Table of Marathons

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)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Phases and Faces

The moon is at 99.4% this morning. We're going to lose the firmament lights for a few days, but tonight they are on full display. I turned off my head torch as Denise and I ran the trails; we could see quite easily by just the moon light that illuminated the woods around us. Jupiter and Spica accompany the moon as they make their glowing paths across the clear predawn sky.

The phases and faces of the moon are still another reason why I run.

5.4 miles, 21 F.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Slow Build

11.5 miles / 0830/ 50 F

It is hard to build miles on only 4 days' running per week. This morning, I had my slice of bread and peanut butter too quickly and to late relative my run start. It sat like a lump in my stomach for the first 6 or 7 miles. The blood used digesting my food drained my legs and I could only manage the first miles at a roughly 13 minute pace.

I did not run a harder 5K at tempo pace this weekend. I was surprised how it affected my legs early during the week. I couldn't do any leg strength training until Friday.

That's the dichotomy I constantly balance....running as opposed to strength training. During the fall, I switched back to a 3 weight days per week routine and dropped my running from 5 days to 4. After months of no progress, I'm seeing improvements in both repetitions and weight used, as well as appearance. But it is a mistake to consider weight training as narcissism. The strength training, along faster speed running, both build muscle. This strength translates directly into more efficient, injury-free running. More importantly, it also directly impacts my quality of life. In the age cohort from 10 years younger than me to 5 years older, since I started running, there have been two strokes, one debilitating cerebral aneurysm - he is in his 40s, 3 pace maker insertions - one to someone in his 40s, and 3 people with some combination of hip and or knee replacements. I do not believe I won the lottery of good health through genetics. My 3 uncles  all had cardiovascular disease, perishing between the ages of 41 and 85. My mom and her sisters all died of cancer, the earliest to perish was my mom at age 61. Denise and I seem to have fallen into a parallel universe of slow aging. We're even graying more slowly than our cohorts. The library of scientific research conclusively shows the positive relationship between exercise, particularly intense exercise, and lowered metabolic syndrome, improved immune system response, lower cancer rates, lower CVDs of all types, improved gut bacteria profile, and greater morbidity-free longevity. There is even a correlation between exercise and age-induced chromosome degeneration. Research has demonstrated in studies of identical twins that telomeres of exercising individuals are longer and less degenerated than those of their non-exercising siblings. This is significant because there is much research suggesting that aging is in part due to a build up of chromosomal errors made during cell reproduction.

The effects of getting up at 3:30 AM and hitting the pavement by 4:15 AM in running shoes or pumping in the gym are profound: striving to look like Discobolus or Diana not only improves one's aesthetic, it is profoundly healthy.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fitfull Moon

4 AM. | 4.1 miles | temp: 36 F. | wind chill: 27 F

Last night's full super moon is still high, being fitfully covered by at least two layers of clouds rushing by. The lower layer is thinner and moving more quickly. When it opens, you can see the moon, almost perfectly round, being partially obscured by darker, higher, slower clouds. Its quite a sight.

Legs and low back a little tired from yesterday's dead lifts and squats.

Time to go running.

By 4:15, the winds had blown the sky to a clear black, with only the moon and a few stars visible. I turned off my headlamp as we ran across the commons. We ran in the bright, cold, light, able to see the trail and everything around us quite well. It wasn't what comes to mind when I hear the words "dancing in the moonlight" sung, but rewarding enough.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Damned Inconsistent

7.0 miles / 0800 / 31 F

I've been running fairly well this year, but have been damned inconsistent. I've hit 40, 45 mile weeks fairly easily, but not been able to hold at that distance for subsequent weeks. Mental challenges have gotten in the way. First came the realization that I will be 61; I never planned to be 61. Then came the realization that I have perhaps as few as 6 years remaining in my career; I've always had a long term professional plan, now there is no long term. Finally the shock that a candidate who openly embraced bigotry could become president of the United States. I'm letting negative thoughts my training cycles. It prevented me from getting into true marathon fitness this year.

