Personal Site: www.vause.name
11 MCM (not for time) 11 Wineglass (950/1442)
10 MCM (not for time) 09 MCM (348/1076)
09 Washington's Birthday Marathon (22/44) 08 MC Historic Half (51/210)
07 Frederick Marathon (32/60) 06 MCM (394/1076)
05 MCM (547/1047)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The wind sounds like a train out there this morning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Frost Glow

We've seen the fog glow in the moonlight on early morning runs under the moon. The fog seems to have a life of its own. Whenever I see it, I still remember my childhood suspicion that the fog was the aggregate of the spirits of Indians who lived on that land in prior times. This morning the sky was utterly clear. On the way out, it was still dark and full of stars, but on the return it had turned into an expanse of glowing blue. When we came upon the commons, Denise asked me if there was a fog over it. Instead, we realized that it was the heavy frost glowing under the sky. It was glowing pale blue. Frost glow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

April Frost

The morning opened with a veneer of frost on rooftops and exposed lawns. We worry about the hummingbirds during late season chills. The feeder at the kitchen window keeps us apprised of their spring time arrival and level of activity. I dread to see a sudden drop in squabbling over the sugar water in the feeder after a cold spring night.

I ran 6.5 today. Its been eight years since I returned to running. At the time, I picked up a book on marathon training and was depressed to see the long run of the first week of training was 6 miles. There was no way I could do that distance when I started again. For the past several years, my standard 6 mile run is the backbone of my weekly training program, doing 3 or 4 runs like that each week. All around me at work coworkers of my age are in full physical decline. They don't even seem to be aware that there is an alternative.

My plan this year is to slowly build the daily 6-miler into a daily 8 or 9 miler.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April Full Moon

It the end of April and the month's full moon is brightening the pre-dawn sky. The hours I spend every week running outdoors synchronizes my mind with the cycle of day, month, and year. I celebrate each dawn, each full moon, each spring as a new beginning. We tell ourselves that we get to choose our course at each beginning, but the past exerts a strong influence on determining the future. When we do not think, when we act out of the habituation of so many rehearsed previous actions, we give up our control of the new beginning nature lays before us.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Season's First Ice Puddle

Running under the waning moon, we came across a puddle on the road. Denise squealed with delight when she realized it was iced over. Stepping on it, it was as if she had forgotten how slippery ice could be.

I thought the bright dot next to the moon was Venus. http://earthsky.org/tonight tells me it is Jupiter. Note as romantic, but just as beautiful. Jupiter is so large, it could be the much closer, albeit small, Venus.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Choose

In my mind, to run is to chose who you are. By running my nine miles, I chose to eschew the indolent self-indulgence that Wall Street and Madison Avenue always tell me I deserve. The Maryland weather was chilly today, 37 F, but breezy. This yielded a wind chill of 25F. My miles came and went easily. I saw a hawk high above, patrolling our neighborhood like a fighter plane from 1944.

To run is to embrace Sparta over Madison Avenue's Gomorrah.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Set

I ran the sun down today. Running the sun up is a completely different experience. Your body wakes slowly with the world around you as you click off the morning's miles. Morning is beginning, it is potential and possibility. The world of bats and foxes turns to one of robins, hawks, and mocking birds. The wind picks up as the warming sun disturbs the air. The sun rise braces me for the day.

I watch the sun, low on the horizon, preparing for its final drop to the earth. The day is closing; my mind always wants to close at sunset. For 37 years, the day's pall has curtained the world and my mind. I continue to run under the blustery blue fall sky. The sun offers no warmth. My run comes easily. Nine miles tick by. My legs feel fresh, effort is the only warmth at this sunset.

The stresses of the summer reduced my weekly mileage to 10 to 20 miles per week. I don't know if I was right or wrong, or weak, or unfocused to let it happen. But now is the time to re-balance my life. It is ironic that I find success more stressful than failure. That life continues to give me everything I shoot for startles me. I feel indebted at my good look and beholden to make the best of this fleeting chance. I strive harder to take advantage of this one break of good luck. But the good luck always comes.

9 miles today on this first return to standard time. What I run in the next 7 days is all that matters.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trail Running Season

Its appropriately the Saturday after the autumnal equinox. The morning's temperature was in the low 50's and we decided that deer tick activity would be suppressed. So we ran the first trail run of the season in Green Belt National Park, 3.5 miles along perimeter trail. Denise loves the trails and hurled herself on the downhill sections. She easily out-ran my comfortable pace. I worried that she wasn't wearing gloves, fearing she might have a close encounter with mud, rocks, and roots.

She exclaimed that she felt 12 again. I couldn't help ponder the remark. Just weeks after her 54th birthday, she's racing down rough, single-track, woodland trails feeling like an adolescent. With her commitment to exercise and healthy living, each year underscores how different her path in life had become when compared to her peers.

I know that endurance exercise is not pill for eternal youth. By comparison with it, though, what is passed off as normal life to the rest of us is actually suicidal. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Starts

I had gastroenteritis over the weekend and missed my long run. It has been a challenge to work up to that distance this month.

I began my run this morning in the darkness of the new moon of February. As I clicked off miles in anticipation of my 1200 meter repeats at mile 5, I realized Mars was hanging large, low, and red in the West. It was all the brighter due to the lack of the moon and Venus. I thought that it was somehow fitting to run intense repeats under the light of Mars.

By mile 5, Mars was waning in the gathering light of the dawn. The repeats went well, my pace was fast and easier than expected, despite the food losses of the weekend. As I finished my run, the sun was cresting the hills in the east, but not yet above the trees. Long fingers of light reached up into the dwindling mists of the pre-dawn morning.

It was a good run.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mind

This is a "down" week for me. Only 3.7 miles in a light 50 F pre-dawn drizzle. On reduced mileage weeks, I get into that "its only 4-5 miles, so why do it at all" mentality. With the rain compounding it, I had an unusual struggle to get my behind out there.


The running is self-defining. Running in the rain is more so. I don't know why this has come to be. In the end, we have nothing but what we have produced in ourselves. Even that is transient.


But its done. Through in a mile above anaerobic threshold pace for good measure.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Its almost 60 F out there this morning. I could hear frogs chirping in the wetlands in our subdivision as I ran by.

I did 8 miles in the warm, wet, windy weather. 2 miles at tempo pace. I could have been without a shirt and comfortable.

I almost didn't go out this morning, having awaken sluggish and really tired. Three 8 milers in the workweek combined with standing all day at work is really taxing my system. As a plus, I've been good at holding to my weight training schedule, something I've not achieved over the past few years. The total effect, however, is to be fairly tired on Friday morning.

One has to apply stress to get the adaptation.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Athletainment

I work in a casual environment, more like a college campus than corporate America. On Fridays, many come to work in NFL jerseys celebrating the entertainment and athletic achievements of their respective football teams. During the playoffs, troops of highly specialized entertainers compete to play in a final performance held in February. This annual rite of passage costs its spectators millions of hours and dollars. Fans of the final winner come away bloated with pride and ego, though, in fact, the only thing they have achieved is an extra pound or two from the over-eating and drinking that usually occurs while watching the games. In twelves months most will not remember the final score.

I have five MCM competitor jerseys now. Each Friday, I wear an MCM jersey to work to celebrate my own athletic achievements. They were earned on runs like this Sunday's: 15 miles in quiet, under a cloudy, gray sky, with 29 F. and 22 F. wind chill.

Bragging rights are something you personally earn. They do not result from the accidents of being a fan.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Beginnings

After my last marathon of the year, I go into aimless running. It is both good and bad. I run because it has become part of my nature, but I don't run the hard runs that result from goal-setting. It is a hiatus from ambition, where I just express the nature I have created for myself.

New Year's day the weather was magnificent, nearly 50 F. and sunny. Denise and I ran, reveling in the spirit of the beginning of a new year. My aches from October's marathon efforts were gone. Like in previous years, I felt that need to train myself to go longer and faster once again.

I failed to achieve a PR in 2011. Now I feel set against my 2011 self: I feel the need to overcome what I was and produce a new state of being.

I have to wonder how many 56 year old males still look forward to their next lifetime personal records (PRs).

Life is an act of self-creation. You are what you have the will to be. In the end, what you have created is all you have.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ego

I'm sitting here pondering my relative standings in the various marathons I've run. One would think WineGlass was a disaster. Actually, I ran a fairly good time despite the rain. The field at WineGlass is faster than most marathons, particularly large ones like the MCM. Big city marathons attract many relatively slower first timers. WineGlass is a small, rural, marathon. Additionally, it is prefered by runners in search of Boston qualifying times because of its fast course. I have not seen as many Boston jackets at the pre-race event anywhere as in Corning.

I just wish that I'd be one of those running a BQ on that day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Layoffs

One to four week layoffs are universally recommended by running coaches. The weeks after a marathon are usually my layoffs, enforced by being too sore to run. They are also a welcome mental break. Not this year however. While my legs still feel quite dead, I'm anxious to get back out there and run. The desire is different now, though. It is the desire for goal-less running: just get out there and run.

It starts again tomorrow: trail run in Greenbelt National Park, maybe three or four miles.

Can't wait.

Monday, October 31, 2011

36th MCM

What I learned:
  • The after-effects of a full effort marathon last longer than 4 weeks.
  • If your hamstrings feel like they're at 90% when you start, they'll feel much less so as the race progresses.
  • Expect more DOMS than after your first same-season run.
  • You'll be slower than you expected, at least for your first same-season marathon.
  • Don't attempt to start out even at a pace you objectively think you can hold. Start more slowly.
  • (I didn't learn this, I had the good sense to forecast it.) As you decline, do not attempt to push through the exhaustion. Let your body slow down.
  • The freebie breakfast at the Residence Inn is busiest at opening. If your hunger allows, wait till about 7:10 AM. (We knew this from previous stays, but manage to forget each year.
  • After you're up for a while - at least if you're in good shape - the aches will subside and you will just have a sensation that nothing in your body is willing to move quickly. Specially your legs.
  • Running with and for the Marines at the MCM is worth it, specially in time of war.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Moon

On the morning of the new moon, it hung just above the horizon, minutes before the dawn. The tiniest sliver shone bright gold, while the rest of the orb glowed dimly with Earth shine. Counter-intuitively, the orb blended almost indistinguishably with the blue morning sky, making its boundary nearly imperceptible.

