Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Re-Evaluation and Frank McBride

The year is 1974. The guy on the right in this picture (#428) sporting the headband and long hair is Frank McBride. The guy on the left (#125) , also sporting the headband and long hair, is me. It's the First Dexter to Ann Arbor run and we're poised and ready for the gun. 

I didn't really want to be there, Frank somehow coerced me in that subtle way he had, and there I was. Frank would run 1:28:33 on the hilly fifteen mile course and place second in his age group. I would run 1:25:58 and place 14th overall (seventh in the 18-23 group).

The fastest years of my running career were at my feet, so to speak. Frank on the other hand, was old. He had run the Olympic trials 1500 (and placed seventh) way back in 1952! 1952? My first birthday party had yet to take place in 1952. And yeah, Frank was pretty quick. He could still knock out a mile under five minutes and for a while, he was the US Masters record holder for the 800. But, geez, the guy was OLD!!!

So, as I sit amidst the youth of my 61 years on the planet, pondering the direction my running will take today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, I am reminded of this: Frank McBride was 44 years old that day in 1974. Man, he seemed old.

My mileage total for 2012 will be nearly 2800 miles. The goal was 2500. I guess that's a good thing. The marathon goals for the year (to run 3 and qualify for Boston) were stymied by a calf heart attack (see http://runspittle.blogspot.com/2012/09/theres-guy-with-red-cross-over-there.html orhttp://runspittle.blogspot.com/2012/10/lowering-expectations.html for details). The Savannah Marathon was not even completed. Some other goals like the half ironman I planned never happened and neither did the 50K. On the whole, the year was (to me) a complete and utter failure.

No, I'm not out on the ledge. Before you place that call to the suicide prevention hotline, rest assured that I understand that stuff happens. The best laid plans and all of that BS. I'm actually okay with it. What I'm not okay with is where to go from here.

My business plan for the coming year is finished. I know where that part of my life is going and based on where it's been, I am confident about an excellent 2013. It's this running thing that has me bewildered. Because of where it's been, especially the past three months, I'm unsure about its direction.

I'd love to be the guy who races, runs marathons and logs miles. Maybe, however, 100,000+ miles have taken their toll and that is an unrealistic objective. On the other hand, I could be the guy who logs his 3 or 4 miles a day and stays reasonably fit enough to climb a flight of stairs without incident. The problem (or opportunity) is that 3 or 4 miles doesn't do diddly squat for me. 3 or 4 is when my physical, cognitive and emotional juices are just getting warmed up. 3 or 4 is, as Bob Babbitt would say, merely a cocktail weenie. 

And yeah, I know, I could find another activity (NOT gonna happen, by the way).

If the truth be told, the incompletion of the Savannah Marathon really did a number on my confidence. I am unaccustomed to falling short of my marks and did not like how it felt/feels. Dwelling on that, however, seems counterproductive. 

Focus could be placed on the excellent training prior to the injury. I mean, I was cranking out some nice runs and certainly could return to that form. But maybe it was that training that brought about the injury. On the other hand, sometimes this calf stuff just happens! There is no knowing which of those possibilities is the truth and therein lies the problem: I just don't know. And I don't like not knowing.

The solution is simple. I will go for a run of much more than 3 or 4 miles and optimistically figure it out. I will engage in "Solution by Action"...... Yeah, that's the plan. I like it!

But, Geez, I wish I was old. Like 44 years old.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lowering Expectations

The Savannah Marathon is three days away and I'm doing what any red-blooded runner would do: I'm lowering expectations.

Not yours, of course, you don't have any. The six readers of this blog are all supportive, wonderful people who will be happy with any result I achieve. I am lowering the expectations of me, the guy upon whom this task is laid. So, without further adieu, let the lowering begin....

First and foremost, I have missed a TON of training since injuring my calf on a routine ten mile run September 3rd. While diligently nursing my calf heart attack (see http://www.thestick.net/Articles/Calf_%20Heart_%20Attack.htm for a definition of the injury), and noting significant progress, I have not been forthright about my fears surrounding this mishap (I am, by the way, in good company when it comes to not being forthright about attacks in September, but I digress...). In truth, I have been massively disappointed AND terribly afraid.

It was my hope to not only qualify for the Boston Marathon (3 hours, 55 minutes for my age group), but possibly run close to 3:30. All the signs were there: my training had been going very well, I was consistently and effortlessly logging 70-80 mile weeks, my long runs between 16 and 20 miles were getting easy and frequent, I was entering the quality training blocks and finding myself up to the task. And the weight was rolling off. Having begun my 18 week program at 220.8 pounds, I was down to 192.2. It was the lightest I have been since the year 2000. I was on my way to 175, which was my race weight at the Flying Pig when I ran 3:10 twelve years ago. Then, the calf heart attack struck without warning and with complete disregard of my hopes.

I've had one of these attacks before. It was 1993 and I was at the 18 mile mark of the Long Beach Marathon. I was on a perfectly flat stretch of brand, spanking new asphalt (and sub 3 hour pace, by the way), when out of nowhere my calf exploded. Exploded, you say? Yep, exploded. I'll tell you what I did: I stopped and looked back at my calf for blood because I thought I had been shot. That's what I mean by exploded. Unfortunately that injury lingered for close to a year. So when it happened on an easy (and I mean EASY) ten miler a little more than 8 weeks ago, I knew that magnitude of what had occurred. Frankly, it scared me a bunch. I also knew that the Savannah Marathon would not be what I had wanted it to be. HUGE disappointment.

