23 December 2007

2007 Year in Review: My First Year as a Runner

Two summers ago I called my dad, who was living in Southern California at the time, just to talk. He answered the phone a bit out of breath. I asked if he was okay.

“Yes,” he said, “I just finished a run on the PCT.”

I knew he had been running lately, trying to get back after a few years away. He ran all those years I was growing up. I would ride my bike next to him on some of his weekend runs. One of the clearest memories of my childhood was when I strapped a portable radio (the ten pound variety – an ancient relative to the I-Pod) to my bike so we could listen to a Houston Astros game while he ran. I don’t remember him ever running in races; he just went running.

“How far?” I asked while I flipped through channels looking for something to watch.

“Oh, just over 28 miles,” he said. I smiled and waiting for him to say he was joking. But he didn’t say anything. So I had to ask.

“Isn’t 26.2 miles the farthest you’re supposed to go?”

“Only if you want it to be,” he said.

At that moment the couch I was sitting on began to feel less comfortable. I felt a twinge in my back and tightness in my legs. What was I doing on my Saturday when my fifty-two year old father was out running illegal distances? I needed to start running.

Sure, I’d run some before. I spent four years in the army and we ran several times a week, though the distances usually weren’t long. And since the army is a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link, every run was bound by the speed of the slowest person in the formation. Great for building esprit d’corps, not so great for cardiovascular endurance. After the army I tried to keep up with some form of running. Two miles today, maybe two and a half tomorrow. I’d go a month or two without running then the next week I’d run three or four times. I thought four miles was my physical threshold. I kept at it like this for six years until the short phone conversation with my dad.

I spent 2006 running more. But I had no plan and no real goals. As a result I made relatively little progress. I did build up to ten miles a couple times before losing it all by taking too much time off. By the end of 2006 I was not much better off than the year before. All the while my dad was running ultramarathons in the mountains.

What could I do differently in 2007? How could I call myself a real runner? My dad told me I needed to sign-up for a marathon in the fall. It would give me a goal and would focus my training. I never had a desire to run a race of any distance. Not a 5K, not a 10K, not a marathon. Why spend all that money on something I can do for free right outside my front door? He asked me why I hadn't done any of those things outside my front door. Okay, you got me, Dad. So I signed up for the 2007 Portland (OR) Marathon. And that’s how 2007 began – my first year as a runner.

I ran some races, accomplished some goals, ate some cookies. My 2007 races are listed on the right for those interested. So, instead of going back through the year and reviewing my races I would like to highlight some of the things I learned as a runner.

A few things I learned during my first year as a runner:

Cotton socks are a runner's enemy. They've maybe done more to contribute to our nation’s growing waistline than McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined.

It’s not a good thing to brag about making a pair of running shoes last “the entire year.”

A dog is a perfect running partner.

Not everyone loves dogs, even some of those that own one.

There are at least 40,000 people in this country who love running.

Trail running excites me in a scary sort of way. I wish I would have been as excited in my math classes growing up.

Many of the most beautiful sights in the world can only be seen from places you can’t get to by road or car or sidewalk.

Ice is a knee's best friend.

The more you run the more chocolate chip cookies you can get away with eating.

Running is an inherently selfish activity. (But don’t tell that to the guy wearing a memorial vest at the JFK 50 for his son killed in Iraq.)

My wife has more patience with me than I could have ever hoped for.

Having a blog makes me accountable.

Runners support other runners.

Stretching is optional. But so is injury-free running.

My most memorable runs were when I left my watch at home.

New Mexico is the most beautiful place in the United States.

No matter how hard I try, I will most likely never break the marathon world record.

Scarlett Johansson will likely never have lunch with me.

I can run a marathon.

I can run an ultramarathon.

I'm officially a Maniac.

Ultrarunners are some of the best people you’d ever want to hang around.

The human body can go as far as you want it to.

Running if fun. I love it.

It doesn't get any better than going on a run with my dad.

So there it is. 2007 is just about in the books. Thanks to everyone who tagged along for the ride this year. It's been a huge success and a heck of a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2008.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season.


