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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Running Hard, Enjoying Kostriker Schwarzbier

Kostriker Schwarzbier2 mile warm-up
100x6 (striders)
200x3 (100)
150x2 (50)
400 warm down
600 warm down

Total: 3.8125 miles
----------------
70°F
Cloudy
Wind: S at 10 mph
Humidity: 83%
course: Wheaton College Track

Drinking now a glass of Kostriker Schwarzbier. It is "Germany's Black Lager," and looks like Pepsi with a thick head. Bought it at Bende on Roosevelt in Glen Ellyn. Tastes good, though I'm not sure where it lands in the healthy drink pantheon.

Why?

I was thirsty. Hot day.

Jim had those of us running a race this weekend do a lighter workout than the others. I have mixed feelings here. I want to race well, but it is my oeveall goal I am more concerned about. If meeting my goal takes training straight through and racing slower initially, so be it. Still, it might be nice to beat 25:00 my first time out.

I think I'll run my time Saturday, but my confidence is shaky. I am getting faster, but I'll only know for sure when I race. Until then, it is just supposing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

25:22.33 -- 5K

3.1 miles - 25:22.33
1000 meter - wd

Mile 1 - 8:04
Mile 2 - 16:09 (8:05)
Mile 3 - 24:32(?) (8:21)
last mile (8:04)

Total: 3.75 miles

82°F
Cloudy
Wind: W at 8 mph
Humidity: 52%
course: COD track
------------------

Felt good, hot. Humid. Kept a steadier pace, but there is clear room for improvement. Lost focus during 9-10th laps. A little unsure where the 5000 ends, so my time may have been a couple seconds faster.

This bodes well for Saturday. Against me today was that I ate and hydrated poorly, and the terrible heat. An early Saturday morning race might eliminate weather issues, though there's a chance of rain.

I intend for Friday to be a rest day of some kind (either no or little running).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mile 1 - 7:27; Mile 2 - 7:38 - Fat Tony Revealed

Fat TonyMile 1 - 7:27 (400)
Mile 2 - 7:38 (400)
800 - 1:58 (400)

Total: 3.25 miles

81°F
Clear
Wind: S at 9 mph
Humidity: 49%
course: COD track

I intended to do 1 mile x 4 @ 7:50. I started too fast, and didn't slow when I realized it. The second mile was the same. The final 800 was meant to be a mile, but, by then, I ran out of gas. Humidity hardly helped.

The upside is I did do two miles under 7:45. If I start my pace as intended Saturday, I should be OK.

Picture above, a little blurry, is Fat Tony. I look awful, don't I? Why post such an unflattering photo? Hopefully because in two months, Fat Tony will be replaced by not-so-Fat Tony.

1643 - Anatomy of a Goodie Bag

I am 1643. My race number. It is official. I picked up my goodie bag at Whole Foods this afternoon. A few things useful. Some pieces are just wasteful marketing.

Contents
  1. Whole Foods plastic bag
  2. Race number #1643
  3. Chase Bank pen
  4. Chase Bank pig key chain
  5. Central DuPage Hospital Band-Aid holder
  6. Long-sleeved T-shirt, medium
  7. Timing chip
  8. Card - 7 free workouts at the Wheaton Park District
  9. Flyer - Morton Arboretum 5K
  10. Flyer - Forbidden Broadway play
  11. Flyer - Bud's Run 5K
  12. Flyer - Clocktower Classic
  13. Flyer - This Run's For Jack 5K
  14. Flyer - Charity Runner
  15. Flyer - Freedom 4 4-mile run
  16. Flyer - Cosley Zoo
  17. Flyer - CARA membership
  18. Flyer - Glen Ellyn Runner's Club
  19. Flyer - Wheaton Park District "Fit n' Swim Pass
  20. Flyer - NEW 200 Fun Run
  21. Flyer - DuPage Convalescent Center 6th Annual 5K Family Walk
  22. Response page - My opinion of the race management and quality
  23. Petland coupon

Monday, May 28, 2007

Steady as (He) Goes

Monday Check-in

137 lbs.
50 - Pulse

Status
Feeling good. My weight is jostling a little for the better, but I don't know how much is water weight lost when I hit the scale. I have not gone over 140 lbs for awhile, and my pulse is slowly (pun intended) is dropping. I have measured it at 48, but, for the record, today for my Monday check-in, it is 50.

The last seven days were over 20 miles (21.9 miles [est]), a first in years. Also, I had no more than two skipped days (as opposed to three) this week.

My speed hasn't yet found me, but the miles are less exhausting than they have been. I'm really still at the fitness building stage, and should not expect a major break through. I'm just looking for my pace, form and groove.

The Spivey track workouts are going better. Although I have not created much noise on the track, I am surviving much better than my first week. I officially joined, committing, at least, to continue through the next month ($40).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

56 minutes, LSD

56 minutes, LSD. First mile 8:41.

