Monday, January 26, 2009

On winning honorably

Did you hear the story about the Dallas, Texas high school girls basketball that beat another team 100-0? Just today the school, a Christian school no less, announced that the coach had been fired on the heels of his refusal to apologize for allowing such a drubbing.

I say bravo to the school, Covenant School, and hasta la vista to the coach.

But I also say that the other school, Dallas Academy, which hasn't won a game in 4 years, should consider disbanding its basketball team if it's going to be this embarrassingly terrible.

As you may have previously read on her ("Trophies for everyone!"), I've gone on record saying that kids shouldn't be coddled and should be taught the importance of winning, so long as they win honorably. The case of this school mercilessly beating the other school 100-0 involves no honor--only shame.

Apparently Covenant School was up 59-0 at the half and was still shooting 3-pointers and playing full-court press in the 4th quarter. There is no honor or decency in such tactics.

When you're beating an opponent so badly that there is no way they can come back, there has to come a time when you call off the dogs, just as all the great basketball coaches do--Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Roy Williams at UNC, Billy Donovan at Florida, Rick Pitino at Louisville, Jim Calhoun at UConn et al. In football when you're blowing out the other team, you run the ball up the middle (never pass) and you take a knee when the clock winds down to 2 minutes.

I remember a football game my senior year in high school when we absolutely destroyed our opponent to the tune of 52-0. Our star running back had 231 yards on 10 carries and at least 4 or 5 touchdowns midway through the the second quarter. We could have at least put 80 points on the board, but instead of running up the score our coach pulled the starters before half-time and started playing the second-stringers and young kids. By the third quarter we had our freshmen and sophomores in the game working on their fundamentals. We won honorably.

This coach from Texas? He allowed his players to win dishonorably and in the process he abused the authority and trust placed in him not only to coach these girls, but also to show them the right way. He allowed his players to take the wrong path and cast a terribly bad light over their school. And now he's out of a job.

So what should he have done if the other team was so helpless? Short of asking the other coach for a forfeit or seeking intervention from the referees, he could have instructed his players to hold on to the ball for as long as possible, or pass the ball 10 times before shooting ... basically anything but allow his players to shoot 3s and play full-court press late in the game.

In a street fight, this coach's actions would amount to repeatedly kicking a man in the face after he's already unconscious and close to death. But, no matter how close to dying the victim is, let's keep kicking because we can! Boy, that's a great lesson for young, impressionable kids like these girls at Covenant School.

This coach's firing? Some say it's a sign of the times--punishing someone for success in a society that punishes winning. I call his firing justice. And I hope he learns from his mistake and finds work because, if he has a family, they are suffering from his stupidity and don't deserve it. And if he ever coaches again, he'd better hope he doesn't find himself on the wrong end of a blowout. If that happened, I'd hope the other coach would do the honorable thing. I think that's called the Golden Rule and I'm pretty sure it's a fundamental part of the Christian life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What does running do for you?

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.” - Jim Valvano, 1993

Lately I've been in a reflective state--thinking heavily about my life, what's important, where I came from, where I am and where I'm going. As a still-relatively new dad, I realize that life is no longer about just me or us (Anne and me). It has a much larger meaning. I'm thinking about that larger meaning.

For a time after Noah was born I wondered if high-mileage running would be feasible anymore given the many responsibilities of being a father and husband. Beyond a strong commitment of heart and soul, I now have a big commitment of time. I wondered if the time would be there to run as I'd run in the past few years.

But then I realized that running is far more than a commitment of time, and it's no selfish pursuit, either. It's about far more than lacing up the shoes and putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of my own goals. Running helps make me who I am--and who I am is who my family needs me to be.

Running brings peace amid the occasional chaos of life. When I'm out the door, problems disappear, if only for an hour or so, and I return home with a new sense of calm and better perspective.

Running provides quiet times of reflection. Life often gets so busy that simple reflection takes a conscious effort. When I run, I have time to reflect. The other day on a run I thought about my dad and how his example has been a "how-to" guide for me as a dad.

Running provides friendship. Most of my closest friends today are fellow runners who I see every Saturday and/or Sunday. But it's more than that. Like any runner, I can go to any race and even if I don't know anyone there I'm still surrounded by friends. We runners enjoy a unique bond.

Running has allowed me to figure out what I'm made of. Whether at mile 20 of a marathon or mile 80 of a 100-miler, I always learn at these critical junctures in a race what I'm made of. One's character often comes out in times of great stress and suffering. And I've come to realize that, amid my flaws, I have strong character and the courage to endure.

Running gives me the perspective I need to make big decisions. With no distractions and only the sounds of nature and my moving feet, many of the biggest decisions I've ever made in life have happened on my runs along the country roads and trails of Chagrin Falls. Sometimes I come back home, sit down and tell Anne, "I thought about X and here's what I think we should do...."

