Sunday, March 27, 2011

It Was 40 Years Ago Today.....

Sgt Pepper may have taught the band to play 20 years ago, but if you double that you'll find an event of greater significance (at least for me). It was forty years ago: March 27, 1971 that six daring youths from Wayne State University set out to run from the campus in downtown Detroit to the Mackinac Bridge, what we charted as being 337 miles.

What began as a goofy chat in the student union between John Gores and myself, slowly became a reality for us and the four others we "recruited," Geoff Lane, Ray Evanoff, Pat Klotchko and Keith Wright. The plan was to run for eight days (Spring Break), camp as we went and roll into Mackinac fresh as daisies (we were young and didn't know any better). The hope was to be able to run across the bridge upon completion (even though pedestrians were prohibited from crossing the bridge except for the annual Labor Day walk).

Day one had us looping the track one time (like the Olympic Marathon) heading through campus and on to Woodward Avenue and North. Our goal was to chop up our days into three runs, stay together when possible and steadily make our way to the Bridge.

Keeping in mind that it's been forty years, I have forgotten a great deal about the details of the run. Some things, however, are as clear as if they happened yesterday. I would like to share some of those.

On Woodward Avenue, we were intercepted by a news truck. The reporter, who for some reason I think had the last name of Berry, hopped out and being the typical man-on-the-street-story-kind-of-guy, ran alongside as he interviewed us for the nightly news. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Berry (?) was a rather portly fellow thus limiting the length of our 15 minutes of fame.

Once outside the city limits, the loneliness of the long distance runners set in and the task at hand became more apparent. It was going to be a long way!

We camped that first night. I couldn't tell you where although I think it was somewhere near Ortonville. My Uncle Dave lived near there. We didn't visit. The setup was pretty simple. John Gores' wife, Jackie and Keith Wright's wife, Mary, were our support system. They dropped us off, picked us up, cooked for us, supported us but mostly put up with their men and these other guys as we routinely going between bouts of trauma and downright silliness.

On Day two we made an alteration of the route. Instead of hanging a right in Standish and following US 23 along the Lake Huron shoreline, we decided to pierce the middle of the Michigan mitten and continue up Hwy 33. In each of the first days we ran about 40-45 miles a day.

Day three had three distinct memories. 1) We lost Keith Wright to an ankle injury (which means we also lost Mary). I have to say that when Keith went down, it was the low point of the journey. Keith was the eternal optimist and always pleasant as someone with whom to share a running conversation. 2) It was our longest day - 52 miles. Small country roads with snow packed on the side. An occasional horn honking supporter passing by. I remember feeling fairly okay that day and John and I finished in beautiful Alger, Michigan before the others. We sat in front of the Alger Post Office, chatting away, munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. John and I could always chat (as well as sing Rocky Raccoon until silenced by unappreciative and tone deaf teammates). In fact, I suppose it was our chatting that got us into this mess! 3) We decided we were done camping. 

As we headed further north, we were close enough to Harrisville, Michigan (and the cabin belonging to Geoff Lane's parents) to head for a night or two of non-camping warmth. We never camped again.

Mornings were odd. We were young and somewhat full of that energy exclusively given to athletes in our age group. At the same time, the wear and tear of the journey was taking its toll. Each morning, I would take inventory: calves okay, hamstrings still kind of loose, quads alright. We'd even say to each other, "hey I feel pretty good." "Yeah, me too.".... then, we'd actually stand up... OUCH! 

Days four, five and six were long. The roads were lonely (part of the reason for the route change was fewer cars and trucks) and everyone was hurting to some extent. 

John Gores was the trooper. He was the one who kept us going, stayed optimistic. John's biggest problem was that he seemed to attract hostile dogs. I can't tell you how much we used to gripe about our crappy, baggy WSU sweat pants. The griping ceased when it was the pants bagginess that saved John's leg one day as some hungry country dog could only get a mouth full of cotton instead of calf.

Jackie was a saint. How she ever put up with the bunch of us was beyond me, but she did.  Geoff Lane was our result oriented guy. He had a work ethic as a runner and as a person that was one of the best I've ever known. He was also strong and fast. Ray Evanoff and Pat Klotchko had the toughest time. Pat was hurting most of the way but always good for a witty comment about the days events and Ray, a converted 880 runner, got pretty sick near the end. We were a ragtag group, but one united by a goofy spring break idea.

Somehow we became the story for a Detroit News reporter named Bill Halls. I would call my Dad, tell him where we were, he would call Bill. My Dad relished this role as news source and Detroit News insider. All in all, Mr. Halls did a nice job covering our little jaunt.

We spent three nights at Geoff's cabin. I'm not sure we'd have made it if we hadn't made that move. It meant driving early to get to our starting points and driving back to sleep at night, but the extra comfort was more than worth it. Besides, the cabin became a home of sort.

Near the end of Day Six we saw the sign that said "Mackinac Bridge 100 miles." 100 miles is a long way, even in a car. This sign, however, was a sign of hope.