Total: 6.25 miles
------------------
73°F
Clear
Wind: W at 16 mph
Humidity: 38%
course: IPP and random roads

The exact distance is sketchy, thanks to some bees chasing me off the IPP. I based it on my first mile (8:41, as per a mile marker), then about a 9:00/mile thereafter. I felt good, loose, but was not in any kind of groove. I was too concerned figuring out my next turn.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

10 Races I Might Run This Summer

I have signed up for the Run for the Animals, and am thinking about the others. Subject to change completely as I look at the rest of life. I want to run primarily 5Ks, but throw in a few other races to push me. I might change some of these to get into larger races where I will more people I can pace with. The Run for the Animals is big (over 1500 runners in the 5K) but I have not read about the others.

The Elmhurst race (July 21) is where I ran my last race eight years ago. Running it again, comparing times might be fun (or depressing). I chose the others largely because of proximity to home. Running this many races is so that I am constantly testing myself. The Spivey track workouts will do that in one way, but those are pure training, and times become less important. The races will be part training and part testing.

All goals are subject to change based on progress up until that point. They are aggressively set and may not at all reflect reality. However, to run a 20:00 5K by September 30, the pattern below makes sense.

Date - Name - Distance - Location - Goal
Sat Jun 02 - Run for the Animals - 5k - Wheaton - TDB
Sun Jun 10 - Commit To Be Fit - 5k - Downers Grove - 24:45
Sat Jun 16 - Fox River 5k - 5k - Batavia - 24:30
Sat Jun 23 - Celebrate Life - 5k - Carol Stream - 24:15
Wed Jul 04 - Great Western Freedom 4 - 4 M - St Charles - 31:00
Sat Jul 21 - Elmhurst Run for Hunger - 5k - Elmhurst - 23:00
Sat Aug 11 - Winfield Run - 5k - Winfield - 22:00
Sun Aug 26 - Windrunner - 10k - Wheaton - 45:00
Mon Sep 03 - St Petronille 5K - 5k - Glen Ellyn - 21:00
Sun Sep 30 - Morton Arboretum Fall Color 5K - 5K - Lisle - 20:00


source: Chicago Area Runners Association Race Calendar

May 20-26 in Review

Sunday, May 20, 2007 -- rest
Monday, May 21, 2007 -- 3.1 miles
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 -- 2.25 miles
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 -- 4.8 miles
Thursday, May 24, 2007 -- track workout, 5.5 miles
Friday, May 25, 2007 -- rest
Saturday, May 26, 2007 -- rest

Total: 15.65+ miles

Summary: Heat and other variables made for a challenging week, and did not meet LSD goals. Ran well Monday. No visible improvements, but felt good on the track with Jim's workout. Worked hard four days straight, and pressed through being tired.

Looking FWD: Need to continue with general slow miles. Race is coming up next Saturday, and I need to be ready to run hard, but also need to think toward the whole summer. I have started choosing potential races, and scheduling workouts. Both the races and workouts will change, but it will help me to see the full picture. I have started sit-ups, and will do push-ups. Once I find that I have stuck with this, I'll join COD's Fitness Lab (see below).

This week: I hope to run at least one day at five miles LSD, and hope on Tuesday to do mile repeats @ 7:50 to get ready for a faster race pace.

COD's Fitness Lab

Friday, May 25, 2007

How Fast Should My First 5K Be?

My first 5K is coming up. A strategy needs to be developed. Presently, my best is 26:33, though that is on a track, alone. A 26:30 is highlighted below in red. How fast can I go in a race? That's the $64,000 question.

My last 5K was in 1999, when I was in 32, when I ran a 21:11 (6:50/mile). I had been running then, but it was all random distance, usually the same course daily.

As far as full miles are concerned, I have only run one mile faster than 8:00, a 7:25 on a treadmill. At best, then, that's my limit, a 22:59.5. Since I think I have no evidence suggesting I can hold that, this leaves me thinking about my options.

Yesterday's workout with Jim was based on the presumption (I think) I can run a 26:27, for which I have no doubt.

Guessing (wildly) then, with a good rest the day before, and smart workouts the week before, I can do a 25:00. I will need to knock off a complete 1:33 from my previous best, which I fully understand is a stretch.

The plan will be to start at an 8:04, try to hold an 8:04, and, if I have anything left, since I still have no particular speed or endurance, to pick it up with around a half mile to go. If I have the juice, I'll survive and run a 25:00 (in blue). If not, I'll choke and gasp, and lumber through with a 27 or 28. I'll decide later if this is a good plan.

5K -- Mile
23:45 -- 7:40
24:00 -- 7:45
24:15 -- 7:49
24:30 -- 7:54
24:45 -- 7:59
25:00 -- 8:04
25:15 -- 8:09
25:30 -- 8:14
25:45 -- 8:18
26:00 -- 8:23
26:15 -- 8:28
26:30 -- 8:33

Clocks Never Lie: Why I Like Racing

Thinking today about the lure running races has for me, while posting on a discussion board the comparisons of martial arts (about which I know nothing) and running, I realized what I like.

Running is a naked sport.

Looking at a 5K, the distance du jour for me, I see a great leveling of humankind. The fastest racer in most local 5Ks will win in not faster than around 15 minutes. The slowest runner will complete the distance in around 50-60 minutes. Within a 35-45 minute span, the race is complete.