Running consumes my excess energy. I am full of energy--maybe too much. As a kid, I bounced off the walls. My early-morning run takes off the edge, making me just tired enough to sit at my desk at work and focus on what's in front of me without a flood of distractions flowing through my brain.

Running allows me to plan my day. If I have a busy day at work, I often plan my day on a run--laying out the priorities and figuring out ways to accomplish or make progress toward each.

Running brings emotion. My emotions often come out in private. I remember last April being on a country road near home at about 6:00 a.m. and coming upon a big field. I looked to the east to find a magnificent sunset. At the time, Noah was only a few weeks from arrival and we'd just learned he was breech. I was dealing with a lot of emotion as I worried about Anne and Noah, thought about fatherhood and, oh by the way, trained for an approaching marathon and 100-miler. When I saw that rising sun I thought about Noah and, man, the emotions flowed.

Running brings out my competitiveness. I know some good runners who log respectable times but lack the competitive spirit. Running allows me to tap my competitive spirit. Too many adults have no outlet for their competitive spirit and so they channel it in sometimes unhealthy ways--stepping on others at work, etc. Running gives me an outlet for my competitive spirit because I know each and every outing is designed to get me toward a goal that centers around competing or accomplishing something ambitious. And then come race time, I go Dr. Jeckyl-Mr. Hyde--the very competitive me comes out.

So I run knowing running makes me a better person for those in my life. Those of us who have such a pursuit--be it painting, cooking, building model airplanes, etc.--I guess we're the lucky ones. What does running do for you?

I'll end on this note:

Monday, January 19, 2009

How cold can it get? That is the question! / Training week 1/12-1/18

Extreme cold--that was the story of this week. For me, January is a month of rest and recovery, a time for my joints and muscles to recuperate and get ready for the 2009 racing season. Unfortunately, it's kind of hard resting and recovering when the temperature drops below zero and you're forced to expend tons of energy trying to stay warm as you run. When I started the week, I looked normal. By the end of Sunday, here's what I looked like:



This week I found something out about myself. I can run in zero-degree weather and maintain a good attitude about things. But once the temperature drops below zero, that's when I draw the line, especially when it's dark outside. On Friday morning when I woke up at 4:55 for my regular early-morning run, I looked at our thermometer to find a reading of negative 8 degrees. Realizing that it was very dark and dangerously cold, I elected to run inside, hoping my ailing treadmill (bad front roller) would hold together. Regrettably, it did not, and my run was cut short at 7.35 miles when the warped front roller caused a bad tear of the belt. I was dumb for even attempting a run on my damaged treadmill.

With February fast-approaching (the month my speedwork begins), I called in a service appointment for my treadmill and received the wonderful news that I'm still still covered by a parts warranty. That means my only obligation is labor. They're going to replace the front roller, belt and deck. When a belt goes bad, that means you have to have a new deck as well. So I figure in a few weeks my treadmill will be as good as new and I'll be able to get cranking on my intervals and tempo runs as scheduled.

***

So UltraRunning Magazine named Jorge Pacheco of Los Angeles, California, and Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon, its Ultrarunners of the Year. As noted by UR:

"Pacheco won six of the eight races he competed in during the year, including the 135-mile Badwater Ultra across Death Valley in July and the Rocky Raccoon 100-Mile run in Huntsville, Texas in February.

"Semick won five races during 2008, and placed second in the IAU 100km World Championships in Italy. She was the winner of two of North America’s most competitive events, the Miwok 100km race and The North Face Challenge 50 Mile, both in northern California."

Mike Wardian, 34, of Arlington, Virginia, who brought home not one, not two but three USA Track & Field national championships this year (50K road, 50 mile trail, and 100K road) and was the top American finisher at the 100K worlds, finished third in the UltraRunning Magazine voting for men behind Hardrock 100 winner and record holder Kyle Skaggs of New Mexico.

How does a guy who wins three USATF national championships in one year finish third for male ultrarunner of the year--the same guy who was recently named ultrarunner of the year by the USATF? I don't get it.

It's clear that road ultrarunning is suffering from marginalization. This year, no one has stepped forward to host the 100K national championship--an embarrassment. In recent years, we've seen three once-preeminent Eastern road ultras disappear--the Edmund Fitzgerald 100K in Duluth, Minnesota, the GNC 50K and 100K Challenge in Pittsburgh, and the Olander Park 24-Hour in Sylvania, Ohio. Those races, which once drew the sport's best, are no longer. U
ltrarunning has now morphed into a trail and mountain running sport with one exception--the Badwater 135 is still big-time. Guys and gals who excel at road ultras that are not named Badwater are now marginalized. Which is troubling because the greatest ultrarunner to ever live, Yiannis Kouros, is a road and track warrior.