As you can imagine, there was some rough weather along the way. It was Michigan in March after all. For the most part it wasn't too bad. I only remember being REALLY cold in Onaway, where we spent night seven. John's wife, Jackie, was related to the Young family (uncle and aunt, maybe) and they were our hosts prior to the runs final day.

On the last day, our coach Dan Watkins, showed up. While not the biggest supporter of our run (it WAS going to bang up most of his distance crew prior to the outdoor season), his job was to do two things (at least as far as we were concerned): get us a hotel room once we were done and arrange it so we could cross the bridge. The man to convince was Henry Debereaux, the bridge supervisor. I don't know how the negotiations went. What I do know was that they were not thrilled to have a bunch of college kids run the five miles across their bridge. Especially when the blizzard started.

It was snowing like crazy when we arrived at the Big Mac. Henry let us go anyway. Of course we had talked the tough talk about how they couldn't stop us or they'd have to arrest us, shoot us or worse. Mostly, we'd have been pretty devastated had we not gotten to run the bridge. But run the bridge we did!  The sun actually came out for a bit near the top and at the end. It may have been the best five miles of the run.

We locked arms at the finish. Sat down when done and laughed, cried and everything in between. We went out to eat that night (no one being happier about that than Jackie), stayed in a motel and returned home the next day. Just in time to start the Spring Quarter on Monday. A Detroit bowling alley owner donated trophies to mark our accomplishment (I still have mine) and Coach Watkins popped for some Detroit to Mackinac T Shirts (long gone from being worn a bunch).

I look back on the run and am pretty amazed we pulled it off, if for no other reason than logistics. All in all, we ran roughly 343 miles (sorry, Garmin hadn't blessed us with the Forerunner back then). In the big scheme of the world or even the Wayne State campus, it was barely a blip on the radar screen. But to quote the Wayne State student newspaper the South End, "All the efforts got them was blisters on their feet and a sweatshirt from their coach indicating the number of miles they ran on the front. I imagine, however, that their self-satisfaction has reached a level few other people know." Well said.

I salute you gentlemen (and lady) on the 40th anniversary of our endeavor! A wonderful memory. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Windy Long Run!

Thirteen days have passed since I ran the Napa Valley Marathon. Seemed like enough time has passed to go out for an easy long run. I chose today for two reasons: yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday the wind was blowing between 20-25 miles an hour. I hate the wind. Tomorrow the forecast says we will have winds between 20-25 miles an hour. I will still hate the wind tomorrow. SO, I opt for today's mild breeze in the 10-15 range.

My run from home to the Lower Downtown Denver REI store is 17 miles. It is predominantly downhill (I like that). Today it was downhill and into the headwind, pretty much all the way. My goal was simple, run easy in the 145 heart rate area (probably 10:15-20 pace) and concentrate on good biomechanics and relaxation. Maybe, just maybe, pick it up a bit at the end.

My opening mile (uphill and into the wind) was a 10:40. After that, it came down to four or five around 10:12. During mile six, I dropped it down to either side of 10:00. A couple of 10:02, a few 9:56. Mile 14 passed in 9:42, followed by 9:29, 9:20 and 9:19. Not too bad.

All in all, it was an okay run. The wind was a constant beating and made me wonder how delightful and quicker a 10-15 tailwind would have been. It was, as well, my quickest and easiest long run on the ever popular time/heart rate/easy effort continuum. My legs felt good, never great. No lingering marathon issues. Heart rate averaged 144, breathing tougher due to the wind.

Still looking for my next marathon. Thinking a half, the Platte River Trail Half Marathon, on April 10th might be fun.

Have fun! Run on!

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness Hits the Running World!

Talk about March Madness! Basketball? Oh no, never saw a dribble or a dunk Sunday.

It's 5:30 am. I'm wide awake and glued to the New York Road Runners live video stream of the NYC Half Marathon. Great races on both sides of the gender world. Galen Rupp and Mo Farah dueling with Gebre Gebremariam down the riverfront of New York. Kara Goucher taking on the Kenyan women. Kara placed third in 1:09:02 and looks like she may be a contender in Boston next month. Galen Rupp was also quite impressive (I have a feeling we might be seeing him at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston... just a feeling).

The streaming coverage by the New York Road Runners was awesome, the commentating was also pretty good and the entire viewing was fun and a nice way to begin a day. Also LOVE Carrie Tolefson's specials, The Daily Cooldown.

THEN.... somehow, I found the Universal Sports link to Punta Umbria, Spain and the World Cross Country Championships. As per the norm, the Kenyans and Ethiopians dominated. Right in the middle of it all, however, is Shalane Flanagan hammering away and ultimately taking the Bronze medal in what is widely regarded as "the toughest race in the world to win." In short, Shalane was awesome!!! She never let the pack drop her until the final move near the end. And with some great pack running by Magda, Molly and Blake, the American Women capture Bronze as well.

