Friday, December 24, 2010

Back on my feet

I know you're supposed to rest a bit after a marathon, but since White Rock I have gone 18 whole days without running a step!!  Ugh!  Excuses?  Not really.  Just 1) lazy, 2) tired, and 3) lazy.  Plus, I don't have a running plan in place right now.  That's the main reason.  If I don't have a plan laid out telling me what to run today, I tend not to run.  I have decided not to run the Bandera (100K)/Rocky Raccoon (100 mile) combo I had said I would run (back in October).  I'm thinking my next run might be Cross Timbers (50 mile) in February.  Yes, as I crossed the finish line at the last one, I swore I'd never do it again.  But after coming in last place and nearly setting the record for the slowest time ever on the course (report here), I feel like I have to redeem myself.  Plus, I can probably beat my time from last year!

So this morning I slept in, but I did get out and run 8 miles.  I returned to my hilly route.  I didn't run there for several weeks leading up to White Rock, since I was focused on upping my pace.  If I go to Cross Timbers again, I will definitely have to be doing some hill work.

More importantly, whether you're running, sitting on the couch, flying or driving to see your family and friends, have a very merry Christmas!  I pray that Jesus will be more real to you than ever this year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jogging for Jesus, soul music style

More fun from my Google searching!  Ever heard of  Leslie Harris and the House of Fire?  Me neither.  But they recorded at least this one song, that, for its silliness, has stayed alive on the internet.  It is silly, but oddly addicting. . . .  Click on play and hear this musical treat for yourself!  (This link will take you to another site that plays the file.  It's safe as far as I can tell. . . .  And I have no idea if posting this falls under fair use, so if I'm breaking a law or violating copyright here, please forgive me.)

Early one Sunday morning Jesus came into my room.
He woke me up saying, "We gonna have a run."
I jumped up out of my bed, put on my jogging shoes.
My wife she woke up saying, "What are we gonna do."

And I told her (I told her!)
Jogging (I'm jogging!) for Jesus (for Jesus!)
Oh yes I am now! (I am)
I'll keep on, I'll keep on running with the Lord.

My wife, she got up, ran in the other room
Said "All of the children get up, we gonna have a run!"
And as we ran for a mile or two I noticed we never got tired.
Every time I looked around, God was by our side!


Some people jog-a for pleasure
Some people jog-a for fame
And all of us get in line, we're gonna jog-a in my Jesus' name
All of you people get up on your feet and put on your jogging shoes
And all of us get in line, we're gonna spread the news.

We are (we are) jogging (jogging) for Jesus!
We are running with the Lord!
(etc., ad lib, keep on running, keep on singing!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Running with Jesus kitsch

In my last post, I wrote about my "Running with Jesus" friend at White Rock.  While looking for an image to include for that post, I ran across some Jesus kitsch that I thought I'd pass along.  I was reminded of the time when I was 12 and decided I would be a jogger.  I used my lawn mowing money to by some Nike running shoes with the waffle soles.  I saw a t-shirt in the Christian bookstore in the mall with a turtle wearing a sweatband that read "Jogging for Jesus."  I asked for the shirt for my birthday, but I didn't get it.  I wish I could find a picture of that shirt!  Here are some more modern interpretations of the theme.
I <em>Jog</em> With <em>Jesus</em> T-Shirt (Guys), Navy Blue, Medium
Looks like Jesus is in the lead.

<em>Jesus</em> the Jogger <em>Jog</em> Rectangle Magnet by CafePress
Does Jesus need to stretch before running?
He must have been pretty fit, walking everywhere he went.
Did people in the first century have a clue about stretching?
If Jesus stretched after a day's walking up toward Jerusalem, the disciples would probably have thought he was nuts.

<em>Jesus</em> is my <em>running</em> buddy keychain
Not a very good picture.  It says, "Jesus is my running buddy."  You can get this on key chains, shirts, mugs, bags, etc. at  Jesus is a good running buddy.  He never gets too far ahead or behind, doesn't care if you fart, and will always listen.
Here's another view of the one from the last blog.  Cute?  Dumb?  Silly?  Inspiring?  You be the judge.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Running with Jesus at White Rock

I know a lot of people use their running time as devotional time, enjoying fellowship with Jesus as they run.  I have to admit I'm not one of those people.  I do pray occasionally when I run, like when I'm struggling during a race, looking for divine power to go on.  But running time generally isn't prayer time for me.
Sunday at White Rock, I came up behind a runner whose shirt said "Running with Jesus" on the back.  I asked him if Jesus was helping him out today.  Sure, he said, but ask me again in 15 miles.  I told him about one time when I asked Jesus for help in a race.  Last February at Rocky Raccoon, I was tired, hurting a bit, and running out of steam.  I asked Jesus, sincerely, to give me some strength to go on.  He didn't take long to reply: I didn't ask you to run this race!  I didn't sign you up!  You're on your own, buddy!  (All of this said with a friendly punch in the arm.)  I had to agree with him, and knew that my training and my mental and physical stamina would get me through the race.

My Running with Jesus friend, after I told him that story, was not too impressed.  "He told you that, did he?"  I said, yeah, he didn't make me sign up today, but I sure could use some help.  So right there while we were running he put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for strength in my legs to go on.  I guess I did feel a little boost there!  (I sure could have used some more of his prayers around mile 21.) 

I quickly let my friend know that I am in fact a believer, and that I do believe in the efficacy of prayer, and that I meant no blasphemy by my story.  I'm sure that wasn't Jesus I heard from on the trail at Rocky.  I know the ability to run, the time and resources to train and enter a race, the beautiful places to run, the very air, water, and food I rely on to run, are all wonderful gifts from him.  But I'll continue to rely more on training than prayer to get me to the finish line.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pacing and negative splits

I've heard of negative splits.  I've even run negative splits in training runs.  But negative splits in a race?  Forget it!  Usually when I run in a race, I try to hold back at the start, to hold some energy in reserves for later in the race, but it's never enough.  Negative splits constantly elude me.

The official results page from White Rock lists the times and rank for 10K, 1/2 way, 20 miles, and finish.  I don't feel like figuring the paces for each of these, but it's instructive to look at the relative rankings of the winners.  The following is the rank at 10K, 13.1 miles, 20 miles, and at the finish for the top 10 males:
9, 5, 1, 1
7, 6, 2, 2
5, 7, 3, 3
10, 10, 6, 4
14, 13, 8, 5
4, 3, 4, 6
1, 1, 7, 7
2, 4, 10, 8
13, 14, 12, 9
15, 15, 15, 10
From this you can't tell how their pace changed throughout the race, but you can sure see that the winners were holding back.  The seventh and eighth finishers must have had some confidence at first--or maybe they knew those Kenyans (1-5 were all Kenyans) were just a few paces back and they would inevitably close in. . . .

In my case, I'm guilty of going way too fast out of the gate.  I felt like I was doing great.  But check out my places, again at 10K, 13.1 miles, 20 miles, and finish: 403, 477, 666, 1241.  My pace was steady from 10K to 13.1 miles, but others were gaining on me.  I lost some ground to mile 20, then a lot of ground the last 6 miles.  Compare these results to Mark's: 1193, 1139, 1048, 1027.  I'm not sure he ran negative splits, either, but at least he gained position throughout the race instead of losing.  To further illustrate, according to the White Rock data, Mark passed 129 people in the last quarter of the race, and 32 passed him.  Me?  During the last quarter, 436 people passed me, I passed 1.  Ouch.  As I look forward to another race, I definitely need to work on pacing and finishing strong.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

White Rock III: Two Races in One

Today I ran the White Rock Marathon for the third consecutive year.  It was an absolutely perfect day.  Sunny, cool, but not too freezing, with very little wind.  The race started at Fair Park this year instead of the American Airlines Center, which gave us quite a bit more room to move around.  For an urban marathon, White Rock does a great job, with terrific support and amenities.