***

There's a runner in our group--we'll call him Ken--from whom I've learned a valuable lesson. Ken is one of the most intense runners--if not the most intense runner--I know. He is a low 2:30s marathoner and a very smart runner at that. Ken had a strong 2008 and finished the year with a 180-plus mile, multi-day adventure out West followed by a 2:40 marathon. After this physically and mentally punishing challenge, he more or less shut down for a few months and only recently began gradually building up his mileage in a highly disciplined manner. I imagine that by the spring Ken will be back and better than ever with fresh legs.

My decision to cut my miles back this January, while emphasizing core and upper-body strengthening, was inspired in part by Ken. Granted, cutting my mileage back to 50-60 per week was no where near as drastic as Ken's decision to shut down for a few months. I've read that even great runners, like Yiannis Kouros and Scott Jurek, have times during the year when they scale back or shut down. Well, January is my time to scale back. I can only hope the pay-off will be fresh legs going into February and a thirst for 100+ mile weeks come March.

Bottom line: There's a time to run hard, and a time to rest. For me, January is a time of rest. At 35 years-old, I have to incorporate some recovery into my training if I'm to stay in this game for years. I don't want to flame out.

***

The cold notwithstanding, this was a pretty humdrum week mileage-wise. The week went like this:

Monday--off/rest


Tuesday--8.1 miles. My calves were still a little sore from Saturday's snowy trail run but they felt great by the time I finished.

Wednesday--8 miles. Even though it was 2 degrees, I stayed pretty warm thanks to proper attire and no wind. I saw no one out that morning except for some folks driving to work. One lady slowed down and shook her head at me.

Thursday--8 miles. The temperature when I started was 1 degree. Despite a mild wind, I still managed to stay warm. Unfortunately, my Yaktrax didn't survive this run and shredded mid-way through the romp.

Friday--7.35-mile tempo run on my treadmill. Not wanting to risk frostbite or death at the expense of my wife and son, I elected to stay inside and run on my treadmill. I held a very manageable 6:40 pace until mile 7.35, when my treadmill stopped due to a sliced belt from the warped roller. I have a work order for it to be fixed. I also bought some new Yaktrax later that day.

Saturday--10.5 miles around the Chagrin Valley. The temperature was negative 1 degree when I left the house. One guy drove past me, pumping his fist to encourage me. About 5 miles in, I ran into a friend of mine, Jeff T., who was driving to the gym, and he could barely understand what I was saying due to my cold-induced slurred speech. Anyway, I was cruising along until I headed up Washington Street with only about 2.5 miles to go. With a bad headwind that was worsened by cars and trucks zipping by, the windchill must have been negative 20, causing me to abruptly crash. Things got so bad that I stopped for a few seconds to regroup. I haven't had a mental breakdown like this in I can't remember when. It was awful--just awful. I am amazed that Tim C. got in a 2 1/2 hour trail run in South Chagrin and felt bad that I wasn't there to run with him.

Sunday--15.5 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club. With the temperature a balmy 20 degrees, I figured this would be an easy run. Wrong! We fought slick roads most of the way, such as when I was struggling up Hawthorn Parkway with Frank D., and then we got hammered by a nasty headwind on on the parkway after we crossed 91. By the time I finished I was trashed. I hate my Brooks Adrenaline 8's and will never wear them on a long run again.

Total miles for week: 57
Total miles for month: 161.38
Total miles for year: 161.38

***

Speaking of running shoes, a few days ago I ordered some new Saucony Grid Omni 7s and they should be here soon. They're the bomb. In a few weeks I'm getting some new Asics 2140s and closer to the Lt. JC Stone 50K will have some new lightweight trainers. I've decided to run most of my intervals and tempo runs with my current lightweight trainers (Asics DS Trainers; about 125 miles on them) and will use my new lightweight trainers for races only.

***

My goal this week is 60 miles and continued upper-body and core strengthening. I also want to watch what I eat as I fear I may have put on a few pounds. I have only two weeks until I began ramping up for 2009--a year when I plan to be leaner, meaner, stronger and faster than ever before.

Keep rocking!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Weathering the cold is all in the mind!

Being a native South Carolinian, I tend to prefer warmer weather. But after stints in West Virginia, Indiana and now Cleveland, I've gotten used to the cold. And, in the case of Cleveland, I've even gotten used to the snow and gray winter days. Check out the following temps for my early-morning (start at 5:30 a.m.) outside runs the past two days:

Wednesday--2 degrees
Thursday--ZERO!