18 December 2007

Keep Running?

Four miles tonight brought me to one thousand since I started tracking my mileage in April. I think that's pretty cool.

But just when I was beginning to think I was pretty hot shiznit I came across this story from ESPN.com. This guy has run a few miles, too. And I think he combs his chest hair. Awesome.

I wonder if anyone wants to try something like this for 2008. At least one mile a day for the entire calendar year. Hmmm....

Keep running!

17 December 2007

Easy Does It

I've been in perpetual recovery mode during the past four weeks since the JFK 50. My left knee is still not quite ready to go full speed. I haven't put in more than 20 miles in any week since JFK. It's getting a bit frustrating. It feels like the same thing that was wrong with my right knee this summer. So I've been doing the normal stuff - rest, ice, massage, ibuprofen, etc. I have six full weeks before the Rocky Raccoon 100. So of course I'm a bit anxious about getting ready in time. I was hoping to come out of JFK and keep putting on the miles, but that hasn't happened. Oh well. I've recommitted myself to the gym during these next six weeks. I need to refocus on my legs and core. I've even inked gym workouts into my running schedule. I think this will help out my knee tremendously. Until now I've always just gone to the gym when I felt like I had time - which wasn't often.

I love winter running. (Pause) Not.

But seriously, I don't mind running in the snow as long as it isn't below ten degrees or the snow isn't slushy. Today temps rose above freezing for the first time in a couple of weeks and everything is slush. I took the pups to the park and Sadie and I played catch with snowballs. It's cute watching Shasta run through the snow with her short legs.

Keep running!


09 December 2007

8 on the 8th - Race Report

The gun went off almost without notice. I took one final look at my competition before I sprinted to the lead. I planned for this to be the last time I saw anyone else. My goal was to win and to win big.

Overnight temperatures had warmed up to balmy 25 degrees. I felt like drinking a lemonade.

The course was fairly straightforward this year. Here's the course description from the race's local RD:

Make the first right and drop down the hill to Grand Ave. Take the first blacktop path past the railroad track right and run behind the Mexican restaurant with the unsalted tortilla chips. Keep along this path until you reach the train that is now a real estate office. Veer left on the wooden bridge and keep Sadie close. Sadie likes to pee on this bridge for some reason and I didn't want her to slow me down this time.

Stop at the intersection with no crosswalk and wait for an opening to cross. If the wait is too long it is okay to pop into the sandwich joint on the corner and get a drink or catch a bit of the game. When you can finally cross you want to pass the waterfall and follow the path along the fence line. Be careful not to take the first right as it will lead you into the icy creek. Just past there will be a bridge. Take this bridge and be thankful for feats of engineering. Keep along the blacktop path until you can see kids skateboarding. You think you're crazy running in the icy weather? Those skateboarders are even crazier trying to drop in on the icy ramps. Be prepared to call 911 as you pass them, but don't make eye contact. Run fast but try not to look like you're running from them. Make it look carefree like the first scene in "Chariots of Fire." But keep your mouth closed and your head straight or they'll think your loony.

Pass the softball field on the right and say a quick prayer that this is where Sadie doesn't want to stop for a #2. If she can hold out longer she'll have a nice brushy area that you don't have to clean up after her. Every second counts on this race and you can't afford to stop just for her selfish needs. The fence line will continue on your left and go straight ahead at the intersection. Don't forget to blow your nose when you reach the "Congested Area" sign. Now Sadie is in the clear for a bit and can run around the field or jump in the icy creek. She jumps in the icy creek, of course, and shakes it off running next to you. The lady up ahead is just walking, but you can't remember if she's in the race or not so just to be sure you should sprint by her as fast as you can yelling "Sucker!" When you pass the bend on the left you can slow down because she can't see you anymore.