As I said in my last post, I had several goals for White Rock today.  The biggest, same as last year, was to qualify for Boston with a 3:20:59 finish.  I figured this would be a stretch, and it was.  I started with the 3:20 pace group, and at first thought I would struggle to keep up.  But after a mile or two, I got in the rhythm and really did not feel like I was pushing it too much.  In fact, when we saw the 8 mile marker, I was a bit surprised; I couldn't believe we had already run that far.  I stayed on pace for the whole first half, and felt good about finishing with the pace group.  But I stopped at about the 1/2 way mark to use the porta-potty, and never did catch back up to them.

Even though I was behind the balloons of the pace leader, I had a wrist band that told me what my time should be at each mile marker to finish in 3:20, and for the first couple of miles after my break, I was still on track.  But gradually, each split became longer: 30 seconds behind, 2 minutes behind, 4 minutes behind.  After mile 16, each lap became progressively slower.  I didn't really hit "the wall," I just got slower and slower.  Those last 10 miles were so discouraging, as virtually every runner near me was passing me up.  So my second goal, to beat last year's time of 3:35:32, gradually slipped away, and I began to focus on beating my time at WR I in 2008, 4:03:15.  I ended up finishing under 4 hours, at 3:57:29.

My brother Mark ran, too, and finished about 5 minutes faster than I did.  I think a better strategy for me would be to accept the reality that I don't have a 3:20 marathon in me, and Mark and I could have run together.  If we had started together with a 3:40 or 3:50 goal, perhaps we could have helped each other run even faster.

I had a lot more fun the first half than the second, finishing with my best-ever 1/2 marathon time, but that took so much out of me that most of the second half was nothing but toil, finishing with my worst-ever 1/2 marathon time.  The two halves together made a not terrible finishing time, but I know had I run smarter I could have achieved a better finish.  I guess I'll start making plans for the next BQ attempt!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

White Rock III

Sunday morning I will run the White Rock Marathon for the third consecutive year.  WR I, 2008, was my first ever marathon.  I was pleased with my finish, coming in at just over 4 hours, 4:03:16.  By the time I ran WR II, 2009, I had run a few marathons and ultras, and improved my speed.  I started with the 3:20 pace group, but had to slow down after 18 or so, and finished in 3:35:32.  Still a great improvement over my PR, but short of the goal: a 3:20 Boston qualifying time.

So for WR III, I have several goals. 

1. 3:20:59.  This is the time in which a 40-44 year old male has to finish a certified marathon in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Boston is the only major U.S. marathon that has a qualifying time, and it's the goal of many a runner to get there.

2. 3:35:31.  If I don't qualify for Boston, at least I would like to beat my time from last year.  I read somewhere about a guy who held the world record for the number of marathons in which he beat his previous time.  This is my 4th road marathon (I ran the Cowtown in February of 2009; all my other marathon and longer races have been on trails.), so why not keep the streak going?

3. 4:03:15.  Surely I can run faster than I did at my first marathon, when I didn't really know much about training or running a race!

4. If I can't beat any of those times, I'd at least like to have fun and finish without injury.  Mark is running, too, but he says he'll be slower than me.  (So I guess goal #4 could be to beat my little brother, who, as Zippy says, is nowhere near as fat as me!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things seen while running: a wild hog in the neighbors' yard

I wrote a few weeks ago about seeing the small herd of wild hogs crossing the road behind my house. (this post).  Last Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I saw on on my street!  He was hanging out in Stacy and Brent's yard, on the corner just where we enter the neighborhood from Precinct Line.  It was about 5 a.m., and I'm sure he thought he had the street to himself.  I stopped and watched him, wondering if he would stick around long enough for me to go get my camera.  I didn't have to think about it long.  His early morning activities interrupted, he took off toward Precinct Line, to disappear into the woods.  I'm glad he didn't run toward me; he can run much faster than I can!  I will have to remember always to run in the morning with a camera and a high-powered rifle.  Wild pork sausage anyone?
The swine was in this front yard.

This is the swine's work, not in someone's yard, but along Precinct Line.

Stacy and Brent were spared the hog landscaping job, but I did see some houses that were attacked.  In fact, our next-door-neighbor's flower bed was turned up pretty good.  I don't know why they didn't get the grass at our end of the street.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Salado Turkey Trot 2010

Thanksgiving Day marked the first ever, as far as I know, Salado Turkey Trot.  The attendance was terrific: nearly every member of my family signed up to run!  We had a one mile race and a 5K.  With Dad as honorary race director and official time keeper, we ran around my parents' neighborhood on a warm, muggy, and a little bit drizzly Thanksgiving morning. 
The milers get ready to start, with Mom patrolling in the golf cart.
Drew took first place in the mile run, followed closely by his brother Evan and sister Lindsay.  I guess Mark's family got the fast genes. . . .  Kelsey got a special prize for finishing the mile while pushing Chloe in her wheelchair almost the entire way.
Kelly and Kelsey and Chloe race to the finish, while Zippy and Drew watch.
The field for the 5K was a little bit smaller.  Mark, David, Drew, Jake, Evan, Zippy, and I started.  Zippy dropped out after about 200 yards, and, inexplicably, got lost coming back home.  (He actually made it back home before anyone realized he was lost. . . .)  Drew dropped out about 1/2 way through; I think his mile win took too much out of him.  Jake dropped, too, when his asthma acted up.
The 5K start.  Notice Zippy running barefoot.  Smart kid.  Also notice Lisa, sitting on the curb, still in her PJs.
Mark and I tied, with a blazing fast time of 25:07 (Mark probably had to hold back to stay with me, since, as my goofy child declared, I am a lot fatter than Mark!)  Evan followed a few minutes later, with David bringing up the rear, declaring that he hadn't run that far in years!
Dad cheering on his boys to a photo finish.
The promised rain never never fully materialized, and the bitterly cold wind didn't come up until later, so the weather was about perfect for the Trot.  I think everyone had a good time and all will now start training for the Salado Turkey Trot 2011!

(Big thanks to Laura for the photos!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Runner

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dean Karnazes and the documentary UltraMarathon Man, which chronicles his quest to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  That's a total of 1310 miles in 50 days.  Last night I watched another documentary that make Karnazes's quest look like a stroll in the park!  OK, I admit, there's nothing easy about what Karnazes did and does, and I don't take away from that, but I think even Karnazes has to be impressed with David Horton.

The Runner follows the 55-year-old Horton as he attempts to break the record for running the Pacific Crest Trail.  The PCT runs from the Mexican border in Southern California, through California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian border, a total of 2650 miles.  I won't keep you in suspense: he crushed the record, covering the distance in 66 days, 7 hours, 16 minutes.  So if we round off the 67 days, and take Horton's reckoning of 2666 miles (there were a few off-trail adventures), that would be almost 40 miles a day, every day, for 67 days.  (He did take a day off around day 28, during which he ate and slept all he could.)

