track for a good mile or more, which means we were single file. This was actually a big plus for me, b/c it forced me to go really slow for several minutes, either walking or jogging slowly. After a mile or two people started spreading out, so I was able to run at a more normal pace.

The course for the 50 mile is 4 12.5 mile loops. It rolls along the floor of the canyon; no part of the trail goes up to the rim. So there's not a lot of climbing, just some mild ups and downs. It's really beautiful, taking runners to some awesome views of rock formations. It's also mostly exposed; there's not much shade on the course. Starting out that was OK. It was quite cool, and dark. But later the sun would really be a factor.

I kept a good pace on the first lap. I felt like I didn't start out too fast. After an hour or so, it got light enough that I no longer needed my Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp. It was pretty cloudy, so I was encouraged that it would stay cool, at least for a while. I ended the first lap at 2:20, an 11:11 pace, which I knew was fast for me, but I was glad to have knocked that much out while it was cool. I swapped out my headlamp for my Tilley Hat (thanks, Mom) and headed out for lap 2.

I kept a good pace on the second lap, too. I still felt good, and any potential aches and pains that had come up during lap one were gone. My body did great for this race. No knee or hip or foot pains or injuries, just getting tired, which is to be expected. I had some speedsters pass me up, which was discouraging a bit, until I realized they were probably running the 20K, which made sense, or so I told myself to make me feel better. I really thought I was keeping a similar pace to the first lap, so I was surprised to finish lap 2 at 4:58, a 12:38 pace. I was still on track to finish in plenty of time to beat the 12 hour limit, so I wasn't too worried.

Shortly after starting the third lap, I saw Lori, my camping buddy, on the trail. She was going slow; I learned later that she was walking on some monster blisters. Ouch! I had slowed to talk with her and another runner whom I had been running near for much of the last few miles passed us. I jumped in with him and told him I'd let him pace me for a while. He turned out to be a good match for me. Like me, he is fairly new to trail running; this was also his first 50 mile run. Like me, he has 3 kids, similar in age to mine, and like me, he is a Baylor grad! We ended up sticking together the rest of the race and had a good time getting to know each other.

I had been saying to Lori that I was going to follow some advice I'd heard and run slower on the 3rd lap so I would have something left on the 4th. Brett concurred, so lap 3 was deliberately slower. We finished in about 3 hours, a 14:24 pace (roughly). We got our drinks, took some Endurolytes Electrolyte Replenishment for cramping, and steeled ourselves for the final lap. Almost done!

The goal was for lap 3 to be the slowest lap. For the first couple miles of lap 4, that may have been true. But after a while, those "mild ups and downs" I mentioned earlier became much steeper! The sun was out in force, and while I'm sure the temp was still not too hot, the sun sure felt hot. During these last few miles, I was very thankful to have Brett with me. He says I helped him along, but I think he helped me more than I helped him. We took turns leading, trying to remember to start running again after we stopped to walk the uphill portions. With only a few miles to go, we kept running the numbers to see if we could get in before the 12 hour time limit. We realized that we could do it, but we had to keep moving. Sometimes our pace was terribly slow, in the 18-20 min/mile range. But we pushed each other along until we knew we were going to make it.

The end of the course was a big horseshoe through a camping area. We knew we were close, and picked up speed. When we were nearly out of the woods, Brett's coach met us. Brett was with the big group from Austin, but he was the only runner in the group running the 50M. So they were all waiting for him at the finish! We came out of the woods, and there were all Brett's running friends, including my dinner companions, cheering for him. He hollered my name, so they all cheered for me, too! Several of them ran with us as we "sprinted" to the finish. We finished with 13 minutes to spare. No problem! That last lap was a bear; not exactly the negative split I wanted. Our pace that last lap was a little over 18 minutes per mile. Ugh!

I got my shoes off, got a drink, and found that there were still some burgers left for us! That was a good burger, let me tell you. I didn't expect to finish that slow, but I had talked to a lot of more experience runners who had attempted the Palo Duro 50M and didn't finished, so I was pleased to have finished at all. In fact, I don't know the official numbers, but I think 65 runners started the 50M that day, and 44 finished. I was 42 of 44.

I headed back to camp, took a long shower, and went out for Mexican food with the Buckleys. No hanging out by the campfire tonight. I took 2 Tylenol PMs and slept like a rock.

Like I said, my body was tired, but no injuries or unusual pains. My feet were in good shape, too. Just a couple of moderate blisters on my left foot, none on my right. (Thanks, Ford, for the awesome New Balance Trail Shoes!) My stomach did pretty well. Toward the end, nothing was tasting good, and after lots of Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans with Caffeine, M&Ms, fig bars, and potato chips, my mouth was feeling funky. I remember thinking this after Inks Lake, but I need to remember to bring a toothbrush. That would be nice 1/2way through the race. If and when I attempt a 100M race, I will have to be more deliberate about my nutrition.

