Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grocery shopping made interesting

ORN:  7 miles total, with 5 x 1 mile intervals at 8:22
One of the useful byproducts of my reflective drive home from the Rocket City Marathon nearly two years ago was settling on a global plan to run marathons more frequently.  In so doing, each one becomes a little less of a huge event.  This showed itself yesterday.
On a muggy, overcast Saturday morning , I tried to improve on the interval workout that whipped me badly three weeks ago.  Big difference?  I ran with water, taking a single 10 oz bottle in my belt.  It made a difference.  All five miles were consistent, within 9 seconds of each other, averaging 8:22.  Interestingly, this pace, according to Galloway's Magic Mile Calculator puts me right at my usual marathon target time of 4:45.  I enjoyed the workout and felt strong at the end.  And, kind of a hoot to do a speed workout just a week ahead of a marathon.  I note that Darrell may have done the same.
Later in the day, I made a trip to the grocery store.  As I maneuvered my cart, I noted a perky young mom with two kids in her cart stop, look and start smiling at me.  I did not recognize her at all; it quickly became clear.
"Did you run Sunburst?" she asked, expectantly. 
At that point, I realized I was wearing my Sunburst Marathon T shirt from 2008.  It made sense...she had just run her first-ever half-marathon there in June and it was, in her words, "one of the best days of my life!"  We had a long, wonderful conversation right between the dipping chips and cheese cooler.  What a hoot to talk about the race, why it was so enjoyable, the amazing experience of running down the tunnel onto the Notre Dame football field, the impact family has on running.  We both chuckled as well about the audacity of starting a conversation with a total stranger based on a T shirt.  Yeah, we'd both done it.  I suppose that is evidence that one really enjoys running.
Next Monday, Darrell and I take to the heat and hills of the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO.  It's our fourth now-annual fall marathon together.  He will fly east to St Louis on Sunday...I'll drive the 4.5 hours west from home, swoop by the airport to pick him up and we'll drive the 90-ish miles farther west to Columbia.  We will have pasta with other runners Sunday night and then run on Labor Day at 6am.  It's a small race...latest info says about 175 runners total.  I was really surprised to note about 40% of the field has never run a marathon seems a tough time of year and tough course to make one's maiden marathon voyage.  So, it will be fun and a challenge.  Early weather predictions point to a starting temp of mid 60's heading to upper 70s by the finish.  Darrell and I have coordinated our outfits and, with neither of us uncomfortable with overthinking race-day details, we're figuring out just how we'll run it.   One thing is sure; we won't be fighting the wildfires Darrell is avoiding in Southern California this week. I'll update my Facebook page from site and blog later about the event. 
Enjoy your week.  And persevere.   