I am not dependent on someone throwing me the ball, blocking my opponent, or special equipment assisting me. Money, tools will not help me. It is true good shoes help, but that's only around an $80 investment.

Equipment: Any old t-shirt, shorts which don't chafe, good shoes are all that is needed. Socks optional. Guys can even forgo said shirt.

Race, gender, age are all unimportant.

While it is true that male runners in their 20s have an edge, it is not a given. Great women runners can still show the young boys how it is done. Black, white, purple? No worries. Alberto Salazar was originally Cuban. A Moroccan, lots of Kenyans and Ethiopians have all excelled in distance racing. Bill Rodgers is a white guy. Whatever your prejudice, personal bias, issue -- it is all moot. Either you run faster or you don't.

Every runner endures almost the same conditions.

Golfers later in the day compete on the same course, but different weather, and, after 100 golfers have tread the grass, a different lawn. The only difference a faster and slower runner deal with is that the slower runner, in a larger race, contends with others around him. This could slow his ability to move up a few places.

Few Rules

Rules to running a 5K (and any other other road race)
  • Start here.
  • Run the course as designated.
  • End there.

That's it. OK, OK, you probably should not hit your opponents, spread butter on the road or use a skateboard. There's no three-second rule. No illegal equipment. A referee is not likely to call out something about 12 men on the field. Out-of-bounds could be an issue, but rarely relevant. You run. (You can write that down if necessary, but I'm hoping you have that covered).

I am racing the clock, and the clock never lies.

Time is time. No matter how outclassed I am in a race, I can still have a PR or meet some other goal. I can run faster on that course than I did last year, have steadier splits, or a stronger finishing mile. As I am working toward a faster 5K time, if I progress, even if I am last place, I can achieve my goals.

Times Don't Win Races, People Do

The prize does not go to the fastest time, but to the person in front. While, certainly, it is true that he who who has the fastest time that day brings home the trophy, it is more so true that a slow time can still win.

In the 2006 Pikes Peak Marathon, a record was set. Winner Matt Carpenter, a 42 year-old runner from nearby Manitou Springs, CO, set the ascent record (2:08:27, knocking off almost 10 minutes from the previous record). Took home several age-group records in the process.

What? 2:08 is a marathon record? No, no. That's just half of a marathon. The other half of the race is going back down. His entire time was 3:33:07. Not a bad marathon, but, in any other race, he would not end up with hardware. Mr. Carpenter won the race, not his 3:33. See the course map below.

A Race, Ultimately, Is Honest

No excuses. Whether racing against the clock, or against that guy who kicked past you last year, running is blatantly honest. The idea, the process, and the victory are all simple. When race day comes, it as all you. Whatever training you have done is done. The weather is the weather, for better and for worse. The course is known - no secrets. If you have run a few races, you have a good idea where you stand, and cannot blame naivete.

Now, go run.

(related: Something I Do: I Run)


Thursday, May 24, 2007

5.5 Miles With 1000s & 800s

Two mile warm up on Prairie Path. Going out, I was @ 9:00, coming back in, I was @ 8:42.

100x6 striders
---
Run @ 400/2:07 pace.
1000
(300)
800
(400)
1000
(300)
800
(400 warm down)

Total: 5.5 miles
------------------
83°F
Cloudy
Wind: S at 22 mph
Humidity: 39%
course: Wheaton College track

I was within a second each time. Rich, my running partner for the day, helped pace us like clockwork. The point was to increase our VO2 max.

Overall, even with the wind and a tired sense in my legs, I felt OK. My form wobbled some, but in general, things were good.

So hot, I declared that the world needed to seeing my bright shining white body, to which Jim replied, "Welcome to distance running weather."

Jim, by the way, recounted lap by lap a 3000 he ran, with complete splits. Amazing memory. And, for some reason, was wearing funky yellow fencing shoes.

Rich, like Frank, started running later. He was 38, without much of a clue as per what the details of running were about.

Jim gave us Asics keychains that look like little shoes.

Thinking Mid-stride: What Do Runners Think About?

What do runners think about? Hard to say. There are two general views and methods on this:

  • Associative: when the runner is thinking about running, from form, to breathing, to how his legs feel, to decisions required in foot placement (when running on changing terrain)
  • Disassociative: Anything but running. Laundry lists, budgets, social calendar, you name it.
What do I think about? There are two answers. Then and now.

Then
Back when I would run 8-10 miles a pop, I'd sing songs aloud. I sang a lot of Kinks songs, and plenty of Motown. Some Queen, Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan sometimes, but his work does not work well on a run. I might work through some issue of the day. Occasionally, I would be very in-tune with my form. It was always on my mind, but mostly, for long runs, I was lingering in other lands.

Decision MagazineNow
These days, my long runs are short runs. There is not much time to work through the matters of life. Mulling is part of it, though I barely get into an idea.

Currently on my radar is a poem I'm working on for a magazine, and so I'm rendering themes and phrases as I plod along.

I do plenty of math too. I am constantly breaking my pace into smaller chunks, trying to understand how I am keeping to my goals, and what needs adjusting. Since aside from general running fitness, I am also striving to run a steady pace, it helps to know if even 200 meters is on pace.

