Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Trip: There and Back Again

ORN: 1 mile, run/walk, considerable pain

It’s been a whirlwind the past 10 days. A trip to the west coast, illness, Christmas…all packed together. The time in Oregon was super, with excellent time with middle son Nathan, an enjoyable
Geocaching outing on Christmas Day and being in awe of the Pacific Ocean. As a native Midwesterner, I never get tired of watching ocean waves. I just posted photos of the outing, which are only of interest if you like cute babies and ocean waves.

On running…just where are we, given the ITB? When I last posted, I had had a bad day at work, a rigorous PT treatment and a 3 mile run that felt good. Well…

The next day, the knee felt rotten. Very painful, perhaps exacerbated by all the walking in airport concourses. Upon arriving in Oregon, I picked up a flu bug and slept for a day and a half. On Christmas morning, I got out and ran two miles along the Pacific Coast (did I mention I enjoy watching the waves?), which felt pretty good. The next day, we were back in Portland and I ran another two miles on 82nd Ave NE, from the I-84 Max station down to Gisler Avenue. It didn’t feel that great, but I made it through. The following morning, I went out to run again and didn’t make it 300m before the knee pain shut it all down. Discouraging.

We got back home and I had another PT session on Thursday, during which I described the sporadic progress/regress with the therapist. He said the current therapy will have done all it can do after another three sessions.

So, today, Saturday, I went out again in wonderfully mild 53 degree weather. And the ITB/knee felt awful. Despite some very careful stretching, I only ran about .6 mile before I had to walk, the pain was too severe. I gimped home…managing to run a couple of 100m segments but even that was too much.

What to do??? I don’t really know. This thing is getting worse, not better. Rest doesn’t seem to help; running doesn’t seem to help; therapy doesn’t seem to help. I’m stumped right now.

Fortunately, running does not define who I am. I’m quite encouraged in all other counts and am confident we’ll figure this thing out. I’ve chuckled several times at my decision to name this blog “Run with Perseverance” not really knowing when I started it what good advice that would be to myself.

Persevere. Yeah, persevere.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

“Run, Forrest, Run!”

ORN: Wednesday: 1 mile, mild pain
Thursday: 3 miles, minimal pain

Today was the second of my ASTYM treatments. The PT asked me if I was running. When I told him I did one mile on three consecutive days, he looked me in the eye and said “If you want this therapy to work, you have to run more. Run! Like the way you want to run!”

I felt like Forrest Gump.

He worked on my right leg, with particular attention to my knee. Man, it hurt at times. And felt good when he was done.

As a treat, my new pair of Brooks Aderenline GTS6s arrive in the mail today…there is nothing quite so much fun, to me, as the first run in a new pair of shoes. So, after dinner, I took them out in the 53 degree drizzle to see just how far I could run.

Three miles. I felt the ITB after only about 200m. Amazingly, though, nothing changed in how it felt until about 2.8 miles. At that point, it got tighter, so I decided I could come inside and see what treat the box of chocolates had for me.

Will this progress continue?? I really don’t know. I’ll try to share publicly what I’m feeling. I’m kind of in awe of this. And, wow, is it great to be running again.

But further blogging will be a week away. We’re up at oh-dark-thirty tomorrow morning to fly to Portland, Oregon. We’ll meet our son Nathan there and head to Lincoln City on the coast to celebrate Christmas together. The weather looks like grey and rain…hope to get some rest, some family time, some hiking, some geocaching…and perhaps a few more runs.

Many, many Christmas thoughts to share, but it is too late now…those will keep for next week.

Merry Christmas. May the blessings of the season be with you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Therapy Starts; Is it for real?

ORN: 1 mile, no pain

I’m not sure what to make of all this, so I’ll just tell the story.

This afternoon, I had my first formal physical therapy treatment. I misspoke in my last post in that the treatment was not electrotherapy but rather a technique called
ASTYM. I’ve never heard of it but now I’m a patient.

In short, I plopped onto a table; the PT guy lathered my right leg with cocoa butter and then began scraping my leg with a plastic device that looked like a really stiff spatula. He told me the mechanism was to trigger some microtrauma to scar tissue. Then, with aggressive stretching and (gasp) running during the therapy, the tendons will reform in a more functional manner. Here’s what the
treatment looks like and here’s their generic ITB treatment plan.

I asked the guy if I should go run tonight. His eyes lit up and said, enthusiastically, “YES.” Hmmmm, I guess I’ll give it a try.

As I walked out of the rehab office, my knee felt better already. However, when walking to my car after work, the knee felt flaky again. I was discouraging. After dinner and clean up, I stretched and headed out. On Sunday, I had tried to run and couldn’t even go 200 meters. Could I run a measly mile on Monday evening after getting my leg scraped??

I could.

Out I went, on my B course, and slowly, steadily and without a single tendency to walk I ran one mile. One mile. I could feel my right knee and it wasn’t perfect. But while I sure noticed it, I was not in pain.

Tomorrow morning, I will stretch and seek to run one mile again. I go back for my second of six treatment sessions on Thursday. Frankly, it all feels a little flaky to me but the proof is in the pudding. And my mileage will start small and creep up.

Thanks for all the useful comments on this. They are very helpful.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pinpointing the Pain

ORN: 3 miles, run/walk, considerable pain at the end

The quest continues.

On Wednesday, I had my first physical therapy appointment. The PT guy was helpful and appreciated my goals. He gave me a bunch of stretches, with two new things that I learned. First, I needed to stretch the upper, hip-end of the ITB just as much as the lower, knee-end. So, I have some new ways to yank the top end around.

Second, he told me to hold all my stretches for at least 30 seconds. He said since tendons are elastic and the objective is to lengthen the ITB so it will move around the protrusion of the femur more easily, I need to hold the stretch so that the tendon won’t recoil to the original length. So, I’m giving that a try.

And he asked me to resume running ahead of my next appointment on Monday, which will include some electrostimulation thingie to break down the adhesions.

Which leads me to today’s post. A magnificent day in Indiana, sunny and 56 at mid day. How cool to be able to run again. I was like a kid on Christmas morning all day, anxiously awaiting the chance to get out and run.

And while I didn’t exactly get a lump of coal, the pain came back very quickly.

Only 300 yards into the run, I felt the ITB along with a host of other leg-oriented complaints. The latter were related to not running for two weeks and grudgingly went away. The ITB did not. I could feel it moving back and forth across the femur protrusion on the outside of the knee. By 1.75 miles, when I involuntarily yelled in pain, I walked for a while.

And thought about this all the way back home.

I noticed that the instant I stopped running, the pain stopped. When I walked, I felt it, when I ran for a while, it just hurt badly.

For the first time, I could locate just where the pain was. But, since it doesn’t hurt when I stop, I’d forget where. So, when I got home, I make a quarter-sized circle with a Sharpie. That’ll tell the therapist guy the location.

I wore my Brooks Adrenelines today. I’m going to try my adidas Supernovas tomorrow. Does the shoe make a difference?? I just don’t know.

So, we persevere. And long for a pain-free run.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We each tell our own story

ORN: 32 minutes on a bike ride

I ran into a concept today I haven’t thought about in a long time; the
story. At its most basic level, any story has a protagonist, or main character, who seeks some greater goal. In so doing, he or she contends with the antagonist, the person or thing opposing progress towards the goal. If the protagonist succeeds, it is a comedy; if not, it is, in literary terms, a tragedy.

While this compresses and simplifies a lot of subtlety and variation (and I’m not an English major, nor do I play one on TV), it captures the nature of blogging. In starting a blog, each of us desires to tell a story in which we are the protagonist. What is unique about blogging is that one chooses which of life's antagonists frame the story. And so, it is no surprise that runners like to read other blogs about running; this fascination with piling on the miles represents the common antagonist. By learning how others grapple with this thing, we are amused, entertained, taught. When others tell a story that is merely boring, we tune out and find other story tellers.

We also choose how deeply we weave this story. Do we bring in plots and subplots? Do we describe the struggle with weight, which might be the real protagonist? Do we describe the stress of an unsatisfying job, the pain of which running dulls? Do we tell about the surprises along the way that complicate or simplify the tale? Or do we keep the story sterile, describing only distances and splits? We each choose.