I really enjoyed this movie on a number of levels.  First of all, as an introduction to the PCT.  Even though I went to Yosemite National Park when I was 11, I guess I mainly think of California as coastline, cities, and agriculture.  But there are major mountains in California!  (I know, pointing out the obvious!)  The trail  "passes through six out of seven of North America's ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country" so hikers and runners experience quite the range of terrains and views.  Every scene was absolutely gorgeous.

Second, David Horton himself impressed me.  A committed Christian, Horton teaches health sciences at Liberty University.  Some scenes showed him running with his students in his popular running class.  His boundless energy and love of running infect the students, some of whom become ultrarunners themselves.  He loves to run, and attributes his ability to run long distances to a God-given gift.  Horton's PCT record is but one accomplishment in a long career of running ultras.  He's run all the biggees, won many of them, has run across America, run the Appalachian Trail, and is race director for several ultras.

Third, how about the sheer insanity of running that long for that many days!  Yeah, I've run a couple of 50 milers, but to run 40-50 miles, much at altitude and on rugged trails, every day for more than 2 months is inconceivable!  For many legs of his run, Horton had people running with him.  Even experienced, world-class ultra trail runners who ran with him expressed their disbelief.  They could keep up with him for a day, but struggled to imagine keeping it up days on end.  I love the way he fits in with these ultrarunners: a clean cut, middle-aged professor from one of the most conservative Christian universities hanging out with these hippie trail-running young bucks, and not only holding his own but winning their admiration.

This is a well-made video about a great guy and passionate runner, running on a gorgeous, challenging trail, setting a record and having fun.  I find nothing not to admire about Horton, and, maybe, in the back of my mind, can see myself, someday, following in his footsteps. . . . (In my dreams!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Things Seen While Running: Premature Christmas Decorations Again

I saw my first premature Christmas decorations Saturday (11/13).  Last year I saw them on November 9 (post here), 4 days earlier.  I think the difference may be that the neighborhood I saw them in last year was a pay-someone-to-put-up-your-decorations neighborhood.  (I don't live in one of those neighborhoods.)  They probably have to get on the schedule early for those decorators.  
Of course, I've been seeing Christmas stuff in stores for while, since before Halloween.  But Friday night I saw a first, Christmas trees for sale at Borders Books, of all places.  One was purple and one was pink.  Yuck!  I don't get it.  Also on Friday, KLTY was playing a Christmas song every hour, which Zippy loved, and Chloe was listening to her new Christmas CD!  Ugh!  I love Christmas and I love Christmas music, but it's too much, too soon!  

One last thing: Chloe's CD has the worst Christmas song ever, "J-E-S-U-S, Holy Child."  The children sing, "There was a holy Christmas child and Jesus was his name-o, J E S U S" to the tune of BINGO!  Awful, just awful!

Merry early Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yasso 800s revisited

I don't know if I'm dumb or just ignorant.  Probably a healthy dose of both. 

I have been running Yasso 800s for 2 years now.  Developed by Runner's World's Bart Yasso, Yasso 800s are a way to run intervals by which you can predict your marathon race time.  You run 10 800s, with a 400 jog break in between, and your average time on the 800s predicts your marathon time.  So if you run them in an average time of 3 minutes 20 seconds, you should be able to run a marathon in 3 hours 20 minutes. 
Bart Yasso, super runner and super nice guy.
 I had it down.  Like I said, I've been running them for more than 2 years.  I have, several times, run Yassos in less than my goal of 3:20.  But the other day, a friend of mine dropped a revelation on me.  You see, I initially based my Yassos on the brief article about them in Runner's World.  It repeatedly refers to running 800s, but never states whether that's 800 yards or meters.  (Actually, now that I look at it again, it says 800 meters right there in bold letters at the top.  Maybe they added that recently for morons like me!)  I'm an American, I don't use metric.  Why would I?  Eight hundred yards is .454545. . . mile, so I have been setting my Garmin for intervals of .46 mile. 

Well, if I had ever run on a track, I would know that when runners talk about 800s, 400s, 1600s, or whatever, they are referring to meters!  As my friend pointed out, I should be running 800 meters per interval, not 800 yards!  Eight hundred meters is .4971 mile, so this morning I reset my Garmin for intervals of .5 mile.  That extra 4/100 of a mile may not sound like much, but it adds 211.2 feet to each interval.

Like I've said, I have, on occasion, run 3:20 or faster Yassos, in anticipation of being in the ballpark for a 3:20 marathon.  I probably ran my Yassos today as fast as I've ever run, but since I ran 800 meters instead of 800 yards, I only averaged 3:31.  I think I'll still run with the 3:20 pace group at White Rock, hoping against hope that I'll find some way to finish in that time.  But more realistically, I would expect to be able to finish in the 3:31 range.  Run and learn. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ultramarathons and public policy

Today I was reading Reason, my favorite magazine, and ran across a column referencing JFK's 50 mile hikes.  Several months ago, I wrote about the historical origins of the modern 50 mile race (here).  In short, JFK wanted to promote fitness, so he adopted the military 50 mile hike concept for civilians.  All over the country, people were going on 50 mile hikes.  Ultimately, the movement died when he did, but the race that bears his name, the JFK 50 Mile Race, lives on; the 48th annual race will be run on November 20th.

Back to Reason.  Greg Beato's column, "The Fitness Divide," discussed JFK's emphasis on fitness.  He didn't want the U.S. to be less fit than any enemy who might invade us.  He wanted the government to "make a substantial contribution toward improving the health and vigor of our citizens."  His efforts, unfortunately, have lost out to the growing "national flabbiness."  The military and fire and police departments complain that their recruits are out of shape.  In 2009, "more than a third of America's adults qualified as obese."

Ironically, during this same time period, exercise in America has taken off.  "In 2009, a record 467,000 people completed a marathon in the U.S." and even in the mainstream media, reports of ultramarathons and other endurance events are commonplace.  How is this "fitness divide" possible?  Beato writes that, yes, conveniences like fast food and technological advances contribute to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, but they also have given us record amounts of free time.  Who had time to train for a marathon if one was plowing the fields, washing clothes in a washtub, or taking hours to prepare every meal?
If fast food chains gave us 1,000-calorie milkshakes, they also freed up time to go jogging.  If VCRs gave us the couch potato, they also gave us aerobics videos.  If technology made it less necessary to expend energy in pursuit of daily subsistence, it also gave us Nike air soles, polypropylene running shorts, heart-rate monitors, and organic granola.
The policy question in all of this lies in the level of government intrusion in our personal lives.  I'm hearing more and more about taxes on sugar and other "unhealthy" foods, restrictions on advertising and marketing food to children, and other supposed anti-obesity measures.  The attitude seems to be, "We're soft because technology, processed food, and our consumerist way of life have made us soft, and only Congress can liberate us from obesity."  Of course I want people to be healthier and more active, but let's draw the line when it comes to legislating personal behavior.

Here's an ad from the President's Council on Physical Fitness:

Beato's column is in the December 2010 issue of Reason.  It's not posted online yet, but in a few weeks you should be able to read it at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

UltraMarathon Man: 50 Marathons - 50 States - 50 Days

Some people are just made different.  Dean Karnazes makes that point in this video: it's all about choosing your parents well.  Karnazes's ultrarunning feats astound anyone who's heard of him, and many have.  He's been featured on countless news shows, talk shows, published a couple of books, and run in races all around the world.  It's easy to look at him as a hero.
UltraMarathon Man chronicles one of his many bold feats: he ran, as the title suggests, a marathon in all 50 states over the course of 50 days, culminating in the New York Marathon.  Some of the marathons were organized races.  Most were put together by his crew, in which case they followed the course of the host city's established marathon.  Through the grapevine and his blog, Karnazes gathered a group to run with him at each site, sometimes hundreds of people, in one case only one.