By the time I completed the Men's and Women's races, the Los Angeles Marathon was on. What happened to "it never rains in California?" Yikes, there were times when I actually felt bad for the runners (and I LOVE running in the rain). The highlight in LA was the marathon debut of Amy Hastings. Placing second in 2:27:03, she paced the Ethiopian girls through the rain and came back to the lead after being dropped, no less than three times. She was SO TOUGH!!! Amy has to taken seriously for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

I followed my running voyeurism, with a pretty good nine miles of running, myself. Felt easy, smooth and it was a fitting end to a fabulous morning.

All in all, it was a great day for American Women's distance running and not a bad way to spend a Sunday. Especially considering it was the peak of March Madness!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Perhaps We Can Find New Ways to Motivate Them!"

Okay, this has nothing to do with Star Wars, but that's one of my favorite Darth Vader quotes...

I began running in 1966, the same year Bob Anderson began publishing the Distance Running News (which later gave way to Runners World). If you were looking for stories about other runners or reports on races, it was the DRN and Track and Field News and that was about it (and even then the news was three months old).

These days, Al Gore's invention of the internet has given us a virtual non-stop feeding of running 24/7/365! And I love it!!! 

Just tonight I giggled through a Competitor Radio interview with Alberto Salazar, listened to a second with Shalane Flanagan, watched a Galen Rupp workout on Flotrack and was touched by Carrie Tolefson's story with Joe Honorowski, 9/11 survivor on the New York Road Runners Daily Cool Down. Tomorrow the NYC Half Marathon will be streamed live online, the LA Marathon will be on Universal Sports and instant results will be available from the World Cross Country Championships (where's my streaming video from that IAAF??? - or am I sounding spoiled now?).

We blog, we follow running greats on Twitter, we're friends with elite athletes on Facebook (the first thing I did after Jordan Hasay's brilliant 3000m NCAA Indoor win was to go to Facebook and tell her she was awesome!) and love the heck out of each other on The Loop, Daily Mile and countless other social sites for runners of all abilities. It has helped me get motivated many times to be able to check the latest video on or watch an impressive Workout Wednesday on Flotrack (my favorites are too numerous too list).

Some of my favorite (and bookmarked) sites are:
Running Times:         
Runners World:        
New York Road Runners
Boulder Road Runners: 

Please share yours.....

Even the best of us runs into a tough workout day or even some of those days we'd rather skip. I can depend on great content from any of these to pick me up when I need a boost.

Better than some dark helmeted tall dude threatening me...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tempo Run! OR Where's Tudor Bompa When I Need Him?

Yesterday I did a tempo run at Wash Park. It was the first real tempo run I had done in at least ten years. 

Don't get me wrong, I've run at tempo, with tempo and to a tempo in the last decade. What I haven't done is an official tempo run. Perhaps, I could explain. (By the way, read no further unless you have an interest in training theory and methodology or clearly nothing better to do. Okay, you've been warned...)

I first learned of the tempo run in the mid eighties in a session with Coach Joe I. Vigil at a track clinic. It was introduced as a threshold run. Much of what was taught as cutting edge training theory and methodology at the time, had some of its origin in the work and subsequent landmark book, Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor Bompa. As I made my way through The Athletic Congress' (now the USATF) coaching certification program, I found more and more excellent coaches using and subsequently tweaking Bompa's work.

In short (and I mean, short), Bompa discussed that there were two energy systems under which we operated as athletes: The Anaerobic System (under which he further classified the ATP-CP system - sprinting, and the Lactic Acid system) and the Aerobic System. From that he launched into how these energy systems respond to training and broke down how different percentages of maximum heart rate translated into different training effect. Bompa went into great detail about the components of training: volume, intensity, and density (or frequency) and wrapped it all up nicely into microcycles, macrocycles, annual plans and the periodization of training. Soon Bompa was the buzz of TAC and the coaching world in general. 

Since then, many great coaches have further developed Bompa's research and training methodology. One such coach was Jack Daniels. Daniels conducted research as well as hands on coaching of runners and has made great contributions to what we know about training. That brings us to the tempo run.

By the mid nineties, the tempo run began to catch on as a way to become better, more efficient, and move back the anaerobic threshold. All this lead to Daniels' book Daniels' Running Formula in 1998. For me, one of the original tempo run ideas caught on and worked best for both athletes that I coached as well as myself.

Here's the drill: a good warm-up, perhaps some light stretching or drills followed by the tempo run. Then maybe some strides or pick-ups and a cool down. The tempo run was 18-22 minutes (I like to pick and stick with a number) at a heart rate equally 90% of your max heart rate (that works better for most of us mortals who have yet to be selected for VO2 Max or vVO2 Max testing). For none heart rate monitor people, it's the pace at which you would race for an hour OR a pace where you can string together 5 or 6 words in a conversation but no more.

In 2000, in preparation for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, I did a tempo run roughly every two weeks. I found them a great way to focus during a somewhat quicker run and a great evaluator of my fitness growth as you will see.

My protocol was simple: Two mile warm-up, 20 minutes, heart rate 164-166 (at that time based on my age and resting HR), on the same course (which was FLAT), every time. It was essential for me to run the same amount of time, on the same course so that I could measure improvement. It was usually followed by a 4 mile cool down and then some light stretching. With no GPS available to me (how did I ever manage???), at the end of the 20 minutes, I made note of how far I ran. The next tempo run, I'd do the same.