Last year or the year before I'd have stayed indoors, but my treadmill hasn't yet been fixed and so I was forced to go outside for my runs. On Wednesday, a lady drove past me shaking her head. No one else I ordinarily see in the mornings was out. I was it. Thursday I saw a few folks--only two or three. Wearing my North Face jacket, I covered eight miles in each run--and loved it! All that said, tomorrow morning it may be below freezing with a wind chill of negative 25. That might be where I draw the line. We'll see.

Many people hate the winter and the dark and waddle in their own misery as the mercury drops. This might explain why over the past few weeks I've come in contact with so many bent-out-shape folks--people who clearly need to get outside and take in Mother Nature. Is is hard to stay positive when it's super cold and dark a lot, and when the economy is tanking to boot? Yes! But you have to find happiness. Winter brings a variety of exciting possibilities, including:

Downhill skiing!
Cross-country skiing!
Snowy trails--running, hiking, whatever!
Ice skating!

Those are fun activities and they provide reason to look forward to the winter. Since we have a little one, all of the above except trail running for me are pretty much not possibe for us right now. But both Anne and I are really excited about future ski vacations and outings to the local ice rink. And one of these days I'm gonna pony up a few hundred bucks and take up cross-country skiing as a cross-training activity. We have a huge field across from our neighborhood that is perfect for cross-country skiing.

If you haven't yet braved the super cold, give it a shot! Just make sure you have the right winter gear. For me, the right gear starts with my North Face Apex series jacket, UnderArmour long-sleeve Cold Gear mock turtle and UA compression shorts, along with a tech tee for my middle layer, running pants, gloves, a ski mask, long running socks and my Yaktrax if it's slippery where I'm going. I also wear a headlight.

If winter outdoor activities don't suit you and you'd rather walk laps in a shopping mall or spend even more time indoors at the local gym (I love gyms, but I want to be outside!), take comfort in the following: We are now at the time of year when we're beginning to have more and more daylight in the morning and evening. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Keeping rocking!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The snubbing of Andre Dawson

OK, so I know this blog is about running, but as a baseball fan I have to comment on the just-announced 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame class, which rightfully included Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson (amazingly 28 morons didn't vote for Henderson, the greatest lead-off man in history) but wrongly excluded the venerable Andre Dawson.



Anyone who watched baseball closely in the 1980s knows that "the Hawk," as Dawson was known, was one of the three or four best players in the National League year after year. He hit for power (49 homers in 1987 and 438 for his career), was a base-running threat (314 steals), played awesome defense and had a cannon for an arm. Yes, his career on-base percentage (.323) is a tad low, but, again, if you watched baseball carefully in the 1980s you know that when the Hawk was at bat his mission was pretty much singular--swing for the fence. And he must have done it all pretty well because he was an eight-time All-Star, pulled down eight Gold Gloves for his outstanding D, won an MVP (1987) and finished second in MVP voting on two occasions. Oh, and he was the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year.

To truly appreciate Andre Dawson's greatness, you had to watch him with your own eyes, and you have to take into account that he played before the "steroids era," when 30 or 40 homers was a lot. His stats are impressive, but they don't tell the story of his brilliance, greatness or domination, or of the respect he earned from his peers. As a diehard Mets fan, I saw him brutalize my team on more than one occasion--except for when the prolific Cubs kills Dwight Gooden pitched :). Because I watched Dawson in his prime, I know it's a miscarriage of justice that he--and the late Buck O'Neill for that matter--have yet to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

It's time for the Baseball Writers of America to right a wrong and elect Andre Dawson into the Hall of Fame, where he deserves to be honored for all time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't worry, just run! / Training week 1/5-1/11

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my 2009 race schedule and what seems to be the 800-lbs. gorilla on the calendar—the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run. The Mohican has been around for a lot of years and enjoys quite a history, including a stint as a 100-Mile USA Championship event. Past winners include Eric Clifton, Mark Godale, Jim Garcia and Courtney Campbell—all big-time elites.


Me with my pacers, Ted and Kenny, after the Mohican 100. They're holding me up!

Most of my thinking about Mohican happens when I'm alone, such as when I'm in the car going to and from work and our on a run. I think about what went wrong at last year’s race and how I want this year’s training and race to go. I'm a big believer of visualization.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little worried about how my body’s going to hold up at Mohican. Last year’s race delivered a crushing blow two-thirds of the way through when my knee went south on me. The first sign of pain came at about mile 20 when I was with Bob Pokorny and took an awkward step, but the pain wasn’t bad at all and I kept running strong. Still holding a 17-hour-pace, I took the lead at mile 52 (Rock Point) and held it until just past mile 60, when severe knee pain set in. The eventual winner, Jay Smithberger, passed me as we made our way down to the Covered Bridge, and I never regained the lead. I won’t pretend that even with a good knee I’d have held off Jay or the second-place finisher, Jeff Atwell; they were looking really strong and more than earned their spots.