This morning, at 5:45 AM, I experienced another why I run moment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I woke Denise up with a cup of coffee in bed and the pounding sounds of the Village People singing "In the Navy" and "YMC". I guess the life of an endurance junky's spouse isn't easy. We went for her run, then I did a few more miles.

We have some good winds out of the NW after yesterday's rains. This is a pattern that repeats all winter. Runner's who have done the MCM more than once know it well: those last 6 miles are often into a stiff wind from the NW as run from Crystal City to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

7 miles today, once again. I had hoped to get in 10, but I'm struggling to get out by the requisite 5:30 AM start time for a 10-miler.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Missed Destiny

I took vertebrate zoology as an undergrad in that major. It became obvious to me at that time that humans had evolved to be best long distance runners in the animal kingdom. I let life's distractions lead me away from that first academic love and the revolutionary insight that I had nurtured. Someone else pursued my insight and brought it into focus: http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Corning Wineglass Marathon

What I learned at Corning:
  • Don't start off at a pace you instinctively feel is too fast saying: "We'll just see what happens."
  • You won't be able to "will" your way through the consequences of the first bullet.
  • Adjust for the weather. If its 42 F and raining, don't try to take 15 minutes off your PR with the rationalization that the course is mostly down hill.
  • Static stretching after seems to break up adhesions. It alleviates the soreness and stiffness.
  • 26 miles is roughly 3000 calories. 10%-15% of those are from metabolized protein. You may need the carbs right away, but get that protein.
  • A technical long sleeved top, shorts, gloves are sufficient for 42 F with rain and light winds.  
  • When a big rain drop hits the bridge of your nose, it bursts in a small explosion of water. This is usually entertaining. At mile 22, deep into a wall you brought on yourself, it is startling and a little surreal.
  • If its raining, use the BodyGlide in places you wouldn't normally expect.

Limits

We place limits on ourselves defining what we consider reasonable. I realized how easily these limits can be pushed back last winter. Denise and I started to experiment with trail running. As the cold deepened, we began running the trail under increasingly snowy and icey conditions. I remember driving out to Greenbelt National Park with Denise sharing doubts that the Perimeter Trail would be runnable only to arrive and run it, enjoying the challenge and novelty.

Today's run was one of those moments where my sense of what is reasonable was expanded. Today's run was 10 miles in 60 F rain, occasionally breezy and heavy. I can't say it was fun. My legs were feeling heavy and the sensation was increased by water-logged shoes. I also went into the run feeling sluggish and my clammy technical fabric top did not help my mindset. It was too warm for my hat, so I left it. Water drops hit my eyes on occasion, leaving red-eyed by end of the run. I occasionally inhaled the rain, choking on it lightly.

Sitting

I did not run today or so far this week. My 50-mile training week left me with several aches and pains which inclined me to a week off. Additionally, early meetings, a doctor's appointment, and paperwork all collaborated to consume the early morning time I usually set aside for training my body.

This morning I spent extra time doing my stretching routine, which primarily has its Western-style emphasis on muscle flexibility but also includes yoga elements of focus and relaxation. I did my zen-sitting.

Running and zen-sitting have much in common. They are extremely simple in practice. The act of running is the simplicity of performing what humans are naturally engineered to do best. There are no external aids that can enhance the core experience. It is simplicity of the body. The act zen-sitting is a conscious disassociation from anything arising from externals. It is simplicity of the mind.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Irene: Another Why I Run

This morning, I had another experience that reminds me why I run. It was 77F and 69% humidity, a bit more mild than usual, but still good sweating weather. I ran shirtless again, under a heavy, leaden sky. It was still almost oppressively dark at 6:00 AM.

It started to rain at 5 miles. It came down, at first light, then grew in intensity over the next mile. The cold rain washed away my coating of sweat. Since the water was much more cool than the air, it actually got me cold: I had goose bumps in August.

I thought about how such an experience is unique to what we runners experience. While the rain was finished by mile 6, I was refreshed in mind and body. It was still another "why I run" moment.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nature

I've watched the moon's lag on Venus grow every day this week. Now, at 5 AM, the planet overs in a moonless sky. The bats are still out; so are the mosquitos. The latter are really bad this year.

I've never played The Sims or World of Witchcraft. I had to google "best selling computer games" to know their names. They seem like a waste of time; this is more real to me. Certainly the inactivity advances poor health, perhaps mental health also.

Its 77F/80%. Its going to be another sweaty one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heat and Exhaustion

I started my 16-miler at 80 F, 75% humidity. What I did not realize that before i finished the temperature / heat index would grow to 95F/100F. Half a mile out from the finish, after already walking in the heat several times, the nausea, faintness, and muscle cramps informed me that I had heat exhaustion. Thank heavens my 100 oz. CamelBack had ensured that I was properly hydrated. This is a first for me, and I felt lousy for the rest of the day.

Be careful out there in that heat, folks. I'm just glad I was within half a mile of my car.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Then There Were Two

I started the summer running shirtless with some trepidations. Unlike the South, you just don't see many male topless runners in Maryland. This morning, I crossed paths K, a friend who started marathoning a few years ago. This time, he was shirtless, too. Maybe its a trend.

Maybe I won't get stared at quite as much now!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

56

Thank you, Becky and Charlotte!

smiles.

Healthy running.

56

I find analogies between sports and life facile and popular, yet on this occasion I cannot help myself but indulge.

Life is a marathon. There are no downs, no special teams, no time-outs, no halftime, and no coaching from the sideline. Despite the cheering, you do it alone; no one can do it for you or truly help you along. All depends on  your body and your mind: how well you care for them. Mistakes made early will exact a price, sometimes a terrible price, as you near the end. How you run the first 20 miles determines how you survive the last 6.2.

There are no "Hail Mary's".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Zoned

I zoned today and ran 6.5 vice 6 miles. I was pondering my impending 56 years. I guess that's a good way to ponder. Not happy about 56; enjoyed the run.

During my down time, I developed my own on-line running log using Ruby coding, XML-based data storage, and Apache to serve it up. I get no small amount of gratification storing my daily running and health status, and being able to tweek the GUI and data I store. This is part of a longer term plan to implement Jack Daniels' running calculations for pace and cumulative weekly training stress.

Its warm. As my weekly mileage pushes back beyond 30 mpw, I'm feeling that old familiar tiredness.

God its good to be back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'll Say It Just Once......

short and slow is BORING!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Old runners never die....

they just heal up and return to running. That one popped into my mind around mile 2 of 3 today and brought a chuckle from Denise.

No matter what happens, success in running is coming back again and again. This probably is true of life, too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not Running, Stoicism, and Other Things

I started true speed work this year with tenth of a mile repeats along a section of country road at the entrance of our neighborhood. My first week included one sprint precariously called a repeat. I built up to 10 over the course of 15 or so weeks. I find the feeling of speed exhilarating and with it came a new sense of efficient flow in stride. I achieved a new sense of being light on my feet. My leg, arm, and core movements seemed to balance one another.

Greg McMillan puts describes it: "You feel these adaptations (improved neuromuscular function and acid buffering) as a smoother, less jerky stride when running at full speed. You feel that you are powerful and can simply fly across the ground. You begin to imagine yourself looking like the sprinters, smooth and powerful. Sprint zone training seems to greatly affect the torso of the body as you begin to run not just with your legs but to generate power through your stomach, pelvis and hips."

This form of training puts great stress on the posterior muscles: glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Minor aches gradually accumulated in my right hip and hamstring. They were minor and I ignored them. After a few weeks, I realized that they were not transient and were in fact slowly increasing.


So, I stopped running this weekend. Full stops have worked well for me in the past, healing in a few days what I suppose would otherwise take weeks. I'm fairly disciplined in my breaks, not letting the idleness affect my mood. This works as long as the break is not longer than a week or so. After than, despite on-going weight workouts, I'll begin to feel flabby and soft physically as well as mentally.


Epictetus tells us that our bodies are beyond our control and we are well to not base our identities or happiness on them. Yet in six years I have moulded my physical being from obesity to a physique that displays a level of athleticism that elicits comments from strangers. My body plays a significant role in my image of myself. Beyond that, I realize running is a spiritual act. All-weather running purifies me from the "You Deserve a Break Today" culture in which we live. We are immersed in unsustainable, self-serving, enervating cocoon of air-conditioning, recliners, glowing displays, and greasy, salty, sweet foods. The resulting mental and physical flabbiness is destroying our lives, our culture, and our planet. I can't influence our culture, but I can purify myself of it. The simple, sometimes brutal, experience of running all year in outside washes off the greasy film that our indolent lives deposit on us.


The hamstring soreness diminishes each day. Hopefully I will run again this coming weekend. I am going to use a classical training cycle: rebuild my mileage base, add stamina/tempo runs, and finally add speed. Amid all the miles of slow distance I've run over the years, I never realized how much I enjoyed going fast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bare Chest Running

In the last 3 miles of my long run Sunday the shirt came off. It was pushing 80. While this is a common thing in my home state of Florida, its somewhat unusual to see bare chested (male) runners in Maryland 'burbs. Well, this morning, I took it off again: it really is cooler in 70 F / 75% humidity to be running without a shirt. When I was young in Florida, I never thought twice about it. It is senseless to impair my training by being warmer than is necessary due to an ill-conceived sense of modesty.

So, in this my 7th summer of return to fitness, I'll do it shirtless. I have to say Rachel Toor's almost lyrical article in Running Times on the topic some months ago helped validate my new found freedom!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why We Run

I took Denise out for her first longer run in preparation for her fall half marathon today. Its a week after the eye-opening experience at Bear Mountain. Today's run at Lake Artemisia was more familiar, except for one event. As we ran past the lake, I noticed a large raptor hovering over the water. I initially thought it was an osprey fishing, a sight we often see. I realized that the bird was much too big: it could only have been an eagle. I plummeted to the water's surface and came up with a large fish.

Sights like this are still another reason we run.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bear Mountain, Day Two

I got up at my usual 4:30 and went down to the Hampton Inn lobby to get cups of coffee for Denise and me. The North Face and Goretex race staff were already trickling down sleepily, not as frisky as they were the day before or would be in about 5 hours. Stepping outside and breathing in the early morning air, I could see a glow over the mountain to the east. Unlike Maryland, that glow in the east wasn't the sun, it was NYC.