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Running Stores

ORN; 4.6 total w/ 5K time trial of 25:59 (8:21/mile)...felt good
Hang with me here...this is story mostly about people and business, set in a running context.  It's quite a contrast between two running stores and two approaches. 
On April 27, I blogged about the offer I had from the folks at New Balance-Harrisburg.  In short, they offered to send me a free pair of running shoes if I would a) post a link to their store for a year and b) write about the shoes they sent me.  As I have a keen interest in digital marketing, I said yes to the offer. 
I posted the link.  But, to briefly recap, problems began when I asked the marketing folks to help me decide which NB shoe would be the best for me, a big, hulking overpronator who really likes my Brooks' Beasts.  I got no response from anyone who knew about shoes.  At all.  So, resorting to my own research efforts via the web, I "guessed" a pair of New Balance 1123 motion control shoes.  Just a few days after I ordered them, they arrived, just as promised. 
I wore them for about three weeks.  My initial response was "Man, is that a straight shoe!"  Whereas most running shoes have a more or less inward curve, this shoe looked like a 2x4 with laces on top...dead straight!  I put them on and they felt a bit awkward, but motion control shoes do that anyway. 
After 50 miles of running in the 1123s over three weeks, I was disappointed.  My legs and feet never got comfortable.  Of more concern, as I began to see a wear pattern develop on the shoe, it was obvious the shoe was way less effective on controlling my overpronation than the Beast.  So, I pulled it from my running shoe rotation.  The shoes do, however, serve me when I mow the yard. 
Still, I wondered, what would have happened had someone really wanted to help me select the right shoe? 
I found out, once again, last Tuesday while in Chicago taking son Matt back to Wheaton College for his junior year. 
After getting Matt settled (and a tough good-bye it was for this Dad!),I drove a few miles south to visit Naperville Running Company.  I first learned of this store from blogging buddy Waddler and wrote about them in February, 2007 after my first visit.  As described in the link, John deduced Brooks Beast would provide relief from the ITB pain I had.  Since then, I've purchased more Beasts via mail order from the store.  But I wanted to take another hard look at the Beast... Brooks has slightly altered the design... is it still the best shoe?? 
I had emailed Kris, the store owner, a few days earlier and asked if I could see someone on Tuesday afternoon.  He said they'd all be there, so when I walked into the store around 3pm I was thrilled to see John again, the same guy who helped me 2.5 years ago.  
I brought three pairs of Beasts with me and, as he did in February 2007, he first combed the soles of the shoes for clues to my foot pattern.  It was like watching a crime specialist at the scene... no detail was too small. He asked me about my running pattern... he was surprised and complimentary to learn I'd run 10 marathons since we last talked.  He then asked about changes in my running, weight, other factors.  He pronounced the wear pattern "good" but was also empathetic to my concern about knowing if the Beast remained the best shoe for me. 
After all this talk, he disappeared to the back room finding what he thought would be the best candidates.  The Beast was one, of course, to serve as a "control".  He brought the Asics Gel Foundation as well, which I suspected was also a good candidate.  But, most ironically, he also grabbed the New Balance 850!  I laughed to myself and thought "this will be interesting"; I had mentioned nothing of my contact with the NB store. 
We quickly dismissed the Asics shoe...the posts just didn't feel comfortable.  The Beasts felt very good.  But the NB850 was very nearly as good as the Beast!  John let me try both of them and then we went to the treadmill.  They had a video camera set up at the rear of the 'mill recording the street-level view of my running gait.  John reviewed it, and let me watch in slow motion, analyzing each foot's strike in each model. 
Bottom line:  the new model of the Beast looked perfect.  The NB 850 looked almost perfect.  Only the slightest of difference at foot strike was observable.  Both John and I agreed the NB 850 would probably work fine if we had had any concerns with the Beast.  But it was not wise to throw out the incumbent unless there was a much stronger alternative. 
I walked out with a new pair of Beasts.  More importantly though, I walked out with strong level of confidence I was wearing the model of shoes best suited for me. 
Contrast these two running store experiences.  Just from the conversation we had, John pulled out the 850s as a possible shoe for me.  Surely someone at the NB store could have figured out the same thing for me.  Had I tried the 850s, I would have given the NB Harrisburg store a much better review.  But no one did...and thus, you get the scoop like this.  This is how digital marketing works...nothing gets hidden. 
Mega thanks to Kris, store owner, and John, a terrific shoe fitter at Naperville Running Company.  Retail is tough; retail for a hobby is very tough; retail for a hobby in a recession is super tough.  But, from the looks of all the activity in the store on a Tuesday afternoon, this team is doing all the things they need to do.  Customer service sets this store apart and far apart are they set.  If you are anywhere near Chicago...and if you aren't, phone or email them, they might still help you.   
This is great marketing.  The brand of Naperville Running Company lines up with Brands that Matter, as described by my favorite marketing dude, Seth Godin.  There may be lessons here for your own business...consider it carefully.
Thanks for hanging with this long post.  But I'm impressed and I can't tell you how grateful I am. These guys have persevered and sure help me do the same. 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last Long Training for the Whole Fall...Done!