Life is a story and each of us are interesting in our own right. One of the greatest gifts we give to another person is to listen to his/her story. To tell our own story usually helps each of us make sense our various antagonists.

Thanks for listening!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Doctors

ORN: zero

The severity of my right knee pain during and after last weekend’s marathon attempt, coupled with the stubborn continuation of the knee pain ever since the Portland Marathon on Oct 1 prompted me to get a real medical opinion on the situation. And it has proven most instructive.

Just after 12 noon on Monday, I had a break at work and called my regular doctor’s office for an appointment. He’s an internist, not a sports med guy, yet in our insurance system, he is also the gatekeeper to further help. Amazingly, he had an opening at 1pm and so I skeedaddled across town to see him.

At a physical about a month or so ago, he was very complementary of my blood pressure/resting heart rate combo. When I presented on Monday with knee pain, however, he was a little less certain. He plopped me on the exam table, yanked, poked, pushed and twisted. He seemed to think I didn’t have a major injury but then asked “Would you like to see a sports med doc?” Yeah, I would. So, he wrote up a referral. Then he asked “How old are you?” Fifty-three. He looked a little patronizingly at me and said “Well, you know, as one ages, one can’t always do the things one wants to do physically.” Oh my. Anyway, I had my referral.

The sports doc had a slot open for me on Wednesday, which I took. What a difference. He’s an orthopedist and is well connected with Purdue and local High School athletics. On the wall of his practice were photos of all sorts of sports teams and track/cross country runners. I took my running logs and the last two pairs of shoes I’ve used. When he came into the room, he immediately realized I liked to run and wanted to continue to run. He asked about my weekly mileage. He did the same poking and prodding and then sent me down the hallway for an x-ray of my right knee. He got the films, brought them into the room and walked through the anatomy of my knee with me, treating me as an intelligent person.

His diagnosis was clear. No damage at all to the knee. The pain was clearly an ITB inflammation. The path ahead?? Some physical therapy with a therapist who specializes in runners, a couple weeks of rest, perhaps an orthotic to shift the angle of how my knee aligns at foot strike. I asked about my shoes, since I switched to the adidas Supernova a couple weeks after Portland. He examined my old Brooks Adrenalines, then the adidas, and said “Hey, the Brooks were working…you should go back to them.” Which was what I was thinking anyway.

He then shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said “Keep running. Don’t stop. You are not hurting yourself. Stay with it.”

Doctors have an amazing task. The human body is so complex and the study of medicine so vast that no single physician can know everything about everything. My doc is darn good at internal medicine and I’ll trust him with my blood work and stomach pain. But it sure was good to connect with a doc who could relate to my interests in running.

I’m encouraged. And persevering.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On taking risks

ORN: zero.

I’m still basking in the terrific weekend at the
Tecumseh Trail Marathon this past weekend. Darrell has posted his Race Report and then added his Photo Post of the race, as well as a Thoughtful Post, philosophical musings on a weekend of running. All are worth your browsing.

By reading the reports, you can see that Darrell and I had a terrific time together. Probably not something folks would predict about two middle-aged engineers who had never met each other face to face. Yet it happened and we are both the richer for it.

I had sensed that Darrell and I had a lot in common, much beyond running. This proved to be even truer than I had thought. Darrell is a deep thinker and a dedicated Dad, professional and citizen. We both have a keen interest in the world outside the US, particularly in the developing, poorer parts of our world. He, like I, tries to avoid simplistic, typical answers to substantive issues. Instead, we both grappled with how our worldviews, abilities, tendencies and faith can come to bear on very real problems. Yeah, it ran deep. I felt challenged by Darrell and am better off for it.

And it all happened because he was willing to take a risk.

As he put it, humorously, how crazy is it to fly to the barren tundra of the forgotten state of Indiana to get in a car with some guy you’ve never met and even share a hotel room??? Yeah, crazy, it would seem; we live in a wacky, weird world. Yet, his sense and mine, was that this risk was worth it. Part of that happens by being open in blogging. Part of it is a sense that “this is OK.” Yet there is still a risk.

By taking that risk, we are both the better. And it strikes me that this is a vital lesson in most relationships. Extending out of my comfort zone, to discover something new; not easy, but gratifying.

Thanks, Darrell, for taking the risk.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Race Report: Tecumseh Trail Marathon

ORN: DNF; 9.5 miles, severe right knee pain

Race Summary
On a beautiful day for a marvelously difficult
Tecumseh Trail Marathon, my right knee gave me fits and I had to drop out after 9.5 miles. Despite the disappointment, I learned (and am learning) much. Darrell and I had a marvelous time together. He ran a super race and I’ll let him tell you about it on his blog.

All the Gory Details

Darrell and I have been planning this event since mid summer. Thus, it was cool to have it come off, as planned. On Friday afternoon, he got to Indy 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We met at security, started talking and didn’t quit talking for a day and a half!! I can’t even describe how enjoyable it was to be with Darrell. I will try, however, in a separate posting in a couple of days. Suffice it to say, meeting up with a fellow running blogger was even better than either of us had anticipated.

The weather played a big factor in this entire marathon. The huge storm that dumped heavy, wet snow all over central and northern Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday also unleashed 4” of rain on southern Indiana. We first found out just how severe this was when we tried to go to registration on Friday night. Arriving at the turnoff to the state forest that had race HQ we encountered a phalanx of parked cars and milling people. The road was cut off by flood waters. Oh my. We eventually found the “back road” to HQ and, an hour later, took it. Appropriate to a trail marathon, the drive in included two stream crossings, where we took my little Saturn through, not over, two gushing stream.

Our hotel worked fine and, like a slumber party, Darrell and I stayed up, talking and talking. Eventually we fell asleep.

Race morning started with the alarm at 5:15. We dressed and took the “back road” to HQ once more. Getting there early was a good idea…we got a primo parking spot, saw the sun come up over the lake at the finish line and had some great conversations with other runners. Eventually, 12 school busses lumbered to the area to take the 500 runners to the start line. Having been early all along, we got on the first bus which headed out at 9am. Now, a school bus is hardly a Lamborghini, so the trip on narrow forest roads to the start line took nearly an hour. By the time the 12th bus arrived, our 10am start time was 10:45. We’d been up for over five hours, including nearly two hours traveling…everyone was antsy to get going. The 29 degree temperature also had the pack collectively shivering while standing around. But we were grateful for the clear blue skies, the lack of wind and the chance to spend the day running in the woods.

At last we started and it felt better than most races just to be moving. After giving us a quarter-mile on asphalt to stretch out the pack, we moved into the woods. It was simply beautiful. There is not much to say about pace or splits. We simply ran in the woods and enjoyed it.

Darrell and I had agreed to run the first 6 miles or so together and the plan worked. We had a great time finding a comfortable pace and others were with us. Up and down the hills. Over the streams. Switchbacks. Ridge trails with falloffs on both sides. Across earthen dams.

The heavy rains caused the dominant feature of the race; mud and water. Each time we went downhill, we knew we’d find muck to pick our way through and a tough stream crossing; typical trail running conditions. It was a race in which one just kept moving and that was enough. Darrell carried his super-small, super-cool camera and he’ll have some great photos of the course, I’m sure.

Early on, my ITB felt fine. I wasn’t pushing the pace, walked most of the uphill sections and exercised care through the muck and slippery footing. It was fun and I felt OK. While I did sense that Darrell could push it harder, our original plan seemed good and we stuck with it.

About 90 minutes into the race, we got to the aid station at 6.5 miles. In a brief conversation as we headed back into the woods, I encouraged Darrell to carry on. It was the right time and I really wanted him to be able to run his race. So, off he went and he went well.

I continued the pattern of walking uphill and running the flats and downs, a pattern that a lot of other folks were employing. It felt good and I continued with this for another 20 minutes or so. At that point, I started to notice my right knee. It was getting uncomfortable. It felt better after I walked uphill. But then it started hurting when I ran the flats or downhill sections. Then, it got to the point where I couldn’t run at all without serious, wincing pain. I realized the race was done for me. It was clearly not going to get better. At 8+ miles, there was no point in trying to go the full 26. I needed to pack it in and avoid more serious injury.