Denise and I made it up to starting line in Bear Mountain State Park. The 5K race was the last to begin. Its a 5-star technical trail, the first Denise and I have ever experienced. Portions were so rocky that a runner had to jump from one small patch of mud to another to use the only soft, flat footing available. At other points, we were reduced to a rock scramble. The scenery was incredible, whether crossing babbling streams or running along the crest with steep drop-offs to a stream on one side and Hessian Lake on the other. Denise emerged at the end of the run tired, enthused, and an avid trail runner.

The Sunday competitors and spectators were not as campy as the Saturday crowd but running 3 to 13.1 miles on those trails is certainly a challenge. The weekend itself once again pushed back the mental barriers we all create for ourselves in our physically indolent lives that we let define and limit what we think we can do. Trail running is repeatedly showing me that many of our perceptions of our physical limits are artificial and limit us only if we let them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

North Face Endurance Challenge, Day One

We drove up to Bear Mountain, NY, for the North Face Endurance Challenge races this weekend. Arriving at the expo and finish line, Denise and I watched the marathoners, 50K runners, and 50 mile runners complete their runs over the rough, single track trails of Bear Mountain.The finish line had a picnic atmosphere as families and friends watched their runners complete what most of us would consider super-human feats of running. Normally Denise and I stand out in a crowd as two near anorexic seniors. Here, we fit in as just another fit couple, maybe with just a bit of extra weight hanging on to us. In this world of endurance animals, we're just another pair of running "smucks".

I had to think about what it is to live to be able to run 50 kilometers or 50 miles over mountainous single trails. In 2004, when I started running, I ran in part as a purification from the volubility around me. America was in an orgy of self-indulgence. Economists in the federal administration were actually beginning to tell us that federal and personal deficits were good for economy. To eschew the rampant self-indulgence and go out and run became an act of purification and penance for the excess going on around me.

Walking through this crowd today, I see people who eschew the seductive glow of the CRT and LED. By doing so, they miss the propagandist message that "you deserve a break today". They miss the condition known as metabolic syndrome, which now affects nearly two thirds of the U.S. adult population. Instead, they go out and run 5, 10, maybe 15 miles in training. Its simple, direct, and sometimes brutal. It is life without all the electronic and pharmaceutical drugs we have created to inure us against it..

Tomorrow I take Denise on our first trail race. Its only a 5K. But we are crossing over into a still another way of viewing ourselves and the world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mists

We diverted our run to go through the commons, drawn by the pre-dawn mists hanging over the grass. It was 41 F and I could smell the earth, made wet by days of light rains. The fog glowed, reflecting the blue light in the eastern sky. The experience brought back vague childhood memories of living in the Florida Panhandle near the woods when I five. At that age, I often thought that the woodland fog was the manifestation of the spirits of the Native Americans who had lived there long ago. Now, after college chemistry and engineering thermodynamic, I know better. Yet the thought returns.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rest

Famous coach Jack Daniels has commented that injuries are the salvation of runnering. The runner's enforced time off rejuvenates his mind and body, all the while he heals and ruminates on missed miles. He comes back to his sport with renewed ambition to achieve personal goals of speed, distance, or consistency. My dream of qualifying for Boston was born during a bout with sciatica in my second year of marathon training. That dream has lured me through many challenging and often beautiful miles providing ample drive to improve as a runner.

My turned ankle occurred at mile 15 of Sunday's 21-miler. I do a little 180-degree turn at that point. On this run, a small hole in the road the size of a my palm was waiting for the ball of my foot at my turn-around. My right leg fell forward as I turned left. The resulting sprain did not exactly hurt, but I could feel the stress in my leg. I finished my long run, but in a concession to a closely missed major injury, I took the next week off from running.

Not running allowed my to up the ante on my leg training for the week. I  have been able to hit them three times with heavy lunges and deadlifts. I am coming off this running layoff not with the feeling that my running has suffered but that I have gained strength in my legs with the increased weight training.

Next week, I begin the running again. My goal is to hit 45 miles for the week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coffee is Spelled R-U-N-N-I-N-G

I bring Denise her hot beverage every morning while she's still in bed. On her non-running days, its tea. On days she runs, its coffee. I hold the Starbucks under her nose until she stirs and announce that its a balmy 44 F.

The day has begun.

By the time we got outdoors, it was 40 F and raining. Our run was one of those "break a mental barrier" moments. This was the coldest rainy run we have experienced. The net result was that we were wet and somewhat at the end, but satisfied with our performances. Staying warm was just a matter of adding an extra layer. The inactivity and physical convenience we presume in our lives are regal in historic context. An hour's physical activity in 40 F. rain is utterly unremarkable through 99% of human history. Yet our neighbors drove by and peered in astonishment; a neighbor on our cul-de-sac remarked on how he admired our dedication. In point of fact, our run was not remarkable at all; it just appeared so from the context of the hyper self-indulgent physical lives the middle class has come to presume is the norm.

Running in any weather Maryland can produce down suburban roads is an utterly unremarkable thing to do within both a global and a historical perspective. It just seems remarkable because we have devolved into a society of utterly indolent hedonists. Running in the rain is a simple, purifying act. It washes away the stigma of living in an overly indolent culture. Humans simply are not built to lead the lives we have come to think is normal. The real normal, the healthy normal, is an unremarkable 6 mile run in 40 degree rain.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

GWB Marathon

Feeling the need to at least be ready for the GW Birthday Marathon on 2/20 in Beltsville, Md, so I did 21 miles on Sunday. I was beginning to think I'd slowed down dramatically this year based on the long runs I've done so far, but they were all in temps in around 20 F. Sunday's run was 35-ish and I think it was one of my best 21-mile training runs ever. My first 3-mile lap was the slowest; I had to force myself to slow down for the others.

Cold weather greatly increases my perceived effort, specially when the temperature drops below 25F.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Balance

In my gym this morning, I almost loaded up my barbell for deadlifts, but stopped myself. A few weeks ago, my right knee started a bit if ITBS soreness. I  decided that the cumulative stress of weights and running the distance I'm doing was too much for it, so I've dropped the weights while I go through this mileage ramp.

But I really wanted to do those deadlifts....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barriers

We set our barriers in our minds.

I had serious misgivings while driving over to Greenbelt Park to run the Perimeter Trail. There was 3-5 inches of ice and snow on the ground and I expected the already rough trails to be truly impassible. Yet, we thought we'd try and see; if the trails were impossible, then we could always run the park roads. Instead, a wonderful adventure awaited us. Snow tracks told us that only someone on cross country skis, one person on foot with a dog, and a large deer had preceded us along the trail. We had a great, if laborious, time pushing through the snow and ice, admiring the nearly untouched winter landscape following the trail around the park. What I nearly dismissed as not reasonable became an exploration of the park in winter and an adventure beyond a self-limiting, premature, barrier.

As I accumulate miles and years running, the lesson I've learned that I most treasure is that my mind cannot even conceive the limits that I am capabable of attaining.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sleet

I step out in the predawn darkness and hear crackle all around me. A steady sleet is blanketing the landscape as I begin my run. Each footstep yields a soft crunch as I glide over the ice and slush. My thoughts wander to the owls as I trace my way the the woods. Birds have high metabolic rates. The owls must surely be hunting their furry little prey in this primitive wood. Yet, I hear only the crackle of ice falling, the crunch of ice underfoot, and my breathing.

The ice adheres to the branches of bushes and trees. It accumulates on the brim of my hat. I clear it off. A car passes, its occupant stares at me, bundled, warm, and plump. I will be wet when this 7-miler is done, but I will still be warm because of my layering. I realize that much of what we take for routine comforts are in reality debilitating indulgences. We don't see them as such because they ennervate over the course of years and lifetimes.

I feel close to the rhythm of nature this morning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Annapolis

Denise's company held its annual company winter party last night in Annapolis. Denise and I are very much morning creatures; instead of facing a drive back to Bowie after the party, we reserved a room at the Annapolis Loew's Hotel across the street from the night club. The evening was pleasant, much wine flowed, and we had the opportunity to walk through an art show, which was also being hosted by the club. At evening's end, we strolled across the street to a warm hotel room rather than drive 25 miles home.

Annapolis is a hub of the running community. The small city has three specialty running stores and is home of the Annapolis Striders, one of the DC area's most active running clubs. In the past, we enjoyed stopping for coffee and breakfast down by the harbor at dawn to enjoy the sights and sounds of the waking running, marina, and civil communities. My interests in observing runners had not waned, even though I had given up the sport decades previously.

That changed this morning. Despite the blustery 15 F weather, we suited up at 7 AM and did our first run though the 350 year old streets of old town Annapolis. It was only 3 miles and we spent much of it talking about our new found interest in trail running. But we finally ran Annapolis, a goal that we've spent years thinking would be fun to do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hawthorne

It was another morning worthy of one of Hawthorne's short stories, foggy, gray, wet, and dark. Air and earth are saturated with water and slush. I did 6 miles, all the while waiting to hear a great horned owl, but the fog seemed to suppress all bird activity.

It feels good to move through the gloom.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Transcendence

My long run out on a cold windy morning. I think of food: bacon and cheese omlette, hot chocolate. I wonder how many people are having it for breakfast at that moment in my neighborhood. People drive by in their metal boxes, warm and soft, on their way to church or on breakfast errands. In two or three hours, some will drive by again, returning. Those who know me will smile and wave, those who don't will stare in mutual incomprehension. I run, far away from iPhones, Wee's, XBoxes, and other trinkets that distract and ennervate, but never satisfy. I am far away from Madison Avenue's seduction to want those trinkets; I am far away from Wall Street's greed that inspires their creation.

The cold north-western wind bluster buffets me. Cardinals in the trees twitter morning calls. The robins rustle in the trees above me as I run past. Crows flock and fly east towards the rising sun. A hawk is already screaching in the sky above, hunting for its breakfast. It is long run day dawn: cold, simple, and savage.

I realize that these long runs are acts of transcendence.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trails

We ran in Greenbelt Park again, along the Perimeter Trail. As we ran along, there was an audible crunch with each footstep sinking into the partially iced snow. This was our first experience of snowy winter forest trails. The woods were serene, barren trees standing in the snow as we two runners glided along the paths easily.