One thing that struck me while watching this was how much fun it must be to run with Karnazes.  I have heard criticism of him as a self-centered self-promoter, but none of that came across in this video.  He shows lots of interest in the people he runs with, and shows genuine humility when people express their admiration.  He promotes not himself, but activity, exercise, getting people off the couch, fighting childhood obesity and general inactivity.  Who can argue with that? 

This feat, running 50 marathons in 50 days, has been replicated, probably by a number of people.  Karnazes does it right, though, with great support and planning, getting to every state in 50 days.  It's hard not be inspired by him. For someone who runs the occasional marathon, you have to ask, can I do more?  For someone who's never run one, you have to ask, why not try it?  Before I get too excited, though, Karnazes reminds me that his body chemistry and genetic make up have enabled him to have an extraordinary level of endurance.  Can I get there through nutrition and training?  That's the big question.  But after watching this movie, you'll be inspired at least to think about it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My 50 milers

After my DNF at Palo Duro, I have been reflecting on my ultrarunning record.  I'm slowly crawling out of my post-DNF depression, but still rather disgusted with myself for quitting.  It especially hit home after reading about Bart Yasso's race at Comrades in South Africa and his long history of running through pain (article in Runner's World here).  He has lyme disease yet has continued to race and to inspire others.  But I got a little hot and discouraged so I quit. Wah, wah, big baby.

So here is my illustrious record of 50 milers:
  • October 2009, Palo Duro: finished 13 minutes before the cutoff.  I probably would have laid down on the trail and quit if I hadn't met up with Brett, who was also running his first 50 miler.
  • February 2010, Rocky Raccoon: finished in just over 11 hours.  Not a bad finish, but my ankle hurt so badly I went and had it x-rayed the next day.  Nothing there, I'm just a big baby.
  • February 2010, Cross Timbers: a tough, hilly course, especially compared to the relative flatness of PD and Rocky.  I finished in about 15 hours, close to setting a course record.  The only slower time was set by a man in his 70s.  I probably would have quit this one, but I had to keep going to get back to my car.  I was probably not recovered from Rocky, 2 weeks before.
  • March 2010, Grasslands.  I quit after about 19 miles.  It was cold, wet, and muddy.  I still felt like a wimp, even though only 7 of the 70 starters finished.
  • October 2010, Palo Duro: quit 1/2 way through.
 Not exactly a steller 50 miler resume.  Part of my problem out on the course is the gradual loss of motivation.  I start thinking, I gave up a whole weekend for this?  I could be hanging out at home, playing with the kids, watching college football, working in the yard or around the house.  I missed soccer or football or judo!  I could take Kelly on a date!  And what's the point anyway? 

So, contrary to a recent post, I'm not going to plan on the 100k in Bandera and the 100 miler at Rocky.  I'm not saying I'll never do another 50 miler.  Part of me still wants to run a 100 miler, to try Western States or Leadville.  But part of me says, too, I could just go someplace pretty and run.  I don't need to pay a fee and get a number just to experience a nice trail.  The trail at Palo Duro is great; I love to run it, and it's got some great views.  But one lap gets you all the views and trails.  The next 3 are more of the same.

I'll start running again soon, and I'll probably sign up for another race soon.  I'm still planning on running White Rock since I'm already registered, but after that, I'm not sure what I'll run next.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sign on the trail

One trademark of the Palo Duro Trail Run is the signs posted along the course with witty and/or inspiring tidbits.  Toward the end of the loop, just before entering the camping area where the start/finish is located, one sign reads: "Adversity doesn't build character; adversity reveals character."  I guess a little of my character was revealed Saturday.  I encountered a little bit of adversity and quit.  I didn't have any particular physical reason for quitting, just a general fatigue and overall malaise.  I didn't see the point of continuing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

2 weeks! 100 miles?

Wow, I don't think I've ever gone 2 weeks without posting.  I guess I was letting a milestone sink in: my last post, the Run from the Ducks race report, was my 100th post!  Balloon drop!  Fireworks!  Party!  OK, so no big deal.  It's also closing in on a year since I started the blog.  I started it after Palo Duro last fall, and this weekend is my second shot at the Palo Duro 50 Mile Trail Run.

Last year's Palo Duro run was my first 50 miler.  I finished a few minutes before the 12 hour cutoff.  I'm heading up to the canyon this weekend again, hoping for a sub-11 hour run.  I don't know that I'm in much better shape than I was this time last year, but I'm hoping that the experience I've gained will help me in the latter miles.  This will be my 4th 50 mile race.

Speaking of multiple 50 mile races, I have decided not to pursue the Texas Style 50 Mile Grand Slam this year.  You may recall that last year I ran three 50 milers of the 5, then on the 4th I DNF'd, so I didn't finish the Slam.  In fact, the Slam had no finishers last year.  Palo Duro is the first race for the Slam, but they have changed the format this year so that instead of the 5 races from last year, runners can choose 5 of 7 possible races.  Due to my own scheduling, after Palo Duro, the next 4 I could choose from will be in a 7 week period, with 2 weeks between each race.  I don't think I would do very well with those so close together, so I'm going to try something different.

After Palo Duro, I'll return home for some hard training for the White Rock Marathon, the first weekend in December.  I'm aiming for a Boston Marathon qualifying time (3:20).  I'm feeling pretty good about it, but I need to lose some weight and crank up my pace on long runs.  After that, I've got some new races on tap.
On January 8, I'm going to run my longest run yet, a 100K (62 miles) in Bandera.  But that will be a mere training run for my next goal: my first 100 miler.  Last February, I ran the 50 miler at Rocky Raccoon at Huntsville State Park, so I'm familiar with the course.  Next February 5, I'll find out if I have what it takes to run 100 miles all at once.  More to come. . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

8 Hour Run from the Ducks

Saturday I spent a lovely, wet day at Clark Gardens Botanical Park running from the ducks, peacocks, geese, and some other fowl that may have been a guinea hen.  It was the 4th annual Run from the Ducks, my first, and my first timed run, in which you run as much as you can in the allotted time.  I was skeptical about this format, but decided it would be a nice opportunity for a training run looking ahead to Palo Duro Canyon.

The Race
Run from the Ducks is run by Tony and Carolyn Mathison and their daughter Cayla, along with a race committee of volunteers.  It showcases the lovely Clark Gardens, and raises funds for The National Vietnam War Museum. Tony, an ultrarunner himself, starts the race by drawing a line in the dirt with his toe (in Saturday's case, in the mud).  At then end of the day, he recognizes every runner (he and Cayla put on a chip and walk the course a bit so that they are the last place male and female runners; he doesn't want a registered runner to be in last place).  The course tours the gardens on dirt, grass, and gravel in a .854 mile loop.

In the past, Vietnam vets from the area counted laps, but this year they added chip timing, which probably made it a much easier day for the vets.  There were still several there to cheer us on.  (On a side note, it crossed my mind that they probably endured rain and mud a million times worse in unthinkable conditions as they served our country in Vietnam.  A humbling thought. . . .)  Also present were Mr. Clark, the gracious namesake of the Gardens, and his daughter.  The family atmosphere, home-town feel, small field, friendly race directors and volunteers, and great setting make RFTD exactly the kind of race that I got into trail/ultrarunning to enjoy.