Besides pace, I'm trying to stay on top of my form. As I lose weight, my form should change. My center of balance will shift, my stride will be longer, and so my body needs to move accordingly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

3.3 miles - 33:52.87 (plus 1.5 miles)

3.3 miles (1.65 mile there-and-back)
33:52.87 (10:16/mile)
---
1.5 miles (10:00ish pace)
total miles: 4.8

25 sit-ups

87°F
Clear
Wind: SW at 21 mph
Humidity: 28%
course: Fawell-Park-Butterfield There-and-Back

Heat, humidity, bumpy grass shoulder, and stoplights slowed me down. And, a big hill on Park Blvd. First time running off track this year.

My pace was pretty much the same each way. 16:42 there. 17:10 back. It evens out more thanks to a long street light, but, in all, was slow.

Later, I ran another 1.5 miles at around 10:00-10:15 pace, along the Prairie Path behind Wheaton College, then walked back.

I expect I will be tired during tomorrow's Spivey workout.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hot & Humid on a Black Track

400 warm-up

400 -- 1:47
400 -- 1:42
400 -- 1:36
400 -- 1:33
200 -- :47
400 -- 1:52

I walked/jogged until I caught my breath for each, maybe 100-200 meters each.

Added today are pushups and situps.

25 situps
5 pushups

Total: roughly 2.25-2.50 miles

83°F
Mostly Cloudy
Wind: S at 16 mph
Humidity: 32%
course: COD track

Hot and humid on a black track. A guy training for Western Illinois' football team was working out in the lanes at around the 50 meter mark. Sprinklers were on. Puddles on the far straight-away.

I needed a plan B. I had none. I improvised.

I felt tired. My calves were tight. And the heat wasn't helping.

Tomorrow, I'll take it easy.

Running Sub-20:00 in 131 Days?

Today is May 22. I want to run a 5K at 20:00 by September 30. This leaves just over four months. 131 days, to be exact, and on each of those days I need to run three seconds faster.

A seasoned runner would, and should scoff. Such improvement is not possible. I have had no such plateau physically or mentally, though regard fully my goal as a real challenge. It might not happen. Mentally, I can see it. I have run well under 20:00 before, but that was, physically, 19 years ago. I might hit that plateau, but that is a while off.

When I was in high school, I trained as hard as anyone. My high school coach for my sophomore and junior years was not a runner and had no sense of what a real workout was. Everyone from the 400 to 3200 ran the same each practice.

To compensate, after reading about the workouts of guys like Spivey, Craig Virgin, Steve Ovett, Seb Coe, and various high school standouts, I tried emulating them. Guys like Alberto Salazar and Carlos Lopez were tearing up the Chicago Marathon, and I watched each step trying to memorize something about their form.

As a short, thin guy, pretty useless at basketball, football and baseball, running became something huge to me, much bigger than it could ever really be. Where I lacked natural speed, I equalled them in desire. I ran two-a-days in the summer, with 5-7 miles in the morning, and 6-10 miles at night, with four days of speedwork and fartlek in Marquette Park. I race twice most weekends, often with a 5K on Saturday and a 10K on Sunday. At best, I took it easy on Fridays. Miles piled high, and, now, I can tell me knees took a battering.

I had an occasional running partner, Tony Hernandez. In Palos, he was famous. As a 7th grader, he ran a 2:01 800, and a 4:48 mile. Speedy stuff at age 13. As he grew older, though, his times slowed to merely super human.

A year old than me, he showed me a lot about drive, strategy within a race, and form.

After high school, I would run long, and occasionally race. General fitness kept me going for a few years, kicking out 5Ks in the 17-18s until the early 1990s. Then, grad school, jobs, relationships, marriage.

Now, so many years after living and breathing the singular desire to run a little faster than the race before, I look at how to do it again. I do not have the same fire or focus, as life has shown me more important things. Still, I want to find the joy that only comes with finding a relaxed stride, a good speed and a comfortable form in a long run.

Marquette Park Track Club

In the southside of Chicago, a guy named Jack Bolton, once one of Ireland's top milers in the late 1930s and early 1940s, ran the Marquette Park Track Club. In his late 70s then, he still ran races like the Park Forest 10 Miler. On Mondays through Thursdays he could be found at the park, on the north side of the older cinder track.

Mr. Bolton managed to pull together some of the best Chicago runners. The standouts were the high school women, from Laura Haggerty to twins Anne and Gloria Kuiken. A few up and coming runners, and some older guys new to running but fast as lightening. (see list below).

These were serious runners. We ran hard, raced hard, and, all these years later, many are still showing up near the top of the results pages.

In 1983-84 was when I was in my best shape, and ran with the MPTC, after meeting the Kuikens at a race. They kindly drove me daily until I started riding my bike from Palos Heights to 63rd and Kedzie. 13 miles there, practice, 13 miles back. The smell of the Nabisco Company's Nilla Wafer's factory filled the air as we ran up and around the park.

The love of running was Mr. Bolton's view. He saw the egalitarian side of it all. Male or female, whatever age, none of that mattered at the starting line.