By mile 70 my knee had gone from bad to worse, but I was still able to run (though painfully) and negotiate most of the hills. At mile 80 (back to the Covered Bridge once again), I changed my shoes and had a few slices of pizza. Within a half-hour not only was my knee killing me, but my stomach gave out--a double whammy. Maybe it was bad pizza, or maybe my digestive tract wasn’t ready for what I’ve given it. For the next 13 or so miles I’d have to make at least a dozen trail-side stops. Afflicted with the worst sort of diarrhea, I’d quickly run out of toilet paper and had to resort to leaves. There was little my pacers, Kenny and Ted, could do except monitor me for bad signs and keep me going. Fortunately, I was still able to pee and drink.

Just prior to the Rock Point aid station (90.4), with my knee now completely nuked, my stomach a mess, and two runners in front of me (Jay and Jeff), the thought of dropping out crossed my mind more than once. I couldn’t even hold a conversation with my pacers because I was so washed out that speaking in complete sentences was too much effort. But I kept going. I remember thinking that at this point in the Burning River 100 I didn't feel anywhere near as bad as now. At this point during the BR100 all I had were just some tight IT bands.

When I saw my wife Anne, along with her dad and Ted’s wife Tami at Rock Point (90.4), the night had just fallen and I felt like my spirit had left my body. I was later told that there was nothing in my eyes--hardly a sign of life. I was so out of it that I refused to take the Pepto Bismol that Anne had very thoughtfully brought. I remember telling Anne, “My knee’s nuked. I’m done. F*ck the Pepto.”

When we came into Landoll’s Castle (mile 95.5), having climbed a few nasty hills on this road section, I felt half-dead and my knee was so painful that I could barely walk, much less crouch down on the side of the road to relieve my stomach without having to hold on to something, such as a small tree or road sign. I also felt rubbed raw from the leaves—like I’d been attacked with sandpaper. Anne forced me to take Pepto Bismol and within 15 or 20 minutes the diarrhea subsided, leaving me with just a shot knee and extreme fatigue to content with as we negotiated the final 5 miles of this God-forsaken race.

Those final 5 miles were dejecting, to say the least. We kept looking back for lights to see if any runners were gaining on us. Sure enough, at about mile 97, Lee Brazel, the proud Irishman and eventual third-place finisher, overtook me. I tried running and holding him off, but my knee was too bad. Lee passed us and we continued.

I just lumbered along, wincing in pain with each downhill. There’s a steep descent (I realize "steep" is a relative term) into the final stretch of Mohican that absolutely brutalized my knee. Each step felt like repeated poundings of a sledgehammer to my kneecap.

On the final stretch, with only about a half-mile to go, Connie Gardner, the well-known elite ultra runner who is also a friend, suddenly came up on us and I knew I was in trouble. Connie’s as tough as they come and I knew she’d do everything she could to overtake me because that's what makes Connie so great. Somehow, some way, I ran the last half-mile, barely holding off Connie when I crossed in 19 hours, 22 minutes and in 4th place--neither happy nor unhappy because those emotions required energy, which I no longer had. After cheering for Connie as she finished, I limped from the finish line to the tent and, unlike Burning River, where I basically cried tears of pride, felt no emotion whatsoever. I was completely spent and in agonizing pain. I couldn't get back to the hotel soon enough.

I hardly slept that night as I couldn’t extend my leg on the bed because of my knee. Oh, and I felt like I'd been run over and dragged for 40 miles by not one, but two, 18-wheelers. For the next few days I limped around the house and at work like a gimp. Eventually, I realized I'd have to see a doctor. Well, the doctor diagnosed me with severe inflammation of the cartilage due to overuse combined with tight muscles. I wouldn’t be able to run a step for two full weeks. I got so desperate that I bought a bike, but I could barely even ride it because of the knee pain. Not until late August was my knee feeling 100 percent again, allowing me to train for the Columbus Marathon (2:59).

I write all of this because deep down I’m worried that my knee is going to once again go south on me at Mohican and I keep fighting with myself over expectations. I’m less worried about my hamstring, which appears to be healed. I’m going to do my best to build recovery and stretching into my training to try to avoid overuse injuries, but ultimately I can’t let the worries of a knee injury get to me, and I can’t let them coax me into anything less than an all-out effort. If I let the worries get to me, I may as well not even show up to the race.

Indeed, ultrarunning is mostly mental and only partly physical. You have to put in the miles to be physically ready, but you also have to be mentally sharp and in the game. When the gun at Mohican goes off, there's a finish line 100 miles away and I have to get to it as quickly as I can.