ORN:  23.8 miles, R3/W1, 4:32:13, 11:   /mile
Today was the last long training run for the Heart of America Marathon.  Due to the sequencing of the fall marathons, it is also the last long training run I'll do on our local roads until late November. 
And there wasn't a lot really memorable.  I simply started early and kept running.  Temperatures were set to be well over 90 today here, so I walked out the door at 5:45 and got home around 10:30am.  I held the 3/1 ratio through the first 22 miles, but backed off to a 2/2 at the end.  The heat got intense and I was pretty well ready to be done. 
Only two really interesting stories; one odd, one funny.  The odd one occurred at mile 3, still before sun up.  I was moving down a dark street when a dog came running out of a garage at me.  He chased me a while, jumping, nipping around my elbows, as I just tried to keep going.  His owner walked into the street and tried, meekly to get Brio to come back, which he did after a block or so.  Not my idea of fun.  But then I hit one of my turn around points and was back in front of Brio's house again 10 minutes later.  By then, with more light, I could see it Brio was a lab or lab mix, still a puppy and just playing.  That helped.  But why do dog owners assume their unleashed dogs don't bother others? 
The funny story happened around mile 21.  I saw a lady I know enough to recognize but don't know her name.  She was walking her dog (on a leash!!) and, remembering she has seen me running before, asked "So how far do you run?" 
I said "It varies...but today I'm doing 23."
A long pause, with a puzzled look.  "Miles?"
"Yeah, miles.  I like to run."
"Well, doesn't that take you all day to do that much?"
"Actually, I'm almost done...heading home, only 3 more."  (it was not yet 10am at the time)
I hope I can talk to her more...but it was a little hard for her to fit together. 
Stats on the run.  I drank 95 oz of water ( 21 oz/hour), a little low, I think on such a hot day.  I took one Salt Stick per hour and ate 3 Gu's.  All of this was on top of one slice of bread and butter.  I could have used some more calories, I'm thinking.  But no cramping or nausea at the balance must have been OK. 
Three weeks now to HOA Marathon.  It could well be just as hot and muggy as it was here today.  So, this was good prep.  I will use a 2/1 there, though...they have hills, we don't. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Add the Portland Marathon to Fall Schedule

ORN: 5.2 miles, R6/W1
A few weeks ago, I published my fall race schedule.  
I now can add one more... The Portland Marathon on October 4!!
This is a real treat for me.  I ran Portland in 2006, which was my 2nd marathon of the current era.  Thanks to Darrell's introduction, I there met many of my PNW running friends:  Michelle, Eric, Jenny, Sarah, and others.  They welcomed me into their fold and have stayed in touch...what a treat.
Well, it worked out again for me to be in Portland again.  My middle son, Nathan, lives and works in Portland and a lot of things fell together for me to go visit him; as a bonus, the dates lined up with the Marathon.  So, I'm going to fly in on Friday evening, head back on Monday morning and enjoy the weekend with Nathan.  He said he was looking forward to trailing me around the course.  I registered for the race and have my bib number already:  4981.  I even asked the nice folks to emblazon "PURDUE" on my bib.  Should be fun.
I see Michelle is running Portland again.  I hope we can connect!!  It would be great to see any of the rest of you who might be running!!
So, the fall has three marathons and an ultra set now.    
Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, Missouri on Labor Day, September 7. 
Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, November 7
Huntington Ultra-Frigid Fifty, a 50 km ultra in Huntington, Indiana.  Persevere. 
I'm pumped.  We'll see how the body holds up. 
And I'll be persevering. 

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Back from vacation, learning an old lesson

ORN: 9.4 miles total, with 7 x 1 mile repeats, average 8:56 (but averages are deceiving)

You'd think I would have learned this by now. But apparently not.

Hydration matters.

Running last week on vacation in northern Wisconsin was awesome. The cool temperatures, dry air, beautiful woods to run through, stress-free atmosphere all worked together to make a great week. I ran hard, felt good, enjoyed every step.

And, as often happens, I somehow thought that what had happened would continue to happen.

When we got home Saturday night, we were greeted with a classic set of the "Indiana Ninety-fives"... 95 degrees with 95% humidity. Out the door at 7am this morning, it was already 76 with very high humidity. The schedule called for 7 one-mile repeats. I decided, with the heat, to be happy with 8:45s.