In my 16 week training block prior to running the Pig (where I ran 3:10:34 at the ripe old age of 48), I ran five tempo runs. On the first two, I noticed running about the same distance. On the third I got a little farther. On the fourth, I looked at my watch at the light pole (the spot I had reached on the previous run) and saw I had 35 seconds to go (I use a 20 minute countdown timer mode). WOW a breakthrough! On my fifth and final tempo run, I reached the new target point with a whopping 1:30 to go!!! At that point I had ten days until the marathon and knew I was ready to go.

In this last decade, running accessories have come a long way. For me, and my tempo run, almost too far. On yesterdays run, my Garmin could report pace, heart rate, time, and pretty much everything under the sun. I knew exactly how far I ran in my 20 minutes. I will confess, it took some of the fun out of it. Perhaps, in my next serious training block, I will return to Boulder for my tempo runs and run the old course (although I probably don't want to compare myself to that time at this point in my career).

Also in the last decade, the words tempo run have come to mean all kinds of different things. I've even read about people running two hour tempo runs (which would be difficult since a tempo run is run at a pace you could race for an hour). Nomenclature notwithstanding, it doesn't matter. I only have to run what works for me and call it what I want to call it, so, whatever.....

In 2000, right before the Pig, I ran about three miles in my 20 minutes. Yesterday.... I did not! What I did do, however, was have a great run that was a good, but not overly killing workout. I've never lost a day of training to a tempo run and won't today either.

Good to be on the way back! Long way to go....

Run on!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

YIKES! This is all it took?

My phone says it's 72 degrees outside. All I can really tell you is it's better than that - it's GORGEOUS out there.

The beauty of Colorado in the spring is the coupling of winter and summer into one month. We call it March. One day cold, maybe with some snow; two days later 70+. Well, today 72 saved me.

Since the Napa Valley Marathon ten days ago, I have gone through various periods of highly motivated as well as not so much. This morning I had a job interview, came back to my office and shot a couple of video clips for an upcoming class and had pretty much decided on a token four miles. Today, the runner would take a backseat to the worker. Then I hit the Park.

Oh My Goodness..... it was gorgeous. And since last week was a very successful recovery week, I felt pretty good today. When you add to that the fact that for the first time in ages, I left my watch at home, it was "LOOK OUT world," I'm running free.

It was one of those runs where I actually felt fast, breathed like a Kenyan running nine minute pace, and had an absolute blast. So, naturally, I return home highly motivated and ready to tack on some miles the rest of the week. 

This is all it took?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What's Next?

With the Napa Valley Marathon merely a fuzzy reflection in the rear view mirror (6 whole days ago), I suppose it is time for some careful, yet non-committal planning for what's next.

In high school and college, the what's next dilemma was never a dilemma. When you ran a race, the next race was the next race and then the next one was the one after that and then you were on to the next season. It was simple, mostly because the schedule was created by someone else and that same someone else just plugged me in wherever I belonged (and sometimes where I didn't - like that pesky INDOOR 6 mile I ran once at the Macomb Community College).

Today it's up to me so I will try to make this decision based, somewhat, on my goals for 2011. There are three major goals for the year: 1) get back to marathoning (by the way..... DONE), 2) qualify for Boston and 3) finish a half Ironman. 

To attain the first goal, I used a two year time period to bring my running into a place of consistency. I did no intricate workouts, no other racing, simply a focused effort to increase the volume of my training to complete 26.2 miles. As stated previously... DONE!
With the weather beginning to soften a bit and spring clearly on the horizon, I will begin to mix in some tempo runs (more on them in a few days in a blog titled Tempo: Not What It Used to Be), and plan a few shorter races. First on the target list is the Platte River Half Marathon on April 10. Maybe the Colfax Half in May and maybe, just maybe, the Bolder Boulder.

On Memorial Day weekend, our pool will open and so the Half Ironman swim training can begin. Let me be perfectly clear about this: Ironman swim training consists of me getting me to the point where I can simply survive through the swim part of the triathlon). My bike, who due to neglect, gave up calling out my name when I would pass through the garage, will be happy to see me again soon (I hate that first ten days of EBBD - that's Excruciating Butt Bone Discomfort).

As far as marathons go, I toyed with the idea of the Nashville Country Music Marathon on April 30, but I don't see that quite as clearly today. The San Francisco Marathon is possible and I am optimistically (?) awaiting the New York City Marathon lottery to see if a return to a 4th NYC Marathon is going to happen (it's on my 60th birthday this year) in 2011. If not, I will seek another venue for my speedy fall Boston qualifier. Perhaps something in September or early October followed by Vegas or Tucson in December.

Of course, all of this hinges on some upcoming career decisions. Knowing that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray," I remain open, flexible and carefully scanning the road ahead. 

Just like all of us, right?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So Fragile...

