“All good things…” Closing out 2016.

23 01 2017

all-good-thingsThe final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was called “All Good Things…” and involved a temporal anomaly (gosh, how I love those things!) which caused Captain Picard to jump back and forth through time from past to present to future, while simultaneously saving humanity (because that’s all in a day’s work on Star Trek).  It was a fitting finale for a wonderful series, and came to mind immediately when I thought about a blog entry closing out what was a wonderful running year for me.

I certainly didn’t save mankind but I did finally conquer the 26.2 mile beast that was eluding me for years, saved myself from another disappointment and prevented it from frustrating my efforts past, present and future.  Running that full marathon, in 86 degree sun and heat no less, on October 29, 2016 in the high altitude of Las Cruces, New Mexico, allowed me to prove to myself that I did have it in me all along. And even better, it is an endurance milestone I will never worry about again.

I also remember 2016 as the year I won some age-group awards for the first time, three of them in fact, and achieved my fastest 5k time yet.  That was a complete shocker.  The marathon I’d struggled and grieved and sweated over.  Getting old and entering the 60-64 age group happened without any effort on my behalf.  Everybody tries to get a little faster because you’re always competing with your own last best time, and I will do so again this year, but I never thought of slow chubby Me as an age-group winner.  What a nice surprise!

I think this past year may also be one in which I ran the most races ever, since becoming a runner in 2008.  It is certainly the one in which I finally was able to run enough with a club I joined to actually meet people and earn a circuit award.  I even volunteered at a race for the first time.  And as much as I wanted that 26.2 with every fiber of my being and wished some day to be able to run faster, the best part of 2016 was feeling like I had finally joined a community of runners.


So, like Picard jumping through time, I was able to look back and smile on those early days of uncertainty and struggling at the back of the pack and wondering if I could run a 10k or a 10 miler or a half-marathon some day and whisper to that person “oh yes, you will.”  And the next time I’m running long and feeling tired or weak or uninspired, I will be able to repeat to myself “oh yes, you can.”  And when I’m 80 or 90 years old and looking back over a life spent striving for goals and always seeking to get just a little bit better at everything, I will be able to remember “oh yes, you did.”


Next up: 2017 plans and training

Not tempting the Hengrauggi

8 12 2016

In 2258, Captain James T. Kirk was marooned on the ice planet, Delta Vega, in the Vulcan system, when he was chased and almost swallowed by a hengrauggi.  This is not my idea of fun.


Running in the winter, regardless of whether or not you are being chased by one of these giant ugly bastards, is not my idea of fun either.  And winter is now quite undoubtedly here.


The weather forecast for the next 15 days predicts BELOW FREEZING temps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I’m sure it only gets worse after that between now and March.  So I guess I’m hanging up my Hokas and calling it a year when it comes to road racing.  I had signed up for a Jingle Bell 5k this coming Sunday but we’re expecting multiple inches of snow this weekend.  Only a marauding hengrauggi could inspire me to run through a snowstorm, but I shall stay home and avoid tempting one.

My winter workout agenda contains a lot of strength training, some flexibility and the occasional treadmill or elliptical speed session.  I will do primarily HIIT, step and tabata DVDs for cardio to give my running muscles a few months of rest from the repetitive pounding of this past year’s races.  Having made it through an entire year uninjured, I would like to keep the streak alive (and avoid weight gain) so that makes the most sense.

I am looking forward to 2017 and have registered for a couple half-marathons already (Revel Rockies and Run Crazy Horse) as well as a virtual race with the Moon Joggers (U.S.S. Enterprise 10k) in January, the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in April, and the Soldier Field 10 Miler in May, so I will definitely be back out there soon.  But until the snow melts, I will happily live vicariously through my fellow bloggers while getting ready for next year’s outdoor seasons to get underway.

So keep running, my friends, and don’t let the snow monsters eat ya!