Well, that was probably more than you wanted to know. When I stop and think about it, I'm still a bit amazed: I went 50 miles on foot in one day! Wowee.

Up next: the Great Brazos Relay, a 120 mile relay from Waco to College Station. This time I'll be sharing the duties with 6 teammates! Then, White Rock Marathon. Maybe I'll write another boring race report after those, too!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Long Night at Inks Lake

On August 29-30, I ran the longest, slowest race of my life and had a great time. It was a 60K trail run at Inks Lake State Park. I finished in about 8:36.

Now for a bit more detail.

I went to the doctor Thursday for my well child check up. She said my blood pressure was terrific, and she bragged about how I was 20 pounds lighter than when I saw her 2 years ago. My EKG looked great. Its alarm went off because my resting heart rate was so low--47 bpm. It was gratifying to have my improved health, resulting from running, objectively affirmed.

On to the race. I left FW a little before 2 Saturday. I was tired already, and hoping I was not sick. I started getting a sore throat on Thursday, and was congested Thurs and Fri. I never had fever but thought I was getting a cold. I was still congested a little for a time on Sat, but figured I'd be OK. I was tired, but then I'm tired most of the time.

I got to Inks Lake in plenty of time to get registered, changed, warm up, and check out the terrain. The race started at 7.

Lap 1
About 60 runners started the race, which was 6 10K laps. It's a rugged trail, with lots of rocky sections, and some climbing. Not as much elevation change as I expected, though. It may have just been me, but it seems like the nice, smooth sections were uphill, and the downhills were mostly rocky, so there weren't too many places where you could cruise downhill without worrying about rocks and ledges. On this first lap, I did decide to let gravity pull me down the hills while I stepped with my mountain goat-like dexterity, making pretty good time. After a few minutes I fell in with Charlie, a hotel manager from Houston, who is good friends with Dean "The Ultramarathon Man" Karnazes. They used to run together frequently when Charlie lived in California. We kept a good pace together and enjoyed chatting.
This is a beautiful trail with some pretty views of the lakes and surrounding hill country.

Lap 2
For this lap, we had to strap on our head lamps. The downhills became much more tricky to navigate in the dark, slowing me down. Charlie and I stuck together the whole second lap after a break at the start/finish line. We kept up a good pace. I had my one fall on this lap. I tripped but caught myself with my hands, and my knees didn't hit the ground. Lucky. So much for the views. From here on out, the only view is what my headlamp lights up in front of me.

Lap 3
Charlie spent a bit longer at the s/f aid station, so I took off without him. I should have stuck with him, I guess, because this was a hard lap. I did run for a while with a guy with a long ponytail. We kept passing each other up. For some reason I was really tired on this lap. I wondered if I would finish. There was one section of the loop with an out and back (if the course was a circle, at that point in the circle you would run toward the center for a few minutes, go around a yellow stake, and run back to the same point on the circle. There was an aid station at the stake.) I wouldn't do this, but I did wonder what would stop me from only going partway to the stake. . . . I got ahead of ponytail and went on to the s/f aid station.

Lap 4
Shortly after I started this lap, I ate some Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans with Caffeine. That gave me a good boost. This felt like my best lap. I ran mostly alone, but stayed on pace. I became much more confident on the rocky downhills, which was encouraging. I stumbled a few times, but didn't fall again.
I finished lap 4 a little under 5:20. So now this is the longest I have ever run, time wise. I finished El Scorcho 50K in 5:19, and the Grasslands trail marathon in 4:50.

Lap 5
This was another good lap. I did start to feel some cramping, so I took some Endurolytes Electrolyte Replenishment Capsules which seemed to help. Still by myself, for the most part, I lapped a couple of people, which felt good!
After this lap, this is now the longest I have ever run at once. (El Scorcho 50K was the longest before now.)