Sally Meyerhoff was killed yesterday in a cycling accident. She was, from what I have read in her blog, excitedly training for her new adventure as a professional triathlete. What follows is one of the last paragraphs written in Sally Meyerhoff's blog on Sunday. You can read it all at, along with many of Sally's other writings in her blog Run Sal.

"I cannot express how HAPPY I am with where I am in my life right now though, and how grateful I feel for being able to do what I do. I just wouldn't trade it for anything and any time I am feeling not very motivated, I think about how miserable I feel when I am not training or doing something else I don't LOVE. I totally and completely love this life I'm living and the most fabulous thing is that I know it's only going to get 20 times better by the end of the year. Woo hoo baby!"

It's so fragile, this life we lead. One moment we feel like Sally did, and the next moment we are gone.

I did not know Sally Meyerhoff. I wish I had. And as I read several of Sally's blogposts, I felt that this post of my own could go several different ways. I could take the "life is short, play hard" route, or the "be careful out there on the road" route but I knew with the greatest certainty that it would go as it will.

It was in 1982, that Dr. James Loehr uttered the words, "savoring the moment,  being right here, right now, loving every minute of it," in a track clinic I attended in Phoenix, AZ. Best lesson I have ever received. Since that day, I have tried to teach that lesson in everything from better running and racing, to delivering more relevant presentations, to providing superior customer service. Mostly, I have attempted, in my own way, to live my life in the moment, knowing that it's the only guaranteed place we have. I'm not as good at it as I'd like, but I keep working at it, there is plenty of time, right?

Sally's writings seem to draw the picture of a young woman with a passion for her life, and it seems, an appreciation for the moment. I don't sense that she did things half assed and she certainly didn't focus on the "what if" or "if only" parts of her world. Sally seemed, as much as I could tell, firmly planted in her present, with bright hopes for how that present would formulate her future. Sally Meyerhoff was definitely working on it, there would be plenty of time, right?

Sadly, the answer is not yes or no. Sadly, or maybe joyously, the answer is we don't know. We don't know whether there is plenty of time. We don't know when our moment here will cease to exist. So what do we do?

I can't speak for you, but I will take a page from Sally's book. I will be "HAPPY with where I am in my life right now," and be "grateful for being able to do what I do."  

I'm in California on a marathon vacation (that doesn't mean it's a long one, it means I ran a marathon on my vacation). I have a plane reservation for home tomorrow. The plan today, is to have a great day because we don't know when our next vacation is going to happen. I think most all of us think that way. It's the vacation mindset.

Well, maybe Sally's death is reminding me that this life is like a vacation, but one with an unknown plane reservation at the end. This vacation - this life - is it. And without getting into any sort of existence type debate with anyone (which I refuse to do: religion and politics are no-nos),  I'm not sure it gets any better once we leave or that the next reservation has even been booked.  Because I don't know when this life-plane leaves, maybe I need to begin living my life as if it's the last day of a glorious vacation. And if I am fortunate enough to string together a lifetime of those glorious vacation days, I would end up with one heck of a life. I could get out of the "look what they did to me" or "look what they made me do" moments. I could let go of the past, love the moment and embrace what that moment is building. What would be wrong with that? Well, there's plenty of time, right?

I think it would be great if the second you died, you could look back on the days you spent here and say/think/feel,  "That was a very cool life. Nice job by me!"

Sally Meyerhoff was killed yesterday. I hope/pray/wish/believe that she was able to say, "Nice job by me."

It's so fragile, this life we lead.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Napa Valley Marathon Race Report

Okay. First the bad news: this was the slowest marathon I have ever run ...... by a bunch. The upside is that I really don't care. Well, I do, but I don't. Well..... you know ...... whatever... I guess to get the full picture you have to read on. After all, even I'M confused about how I feel about this 26.2 mile journey.

The day began well with a pleasant awakening around 4 am. Resting heart rate was 48, no jitters to speak of but not too excited about the rain. Linda (my wife) and Clemmie (her Mom) and I made the journey from Vallejo to Calistoga without incident. I greased up in an attempt to head off the chafing I anticipated, especially with the soaking conditions. I have to admit, I NAILED this and dressed perfectly for the weather (I suppose after 44 1/2 years I should have this part down). I Vaselined my upper thighs and pits and Body Glided my nipples (I had extreme nipple paranoia). The result: perfection. No chafing, rubbing or irritation anywhere (except mentally).

I easy jogged my way to the starting line just as the five minute warning came about. Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson said a few words, a gentleman did a fine job singing the Star Spangled Banner (no Christine Aguilera for this crowd) and moments later we were OFF! It took me about a minute and a half to cross the staring line. After a little darting in and out of a few folks, I settled into a rhythm that would pretty much dictate the first eighteen miles or so.

The idea was to forget time and focus on heart rate. My twenty mile training runs had been around 10:15-30 pace with a HR averaging about 144-146. My goal was to run twenty at sub 150 heart rate. Early on that was 9:25-35 pace. The first miles seemed to take forever. A long uphill in the 6th mile presented a bit of a change from the gradual ups and downs that preceeded it. It actually reminded me of the hill exciting the Cherry Creek State Park on the West side, only longer. The rain was steady.