On the down hill portions of the trail, I experimented with just letting go, letting the gravity pull me down at a sprint. I remembered seeing a high school cross country team in Rogue River, Oregon train in a park by the river. The kids would throw themselves with abandon over an embankment, seemingly immune to injury. I thought those days were over for me long ago. Yet, after two years and nearly 3,000 miles of training, I feel strong enough to do just the same. The feeling was exhilarating, coming up on my toes, shortening and quickening my stride, and flying down hill along the snowy trail. Twenty four hours ago, weighted down my stress I regretted a missed run. Today, I celebrated fitness on a cold winter day in a Maryland park.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weary Again

I overslept an hour and a half this morning, unhappily missing my final 6-miler of the week. The cumulative effects of stressors at work and home, plus the training load wore me down sufficiently by end of week to the point where I needed the sleep more than the training. I will strive to improve management the psychological stress, the physical stress of training is a given.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jack

Jack Daniels, possibly the most reknown running coach in the world, opines that strength training is just a means to make the athlete stronger so that he can run more injury free. I think my knee issue arose from the cumulative stress of running and the strength training. Not running, I am struggling with the strength training: should I do legs? Looking at the issue strictly clinically, I should remove all possible causes for the issue until I heal completely. First start the running alone, followed by the weight training. My singular goal should be my 40 mile weeks.

But emotion creeps in. I have made such progress in my deadlifts and lunges. The two sets of eight repetitions of lunges that waylaid me a few years ago are completely surpassed now. I am working out with 80 lbs of dumbells when I do my lunges now. I must focus on my goal and not let ego intrude.

No leg work until I'm back at 40 miles per week.....or maybe do a single set!

I thought I'd share a photo of Denise approaching mile 26 at last year's Marine Corps Marathon. Her achievement was appropriately crowned her months of effort to prepare for the event.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Full Stop

Ok, expletive intended......

Damn.

That mild twinge under my upper right knee cap is almost certainly and ITBS warning. So, running's out until its gone. You can't run through ITBS. Better taking 7 days off now, than 7 weeks off later. I really wanted 3 or 4 today but controlled the urge. This is going to be a very challenging week; my running had been going well.

I'll focus on the strength training.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Simple Things

I did 2 3-mile loops this morning just after a soft, light, snow fall. On the second loop, I traced my foot prints. I'm mildly surprised that I toe-out quite as much as I do: maybe as much as 10 degrees. Noakes, in his complete coverage of everything running, actually calculates how much extra a marathoner has to run given toe-out angles. I'll have to look the topic up.

Still, it was fun seeing my foot prints in the freshly fallen snow and realizing I was the only runner out there.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Will

I bent low to pick up my barbells for the year's first set of dead lifts. I am beginning my 6-th year of marathon training. Above, on my squatting cage, 6 marathon completion medals hang over my head. I stare myself in the eyes momentarily and I realize that what I will be at the end of the year is entirely dependent on what I do now.

What I am at year's end is what I will into existence today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rest

The culmulative stress of the holidays and a hard tempo run yesterday convinced my body, specially hips, back, and hamstrings, to demand a day off.

So, we went to a great all you can eat breakfast place this morning.

Time to be Camus' Sisyphus tomorrow.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Beginnings

To celebrate the first day of the year, it was 7.2 for me, 3 at tempo pace. Six consecutive January 1's in mostly bone-chilling weather. This year it was great. I was actually sweating heavily by mile 4.

Last year was all about mentoring Denise to her first marathon. During the year's miles, my sense of "old age" brittleness finally feel away amid all those 35-45 mile weeks. I'm going to try speed this year. G. Washington's Birthday is in 6 weeks; the Blue Ridge Marathon is in mid April. Neither is a place to PR, but both would be great training.

At 9:30 AM while, I was wondering who was still in bed and who was to hung over to get up!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Weary

I was due to run 6 today.

Its been a long year and we are now creeping to the end. The year has been challenging professionally and given me more growth in the last 6 months than in the last 6 years. While I embrace the opportunity, it still takes its toll. Privately, I have seen family relocations, job changes, job role changes, disease, and even death. I have also had the opportunity to mentor a beginning runner through her first marathon. This last experience is my happiest for the year.

I was due to run 6 today, but I'm weary. I have the next 4 days off and tomorrow is another day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Slush

We had a light snow last night. The streets are snowy and slush; its 17F, no wind. I didn't bother with hi-tech fabrics, other than a synthetic base layer, prefering to run in sweats. Fridays are my tempo run days, but not today. Fast running on potentially icey roads is just not safe. I left my watch home.

I did a zen-like shuffle through the snow in the pre-dawn light.

Mission accomplised.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Resistance

As the winter begins, I find my mind resists going out for those 18 F windchill runs. My mind's reluctance meets up against the absolute imperative to go run those 6 miles. I go, despite my yearning for a soft warm bed.

3 miles to warm up, then 3 miles of hill repeats. Despite feeling a little residual heaviness from Sunday's 21-miler, I can keep my stride crisp and quick. It is an empowering feeling to glide up the side of Mt. Tendinitis and down the other over and over. On the fourth ascent, the sun crested the ridge to the east and pierced through the barren trees. I was bathed in golden light: an iconic running moment.

Mental will is like muscle. Unused, it atrophies; used, it grows.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rewards

I perform my long runs as a set of 3 mile loops in my neighborhood. The route is a mix of running along the road and on trails through wooded commons areas, including sections along  a small pond and a brook. I do one loop clockwise and reverse direction for the second. At each return to home, I have a bottle of Gatorade to sip before starting off again. The result is that I think of an 18 mile run not as 6 consecutive loops, but 3 long out-and-backs.

In winter, I run on memory of where I am in the looping pattern, not based on split number on my watch. The cold wind keeps my eyes too watery to read my watch and I also have no desire to bare skin peeling back layers of clothing to get to my watch.

Today, I ran....and ran. When I finished and came inside, Denise remarked that I'd taken a long time for 18 miles. Starting at 6:30 AM, I was astonished to realize it was 10 AM. Upon scrutinizing my spit times on my watch I realized that I had done 7 loops, not 6. I accidentally did 21 miles vice my planned December long runs of only 18.

The brought me substantial gratification. The weather was fairly tough this morning: 31 F with blustery winds bringing the wind chill down to 20 F. In my 6th year of running, at the age of 55, I ran 21 miles accidentally. This is reward.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cold

It was 21 F this morning, my first run in the twenties this season. My perceived level of exertion was quite high. I couldn't tell if it was from the cold or from the consequtive days of running and lifting.

It doesn't matter. The body, and mind, adapt.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heading Out

Its 5:40 AM, now, 45 F....a far cry from the hard freezes of the past mornings. The moon is hazy from the clouds and light fog. When I step outside, I can smell the moisture, possible only because of the warmer air. I am going to have a good run today, probably do some repeats over Mt. Tendinitis.

The run did not go as easily as expected. I was a little tired from yesterday's deadlifts, though my stride was crisp and quick.

The morning is the image of fall, black trees stretching long, bare branches up to a sky made gray by the clouds and pre-dawn light. It reminds me of the desolate, lonely art of Evard Munch. The English Puritans saw Satan in the shadows of this desolation. One hundred and fifty years later, the American Transcendentalists saw the face of divinity in the same view. I incline more to the latter's disposition.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strength

Strength training will make you a stronger, faster, more injury free runner. I do it for these reasons and for aesthetic ones. I also feel the imperative to continue to match the 20 plus pull up ability I had in the Marines.

To save time and focus on deep strength, most of my movements are compound. This involves a lot of heavy chins, pull ups, and rows. I've gripped the bar in the palm of my hand all my life, making for major calluses. Recently, I've taken to holding the bar by my fingers. It has lessened my ability to perform repetitions....temporarily, I  presume.

As a marathoner, my traps, shoulders, and arms are less tired during long runs because of my strength. I believe my leg strength makes me a faster runner and that my core strength protects me from injury.

Today, no running, only a barbell workout.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trails

I took Denise around the Perimeter Trail in Greenbelt Park today. Since beginning running, we've run almost exclusively on asphalt. The Perimeter Trail is fairly rugged ranging from flat sections covered with a blanket of soft pine needles to steep ascents up rooted embankments and hillsides. The sense of isolation is profound. While the Perimeter Trail is a true soft surface trail, our two years of running the Anacostia Trail System has sensitized us to the fact that these trails can exist in highly urbanized contexts, yet allow the walker or runner the perception of being utterly remote. This feeling is enhanced on the Perimeter Trail as it is rough and rustic.

Trail running is a good addition to a road running program. The non-stop changes in direction and unsure footing force the runner to use muscles in his legs and core that tend to be underused by running solely on hard surfaces. This greater resulting strength in core and peripheral muscles creates a stronger, more resilient, runner. Unfortunately, the run backfired for Denise. The footing instability aggravated her sciatica and she spent a painful afternoon nursing it. 5.2 miles was, perhaps, an overly aggressive introduction to trail running for her.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Long Run

After the MCM, we had two weekends of family emergencies. We were finally home this weekend. Since I'm no longer mentoring Denise through her long runs in preparation for her marathon, I ran alone this morning.

My neighborhood run is a simple and challenging 3 mile loop, half on roads, half on paved trails. I alternate clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. My mind decomposes the run into 3 out-and-back runs, rather than 6 laps. I stopped for a gulp of Gatorade at each lap, the bottle concealed in our mail box.

I started the run to the sound of a Great Horned Owl somewhere in the woods around the pond at the neighborhood's heart. I ended it to the sounds of 3 hawks in various tree tops and the endless chatter of robins, blue jays, and grackles. In the beginning, I was tired and sore from yesterday's trail runs. At the end I was nearly exhausted from the cumulative effects of 2 days' running and the cold.

It was great to do it again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Trails

This morning, Denise and I ran with the PGRC. The North Face Endurance Challenge advertising finally influenced me and we opted to run part of the Greenbelt Park Perimeter Trail for roughly a 4 mile run. Trail running is very different from the roads. Its about mud, leaves, and whatever the runner encounters in that more natural setting. I had a great time and plan to incorporate 5 or so mile's of trail running every Saturday in my training week. Denise was less enthused, partly because she is adverse to Greenbelt's challenging hills. I keep advising her that the hills are all about gaining strength at this point of her running evolution.