I was still in the woods, however. I knew the next aid station was around the 9.5 mile mark. So, I just walked. It was humbling to step aside, repeatedly, to allow folks I had passed earlier to now pass by. The multiflora rose thorns that snagged my nylon shell each time I stood aside were a cruel reminder of my new status. But I chose to shift my attitude; I decided to be a lucky guy to have such a nice walk in the woods on a beautiful day.

Eventually, I came out of the woods at the aid station and the crew was very helpful. One of them gave me a ride back to the finish area, where I got into some dry gear and began to ponder what happened and what will happen next. This will be the subject of more blogging in days to come.

At the finish line, I was able to watch two-hour’s worth of runners while waiting for Darrell. That, in itself, was very helpful to me; I’ve never watched a marathon from that perspective.

Darrell made it in, looked terrific and I got a nice photo of him at the end. Wow, did he run well over a very difficult course. You’ll enjoy his perspective. After he had a chance to get some food and get dry, we took off, having had a most enjoyable day. We grabbed some food in Bloomington, (don’t ask me about bleu cheese) and drove back to Indy. Talking all the time, reliving the day and running in general, we capped off a wonderful weekend. Dropping him off at airport, we knew we’d formed a new, substantive friendship.

My next step? I’m calling the local sports med center on Monday. I need to get a real diagnosis of the knee problem. My self-diagnosis clearly has not worked. We’ll see what the pros think of it. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the knee hurts a lot. I can’t really bend it much and am limping noticeably. Running right now is only a dream.

In it all there is much I’ve learned. I’m really quite happy with where I am. Running is a long-term activity for me and dealing with an injury is part of that. Thus, this is an important lesson for me. Will I pass the test? We’ll see. Like the
Running Chick with the Orange Hat did during her tough injury earlier this year, I’ll keep you apprised of how this goes. The community of runners is important. And Darrell was front and center in this community. Thanks, Darrell.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Headin' out the door

ORN: Zero. Last rest day

It is 5:50am as I type this. By 3pm today, I'll be on my way to the Indy airport to pick up Darrell and we'll both head another hour south to checkin for Saturday's Tecumseh Trail Marathon.

A marathon in Indiana in December. Nuts.

As I sit here, the rain is pounding my windows. The temperature has hit its high for the day already at 39. We're supposed to have up to 3" of snow by late afternoon, with winds gusting to 45mph.

Which makes me thankful we're not running the race here, today.

We're running the race 2 hours south of here. Tomorrow. And the forecast for Bloomington calls for temps around 30 at the 10am start time, heading for 40 by early afternoon, with full sun and a mild wind of 5-10mph from the WSW. Much nicer.

Darrell is ready for the distance but worried about the weather. I'm pumped about the weather but worried about the distance. I suppose if we could combine the two of us, one would have a marvelous race and the other would crash and burn altogether. Better, let's hope we both enjoy the time. My ITB is responding well (it seems) to the rest, roller, stretching and quad strenthening work I've been doing. But how it will hold up over this distance remains to be seen.

But one thing's for sure. I will persevere.

Stay tuned for race reports and, hopefully, some pix.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Five Days to Go

ORN: Zero. Resting

It is Tuesday morning as I write this. On Saturday, I'm signed up for a trail marathon.

I'm nursing my ITB back to health. My foam roller and I are very well acquainted. I'm working on my quad strength and my core strength.

But resting my leg.

This is really wierd...not running. It breaks up a major rhythm of my life. Yet, it is proving very instructive. When I put it all together, I'll write more about it.

I'm really looking forward to the race and the time with Darrell. He has a rock-star or management consultnat guru type week ahead of his travel here for the race. We'll have a lot of fun. I just have no idea, none at all, as to how I'll respond to the race conditions.

The plan Darrell and I have right now is that we'll hang together for the first 6-7 miles or so, then I may well let him surge on. I could well be in a spot to walk the uphills and run the rest. Which wouldn't be so bad, if I can keep moving with minimal discomfort. I also am comfortable with the likelihood of a DNF. I simply don't know.

This is an awesome lesson. Stay tuned for race reports.

And, yes, I will persevere.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Humor at our gathering, courtesy of today's Dilbert

So, when the family gathered late this afternoon for Thanksgiving dinner at our house, in-laws and others all asked, at different times, "Hey, Joe, did you read Dilbert this morning?"

Yes I did. And, as a 53 year-old marathon runner, it was within a single digit of hitting right on the money.

One relative asked "So, does 53 feel old?" "Only if you are in your 20s" I replied.


So I smile. Even if the ITB hassled me during my meager 4 mile run today, I'll stick with it, 53 or not. With weather in the mid 60s, light whispy clouds in a beautiful blue sky on Thanksgiving Day in Indiana, who cares? It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed it.

Persevere. Gums and all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to make Big Money taking Marathon Photos

ORN: Zero...still resting ITB

In the early 80s, I had this idea of taking photographs of people doing sports. I figured I'd then sell them the photos and make a lot of money just hanging around sporting events. I called the company "ActionPix" and did some work around town

Well, I wasn't that good of a photographer and was even a poorer salesman. Plus, doing this with film cameras required a lot of up-front costs. All that was left of ActionPix was a rubber stamp with my return address. But, now that I'm running, I see the keys I missed for wild financial success. I illustrate, with myself, from the Portland Marathon.

Step 1. Get photos with significant local landmarks in the back ground.

Here I am at the 17 mile mark, coming off the famous and visible St. John's Bridge. It makes for a great backdrop. It also helps that I see myself here yacking with my newly-found running friend Phil. This was about the time Phil wanted to pick up the pace. I was urging him not do...and they captured the moment on film.

Step 2. Capture touching human moments.

Like a high five with a kid. I'm amazed they got this photo. The timing is impecible, even if the high five is "wimpy", as my 18 year old described it.

It's also good I have this I absolutely can't remember the moment. From the background, I know it was with about 3/4 of a mile to go to the finish. I wasn't thinking of much else at that point besides just finishing. The legs were shot and I was hanging on. I am pleased that I at least managed a wan smile for the kid who was trying to encourage me.

Step 3. Capture the finish with the race logo in the background.

This is the photo I want as a runner. That instant when I realized it was over, I made it, another marathon under the belt. I knew I had a PR and despite the physical exhaustion, I'm thrilled. And they captured it for me. Not to mention the high-tech mat timing device being held up by a milk crate. Hey, it's all there.

Yeah, I paid the money for the photos. And if only ActionPix had been around to participate.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

7 is not 18

ORN: 7+ miles, significant knee pain

The enthusiasm I had a week ago today after doing 16 miles was completely reversed today.

I set out to do 18 around mid-day, as a last long run before the Tecumseh Trail Marathon two weeks from today. Three miles in, I could tell my right ITB/right knee was not in good shape. By five miles, the pain was severe enough that I had to walk some. I cut off the route and headed back home, in a run/walk sequence. Once home, I pulled on a compressive knee brace and went back out to see if that helped. Nope.

I'm not fully sure what to do. My thinking at the moment, though, is to take it easy the next two weeks and then just see what happens on Dec 2. If I can make it, I make it. If the pain is severe, I'll take a DNF and be OK with it.

I had hoped this ITB issue was behind me. I'm guessing not. But, we will get through it. An ITB injury is not cancer. It is not a dangerously harmed relationship. It is not a burnt-out house. Perspective is important and I had a good chance to think through that all day.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Teetering on the Edge of the Bed

ORN: 3 miles, no watch

Business travel can sure wreak havoc with the running schedule. I was at a two-day seminar, which, while useful professionally, had too much eating, too much sitting, too little sleeping and too much driving in too much rain. I did manage one run on Tuesday, but it was rather unsatisfying.

Getting home late Wednesday night, I set the alarm to go run on the A Course this morning. When the alarm went off, though, it was a struggle. I forced myself to at least sit up on the edge of the bed, no small task considering how tired I was. I then smiled and remembered the motivational phrase I use at that moment: "If you don't get up, you won't finish the marathon."

It was a good thing I didn't know any more about the weather than the temperature. While 42F is not a problem in itself, the 20mph wind and pelting drizzle were tough this morning. I cut the planned 5 miler down to 3 in the lousy conditions. I need to do 18 on Saturday and I'm still shy about my right ITB.

But I did get out. And it was mind over mattress for at least one cold, dark morning.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

On achieving excellence

ORN: Day off.

I’ve read over a dozen marathon reports this fall. All special, all inspiring, all well-told.