Once, (I think at the Keebler Cross-Country Invitational?), I was intimidated that York High School's star miler, Jim White, would be sharing the starting box with me. Why I was intimidated was obvious. White would run an indoor 1500 at 3:50.2 before he graduated. My best 1600 was a 4:44.3. There was no way around it: I was outclassed and was about to get my butt kicked.

Mr. Bolton explained things clearly, his Irish brogue still intact:
"Tony, you've seen him. How big is he? About your size. Are his legs especially bigger? No. He's going to get tired the same as you, and has to have as many steps as you to run the distance. I want you to start with him, run with him and beat him up that hill."
I started with him, I ran with him, and I lost him halfway up the hill, the last I saw of him. Sometimes, even when the odds are unrealistic, there's no point in not trying. The difference between White and myself was not size. It was either something in the mind or muscles. I was strong mentally, so maybe I could survive. Had I somehow stuck with him, what a cool thing that would have been. Instead, I ran a decent race, and had close to a PR.

Because of Mr. Bolton, I probably did much better. With his help, and by running with so many strong runners, I'm sure I knocked off a lot of time from my three-mile time.

Guys like Jack Bolton, selfless, kind, encouraging, are hard to find. I think that's one of things I enjoy about the Jim Spivey Running Club. Jim charges a few bucks for his services, but barely enough to pay for gas. Those running aren't anywhere near elite times (Spivey himself has a 13:15.86 5K under his belt), but are something more than recreational runners. Why is he coaching us? I don't know, but I am glad. There are Jack Boltons everywhere, and I'veb been blessed to know the real deal.

The Marquette Park Track Club is no longer, and Jack Bolton has moved on to be with God, but what great days those were. Running hard and racing hard.

Jack's a guy I wish I knew better. His impact on my life was subtle, and brief, but significant. Likewise, the entire Marquette Park Track Club group was a special, yet hard to describe thing for me. Looking back, it introduced me to Chicago and to 'real runners'. We had some swift ones, but despite being fast, not obsessed with running. I was obsessed, Marquette Park Track Club helped get my brain straight.

I knew the Loop, sort of, as a kind of local tourist. What I did not know were real Chicagoans. David Rodriguez, Dan Zepeda, and others were that. The journey there from my house was that, either by a long bus ride (127th/Ridgeland to 95th/Ridgeland to 95th/Kedzie to Kedzie and 63rd), or a longer bike ride (127th/Ridgeland to Southwest Highway/Ridgeland to, I think, around 79th/Kedzie to 63rd/Kedzie). I saw Chicago evolve from suburbs to city.

Running was blissful and fun. Fast was easy, and I had no idea how quickly it would leave me.

I remember these great runners from those days. I will add links and names as this old memory finds them. Were you part of this group? Please contact me, and I will list you and link to your homepage. I'd love to post some more memories and photos.
  • Jack Bolton -- Coach (read a great article about Mr. Bolton by one his runners)
  • David Rodriguez -- Then an employee of a peanut factor, now a professor (and standup comedian and retired Chicago cop). See his blog.
  • Joey Rodriguez -- David's brother. He was in HS then, and went on to run for St. Xavier College in Chicago.
  • Anne and Gloria Kuiken (now Gloria Iverson) -- Star runners from Stagg High School, and to whom I owe much for connecting me to the Marquette Park Track Club. They ran for DePaul and set records galore. Their parents drove me countless times from their home in Palos Hills.
  • Dan Zepeda -- Dan was often my running partner. His sister won, I believe, the Golden Apple award for top Chicago teachers.
  • John and Mike King
  • Jerry Kohn -- Jerry occasionally gave me a ride.
  • Joe Lindsay -- Fantastic runner from Louisiana, and the guy who introduced me to break dancing.
  • Jim and Sharon Locascio -- Sharon was a standout miler from Evergreen Park HS
  • Laura Haggerty -- Standout from Evergreen Park HS
  • Eileen Murphy
  • Joe Gregory
  • Stan Bartecki
  • Ray Allen
  • Erin Ahern
  • Alec Zelisko -- Coach of St. Ignatius High School track

Monday, May 21, 2007

3.1 Miles 26:33.05

mile 1 - 8:42
mile 2 - 17:15 (8:33)
mile 3 - 25:39 (8:24)
mile 3.1 - 26:33.05

83°F
Mostly Cloudy
Wind: S at 10 mph
Humidity: 36%
course: COD track
---------------------

This is only a test.

No, it wasn't a test. I ran faster than intended, and decided to stick with it. My goal of running four miles fell to the wayside. Between the heat and a faster pace, I knew it would be tough. I tried instead to keep my pace.

What good came out of it is I notched down my 5K time, and ran each mile progressively faster. It tells me that I should break 26:00 in a race without trouble.

My right calf is tight. I walked 2.5 laps with Dave the Dieter (he just broke 200 lbs, having lost 40 lbs so far), and felt it tightening after the first lap, and decided to call it there for the day. I have more miles to go, and today is not the day to do them.

The challenge in setting daily goals is that I still do not know my pace, or have the endurance to just run as long as I please.