The run liberates. It is a stunning cloudless, bright, Maryland fall day. This was a mindless, mindful run. No deep thoughts, no delighted pondering the Jupiter's rise over the horizon. I just ran because that's what I do, to relish the fact that I easily run my standard 7 miles, today made more easy by the beautiful weather. I also ran because I missed my Thursday run and could not permit the inertia to grow into something out of hand.

When the mind creeps into dark places, it gets difficult to leave. It can build and drown you in a sea of inertia and mediocrity. Breaking free stops that slide. The next run brings back life. All that matters is making that next run happen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Stars

0430 7.0 miles. 2.0@Tempo 40 F.  147.8 lbs.

This morning was the first real harbinger of fall. Both Denise and I dressed in warmer gear.

Given all the time we spend under the morning stars, specially in winter, I thought I'd put the time to even better use by re-learning the constellations. I started with Orion, which I remember from childhood. Since it is now above the horizon at 0430, I picked up the constellations immediately below it, Canis Major and Lepus. Denise joined me after a couple of miles and I pointed out our first constellations to memorize. We marveled at Sirius' brightness, the brightest in the sky. At one point, as she finished her run, we paused on the commons to debate the identity of Betelguese.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Compromise

5.5 miles. 70 F. 147.5 lbs.

Denise had an 8 AM meeting today, so I trimmed my runtime a bit. The distance was only 5.5 vice my preferred 7 miles. Every endurance athlete feels that tension between training time and the rest of life's commitments. We are in the last 10 years of our admittedly successful careers and that side of life is lessening in importance in my mind. The astonishing benefits we have both derived from our training seems to magnify every year, particularly as our cohort ages. I don't like impingements on my training; my growing physicality is a goal and benefit in itself. The sensuousness of being soaked in sweat during hill repeats or straining against the implacable descent of a barbell verges on the sensual. The training impacts your body, molding it into something better. It is small wonder that the Spartan youths of both sexes, not given over to silly trite niceties, trained and competed in the nude.

But other responsibilities demand attention. A career is a form of training, if it has been demanding enough. The drive to perform excellently in a career also molds mind and will, both components of body. If it is not hard, then no training, no adaptation can occur. Compromise to improve as many aspects of life as possible, this all lends to the final self-creation that is an individual.

Still, I love the brutal simplicity of sweat and gasping for air as I summit my hill.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Idea of Back to Backs

7.0 miles. 72 F. 147.0 lbs. 17%.

We ran easy along Patuxent North Branch. My legs were very heavy for the first three, then the energy seemed to flow. I'm not sure what dynamic is happening, but my body seems to wake across the first three or four miles. This was Denise's long run for the week. I hatched up this idea that I could add on miles by staggering our long runs, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I run my long run on Saturday, then do whatever she's doing on Sunday. The idea comes from the ultra marathon training community, back to back long runs to build strength, endurance, and the mental toughness while running the second day.

This finishes a great week's running. Too often, I judge my weeks based on how well the running has gone. Its been a very good week.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bats to Birds

15.2 miles. 70 F. 0510

I call it running from the time of bats to the time of birds. Most of my runs begin pre-dawn. Ten years ago, the bat population was greater. Now their numbers have thinned, I believe because of the bat white nose syndrome. But I still see them flitting about near the tree lines. I have even been buzzed on the commons by something small and fast in the dark. I presume my invisible friends are bats. I hear, then see, the birds awake and take to the air. In spring it is a noisy chorus of males calling for mates and challenging other males. Now, they are much more subdued, spent from a summer of mating and raising young.

Some mornings, the dawn is Zarathustrian. Today, the nearly full moon was mostly hidden by the clouds, occasionally showing a bit of its orb. By sunrise, the sky was leaden, as it mostly is in Fall and Winter here in Maryland. It was an easy run under such mild circumstances, no radiant sun to suddenly raise temperatures.

My agency is sponsoring two 5 K's, one in two weeks and one in six. This is enticing, I am thinking of running the first to establish a baseline speed and see if I can improve on the second. Six weeks is a typical training micro cycle, where a training stress is applied and maintained for the requisite six weeks for the body to adapt. I did both a tempo run and hill repeats this week. Consider maintaining the quality runs until the end of October. Can I improve my 5K time over this period?