My last seven training weeks have been 0, 3, 19, 25, 43, 52, 44. That's compared to the seven weeks prior... 80, 72, 71, 80, 78, 72, 72. My longest run since the attack has been 11 miles. My pace has slowed considerably. Add to that, the extra 12 pounds I've accumulated as a result of some pretty depression-style eating (worse, by the way, is that this isn't just 12 pounds, this is a 24 pound swing. I would have losing another 12 during this time period had it not been for the attack). Worse than all of that, my confidence is shot. Deep breath.......

Okay, it's not ALL doom and gloom. In this time of recuperation I have discovered the world of compression socks, calf stretching and self-massage with The Stick. Oh, I am not kidding. Compression socks, despite looking terribly girlie are VERY effective. Stretching my calves is exhilarating and Stick massage? Stick massage, when performed correctly, is an express line ticket to self-inflicted pain of the highest order. Exactly what I deserve for allowing this attack to happen in the first place.

SO, new goal: I plan to make it from the start line to the finish line without incident and without a major calf occurrence. Maybe I'll run close to four hours. To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea where I am at this point and completely unsure as to the potential benefits of some really great base training. We'll see. And, bottom line, that's the story of running a marathon..... we'll see. 

26.2 miles is a long way and a multitude of issues may arise. Even the best in the world can have perfect preparation and succumb to the realities of the long race, so why would I expect my experience to be any different?

I will give it whatever shot I have available and we'll see what my 16th marathon has in store.  It could be fun. I won't, however, be that skinny old guy you see in the pictures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 100,000 mile Report

100,000th mile!
October 3, 2012

On October 3, 2012 after 46 years, one month and 21 days of running, I ran my 100,000th mile. It came in mile 7 of a moderately uneventful 8 mile run in the Cherry Creek State Park during recuperation from a calf injury. Like most runs, there was nothing particularly unique about it. I ran the first 4 miles alone and was joined by my wife, Linda, for the last 4. 

The story prior to that run, however, set the foundation for many, many miles.

It began mostly because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. The first day of Cross Country practice was Monday and it was already Friday, August 12, 1966. I needed to get in shape fast! So I laced up my new Beta Bullets and went for a run. It was a half an hour in duration and the only thing I recall is that it seemed like FOREVER!

The next day, I did it again. I took Sunday off (well, it was SUNDAY, right?) and reported for practice bright and early Monday morning. I had no idea what was to come and especially the significance it would have on the entirety of my life.

I wasn’t showing up at just any cross country practice, I was going to be a member of Coach Al Pingel’s Wyandotte Roosevelt High cross country team, one of the best in the state. The running Bears had been in the top three at state regularly and boasted the defending state champion, Al Ruffner. And, at least in my mind, there were expectations placed on my performance.

In Junior High, part of P.E. was running this thing, ominously called “the distance run.” It was actually a mere 3/4 of a mile, but in 7-9 grades, someone must have felt that was a long way. I remember doing it fairly well as a seventh grader, beating everyone in my class. In eighth grade I broke the school record (which was around 4:20) by running 4:02. The next year, 3:36. The next day, high school coach Al Pingel was at class. Game, set, match: I was a cross country runner.

Best High School Race!
At the morning practice, we warmed up, stretched as a team and ran the workout. It was 6 x 440, followed by some kind of drills followed by the unfathomable news that we were expected to return later that afternoon for a second workout. A second workout? This guy was serious (Coach Pingel, not me). That afternoon, we ran for 45 minutes. He called it the Boston Marathon and it was the first time I had ever heard of that race or run that far. I made it, learning that my body was capable of doing things that my mind wasn’t so sure about (wouldn’t be the last time for that lesson). I also was taught that day the importance of logging my runs, so I did (still do). The next day, I could barely walk (backwards down stairs). Somehow, I lived to tell about it.

Cross Country, and then Track and Field allowed me the opportunity to travel to other schools, meet other runners and to experience a part of the sports world different from my earlier participation. I had played some football, a little basketball and I don’t mind saying, was an excellent baseball player (pitcher). I liked being on a team, but cross country supplemented the team part with the individual focus. I could run well and win. There was no worry about a shortstop making an error allowing in the winning run or a teammate missing a free throw at a crucial point of a big game.

Detroit to Mackinac 342 miles
Fav T Shirt too!
Those three things: travel, people and the individual challenge were part of the draw for me. They’ve also been part of the big payoff. As a collegiate, post collegiate, and as a marathoner, I have traveled to places I would have never seen had I missed this golden opportunity. I’ve made, and continue to make,  some wonderful friends. I’ve won some races, accomplished goals, ran in a few national championships, ran from Detroit to Mackinac in seven days during Spring Break (342 miles), represented my country once, and met a plethora of other more self-directed challenges.

And frankly, I’m not convinced I’d have gone to, or completed college had it not been for my involvement as a runner. I most certainly would not be the person I am today. More than 100,000 miles later (Yes, Coach Pingel, I log my miles), I happily acknowledge that 46 years ago, I began a journey that would transform my life with a simple 30 minute run. And while the travel, people and the racing have all been rewarding, I knew that first day that there was something I really liked about the act of running. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but I felt something. 

Older, slower, still going...
And upon reaching the 100,000 mile mark, I am grateful for what this simple aerobic activity has done for every facet of my life and being.

Running was/is a simple activity, cyclical in its nature. One foot placed in front of the next in order to move forward: to cover ground, to open my mind, to allow me opportunities to escape my troubles or celebrate my triumphs. Mostly, to connect me to and strengthen my relationship with this planet upon which I exist. For that, I am ecstatically, humbly grateful.

John Parker Jr. said it best in his epic story, Once A Runner, “Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.”

I am proud to be a runner.

For anyone amazingly bored (or interested), I recorded the 100,000th mile. It can be found at http://youtu.be/2pjFn-0-Z48. Good luck with that!