As luck would have it, I wound up running another 4 miles of trails, this time in Catoctin Mountain Park in hiking boots, later that day. My boots are heavy and the trail is rough. I was super tired by the end.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Front

The winds blew away the rain clouds leaving a cloudless sky overnight. Its 55 and blustery; I'm surprised its not 45 or 35. As my run progressed, I could see the sidewalks and roads dry in the wind.

I did 6 easy ones today, having a bit of DOMS from yesterday's hills.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Runner's High

I don't put much stock in the runner's high.

I ran 6 miles today, under what some would think were unpleasant conditions. We had thick fog this morning to complement the pre-dawn 48 F drizzle. I ran 3 warm-up miles quietly in the dark, admiring the reds, golds, and browns of the leaves through the moist haze. At mile 3, I began to run my hill repeats on Mt. Tendinitis. I had abandoned hat and vest back at my house because I was too warm. It began to rain more heavily. By mile 4, on my 4th crest of the hill, I felt my legs and pace were particularly strong. Facing a glow in the east, with rain water trickling down my face, the thought came over me: "This feels really, really good."

It did for the remainder of the day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

10/30:

Washington traffic was a mess Saturday with the coincidence of Howard University Homecoming, the Rally to Restore Sanity, and the Marine Corps Marathon Expo scheduled for Saturday. We passed Howard University just as the streets were closing for the parade. Not knowing the area well, it would have taken us hours to detour around the festivities. We made it down to central Washington only to find long lines for parking. The crowds were an interesting mix of Jon Stewart party-goers and endurance athletes.

The MCM Expo at the Washington Convention Center was the biggest ever. We spent at least 3 hours winding our way through the booths. I was disappointed not to encounter Kathrine Switzer this year. A chat with her and Roger Robinson had become annual events.

The focus this year was on Denise and her first marathon. To this end, we did not linger at the expo, tiring her legs. Instead, we strolled the three blocks over to the Wok and Roll for a Chinese and sushi lunch. In the quest to increase her carbohydrate intake for she had a noodle bowl; I indulged my sushi desires.

The Stewart/Colbert "Rally to Restore Sanity" increased the crowds to the point where DC was very congested. The dissenting party-goers and endurance athletes contrasted strangely, one group focused on the present merriment, the other one tomorrow's challenge. Roughly a third of the MCM competitors are first time marathoners. Their presence is the culmination of months of training in the heat, the dark, in all kinds of weather. Fate can peevishly upend their efforts in a single stroke with a twisted ankle, a cold, or a spot of particularly bad fall weather. Yet they come to test themselves against an unforgiving distance and an uncompromising measuring standard.They eschew the mediocrity of self-indulgent sloth for the uncertainty achieving a public goal and the certainty of the personal transformation in the that occurs in its pursuit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

10/24: Only a 10k

I took Denise for 6 today on a beautiful fall day. Years ago, Gatorade ran an advertising campaign aimed at endurance athletes for its endurance athletic beverage. The by-line read "If you use the words "Only a 10 K" in that order....", then you need their special Gatorade formula.

Denise has become one of those athletes. The 6-miler was her last Sunday run before her marathon. As such, it was intended to keep her body's fitness stimulated but not taxed. This allows her to continue her recovery and strengthening from all those months of long miles.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10/19

Today on our 4.3 miler, Denise and I came across an accident in our neighborhood. On the road - shall I call it raceway? - out the development, a lady had just crushed in her front end on one of the pear trees. The airbag had gone off. She was uninjured, sitting on the curb while a policeman filed his report. It is fortunate she hit a tree: the corner also had children waiting for the school bus in the pre-dawn darkness.

Maybe it is small of me, but I can't say I had any sympathy for her. At 6 AM in our neighborhood, the sidewalks are populated with kids going to school and suburbanites walking dogs, walkers, and runners. While the speed limit is 25 mph, most vehicles come through at much higher speeds. She went off the road, unable to handle a bend. She could easily have killed someone vice demolishing her car against a tree. The neighborhood loses one or two pears elining the drives and courts to cars that go off the road, jump the curb, and smashes into a tree every year or so.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Redemption


Denise had such a lousy 24-miler last Sunday, she really wanted to get it right one last time before the MCM. We did 20 miles today, carefully carbing up, hydrating, and resting yesterday. It worked really well. She had her best long run ever. It was a perfectly planned and executed run in a gorgeous Maryland fall day.  This is a much better "last run in preparation for my first marathon" memory for her. I'm very gratified for her.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dues

It has been a tumultuous 6 weeks. Denise flew to Florida for her "good bye" party at the Tampa company she started working for 10 years ago after getting her MBA; we flew to Chicago to run the Chicago Half Marathon and sightsee a few days; we travelled to Binghamton, N.Y., for a medical emergency, and return to run 21.8 miles that Sunday; finally, she became ill with strep and spent a weekend very sick.

This weekend, I volunteered yesterday to be "sweeper" after a local 5k. We both spent a lot of time on our feet in the early fall Maryland weather helping prepare for the race and walking the 3.1 miles of the race with the last participant. We know now, this was too much time on Denise's feet.

This morning, I coached and mentored her through 24 miles, travelling from south-east College Park's Lake Artemesia to just short of the Beltway north-west of Silver Spring and back. She was not totally recovered from her illness or the previous weeks' stresses. The distance pummelled her physically and mentally. What I had hoped would be a celebration of her last, longest run, and cumulation 6 months' slow, incremental, training became instead a near death march.

She finished her 24 miles, though it was not pretty. Now, she will taper slowly downward  into her 26.2 mile effort. Our plan is that 3 weeks after doing 24 miles with little rest from the stresses of life and training, she can do well at 26.2 after 3 weeks of careful stress management and decreasing running miles.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Transformation

I mentored Denise through a 21 mile run yesterday. She came through phenomenally well. Her journey to marathon distance has brought a transformation in body and mind. In body, she has hardened and curved and rolled back decades of aging. What has really been amazing to me is her mind transformation. Her success at distance has bred a determination and transformation in mind to succeed that is quite opposite to the woman who used to get annoyed at me when I would quote Tere Stouffer Drenth's remark that success at the marathon depended simply upon the dictum: "All you have to do is do the miles." Denise weathered through the summer's 90 degree challenge and now basks in the strength of body and mind that can easily take her through 21 miles now, in the cool of the arriving fall.

At 21, 23, and ultimately 26.2, when I grasp her hand as she crosses her milestone, I kiss the hand of a woman who willfully transforms herself into someone better than she was.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Its 4:45 here in Chicago; we've been up since 4 sipping coffee and eating peanut butter on Fox and Obel whole wheat bread. Denise and I have travelled to the Windy City to run the Chicago Half Marathon. Denise has yearned to do this race since she first saw Spirit of the Marathon and the participants running the Chicago Distance Classic.

We met some protagonists of the U.S. running scene a the Expo. Jenny Hatfield is a coach, blogger, and advisor here on active.com. Dane Rauschenberg is an marathoning and ultra-distance author and athlete. Michael Sandrock is a running author, columnist - we first see him when he opens the running movie Showdown.

Well, breakfast has just opened downstairs. Need to go eat a bit more.

One other thing:

On this day, 2500 years ago, a small Greek army face a Persian force 2 to 5 times its size on the plane at Marathon. After a face-off of a couple of days, the Athenians stopped waiting for their Spartan allies and surged forward a hail of projectiles launched by the Persian specialist archers. The heavily armored Greeks met and crushed the Persian troops, routing them in panic back to their boats and swamps.

Phidippides, who had already run to Sparta and back to get aid, will begin his famous run back to Athens to announce the news.

In 21st Century America, we forget that that battle, that moment in time, not only was the inspiration for running's most famous racing distance, the Battle at Marathon made western history possible.

The Chicago Half Marathon

Denise ran a PR today. We got up early, at 4, to warm up, eat, and prepare. There was the usual confusion....making coffee, eating peanut butter sandwiches, me realizing that I'd brought one of her racing singlets.


The Chicago Half Marathon begins and ends in Jackson Park. After a couple of turns in the park, it follows South Lake Shore Drive roughly 5.5 miles northward to just beyond Bumham Park, then turns south and returns to the finish near the start. This turnaround occurs at 8.5 miles, so at this point the runner is over half done, confusing some who instinctively feel that the turnaround in an out-and-back would be at the halfway mark. The course itself is flat, fast, and scenic. Lake Shore Drive runs through a string of parks, flanked on the west by gleaming buildings and on the left by a gleaming lake.

Race management is excellent. When they tell you not to drive, don't. Most of Chicago's hotels are clustered around a vibrant downtown. The race start is best approached by a brief walk south to Millennium Park where shuttles bring runners to the starting area. Give yourself plenty of time; board the shuttle at least an hour before race start. There are 18,000 runners converging on Jackson Park.

The Expo is on Navy Pier: walking distance from the downtown hotels. It is large for a half marathon, and well-run also. This year's speakers included Jenny Hadfield and Dane Rauschenberg, both exuberant speakers for the running movement.

Chicago is an excellent running destination. There are plenty of attractions to entertain after the race. I recommend staying an extra few days to enjoy the restaurants, museums, shopping, parks, and other attractions....all within walking distance of the downtown.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Still Another

Its 4:22 AM - I slept in a bit. The coffee's brewing right now. When its done, I'll take a cup up to Denise to wake her. Then we'll go for a run. I'm concerned its already too late for me to fit in my hoped-for 10 miles.

Coffee to Denise; put Peanut in the bed; peanut butter bread for both of us, half a slice for Denise, whole one for me; shave; take Peedle out; get running gear; eat banana; take Peanut out; put on running gear with Denise.


On our first neighborhood lap at 5:20 this morning, I commented to Denise that the increased traffic on our normally deserted summertime streets was more like when school is in session. By my last lap, just a little over an hour later, a trickle of high school students appeared. Their reduced number and absence of book bags indicated to me that some sort of orientation was to occur. Then, sure enough, the season's first school bus arrived.

9.4 easy ones for me today.