Yet, all but one had a melancholy tone to them, either a goal not met, an injury incurred, a deep disappointment. All but one had a “gut it out to the end” feel. Which is certainly what a marathon often does and in itself teaches one many lessons.

All but one.

The one was Dianna, the
Running Chick with the Orange Hat, in her description of the Hartford Marathon. In contrast to the other descriptions (and indeed to descriptions of her earlier marathons), her report was one of anticipation, planning, execution, exhilaration, finishing and stated goals achieved. In her case, qualifying for the Boston Marathon while smashing her previous PR.

What was the difference? I’ve mulled it a lot.

Di had a coach. None of the rest of us did.

What does a coach do that made such a difference? What is the dynamic?

First, a coach is outside of ourselves. Running is a lonely sport. Indeed, many of us describe one of the great joys of running is being by ourselves, savoring time away from work, obligations, phone calls, emails, errands. Yet, in that isolation, we can’t see ourselves. A coach breaks through that self-imposed isolation. The coach watches us, literally or figuratively. The coach sees things we can’t see ourselves. And we only improve when we get outside ourselves.

Because of this, the coach tells us things we don’t want to hear. In contrast to our running blogs, where we voice our own opinions and most comments are encouraging, the coach will disagree. The coach must correct. The coach must tell us the effort we considered excellent 6 months ago is now inadequate. The coach will not let us slack off of our goals. The coach will make us mad. The coach will make us uncomfortable.

Face it, we all tend to self-justify our actions. A coach won’t accept that. She will say “Hey, do you want a 4 hour marathon or not? If so, you have to do the mile repeats I laid out for you. Do it again tomorrow.”

A coach is a steadying influence. A coach is not concerned with the day-to-day fluff we throw out, though he may listen to it anyway. A coach helps us get where we want to go. And when we get our eye off the goal, the coach puts us back on task.

In telling us things we don’t want to hear, the coach builds humility. She builds the attitude of a learner. This is itself a very difficult thing for most of us to accept. We simply don’t want to be “coachable” because we want to know it all ourselves. Without humility, though, we will not improve. With it, we can go amazing places.

Di had a magnificent marathon, finishing strong, blasting through the pain to reach her goals. As a result, she’ll be running on a Monday in April.

Most of us “got through” our fall marathons.

There is a difference.

A coach.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

That’s More Like It
ORN: 16.3 miles, 2:39:26, 9:47/mile


I’ve been fighting an annoying ITB since early October. And for the first time since the Portland Marathon, I had a honest, solid, long run on a Saturday. Man, I have missed this rhythm. It’s been two months since I’ve done this mainstay of my weekly rhythm.

It was probably a good preparation for the Tecumseh Trail Marathon. It was raw, windy, wet and grey, just as it could well be three weeks from today. And I decided to just run. The right ITB was there, murmuring but not shouting. The lungs worked, the quads worked, the new Adidas supernovas worked. I am finally encouraged about making the upcoming marathon itself enjoyable. I’ll be hosting Darrell as he checks Indiana off his 50 state list and that will be lots of fun. But I didn’t really know how my own running would be. I’m feeling better.

Mega kudos for this nice turn of events to fellow bloggers Sarah and Dianna. When I wrote earlier about the ITB, they urged me (strongly) to get a foam roller to treat the ITB. The roller arrived in the mail this week and with their help, I’ve started working it. Oh my. Does it ever help! Yes, it hurts. And, as Sarah told me “Find the spot where it hurts the worst and leave the roller there for about a minute.” Bingo. That’s the ticket. In just a few days, I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I wouldn’t have done 16 today without it.

I tried one other new thing today that I picked up from several sources. I pushed hard over the last mile. I did the 16th mile in 9:09 today. Not awesome, but the fastest mile of the day and it equates (exactly) to a four-hour marathon. Much of the early part of 2007 will be directed to this end, I’m currently thinking.

Enjoy your weekend.


PS. Links don't seem to be working today on Blogger...sorry.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How to Dress when you Run

ORN: 6.1 miles, 59:59, 9:48/mile

This morning, the folks at
Complete Running Network were kind enough to post an article and spreadsheet I submitted to them recently.

The article,
Dress for Winter Running Success captures a simple system I’ve developed over the years to know EXACTLY what to wear in any temperature from 10F on up. In two degree increments.

Pure geek-ness, I know. But, hey, that’s kind of who I am.

Enjoy. And persevere. In any weather.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


ORN: 8.4 miles, 1:21:15, 9:40/mi

Finally. A longer run. It felt good.

The right knee was OK thorughout. Towards the end, I felt the ITB but never in a painful way. I decided to end the run around 8, rather than going 10, just thinking it prudent. Later in the day, the right leg was tight, but not painful. Ice, stretch, rest, will all work. I'll probably try 6 or so tomorrow.

Interestingly, the leg felt better when I ran on a camber of the road that let me roatate my right foot to the outside, or right. Which fits with an ITB diagnosis. I almost always run on left side of the road, facing traffinc and all. Could that explain why this is on my right leg and not my left?

At the urging of two commentors whom I value, I also ordered a foam roller today for working over the ITB regularly. Ah, the joy of pain...I can hardly wait.

Persevere. On either side of the road.

Friday, November 03, 2006

On the road while on the road

ORN: about 3 miles, 30:10

A few months after I started running in 1978, I bought and devoured the seminal running book of that day, “The Complete Book of Running” by the late Jim Fixx. In a chapter on finding time to run, Fixx told business travelers that there was usually a “down time” between the end of a day’s meetings and the obligatory dinner with associates. Use that time to run, he admonished.

I have no idea why I remember that tidbit from a book I read 28 years ago. Shoot, I can’t even remember how to set the table properly. But I’m in some business meetings in Indianapolis and as the day wound down on Thursday, Fixx’s admonition came to mind and I made it work.

I had noted on the drive in that our hotel was only one block off of the route of the
Indianapolis Marathon & Half-Marathon, which I had run in 2005 but missed this year with my knee problem. It is kind of amazing to me how one can remember a race route though only running it once. So, I decided to do part of that route in the 30 minutes I could scrape up before dinner.

The run felt good. I turned a corner and came to the spot which triggered an
entry on my professional blog I wrote not long after that race on how not to coach. That made me smile. The right knee felt good throughout. I was grateful.

Long run set for Saturday…that’s the next hurdle.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

First Day Back

ORN: 4 miles. No Watch. No Pain.

After my self-imposed seven day layoff (the longest I’ve been off since May 2004), I went out to run this morning, not fully sure what I’d find in my right knee.

Interestingly, there was none of the “runner’s knee” type of pain at all. This pain had literally stopped me on several runs after the marathon on Oct 1. I had no sense of that at all, for which I was very glad.

What I did notice was simply “something” on the outside of the right knee. Not a pain, just a “something.” It really felt much more like an ITB irritation, which I’ve worked through before. It wasn’t close to stopping me and was merely an annoyance. But, I’ll pay attention to it via stretching and massage.

Mentally, it was great to be back out running. I’m always a morning runner and when I went to bed last night, it felt like today was going to be a race day! That sense of excitement and anticipation was there. I woke up about 20 minutes before the alarm was set to go at 5:15…had it been race day, I would have arisen. But this morning I just drifted back for a while longer.

How nuts would any sane person think of this?? Excited to go out in the dark streets with 35 degree temps?? Oh my. I guess that’s why I have a blog.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boy, what are we in for??

ORN: Zero. Day two of Rest Week

Darrell pointed out
Dean Karnanzes running the Tecumseh Trail Marathon on Wednesday for his Indiana race. Darrell ran with Dean at St. Georges, I ran with Dean in Portland, my work colleage Jay ran Badwater with him in July. Yeah, we’re tight. Here is Dean’s take on the race Darrell and I will be running in about five weeks.

There were very few sections along this course that were flat. You were either climbing or descending the entire way. Most of the route was in thick foliage, making it sometimes difficult to see ahead, and the trail was covered in leaves, compounding the navigational complexities. We traversed countless switchbacks, some ascending and some descending, and skirted several creeks and ravines. At a number of points we got lost and had to retrace our steps to get back on the path.


Karno did the course in 4:45, validating the advice I had from others here to add 60 minutes or so to your regular marathon time on this course.