Some Top Five 100,000 mile favorites:

My Best Races:     Trenton Cross Country (course record & win)       1968
                                   Belle Isle 20 mile    1:50:24                                      1972
                                   Florida Relays Marathon      2:58:14                       1972
                                   Toronto 12 Mile         1:02:05                                    1976
                                   Flying Pig Marathon   3:10:34 (at age 48)              2000

Favorite Running Spots:    Boulder (Mesa Trail and South Boulder Trail), Cherry Creek State Park, Edward Hines Parkway (Michigan), Central Park (NY), Pre's Trail (Eugene, OR)

Best Moments:    winning my first cross country race (1968 at Elizabeth Park);  Running from Detroit to Mackinac with my college teammates (1971);  Almost beating Don Kardong at Springbank;  being in a pack with Frank Shorter, Herb Lindsey, Stan Mavis and a few others for just under two miles in an East Lansing 6 mile (then Frank said, "let's go" and they were GONE); Everyday I get to run!

Dean Karnazes and Me
Best Quotes:    Frank Shorter saying to me, "As much as you run, you'd think you'd weigh less."  At the Florida Relays Marie Hamilton telling me, "I don't think you're skinny. You're slender."  Bill Rodgers while I was dying trying to keep up the day before the NYC Marathon "Is the pace okay?" (by the way, the next days race didn't go that well)   My wife, Linda, MANY times on the phone "Are you still running?"  and...... Dean Karnazes during our conversation after my 100,000th mile "Inspire you? You inspire me."

Best Shoes Ever:  Training = the original Nike Air Max.  Racing = Tiger Obori

Best Running Book:     Far and away, Once A Runner by John Parker Jr.   Honorable mention to:   The Purple Runner by Paul Christman, Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes, The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb, and Pre by Tom Jordan

Best Training Book:   Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor Bompa

Most Coveted T Shirt:   Detroit to Mackinac WSU 1971,   Kinney Cross Country Championships 1989 (went as a coach), Florida Track Club circa 1973, Boston Marathon 2001, Pikes Peak Marathon 1979

Boston 2001
Runs I'd Like to Do (again in some cases):     Dipsea,  NYC Marathon (again), Boston Marathon (again), London Marathon, a track race of any kind in Hayward Field, a 50 miler.

Too Embarrassing:      Placing 70th at Regional cross country my senior year 1968 (knees), cracking knee cap at NCAA Cross Country Championships, Face plant in steeple water jump at Ohio State Relays, 2001 Boston Marathon, every time someone who looks like they're crawling passes me.

Best Workout EVER:     16 x 880 averaging 2:14 in Alpena, MI (summer 1972)

Favorite Training Partners:   My wife, Linda,  Monday night Boulder crew (especially Eda), Ed Cox, Geoff Lane, John Gores

People I'd Love to Run With to Chat:  Dean Karnazes, Alberto Salazar, Paula Radcliffe, Moses Tanui, Roger Bannister

Great Inventions for Running:  Waffle soles, GPS watches, compression socks, Flotrack, Loopville on Facebook

Immediate Goal:  Surviving Savannah Marathon this Saturday November 3, 2012!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"There's a guy with a red cross over there. Don't shoot at him."

Yes, those are the words of Bill Cosby in his famous Medic routine. I hope no one shoots at me, I feel bad enough as it is.

Last Saturday, on a routine 10 mile run, I noticed a tightness in my right calf. Tight soon became sore and graduated quickly to knotted. I walked the last mile. I knew what it was immediately because this visitor has crossed my path before. It was/is: The Calf Heart Attack.

Over a decade ago, we were introduced. First noticed at the 18 mile mark of the 1993 Long Beach Marathon, it began feeling like a severe calf pull (to be honest, I thought I'd been shot in the calf and having been a Detroiter, I actually checked for blood). I tried to back off - no help. A sub three hour marathon became a 3:40. I visited, over the next six months, in no particular order, an M.D., a chiro-dude, an herbalist, the acupuncture guy and everyone else I could conjure up. Then, I found it. I read John Parker Jr's article entitled Calf Heart Attack. (the latest version of that article, adapted for The Stick, can be found at http://www.thestick.net/Articles/Calf_%20Heart_%20Attack.htm . By the way, Parker's remedy worked perfectly, albeit slowly.

The CHA emerged again in 2006, but was head off at the pass in a short time (it was easier then as I was averaging 4 miles a day and had no racing plans). This time, I'm not so sure.

The Savannah Marathon is a mere six weeks and a day away. My training has been going quite well. I felt fully prepared to actually run very well. I have lost nearly 30 pounds. Now, all I'm trying to do is hold on patiently (well, I must confess that I am only cognitively patient. Inside I am angry, sad and a little panicked).

"Major Setback"
I figured I could take a week to ten days off, and still be okay. Today was Day Five and I'm losing patience (there's that word again) and hope. While on the ten scale the discomfort might be one point better, that's not much to get excited about. At any given time I am attached to either an ice bag or the dreaded Stick. The day after yesterday, it actually felt decent until I walked to the mailbox and felt it grab again. Major setback!

And then there is the quest. In the past 46 years, one month, I have logged 99,971 miles. I was supposed to hit 100,000 on a run Tuesday. That run is on hold. The reality is that the 100,000 will come. In fact, my original goal this year was to accomplish the magic number prior to the Mayan Calendar running out in December. I'm assuming that is still a safe bet. Add to that, that I haven't missed more than one consecutive day of running in the last two and a half years and I'm in trouble! I need my fix!!!

Tomorrow, I will attend the RocknRoll Denver Expo in the hope that it will lift my spirits. I'll also try a bike ride. That might help as well. 

Trying to be patient, but I make a lousy patient. I'd rather be running. Send good vibes and the "P" word. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nine Good Days

As time continues to fly towards the Savannah Marathon, training must get more geared to quality. As this phase begins, the last nine days saw three things: 1) a race, 2) a 20 mile run and 3) some speed work. Yikes!