Pondering the challenge of this micro cycle, I also realize that if I achieved a concomitant weight loss, my time would certainly improve. I'm sitting at roughly 147 lbs. and 15% body fat. Objectively, this is heavy for optimal running performance. With sufficient will, I could, dare I say, should drop down to under 140 lbs. This would put me in single digit body fat levels. I have not been under 140 lbs. since my twenties.

We live a society immersed in indolence and over consumption. Fit seniors are a rarity, given an unhealthy life style that is so prevalent that the resulting weakness, obesity, and ill health are considered normal. Advertising, peers, and a steady stream of temptation in the form of greasy, processed, sugary foods work around the clock to subvert the healthy senior athlete. I cannot escape the analogy of a righteous man in a Boschian landscape.

So, while running today, I dreamed up this challenge. It is two 5 K's with the opportunity to radically improve my time and optimize my body. The challenge isn't really even physical. It is mental: do I have the strength of mind to will it into reality?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Hint of Fall

7.6 miles, 70 F.

There's a full moon this morning. Hints of fall are beginning to appear: one of the red maples is well into losing its leaves, the hummingbird feeding is dropping off, and the forcast high today is only 70 F.

I woke up stiff and groggy this morning and spent the better part of the first 5 miles wondering if I was up to my speed hill repeats. The cup of coffee and half peanut butter sandwich I had before my run seemed to sit in my stomach. I've never had this happen before. When the time came, I slipped into the faster pace surprisingly easily. Dispite being mildly tired, my legs pretty much powered me up Tendinitis with little challenge. It's so easy to sleep through 5 miles of LSD; the interval work jarred me awake. I had hoped to do 6 repeats up Mt. Tendinitis, but time allowed only 4. Earlier, Denise had come out for a walk and I ran round her, delaying the start of my faster running.

This is shaping into a good week: I got my tempo run done on Tuesday and, now, did a respectable interval workout today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Second Day

7.1 miles, 70 F.

This is the second of 3 weekday 7 miles. They've become remarkably easy.Yesterday, it was 7.2, with 2 miles at tempo pace at the end. I began my run at 4:20 AM. Sirius hadn't yet cleared the tree line to the east.

Today, I took it very easy, though. Finished off with 2 miles with 4 over Tendinitis.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wind Chill

This is the first morning I've seen a wind chill on the NOAA website in the forecast. Its a harbinger of the coming season.

Friday, March 13, 2015

31 F. Slight sensation in my calves. I think I need to be aware, but not worried. Signed up for the 40th MCM last night. It will be my 6th MCM, my first was 10 years ago. Easy run under a half moon. Did some leg strength work after the run.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

49 F. Its foggy outside. I love running in the fog. Hopefully won't get rained on......much. Going for 4 miles today. Woke up groggy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

35 F, but no rain. Who can complain? The mostly full moon is haloed in mist. Ran 4.0. Feeling sluggish, but legs not heavy. Calves are making themselves felt, but its not pain. Ran 22 last week. Need to be gentle this week. Need to address inappropriate systemic tiredness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Opted for 3.25 miles in my subtropical basement gym on the treadmill rather than dark icy roads.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stepping

A week ago, I tried box stepping on an 18-inch box as cross-training while I can't run. I stepped for 15 minutes. I've done the work out three times since then, incrementing by 5 minutes each time. This morning, I stepped for 35 minutes. It was pretty tiring.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Life Injury

George Sheehan said that every runner is an experiment of one. Over the years, I've learned that the rules of running are mostly for older runners. When I was in my twenties, I routinely ignored the hard/easy rule, the 10% rule, or the "listen to your body" rule. The biggest price I'd pay would be sore muscles for a couple of days. I'd get new shoes when my knees started to ache. That was the extent of my running injury awareness. Since coming back to running, I've learned that my body is not as resilient it was in my twenties. My body speaks to me loudly now, though not often clearly. If I don't listen, there can be a substantial price to be paid.

