Obituary for my running shoes

Red_running_shoesThey were purchased with the expectation of a triumphant performance in the Marine Corps Marathon of 2010 that wasn’t meant to be. But they continued on over the next 95 weeks, plodding through 101 runs and a total of 632 miles. Among those runs would be three more marathons, including a triumphant PR at the OBX Marathon in 2001. A record that stands to this day and is unlikely to ever fall.

Already slated for retirement, they untimately failed. Worn soles, inside and out, and an exposed tack revelaed thier ultimate deterioration, fighting back against the feet they had carefully carried through so many miles.

A memorial service was held at their interment in the kitchen trash. Both my feet, left and right, were in attendance to pay their respects. Other survivors include thier frequent partners, four different pairs of running socks, a runner’s id/wallet velcro’d securely to the right shoe’s laces, and numerous timing tags carried through more than a half dozen races.

Farewell my running shoes, you’ve run your last mile and crossed that big finish line in the sky!

Marathons

fixx_running_books.jpg In November 2008, my friend Jay and I completed the Richmond Marathon. It was the first for each of us, and a successful culmination of a 16-week training program to get us across the finish line. The goal of our program was to simply complete the marathon, not in any particular time, but just to complete it. Among the many sights along the course in Richmond, was the shirt of an older gentleman that proclaimed he was ‘Larry’ of the ‘50 State Marathon Club‘. He was an inspiring and humbling sight. Jay and I finished in 5:56:57 and were both happy just to have completed the race before the course would have closed after 7 hours. Having assumed at the time that running one marathon would be enough to check that off my ‘bucket list‘, I was a bit surprised when, within an hour of our finish, Jay said, “I bet we could do better”.

The idea of running a marathon was not a recently found fascination for me. As a kid, I read both of Jim Fixx’s books from the late ’70s that helped to spur the increasing popularity of recreational running. And I referenced the first book extensively in a grade school report I wrote titled ‘The Marathon’. My mother and I gave the second book to my Dad for Father’s Day in 1980, and in the inscription I wrote, “Dad, We’re gonna run a marathon by 1983, so start reading!” So I was off by 25 years on that prediction, but clearly the idea stuck.

AfterJay’s suggestion that we could do better stuck as well, and just less than a year after Richmond I ran my second Marathon in Baltimore, where I beat my goal of breaking five hours with 10 minutes to spare. Done, right? No. Earlier in the summer the Surf City Marathon in my hometown of Huntington Beach, CA called out to me, and when Jay said he’d like to do it too, we signed ourselves up and ran it in February. A trip home is always nice, and I shaved a whole 24 seconds off of my Baltimore time, and we brought back some excellent surfboard medals for our effort. And then, just six weeks later I found myself in Virginia Beach running in the Shamrock Marathon, in which I ran with an orange beard, fell short of my goal time or a PR, but was consoled by some fine Yuengling Lager’s provided by the race sponsor.

Last July there was an article in Runner’s World about a man named Larry Macon. Larry earned himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having completed 105 Marathons in a single year. It turned out that this was the same Larry that Jay and I had run behind for a good portion in Richmond (he finished a minute and 42 seconds ahead of us). I’ll certainly never challenge Larry’s record. And it’s unlikely I’ll ever be a member of that 50-state club. But I do believe I’ll keep running marathons, maybe one or two a year, hopefully in different cities; Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Dublin, OBX… so many choices. Running down the middle of closed streets with thousands of other runners is a truly unique way to see city.

Today I registered for the Marine Corp Marathon which will be run next Halloween. This one is really the DC area’s premiere marathon, and so a must do for any local marathoner (To the 50-stater rules, it counts as a Virginia race since it starts and finishes in that state, despite being run mostly in DC, so it does nothing to help me advance towards that membership and I already have two Virginia marathons now). The Marine Corp Marathon sells out quickly each year, so I was happy I got in. And this afternoon I learned some more good news, my running buddy Jay is registered as well!

The Baltimore Marathon – Crunching My Numbers

Team Awesome!Yesterday I ran the Baltimore Marathon. It was my second Marathon, and won’t be my last as I’m already signed up to run the Surf City Marathon in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California next February. Not quite a year ago in Richmond, my friend Jay and I accomplished our goal of running a marathon and we completed a 16-week training program to reach the goal of just finishing the race. During long runs in those weeks of training, Jay and I would frequently comment that if we reached our goal of completing our first marathon, it would certainly also be our last. And yet, within hours of completing that goal (we finished in 5:56:57), Jay was saying, “We could do better”, and the thought of doing another was planted.