I need to learn to hold back. Holding back is hard when I know I am not going especially fast. Seeing the race Saturday, and comparing times in my head, as well as reviewing last year's Cosley Run results is causing me to want to get out and see what I've really got. A track cannot replicate this. The track gives me a lot, but misses the adrenaline, the buzz of a crowd, and the intensity of competition.

I am not sure at this point where I would really end up in a flat, fast course. I think 25:00 is very possible. Will the competition cause me to start too quickly?

I'm seeing jumps in improvement, but missing the advantage running during April. I'd like to see further movement. If I want to hit 20:00 by summer's end, I need a break through of several minutes. I think I will see a three minute improvement by the end of June if I train hard and regularly, which would put me at 23:30 or so.

Tomorrow, I will shoot for the 4-5 mile distance, then take it easier on Wednesday with 3.5 slow miles.

Galloway's Book on Running - Jeff Galloway

Galloway's Book on Running 2 Ed

"Galloway's Book on Running" by Jeff Galloway has become a running classic, providing the basics about running, training, and racing for years.

Galloway does not presume the runner is a casual "New Year's Resolution" jogger who will likely quit in a month. Instead, he looks to build a foundation of sensible workouts, leading to genuine fitness, endurance and speed.

He gives instruction of every detail important to new and intermediate runners, from stretching to hydration, from injury management to weight loss, from running for kids to running after age 40.

Especially useful for runners looking to transition from running occasionally, to running as a lifestyle. Whether for fitness or for racing, there is enough here to progress through to the next stage. Galloway presents training charts, for example, for those looking to run a 5K. If your goal is to finish the 3.1 mile race, or to run about 17:00, there is a chart customizing the necessary training -- four charts per distance (5K, 10K and half-marathon).

Shoes are a key part of a runner's uniform, and there's a chapter on that. There are also sections focused on women's running, the mental aspects of running, and proper form.

Jeff Galloway's credentials as a runner are topnotch, but he has years of experience training runners at all levels. I am convinced this book will provide all a runner needs at those crucial early levels and beyond. I fully recommend "Galloway's Book on Running," and gave it as a gift to a friend this Christmas.

Anthony Trendl
editor, HungarianBookstore.com

Erratic Workouts Make for No Real Change

Monday Check-in

138 lbs.
51 - Pulse

Status
Feeling good. My lower calves (just above my Achilles) have a mild ache, especially my right. My inner thighs took a beating from Thursday's Spivey workout, but the ache seems to have subsided. The erratic workouts have not helped, though I think I generally maintained where I was two weeks ago. My diet was flopsy, adding to the hindrance of weight-loss. Likewise, my sleeping has not been as good as could be. I don't know the impact, but it has meant a sluggish feeling overall.

I have had three days off, more than I prefer, since Thursday, if I don't count yesterday's mile hike at Starved Rock State Park (from the lodge to the St. Louis Canyon and back). Nice walk, but not exactly a workout.

The next few weeks look to be trouble-free as far as getting out for consistent runs.

Today, I hope to run 4-5 slow miles on the track. I'm not sure what pace. Maybe 9:00/mile. The distance looks, still, strangely long. In younger days, I would scoff at four miles thinking it was an extremely easy day. Now, I wonder of I will finish it. I'm hoping this will change, and a long run becomes a fun gallop.

Tomorrow, maybe I'll do something shorter and faster.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Run for the Hungry Children - 5K - Wheaton Academy

I went to watch my friend Bob V. run the Run for the Hungry Children, a 5K starting at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago. He won his age group with a 19:26 (6:16 mile). A 5:50 first mile caused him pain later, as he was shooting for a 6:00-15 pace.

His goal is to run an 18:30. He thinks the 20:00 5K I'm aiming for will be easy, but he's remarkably, astoundingly fit. Me? Not so much.

The winning time was 17:59 (see results) on what Bob tells me is a slow course.

He asked me if it was hard watching the race without running. It was. I'm not ready yet. Racing too early might discourage me. I do not expect to run under 20:00 my first time out, but I want to run hard.

Beautiful weather (upper 60s) well-run race as far as small races go. 100% of the proceeds went to Bright Hope (helps hungry kids in Zambia) - $10K in all. It was a community race, so I saw many people I knew.

Bob says about the race:

[The race is] in support of Wheaton Academy's Zambia project, an effort to bring life-saving infrastructure aid to Kakolo Village in Zambia. According to UNAIDS, in Zambia alone 650,000 children have been orphaned due to AIDS. Half of all Zambian children suffer from malnutrition. This year's project aims to add on to the school building built through previous projects, extending it up to grade nine. [My wife] and I have been significantly changed by learning about AIDS and poverty, and have found it is a joy to help ease suffering in any way we can.

How can someone not want to help? A $20 race fee seems insignificant when it means that 100% of that twenty bucks will be directed toward Zambia.

May 13-19 in Review

Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- rest
Monday, May 14, 2007 -- rest
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 -- 1.8 miles
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 -- 3.5 miles
Thursday, May 17, 2007 -- track workout, 5.75 miles
Friday, May 18, 2007 -- rest
Saturday, May 19, 2007 -- rest

Total: 11.05+ miles

Summary: Fewer miles than desired, with too much downtime. Pulse dropped a few spots. Weight stayed the same. No visible improvements.