Unlike Klingon Turkeys…

24 11 2016


I say “it is a good day to run” as I embark on our local 4 mile turkey trot before I go stuff my face and drink too much today.  However, I must state first I am thankful for the health and stamina that keeps me going as well as the blogger friends and real life running buddies who keep me engaged in this sport I dearly love.


Marathon: The Final Frontier

17 11 2016

From Star Trek TOS:
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

FINALLY on October 29, 2016, I ended my five-year mission to explore strange new races, seek out longer distances and boldly run where I’d never gone before.


In well over 7 hours under a hot and intensely sunny sky in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I finally ran the whole 26.2 and finished with a smile.  Once I tried and failed in 2011.  Twice I trained and got injured in 2013 and 2014.  But at last!  I did it.  And I survived.  Now I can put that obsession to rest.

I didn’t take many pictures because it was too many hours to carry my phone and I knew the battery wouldn’t last as long as I’d be running.  In fact, my Garmin watch barely held up!  It started giving me the low battery signal during Mile 25 and I kept saying “please, please, please, just hang on 10 more minutes!”  And it did.

Like I said before and as you may already know, the Mainly Marathons group does unconventional no-time-limit races in all 50 states and is frequented by many of the Marathon Maniacs and other clubs who are trying to reach personal geographic milestones as well as run races.  Their events are multiple loops with a central aid station that is very well stocked with food, water, sports drinks and even Coca-Cola.  Each race features a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full marathon, and 50k ultra all on the same course at the same time. You just follow the guidance given and the markers set out for your race, and you’re good.  In my case, I did twelve passes of a 2-point-something mile distance which started and ended at the aid station.  I collected a rubber band each time and turned in all twelve at the end for my formal finish.  I also stopped, ate cookies and quesadillas, refilled my water bottle and/or used the bathroom pretty much each time too.  It was a unique and well-appointed race in a beautiful setting which I would recommend to anyone.  I will most certainly run with this group again, especially since I have about 20 more states to go before I reach all 50.

I made some friends during the outing too.  I ran into a guy from the Marathon Maniacs that I first met when I did the Hatfield-McCoy half about 3 years ago.  He is from Hawaii and we had both done a race at Pearl Harbor that spring.  He remembered seeing me and mentioned it when we first met.  He was at this race too and it was nice to see him again.little-collage  Through a mutual Facebook friend, I also connected with a girl who was doing the half marathon and we ran together through her whole 13.1 miles.  We are pictured here as she finished the half.  And then I met this crazy looking dead guy too.  LOL!  But what was so surprisingly pleasant for me was meeting all of the various runners with unbelievable accomplishments like the lady who has run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days or the retirees on their 150-somethingth marathon.  When I heard that you repeatedly pass the same people doing these loops and they like to talk to you, I initially thought “oh no, how am I going to be able to do this” because I usually need my music and my 3:00/1:00 timer to keep me on track.  But honestly, having conversations with this utterly fascinating band of runners was very refreshing and a welcome distraction from the sheer pain of the miles and the relentlessly beating sun.

I am also grateful to have finally developed the common sense to follow a training plan as well. When I decided this would be the year I would actually do that, I was able to achieve this long elusive goal without paying a profound physical price.  I think the best part of the training plan though was the fact that I had been doing fairly long distances every other weekend since Memorial Day, and having two 20-milers calendared in the month before the marathon.  I was able to avoid the dreaded “hitting the wall” until Mile 25 at which point I had very little mileage ahead of me when my body said “Stop now! We can’t go another step!” but I had to force it to go anyway.   The relief was only 1.2 miles away and it was probably the best moment of the year when I crossed that finish line.


FINALLY!  26.2 miles – I have conquered you.

So that brings us pretty much up to date with my grand running adventures for 2016. I put a major goal behind me, ran all year without injury, and put 3 more states plus DC on the goal list.  Oh, and I also got a new tattoo on my leg the same day as the marathon.  “It’s never too late to shoot for the stars,” a lyric from a Nickelback song.  Nope, it sure isn’t!


More later.