Now, some have nay-sayed Karno’s efforts and particularly his publicity efforts. But, hey, he’s doing what he said he would do.

And what a description.

I’m actually psyched. Doing this with Darrell will be a hoot. My knee is responding to the rest…hope I can ease it back into milage for this most interesting of possible “training runs.”


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On the Sidelines for a Week

ORN: Tuesday: 3 miles, still some pain
Wednesday: zero

I did some research yesterday and decided to treat this knee pain as the so-called "runner's knee," an inflammation of the cartilage in and around the kneecap. The descriptions of it matched so well what I feel and the causes of it that I'm treating it as such.

So, I'm going to not run for seven days. Wow, will that be hard. But it is probably the best.

I'm going to be faithful on the ice and ibuprofin. I'll be consistent in stretching.

It looks like the move I made on the shoes also fits into a solution. The roll inward onto the forefoot lines up with the symptoms, as does the increased milage I put in leading up to the Portland Marathon.

Plus the breakthrough in my own mind was to now treat the upcoming Tecumseh Trail Marathon with Darrell as a long training run, not a race. Funny how that simple shift in emphasis helped me. Takes the pressure off for the long runs to preceed the race. Instead, it is "simply" a long run in iteself. And, hey, it may be a 20 mile run alongside Darrell and a 6.2 mile walk by myself in the woods, letting Darrell get the car warmed up. That will be OK as well.

So, that's the plan. And, since blogging does not strain cartilage, I'll be commenting here too.

Will be a different week. And we'll persevere.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Will the shoe fit??

ORN: 3 miles, 2.8 of them pain free

Frustrated over the lack of progress on my right knee pain, I had an idea yesterday, Sunday. I had to drive to Indianapolis to pick up the youngest son, returning from a conference in Washington, DC. Why not go by my favorite running store while in Indy to see if they could help me with my shoes??

So, off I went to, where they have helped me a lot. I took my current pair of Brooks Adreneline GTS6 with me. To my delight, John looked and looked and looked at the wear pattern on these shoes, now with about 350 miles on them. He observed something I've seen but I didn't know what to do with; while my heel strike seemed very normal, my forefoot wore over to the inside of the shoe, leaving virtually no wear at all on the outside of the shoe. I observed that this has been the very same wear pattern on my last six pairs of Brooks Adrenelines.

He scrunched up his face, "This just isn't right." So he went to work to find a shoe he felt would help this inward roll on the front foot.

We ended up with a pair of adidas Supernova. I ran in them on the sidewalk outside the store, they felt great, way better than several other pairs. I was cautions...I've never had good results with adidas, feeling they were much more a "mass consumer" shoe rather than a serious runner shoe. Shoot, don't all serious runners wear either Brooks or Asics? Yet, I took the advice of John who was knowledgable and had run a 2:35 marathon the day before.

This morning, I took them out. Ouch...the first 200m were wierd. A new shoe...felt funny. Yet, by my stretching point a third of a mile in, it felt OK. The planned 3 mile run went well and it was great to be out again.

But, with just .2 miles to go, I felt the twinges in my right knee. Good thing I was almost home.

In previous adventures like this, I know it takes a while for the pain to subside. I'm hoping that's the case here. We'll see.

Thanks for the concern from many of you. Stay tuned as I persevere with this.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A few days off in Southern Illinois

ORN: Wednesday: 3 miles, no knee pain; 4 miles hiking
Thursday: 4+ miles, no knee pain
Friday: 3 miles, knee pain; 4 miles hiking
Saturday: no running; 3 miles rough terrain hiking

Gretchen and I took off for a few days off last week. We went to the far south of Illinois, an area we’d never visited and spent time in the hills and hollows of several state parks. Mostly, we didn’t rush anything. We read, hiked, sat, talked, slept, wrote, ate, didn’t eat. With no schedule. Genuinely refreshing.

We stayed at a delightful B&B that Gretchen found on-line, The Davie School Inn in the small town of Anna, Illinois. A converted old schoolhouse, we had the 4th grade classroom (the Brown room) as our home for three days! We were spontaneous in finding places to eat, making one marvelous find and one that was not.

On Saturday, we visited Vulture Fest. I am not making this up…it celebrates the return of the migratory turkey vultures to the area after their summer in Canada. It actually had nothing to do with vultures, much more a hippie/new age flea market. Gretchen really wanted a T Shirt, but alas, none for sale, only sun catchers. (Sorry, links don't seem to work today...if you want to find Vulture Fest, try Google!)

One of the fun parts of running while traveling is heading out the door each day and just running in one direction to see what one can see. This trip was no exception. I ballparked the distance from my watch (my Garmin is on the fritz) and that was plenty good enough.

On Friday, however, came a not-fun part of running; the right knee pain came back after a mere three miles. I do have this feeling of slipping into serious mileage deficit for the upcoming trail marathon. Until I do some long weekend runs, I won’t settle this gnawing concern. Yet, I resolve to remind myself I’m running for the long term (and I have a specific goal for this I’ll mention sometime) and won’t injure myself further in the short term.

Back in the saddle this week. Persevering.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A BQ, Two Things New and Race Plans

ORN: 3 miles, 29:09

So much to report, from big to banal…

BQ for The Running Chick! Blogging buddy Dianna, a.k.a. the
Running Chick with the Orange Hat, qualified for Boston today in only her third marathon, setting a PR by over 20 minutes and beating the BQ limit by 10 minutes. Read her prerace comments and then the blow-by-blow race report. She’ll likely add her own comments in a day or two. Di is one of the best running writers in the blogosphere, you’ll enjoy it.

I did two new running-related things today.

Cross Country Excellence This morning, the second round of the Indiana state High School Cross Country competion went off about 4 miles from my house. Never having been to a cross country meet before, I decided to go and see it. Many thoughts, but the most striking was the start of both the boys and girls race. I watched it from about 100 yards down course. On a spectacular, crisp fall morning, the starting line was 100 feet long and about four or five runners deep. At the gun, a hundred lean, young runners broke quickly, instantly. It was beautiful. Not even thinking, I said this out loud. One of the attending Moms was next to me and we smiled at the amazing nature of it.

Surging into the 21st Century And then, for the first time, I ran with an MP3 player today. A gift from my recent birthday, I’ve never run with “sound” before. In fact, I’ve been a little critical of it. I’m still not sure. But since the unit has an FM radio built in, I used it to listen to Purdue play Northwestern in football (an epic stuggle between the movable force and the resistable object). We’ll see how much I use it…but it was a first.

The run itself wasn’t much. But I did run, not run/walk, three miles. My right knee felt better but not great. I cut it off at 3 and we’ll see if we can ease back into more enjoyable runs. Note to self: Probably not a good idea to run a hard 5 mile race six days after a marathon. Next time, I take a week off and then ease back into it.

Which brings me to my

Next Marathon Plans Man, I enjoy running. And blogging adds a communal nature to it that spans geography (witness the connection above). And here’s a cool illustration of same. Blogging pal
Darrell and I have discovered a lot in common over the year. He’s actively trying to run marathons in all 50 states. Serendipitously, he expressed interest in the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana on December 2. After I wrote about A Hike up Pikes Peak in July with my son David, all of this started to gel, I got to thinking about trail races more. Long story short, I offered to host Darrell in his effort to knock Indiana off his list.

So, that’s what we’re going to do!! He’ll fly in, I’ll pick him up, we’ll head to southern Indiana and run for five or six hours through the woods! Neither of us has any major time objectives; indeed, I’ve talked with three local marathoners in the last few weeks who have run the race. They smile and say “Yeah, just add 90 to 120 minutes to your regular marathon time and plan accordingly!” We only have three real marathons in Indiana each year and this is hands-down the most unique. So why not have an interesting marathon to run in a far away state, eh Darrell??

I’m excited, despite how my knees feel and how his calves are doing, one week after he PRed in
the Saint George Marathon. So, stay tuned as we blog about our preparation and the get together!

And, I guarantee you, we will both persevere.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On the Usefulness of a Running Log

ORN: Tuesday: 0.3 miles, left knee pain
Wednesday: 3 miles, run/walk, right knee pain
Thursday: 4 miles, run/walk, right knee pain

So, here in week two following The Most Recent Marathon, I'm hobbled slightly. What gives? And after I did OK in a race last Saturday? I was wondering.