Among the things that I really enjoyed about running Richmond was that it was a great way to see a city. How often can you tour a city, with police stopping traffic so that you can run down the middle of major roads, and with cheering fans lining the course offering high-fives, snacks, and beer? It is truly a unique experience, and the thought of taking such a running tour of other cities holds great appeal to me. Some marathoners pursue the goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. I don’t know that I’ll go that far, but I’ve learned to not rule anything out either.

My Runner’s World magazine, a Christmas gift from my wife following last year’s marathon, brings a monthly dose of motivation, and advertisements for marathons across the country. And from those ads, Baltimore stood out, mostly for being relatively nearby, and in July I made the commitment and registered for the race, along with friends and family who were going to run the Half-Marathon and the 5k.

I set my goal for Baltimore at 5 hours, an hour faster than Richmond, where just finishing had been the only goal. In a previous half-marathon and a 10-miler, I had found success at reaching my goal times by creating a Pace Tag which I pinned to my shirt to keep me on track. Having goal splits handy makes every single mile a race of it’s own. Make those mile splits, and you’ll reach the goal time for the whole race. To reach my 5 hour goal time in Baltimore required a pace of 11:27 per mile. That’s a very easy pace when doing shorter training runs, but I had no idea if I could maintain it for all 26.2 marathon miles.

Happily, I found that I could. And my day-after geek came out today wanting to compare my actual performance with the goal pace I had established. The below table shows my goal pace, goal time, actual splits, pace difference, actual time, and actual difference. Where I am ahead of my goal pace, the number is in green, and where I am behind my goal pace, the number is in red.

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Mile Pace Goal Time Actual Split Pace Diff Actual Time Difference
1 0:11:27 0:11:27 0:11:04 0:00:23 0:11:04 0:00:23
2 0:11:27 0:22:54 0:10:50 0:00:37 0:21:54 0:01:00
3 0:11:27 0:34:21 0:10:40 0:00:47 0:32:34 0:01:47
4 0:11:27 0:45:48 0:10:34 0:00:53 0:43:08 0:02:40
5 0:11:27 0:57:15 0:10:24 0:01:03 0:53:32 0:03:43
6 0:11:27 1:08:42 0:10:30 0:00:57 1:04:02 0:04:40
7 0:11:27 1:20:09 0:09:53 0:01:34 1:13:55 0:06:14
8 0:11:27 1:31:36 0:09:50 0:01:37 1:23:45 0:07:51
9 0:11:27 1:43:03 0:10:04 0:01:23 1:33:49 0:09:14
10 0:11:27 1:54:30 0:09:58 0:01:29 1:43:47 0:10:43
11 0:11:27 2:05:57 0:10:04 0:01:23 1:53:51 0:12:06
12 0:11:27 2:17:24 0:10:31 0:00:56 2:04:22 0:13:02
13 0:11:27 2:28:51 0:10:26 0:01:01 2:14:48 0:14:03
14 0:11:27 2:40:18 0:10:34 0:00:53 2:25:22 0:14:56
15 0:11:27 2:51:45 0:10:57 0:00:30 2:36:19 0:15:26
16 0:11:27 3:03:12 0:10:59 0:00:28 2:47:18 0:15:54
17 0:11:27 3:14:39 0:12:36 -0:01:09 2:59:54 0:14:45
18 0:11:27 3:26:06 0:11:33 -0:00:06 3:11:27 0:14:39
19 0:11:27 3:37:33 0:11:33 -0:00:06 3:23:00 0:14:33
20 0:11:27 3:49:00 0:12:13 -0:00:46 3:35:13 0:13:47
21 0:11:27 4:00:27 0:11:47 -0:00:20 3:47:00 0:13:27
22 0:11:27 4:11:54 0:11:49 -0:00:22 3:58:49 0:13:05
23 0:11:27 4:23:21 0:11:42 -0:00:15 4:10:31 0:12:50
24 0:11:27 4:34:48 0:11:57 -0:00:30 4:22:28 0:12:20
25 0:11:27 4:46:15 0:11:46 -0:00:19 4:34:14 0:12:01
26 0:11:27 4:57:42 0:11:09 0:00:18 4:45:23 0:12:19
26.2 0:02:18 5:00:00 0:05:03 -0:02:45 4:50:26 0:09:34