The race was the Aetna Park to Park 10 mile. Beautifully charted to wind its way through five Denver parks, the park to park is a rolly (but not severely so) course, and also a fun one! I chose to forego the shuttle busses and rides and parked between the start and finish. It provided a 3 mile warm up to the start and a 3 mile cool down afterward.

The WU went like clockwork. The 3 miles, then stretching a bit, some pickups and drills and then the usual fidgeting prior to the start. I placed my self about a fifth of the way back from the front and awaited the gun.

The first mile was downhill and control was the main requirement. My hope was to not get too carried away and pass the marker over 8 minutes. I was 8:05. Basically, I had three goals in place. My low goal was to average 9 minutes a mile. If this happened, I would be extremely disappointed but wouldn't throw myself in front of a bus upon completion. It was, the worst acceptable scenario. My real sort of goal was to average under 8:30 at a reasonable effort. Reasonable effort is defined as a heart rate average not to exceed 165. The ultimate would have been to run under 1:20:00. Having a pretty good feel for my condition after 46 years of running and racing, I knew this was WAAAAYYY out there, but hey, it would have been cool just the same.

Miles 2 and 3 brought us back into City Park (the start park) and was mostly uphill but truly nothing you would visually notice much. Those went 8:18 and 8:10. Leaving the park I was relaxed, had a heart rate around 160 and was in control. The next three miles were either flat or those gradual, long pesky uphill streets. In Cheeseman Park just before 5 miles, there was a nice little downhill woosh, but it was soon negated by some ups on the other side of the park. My uphill/cruising miles were 8:33, 8:41 and 8:39.

Two things happened in the seventh mile. First there was a nice 300 yard downhill early and second, a guy went by and said, C'mon, we can do it." 8:01. Mile 8 passed in 8:34 and around that point a significant number of people appeared to run out of gas. I passed a couple at mile 8 and he said to his mate, "keep an eye on him, he'll be back."

Mile 9 was an 8:34 and the final mile closed out the ten at 8:13. All in all, it was a lot of fun. My time of 1:23:50 was good for 207th place and THIRD in my age group. I'm trying desperately to come off as excited even though I have college training logs that say, "ten miles easy : 56 minutes." For the record, I posted the picture on the left on Facebook in the hopes that the couple at the eight mile mark could see the front of my shirt since I never saw them again.

Fearing some soreness, I logged an easy 6 the next morning and self massaged my pounded quads. Surprisingly, nothing negative to report. I went for a moderately quick 8 the next morning and backed off a bit the next two days. Saturday, I went 12, feeling pretty good.

Sunday, it was 20 mile time. My goal was to go easy, either side of ten minute pace and see how my body handled the run. Luckily, the weather was cooler than usual and that allowed for a little less H2O consumption (about 70 ounces compared to 120 on the hotter summer days). I dodged the bikes and the hundreds of others out and about and ended up right at about 10:10 pace, but with a very low 130 as the heart rate average. Best part: VERY easy!

Again, I thought I'd be sore the next day, but my post stress ritual of fluids and quad massage seemed to do the trick. So yesterday I ran a nice, fairly brisk 11. 

The original plan for today was to run around ten miles and hit some 400 repeats tomorrow. A change in my work plan caused me to move the 400's to today. 4 miles at tempo (probably 8:20 ish), 3 miles easy with some buildups thrown in and then it was time for the SPEED!

I run my 4s and 8s on a road in the Cherry Creek State Park. The first 150 of the 400 is slightly downhill, the next 150 is as slightly up. Then it's 100 flat (with the last 30 meters a little down for the finish). All in all, it's a good spot: asphalt, absolutely no traffic and a 200 jog loop back to the start. 

Six months ago, I did this exact workout and averaged just under 1:40 for the 400s (1:39.8 to be exact). This time it was 1:38.9, 37.3, 36.8, 35.7, 37.7, 37.5, 37.6, 32.3 for an average of 1:36.6. Gotta say I was pretty happy as while the effort was strong, it was not "difficult." I finished with a three mile cooldown to get me home, logging 13 for the day.

The rest of the week will contain a hill workout and a tempo run and maybe, just maybe, a 5K on Sunday. Hey, I'm feeling a little zippy. Now that I am logging some quality oriented miles, it's time to let go a little. As I have slowly moved into this training chunk, I've been somewhat overcautious. Having passed those tests, it's time to stoke up the flame.

The quest to hit 100,000 miles gets ever so close as it looks like next Tuesday will be the day. 78 miles to go!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August and The Halfway Report

The end of August brings to close a good training month and the halfway point in training for the Rock n Roll Savannah Marathon. After nine weeks of my eighteen week training block (689 miles so far, or 76.5 per week), I am happy to report all systems are go! I feel like I have a nice base of work leading in to the coming weeks as I shift to more quality, less quantity. Long runs as follows 15 miles (3 times), 16 miles (twice), 17, 18, 19 have all helped build the foundation. Will get a few 19-22 in the next five weeks.

August contained 325 miles and that is the second best month I have had in a decade (the best being July with 369). It was pretty easy to be motivated in August with the Olympics going. The highlight had to be my run of Mt. Tamalpais and the Muir Woods.

I began the 18 week block at 220.8 pounds and am down to 195.4. The progress has been slow and steady and can be attributed to a great combination of training and cutting out sugar and bad carbs. My goal was to be at 175 by November 3, so barring the unforeseen, I might make it. Hopefully, I'll finish the year around 165 (that would be an awesome weight for me) and will spend 2013 maintaining.