T-Minus 5 days and counting…

24 10 2016


Today is Monday, October 24, and the marathon is Saturday.  I’ve made it through the training without injury and I feel like my body is as ready as it’s going to be.  Short of some core work and stretching, one more strength training session and a couple more little tune-up runs, I’m done.

I remember reading a quote way back in 2009 when I was training for my first 10k and so worried that I’d only run 4 consecutive miles prior to the event.  It said something like “it’s better to be 10% under-trained than 1% over-trained.”  I found that to be true when I rocked that 10k and crossed the finish line feeling like I had just won the Olympic Marathon (despite my poky 13:01 pace).  I feel like the only aspect in which I may be under-trained is cross-training because that is what I have neglected when time ran short.  But I don’t think it will make a difference in my ability to finish.

As you can see from my calendar on the Garmin website:
october-runningsince last posting on the day of my 21 miler, I have run as little as 1.35 miles and as far as 10 long slow miles (along with a whole bunch of dog walking).  I’ve done intervals, slow runs and speed work as well as casual no-specific-strategy runs.  I was going to do a 5k at “average effort” a couple of weeks ago but ambition overcame me and I hauled ass instead.  I ended up with another age group award and a new PR.  The weather was nice and it was a beautiful location.  Sometimes that just spurs you on, and off you go.


So October 2016 will probably be a big month when I look back on it, featuring a 5k PR and my first marathon, but something else pretty awesome also happened.  I’m in the cover photo on the latest newsletter for my running club!  How cool is that?!


However, this trifecta of running “firsts” will only be complete when I cross that 26.2 mile finish line on Saturday.

Hurry up 5 days!  Let’s get this thing done!

More later….

The last and longest Long Run … and I survived!

6 10 2016

21-43I called it a dress rehearsal for the marathon,  a 23-mile very slow run which would approximate conditions for the big day.  Using my house as a bathroom/food stop with water bottles and snacks laid out on the kitchen island, I made a series of “between 3 and 4 mile” routes on MapMyRun with home as the starting point and planned to do seven of them (which added up to 22.85 miles — close enough to 23 for me). Since the marathon is also a series of short loops (as are all the races offered by the Mainly Marathons bunch), I figured it would be a perfect simulation.  I even started at 8:00 a.m. which is the same time (7:00 a.m. Mountain Time) the actual race will begin on October 29.

I learned a lot.

First: even though there will be an extremely plentiful aid station handy at that race, I will still want to carry my own water.  I always do.  I feel naked without that little hand held bottle carrier thingie. When I tried to ditch it yesterday, I missed it.

Second:  the ridiculously expensive sports-bra-with-front-pocket that carries my iPhone is not the best choice for a very long run.  It caused upper back pain after about the first 10 miles.  I often use the PEAR Sports heart-rate based coaching and tracking programs when I run, but I will skip that during the marathon.  There’s just no place to carry that giant phone easily for such a long distance. The armband carriers always slide down and that’s a big pain in the ass.  The waist carrier pouch thing makes me sweat more in the heat.  And I won’t need the phone for music anyway because I have an iPod shuffle (two actually since I once lost one and then found it a year later).

Third:  it’s nice to have actual food instead of just gel packs and such.  The Mainly Marathons races always have real food, so I made small ham and cheese sandwiches with pear slices and cookies for my mock aid station.  As long as I didn’t eat too much, I had plenty of energy and my stomach felt comfortable.

Fourth:  my legs will be fine (although tired sometimes) but my feet could be an issue. I ended up switching shoes about halfway through because the higher heel-to-toe drop in my Brooks Addictions got to be a problem.  It felt like running in high heels.  The Saucony Hurricanes (even though they’re older) will be the official shoe but I will bring my Hokas along too, just in case.  I can probably stash them by the aid station should I feel the need to change to something even flatter.