The day started out wet.  I woke up to pouring rain and lightning.  What a great day to sleep in!  But I dragged myself out of bed, confident that it was a passing storm.  During the drive west to Weatherford, the rain stopped, so I thought it was clearing up.  I was wrong.  At Clark Gardens, the rain continued with a vengeance.  Thankfully, the support tent was large and dry.  This is probably the only race I'll ever go to in which the support tent has chandeliers, carpet, and tablecloths.  (Clark Gardens hosts lots of weddings and receptions.)  We watched it pour, watched the lightning, and waited for a one hour delayed start. 

We finally did get started at 8, not that the rain had stopped.  It continued to rain for about 2 1/2 more hours.  Needless to say, we got wet.  The raised beds at the gardens did a nice job of retaining the water--on the trail!  Even after the rain stopped, we splashed through the mud and puddles all day.  But it stayed very runnable; even the worst muddy spots were better than the best spots at Grasslands last spring. 

So we ran, around and around, all day long.  The weather cleared up, but it didn't get too warm.  The one aid station (a logistical advantage of a short, repeating course--fewer aid stations to stock!) had plenty of the usual supplies.  Passing by there, and by the support tent where I had some other supplies, once every .854 miles, made this an easy race to run.  In many ultras, you might have 5 miles or more between aid stations, so you really have to think, what will I need over the next hour or so?  At RFTD, if you get hungry or thirsty or need something else, it's always less than a mile away.

This is a great race for people who love timed races, obviously.  I spoke with several runners who have run similar races and love them.  For those who don't love them, it's a wonderful way to try ultrarunning.  If you have run a marathon and want to try a longer distance, this a perfect setting: flat, even course, accessible aid stations, friendly folks, and the ability to stop at any time.  And in my case, this serves as a perfect training run for a longer race, getting in time on my feet with support provided.

The Racers
One of the things I enjoy about these events is getting to know other runners.  RFTD is especially well-suited for this since the course is so short; even if someone is slower or faster than you, you'll eventually see them again as you lap each other.  So I got to visit with some nice folks:

  • Dan--who said he weighed 400 pounds 2 years ago, had gastric bypass surgery, and now competes in endurance events to raise money for childhood obesity awareness.
  • Thomas--who runs marathons most weekends, sometimes 2 a weekend.  He's a machine.  If I remember correctly, he ran the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February, then ran a marathon the next day.
  • Buddy--an experienced ultrarunner, he paced for Drew Meyer at Western States.
  • Jeff--another experienced ultrarunner and Leadville 100 finisher.
  • Robert--who was running in his first ultra.
  • Katrina--who's leaving in 2 weeks for Iraq, serving in the Air Force.  Won the women's division.
  • Claude and Andy--who kept running by me like I was standing still, and who finished 1st and 2nd. 
  • Deborah and Tammy--who were on the race committee.  Both of them like to race in timed races.
  • Carlos--whose wife sat out there ALL DAY cheering him (and me) on.
  • Ken and Lorri--the only married couple on the course (as far as I know). 

My Race
I set out to finish 35 miles.  I figured I could do that, and if I had a great day I could break 40.  I started out pretty well.  The first 4 hours I ran a lot with Jeff, Buddy, and Robert, eventual 4th, 5th, and 6th place finishers.  I enjoyed talking with them, and picked up some racing and training tips, but after a while, I took it a bit slower.  The second 4 hours, I had segments where I ran well, but couldn't keep up that pace.

With the wet conditions, VFFs were a good choice to run in.  I stopped once about 5-6 hours in to clean them out; I think the only shoes that wouldn't have collected mud and gravel would have been waders.  I did get some chafing in some personal areas, even using my cream to prevent it; when you're that wet for that long, it's hard to avoid!  Overall, my body held up well and I was even able to walk the next day!

So what did I learn?  I was reminded that my biggest weakness in ultras is nutrition, and maybe hydration.  I am quite sure I didn't eat enough, and I may not have drunk enough.  At about 4 hours, I ate a sunbutter sandwich, which sat in my stomach like a stone.  I subsequently had some cramping and 2 too-long potty breaks (one additional benefit to a small loop course--the potty is never more than .854 mile away, and it was an actual bathroom with plumbing, not a skid-o-can) which slowed me down.  By the end, I was doing a lot more walking than running. 

The bottom line, I ran 37.05 miles, according to my Garmin.  Official race results, 10th place overall, 43 laps, or 36.722 miles.

Is That a Runner?
Sometime after 7 hours had passed, I was walking along, counting the minutes to the finish.  A little boy, maybe 3, came the opposite direction with his daddy.  He asked his daddy, "Is that a runner?"  I'm sure I didn't look like a runner, but I was running on the inside!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

8 hour run tomorrow

It has been a long time since I have run an organized run.  My last races were my Grasslands DNF in March and the 5k at my kids' school in April.  Tomorrow I am going to run a race I said I would never run, the 8 Hour Run from the Ducks in Weatherford.  As it happens, Elliot will be gone for a puppet competition, so I'm off the hook for soccer, so I thought, why not, this will be a good training run for Palo Duro.

I had said I wouldn't do this run because it sounds so boring.  For 8 hours, I, along with about 40 other runners, will run laps on a .854 mile loop.  The winner is whoever runs the most laps. 

The good:
  • It's in Clark Gardens Botanical Park, so the scenery will be lovely, even if it's lovely again and again.
  • The anticipated slow pace and short course guarantee lots of opportunity for interaction with fellow runners.  Like a cocktail party on a track, except with Gatorade instead of martinis.
  • The race benefits the National Vietnam War Museum.  That's got to be a good thing, right?
  • A long training run with support. Much easier than a long run where I have to carry all my food and water or stop at convenience stores.
The bad: what could be bad?

It is supposed to rain tomorrow, but that will keep us cool.  Should be a great day!

If you're really bored, you can track my progress through the day here.
And of course, check back here for a full report afterwards.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First run in the new VFF Treks

At long last, I finally got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks, the VFFs designed for trail running.  The sole is a tad thicker, and there are some lugs on the sole to help grip on the trails.  I tried them out on a short 5 miler at Tandy Hills Natural Area, which I wrote about a few months ago here.  I had run there before in my VFF Sprints, and was uncomfortable for much of the time on the rocky trials.  With the slightly thicker soles, the Treks made a big difference.  I still stepped carefully on the rocky sections, but my feet didn't end up feeling pulverized.  One side issue--any of you VFF wearers have an issue with grass and weeds getting stuck between your toes?  Some of the trails there are not well-travelled, and are a bit overgrown.  There were a few times I had to stop and pull big weeds out from between my toes.

This run was also a wake-up call: I do not run enough on trails and hills.  By necessity of schedule, most of my running is on flat streets and sidewalks in my neighborhood, which is fine if I'm running road races.  But to get ready for the trail runs I have coming up, I really should make more time for trails.  Tandy Hills offers some great short climbs for training.  I got to practice my "power hiking" there (i.e., I was too hot and tired to run up the steep, rocky trails, so I walked some of them!), as well as picking my way down those trails.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Drew Meyer, superhuman!