Park to Park ten mile race tomorrow in Denver. Planning to run steady and heart rate monitored. Then a 5K the next weekend and the Denver Half on September 22. Mostly want to return to a racing mindset after twelve years of non-racing.

As a side note, the quest to 100,000 miles moves on with less than 200 to go. Not sure what day I will cross over but I'm guessing in about 15-18 days

Stay safe and have a great run!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sea Level is For.....


That's what the Bolder Boulder t-shirts have proclaimed. "Sea level is for sissies." If that is true, then I spent seven glorious days as the biggest sissy you can possibly imagine. AND..... I liked it.

Don't get me wrong, part of the reason I enjoy sea level as much as I do is living at 5700 feet. I love coming down and breathing that plentiful air, cruising up hills and basically shaking it out a little without the curse of oxygen debt. So when the opportunity to spend a week in Vallejo, CA, arrived, I was excited.

My Mother-in-Law lives six miles from the south entrance to the Benecia State Park. That, pretty much, was the morning routine. Six miles to the park (a net downhill with three MONSTER uphills on the way), then usually the out and back five.

But Officer, I get at sea level and I can't help myself...
My first two days in the land of "O," were spent running easy (easy, translated for me, meant 9:10 - 9:30 ish per mile, HR average around 125). Just getting my sea (level) legs. On day three, I decided to mix in some two minute pick-ups in the park. 9 X 2 minutes with a 30 second rest jog at 7:20 pace. The first two felt robotic and a little stiff, but once loosened, my body took rather kindly to these repeats and felt good.

Day four was spent on a bucket list run: the Muir Woods, Dipsea trail and Mt Tamalpais. Ever since Bruce Dern took me to "the mountain" in the movie "On The Edge," I have longed to hit those trails. What a blast!

Dipsea Trail
The run began on the Dipsea trail near the Muir Woods Park entrance. I spent roughly the first three miles or so climbing taking a few wrong turns every now and then. Ultimately I found myself heading downward with only a mile to Stinson Beach. This, I figured, would not do. I was far from finished climbing. There was still that peak up there hovering over me as if we were in some kind of stare-down contest. So rather than complete the downhill journey, I decided to find my way to the West Peak of Mt. Tam.

The trails varied from smooth to very rocky; from uphill to screaming uphill. A few times, in the woods, you could have convinced me I was facedown on a brand new deck, the redwood smell was so strong. I also found it amazing how sparsely the trail was populated. I think in the two hours I climbed, I might have seen eight other people and NO ONE else running. Once at the top, I decided to head down (can't believe my helicopter pilot, Jeeves never showed). Reminiscent of my one time experience at the Pikes Peak Marathon, going down was not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.

Got my eye on the peak
All in all, I logged 13 miles in about three hours and 12 minutes and loved pretty much every bit of it. Check that one off.

Day five was a simple, but extremely hilly run all over. I thought I'd be considerably sorer than I was but I still ran easy. The plan for the rest of the day was canoeing on the Russian River, so strength had to be conserved. 

Day six was an easy ten miles with a few thrown in the middle right around 7:50-8:00 pace. These three miles clicked off nicely and I spent most of the time wishing that pace was that easy at home. The afternoon of day six was spent on Angel Island . Yikes! I didn't even know this place existed! I only had the time for an easy PM three miles but vowed that I would return someday for a twenty miler on the 5 mile perimeter road. Everyone in our group raved about the views and I could only see the place as a great spot to run (of course, none of you can relate to that, right?).

Angel Island.... I'll be BAAACK!

My final run (day seven) would be a 14 miler with no watch, no heart rate monitor. Just a celebration of sorts for oxygen and its wonderful power. All told, I logged 82 miles in my seven days and arrived home feeling pretty good about myself. Upon arrival, however, I was faced with the trifecta (for me) from hell: an end of the day run, after a meal, and back at altitude.

The Savannah Rock n Roll is a little more than nine weeks away which is the halfway point of my eighteen week plan. I am liking my progress. I've averaged 76 miles a week over the nine weeks and lost 25 pounds in the process. Still have 20 to go to be at Flying Pig, year 2000, weight (I ran 3:10:34 that day). 

Long run tomorrow. Park to Park ten mile race on Labor Day and a track session thrown in for the joy of it. Life is good.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Savannah Marathon: Four Down, Fourteen to go!

An awesome month!
Had a good week - heck, a good four weeks, as the focus for Savannah Marathon prep has been volume and volume. 84, 81, 80 and 80 have been the weekly mileage totals. One more week of easy stuff and then we begin to mix in the fun workouts: half mile repeats, tempo runs, and dare I say it.... 400s on the track. Also, lost 20 pounds in the last 5 1/2 weeks. Looking for twenty more before marathon day. With fourteen weeks to go, who knows. Might get high school skinny (doubtful, as I weighed 139 pounds soaking wet in high school).

Luckily, it's been an easy month to run. After all, it's summer, Olympic track and field (and marathon) are just around the corner and I keep getting closer to 100,000 miles (see http://runspittle.blogspot.com/2012/05/beware-of-mayan-mind-trick.html for a few more details on that). Should get there in late September. 

Then what? Well, there is always 200,000 kilometers (yeah, that's 124,274.24 miles, I already checked).

Sad about the withdrawal of Paula Radcliffe from the Olympic Women's Marathon this weekend. Paula has been such a studette and a major inspiration to everyone for SO many years. It would have been nice if she had been able to get in one final 26.2 in her home country. Still going to be an incredible race though with Shalane, Kara and hopefully Desi (nursing some injuries) toeing the start against the East Africans.

Also, way excited about the men's and women's 10K, 5K, steeple and of course the men's marathon. Can't wait. Distance races rule!

Run on!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rest in Peace, Pat Porter!