Then back; take out Peedle; take out Peanut; stretch on the back porch (gratefully roofed and screened in); down a glass of chocolate soy milk and some cantaloupe; and now.....rush to shower.

Its 7:50. Where'd the last three and a half hours go?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

17

I took Denise for 17 today, her first at this distance. We crossed into Montgomery County before turning around. She was pleased at the thought of running from one county to another.

It was a good day for large animals. Just before the turnaround, a mature fox ran across the trail towards the stream, halted when it saw us, and retreated back into the woods higher up on a hill. It stood partially concealed in the woods watching us, and allowing us to watch back. We lingered for several minutes admiring the handsome animal before we continued along on our trot and allowed the fox to finally achieve his drink at the stream.

On the return, we were graced by a large, horned, buck leading two does to drink at the Anacostia. He was standing in a clearing checking the safety of the trail while his ladies lingered in the tree line. We came to a dead stop when we saw him. He stared back before retreating to the woods and leading his does around us.

The heat of August 1 is, perhaps, making the large suburban mammals bolder as the approach for a drink in the streams and rivers the trails follow. It was a treat to see them.

I noted to Denise that seeing fishing ospreys, large bucks, foxes, and pre-dawn bats and owls were a bonus to the rewards of long distance running.

Denise ran 35 miles this week, capping it off with a 17 mile long run. She, too, is about to achieve the moniker of "endurance athlete".

Friday, July 30, 2010

Time

7.0 easy miles today. 67F/73%.....its actually comfortable out there!

I had wanted to do 10, but ran out of time, again. Denise says the only thing that will get me to retire is to train more miles. I've often thought that I'd do the JFK 50 my first year in retirement. I can see training 70 miles per week in retirement. At some time, I'd like to win my age bracket in some marathons, even if the bracket is the 65 to 69 age group.

I've seen some studies showing average marathon times slowing across all age groups except the boomers. Apparently, we're competitive and unwilling to slow down. This will make my quest more challenging

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

55: Defeated

I've looked forward with anticipation to ordering from the seniors' menu at Denny's for years. My 55th finally rolled around and, as I'm choosing my favorites off the menu, the waitress tells me that breakfast is free on my birthday. So, I pick from the entire menu. My indulgence in the seniors' selections will come another time.

To save time, I did not run today....only a barbell work out. My other longish runs this week more than compensate.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mental Respite

It was 73F, 75% humidity this morning. The drier air felt cooler, a welcome respite from the intense heat we've experienced. Looking back on my running evolution, I realize this perception is entirely relative. Three years ago, this morning probably felt uncomfortably warm.

As I run, I understand the relationship of my mind to my body. In fact, there is no relationship; they are really parts of a whole, they are one.

I realize that just as my body is now the expression of past mental states, so my mind is actively creating my future physique.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Strong

Great running week. To cap it off, good Friday run. I started tired, but as often is the case, I felt strong by mile 5. At this point, I did my 3 mile tempo run. In 68 F, 100% humidity, I was drenched in sweat.

I continue to be amazed at the steady strength gain I've experienced over these 5 and a half years of training. We all know consistent training makes you stronger, but to personally experience the transformation - at the age of 55 - still astounds me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heat

I could feel the asphalt radiating yesterday's heat back into the cooler morning air as I began my run this morning. It was a memory of yesterday's triple digit temperatures and a harbinger of more today. In the first mile from my home, I came across 3 vehicles idling. One was in a driveway, empty, the other two were minivans by the curbside, each with a younger male occupant. Ten minutes later, the empty one was gone, but the minivans remained. I can only guess that the occupants preferred the air conditioning preferable to the moist 63 F morning air. 20 minutes later, one of the minivans was still idling curbside, its occupant presumably waiting for a passenger.

I found irony in this comfortable consumption of irreplaceable fossil fuel during the summer that will be most remembered for BP's oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The lust for cheap gas is poisoning the Gulf. If the oil slick makes the Keys, the reefs, which took hundreds of thousands of years to grow, will be destroyed in days.

The sun broke the horizon this morning as a dark red disk the color of clay.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Milestones

I mentored Denise through 14 miles today. It is her longest run ever. I did another 6 to cap off my week at 42 miles. It feels good to be back at this level again. We finished our run in near 90 F sunny temps. The weeks of training in the heat are beginning to pay off in terms of greater heat tolerance.

We arrived at the park at 6:30, our earliest ever. Two female deer and a young buck were feeding next to the tree line just in front of where we parked. Denise was extremely excited and pleased because she'd never actually seen a male deer with antlers in the wild.

Retirement

I was frustrated at having only enough time to do 5.5 miles today before work. I had hoped for 8.5, including my tempo workout. But sometimes the training just doesn't fit.

Until recently, I've not been able to imagine a scenario in which I considered myself ready for retirement. I like the challenge, I like the strife, and I like the money. But Denise made an observation that displayed more insight about myself than I have. She remarked that I would retire to have more time to train. I instantly realized the truth in this. At this point, my body is adjusting to 50 miles per week. I sense that I will want to take myself to another level with training at 70 or 80 miles per week. I will half to be retired for this.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Easy

For the second time this week, some early morning walkers commented that I make running look easy as I ran past them. This time, I grinned and said, "Its not.....".

This is an interesting thing about distance running. It is such a simple concept. The imperative is: run, run long. Yet, it can be very hard, as the week's miles pile up, or the miles already run during a particular work out accumulate. Somehow, hard does not matter. In fact, in a world almost completely given over to the easy, hard redeems and purifies.

Distance running is hard and because of this fact, it is necessary.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cool Reprieve

63F and only 60% humidity this morning. It made for a comfortable 4.5 miles. We hardly even broke a sweat.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day Off

Took a vacation day to get caught up/ahead of school work.

Ran 8.5 today. Heavens, it felt good. The weather was a little cooler. During the run, Denise and I passed an overweight lady in her 30's run-walking. She remarked that we made it look easy. We slowed to a walk to exchange some words of encouragement and to tell her that while its not easy, the fitness transformation is well worth the sweat.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Single Set

I did a barbell workout today, abbreviated so I could continue my school work. I was interrupted yesterday by having to retrieve my car with a flat tire at work. Anyways, no run under the clear morning pastel sky today, rather a basement barbell workout. Single set to failure on each exercise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mid Term Weekend

I did 7 miles today. 83F, 70% humidity. I think I'm adapting to the heat.

We saw one rabbit this morning. There has been a rabbit population boom this year, I suspect last year's rains provided more green fodder for the populations. They will be challenged this summer. It is becoming clear that this one will be more hot and more dry.

I spent most of the day doing my mid-term.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Time, again

6.6 miles, with 3 miles embedded at a tempo pace. Tempo pace is still around 8:20 mpm, so its not fast compared to many. However, whereas my mind and body used to rebel at the greater intensity running, now I find it refreshing. As I have gotten older, my body has gotten more tough from the training. Zipping along my neighborhood roads while people in cars drive by with almost astonished looks is emotionally empowering.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trades, again

I passed up 2 morning's runs to work on my  comp sci projects. Turned it in last night, not in the state I would have preferred. Now, back to body.

3 miles today. 69F, 91% humidity. Mixed in with my workout, specially the lunges, I really felt the 3 miles in the wetness. Now...its off to work.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice

Its the longest day of the year. Its ironic that I'm not running today, as I strongly prefer running in daylight. Today is a quick barbell strength training session before rushing off to the dentist.

Tomorrow, a shorter day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Threshold

I started running at 5:15 AM today to beat the forecast 94F heat. 6 miles in the neighborhood. After that, Denise and I went to the Anacostia Trail System for another 13 miles. I'm moderating my efforts because of the heat. An easy 21 to 24 miles in 45 F can translate into a difficult 19 when its 80F. Additionally, the heat is destroying my usual 10 mpm pace.....for now.

We had to an opportunity to do our Karmic good deed for the day: a large black racer was laying on the path sunning itself. Given the propensity of people to indiscriminately kill snakes, I shepherded it to the nearby stream.

I find I psychologically need a run of 20 or so miles on Sunday to legitimize my view of myself. After missing that long run last Sunday in an effort to get caught up in my computer organization course in grad school, being out there pounding the miles through the heavily wooded trails made me whole again.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trades

I had hoped to do 4 or so today, maybe later in the day just to prod my body into adapting to the heat. Summer semester at Johns Hopkins means 2 classes and 2 projects in each week, vice one. I tried unsuccessfully to get both projects done today.

We spent the day in our daughter and son-in-law's new condo in DC. While Denise hemmed curtains and Phil built the closet organizers we have bought them as a house warming gift, I coded MIPS assembler. I wasn't able to complete the second of the two projects due this week.

So, no run today, which means I'm shy of my preferred 23-28 miles going into Sunday's long run. Life is trade-offs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wildlife

5.1 miles today. I had to cut it short versus my planned 8.1 because we got off to a late start. Beautiful weather, 58 F. I opened all the windows in our home to bring in the cool morning air before the daytime heat.

We had a serendipitous moment in the last mile. Crossing a clearing we came upon a small fox. While I've seen foxes on several occasions this summer, never have I seen one run in the open for such a distance. Today's fox was smaller and not as red as some of the others. It seemed in no great rush as it loped across the grass unlike the others which seemed very shy.

Another reason why we run.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

3 miles today at 6 AM. It was in the mid 60's again, but the hollows harboured pockets of coolness. There was a low mist hanging over the grassy commons which caught the sunlight as it filtered through the trees. The tendrils of light shone through, glistening in the dewy grass.

I gambled yesterday doing the run before my project was error-free. I hoped that a close inspection of the assembler code after class would yield my mistake. The gamble was rewarded. I had my 8.1 miler and submitted a bug-free project at 8 PM last night. This particular effort was fulfilling on two counts: it was well designed and error free.

To cap this morning's exercise off, I did my dumbbell work out too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back Again

Gratifyingly, I did 8.1 miles today, in the muggy predawn 65F. Tonight's project is almost done. I'm pleased with it. If it is possible for assembler to be elegant, I think my MIPS work for this assignment actually achieves it. Too bad it doesn't quite work completely correctly.

My legs are fresh from the time off, my last 3 miles were nearly at a 9 mpm pace. It really felt good to go out and just let the run happen.