The heart rate pretty much held through fifteen miles or so while the pace slowed a bit to 9:35-45. I saw Linda and Clemmie around 7 miles and again around 12. They had their own level of adventure getting around the course as well. I passed halfway around 2:05:09 feeling confident that I would simply tack on another 2:05 and finish in 4:10. Nice theory but theory and application don't always mesh perfectly. 

Miles sixteen and seventeen were predominately uphill. LONG, uphills. My HR hung out in the 152-155 range, but the pace dropped to 10:20-30. I was still comfortable. After seventeen, a guy named David came up next to me and after confessing that he had been drafting off me for a half mile (I am an excellent wind block), we began chatting. He said his PR was 4:23 and he was hoping to break 4:20. I told him to hang on and we'd make it.

Somewhere around fifteen, the rain stopped and as a sort of extra added attraction, an annoying headwind took it's place. Personally, I'd have preferred the rain. The miles dragged from twelve to eighteen. This will sound odd, but the course, while beautiful, was boring.

About a month ago, I picked up a little problem in my right hip. After a couple of weeks, it went away. Thursday, however, it resurfaced during my strength and core work. It was painfully evident the whole way. Nothing real terrible most of the time, but a constant nagging thing. Also at four miles, my left calf tightened. That, as well, would not go away. Other little aches and pains came and went, as they always do, but those two remained steadfast in their annoyance. The other major annoyance, mostly in the first sixteen miles or so, was the pitch of the road. You'd have thought they were banking the curves for a NASCAR race (and there were plenty of curves). This certainly exacerbated my other issues.

I had a rough patch from 20-22, but bounced back with some of my better miles in 23, 24, and 25. I thought I would ride that wave to the finish. Then something strange happened. I'm not sure if I stepped in a hole or tried to accelerate faster than I should have or what, but my right hip locked up. Yep, locked up. I thought of walking or stopping and stretching but it was one of those things where I knew that if I stopped, I would be hard-pressed to get going again. So, I pretty much dragged my leg along the last 3/4 of a mile or so.

My mind RACED and I'm pretty sure I nearly had an anxiety attack. It made what had been a fun, fairly easy marathon, something else. Crossing the finish line I felt relieved, but agitated by my hip. I received my medal, had my picture taken, grabbed some water and found the girls. All of a sudden I was exhausted and a bit disoriented. No fun.

Then out of the blue, I heard the words, "Run Spittle?" and lo and behold it was Aileen, my only "friend" on I couldn't believe she found me. Unfortunately I was still a bit out of it, so I could not have been much fun to meet. I gathered a little grub, walked to the car, got reoriented and feeling MUCH better and we were off to lunch (we ate at Rutherford's near St. Helena where the corn bread is KILLER!). I walked a bit while we waited to be seated and stretched as best I could. A few hours later, we were home.

All in all, I suppose this marathon was a success. I never meant it to be more than a return to marathoning after a ten year absence. So, that mission was accomplished. With the exception of the hip, I'm not too sore tonight and expect that I'll be able to jog a few with Linda in the morning. 

PLUSES: I had very focused training; met some nice people; ran very much within myself at a much better pace than my long runs; attended an excellent event (there are a couple of things I will mention in whatever survey I might be sent but on the whole it was an outstanding marathon); got my '84 Olympic picture signed by Joanis; got called "Giants color man" three times as I was wearing San Francisco Giant colors; never stopped along the course having no water or chafing problems along the way; got to share the run with Linda and Clemmie, and my sons Matt & Ryan (whose birthday was today) who I texted every five miles; and finished getting to meet Aileen. By the way, I also ran into David after the race who ran 4:25.

MINUSES: The hip lock put a damper on the finish; it was incredibly slow; I was reminded that while I lost 22 pounds in the eighteen week training block, I need to lose SO many more to get anywhere close to where I was ten years ago. 

Side note: outside of the hip thing, my biggest downer was at 19.5 miles I looked at my watch and it read 3:10:30, which was my finishing time at the 2000 Flying Pig - and I had 6 1/2 miles to go!

 WAIT..... that's not a picture of me....

All in all, I'm happy I ran. I'm looking forward to a speedy recovery time and getting back into the next training block. Not sure when the next marathon will be, but it won't be too far away. Until next time..... run on!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

PreRace Napa: Part #2 No Longer Waiting for Joannie

Spent part of the afternoon at the Napa Valley Marathon expo hoping to get my 1984 Olympic Marathon picture signed by Joan Benoit Samuelson (see: for more details). Mission accomplished. She was a part of an excellent panel consisting of her, Bill Rodgers (see: for my history with Boston Billy), Dick Beardsley, and Guy Morse, so I was able to sneak up to chat with JBS afterward. It's been a long time waiting.... "PLEASE sign this picture, Joannie, I've had it for years, it's one of the few things that survived my ex's pre-divorce trip to the dump. Duke the horse didn't even survive that, much to my young son's chagrin." (just kidding, didn't really say all of that)

Following the panel was the "keynote" chat by Joannie called, "Going the Distance." Her biggest piece of advice to the marathoners in the room was, "Run your own race." She also said a couple of other things I liked:

"You never know in the marathon what's going to happen when the gun goes off. That's why it's like life."  and 

"As long as we continue to surprise ourselves, we can do anything."