***

These next few weeks I’m not going to have much to report in the way of my mileage because January is a time of rest and recovery. I ran 56.8 miles this week, having to resort to my YakTrax on a few occasions to negotiate the snowy, icy roads and trails. It happened like this:

Monday: off/rested
Tuesday: 8.05 miles
Wednesday: 8 miles—freezing ran, had to wear my Yaktrax
Thursday: 8.05 miles—very snowy
Friday: 8.18 miles with some strong bursts mixed in. I felt very good
Saturday: 11.45 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club. Friday night into Saturday morning brought about 8-10 inches of snow to the area, blanketing the trails, which were untouched when we started our run. With the aid of my trusty YakTrax, this was a great run and I realized when I woke up the next morning with sore calves that I'd worked a different set of muscles. There's something to be said for snowy trail running.
Sunday: 13 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club. I got very cold the last 4 miles due to the headwind and was glad when I finished. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast with the club at D&R Bagels. I woke up the next morning with trashed calves.

Total miles for week: 56.73
Total miles for month: 104.38
Total miles for year: 104.38

I'm going to continue holding my weekly mileage to 50-60 for the rest of January, before I start ramping it up on Monday, February 2 for my Lt. JC Stone 50K training. Reduced mileage is going to present some mental challenges for me, but I think I really need to scale it back while I still can so I'm ready for an intense training and racing season.

***

A final thought: If a running event 1) provides bibs to runners, 2) has a timing system/device and 3) records results and lists finishers in the order of their time with the fastest first, then that event is by definition a race. With that said, I wish all the folks who will be out there this coming Sunday morning running in the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K all the best. You will be doing your very best, and please don't let the fact that the race director thinks it's a "fun run," even though you'll be timed and ranked according to your finish, get in the way of your going hard the whole way. Because, after all, you can go hard and have fun at the same time. Whoever wins is the rightful champ and should be invited back to the 2010 race.

Onward and upward!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I believe....