Then I flipped back on my running log to the three weeks following the St Louis Marathon in April. Ahaaaaaa, I say. Week one felt good, though the quads were sore. Week two showed knee pain, alternating back and forth. Week three showed improvement. Week four was back to normal.

I relaxed. I'm on a normal pattern. This will resolve. No biggie.

Yeah, persevere.

PS. I've culled my log down to a very simple small sheet that covers 8 weeks at a time. Keep it taped to a cabinet right next to our shower. If you'd like a copy of this simple Excel spreadsheet, email me and I'll send it to you

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Race Report: Mel Henry Memorial 5 Mile Race

ORN: 8 miles total for the day, including 5.0, 42:36, 8:31/mile

What a week!! Running the Portland Marathon on Sunday, then a small local race here on Saturday. I wondered what it would be like..and now I know! Here are the similarities and differences for a different style of race report!

Portland Marathon: Nationally known and publicized.
Mel Henry Run: Very local run, with just a few fliers handed out, plus word of mouth

P: 7,000 runners, 3,000 walkers
M: 45 runners, 1 walker

P: Carbo-loaded the night before with new friends from Seattle and middle son Nathan in Italian restaurant.
M: Meat-loaded the night before at a family gathering at my house celebrating youngest son Matt’s 18th birthday. Matt likes pot roast and he got to pick the menu…

P: Paid $85 entry fee
M: Paid $12 entry fee

P: A spectacular fall morning to run.
M: A spectacular fall morning to run.

P: Traveled across the country at much expense.
M: Backed out of the garage at 7:15am for the 8:00am start and still had 15 minutes to kill.

P: Had no space or time to warm up.
M: Left the house at 6am and ran three miles early just to get loose before changing and heading to the race.

P: Had busy and full expo and registration set up in hotel ballrooms.
M: Had one person at a card table set up outdoors to handle registration.

P: Took public transport downtown and walked seven blocks to the start.
M: Parked own car 30 yards from the start.

P: Ran through a major city, seeing business, industrial and residential areas.
M: Ran on rural roads, seeing a village and lots of soybean fields.

P: Knew nobody in the crowd.
M: Knew or recognized nearly a third of the runners.

P: Had thousands of volunteers to help.
M: Pretty much run by one guy, with a couple others pitching in on race day.

P: Had a cool, large bib number with advertising and my name.
M: Got a Popsicle stick at the finish line to figure the awards.

P: Had mile markers labeled with large balloons and someone calling out the times.
M: Had mile markers spray painted on the asphalt and I looked at my own watch for the time.

P: Ran without pain for 26 miles.
M: Ran with a good bit of pain in the right knee, which subsided as I continued.

P: Ran consistent splits for 15 miles, then gradually slowed.
M: Ran negative split. Mile times were 9 13, 8 58, 8 52, 8 18 and 7 12. I’ve never run a race before where each mile was faster than the previous mile. This was assisted somewhat by the course layout that was uphill to the turnaround point.

P: Got a space blanket for warmth after crossing the finish line.
M: Walked to car to get my nylon shell for warmth after crossing finish line.

P: Got a cool long-sleeve t shirt.
M: Got a cool long-sleeve t shirt.

P: Didn’t bother to go to awards ceremony.
M: Awards happened just after the last finisher crossed the line, as we all stood in a semi circle around the registration card table.

P: Preregistered and got emails from the organizers.
M: Preregistered and all 22 of us who did so won a door prize. I now have new cool, heavy-duty maglite flashlight.

P: Did not allow dogs or jogging strollers.
M: Did allow dogs and strollers. And the dog beat me. The collie Maggie paced my early-morning running pal Lu all the way and beat me by about 3 minutes. Alas, I did come in ahead of the couple with a five and a two year old in a jog stroller.

P: Wore a fluorescent green shirt to allow son Nathan to spot me in the midst of the crowd.
M: Wore official US Army PT gear to honor oldest son David who deployed this morning for his second 12 month tour in Iraq. As my knee bugged me in mile one and I thought about bagging it and walking back, I looked down at the Army shirt and realized neither David nor any of his colleagues would quit due to just a bit of discomfort. I could do no less if I wanted to honor him. The knee pain eased up and I carried on.

P: Enjoyed the race immensely.
M: Enjoyed the race immensely.

In flipping back through my race log, one other interesting thing pops out. I ran this race two years ago at the start of this era of my running life. I trained for it, focused for it and ran it in 45:50, a 9:10 pace. And my knees and legs hurt terribly afterwards. Today, I ran it 6 days after a marathon in 42:36, with no lasting discomfort. Looking at the numbers like this is encouraging…I guess all the miles and work has paid off.

Hope you enjoyed this, I sure did.

Persevere. In Oregon and Indiana.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Send Some Love to Darrell

It is fall race season and every weekend brings good times for someone. Here’s a shout out for blogging buddy Darrell who is running the St. George Marathon on Saturday morning. It took a lottery just to get into this popular race. He’s been fighting some hip pain but has persevered and is hoping to bust a fantastic time.

Go get ‘em, Darrell!! We look forward to your report!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Creaking Back to Action

ORN: 3 miles, no watch, felt good

In the four days since the marathon, I was not too sore, really sore, not too sore and pretty good. On Wednesday evenign, Gretchen and I went for about a 2 mile walk. It felt good and she had to keep bugging me to not walk so fast.

Thursday morning, I was back out on my favorite route for a 3 mile "does it all still work" run. It all worked. Felt really good to stretch as usual after 0.3 miles and the run was great. On the way back home, I saw morning running buddies Lu and Tony and swapped stories about their half and full-marathon weekends. How cool to stand in the dark and gab about The Wall and How We Hit It!

Another 3 tomorrow and then a local 5 mile race on Saturday. Great to be moving again.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Race Report: Portland Marathon, Oct 1,2006

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:21:01, 9:58/mile

Short Summary

On a perfect day for running, my second marathon of the current era went very well for 24 miles and decent overall, with an 8+ minute PR. I enjoyed it, learned much and am ready for more.

The Long Gory Details

The run-up to the run

I realized I’d never flown to a race before while I was driving to the airport on Friday. I don’t know why that hit me, but it made the race seem a little “bigger.” On the flight to Portland, I met several fellow marathoners; what fun to compare notes. They ranged from an injured runner who was walking, to a runner who was happy she had only done one 13 mile run in training, to a semi-elite runner/triathlete. For me, a guy who runs by himself almost all the time, just being able to talk to folks who love running is a treat.

Friday afternoon was a treat…my son Nathan had some necessary work to do, so he set me up with an internet connection at an empty desk in his office. What fun to “see” him do his professional thing while I pecked away at the Web in the corner. He took me downtown Friday evening and I picked up my bib and goodie bag while he waited with the car…well organized and I breezed through!

On Saturday, I played disc golf with Nathan and friends in the morning then settled in to watch our beloved Purdue Boilermakers lose to Notre Dame. Around 5pm, I joined Rob, Michelle, Sara and about 16 other runners for a great pasta dinner. Again, it was fun to meet face-to-face people I had only blogged and commented with before. The conversation was lively and animated. Yeah, we were all pumped.

Race-day—pre race

I actually slept pretty well, other than a dream I got lost on the course around mile 11. I hopped on the rapid transit train around 5:20am, heading downtown, picking up more runners at every stop. The few sleepy non-runners on the train marveled at this odd collection of people wearing shorts on a chilly morning.

The train deposited us in the pre-dawn darkness of downtown Portland, where we were swept along with a river of people walking to the start area five blocks away. Which took us to the only real negative of the day; the significant disorganization of the start.

I don’t have the most experience, but I’ve run a few large races, especially the Indianapolis Mini-marathon, with 35,000 starters. And I think the race had some problems with the start. The most glaring was the almost-complete lack of audible directions about lining up, the complete absence of signage for pace and a major breakdown of the bag-drop process.

All of which led to one of the major lessons of the day: be prepared. For anything. It would have been easy to get rattled by all of this, especially for me, a fairly organized guy. But, in the midst of it, I pointed out to a fellow bag drop linestander that a) we had chip timing, so even if we were late, we’d still get a real time and b) it really didn’t make a big difference.