The expo was small, but very nice. I picked up a few things I couldn't resist. Mostly I just wandered around kind of soaking up the atmosphere of all those runners in one spot. Lots of energy being stored up for tomorrow. All in all, I didn't stay long as I needed to get out on the Silverado Trail and look over the last eight miles of the course. As advertised, it's mostly flat. I noticed a hill between 18 and 19 (nothing too imposing) and a VERY gradual rise from about 19 1/2 to 20. If things go reasonably well, they should not be noticeable (way to jinx that one, Rich).

Now, I'm back at the ranch awaiting the evening's festivities with Linda's family coming over for pre-race pasta. Pretty psyched. Feeling ready!

Below, Joannie talks about the post gold medal moments...

PreRace Napa: Part #1. Run to Overcome

In the tenth grade, my Coach Al Pingel, taught us that the day to get your best rest was not necessarily the day before a race, but the day before the day before. Now that doesn't mean that going sleepless the night before is good, but one can get by with a little restlessness and such without overly suffering in the race. If that, then, is the first test of this weekend, I have passed.

On the Napa Valley Marathon's penultimate day I had a very good run, an uneventful flight (although one hour delayed - one of those "mystery" delays) and a nice time with Linda's family. So, the kicker would be how would I sleep? Normally when I travel, my first night is the worst. Four hours is considered to be an excellent night's rest. Last night, however, I was out like a light by 9:45 and up at 6:15. Yikes! What will I do with all of that rest?

The majority of my Frontier flight from Denver to San Francisco was spent watching "The Spirit of the Marathon," a movie that chronicles the efforts of  two elite athletes and four regular people as they prepare for and run the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It was released as one of those "event" movies that happen one night in theaters across the country and then sort of goes away. I enjoyed it so much, that I bought the DVD. I've probably watched the movie two dozen times. This time was different. But, I'll come back to that.

Just prior to landing I was chatting with the fellow next to me, who had been noticing the movie and had asked if I ran marathons. A conversation ensued. It turns out he was flying, with his son (roughly 5 years old) to attend a race in Tulare, CA named after his Father, Max Choboian, a civic leader who had died at the young age of 34. It was his first time back for the race. Also of note was the fact that Max Chobolan was the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the American Football League for seven games back in 1966. Sorry, I digress. Back to the movie....

This flight would be the first time I watched the Spirit of the Marathon prior to my own marathon. That seemed to make my viewing a bit more meaningful. Beyond that, however, my emotional reactions to the movie were a bit deeper, as is much of the movie. 

We all run and run marathons for different reasons. Some, as shown in the "Spirit" want to win. Then there are those that Frank Shorter calls, "other people for other reasons." That's me and most of the pack. Some want to qualify for Boston, some want to lose weight, some are trying to win a challenge (either with themselves or others), some have something to prove to themselves. Many simply (although there is nothing simple about it) want to become part of the 1/2 of one percent of the population that can say, "I ran 26.2 miles."

It dawned on me during my in flight entertainment my motivation. On the surface, I have simple motivations: I want to regain the marathon life. I want to show that I can still follow in the steps of Phidippides. By the end of the year, I would like to qualify for Boston (I have unfinished business there).

The year 2000 was a good running year. At the ripe old age of 48, I was able to run a marathon in 3:10, a half in 1:27 and a sub 40 10K. I logged 3300 miles and weighed just over 170. It was the culmination of several pretty good running years. In December of 2000, I took a job at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage as their Education Director. It was the perfect job blending two things I really love: teaching and real estate. I was good at it. So good, in fact, that it became my obsession. I worked 50-60 hours a week and at least another 10-20 at home developing and refining curriculum. I was a fun, focused time.

It was also a time where running took a backseat, first, to working and later to just about anything. I still ran, but most often it would be a token 3-5 mile run, inspired by guilt and some ingrained need to somehow remain connected to the running me. My weight ballooned slowly but surely. At one time, three years ago, I hit my high: 245. Don't get me wrong, by the way, this decline is not nor will not, ever be blamed on anyone but me. I take full responsibility.

Two years ago, that job went away and I have to tell you, it was BAD news. Linda and I convinced ourselves that my seminar business could easily carry us through but unfortunately, the same economy that caused the termination of my CB job has made it very tough on speakers and instructors everywhere. Basically, the last two years have sucked. We sold our dream house to downsize into a more affordable situation as well as our cars. The Porsche Boxter I own, which was eventually supposed to be a success symbol one day, is nearly half the payment of my Lexus 330RX and a daily reminder that I couldn't hang on to that vehicle. 

