Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Old, Weathered, and Worn.

It was February, but the weather was incredible. The sky was a bright blue, with small puffs of white racing across it. Despite the brisk wind there were still plenty of people out in shorts and tank tops running on the track at the park where my daughter and I were playing on the playground. After our fun, we headed over to Wal-Mart to  get some groceries. On our way out the door a smiling face caught my attention. The sun was almost spotlighting this guy, he had a joyful look on his weathered face and his shoulders were rounded forward a bit. Looking at that face he seemed healthy and spry, and yes, rather old,weathered, and worn, maybe in his seventies.

 The next thing I noticed is that this guy was dressed in a manner I don't see many guys of his apparent age dressing. He had on a thin t-shirt and track shorts. Then I noticed his vastus lateralis muscle (one of the muscles of the quadriceps). The reason I noticed his vastus lateralis is that this dude's legs were freakin' ripped. Every muscle stood out under his skin like steel cables. He could have posed in an anatomy book to show the musculature of the legs. Every muscle was clearly definable. I've heard people say, "I hope I'm that fit when I'm his age." I hope I'm that fit now.

Then I thought, "I bet this guy runs faster than me."

So thanks, old guy at Wal-Mart, for giving me a goal and inspiration.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Picture this.

Don't just read through, don't skim, engage your imagination.

You walk into the gas station and this woman is handing out scratch off lottery tickets just for the fun of it. She hands you one walks out the door and drives away. You laugh a little then head over to the counter, pull a dime out of your pocket and proceed to scratch away. Several other people are doing the same. The guy next to you scratches, then says, "Dang, I had my hopes up." He looks your way and says, "I lost my wallet yesterday and I just ran out of gas, I was hoping to win enough to fill up so I could get back home."

As you go back to scratching your ticket you realize you have been given a winner. You just won 1,440 dollars.

Would you give that guy $30 for gas?

30 dollars would be 2 percent of what you just won, you would still have 1,410 dollars from your winnings.

Would you do it?

Every morning when you wake up, you have 1,440 minutes before the next morning.

Would you give yourself 2%? Would you spend thirty minutes per day investing in your own health? Get up, go out the door, walk briskly for fifteen minutes, then turn around and come home.

That is all, two percent of your day.

The benefits?
Increased Cardiovascular health.
Improved immune system
Lowered chance of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer. . .
Improved mood
Improved mental function
The list goes on.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Again, Study Quantifies the Obvious.

Runner's World also put this one out there, it really relates to the other one.

New Study Quantifies Common Sense

Well of course, I already knew this from personal experience, but now there is a study that puts it out there as being more than just my personal experience.


Basically it says that the harder the surface, the more likely there will be a forefoot strike.

Credit to Runnersworld.com for finding the article for us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Half Marathon Report by Dr. Seuss

My wife and I, we like to run.
We run for fun in the hot, hot sun.
We run in the rain, we run to train,
We run in the dark, we run in the park.

We like to run on trails you see,
Today we ran in Tennessee.
Over 13 miles to race,
Would we win? Would we place?

Through the woods, up and down hills,
Lots of curves lots of thrills.
My wife, she asked me, "Do we dare?
Are we in danger of seeing bears?"

I googled the answer to calm her fears,
There haven't been bears in there for years.
So we headed to the race,
To run at an exciting pace.

We ran our race (It was really fun.)
We ran our best 'til it was done.
We didn't place, we didn't win,
But we are sure we'll go again.

Full race report here.

Goal 1:59:59 Did He Make It?

Race morning: 41 degrees F and rainy.

Those were the conditions back home in Bowling Green, the weather at Fall Creek Falls State Park where my trail half marathon was located was much nicer, upper 50's and partly cloudy. I couldn't have asked for better weather to try my second half marathon, one year after my first on the same course. Last year I finished in 2:12:00. 12th place overall out of 62 people. This year I was hoping to finish in under two hours.

St. Patrick's Day Swag.
We did a much better job getting to the start than we did last year. This time we were able to leisurely gather our gear and race packets, then hang around for the start. It was much nicer this way.

Time to start. My plan to meet my sub 2 hour goal was to try to run at about a 9 minute per mile on the trail. I figured I'd be able to keep that pace without getting above my aerobic range, so I kept my effort level right around the top of that effort level. There were checkpoints at 2.25, 9.25, and 12.25 miles (there was also a 50K on the same course). I did a little math in my head and set my goals at 20 minutes, 83 minutes, and 18 minutes for the three aid stations. If I could do that I would still have a three minute cushion to break two hours.

On the first mile, of every race I do, I find myself thinking, "Why am I doing this? I don't enjoy this. This is hard. Who needs to race anyway?" I get over that pretty quickly though. I settled in to a comfortable pace, planning to keep things aerobic for most of the race. I planned on picking up the pace at aid station 3. Due to an injury, I had drastically reduced my mileage last year, and in training for this race 4 miles was the longest I'd held a tempo effort, so I figured I'd hit that effort level for the last four miles.