Looking FWD: Need to continue with general slow miles. This week, I hope to run at least one day at five miles LSD, and all other days at least 3.5. At this point (5-21-07), I could get in over 20 miles for the week, a new achievement, but only if I run everyday through Friday.
Continued weight loss will make everything easier, as usual.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My Weekly Butt Kicking V.1

Thursdays at the Wheaton College track are my weekly butt kicking. It is clear I am not physically ready, and struggling to make it through a workout.

Why get my butt kicked each week?

Each week, I gain perspective. Running alone provides one view. Running hard with others provides another view.

Yesterday, I ran more than I have in a few years. While I lacked speed, I gained something else. Persistence? Endurance? Hard to say, since I'm still very tired. However, I am very confident that if I work hard, and smartly, that I will get closer to my goal. All of this effort is foundational, and, with a careful LSD program, I will be faster and stronger.

I need this. Explaining why is hard. I need to be challenged. On my own, I can challenge myself, but having someone else direct my workout draws me in a new way.

Today is a day off. Tomorrow, I'll try to run four slow miles. My speed, whatever that is. I'll waddle over to the COD track, and gallop as I can.

This time next month, say June 18, 2007, I will be looking back happily. I'll weigh less, having better cardio, have more endurance, and will have found strength in my legs. I will hardly have finished my ramping up, but will have moved forward.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ants Run Faster, O Sluggard! (Speedwork Sans Speed)

Jim was out of town, and e-mailed someone his plan for the day. It was a smaller group - several people had to travel. Maybe seven in all.

Given my lack of total fitness, I decided to cut a portion of the full workout. My version is below. I was sluggish, wondering where my speed is. Last week was a better workout.

Two mile warm up on Prairie Path
3x200 - 100 recovery (400 set recovery) (varied effort for each)
3x250 - 150 recovery (400 set recovery) (varied effort for each)
3x200 - 100 recovery (400 set recovery) (varied effort for each)
3x250 - 150 recovery
600 cool down

Total = 5.75 miles

59°F
Clear
Wind: NE at 10 mph
Humidity: 28%
course: Wheaton track

Six Miles With Hills (over five days)

Travelling this week, I missed three workout days. In short, I ran around six miles with hills.

Saturday-Monday, rest. I needed a day's rest after a harder four miles on Friday, but three days in a row was not planned.

Tuesday, I ran a there-and-back totalling 1.8 miles. In Tennessee, they have hills we in Illinois rarely see, so I found it challenging to move forward. Where I was staying was up on a small hill. As a result, my runs started on a downhill, so a cadence was hard to get into. The terrain was different, as I ran alongside a road without an easy shoulder. Cars would not go out of their way to miss me, forcing me to run halfway into a ditch. No idea how how long it took.

Wednesday was like Tuesday, only farther. I took a different route, on similar roads, going for 41:23. I'm guessing I ran 3.5 miles. On one hand, I took it easy. On the other, the hills, as gentle as they seem in the car, slowed me down.

With the long drive each way, and staying with friends, I could not control my diet, water intake or frequency. More fast food during the drives (including two Sonic corn dogs, and a Chick-fil-A shake). Key to my success involves the dropping of a few pounds, and proper hydration.

Today is the Spivey workout. Jim's schedule re-re-arranged (he had switched it to Tuesday for this week), so now I can go. I'm not sure he'll be there, or just be sending the workout in. Either way, the mix of hills (a good thing) and few days running (a bad thing) will show up tonight.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

May 6-12 in Review

Sunday, May 6, 2007 -- 3 miles
Monday, May 7, 2007 -- 3 miles
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 -- rest
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 -- 3 miles
Thursday, May 10, 2007 -- track workout, just under 3 miles
Friday, May 11, 2007 -- 4 miles
Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- rest

Total: 15+ miles

Summary: Put in a few miles, and started feeling looser. Track workout better than previous week. Nothing cataclysmic, just steady effort. Lost a little weight.

Looking FWD: Need to continue with general slow miles, adding a few as I can. No Spivey workout this week, so I'll do something on my own. Travelling for a few days, and it will be hard finding workout time. Continued weight loss will make everything easier.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Four Miles - 35:15.68

Mile 1 - 9:03
Mile 2 - 18:07 (9:04)
Mile 3 - 26:56 (8:49)
[5k] - 28:01
Mile 4 - 35:15.68 (8:19.68)
---------------------------
65°F
Clear
Wind: NE at 17 mph
Humidity: 50%
course: COD track

Met all workout goals. My intention was to start at three miles @ 9:15, but I felt good, and sustained all four miles under 9:04, averaging 8:48.92. Never pressed it, but worked instead toward feeling my stride, watching my arms and lean, listening to my leg muscles.

Likely key reasons - better diet this week, better general hydration, consistent workouts. The lower temperature helped. Not sure if the Spivey track workouts are paying off yet, but they are, at the very least, part of the mix in a good way. I expect as I get into better shape, I will get more out of the Spivey workouts.