I took this picture of Pat at the 84 Olympics.
A cross country legend died in a terrible plane crash yesterday and it makes me sad. Yes, I know that death is part of life but Pat Porter's death touched me in a lot of different ways. First, there is just the tragedy of a life cut short (he was 53). Then when you consider that he died with his son, Conner, 15,   leaving behind his wife Trisha and their daughter Shannon it becomes even more heart wrenching. Lastly, while I wouldn't claim to be a close personal friend or anything, I knew Pat Porter. And frankly, he was one of the good guys.

Pat Porter was the poster child for "local boy makes good." A 4:29 miler in high school, he was passed over by most of the big schools and landed at Adams State after a short stint at Metro College. Through hard work and focus, he just kept getting better and better culminating in 8 straight National Cross Country Championships and berths on two Olympic teams. There will probably never be another runner who will dominate the US cross country scene the way Pat did.

I have four very fond memories of Pat Porter.

1) I was sitting in Coach Joe I. Vigil's office at Adams State College the day I first met Pat.  I had made a ritual of stopping in to chat with Coach Vigil whenever I had the opportunity to make the drive from Monte Vista to Alamosa. We were having our usual discussion of training and such when Pat walked in. He introduced himself, sat down, chatted with us, reported his morning workout with his Coach and was on his way. I thought the fact that he participated in our conversation was pretty cool.

The thing I remember the most from our first meeting was that he clearly called me, Coach Sands that day. And the way he said it had this sound of respect to it, like someone who relished the coach/athlete relationship and valued the support of coaches anywhere. And why wouldn't he? During his heyday, he and Coach Vigil were an incredibly successful team. In the dozen or so times I ran into Pat after that day, I was always "Coach Sands." I thought that was pretty cool too.

2) I was able to watch him work out a few times in Cole Park. 16 x 880 once at a lung searing 7600 feet altitude. Most in the 2:05 range, the last ones under two. YIKES. And he was such an "all in" kind of runner. Terrain didn't matter, the elements didn't matter (and believe me, we could have some pretty interesting elements in the San Luis Valley), the task in front of him didn't matter. He just went after it. He was a mudder, a blue collar kind of runner. And when he made the Olympic team in 1984, the entire Valley celebrated.

3) A struggling teacher and a nurse didn't have a ton of money in 1984, but we had enough to pack up the boys (Matt was 3 and Ryan was about 6 months old) and drive to Los Angeles to see the Olympics. We could pick ONE session to attend in the Coliseum, we chose the evening of Pat's 10,000 meter prelim. We yelled and cheered like crazy and figured we were primarily responsible for him qualifying for the final. We thought it was pretty exciting. 

What topped the race, though, was Pat coming over to the stands afterward and thanking us for cheering and supporting so much. We chatted for just a minute, mostly us oozing about how well he'd done, he did a little patting of the boys on the head, and he was off with the words, "Thanks again, Coach Sands."

4) Of the two major movies about Steve Prefontaine, I believe the best is Without Limits. My reasoning is very simply, among other things, it has the best and most authentic running scenes. And those running scenes would not have been nearly as great as they were without Pat Porter in the role of Lasse Viren. I do not know who cast that role, but they couldn't have done it better. Scruffy Finnish beard and all, Pat didn't just give us a guy trying to act like Viren. He gave us Viren.

Just last Friday, Pat Porter was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. I listened to his speech this morning on youtube and the thing that struck me the most was here was this great runner, being given this great honor and all he did was talk about all of the people that had been there for him and guided him during his career. Typical Pat Porter.

I've never met Pat's wife, Trisha. And I cannot even come close to understanding her grief to lose both a husband and a son in such a tragic accident. But my prayers are with her and their daughter, Shannon in their time of sadness and despair. 

The running world has lost one of the greatest of all time: the cross country king, the Panther, the great Pat Porter. Rest in Peace, Pat.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Miles of Trials - Oly Trials Day 8

Another edition of one of my favorite events, the Olympic Track and Field Trials has come to an end. The final day had some ups and downs, the biggest down being Bershawn Jackson's fourth place finish in the 400 m hurdles. That's got to be the worst spot in the world, especially when your living depends on how you place in the big one. There are no big purses or jackpots for anyone but the top echelon of runners. The 15th place golfer in the AT&T National made $113,000+ today. And that was just THIS weekend's tournament. No such windfalls in Track and Field.

The feature races, for me, the 1500 meters both went sort of as expected. Morgan Uceny, Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson will represent the women and Leo Manzano, Matt Centrowitz and Andrew Wheatley, the men. In both cases, I'm not sure that anyone better could have made it. At this time, this is our best. The women, especially, could do quite well in London.

Of course, the Trials aren't actually over as Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh will faceoff tomorrow in the Great Runoff of 2012 for the third and final slot in the Women's 100 meter dash. After her dominance in the 200, I had half expected Felix to give the position to her teammate. Then again, as previously stated, this is what these people do for a LIVING.

All in all, the Trials were great and covered fairly well by NBC. I'm hoping for a much greater depth of coverage in London, especially in the distance races (although this was NBC's best job to date). Nothing, of course, compares to the good old days of 1988, when I had a monster 10 foot satellite dish and could get free feeds from eight different countries PLUS the US coverage had packages where you could just watch what you wanted. All Track and Field, all the time! Five weeks till Olympic Track..... bring it on!

On a personal note, I lived through a very hot 18 miler today. Ending temp was 94 degrees. I went through 110 ounces of H2O. Unbelievably, I actually felt pretty good. Got to the halfway point of the year yesterday at 1330 miles. It's been a good 2012!

Allyson Felix Rules and Did I Hear Tim Tebow? Oly Trials Day 7

You can say what you want about 100 meter runoffs and/or coin flips, in the middle of all of that hoopla, Allyson Felix remained calm, cool, collected and FAST! She completely dropped the hammer on the entire 200 m field last night in Eugene to highlight a fairly boring slate of track and field (translation: no distance events). 