The race started uphill for the first 3.5 miles (see the elevation chart) As you can see I started steady and just ahead of pace and from miles 3 – 14 was enjoying the long downhill and running almost a minute ahead of my pace. By the time I had completed 16 miles, I was a almost 16 minutes ahead of my goal pace. There was a really great street party going on at mile 16, and at mile 17 I ran past the home of friends Phi and Sean, who lived up to their promise of having a mimosa waiting for me. By this point in the race I had eaten bananas, an orange, potato chips, pretzels, gold fish, vanilla power gel (gross), Skittles, and of course lots of water and Gatorade. But that mimosa went down better than any of it. Sean warned me that I was about to head into a not so great neighborhood, and suggested this knowledge may encourage me to pick up my pace (The Baltimore Sun had likewise been thoughtful enough to share information about where the marathon route intersected the worse areas of crime in the city). So I lost a minute enjoying that mimosa, and headed into the second hilly portion of the course, and as you can see, I began falling behind my goal pace, happily not by much, and not by enough to get behind the time I had banked in the first 16 miles. Miles 20 – 23 were the hardest, running around Lake Montebello, but then the course leveled and the long downhill to the finish line at the Inner Harbor began. The crowd grows, the cheers get louder, someone always seems to be offering a beer by this point, and the knowledge that the finish line is within reach provides a finishing surge. Jennifer, Colleen, and the neighborhood gals who had completed their 5k hours earlier were there at the end to see me finish, and I ended up right behind Jay who was finishing his half-marathon (he’ll join me again for his second marathon in February).

An explanation for the 5 minutes that this chart says it took me to run the final two-tenths of a mile, I promise I did not drop off that much. As I ran, I found an increasing gap between the point at which my Garmin was telling me I had hit a mile point, and the actual mile-marker for the race. First it was a tenth of a mile, eventually a quarter mile, and by the end my watch fully three tenths of a mile ahead of the actual mile markers. My only explanation is that the accumulated drifting from side to side along the race course added this extra distance. So the splits in this chart reflect my Garmin time, while the final result of 4:50:26 was my official race chip time. I forgot to stop the timer on my Garmin until I was in the chute after finishing, collecting my medal and a drink, but when I did it had my time at 4:51:20 for a distance of 26.56 miles.

Thanks Baltimore for the great running weather (overcast with some light rain, felt great), great fan support, and mostly to my family and friends who have turned running into an activity at which we motivate, participate, and celebrate together.

Palin Running & Not

Sarah Palin image by Brian Adams from the August 2009 issue of Runner's WorldEach issue of ‘Runner’s World‘ magazine, a read I’ve been enjoying since taking up running again a year ago, ends with an interview with a generally well-known figure; athletes, actors, politicians and such. These interviews are called ‘I’m A Runner‘, and I enjoy reading them and learning of this lifestyle that I’ve embraced and have in common with these individuals.

This week, the August issue of Runner’s World came out, and the subject of the ‘I’m a Runner’ interview was Sara Palin. I enjoyed the interview and was impressed to learn of her having run a sub 4-hour marathon, or that she will still venture out to run in 20-below temperatures (although this reinforces my belief that she is also bat-shit crazy).

The interview made some minor buzz, because in it she claimed she could beat Obama in a race due to her higher endurance. A soft political jab at worst that got mentioned at the next briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Maybe she could, it doesn’t matter. I’m still glad to have a bodysurfer (and smart person) in the White House.

But despite political differences, the interview reminded me that their are things that can connect us despite our differences; political, religious, or whatever. I wouldn’t want to join her on a run, because according to her interview, she prefers to run as a solitary activity, as do I most of the time. I had a similar reaction recently when I found I had a new Twitter follower. A look at her profile showed her to be a Communications Director of an county-level GOP party in Indiana. So why would she have any interest in my occasional Dem rants? A closer look showed she was a Cubs fan, and that was likely the connection that led her to me. Hobbies, sports, music, alma maters… all provide reasons to sometimes ignore a larger difference (for a moment at least), and recognize these things we do have in common.

Don’t get me wrong. Politically, I loathe Sarah Palin. Her selection as McCain’s running mate was a desperate, but doomed attempt to change the dynamics of the race. Over the course of the campaign, she repeatedly demonstrated herself to be clueless on the issues, and little more than an attractive and expensively dressed windbag shouting nonsense about Obama ‘pal-ing around with terrorists’. But I enjoyed learning she’s a runner, and admire her stated appreciation and ability at the sport.

An hour ago, news broke that Palin has announced she will resign her position of Governor of Alaska by the end of this month, and won’t be seeking re-election in 2010. Many speculate that she is doing so in anticipation of running for President in 2012. She would be not running for Governor in 2010, to allow her to run for President in 2012. That will be worth quite a few laughs in the years to come.

So keep on running Sarah. When for office, I’ll oppose. But when for the joy and exercise of the activity itself, I wish you the best. Break a leg! 🙂

 

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