Drew Meyer has done it!  He's completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning!  That means that in less than three months' time, he finished Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100, and the Wasatch 100.  That's right, 4 100 mile races in a summer.  Did I mention he's 62?  What an accomplishment!
(Photo from

The Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run is in Utah, in the Wasatch Mountains, with a cumulative elevation gain of over 26000 feet.  That's a lot of climbing for a guy from Fort Worth.  Drew finished in 35:27:32.  That's a lot of hours awake, much less a lot of hours on your feet, much less a lot of hours running in the mountains, much less a lot of hours running at elevations up to 10000 feet.  No matter how you measure it, Drew has accomplished what most would never try and what few could actually finish.  Huge congratulations to him, and many thanks for the inspiration!  Way to go!
On the Wasatch 100 course. What a gorgeous place to run. Or walk.  Or sit.  Or anything.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Things Seen While Running the Lawnmower: A Snake in the Grass

If you've read this blog at all, you will know that every entry isn't strictly about running.  So here's one that's not at all about running.  The other day when I was mowing in the back yard, I moved a soccer ball which was in the corner.  Underneath, I found this little snake!  Kelly says it's a diamond back water snake, a harmless little guy.  He wasn't happy with me, though.  Watch him strike at me 48 seconds into the video.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leadville Follow-Up

I read a couple of race reports from the Leadville 100 I wanted to pass along.

Anton Krupicka, a world-class trail runner, writes a nice blog (here).  His impressive running resume includes a win at Leadville in 2006 and 2007, a win at Rocky Racoon in 2007, and a close second at Western States this year, where he and winner Geoff Roes both broke the course record.  A favorite to win at Leadville this year, he unfortunately took a DNF after running the majority of the course.

One passage from his race report jumped out at me: "Dakota [his pacer] and I crawled along at a pathetic 9-10min/mile pace with the only thing keeping me from walking being sheer shame."  This after running at least 60-70 miles among the front runners of a race that attracts the best ultramarathoners, and shortly before dropping out of the race.  I know I shouldn't even begin to compare myself to a world-class runner like Krupicka, but that "pathetic 9-10 min/mile pace" sounds blazing fast at Leadville!
Krupicka around mile 60.  This photo appears at his race report on Running Times's site.

He added, "Dakota let me walk for a few seconds as I ate a gel (poor, weak, weak excuse)."  That's an excuse I frequently use during a race!  And yeah, I guess it is pretty poor and weak. . . .

Closer to reality, I also read Drew Meyer's report.  He's an experienced trail runner who ran an impressive race.  In spite of a bit of nausea and some blisters, he finished strong, just under 29 hours.  To finish at all in a race with a 46% finishing rate is impressive.  I liked his account of his stomach issues: "I had a little stomach problem [at Halfmoon aid station].  About 100 feet beyond HM I asked Mark [his pacer] to go back for more Coke (to replace that which was now on my shoe along with the soup) and resumed walking."  Fun times on the trail.

Thanks to both of these runners for the inspiration!  Next time around look for me on the trail!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Barefoot Running on NPR--again!

Last month, Diane Rehm had a show dedicated to barefoot running (I noted it in my blog here.).  Last night, I happened to hear another show called "To the Best of Our Knowledge", which had a feature on running.  It wasn't all about barefoot running, but most of it was.

The first segment was an interview with Christopher McDougall, who told stories from Born to Run, and, of course, talked a bit about barefoot running.  Then Gretchen Reynolds talked about health and running, including a response to the interviewer's question about barefoot running.  Then Jason Robillard, a long-time barefoot ultrarunner discussed barefoot running.  Finally, the presenter read selections from Haruki Murakami, a novelist and runner who never mentions running barefoot.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable program for any runner, barefoot or not.  I downloaded the whole show from itunes; you can also stream it and find out more about the interviewees at the website,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Things Seen While Running: Wild Hogs Crossing the Street

Wednesday morning as I headed out for my long run, I was greeted by an amusing sight.  Just a couple hundred yards from our house, a small herd of 5 wild hogs stopped traffic as they crossed Precinct Line, looking for better foraging grounds I suppose.  I sure wished I had my camera with me!  They weren't too big, and paid no attention to me.
Not the hogs I saw.  Just a random picture I found on another site.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Negative splits on a long run--getting there!

This morning several things were working in my favor, improving my long run pacing.

  1. It wasn't hot.  Monday our high was 107.  Today it was in the 70s and overcast.  Much nicer.
  2. It was morning.  I don't mind running in the evening, but I generally run better in the morning.
  3. I ate more.  I e-mailed a running coach I met on our bike ride, and he encouraged me to take in more calories when I run.  I more than doubled my intake.  Plus I at breakfast an hour before I ran.
  4. I slept longer and later.  I went to sleep around 9.  I usually get up at 5 to run, but this morning I got up at 6:15 or so, helped get the kids ready for school, ate a good breakfast, took the boys to school, and left to run about 7:45.

All this resulted in getting closer to my goal of negative splits.  I kept a pretty steady pace then ran 3 miles at the end in 8:06, 8:36, and 8:42, not quite the goal race pace, but faster than the average pace for the run, 9:17.

Happy running!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Leadville 100

In 1991, I knew nothing about running, except that I didn't really do it.  I knew I loved the mountains, though.  I went backpacking in the Collegiate Peaks area of Colorado with Dale, a Baylor recreation professor, a couple of other "adults" (we were right out of college), and some high school kids.  While we were huffing along one day with our sea-level lungs, a woman came running toward us.  Dale recognized her from TV coverage he had seen of the Leadville 100.  We stopped her and she said she was up there training for Leadville.  The concept of such a race was new and astounding to me, but now running that race is on my long-term to-do list.

The elevation of the Leadville 100 has a low point of 9200' and a high of 12600'.  The air's thin up there, especially if you're used to 600'.  I don't know the specific trail, but I know it's a gorgeous area.
Who is this guy?  I don't know.  But I'd sure love to be where he is.

Duncan Callahan, from Gunnison, Colorado, took the men's victory, finishing in 17:43:24.  He also won in 2008.  Sea-level, flat-land runners got some encouragement from the winner of the women's race: Elizabeth Howard (who won Rocky Raccoon this year) from San Antonio won in 21:19:47!  A Texan won Leadville!  That's fantastic!  Texans were well-represented overall.  Sean Lewis from Fair Oaks finished 8 minutes before Elizabeth, and Steven Moore from Austin finished about 12 minutes after her.

Closer to home, Drew Meyer of North Texas Trail Runners finished in 28:59:37.7!  Drew, 63, is now 3/4 finished with the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.  He has three short weeks to recover before Wasatch.  Congratulations to him and good luck at Wasatch!

One of these days, I'm going to run this race.  A flatlander from Texas took the women's title.  The two Texans who finished near her are a couple years older than me.  I'm not saying I'll be in the top ten in 2011 (or ever), but I sure would like to line up at Leadville and cross that finish line, and, more importantly, to enjoy the ride in between.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cross training: swimming at Kaanapali Beach

Just as biking all downhill isn't really training, neither is snorkeling off the beach.  But what a cool experience!  I grew up in Corpus Christi, so snorkeling wasn't exactly something we did.  Even if the water were at all clear, which it usually wasn't, there simply wasn't much to see.

By contrast, just off the beach at Kaanapali, there were beautiful reefs, abundant and varied species of fish, and sea turtles.  I couldn't believe the turtles, so docile and comfortable with a bunch of people swimming around them.  My brother-in-law even held onto one's shoulders and went for a ride (which we found out is illegal. . . .).