Now before you get all Boo Hooey on me, I want to say that I realize that we have it better than a lot of people in this world. I'm not wanting to sound like one of those pro-athletes that is holding out for $20 million instead of 15 because he has kids to feed. We are thankful everyday that we can hang in during the down times and still maintain a fairly nice life.

For me, however, the last two years has left me feeling like a complete and utter failure. The answer? Run. That's always been the answer. I got through my divorce running, the death of my parents and pretty much every other stray hubcap and obstacle that's rolled into my lane by running. So two years ago, I committed to running everyday with two goals in mind: running a marathon and remembering and reconnecting with the real me: the runner. 18 weeks ago: enter the Napa Valley Marathon, the first step in my "rebirth."

As stated earlier, people run marathons for a myriad of reasons. I run tomorrow to overcome. Yeah, I'd like to overcome the 26.2 miles from Calistoga to Napa. I will hit the line tomorrow at a svelte 209 (22 pounds in the 18 week training block). So some of the weight has been overcome. But more than that, I want to overcome how I've felt about and labeled myself the last two years. I want to be proud again and have my dear, sweet wife and wonderful sons be proud too. I'd like to look at this run as a launching pad to being able to stick my head out the car window and yell, a la George Costanza, "I'm back, baby!"

Meb Keflezighi's book on his running career and life is called "Run to Overcome." And while Meb and I overcome different obstacles and circumstances in this life, the title of his book works for me.

I've maintained throughout my preparation for this marathon that I don't care about the time and that is why. Overcoming and Finishing will be enough tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bill Rodgers and Pre Race Napa

I would be remiss if I didn't share my Napa Valley Marathon excitement about another celebrity attendee: Bill Rodgers. Boston Billy is one of the greatest American marathoners of all time and a distance running ICON. Few people anywhere can match Bill Rodgers' magnetic personality as well as the ferocity with which he used to race.

While I've never met Joan Benoit Samuelson (see ) I have met Bill Rodgers although I am completely sure he would have absolutely no recollection of our encounter. 

It was 1993, two days before the New York City marathon and I was doing a nice little loosening up kind of run in Central Park. As I approached the intersection of two park roads, lo and behold, there is Bill Rodgers. I pick up the pace a little and say "Hi Bill" (impressive, right?). Bill says, "How's it goin'?" That was all the encouragement I needed and thus began a conversation that lasts a couple of miles while I do everything in my power to keep up and chat with Boston Billy. My log says it best, 11/12/93 Central Park - NY 5 miles. good pace. Ran with Bill Rodgers for a while. Might have been too fast.  

The next day (Saturday) I ran 9 miles. Yes, I said 9 on the day BEFORE a marathon (and I wasn't even a marathon rookie, although it was my first time in New York). I can't blame the nine on Bill, I have to blame it on a woman named Patty McCloskey, who at the time was a Marketing Director for Nike. We chatted and chatted. She was very good company and we even saw Alberto Salazar on that run (no way we caught him). My log says: 9 miles. Central Park. Ran way too fast. Too make a long story short, I did not run very well the next day (3:43:42 - my worst up till that point).

Interestingly, 18 years later, it is not the race I remember. It's the fun I had prior to the race. Maybe if you're in the running for the big prize or going after an important PR (personal record), the race is all that counts. The beauty of something like a marathon is that it's more than a race, it's an event. Thirty to forty years ago I'd have told you that was a crock. Since then I guess I have mellowed (of course it's easier to mellow once you've slowed down considerably).

My plan this weekend is to run at home on Friday before my flight (where I will see no celebrities) and alone on Saturday. You see, I learned my lesson from 1993. Of course this all goes out the door if I run into Bill Rodgers and he says something I can't resist, like "How's it goin'?"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Great Time For Taxes

Did I just say that? A great time for taxes???

Oddly yes, I did. In the few days left prior to departing for the Napa Valley Marathon, I have been meticulously working on my tax worksheet for my accountant. It's good to have something to do.

Yesterday I ran six miles. Even though it was a pretty crappy run and extremely windy, I had to fight the urge to go a little longer. Today's run will be much the same as far as distance goes and we'll keep that rolling until Sunday morning. 

At this point, the only thing I am sure of is that I will feel better and stronger as the week goes on. My eighteen week training block was divided into three six week macrocycles and then further split into 6 microcycles. Pretty much everything has went well. At the line Sunday, I will have logged 979 miles during the block including three 20 milers, a couple of 16's and a pair of 15's. I've also, surprisingly, stuck with my strength and core program and I must confess, I feel the difference. The weight loss didn't quite happen in the poundage (tonnage) I had hoped for, but the 22 pounds I've lost came off gradually and I'm alright with that. I will actually hit the start line at roughly the same weight as Boston ten years ago (which, by the way, is not necessarily a good thing - but better than 18 weeks ago).

So I need to go run (maybe I'll sneak in an extra one). And pass that 1099 Misc over there. I think I missed that one.

Running Bucket List? Yeah, I've Still Got One.

June has arrived and the weather has made a change to FABULOUS. Moisture and chilly was much of May (sounded like Yoda said that), but the w...