Felix came out of the blocks quickly and seemed to hit a whole other gear coming out of the curve. Props to her for the great time (21.69) and her dominance.

On a completely different topic, I have noticed a huge amount of post race praying (or contemplation or knee-dropping exhaustion) during the Trials. That, coupled with the constant interview references to God and Jesus, have me wondering something: why was/is Tim Tebow such a big deal?

Athletes have been praising God and thanking Jesus for decades. I had no problem with it then and no problem with it now. In fact, I can't imagine a day without some appreciation and/or gratitude to my Creator. But where is the outrage at the Trials?

Yeah, I know, track and field doesn't have nearly the impact of something really "important" like football (yes, you did notice complete and utter sarcasm) but I still am perplexed. Tebow is definitely not the first, nor will he be the last religious/spiritual athlete. So why the double standard?

Just wondering...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Buff Sweep - Oly Trials Day 6

Like the Kenyan men so often do, the University of Colorado women swept the 3000 m Steeplechase on Day 6 of the Olympic Track and Field Trials. Or at least they should have, or could have. Emma Coburn, Shalaya Kipp and Jenny Simpson showing the Boulder running dominance. Would/could have been SO cool. Let me explain.

In 2008, Jenny Simpson (then Barringer) was the top American steepler at the Olympic games. Fresh off an American record setting performance, she was primed to move  up to challenge for the medals with the Kenyan and East European women for London. So what did Jenny do? She changed events.

Now I, nor anyone else, can't complain too much about Jenny's decision. She won the World Championships at the 1500 meters last summer and appears ready to make an Olympic run in that event (her final is Sunday). But the thought of the sweep really gets me cranked up.

Then there is that other little thing, Bridget Franek. Franek (who is having a great season) ran a very controlled, smart race to place second sending Kipp to the bronze position. Maybe my sweep wasn't meant to be. Here's what I figure would have happened, though: Kipp would have come off the final water jump to glance ahead and see the two Buffettes in first and second, been totally inspired and BLAZED by Franek to secure the sweep. I could/would have so cool! Instead, we get two collegians, both from the University of Colorado representing our country in London. The upside on Coburn and Kipp is that I think both will run considerably faster in the Olympics. Good stuff!

So, I guess I'll take it and put away my broom for another time and another event. Go Buffs!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Ecstasy of the Trials - Oly Trials Day 5

For a distance racing fan, Day 5 of the Trials was a plethora of races reflecting the many faces of the Olympic Trials: from the Ridiculous to the Agony, to the Ecstasy. One by one....

The Ridiculous. Yeah I know that the plan is to emulate the Olympic Games as much as possible. I get that. But WOW, three prelim heats to eliminate 3 women and six men. Seems like a waste. Nonetheless, no surprises in either group. Everyone through to the semis.

The Agony. There is no contest for this, Julia Lucas. After taking the lead with a little over three laps to go, Lucas pressed the pace, brought the race back into Olympic "A" standard territory and opened a sizable gap to her competitors. That gap looked safe until the last 200 when first Molly Huddle and Julie Culley went by. At this point, Lucas was STRUGGLING. She had the bear AND the piano on her back. She pressed on wishing that somehow that finish line would come closer. Her Olympic dream, however, was shattered when Kim Conley nipped her at the tape with a lean that would have been the envy of a world class sprinter.

The Ecstasy. There is two: Galen Rupp and Kim Conley. Galen Rupp has arrived.... period. The young former Oregon Duck unleashed a deadly kick with 400 to go, only to be passed by the great Bernard Lagat (quite a kicker, himself). Normally, in most races, that's it. Put a fork in him, he's done. Not Galen Rupp. Somehow, and from somewhere, he found yet another gear and arose from the ashes of defeat (well, being second - hey, just trying to create a little drama, here) to whip Lagat in the final 50 meters. Through his outstanding victories in both the 5 and 10 K races, the often criticized Rupp has firmly established himself as America's premier distance runner.

Kim Conley, on the other hand, has not been in most anyone's discussions as America's premier female distance runner. Unleashing a deadly kick the final 200, Conley sealed the deal with an awesome lean at the tape. She was third, BUT.... did she meet the Olympic "A" standard? A few seconds of anticipation (that must have seemed like days) passed before the scoreboard flashed her time, two tenths of a second under the standard. Her shock/ecstasy can be seen in the picture above. At some point, she'll want to thank Julia Lucas for upping the pace. Great Oly Trials drama!

ALSO: a shoutout to Evan Jager who ran a personal best of 8:17 to win the 3000m Steeplechase...... in his FOURTH ever steeple. Amazing. Jager, an amazing talent, should improve greatly, even in the five/six weeks until the Olympics. Of course, he'll have to as the steeple has been pretty much the private domain of the Kenyans. To compete, Jager needs to definitely go sub 8:10. I'm betting he does it, but still won't medal.

So another great day of Track and Field. Geez, this sure beats watching baseball this time of year!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dream Big!

Tonight Lauren Fleshman will run in the qualifying heats of the Olympic Trials. As a Facebook friend, running aficionado and admirer of great talent, her story is not new to me. It was brought to the forefront of my mind today, however, because of two things: Her race is tonight (yeah, I said that) and she posted an awesome blog today reviewing her path to this day. That link is http://asklaurenfleshman.com/journal/2012/06/25/the-evolution-of-a-dream/

A year ago, Fleshman’s plan was to bury the competition, qualify for London and begin preparations for a medal assault at the Olympics. This was her dream. Funny thing about dreams, they don’t always come true. A series of painful, training-robbing injuries have taken her from the favorites role and placed her into a whole other category: inspiration.