These pictures, taken with one of those disposable underwater cameras, aren't great, but I hope you enjoy them.  I know I enjoyed taking them!  Aloha!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cross training: Biking down Haleakala

Since I'm still not running, due to my bruised ribs and consequent wimpiness, I thought I'd add some "cross-training" posts.  I don't bike much, but if I could go on bike trips like this more often, I would!

For Elliot and me, one of the highlights of our Hawaiian vacation was the bike ride down Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui. The day started early; we had to meet at the bike shop at 3AM So Elliot and I -- along with my brother, Mark, his wife, Regina, and son, Evan -- left the hotel at 2AM for the drive to Haiku.

At Haiku we were fitted for bikes, helmets, and rain gear, then hopped on a van for the ride to the top of Haleakala. We stopped near the visitor center of Haleakala National Park at 9745 feet above sea level, where we watched an awesome sunrise. We could see all of Maui and the surrounding islands, as well as the Big Island. We were happy to have the rain gear; wind chills were in the 30s or lower, and we were freezing our tails off. The boys kept asking to go back to the bus, but Mark and I insisted that they wait until we could see the sun. The view was incredible!
After another scenic overlook and a bathroom stop, we got the bikes and hit the road. Elliot's bike at home has coaster brakes (where you turn the pedals backwards to stop), so he had to get used to the hand grip brakes. At first he got the front and rear brakes confused and immediately flipped over, but he got it figured out soon after that.
Then the fun began! The road down Haleakala is steep and winding! We got on the bikes at 6500 feet (the National Park Service doesn't allow the bike tour companies to ride inside the park). In the first 10 miles, we dropped 3000 feet! That's steep! We did not want to get out of control and run into oncoming tour buses, so we stopped from time to time and kept a moderate speed, but at times we went over 30 miles per hour. At one point Elliot's rear brake malfunctioned, and when he tried to stop with the rest of the group, he flipped over the handlebars in a dramatic wreck. Thankfully he was unharmed. Also thankfully some of the bike shop guys were nearby and were able to come fix Elliot's brakes.

We decided that watching the sunrise at 9745 feet was the highest elevation Elliot has ever topped. It was also the longest bike ride for him--about 22 miles. He's probably not yet ready to try riding up the mountain--but maybe next time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A week off

I used to make fun of football players who sat out of games because of a bruised rib.  A bruise?  What a bunch of wimps!  Now I know better.  The first time I injured my ribs, I slipped while climbing in a window at home (I had locked myself out).  More recently I twisted my body in an odd way on a night trail run, somehow bruising my ribs.

Last weekend at the lake, Elliot tried knee boarding.  He picked it up quickly, knee boarding like a pro.  With more time, he'll learn to do tricks, I'm sure.  He made it look easy, so I tried it.  I am not a natural.  Bouncing along on the board, I bruised my ribs, in the same place as when I was running a couple months ago.  It hurts to walk.  It hurts to cough, sneeze, or hiccup.  It hurts to roll over in bed.  Worst of all, it hurts to run.  I admit--like those NFL wimps, I, too, am a wimp.

Thankfully, Palo Duro and White Rock are months away, so I have plenty of time to recover, and I figure missing a few days this far out won't kill me. But it's still frustrating not to run, especially since I felt like I was slowly making progress.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Eine Kleine Nachtlaufen

I don't speak German, but since Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is normally translated "A Little Night Music," and since laufen means run (I think), my title means A Little Night Run.  German speakers, I welcome your corrections.  Actually, now that I google my title, I find that I'm not at all original.  No big surprise.

Anyway, tonight was a night for another frustrating long run.  I feel like I'm on track in my training: I'm close to goal in intervals; I'm making progress on my tempo runs; and my easy runs have been at an acceptable pace.  All three have definite room for improvement, but I'm getting there.

Long runs are another story.  The ultimate goal, per my White Rock training plan, is to run my long runs at a pace of about 9 minutes/mile, with the last 4 or so miles at race pace, about 7:30.  Tonight I started out OK.  The first hour I ran mid-9s.  The second, around 10.  So after 2 hours, I was definitely in the sub-10 range.  The next mile or two were a little slower, and I decided to pick it up on mile 15.  I ran a blazing fast 8:50, aided by the first 1/2 mile being downhill.  The next mile, not so fast: 10:59.  After that, I got a little slower.  The last 2-3 miles were a painful, slow walk home.

This has become my pattern for long runs: strong start, but seemingly not excessively fast, then a few miles of struggling but keeping an OK, if not optimal, pace, followed by a death march to the finish, as my friend Stuart would say.  Now that I think of it, that's pretty much my pattern in races, too.  So what I practice in training runs comes out in races.  I don't know how to get out of that!  I'd settle for even splits in my long runs now, but I'm far from that, much less negative splits!  The good news: I still have 4 months until White Rock.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brief training update

As I mentioned last week, I started my training plan for White Rock.  It's certainly not ideal to start a new training schedule on the week of vacation, but I still managed to get most of it in.  I did skip Monday's long run.  As soon as we landed after the flight from Maui, I headed home, unloaded the car, showered, dressed, and headed to work.  Needless to say, no time for a long run that morning, and I certainly didn't feel like it that night!

Even so, I got in 32 miles last week and 37 this week.  And I put in some pretty decent intervals this morning.  I know I won't get to every run on my calendar, but as long as I get most of them in and see some progress week to week, I'm happy.

I'll leave you with this picture I took from our hotel in Hawaii:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Badwater Ultramarathon

I have written about Hardrock and Western States, mountain trail runs I would love to run in someday.  Because of its notoriety, I have to put the Badwater Ultramarathon on that list, too.  I don't know if this would be a fantasy run or a nightmare run.  Unlike those other two races, Badwater is run all on pavement.  Hot, oozing asphalt.  In Death Valley.  In the middle of the summer.  Temperatures during the race can reach 130 degrees.  Runners' shoes melt on the hot pavement, necessiting frequent changes.
Here are some runners struggling through the 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon.

Not content with the standard 100 mile ultra distance, Badwater starts in Death Valley and runs 135 miles to Mount Whitney.  They call it the "world's toughest foot race."  I don't know if this would be tougher than Hardrock.  I think the challenges would be different.  The elevation change is a huge factor (from 280 feet below sea level to almost 8300), but the heat would be the greatest challenge.  I have heard of people training by running in sweat suits all summer, putting their treadmills in the sauna, or strapping heat blowers to their treadmills.  But I'm not sure any of that can prepare runners for the Death Valley heat.
How's that for a climb?

This year's winner: Zach Gingerich, who finished in 24:44:48.  That's quite an improvement over his 2008 finish, which was over 37 hours.  In the women's field, Badwater veteran Jamie Donaldson won for the third time, in 26:16:12.  Out of 80 starters, an impressive 73 finished.  Most impressive of all was another Badwater veteran, Jack Denness, who finished in 59:13:02.  Why is that impressive, given a finish time well over double that of the winner?  Simple: Denness is 75!  He became the oldest Badwater finisher 5 years ago, and topped his record this year, his 12th finish.  I don't know the details, but I'm sad to report that Amy Palmiero-Winters dropped about 1/3 of the way through.

I may never make it to Badwater.  But I'm keeping it on my list.  Maybe someday. . . .