Aid station one: 19:27. 33 seconds ahead of goal time, but it would be a long haul on some hilly trails before I could check my pace again. I prefer to run without GPS, I wrote more about that here. At about 30 minutes I realized I was working above my aerobic pace, so I slowed down. I ran, along the trails, up the hills, down the hills, across the wooden bridges, over rocks the size of my torso. I met some other runners and talked with them and generally had a blast in the woods. (Will I be able to road race again?)

At one point, I started to wonder if I was near the suspended bridge that swings and shakes as you run across 50 feet or so over a rushing stream 15-20 feet below.

I heard up ahead a thumping of feet on wood and said to the person just ahead of me, "Sounds like another bridge." Then I heard a scream that started off terrified and settled down into a laugh, and said, "It's the suspended bridge."

80 minutes gone, and no sign of aid station 2 (83 minute goal), would I make it there in time?

83 minutes, no aid station.

89 minutes aid station.

So much for my cushion, now I had to make up at least three minutes to reach my sub 2 hour goal. With 4 miles left to go it was time to up the effort level. Unfortunately the trail also ups the difficulty level on the second half of the course, a lot more climbing to do.

I knew before, but verified on this race that I am much better downhill than uphill. On every hill, if there was someone behind me, they would come right on my tail on the uphills, then I would leave them behind on the downhill. If they were in front of me, I'd catch up with them downhill, and get left behind going uphill.

The going was getting tough.

As some of you know, I recently lost my dog. He was a greyhound, pitbull mix. He was awesome, but he was nearly 13 years old. I wish I had been a runner when he was young. He would have been a great running buddy. I'm still miss that boy, his empty dog house haunts my backyard, so do the trails worn into the grass back there. So, when he died, I made this plan to sort of invoke his spirit on this run.

The going was getting tough, so I imagined my dog with me, young, strong, and swift, running with me. When I wanted to slow down, I'd picture him pulling ahead of me and looking back over his shoulder at me as if to say, "Come on Dad let's RUN!" He kept me pushing hard for the last four miles.

Thanks Grendel.

Somewhere along the trail, one of the volunteers, out on the trail with a bicycle said to me, "It's not too terribly far before you're back on the road, then either turn left to finish the half, or go across for the 50K."

"Not too terribly far. . ." What does that mean? Once I hit the road I've got .75 miles to go. Does this mean I'm a mile from the end? 2 miles? 3 miles? I've got 10 more minutes to go until two hours have passed. I'd better keep the effort high in case it is a longer way to go. I can definitely finish the last mile in 10 minutes, but I still don't know when I'll reach the road. 

9 minutes to go, still not on the road. I can finish a mile in 9 minutes though.

8 minutes, still no road. I can do a mile in 8, especially since most of it is on asphalt and downhill.

7 minutes, not out of the woods yet. I can run a seven minute mile, but I'll have to really crank it up. 

Come on Grendel, let's go.

I made it to the road at 2 hours and 1 minute. 


At this point, I can still PR even if I take it easy the rest of the way.

So I slowed down to an easy jog.

Not really, I gave it all I had left.

My right calf cramped up. With every step it would cramp more, so on the lift off I would dorsiflex my toes. I was trying to reel in the two guys ahead of me. The cramp got worse, I stopped and stretched it out, then took off again. I didn't reel them in. 

I was sore. I was tired, but I gave it what I got. 

Official results haven't been posted, but my time was 2:06: something. I think around 2:06:40, maybe a little more or less. 

Even without hitting my major goal, I still got a personal best by over 5 minutes. So I'm happy about that.

There was a much tougher field this year than last. Last year I got second in my age division and 12th overall. This year fifth, and 25th, but as I have said before, given the choice, I'd rather PR than place.

It was a great race, lots of fun, and it helped me let go of my dog, Grendel.

I wonder what I could do on a road half.

My wife and I love this race. It is always well organized, a great spread of food at the end, and the race director listens to feedback from the runners and makes improvements. We plan on continuing to do this race. Maybe, just maybe, should I remain injury free this year, maybe I'll do the 50K next time.

Two happy runners.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Over the River and Through the Woods

Here goes. I've got to make this sound dramatic.

In a day and a half I will be doing my second half marathon. I'll be running the same race as I did one year ago, The Fall Creek Falls Trail Half Marathon. 13.1 miles. Last year I actually ran a little farther than that (report here). I finished in 2:12:00.

This year I do it again. I like races. I enjoy the camaraderie, the spirit of competition, being out on the trail giving it my all. I don't care (much) about beating the other racers, but I sure do enjoy competing with them. What I'm really hoping for (aren't we all?) is a personal best. Honestly, I'd like to break under two hours.