It ended up that despite getting to the start area over an hour early, I had only 5 minutes to get into the pack, try to stretch and slowly work up to a reasonable spot with people who were running, not walking, as near as I could tell. It never was really clear when the race started but the pack started moving, so off we went, and crossed the timing mats to start the race.

The Race

Part 2 of the “be prepared” theme became apparent now: the GPS unit in my Garmin was completely ineffective in downtown Portland, surrounded by high-rise buildings, allowing no angle to any satellite. And so I had to quickly decide to simply use the Garmin as a stopwatch and I would use the list of split times in large fonts I had prepared last Saturday. Funny, given my navel-gazing over marathon-pace and Garmin offsets, it all went back to the basics; check the splits every mile and adjust accordingly.

Miles 1-2 were quite clogged as we tried to find our pace moving through downtown Portland. The most significant thing holding up progress was a point at about .75 miles at which the entire field had to fit through a 15 foot-wide gate between concrete barriers at a road construction site. We all slowed to a walk as the field worked thorough the bottleneck. From there, we tried to find our pace, with the expected passing and being passed given the unorganized line up. No rhythm yet and my first two spits were 10:15 and 11:08.

Miles 3-6 saw the flow and the enjoyment start to happen and the race became most enjoyable. We made a gentle climb back south of downtown with wide streets, no traffic and the human congestion of the start sorting itself out. The miles clicked by at 8:23, 8:59, 8:32 and 9:20. By mile six I was back on pace for a 4:15 finish.

Miles 7-11 were on a very flat out-and-back run through an industrial area. I backed off the pace a bit, as my trusty split chart showed me I was two minutes ahead of my desired pace. So I got into some enjoyable conversation and sang along with one of the bands along the route. Splits here were 9:21, 9:22, 9:32, 9:29, and 9:42.

A treat here was seeing my son Nathan! He knows this area of Portland well from his work activities and was able to find a route in despite the many blocked streets. As many of us know, the sight of a smiling friend or relative is often all we need. He had a bag with some Gatorade and a dry towel, which he dispensed with as easily as his big smile. Seeing him twice on this out-and-back section was a real boost.

An unfortunate thing happened as we approached the turnaround and the road clogged with runners in both directions. A big guy just ahead and to my right caught his toe as he ran near the curb and went down, hard. I swerved over to block off runners behind him and then helped him up. He had abrasions on his hands and shoulder and was rattled. I walked with him a bit and got him up to some nearby volunteers who could help out. Ouch…it could happen to any of us.

Miles 12-16 pushed us farther north, through a residential area then along the base of a large bluff. Splits stayed consistent at 9:48, 9:47, 10:11, 9:39 and 9:45. Nathan circled around the blocked streets to magically find me again around mile 14.5. The dry towel was a treat. My half-marathon time was 2:04:18, a 9:29 pace. I was quite pleased with that; hey that time beat my last half marathon by 2 minutes!!

Miles 17 and 18 provided the major challenge of the course. We had to climb up a road to a bridge at the top of the bluff. Nathan drove up this ramp with me the day before so I had an idea about it but such climbs are a lot easier in a car than on foot. As we turned onto the climb, four of us glommed together and settled into a steady, resolute, mile-long push to the center of the bridge. It worked well and the splits were 9 45 and 10:26.

We were rewarded with a spectacular view back to the south of downtown Portland in the bright morning sun. It was truly beautiful and one of the views that makes running worthwhile.

One of my climbing buddies was Phil and we stuck together for the next seven miles. This was his first marathon and he was amazed and excited about how good he felt as we came off the bridge and headed back south. He asked “Should we pick it up a bit?? You’ve done marathons…whaddya think?” “No.” “But I’m really feeling strong!” “No. We won’t make any ‘move’ until mile 23.” “Mile 23?” “Yeah, mile 23. Funny things will happen between now and then. Stay cool.”

This settled, we moved into miles 19-22. Phil and I enjoyed conversation of the kind that is also one of the best parts of running. As a local, he was a great tour guide of our wonderful views, the residential areas, the University of Portland and other sights. The crowds really picked up in this area of homes and education. Along this section, we were entertained by a group of belly-dancers. I’ll simply say those ladies really put the “belly” into belly-dancing with their sizable girths.

I do think the conversation caused me to lose focus a bit on this stretch as splits fell off to 10:07, 10:21, 10:06 and 10:33. Fatigue may also have contributed but I simply wasn’t paying attention to pace in the midst of the conversation and scenery. Yet, Phil and I barreled thorough 20 mile marker still feeling good. This was new territory for him, but I still managed to persuade him to hold off running fast, yet. Perhaps I was subconsciously covering for my own onset of fatigue.

I did overhear one conversation by some spectators as I ran this stretch:

“Gee, that guy doesn’t seem to run too smoothly.”
“Nope. But his shoelaces sure are sparkly white!”

Nathan amazingly appeared once again in the midst of this stretch. What a great kid!! And the towel was still dry

Mile 23 was a turning point. It was mostly downhill as we came off the top of the bluff back towards downtown. The split was nice at 9:25, coupled with a run through the large offices of adidas. Their workers were out in full force, all in adidas gear of course and it was a boost.

Mile 24 was where it got tough for me. At this point I wished Phil well and he worked on ahead, quickly getting out of sight. He really could go quickly. My legs, however, were running out of gas. My split was 10:28 and while I felt fine mentally and had no nausea or other problems, I simply couldn’t keep the legs turning over at the same rate. I realized I would not make a 4:15 finish at this point and so resolved to simply run the rest of the way and not walk.

Mile 25 saw us cross the river back into downtown and afforded what I found to be the funniest moment of the race for me. As we approached the bridge, I saw a group of cheerleaders from a local high school lined up and, rather than the usual just random cheering and bouncing, they were getting set to do a real organized cheer, which they started just as I approached. Here’s how it went:

Glycogen makes the leeeeeeegs go.
Both legs (clap) Both legs (clap, clap) [Repeat]

I’m so glad I heard this. First off, has the essential fuel for muscle movement ever been immortalized in a chant by identically dressed bouncing high school girls with matching hair bows?? And second, since my glycogen was nearly shot, at least the cheerleaders could urge me to keep my legs going. Both legs. Clap. Clap. I laughed all the way across the bridge. Which I needed at this point.

I crossed the river and curled back through the same construction bottleneck we saw at mile .75, this time moving through with no restriction. The split was 11:16 and I was finally heading for home.

Mile 26 was tough too. My objective remained “Don’t Walk.” And my legs, now a glycogen-free-zone, just wouldn’t cooperate. I had to relent. I picked out a landmark about 100 yards ahead and I allowed myself to walk to it. That helped. This was also the first time I played the dreaded mental game of “Why are you doing this, you fool?? Do your half marathons and avoid this!!” I tried to fight back that gargoyle and kept moving.

Over this last mile, the streets of downtown were fully lined with spectators and the encouragement was palpable. I was getting passed by a lot of folks, yet I was also passing folks in worse shape than I. I didn’t walk again, knowing I was nearly done. At the 26 mile marker, a group had put up a 30 foot poster of an cartoon-like operatic “Fat Lady” with loud opera music piped in behind her. Knowing that since the proverbial Fat Lady was singing, I had to be near the end. Mile 26 was my slowest of the day, at 12:33. Yet, I broke into a huge smile, knowing another marathon was in the books. One more left turn, 70 yards of running and it was done.

Post Race

What was really cool was that the post-race set up was as well organized as the prerace had been disorganized. This was about as good as it gets. Even though I came across the finish line with a lot of other people, the set up encouraged steady movement by already-tired legs without the “keep moving” barking that happens at other races. I quickly was de-chipped, medaled and wrapped with a space blanket that really felt good. I picked up a banana, some fluids, two trees (really…they gave away pine saplings…”so Portland” as one of Nathan’s friends observed) and a very nice finisher’s T shirt. I picked up the bag I had left at the start and found Nathan at the family meet-up area. What a hug we gave each other. It was huge to share the event with him.

I found a sheltered spot to sit down and change into a dry shirt and dry socks, one of the wonderful little pleasures after any race. Nathan and I laughed and yacked for about 30 minutes as I got my legs back under me. It was huge fun. The gargoyle went away. I was also pleased that I had little of the foot cramping and none of the wooziness that I experienced following the St. Louis marathon last April.

