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!