This season, it did not talk to me. I was breaking 40 miles per week with no residual soreness or tiredness. I kept the spring in my step, even the day after my longer runs. As I felt no stress in my arches and calves, I returned to my zero drop minimalist shoes for daily wear. By end of week, I was feeling so good and strong, I reduced my time sitting at work to 4 hours. There were no warnings, it just felt empowering.

The next week, both calves were sore at the beginning of my routine 7-miler on Tuesday. I reduced my run to 3 miles, deciding it was a "down" week, a week of reduced mileage to cut back stress. Wednesday, they were too sore to run.

That was 3 weeks ago, now.  After Internet research, I have decided that I have two strained calves. I don't think they're running injuries. Rather, I think the zero-drop shoes over-stretched them.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Relentless Forward Progress

Every two to three weeks we cut back our weekly miles to let our minds and bodies recuperate from pushing up the total weekly distance. This week, we're trying something different: a hike to test the limits of the time we can spend on our feet. I have been reading some articles and books on ultra running, the practice of racing distances greater a marathon. A key to achieving this is simply increasing time on your feet. Our goal is to be able to  hike and run in our trail running shoes for eight hours comfortably.

I have not moved on from my marathon ambitions. I see the hiking and ultra running as a complement to the marathon. The marathon still about covering 26.2 in as little time as possible. Ultra running is about being in scenic places relating with one's surrounds through the act of physical exertion.

Today is our first effort. We will cover four hours of hilly terrain as a test of the state of our ability to go longer. Its chilly and the wind chills are already in the low 30's. We'll pack snacks and go off to practice some relentless forward progress.

We came back with several lessons learned from the experience. I list them below.

1. You can cover technical terrain much more quickly in hiking boots. This was particularly true at Pig's Run, a steep, rocky, descent from the ridge line to the Patuxent River. The act of coming down the side of the hill while the trail surface was composed of uneven, occasionally loose, rocks was truly ankle-defying. The solidity of the in-sole, coupled with ankle support, would make the experience much easier. That said, see lesson 2.

2. We experienced noticeable DOMS in the next 2-4 days after the hike. Denise felt it mostly in her ankles and upper feet. I was sore from the knees down. The immediate conclusion to be drawn here would seem to be that we should have worn hiking boots. However, the DOMS is an indication of unused muscles being pushed beyond their current state of fitness. When the hiker is a runner looking to cross train and address weaknesses, the DOMS is the advantageous response to training. In our case, the aggressive hike we made in trail shoes stressed various supportive muscles in Denise's feet, both our shin muscles, also known as the tibialis anterior, and also hit my calves quite effectively.These increases in strength should translate into lower risk of injury, greater running efficiency, possibly even greater speed.

3. about stream crossings.... if it looks too far to jump from one slippery rock to the next, it probably is.  "Just keep moving" doesn't always work and sometimes you will land sideways in the water on a big rock with wet feet/clothes and a huge, deep bruise to contend with for the next miles....

4. Trekking poles are a good idea. The would probably help avoid stream tumbles and make negotiating really rough trails safer, particularly descents.

5. Then there's the no-brainer: dry shoes and socks. Changing wet socks for dry ones can be a blister-saver while running. While I seem to be able to run in wet socks, for some, this leads to certain blistering. It goes almost without saying, cotton is the enemy here. Wool and technical fabrics are mandatory for anything that gets wet or sweaty while running. A change into dry socks and shoes can feel wonderful after a long slog on muddy trails.

6. That SLR around your neck will start to be very heavy after hours of hiking. Plan a safe place where it can be hung or stowed, but can be accessed when that photo op suddenly crops up.

Monday, July 28, 2014

59

I turned 59 a week ago. An acquaintance emailed me birthday wishes, remarking that she would always be three days older than me. I replied with a resigned, "Yeah, we're old!". She replied resolutely that we're not.

Some Boomers deny our age. This mitigates the achievements we attain while we age. Ten years ago, to the astonishment of my physician and despite that two cardiologists had refused to put me on a treadmill for a stress test out of fear I'd have a heart attack, I began running. I lost 40 lbs. The result was life changing. But at 49, the ingrained habituation of indolence is hard to overcome. Inertia grows with each year.