There is rain in the forecast. That might slow me down, the trails could be sloppy and slippy and treacherous. I'll keep on running though.

I seriously considered asking to borrow my stepdaughter's GPS watch to help me keep track of my pace, but then I changed my mind. I want to do this based on effort. I want to control my pace by listening to my body. I want to attempt to run the speed I need to run to meet my goal without constant electronic feedback. I will have time goals for each aid station, but that is all.

I'm not sure why, but I like the primalness of trail running, I like getting closer to nature, I don't want to be interrupted by an electronic guide even if it will help me monitor my pace. That is part of why I wear minimal shoes. I don't want to rely on running shoe technologies like Biomogo or progressive diagonal rollbars. I want my feet and legs, and heart and lungs and mind to run the race. Yes, I'll wear a stopwatch, and I'll be eating some gels, but that is about as advanced as my technology will be. If I could find honey in convenient 100 calorie squeeze tubes I would probably just use honey. If Mandarin "cuties" weren't so bulky I might use those, but for now I'll stick with the gels.

And I will run step by step, breath by breath. I will run through the woods, up and down the trails, along the ridges, through the creeks across suspended bridges until I reach the end.

And 1:59:59 or not I will finish smiling.

Results will be available here. http://www.my-finish.com/form.php?race_name=fcftr

Are You Laughing at My Shoes?

When I was a kid, I had the audacity to be less financially well off than my peers, and as a result I often wore the wrong brands of clothing to school.

In sixth grade, I had on my newly purchased Trax shoes, and some of the other kids started poking fun at them and by extension me. I had no idea that Trax was an unacceptable brand to wear to school, but apparently there was some unwritten rule that I had not figured out yet about wearing the same brand clothing as everyone else. 
You will be assimilated.
I learned to either get the right brands, or somehow hide the fact that my "Jams" were not "Original Jams", but were in fact made by my mother. I was very sensitive to ridicule. I'm not sure if my sensitivity was a result of being picked on, or if being picked on was a result of my sensitivity.

I'm still not over that sensitivity, but lately I've discovered something about being an adult.

A lot of people never got over that need to make fun of something different from their way of doing things.

Case in point, I like Vibram Five Fingers shoes. It amazes me how many grown adults feel the need to make fun of my shoes. "You've got monkey feet." "Look, he's got webbed toes." "Do you need me to buy you some real shoes?" "Those are too ugly to wear." "I can't believe you've bought in to that barefoot running thing."

The list goes on and on and on. . .

Sure I can make good natured responses. "Actually they are shaped like people feet. I couldn't wear these shoes if I had webbed toes. I'll let you buy me another pair of these, they're pricey. You should see my feet without them. You might not have noticed, but I'm not barefoot." 

I've had plenty of practice shrugging it off, but it is a weakness of mine that I take criticism pretty hard.

So, geez people grow up and stop making fun of my shoes! Are we back in sixth grade or what?

It boils down to this. You can put whatever you want on your feet, you can run in whatever shoe makes it most enjoyable for you, but not everyone is going to do it your way. Let the slow runners be slow, let the VFF wearers wear their toe shoes, let the Brooks Cascadia wearers wear their shoes. Let the guy in the toga tied Xero shoes do his thing too. We are all on this planet together, let's make it pleasant for one another.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why You Can't Keep Your Heart Rate In Your Range

Lately I've read lots of posts from runners having a panic attack about their inability to run slowly enough to stay in their target heart rate training zone.

Guys, chill, there are lots of reasons that you could be exceeding your target zone.

Reason 1. Your heart rate monitor is wrong.

I've had heart rate monitors tell me my heart rate was in the high 50's during an interval workout. I had one that wouldn't pick up my heart rate if it were below 40 degrees Farenheit. Before you stress, find out how accurate your monitor is.

Reason 2. Your ESTIMATED heart rate zones are wrong. Did you notice the emphasis I put on the word ESTIMATED? In case you didn't let me emphasize it some more. ESTIMATED. How did you decide what your target heart rate is? 220 - age times a percentage? Did you MAF it and go with 180 - age? Did you know that 220- age could be off as much as 30 beats per minute?  For perspective, I turn 38 next month. According to the MAF method my maximum heart rate for aerobic work is 142. 30 bpm error factored in it could be 112. What if I tried to run my long run at 142 when I need to run it at 112? That error could also put me at 172 for my maximum aerobic capacity, at 142 I'd be barely working.

Unless you've had your maximum heart rate tested you really don't know what it is.

Reason 3. You are running too darn fast. Slow down.

So what is a fan of Phil Maffetone to do?