I caught a very early flight out of Portland on Monday morning and sat next to a fellow resident of Indiana who was wearing his finisher’s t shirt on the trip home, just as I was. Next to us was a veteran marathoner who had been at the race but couldn’t run himself due a bout with tendonitis. The three of us talked extensively on the flight to Dallas and swapped experiences of Portland and many other races. Thanks, Larry and Vern, for a nice trip.

So, that’s it. I’ll try to post photos later in the week. Thanks for hanging with this long post, I hope you enjoyed it.

Persevere. On race day and on every other day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

All Wound Up and Ready to Go

ORN: 4 miles, no watch, holding the reins back

I read somewhere that if one does the taper properly, one should arrive at race day almost springing with energy, the pent-up need to run after the heavy milage of training.

I'm kind of feeling like this.

The schedule had a mere 3 miles yesterday and 4 today, then two days rest. Today's 4 miler was fun, went quickly and I had to work to keep from going wide open. Then, over the noon hour at work today, we had a cancer society fund-raising 1.5 mile walk. I headed out the door, saw a couple of folks I wanted to walk with up ahead and, in street clothes, just ran for a couple hundred yards. It felt wonderful. I almost hated to catch them because it meant I had to stop running. Considering I would be in meetings all afternoon, it was a good think I quit running. The whole sweat thing would have been a problem.

Logistics call for an early-morning flight out of Indy on Friday morning. I'll spend Friday and Saturday with Nathan. From where I'm staying in Portland, I'll be able to catch the local rapid transit train downtown to the start on Sunday morning without waking Nathan up. Good thing, since I really like to get to race starts early. Which means I'll be out the door a little after 5 for the 7am start. It also helps me to go the other way, taking the train to the airport for my flight back on Monday at 6:30am.

I'm even more excited to see Nathan and his world than the marathon. He's a neat kid, making it on his own, and I get to be in his world for a couple of days.

One more cool thing...I'll meet up with some other runners for pasta on Saturday evening! Thanks to the on-line introduction by Darrell (sorry, links aren't working tonight), I'll be with Rob, Michelle and about 10 other Seattle runners. Should be fun....I'll post photos.

Thanks for all the well-wishes. Stay tuned for full race reports, with short versions and the long awful, painful versions too.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nuthin' New on Race Day

ORN: 8.3 miles, 1:16:27, pace somewhere around 9:25…see below

Well, it’s one week to go to
The Portland Marathon. The taper is in its final stages and I’m doing the usual nutso things in the taper. Like obsessing on whether or not to bleach my shoelaces to get them extra white. Yeah, really.

Of the more productive uses of my now-extended time not pounding out miles, I’m watching my weight to keep it flat at 195, laying off snacks and sodas, drinking water, stretching carefully. I have my packing list well in hand. And, yes, I’m monitoring the weather on race day. As of this moment, it should be about 52 at the start, headed for 73 under partly cloudy skies with only a 10% chance of rain. Sweet.

I’ve continued to navel-gaze about my projected pace. Part of the problem is that I know my Garmin has some inaccuracies in it. Linking that knowledge with the old maxim “don’t do anything new on race day,” I made up a
mile split wristband for today’s run, using it in conjunction with the stopwatch on the Garmin to see my true pace. I also wanted to practice flipping the mode switch on my trusty GPS unit back and forth from “virtual trainer” to stopwatch mode. I carefully covered the wristband with shipping tape and wore it on today’s 8 miler, so I wouldn’t have ANYTHING new on race day. And what a hoot…I learned a lot.

First off, the standard 10 point font of the wrist band really didn’t cut it for my 52-year-old eyes. Shoot, even with the reading magnifiers built in to my sunglasses, I could barely read the time while I was running. Talk about feeling like a doofus. (And to think I umpire baseball all summer with eyes like these…please don’t tell the coaches.)

The second thing I observed is
Murphy's law appling fully in this situation. “A water-tight pace band isn’t.” About 2 miles into the run, I noticed the paper soaking up the sweat. By the end, all the non-black ink colors had faded into oblivion.

The third thing I observed is the applicability of yet another old maxim: “The person with two clocks does not know what time it is.” Between my fancy-schmantzy GPS unit and an old-fashioned pace list, I had no idea how fast or slow I was running. This is further compounded by the fact that though I ran on my favorite route, where I’ve marked every half mile using a bicycle odometer, I didn’t know just how accurate those marks were. So, by the Garmin, I ran today at a 9:19 pace. Dividing out the ostensible 8 mile course by the elapsed time, the pace was 9:33.

Ever the engineer, I pulled out my race log while sitting at a tire-repair place later in the morning and reviewed the actual pace vs. the Garmin pace on major races I’ve run during the past two years, races where I have some confidence the overall distance was pretty accurate. While it varied, it looks like my Garmin gives me a pace about 8 seconds per mile faster than the pace I’m actually running. This is the first time I’ve done that math and now at least I know it.

So, here’s the plan. I just re-ran my pace chart in 16 point font using a 9:38 pace. I’m going to fold it over and put it in a small sealable bag to fit in one of the many useful pockets on my
RaceReady shorts. And the objective will remain to beat a 9:30 pace on the Garmin. Future race planning will build this 8 second error into the training. For now, I’m sticking with the plan.

Boy, this taper thing is getting scary…good thing there is only one week to go.

Persevere. No matter how bad your eyes are….

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Family Photo, News

It is increasingly difficult to get our far-flung family all together. So you can imagine our pleasure on Sept 9-10 to have it happen. Here’s a shot of all of us.

From the left; son Nathan, 26, living and working in Portland, Oregon (who will graciously let me sleep on his couch when I’m there for the Marathon on Oct 1); son Matt, 18, a senior in High School, working hard on college applications right now; grandson Andrew, 2.5, desperately trying to get loose from this photo shoot; son David, 28, husband and father of three; granddaughter Berneice, 3 months old and conversant on theoretical subtleties of the space-time continuum; daughter-in-law Susan, Rutgers engineer and mother of these three; grandson Nathan, also 2.5, a very busy boy; and my wife Gretchen, who keeps everyone in touch.

Gretchen and I had such a wonderful time having everyone together for the weekend. At one point, we looked at each other and wondered aloud how two college kids who fell in love in the early 70s could have ended up with nine people now in the clan. Little did we know then. And we are in awe and grateful for it now.

The occasion for the get together was David’s deployment for his second 12-month stint in Iraq. He leaves here today, Sept 17, will meet up with his unit in Colorado for a couple weeks of final preparations and head to Baghdad via Kuwait in early October. He’s back to being
Sgt Ely, Army medic, helping to keep our troops alive, in addition to dispensing a lot of medical treatment to regular Iraqis. Susan and the kids remain here in town.

It is an odd feeling to have your firstborn in harms way, in a very dangerous place. Not something I would have ever imagined or dreamed. Yet, it happened once and now we embark on it again. As you might imagine, news from Iraq has added punch for us. I feel a pit in my stomach when I hear of an American soldier killed there; some parent is receiving the word we most dread to hear. Yet me worrying will not keep David one iota safer. As a follower of Christ, I do believe my prayers make a difference. And I’m very glad for other soldiers’ sakes that he is near to them, a trained, experienced combat medic. He can save lives, literally, something few of us can say. So, we deal with it and hope the year goes quickly.

When I said good bye to David yesterday, he strongly suggested we say “see you later” rather than “good bye”; that is wise. Do your job well, my son. See ya later.

Persevere. David will. We all will.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Two weeks to go

ORN: 12.2 miles, 1:56:41, 9:34/mile

Wow, what a beautiful morning in Indiana; 59 and sunny in the early morning. This is the kind of day we dream of all year, then get a few during the autumn and then it is gone. And the memory of such a day is adequate to help us keep going through the bleak winter, the blustry spring and the dripping, languid summer.

The run went well...I set out to do it at 9:40 and found I had to hold myself back throughout the run. Splits were pretty even. The new hydration plan (read: force myself to drink more than I feel like drinking) worked well and will be doable on a marathon course.

It also struck me today that we are far more dependent on the weather for good runs than we might want to admit. The sheer thermodynamics and physiology of cooling heated muscle tissue is largely out of our control. Perhaps all my anquishing over the last month or so is just adding to the overheating!! No surpise, therefore, why all the major marathons are in the spring or fall.

Persevere. On nice days and lousy ones.