Now, as I approach 60, the challenge has evolved. Running and an athleticism have become part of my life style, part of my world view. I have moved to the point where people remark that I must have the genetics for fitness, or that it must easy for me because I'm so trim, or that I have been doing this all my life. But I manage the growing aches and pains each morning getting up. I am learning the compromises one has to make with age, that injury comes more easily and recovery comes more slowly. Conscious form, correct and deliberate execution, and more judicious use of intensity all become vitally important to avoid injury. The fitness momentum carries me into my older years, but the aches and pains of effort are beginning to grow. The dull ache in my hips upon arising in the morning are not an excuse to do nothing, they are an ugly harbinger of what life would be like if I stopped what I am doing.

With each passing year, many of us justify the growing sloth and its resulting frailty and weakness with excuses that we're too old, that we don't have the right genetics, that it is natural to become impotent and frail as we age, or, insidiously, that "we deserve a break today". Even now, 10 years after the herculean effort it took to re-adopt athleticism, I have refocus daily on the absolute necessity of keeping a strong mind in a strong body, defying the cultural current all around me that tells me that its ok to degrade.

Saying that 59 is not old is lying to oneself. I am old, but I redefine it with growing strength and resolve. To say that 59 is not old is to deny the magnitude of this achievement to myself and to all others who chose this way.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shoes

3.0 miles // 82 F // 63% // 83 HI

Easy 3 miler in the sun along WB&A.

I had hit 460 miles on my NB 860s and was having a lot of PF stress. The "a-hah" moment did not come until I was in Road Runner Sports flexing various models of new NBs. All the shoes had a uniform bend and marked stiffness along the length of the shoe, particularly past the arch. Then I flexed the shoes I currently run it. It practically pivoted along a particular point in the length, just forward of the arch, possibly at the ball of my foot. It also flexed with no resistance. I was really surprised, having become complacent because I typically cause very little out sole wear.

As my running has progressed, and I presumably have become a more efficient runner, my out soles show progressively less wear. I assumed that all other aspects of the shoes were wearing equally slowly. This is now obviously not the case.

I plan to keep a new pair of shoes in inventory as a benchmark by which to compare the shoes I'm using as I track the mileage on them. That makes 3 shoes in the pipeline: one pair with 0-100 miles, on pair with 200-400 miles, and one new pair.

Friday, June 27, 2014

3.0 miles // 70F // 70 H.I.

Easy run. Low PF feelings. Low energy also.

Begun to wonder if my 860s are too light. I don't have records of when I first started running in this model, probably last year in the summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

3.2 miles // 72 F // 72 H.I.

No PF tightness this morning.  It will be an interesting run: its 100% humidity.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

half mileage

3.1  // 65F // 65 H.I.

Since my PF keep nagging me, I'm cutting my mileage in half, then hoping to raise it again.

My feet were remarkably tight while stretching afterwards.


Longer Run

7.5 // 65F // 65 H.I.

7.5 up the Patuxent Branch Trail from Wincopin. An out and back. Gentle net increase in elevation going out.

My PF will bother me minimally after this run. I think the modest pace and elevation change may

Friday, June 20, 2014

6/20: PF management

6.5 miles // 67F // 67 H.I.

I've taken to stretching my PF each morning as a prophylactic to initial PF discomfort. It is mitigating the sensation completely.

Legs have mild DOMS from yesterday's leg work out. I don't typically run on DOMS, but its mild.

Easy miles. Legs not more sore after running. PF stress nowhere in sight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

6/18: Do the miles.

77F // 80H.I. // 6.? miles

After some weeks of PF irritation, I've taken to massaging them before getting up in the morning. I'm doing this even if I'm asymptomatic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

6/17: Another week.

6.6 miles // 77F // 80H.I.

I'm struggling to add miles this year. By end of each week, my PF are sore. Not painful, just sore. This is a warning not to up miles. I hit just shy of 30 last week, with an 0.4 aerobic sprint up Mt. Duckettstown.

Friday, May 2, 2014

5/2: Finally

No snow, no ice, no -10 F wind chill, no driving rain: just pastel blue predawn sky, watercolor clouds, and birds singing all around. Its another "why I run" morning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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.

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.