Chill guys, I got this. If you are running down the road and you say out loud, "Oh geez, my heart rate is ten beats higher than 180 minus my age. What am I going to do. I just can't seem to run slowly enough to stay in my heart rate range. This is really embarrassing I don't want anyone to see me running that slowly. Oh well, I guess I either have to embrace the shame or ruin my workout."

If you can say all that out loud, you  haven't exceeded your aerobic zone, you're OK to keep going at that pace.

It's called the talk test. If you can say about a paragraph's worth out loud you are aerobic, if you can't you've crossed the threshold.

Links to other articles on this are below.


Why My Five Year Old Runs 5Ks

My wife started running again when our little girl was still a really little girl. Then I started running before she turned three. So she decided she wanted to run too. She would run about a quarter of a mile at a time. Then at age three she ran her first kids 1/2 mile fun run. It was a fun event, My wife, my stepdaughter and I all ran the 5K, then my little girl ran the fun run. 

She was hooked.

She ran some more 1/2 mile kids' runs and a one miler. Then at age 4 she announced she wanted to run the 5K on Thanksgiving which would be just after her fifth birthday. Her mother and I ran with her. (Slowest 5k I've ever run) Full story here. She ran the first 2 miles and the last .1.

While in the jogging stroller with me and my wife on a 6 mile run she told us she wanted to run, she does that sometimes and usually goes 1/2 mile to a mile. This time we let her out at the turn around point and she ran the whole three miles home.

She let us know that at the Butterflies for Maddie race this year she is not running the 1/2 mile, she wants to run the 5K. Actually she wanted to run both, but we told her she had to choose.

She loves to run and at age 5 is capable of running a 5K. She even rode her bike (training wheels and all) five miles to get ice cream.

The reason she loves to run and bike and exercise is simple. Her family has set the example. Her mother, her big sister, and I all take good care of our bodies, exercise, make healthy food choices. It is what she has grown up knowing and it is what she does.

To really teach something, to really instill something in your children, my advice is to live it for yourself.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

5 Reasons I Hate the Treadmill (and 5 Reasons I Love It)

Every once in a while, the elements outside combine in such a fashion to drive me to run on the dreaded treadmill. Treadmill running is psychologically hard for me because I get so bored, but it also has its benefits.

Five reasons I hate the treadmill

5. Snot rockets. Where in the world can I send my snot rocket?

4. The view. The other day I spent an hour staring at a cobweb.

3. It is too tempting to stop. If I'm on a 10 mile out and back and I feel like quitting halfway through, guess what, I still have to get home. If I feel like quitting on the treadmill, the couch is right over there. Very tempting.

2. No wind. I like the feel of the air moving across my face as I run, I get none of that on the treadmill.

1. Boring. Boring, boring, boring.

Five reasons I love the treadmill.

5. If I am focused on a certain pace that day, I dial up that pace and the treadmill makes sure I keep it.

4. Slick roads. I refuse to do my speed workouts when there is patchy ice, or snow compacted into sheets of ice, the treadmill keeps me safe on those rare icy days in Kentucky.

3. If something happens, I can stop and be at home. No need to search for a bathroom or water fountain, I can hop off the treadmill and meet whatever needs I have.

2. No wind. Yesterday morning there were winds gusting 20-30 miles per hour. No thanks, I'll run on the treadmill.

1. It keeps me honest. I can know exactly what my pace is, if there is a discrepancy in my stride I can't blame it on terrain, with so many variables controlled any errors in my running are MY errors.

How about you? What do you like and hate about the treadmill.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Something Would Have To Be Chasing Me. . ."

If you are a runner and you haven't heard this one, keep running you will.

"You ran how far? Why, was something chasing you?"

You don't even have to be logging that many miles, I once heard it in response to a 2 mile run. It is a pretty common comment from non-runners. Actually, you'll get lots of comments from those who choose not to run, and you will find your own way to respond to their well meaning, or sarcastic, or down right snarky comments. You might respond with grace, or return the sarcasm, or just ignore them and move on, but you will find what works for you.

If you want to know some of my favorite responses, I have some good news for you. Here are some comments I've actually heard and the responses I thought up during my next run when it was too late to actually say them.

You know that's bad for your knees don't you?
Actually, no it's not. (I know, dull, but straightforward.)

You're going for a run right now? You're crazy.
One of us will spend 30 minutes today doing running, the other will spend 30 minutes inhaling toxic smoke to indulge their nicotine addiction. Which one of us is crazy?

I get tired driving that far.
In that case you seriously need to go for a run.

RUN FORREST! (usually shouted from a passing car).
Stupid is as stupid does.

You ran how far? Why? Was something chasing you?
Yes, something is chasing me, and it is chasing you too, Obesity, Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, High Cholesterol, OH NO they're coming, they're right behind you!!! 


Run now before it's too late!!