I believe:
  • The “news” is now about opinion-making, not reporting the facts.
  • There is such a thing as truth, it exists and our quest as humans is to find it.
  • It is truly possible for all of us to get along.
  • We are morally obligated to care for this earth and bring to justice those who do harm to the planet and, by extension, humanity.
  • We are also obligated to help people who are being hurt by others.
  • Regardless of your political party affiliation, you should be pulling for the Obama administration to make all the right decisions—because these are tough times, our country is in trouble and our problems rise far above partisan politics.
  • It’s na├»ve and even stupid to expect Corporate America to care about anything, such as morality, other than making money.
  • It used to be that manliness was portrayed in a positive light--strong, fatherly, loyal, inspiring and courageous (think John Wayne, Andy Taylor in "The Andy Griffith Show" or the dad in "Bonanza")--whereas today men are portrayed as football-obsessed, beer-drinking, couch-potato, fat morons (think every commercial geared toward men).
  • Restraint and self-control are among the highest virtues, but virtues rarely seen these days.
  • Evolution and creationism are not mutually exclusive--far from it.
  • Gambling is evil.
  • While I voted for the other guy, Barrack Obama's election was one of the most important days in U.S. history.
  • True wisdom comes from learning from one's mistakes and the mistakes of others.
  • Your instincts are right most of the time.
  • What's happened to baseball with the "steroids era" and the mugging of hallowed records by bad, dishonest men is one of the great tragedies of our lifetime, and if I think about it enough I become emotional.
  • The days of people going downtown to shop are over.
  • When people say it was a better time when bread was nickel, they're forgetting that back then no one had a nickel.
  • If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.
  • It's not the job or money that matter--it's the organization and its purpose.
  • The most effective branding happens over time and can't be forced.
  • Parents should never try to be their child’s friend.
  • The American Dream is under assault, but is still attainable.
  • John Edwards is pure evil.
  • Evil is the worst sort of ugliness disguised as extraordinary beauty.
  • If our government can’t even take care of our veterans, why should we expect it to “fix” health care for all of us?
  • TVs should never be found in restaurants that claim to offer fine dining.
  • It’s ridiculous that pure baseball is played in the National League but not in the American League.
  • There are millions of people walking around right now who have no clue what’s going on around them at this moment in time.
  • Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire knew exactly what they were taking and when they were taking it.
  • Golf is not the game for me.
  • No TV network has suffered a greater downfall in quality than ESPN.
  • Cable TV is a huge rip-off.
  • Runners are reviled by many (but not all) non-runners.
  • There are some loose cannons behind the wheel of an automobile who truly want to mow me down.
  • You have to run defensively.
  • Bob Seger is/was better than Bruce Springstein.
  • The greatest Americans are our veterans.
  • The 1985 Chicago Bears was the best pro football team I've ever seen.
  • The best lineup I've ever seen with my own eyes was the Cleveland Indians in the mid-1990s--Baerga, Murray, Sorrento, Ramirez, Belle, Alomar, Lofton, Thome, et al.
  • MacDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants should stop trying to be nutritious and just embrace the fact that they peddle deep-fried garbage.
  • The more educated you are, the less likely you are to eat fatty, high-calorie foods.
  • You should never buy something on sale unless you like it so much you’d have paid full price for it.
  • The last truly great president of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt.
  • It’s unwise to play cards with any man whose first name is also the name of a city, e.g., Cleveland (OK, so I got this from a movie).
  • For most of us, from the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, someone else owns you, but from the hours of 5:01 p.m. to 7:59 a.m., Monday-Friday, you own yourself.
  • If you have a job and complain about it every day, you need to think about the guy or gal who woke up this morning with no place to go, a stack of bills piling high and a few mouths to feed.
  • There are only three rights--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  • At no time in our history have there been so many alienated people, largely as a result of technology.
  • "Chinese Democracy" by Guns 'N Roses came about 15 years too late.
  • Unrestrained science is the greatest threat to humanity.
  • There is a God, he’s the boss, and I’m not going to try to read his mind or question his authority.
  • If global warming is really happening, why am I freezing my ass off right now?
  • There’s a place in every school for home economics, industrial arts, and physical education—and every child should be exposed to each at some point during their education. I have a master’s degree and a professional-level job and yet my most memorable class in school was 8th-grade shop, where I created a working lamp out of a few pieces of wood, a soda pop can, some electrical wiring and a light bulb.
  • While Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart are all near and dear to any Dead Head’s heart, the Grateful Dead died when Jerry Garcia keeled over in ‘96. Unless Jerry can be brought back to life, please, no reunion tour.
  • Keith Richards is truly a medical marvel.
  • Only in the late 1960s did music start to get good.
  • It's appalling that a baseball player who pulls down $20 million makes more per at bat ($41,000) than many Americans make in a year—including your kid’s teacher. The same goes for all pro sports.
  • We live in a constitutional Republic, not a democracy.
  • College football bowl games are about money, not competition or what’s good for college football.
  • If you create something, you're responsible for it/him/her.
  • If a president cheats on their spouse while in office, he (or she) is not fit to be president. How can a president be loyal to the country when he or she can’t be loyal to their spouse?
  • Democrats and Republicans in Washington want the same thing (big government) but differ on how to get there.
  • When a smoker coughs and it sounds like they're about to lose a lung, that's nature's way of saying it's time to quit.
  • People who are obese should pay extra for their health insurance.
  • Special interests control Washington and we the people are just an annoyance to politicians until we really get pissed off and crash their phone lines and e-mail.
  • What's happening to General Motors and Chrysler right now is what's going to happen to the U.S. in about 30 or 40 years--bad model, over-extended with entitlement debt and awful leadership--unless we do something now.
  • In the last four years alone George W. Bush joined the ranks of one of the 10 worst presidents in U.S. history. But he’s not as bad as Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding...or Bill Clinton.
  • Rocky I and II is collectively the greatest sports movie ever made.
  • The best measure of greatness is longevity.
  • No athlete in our lifetime has been more dominating than Michael Jordan.
  • Tiger Woods is the second-best golfer to ever live so long as Jack Nicklaus still owns the all-time majors record.
  • What consenting adults do in the privacy of a home is none of my damned business, or yours, either.
  • No one will ever break 2 hours in the marathon.
  • The oil companies have taken advantage of governmental incompetence (no new refineries in several decades) and are gouging us.
  • Starbucks had a great thing going until they decided to buy into the MacDonald’s expansion plan (one on every corner!).
  • Big box stores are disgusting.
  • Wal-Mart has had a net negative effect on America.
  • Local officials who give carte blanche to developers are enemies of our way of life.
  • I should be accepted into the 2010 Western States 100.
  • There should be more trails.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

You are only as good as your last race! / Training week 12/29-1/4

"You are only as good as your last race." Those are the words of Jim Garcia, one of the all-time toughest ultra runners. Known for his tenacity, Garcia (pictured) enjoyed quite a streak in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, winning some big races such as the Old Dominion and Mohican 100s, the Huntington Ultra Frigid Fifty (a.k.a. the HUFF 50K), the old GNC 100K and others. He represented the U.S. at the 100K world championship and posted one of the fastest times (6:55:27) ever for an American at the 1999 Chancellor Challenge 100K. Now retired from competitive ultrarunning, Garcia, 50, continues to live in the Boston area and, from what I found, works at MIT.