Fleshman will toe the line having averaged roughly 10 miles a week over the last couple of months. For the unknowing, non-runner types out there, that’s not much. A robust old man like me has been averaging almost that a day the last two months, and world class 5K female runners tend to run 80+ in heavy training. Lauren, on the other hand, has utilized everything and anything that doesn’t hurt to prepare for this day. Swimming, the EliptiGo and sprint sessions have been the staple of her preparation. Lauren Fleshman is chasing a dream. She hopes for the best. In reality, achieving the dream is awesome, but living and committing to the dream is the best.

Somewhere in the movie, Love Story, someone said, “you lose your dream, you die.” I think they’re right. For those of us actively participating in this life, the dream is everything. It’s the goal, the focus, the thing to be planned around, the ultimate achievement. The goal is the anchor in a purpose driven life. And while we don't achieve them all, this is one instance where the journey has considerable reward.

I’m sending my “C” to Lauren Fleshman tonight (read her blog and you'll get this). Dream on, girl!

NOTE:  Roughly fifteen minutes ago, Lauren Fleshman qualified for the finals of the 5000 meters to be contested Thursday evening with the top three finishers heading to London. You never know the power of a dream!

Rest Day Before the Rest Days - Oly Trials Day 3

A Disappointed Jeremy Wariner
Oddly enough there are two rest days within the Olympic Track and Field Trials this time. Yesterday, while not official, was my rest day. Nothing scheduled that excited me much, at least not enough to watch it live. So I DVRed the day and zipped through it later.

The return of Justin Gatlin was the highlight of the evening. Gatlin had been suspended a few years ago for a positive doping test. Unlike most, Gatlin came back as good or better than ever. He seems like a nice guy with a cute little son! Props to Tyson Gay for a successful return to the Trials podium after injuries and surgeries in the past year.

I suppose the low of the evening was the disappointing performance of former Olympic Gold Medalist Jeremy Wariner. Seeking his third Olympic team, he just never quite seemed to have it this year. For Wariner, 2012 has been a missed opportunity as two years ago, he would have been best served moving up to the 800 meters (just sayin'....).

Anyway, excited for tonight as the 800 final for both men and women (go Maggie!) will be contested as well as preliminary races in the 3000 m steeplechase and the 5000. A good night for distance folks.That makes for a good night for me!

On a related note, the Tour de France begins Saturday and I am mildly interested. Hopefully, once the Trials finish and the Tour hits the Alps, my interest will peak.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

STUD of all Studs - Oly Trials Day 2

Aston Eaton and two awesome dudes!
After an exciting Day 1, the second portion of the Olympic Track and Field Trials was nothing less than fantastic. High, and still undecided drama in the women's sprints, and a World Record in the decathlon by Ashton Eaton.

Rain, again, sporadically poured on the venue and at one time caused the meet director to delay the start of several events. That delay caused my taping of the night's events to get screwed up (poor me). To my amazement, the often criticized (and usually deservedly so) NBC extended the live coverage to show the last two finals. Warm fuzzies to them (thought I would NEVER, EVER write those words).

First, the sprints. In the 100m hurdles, defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper looked awesome. Kellie Wells looked good taking Silver, but the shout of the day came (from me) for the "return" of Lolo Jones. 

Jones, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was on her way to the gold medal when she clipped the ninth hurdle (there are ten). While she didn't fall, the hit was enough to break her momentum. She went from Gold to "thanks for coming" in a split second. In the four years since, she has had numerous injuries, some good races, some bad races and announced her virginity on Twitter. The odds against her were BIG. And, to me, that's why her success is so exciting (let's get that start fixed, Lolo)!

In the women's 100 m dash, Carmelita Jeter won, re-establishing herself as the world's fastest female (arguably, I might add). Tianna Madison was impressive in second and Jeneba Tarmoh nipped Allyson Felix for third. Or did she? Upon further review and after countless looks, from countless angles, the race was declared a dead heat. A dead heat for third in the 100. 

Dead heats have happened in track and field before, but not for the third and final Olympic spot. The USATF didn't have a rule to cover this one, so we wait for their decision. A run off? A coin flip? Calling Rich Sands to see what he says they should do?

Then.... there's Aston Eaton. You can have LB James, Tom Brady, Alex Rodriquez and all of the other pre-fabricated sports heroes. I'll take Aston Eaton, stud of all studs.

Dominating his way through the two day Decathlon competition, Eaton needed to run a personal best in the 1500m (the final event) to set a new world record. He paced himself pretty well for the first 2 3/4 laps and then somehow, after two days of grueling competition, found something left for a fabulous last lap, a four second PR (personal record) and the new world's best. It was awesome to watch the crowd carry him through that final lap and even better to see his own reaction.

Not at all lost in the roar of that final straightaway was two of Eaton's fellow competitors, Joe Detmer and Curtis Beach. Beach had the 1500 won, Eaton was closing in on Detmer for second. Coming on that final straightaway, Beach could sense something special was happening. He could hear the crowd, he sensed the history. Ten yards into what could have been his own big moment, Curtis Beach moved out to the third lane, slowed down and looked back. He then shut it down, let Eaton pass giving up his moment so that Eaton could have his. So cool, so classy. Detmer didn't fight off Eaton either and in that wonderful photo of the finish (above), Beach and Detmer are all smiles watching Eaton break the world record.

I love sports and as you know, I LOVE a good track and field meet. I got more than my share of that Saturday night. Ashton Eaton, Dawn Harper, Lolo Jones, Carmelita Jeter... all gave great sport moments. On a bigger picture, though, I love sportsmanship, compassion and awareness. Curtis Beach and Joe Detmer, you guys ROCKED that category.

Ready for Day 3.

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...