Fifth:  you can’t exactly rely on the MapMyRun maps to be 100% accurate on the distance you will run as an individual. Even though I thought I would get almost 23 miles done, it came up barely 21 and 1/2 (per my Garmin watch) by the time I got done.  Being a little obsessive, I considered getting back out there just to get in that extra mileage but decided not to.  It was 80 and sunny, I was hot and in pain, and no added benefit would have come from it.

So now the taper begins.  My right Achilles tendon is a little cranky today but it’s nothing I can’t baby along and stretch out as the clock ticks down toward October 29.  I’m scared and thrilled; confident and nervous; ready yet wishing it was already over all at the same time.


More later.

MARATHON TRAINING: Month 3 = making Zefram Cochrane proud

2 10 2016

Like the mythical phoenix rising from its own ashes and Zefram’s ship The Phoenix making the first warp flight — that’s how I would describe September’s training experience.  It started out pretty rough.  My right Achilles tendon was achy.  A lot.  More than achy really.  It was pretty much hurting with every step for a while. Eventually I realized I hadn’t been rotating shoe styles as much as I needed to so I started doing that again and it got better.  But first came a two week slump where my attitude seriously tanked due to the daily pain and nagging thoughts of “how on earth are you going to do 26.2 miles with that pain” bouncing around in my head (along with their companions “you cannot quit again” and “you’d better find a way, girlfriend”).  So I spent the first two weeks of the month doing minimal training mileage every other day and stretching on the days in between.  I even stopped strength training for a while because I was devoting all of my workout time to running and stretching.  I wore my dorsal night splint to bed every night and even changed shoe styles at work.  My workout log looked very un-marathon-traininglike:


But eventually my strategy paid off and the pain regressed to a nagging ache and finally dulled to the level I have lived with so many times.  Just in time for my 20 miler on September 18th.

The Fox Valley 20 miler is part of a trio of 13.1, 20 and 26.2-mile efforts that follow along the Fox River in Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles, IL.  It is a beautiful and scenic race that takes place in the fall around the time people are getting ready for the Chicago marathon and looking for that final 20.  It was my first ever 20 mile race.


Quite honestly, I was scared shitless about it for days.  I’ve never run a 20 mile race before.  I’d never even run 20 miles before.  I’d walked it once in maybe 2008 or so, but I wasn’t a runner yet and so it literally took me like 8 hours that time.  I’d done the half-plus-3 in Madison that qualified for my 16-mile training run but on the weekend I was going to do 18 miles, we got company and I had to abbreviate it to 10 miles instead.  And I’d done precious little in the days since because of the stupid tendon.  The last thing I felt was Ready.  But remembering the old saying that “it’s better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained,” I figured I’d just get out there and do it.

And I did!  Holy moly!  I did!  I ran 20 freaking miles!  Of course, I was slow.  And yes, it was grueling.  I didn’t bring enough to eat and it took me longer than I intended and my feet and legs were screaming at me to stop, but I DID IT.


And feeling like a phoenix rising out of the ashes then turning into Zefrem Cochrane’s Phoenix and blasting into warp speed to soar into the heavens, I realized as I crossed that finish line that would be able to do 6.2 miles more on the day of my marathon.  If I could do 20, then I COULD do 26.2  What a confidence builder!


In the days following, I continued daily stretching, shoe rotating and night splinting but also reinstated regular strength training and the previous routine of tempo and interval runs interspersed with light cardio and walking.  And the Achilles tendon pain stayed at a low but tolerable simmer.


On September 25, I ran the Plainfield Harvest 5k which is a local race on my running club’s circuit.  It was quite the family affair with runners, walkers, parents with strollers and even giant inflatable critters. It was hot that day but I had fun.

So that pretty much closes out the final full month of marathon training.  The race is on October 29 which is now less than a month away.  More cross training, stretching and the usual shorter speedier runs are on tap along with a pair of 10-milers and a 23-mile very slow outing whose only function is to give my legs and feet another chance to feel what it’s like to spend 6 straight hours pounding the pavement.

The 23 miler is coming up on my next day off work, 3 days from today.  I’ll report back afterwards once the taper has begun.

In the meantime, as always
Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!