Saw one of the biggest robins ever this morning..

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Priorities

I hate to skip runs. Today, in an effort to get caught up on my second MIPS assembler project of the semester due tomorrow, I spent the morning at my desk coding. The first project was turned in last night on time.

I got behind on my school work last week. Monday, a Hummer ran over the front end of my SL-class Mercedes just before I was leaving work for class. Missing class was to hurt my coding efforts over the weekend.Tuesday I lost focus as I struggled with sinusitis. The cumulative effect of all these was to put me behind on the 2 projects due this week.

Tomorrow morning, hopefully, if I can get my project done tonight, I will go out for 5 to 8 miles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nature

We did an easy run in cool drizzly mists at the north branch of the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge this morning. Three miles into the run we came across a bird claw in the road. Its talons, if spread, would have stretched to the size of the palm of my hand. I surmised that a hawk must have become unintentional prey to its dinner.

When we returned to the location after our run with a ranger, he made a different conclusion. The bird's leg - a red shouldered hawk - had been cleanly severed. He reasoned that the only animal that could have done this was a great horned owl. It must have made the kill in the woods and dropped the leg in flight as it bit it off.

My supposed predator wasn't that night.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Semper Fi

I ran 4 today in Greenbelt Park with Prince Georges Runners. It is a friendly local running club composed of runners and walkers of all ages and levels of fitness. We seem to be capped by a cluster of very fast Boomers, reflecting a national trend as that cohort ages.

I ran briefly with a veteran of the 101st Airborne. He has lost one leg below the knee and ran using a prosthetic. I can't say he was disabled. At 29, he shares with me the same concerns with middle-aged spread and I suspect he will be more successful at controlling it than I was as I entered my thirties. Yet, he did inspire me to finish my Semper Fi Fund profile and create the donation web site. The link is in the right-most column on my running blog.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Adaptation

We ran in 54F this morning, under a bright, cloudless, pre-dawn sky. I reminded Denise how we shivered at the 2005 MCM Runner's Village when it was 50F. The years of running through the winter have changed our perspectives on what is cold. Today we ran in shorts and light tops, sweating mildly as we worked up the neighborhood hills. The running evolves our minds and bodies, we exchange glances of mutual incomprehension. Bundled, fat, and warm, they speed by in their cocoons of glass, steel, and plastic as we, as endurance athletes, pursue a higher perfection of mind and body.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Marines

I get uncomfortable associations with the movie Gallipoli when I run Marine Corps events. Yet, I was a Marine, a good one. I gravitate towards the Marine running events. That nexus of fitness, pride, discipline, and precisely organized race management appeals to me at a visceral level.

Denise and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon Run to Register 10K. Runners completing the 10K have an automatic entry to the MCM should they chose to register.

Here's Butler Stadium at dawn, just before most of the runners arrive:

Snow flowers

The pear trees in the neighborhood are covered in blooms so they look snow-laden. Years ago, coming up to this area to interview with IBM in April, I saw the springtime flowers and mistook them for snow.

Six easy miles today. Denise bought me a book on birds of the eastern United States. I can finally start learning about, and recognizing the calls of, the birds that surround me each morning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Single Digits

I adjusted the settings on our weight and body fat scale after a winter's neglect. For the first time since my early 30's, my body fat read in single digits as a percentage of total body weight. The months of marathon mileage, strength training, and careful, balanced dinning has brought me to one of the fittest points in my life. The emotional reward is infinite, bringing personal meaning to the expression "55....Be all you once were.".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eagles and Beavers

I did not run my weekly extra-20 miler today. The mental edge just wasn't there.

Instead, I escorted Denise through her 6.25 mile run. To mix it up, I took her on a route she'd never run before. The heart of the Beltsville USDA Agricultural Research Station is roughly 3 miles from our home. It is bisected by a hilly, rough country road: Beaver Dam Road. The road glances its namesake, Beaver Dam Lake, nesting site of a pair of eagles. The actual approach to the lake is via Research Road, usually closed to non-federal traffic on weekends. While we've driven Beaver Dam Road many times as stress relief, Denise had never seen Beaver Lake and the eagles' nest.

Today we parked in a small parking lot along Beaver Dam Road and ran through its gnarly woods and open fields. Coming upon Research Drive, we followed it down to the swampy lake. Today, no eagles were to be seen, though we tarried by the prehistoric lake setting in the gray gloom of a budding Maryland spring. Then we continued our run.

Our run took us to a little "M25" painted in the road. It marks the beginning of mile 25 of the George Washington's Birthday Marathon and the beginning of a 250 foot sadistic rise to the end of the race. Denise and I jog easily up the slope that seemed so impossible to race 12 months ago in the closing moments of a full effort marathon.

We turned around at 3.13 miles, just after entering old Greenbelt and threaded our way back into the woods and glens away from development.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring

The first stirrings of spring are making themselves felt, despite the 2 feet of snow on lawns. Our Japanese peonies, sheltered in the garage each winter, are beginning their annual early season bud. Peanut, the adopted chihuahua, is getting independent and frisky, a far cry from his usual vernal lethargic state. During my 22-miler this morning, the mockingbirds were taking posts at the very tops of trees to announce their respective territories. As an outdoor runner, I welcome relief from bone-crunching -3F wind chills. I know that, in only the third week of February, announcing the arrival of spring is setting oneself up for chilly dissappointment.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunshine

We got 5 feet of snow 2 weeks ago. That was 60 treadmill miles ago. Today, the snow had receded sufficiently from the roads' centers to allow us to run reasonably safely in daylight. Running under the open, blue sky was an emotional relief despite the 27 F windchill.

I am an all-weather outdoor runner. However, I will not run in the dark on roads narrowed in many places to one lane for safety reasons. I believe that spending as much time outdoors in the ebb and flow of the days and seasons makes you not only a tougher runner but a better person. Studies suggest that lack of exposure to early morning blue light throws human circadian rhythm. Vitamin D deficiency and depression are likewise associated with insufficient sunlight exposure. We understand the life-giving properties of the sun, and even moon, from a physiological perspective.

I suspect cutting the umbilical cord to nature's rhythms causes a litany of other issues too long to enumerate. The list of medical, psychological, and social ills associated with substituting sun, moon, and star with glowing LCD screens grows with each year. The act of performing moderately intense physical effort, despite the weather conditions, not only cleanses and toughens. It recalls human genetic past and thus fulfills a basic human prerequisite for quality of life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vause Vignette

Its 7:00. Denise is on the treadmill, at 2.8 miles. She's watching our DVD of Nova's "Marathon Challenge" documentary. I've been down in the gym since 4:45 AM. I ran 1 mile warm up and did a barbell workout.

The Marine Corps Run to Register, the Chicago Half Marathon, the Wineglass Marathon, and the 35th MCM all loom before us, motivating us.

She's just finished another 3 miles on the treadmill. This is very challenging to her: she hates running indoors. The roads are still narrowed by snow and unsafe for pre-dawn running.

The documentary has reached the point where the participants are lining up to their journeys of self discovery running from Hopkinton to Boston, my obsession. To her credit, she supports my conviction in the absolute necessity for me to one day qualify and run that famous race.

Our gym is treadmill, weights, running-related DVDs, an MCM space blanket posing as a poster, completion certificates, and finisher medals hanging from the squatting cage. Some years ago, Denise made a little sign with the image of a winged running shoe and the words "Caution! You are entering.... the Brain Wash Zone!"

Soon our workdays begin, but only after our morning devotional to health and sanity.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Respect

In my last marathons, hitting my limit has meant leg muscle cramping rather than the exhaustion of the Wall. I was beginning to think that all the miles and the training at lower carbohydrate replenishment levels had made me immune to this famous marathon malady. It was this hubris that let me to insufficiently prepare on Saturday for my 20 miler the next day. Admittedly, 20 miles on a treadmill is going to have its own effects on the mind. The roads are still treacherous and, with traffic, an open invitation to an accident. So I loaded up my iPod Classic with 7.7 hours of music and pounded the treadmill. Around mile 16, I began to smell my family's breakfast cooking in the kitchen, wafted down through the heating vents.

At mile 18, I pretty much hit the Wall. It is becoming so tired that any and every movement is exhausting. I clawed through the last two miles, grateful that I had not planned a 21-miler for that day. I managed to hold pace and finished at the 'easy pace' I had planned for the entire run.

I don't mind hitting the Wall. It is extremely unpleasant, but it is the ultimate instruction to the body to conserve carbohydrates and use as much fat reserves as early as possible in the run to survive the distance. This is all part of the long evolution over the years of training to become a faster distance athlete.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

01/10:

Denise and I did 5.5 past Lake Artemesia and north into the UM campus today. Artemesia is about 80% frozen over, thick enough for a snow goose to walk across it. They have a preference for the water, though. I remarked to Denise that so far this winter, we've run on more frozen water than in all our previous winters.

Friday, January 8, 2010

1/8/10: more miles

6 miles. 27F. no wind. NB tights, Nike base, Nike pullover, ears, polartec gloves. Hands got really cold on second 3 miles.

1/7/10: just some miles

3 miles. 24F/17F windchill. Shorts, Nike base, full sweats, ears, polartec gloves.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

01/03/2010: Back in the Saddle Redux

A few days ago, I posted with title "Back in the Saddle". A marathon runner isn't really 'back in the saddle' until his long runs meet or exceed 17 miles, in my opinion. As a beginning runner, I remember being put off by a celebrated coach at his definition of long run as anything at or longer than 17 miles. I've come to understand why this threshold distance is important: it is roughly the point where the runner has burned more calories than the body can store as glycogen. This training encourages the body to use a higher ratio of fat to carbohydrate earlier in the run in order to conserve the latter for longer distances. This is crucial in the marathon.

Today, I ran 18 miles, my first long run since the 2009 MCM. Life events have converged to preclude the focus running such a distance until today. Somewhat unfortunately, the weather did not totally contribute. I started at 14F (-3F windchill) and finished at 20F (4F windchill). The physical challenge of running in the windy cold took more energy than a usual 18-miler and I was somewhat burned out for the rest of the day. Furthermore, I felt a touch of strain behind my right knee cap, probably an indication that its time to retire my cushioning shoes at 360 miles and maybe even consider going back to stability shoes which invariably lasted to 400 miles with no issues.