The real problem, though, was I decided to not take any water with me. Shoot, I figured, it would "only" be about 9 miles total and, shoot, I didn't need much water in Wisconsin and, shoot, I don't really want to put on my water belt, because shoot, I don't like how tight I have to cinch it up around my waist to keep it from bouncing.


It all worked fine through the first four intervals. All within 4 seconds of each other at 8:41. Felt good. My shirt was drenched in sweat, though, and it was just awful outside. The fifth interval slid to 8:59 and the last two were a real struggle, at 9:17 and 9:36, respectively.

Worse, I hurt like crazy. My feel, my hips, my quads all ached, in a way they haven't in a long time. This is, for me, one indication of dehydration...somehow the joints are less "lubricated." I drank about five glasses of water in 45 minutes once I got home; I had clear evidence that in that "mere" 9 mile run, I indeed had dehydrated.

You'd think I would know better. Perhaps it's good to relearn this on a non-race, short day out.

I'm gonna counteract this by wearing the belt on each of my runs now...even the short ones, while it is still this humid...which will be through much of September. It also makes me wonder if I shouldn't investigate a non-waist-oriented water device.

Enough on this, though. We had a fabulous vacation and here are a couple of photos of the fam.

The Fam, at Schoolhouse Beach
Here we all are, at a favorite spot. I'm in the back. From the left, is son Matt, son David, his wife Susan and my wife. Drew had the "binocular eyes", then Nathan and young Miss B. It was awesome to spend a full week together.

G and me
My lovely wife and me on a fire tower. In the background is Lake Michigan and, on the horizon, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Yeah, the sky was really that blue.

Vacation or no, do persevere. And drink plenty of as I say, not as I do!!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On vacation in Door County, Wisconsin

It was not clear to me what was different. I was running on rural roads of Door County, Wisconsin Sunday, our first full day here on a week's vacation. I was a full 8 miles into my 10 mile training run and had not yet put my finger on it. What was different??

Then, like a very wet towel, I realized the difference. No Humidity!! What a concept! On this small penninsula, the "Thumb of Wisconsin", thrust out into Lake Michgan 150 miles north of Milwaukee, we had finally escaped the Gulf of Mexico's influentce. A perfect blue sky, breeze from the northwest, blowing dry Canadian air was a treat. And, despite the temperature in the low 70s, I was running hard and was not soaking wet. No sweat in my eyes, no sticky shirt, no dripping wet hair, no shorts looking like I had just been swimming. It was a beautiful thing.

Yeah, we're on vacation and it is a real treat. We are here with two of our three sons (Nathan was unable to get here from Portland for a full week...we miss him), plus David's wife and three munchkins. We're sharing a rented house for a week and it has been fun. The running has been nice...I always remind myself that it is good to do hills once in a while. The dry air is a welcome relief from the mugginess of Indiana.

But the best part is being together. Relaxing, playing with the little ones, (the twins 5 1/2 and Miss B being 3), reading, doing many crossword puzzles, walking to the beach, hiking, geocaching and, best of all, out for ice cream every night after dinner. My wife and I are humbled and amazed by the mere chance to do something like this. We're thankful.

Adding icing to the cake... I got back from my five miler this morning (Tuesday) and twins Drew and Nathan were playing outside. "You guys want to go running with Grandpa?" They grinned... and off we went. We ran maybe 400m or so along a side street. And Grandpa got a great reminder.

Running should just be fun.

An overnight shower had left several puddles in the street. What to little boys want to do with puddles?? I joined them and the three of us clomped and splashed through all the puddles we could find, laughing all the way. We came to a small clearing in the woods and there was a young doe. We stopped and whispered (big challenge for 5 year olds) and watched her watch us. We ran some more and then went home.

That's what running can me. No GPS required to splash puddles. No on-line running log necessary to be surprised by nature. Best to not even have a clock when connecting with children. All good, folks, all good.

Here are a few snapshots of an outing we had on Monday.

with sons David and Matt
with her Dad looking on, I help Miss B learn to putt
Miss B looks at flowers while the twins play mini golf