On a side note, it's a real shame that finding good information on the sport of ultrarunning and the great ultrarunners like Garcia is so hard. As far I can tell, the sport hasn't done the best job of telling its truly unique story, cataloging its history and celebrating its greats. Learning about guys like Eric Clifton, Stu Mittleman, Yiannis Kouros and others shouldn't be so hard; and yet information on these guys isn't easy to come by. You have to dig deep and, often, the information you find is quite grubby, though occasionally you discover some high-quality literature, such as The Death Valley 300 and To the Edge.

Anyway, back to Garcia. He was right--you are only as good as your last race. You can't rest on your laurels and you can't move forward if you're focused on your past performances. I say these words to myself as I look to 2009 as a year of taking my performance to the next level. No question about it; 2008 was a good year and a year to build on. I set PRs in the 5K (17:45), half marathon (1:22), marathon (2:58), 50K trail (4:36), and 100 miler (19:22), also winning my first race outright (Winter Buckeye Trail 50K) and placing 4th at the Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run. My last race of the year was the Columbus Marathon, where I finished in 2:59 on a bad hamstring.

But 2008 is over--long over--and it's time to get focused on 2009 because, as Garcia said, I am only as good as my last race. Which means, given that disappointing 2:59 at Columbus (my last race), I have a long way to go in preparing myself for the upcoming racing season if I'm to be any good. I look at myself right now and I see a runner with lackluster leg turnover (thanks to no speedwork in 3 months), a weak core (that I'm now strengthening) and a long way to go if I'm going to achieve my goals in 2009.

***

This month I'm cutting my weekly mileage back to no less than 50 and no more than 60 as I rest and recover for the big ramp-up that begins on Monday, February 2, when I begin speedwork and tempo runs and the volume starts going up. Between now and then, I need to get my treadmill fixed--which is going to be expensive--because you can't run quality intervals on a snowy, icy track. By March, I want to be clicking off 80-90-mile weeks and by April 100-plus-mile weeks, which I'll continue through May and into early June as I prepare for the Mohican 100.

My schedule for 2009 continues to evolve and now looks as follows:

March 8--Youngstown 1/2 Marathon (long tempo run)
March 21--Lt. JC Stone 50K (key event/looking for sub-4:00 time)
April 19--Forget the PR Mohican 50K (training run on the Mohican course)
June 20--Mohican 100 (key event)
July--Buckeye 50K (questionable)
August--Burning River 100 or the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50-miler (questionable)
October--Columbus Marathon (key event/looking for sub-2:55)

My training for Mohican will be a lot like my training for the Burning River 100 in 2007--some very long runs of 5+ hours, including the aforementioned Forget the PR Mohican 50K. These 5+ hour long runs will require being out of the house on Saturday morning by 5:30 and keeping the legs moving until about 11 a.m. With Noah's arrival last May 9, getting in super long runs for Mohican wasn't possible, so I just did a bunch of runs of usually no more than 20 miles and I think this cost me. For Mohican this year, the super long runs will mean less of a day-to-day grind in getting to 100 miles for the week. If I do 30 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday, that means I will have needed to cover a manageable 55-60 miles the previous Monday-Friday to ensure 100 for the week and ideally 110+.

No matter how one slices it, if you want to do well in a 100-mile race, you have to put in the miles--and lots of them. If the marathon is a boxing match--big crowds, glamour and all the trimmings--then the 100-miler is a back-alley street fight. Forget the gloves; bring the brass knuckles and count on some bloodshed. All bets are off and you ain't walking away in good shape. That's why I train so hard for 100s...and why I love them so much.

***

This week I got to 71 miles despite not really trying to surpass 70. I just had the time. It happened like this:

Monday--off/rest
Tuesday--10 miles
Wednesday/New Year's Eve--13.23 miles with the Southeast Running Club at our 12/31 holiday run from Bedford Reservation. With the temperature less than 20 degrees, fierce winds and snow, this was not the most enjoyable run. I could barely dial the numbers on my mobile phone afterward because my fingers were so cold (photo below of a half-frozen Wyatt with an equally frozen Dave P.). Plus, I almost wiped out on the parkway en route to Rich H.'s for brunch.



Thursday--8.5 miles
Friday--10 miles
Saturday--12.65 miles with the Peninsula crew in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was great getting back to CVNP.
Sunday--16.5 miles with SERC in Solon. The pace was pretty aggressive for the first 6 miles of our club run into the water stop.

Total miles for week: 70.88
Total miles for month: 47.65
Total miles for year: 47.65

I ended 2008 with 3,923 miles--an all-time high. It's too bad I missed two solid weeks of running after Mohican; I'd have easily surpassed 4,000 miles for the year.

The goal this week is to get in 55-60 miles--mostly at easy pace--and continue my core strengthening.

Onward and upward!