Apparel: Full face hood, heavy mitts, Mizuno gloves, N. base layer, Prajna pullover, Sugoi vest, heavy RRS tights, UA briefs. Was comfortable.
146.6/14.7%
31:19, 33:23, 31:29, 31:38, 31:13, 30:49

Friday, January 1, 2010

01/01/2010: New Year, Full Moon

I've run every New Year's day since I returned to running in 2004. This year the need to log miles was heightened: the 37F, 31F windchill, is the best weather we expect in several days. During the 9 miles, I watched the sun set on 2010's first day and the temps drop from 37/31 to 32/27F. Denise ran the first 3 with me, then I ran the next 6 alone, a bit too fast. It was just nice to run far and fast, despite a little occasional discomfort in my right knee.

An hour later, in the blustery wind, I took Peanut out to see a full moon coming up in a windy, cold night.

This will be a long cold winter. I feel the weight of new beginnings, opportunity bracketed by challenge, and the need to do this year what did last year, only better.

(NB tights, N pullover, UA tee, RC gloves)
(34:37; 30:36; 29:28)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

12/31: Crunch

I've quoted James Carvelle's "I don't to ice or lightening." many times over my past 5 years running. This morning, Denise's aversion to the treadmill led us out in heavy predawn sleet despite my misgivings. The inch thick crumbly ice was fresh, having fallen only during the past 3 hours. We ran alone mostly in silence, our attentions focus on out foot steps. Treading was remarkably easy. I noticed our foot turnover was identical, as so many other nuances we share after 32 years' living together. The crunching underfoot was louder than a conversation would have been. This helped our mutual silence, broken by an occasional alert to a patch of slipperiness or approaching car. At the end of her run, Denise gleefully pointed out that the bills of our caps were encrusted with ice from the falling sleet.

I ran 3 miles with Denise, then, not wanting to lose time transitioning to the treadmill, I ran another 3 alone outdoors. We were late this morning. I have been rearranging our running gear storage to ready for Dyana and Phil's arrival and spent an unusually long time just finding gear. Nonetheless, Denise got her run done, made breakfast for four, packed the "kids" off to truck unloading at their storage facility, packed me off to work, and prepared to receive the contractor who is putting the finishing touches on a remodel of both the upstairs bathrooms.

Its been a busy morning, prefaced with a run who's silence was broken only by the sound of running shoes crushing ice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12/30/09: Back in the Saddle

After weeks of interruptions while we prepare for the arrival of Dyana and Phil, the big event occurred last night. This morning I did my first run and workout in a week. While I'm struggling with a bit of a cold, the workout produced a tremendous increase in my sense of personal well-being. This, also despite a late night last night following their arrival.

I see the next 52 weeks laid out ahead of me, again. Fifty-two weeks of total accountability for the condition I will be in at the end of 2010. I am pondering Wineglass for the fall, maybe Washington's Birthday for the spring. I have never run a flat marathon and only one in good weather. I am hoping Wineglass could offer both. WB is just for training and the satisfaction that I ran my challenging backyard marathon once again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

End of December, End of Year

Our daughter and son-in-law are moving to the Washington DC area over the holidays. In order to offer them space with us until they find a new home, Denise and I have been massively cleaning up the basement and going through the lifetimes of collected odds and ends to throw away. This has laid waste to my running program.

On the up side, I have moved the gym out of the finished room in the basement and into the larger unfinished space. This will result in a larger gym which will enable both of use to exercise at the same time without risk of my accidentally hitting her in the head with a swinging Olympic barbell.

Athletically, a somewhat desultory end to a year of mixed results. Nonetheless, the primacy of being the enabling parent, even of a 31 year old, takes temporary precedence over athletic ambitions. Next year, the quest for marathon performance continues. Its ironic that I started this year in the same frame of mind.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12/24/09: 10

I crawled out of be at my usual 4:30 and stumbled down to a computer to check the weather. The 10 F current temperature completely daunted me, despite my frequent assertions that running outdoors in all conditions is best for training. I announced that I was running on the treadmill and proceeded to prepare despite Denise's protests that she would not run if we did not do it together outdoors. My retort that she had all day to run in the sun and when it was 25 degrees warmer had no effect on her. So, conscience got the better of me; we went for 3 frosty miles. Rather, it was 3 icey, snowy miles.

After finishing with her, I went to the basement gym, put in Dean Karnazes' 'Marathon Man' in the DVD player and ran another 4 miles on the treadmill. Denise joined me to stretch.

I find that I invariably find the anticipation of inclement weather more daunting than its experience. The phrase "Just do it." is fine advice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

12/06/09: Ice

A runner I know has a euphemism, "I don't do lightening and I don't do ice." I understand the wisdom in his dictum.

Today, Denise threaded our way over the patches of ice from the melt of yesterday's snow. It wasn't real ice, I rationalized. As the sun climbed the sky, it ensured our passage back would be easier than the way out. After our travels to Florida, we needed to re-establish our Sundays along the Anacostia, despite the minor challenges.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

12/2/09: Fence Sitting

Its warmer this morning, 37F. The nearly full moon is shrouded by the first clouds of a weather front coming up from the south. The air is utterly calm. Its a sky worthy of Shelley or Poe. Mornings when Denise is not running, I tend to run on the treadmill, to encourage her to the basement to stretch or do a light workout. But this morning is so enticing. Will it be Maryland hills under a moody moon or iPod, BBC, and treadmill?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

11/26: Thanksgiving

Denise, Dyana, Phil, and I drove over the bridge to Panama City early this morning. We then ran back over the bridge over St. Andrews Bay and returned. Luck has nothing to do with our situation; we all earned the camaraderie and fitness that enabled us to share the experience of going high over the bridge, watching ospreys and pelicans glide by. This is thanks to the efforts of the members of our own individual efforts.

This is our last day in PCB. Denise and I return to Maryland to re-engage in our respective lives. This is the four weeks of rest after my fall marathon. Next weeks' training is the beginning of the search for a new level of physical and mental achievement.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11/25: Military Weight Rooms

Denise and I ran 2.2 miles on the PCB Naval Support Activity. She clocked 24:25.

She stretched while I worked out in the weight room. We reminisced about similar facilities at Cherry Point and Iwakuni. One sure indicator of a military gym, at least a Navy or Marine Corps one, is that the weights are always racked......

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11/24: St. Andrews

2.2 miles with Denise in St. Andrew State Park.
9.8 miles from the park to Dyana's home.

Denise returned to running after straining a rib three weeks ago. We did a gentle run in a pretty park under the shadow of Gainesville's half marathon in three months. After her run, she drove back to Dyana's home and I ran along Front Beach Road from St. Andrews. It was good to get back into double digits but I was surprised at how much the run took from me. The pace was roughly a 10:20.

Monday, November 23, 2009

11/23 - Touch of the Past

My daughter took on base at the Naval Support Facility to work out with her. The 2.2 mile loop is a scenic run along St. Andrew Bay and through stands of Florida live oaks. I was gratified by being able to pass a few sailors a couple of decades my junior during my run.

The weight room is a throwback to my old Marine Corps days, a dozen or so dedicated, fit, young people in a no-frills weight room under paddle fans. There was no music. The chinning bars are popular. Chins and pull ups are one of those foundational exercises that provide maximum stimulation to most of the upper body. There is an appealing simplicity to hanging there till exhaustion, for all to see. I do two of these movements. The first is a wide grip palms forward pull up. Later, deeper into my workout as I tire, I do a narrow grip chin with supinated palms.

As a parent, being a role model never ends. At 55, I hope I am demonstrating to our 31 year old daughter what entering the last third can look like. As other members of her family on both sides of the marriage bond are well into their respective physical and mental declines, I like to think that her parents are demonstrating that an ending surge to the finish line is possible.

Monday, November 9, 2009

11/9: Coach, Mentor

I am not knowledgeable enough to call myself Denise's running coach. I prefer the word mentor. I provide a mix of advice, encouragement, and companionship while she endeavors to assimilate a lifestyle that is still foreign to her background. A visit to her blood relatives is a strong reminder that nothing in her upbringing instilled a notion that fitness and health awareness are important parts of a well integrated life.

Denise has mild Morton's neuroma and is taking some time off from running. Last week, I did all my running on the treadmill in our gym in the basement. This provided the indirect incentive for her to come down, stretch, and do a bit of strength training. While I prefer to run outside in the early morning, the change to the treadmill was calculated to provide her with the companionship to do what was right for her, too.

We spent the mornings watching the BBC channel in the basement at 5:30 AM. Each marriage has its own dynamic.

Monday, October 26, 2009

10/25/09: All or Nothing

The all or nothing nature of a full effort marathon is one of its attractions. The training cycle for one is six to twelve months. Full recovery for the event takes one is one to three months. There are no second chances for a peak effort in the fall. For this reason, a fall marathon is likened to a report card on one's life for the year.

I arrived at the MCM starting line having run over 1,300 miles in 2009, two dozen long runs in excess of 20 miles, and with a peak of two months of tempo runs with total mileages hovering around 55 miles per weeks. This certainly represents the best running fitness in my life. I joined the 9:10 pace group, shooting for a four hour marathon. My PR was 4:16:22. The pacer took us through the hilly first eight miles at well below a nine minute pace. While I knew that the pace was too fast, my year's training and the fact that I was running with the "four hour" pacer made me complacent as I out ran my legs.

The 4:00 hour group has a very atmosphere than the 4:30 group I ran with in 2006. The latter's pacer chatted on running, nutrition, and health topics throughout the 26 miles. The group itself was chatty as humor slowly gave way to encouragement while the miles ticked by. The 4:00 hour group, on the other hand, was focused and quiet. The group glided through the cheering crowds while the pace occasionally let out a military-style chant of encouragement. I enjoyed being part of the visibly fit half dozen runners clustered around him. However, his surges eventually took their toll and I fell behind somewhere around mile 15.

At mile 21, my left hamstring was caught in an iron claw. I suddenly slowed with a yelp of pain and surprise which even brought glances from the EMTs on the other side of the road. The last 5.2 miles became a balancing act of running, walking, pain, and near exhaustion. I persevered in this final exam for 2009.

I crossed the finish line at 4:15:47, a PR, while not my goal PR.