Friday, July 23, 2010

50 mile week

A decent week of training last week.  The week before, I was at church camp with the boys.  It was scheduled to be a low-mileage week anyway, but I didn't even get in the short runs I had planned.  Last week I was back to normal, and even got a 20 miler in.  This is the first week I have gotten in 50 miles since January (except for the 50 miles runs in February and March).

I starting putting together a schedule for training for White Rock.  I am basing it on a 20 week plan in Bart Yasso's book My Life on the Run.  He uses a 10 day cycle rather than the tradition 7 day, so it's a bit trickier to plan, and will be trickier to implement, since long runs will be on different days each week.  He says with the 10 day cycle, older runners have longer to recover between long runs thus can run faster.  Of course, this first week of training I will be in Hawaii, so we'll see how well I get my runs in.

I will once again be aiming for a Boston qualifying time at White Rock.  Maybe this will be the year to do it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's about time: New VFFs

I have some Luke's Locker gift cards burning a hole in my pocket.  I thought I would use them to buy some new VFFs, but they can't keep them in stock.  Even if they have them at all, they never have my size.  So I finally broke down and ordered some from The Shoe Mart.  Free shipping, and they were here in 4 days.

I've been running in my VFFs for almost a year.  I don't know how many miles I have put on them, but I did run White Rock and the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile trail run in them, plus some other races and virtually all my training runs.  As you can see, I have about worn them out.  The seam along the big toe ripped pretty early on; we'll see if my new pair does the same.

I got the new ones in this flashy red and black color scheme.  I'm sure they'll make me run much faster!  They're also Sprints.  I noticed a couple of minor changes in the stitching, but they're essentially the same.  

I still have the Luke's gift cards.  I'll be calling them regularly to see about buying some VFF Treks.  In the meantime, I'll start wearing out these new Sprints!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Hardrock 100

A few weeks ago I posted about the Western States 100, a race I would love to run--someday.  Another great trail race is the Hardrock 100, run last weekend, July 9-11.  Hardrock, started in 1992, is not as old as Western States, but looks to be much tougher.

For comparison, WS has a cutoff of 30 hours.  The winner this year set a new course of 15:07.  Hardrock's cutoff is 48 hours; the winner this year ran it in 27:18.  The elevation range of the WS course goes from 6200 to 8750 feet, with total climbing of 15540 feet, descending 22970 feet.  Hardrock boasts 33992 feet of climbing and the same descent.  Average elevation is 11000 feet.  Runners cross 13 passes of 12000 plus feet, as well as summiting Handies Peak, 14048 feet.  I would never say WS looks easy, but with the additional climbing, elevation changes, and navigation (Hardrock says to brush up on your orienteering skills--the trail's not always clear. . . .), Hardrock definitely sounds like a tougher challenge.
These runners have a long day-and night-and day-and night ahead of them!

I wish Hardrock posted the ages and home states of the runners.  I know some from Texas and other relatively flat, low altitude place states run there; Glenn Mackie from NTTR finished in 32:36.  How do those people train?  Climbing stairs in an office building while wearing a surgical mask?  As much as I'd love to run this--someday--at this point it's hard to conceive.  But with views like this, how could I not want to be there:

I'm not ready to run 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains, but looking at these pictures sure does make me want to pay them a visit.  Excuse me while I start planning a trip to Colorado. . . .

(The pictures are from Blake Wood's online gallery.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Barefoot Running on NPR

This morning Diane Rehm had Christopher McDougall, Amby Burfoot, and Dr. Stephen Pribut on her show to discuss running.  As you might expect, with McDougall, author of Born to Run (best running book ever), as a guest, much of the show was dedicated to a discussion of barefoot running.  Dr. Pribut's take could be summed up like this: As long as you're moving, not sitting, I don't care what you have on your feet.  Burfoot, long-time editor at Runner's World, defended the running shoe industry--after all, they pay his bills.  Both Pribut and Burfoot would agree that less is more; many running shoes tend to have too much padding.

McDougall and Burfoot got a little feisty at a couple of points.  To McDougall, most running problems can be solved by ditching the modern running shoe.  But he reminded me of the most important thing: it's not whether you are barefoot, in VFFs, sandals, or some other minimalist shoe that matters, but running form that matters.  Since ditching the shoes usually leads to correction in running form, sometimes that's all you need to do.  But you still have to be aware of form.  My achilles has been tight lately, in spite of running exclusively in VFFs.  I need to pay more attention to form.

You can listen to the show at Rehm's website.

By the way, I have gift cards for Luke's Locker I have been saving to get some new VFFs but they never have any!  I'm wearing holes in the soles of mine and I need new ones!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stuff I Like: Ulimate Direction Hydration

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity of it.  You can participate and compete as a runner with next to nothing.  There's no special equipment needed.  But there are some things that can help.

If you run more than a few minutes, you get thirsty.  Your body needs fluids.  When my runs started to last more than an hour, I started looking into hydration systems.  OK, that just means water bottles.  I did not like the Camelbacks, which carry the water in a big bladder on your back and have a long straw to drink from.  I thought the fanny packs would be to uncomfortable and would bounce around, but I found the Ultimate Direction two-bottle waist pack (that sounds better than fanny pack) to be just right, once I found the right tightness.  It holds two 20 ounce bottles, has a pouch for extra clothes or food, and two small pouches on the waist band for gels, phone, or whatever.  I wear this on all my long runs, and wore it at Inks Lake last summer so I could carry a flashlight and extra batteries.
For shorter runs and for most racing, I use the FastDraw plus.  This carries one 20 ounce bottle and has a little pocket for a gel or 2, or lib balm, a debit card, etc.  Not much room.  I have carried this on all my trail runs, except for Inks Lake.  I am thinking, though, of getting a single bottle waist pack.  Fifty miles is a long way to carry that thing in your hand, even with the strap to keep it in place.
 So running does have some level of equipment, especially as you run longer, but it's still cheaper than biking.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stuff I Like: Garmin Forerunner 201

When I first started running, I had no idea how to pace myself.  I would put together running plans with the training tool, but still had a hard time figuring out pace.  Plus, I would spend tons of time at figuring distances and routes, then when I was running trying to remember the route and the mile markers.

Enter the Garmin Forerunner.  Because I'm cheap, I bought a used 201 on ebay.  It was one of the best running investments I've made.  This little guy is great.  Yeah, it's clunky looking, but it uses satellite technology to tell me my pace and the distance I've run.  Exactly what I needed!  I can run out the front door without worrying too much about the route.  I just run until the Garmin says stop!  I do plan my routes a little, but with the Garmin I can modify on the run.  It's great for intervals, too.  When I run Yasso 800s, I set it for laps of .46 mile (about 800 yds.), and I don't have to go to a track.

I'm not totally without complaints, though.  It does sometimes have a hard time getting a signal.  I discovered this worst when I ran at Rocky Raccoon, through the tall piney woods of Huntsville State Park.  Similarly, it lost the signal at Cross Timbers, but not quite as badly.  I gave up relying on it for pacing at those races, but the stopwatch still worked, of course.  Around my neighborhood, it rarely loses the signal, thankfully.  Also, after a few months of using it and downloading runs to my computer, it just stopped downloading.  So I can't track the data on my computer.

I'm still not very good at pacing myself.  I am far from being a "human metronome" like experienced runners should be.  So I'm glad to have the Garmin!  All in all, the 201 has been a faithful running companion for me.  I must admit, though, I do have my eyes on a newer model, with the improved satellite tracking and heart rate monitor. . . .