Lap 6
Charlie and another guy came into the s/f aid station a couple minutes behind me; they had been gaining on me late in lap 5. I left just before them, with the determination that I was going to run hard this last lap. I wanted a negative split, where the last lap is faster than the first few. I started out well, lapping a couple more people, then I passed a couple who were also on their last lap. I started getting the big head, thinking, "I'm going to beat Charlie-who-trains-with-Dean-Karnazes." Then here come two people behind me--Charlie and his friend. They passed me, and I tried to pace with them for a couple minutes, but couldn't do it. They clearly saved more for the end than I did! I figured I wouldn't be able to catch them, but that my standing wasn't going to change because I couldn't tell that anyone was anywhere close behind me. I decided I would still finish strong, and at least run on the smoother parts. Well, I started walking more, running out of gas. One more guy passed me, but I did run the last half mile or so to the end.
By the way, one nice thing about a looped course is that you can take note of any trail hazards and avoid them on subsequent loops. So on laps 1-5, I carefully ducked under the low-hanging branch over the trail just after you cross the park road. You'd think by lap 6 I'd have that one figured out. Nope. That scab at my hairline, plus a modest collection of blisters, is the only injury from the night. Oh, one more funny thing--Zippy told me today "Daddy, your feet are all ripped up."

Results, 14th out of 51 starters, 31 finishers. I don't know yet how many dropped out. I know one guy I met dropped out b/c he had eye surgery this week and that was bothering him. There was also a pack of women who dropped out after being freaked out by a howling pack of coyotes.

I was tired, but probably could have/should have pushed more on the final lap. Some of the guys at the end told me this trail is much tougher than the one at Palo Duro Canyon, which is where I am going to run a 50 mile race in October. That was encouraging. Even though it's slower and harder, trail running is definitely more enjoyable than road races. I'm not ready to be completely done with road racing, but trail racing is my favorite.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why Lean Forward Run Farther

I guess on one level the title of this blog is pretty self-explanatory. But I want to add the source behind it. Some time ago I read a book by Danny Dreyer called ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. Dreyer is a world-class ultramarathoner and running coach. This is a gross simplification, but his basic approach to running is that you keep your body aligned while leaning forward and let gravity do the rest. Like in t'ai chi (as if I know anything about tai chi), in chirunning your core is the source of your power. Your legs and arms are like pendulums swinging from the core. I am certainly not claiming to be a great exemplar of chirunning. For more information about it, check Dreyer's web site:

When I'm out running, whether on a training run or in a race, and I feel my pace slow or start feeling tired, "Lean forward!" has become my inner mantra. To the extent I have tried to utilize the chirunning style, I think I have seen some improvement. I still have a ways to go.

Oh, and "Lean forward!" is always yelled in my brain in a thick Central American accent. Why?

When I was in college, one of my roommates, Brandon, went on a mission trip somewhere in Central America. He told a hilarious story about their flight on a tiny plane. They could literally see the runway through the floor of the plane. The crew (if that's not too lofty a term) told them to put all their bags in the front of the plane. The crew lifted the tail to help them taxi down the runway. The little engine struggled to gain enough speed for liftoff. As Brandon told it, as they accelerated down the runway the pilot was yelling back over his shoulder, "Lean forward! Lean forward!" They did manage to safely take off--I'm sure with a lot of prayer.

So while "Lean forward" reminds me to be aware of my body alignment and running style, it also serves as a reminder that in spite of substandard equipment and too much weight (that's me), I can go the distance, too.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Running Latecomer

Running is not new to me, I guess. We all run at one time or another. But running as a pastime, running as a near obsession, that's what is new.

I do remember when I mowed the neighbor's yard, when I was about 11. I saved up some cash, and what did I want to buy? Running shoes! Why? I don't really know. . . . I don't remember running much, and when I did run I was slow and got tired. I also remember asking for a "Jogging for Jesus" t-shirt for my birthday. It had a picture of a turtle wearing running shoes. I saw it at the mall when were on the way to Luby's after church. But I don't remember doing much running, except under compulsion at P.E., or as part of the game at Little League.

I ran a little after college, but never got into it for very long. I scoffed at my brother's desire to run and to enter races. Why pay money to run with hundreds of strangers early on a Saturday morning when you can run whenever you want for free? At times I would build up to running 2 or 3 or 4 miles at a time, sometimes maybe even 5. But for one reason or another, I would quit.

Then last year I realized that I was getting close to 40. The scale was consistently reading closer to 200. My relative youthfulness and good health would not last long at that rate. So I decided I needed to run. Coming up in a couple months was the Fort Worth Zoo Run. On the web site they posted a simple 10K training program. Ten K was longer than I had ever run, so I figured that would be a good challenge. I registered, followed the program, and ran! My goal was to finish in an hour; I finished in 57:11, 29th out of 44 in my age group. Not only did I finish well, I enjoyed it and immediately started looking for another race to run.

After a recent race, I sent out a race report to a few friends and running acquaintances. One said, "Do you have a blog?" I didn't, so here goes. I have benefitted from and been informed and entertained by blog postings from other runners. So I'll add my voice to the mix: A blog to post reports from races, thoughts on running, and, I guess, whatever else comes to mind.