Be careful at the next intersection, because no matter how many times you hit the crosswalk button no one will stop for you. In fact, they actually slow down a bit and then speed up and laugh just as you begin to step into the street. If they drive a foreign car it's okay to yell obscenities at them. If they stop to confront you, remember that you're the runner and can "probably" outrun them if you need to. Follow the path to the left and behind the apartment complex. Don't - I repeat - don't ever look toward the apartment complex as you pass behind it. These people leave their curtains open as though there were not a public path only ten yards away and you don't - I repeat - don't want to see these people walking around their house in their underwear. Believe me. If you happen to catch a glimpse call for a medic immediately.

Now you can keep on this path until the turnaround. Stay to the right because really big people in really tight shorts will no doubtingly zoom by on their bikes and try to hit you. They will be annoyed that you're running with Sadie off the leash and they will likely mutter something of the sort under their breath as they pass. Smile, though, because the patches of ice on the path will almost certainly make at least one of them crash.

You're all clear until you reach mile 4. The turnaround point is also when you will realize that there are no aid stations on this race. Too bad, so sad.

Now turn around and do everything above in just the opposite way.

But on the way back, at around mile 6.73, stop. Go home and watch a movie. Get something to eat. Do some laundry. Then later in the night go back out for the final 1.27 miles. This will give you your best opportunity of finishing the 8 on the 8th in exactly 8 hours.

Final race stats:

Sadie clean ups - 0!
Old ladies passed - 1!
Old ladies on bikes passing me - 2
Minutes attempting to re-pass old ladies on bikes - 3
Minutes recovering from re-pass attempt - 7
Acquaintances seen along the route - 2
Rabbits Sadie chased - 3
Rabbits that climb a tree while being chased by Sadie - 1
Number of tree climbing rabbit jokes in this blog - 1
Total miles of the race - 8
Date of the race - 8th
What I did for lunch - Ate
Total race time - 8 hr 8 sec

I'm not sure if I won, yet. But I have a very good feeling. Official race results will be posted soon. Special thanks to Nancy (a candidate for nemesis) for putting on this race. What a great idea.

Keep running!

02 December 2007

another season closer to summer

My left knee needs a bit more rest. Snow is coming down regularly. Mountain trails likely won't be runnable until spring - snowshoes or x-country skis only. Sadie loves to eat snow and catch big snowflakes. Tuesdays are still my favorite day of the week.

Sadie and I went up to Moscow Mt. to see if the trails were runnable. A lot of my favorite 5.5 mile loop was runnable. There had been some x-country skiers ahead of us to pound down some of the snow. But as we got higher the snow was just too deep to run. We had some fun hiking though.

It's going to be interesting to see how my training progresses in the snow.

In traveling/other running news: my sister, Megan, has decided to make the trip with me to South Africa this summer as I attempt the Comrades Marathon. This will be our second major trip together and it will surely be a wonderful time. A few years back we spent five weeks together lollygagging around Europe. Jeanie, unfortunately, is unable to make any significant travel plans as she is reaching crunch time with her grad school progression. So... plane tickets to South Africa...gulp. Megan and I are starting to do the planning and researching and we knew tickets weren't going to be cheap. But still. Maybe I need to get sponsorship or something. Are there any savvy international travelers out there who know of secret airfare deals? Or anyone who knows of anyone who has a friend of a cousin that lives next door who is looking for someone to sponsor for this summer? :)

I've been double tagged. By Bruce and Dr. Stonielove. Most of you have seen or done this already. Here are the "rules" to being tagged:

(1) Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

(2) Tag someone else at the end of your post by leaving his or her name as well as links to their blog.

(3) Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.

Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

Now here is my bit:

1. Michael Bolton is without a doubt my favorite male vocalist of all-time.

2. My first and only spelling bee ended with the word elephant when I was in the second or third grade. To this day I still have to spell it more than once before I get it right. Jeanie always makes fun of me - she made it to the finals of a national medical spelling bee when she was in high school.

3. I am #130 on this list! Which means that I have two months from today to get ready.

4. I do everything right-handed - expect for changing the turn signal in my car.

5. My idea of a perfect night is a glass of wine and a Reese Witherspoon or Hugh Grant movie. And ice-cream.

I tag GD.

Keep running!