Notable
Last 400 - 1:37
Last three miles - 26:12 (5K adjusted - 27:05)

Looking Forward - Today, Benchmarking & Plateaus

Today
Today is cool (64° going up to 75°), and I am hoping this afternoon to run four miles. Longer if it is in me, but, again, aiming at a steady 9:15 pace. If I have my druthers, I'll run again tomorrow, then again Sunday morning. It might help waylay the effect of being off a few days if I can't get out.

I have been thinking that in addition to my 3-4 miles, I can incorporate minor speed on my own. I have not thought this through, but maybe something like running an 800 or 1600 relatively hard, but consistently paced. One thing I want to avoid is getting into a plodding rut of slogging through a slow jog each time. It would be nice to benchmark a few hard run times in each distance.

Benchmarking
I think I could, today, run fresh the times below. My evidence for this is sketchy. I have only a treadmill 1600 @ 7:25, plus last week's 400 times to draw from, and may be far off reality. That's why I'd like to benchmark. I want to know reality, and from there, know how reality is progressing.
  • 400 - 80
  • 800 - 3:00
  • 1600 - 6:45
  • 5000 - 25:00
Running a 20:00 5K requires 3.1 miles @ 6:27. There's obviously no way I will do three miles at a pace I am unable to run for one mile. Seeing the gap between present fitness and intended speed will be healthy.

Plateaus
I do expect the next month, if I run consistently, to be filled with leaps and bounds (can I use those terms about an activity that involves neither?). I will run farther and faster. These improvements can be misleading if I take them as how it will always be.

The real question is: At what point will I plateau and my improvements will follow only in smaller increments?

The fun will be discovering all that.

Egos and Recovery

Frank, one of the Jim Spivey running club members, told me that the Spivey group is respectful of all abilities. That's not some marketing talk, but the real thing.

No egos are seriously out of balance. I asked if the fact that some of the women could outrace most of the men, if that bothered any of the guys. Nope.

I see that. No one has given me anything but encouragement. Frank himself demonstrated this by running side-by-side with me even when I sensed he could pick it up a notch.

He's not the only one. Everyone has been kind and gracious. It helps.

I admitted that in my younger days, I might have found it inspiration not to let that happen. These days, I am not able to have such an ego. That our coach has run almost a minute faster than my fastest mile is part of that, but I don't even have that. My fastest was in 1984 or 1985. Now, I am hoping to just run several consecutive miles in a row.

He is a good guy. Kept me in conversation the whole way. Arthur Lydiard would have loved him.

In his late 50s, Frank has been running since he was 42, when he announced one February he would be running the Chicago Marathon that coming October. True to his now realized foolish words, he pulled it off.

My track workout was good yesterday. Even just a week of running has helped. Last Thursday, I wobbled. I hardly tore up the track, but my recovery has been much better. Last week, most parts of my body hurt. Now, just my lower calves, and not too badly.

Also, yesterday, I felt a little fire. I held back occasionally, wanting to go a little faster.

Because I will miss next week's practice, I need to come up with something on my own. I'll be out of town, hoping to find a lonely road or empty track, and may lose a step if I don't.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Earned My Half Stick of Gum

I'll bet I don't get this right. My mind was wandering all day, and still was bouncing when I hit the track.

Warmup - easy 3/4 mile or so.
600 - 1:45 first 400, not sure for full 600
400 - 1:49
200 - :50
200 - :51
400 - 1:51
Cool down - easy 1/2 mile or so.
----------------------------
course: Glenbard West track
78°F
Cloudy
Wind: S at 4 mph
Humidity: 45%

Everyone else did something else. I'm not sure if it was mercy or wisdom that caused Jim to pull back from my plan, but it seemed to be a good idea.

As far as times, I don't know. Those are guesses. I forgot my watch. For all the coffee I drink, I'd think one of my synapses would show up and dance. They owe me.

I felt good, worked hard and earned my half-stick of gum.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Three Miles - 27:27.77

Mile 1 -- 9:29
Mile 2 -- 18:50 (9:21)
Mile 3 -- 27:27.77 (8:37.77)
course: COD track
78°F
Mostly Cloudy
Wind: W at 9 mph
Humidity: 39%

The good news is I started slower, felt good, and finished strong. My last 400 was 1:53, with more gas in the tank.

While I did not average 9:15, as I have been aiming, I feel like things are better than they were when I started. What matters is not this week in and of itself, but how it fits into the larger picture as I edge closer to fitness.

Tomorrow, a new day, a new week. It will good to run with people again.

400s Averaged 1:52.3

Jim sent us our 400 times for last Thursday. I knew essentially my problem, but I wanted to see more precisely how I did, and where I stood. Summary: I'm not the alpha dog.

A quick spreadsheet conversion, some sorting, some averaging, and some chin scratching reiterated what I knew: my first 400 was more than I was ready for that day.

In seconds, my 400s were as follows:
  1. 101
  2. 119
  3. 122
  4. 107

average: 112.3, range: 21

Of 15 people, my first 400 was 10th, with two others. My second and third (awful) were a clear last. My fourth nudged up a little, to 13th, but only because I had an inordinate break.

To be fair, several of the others were coming off the Boston Marathon and other longer races. No true comparison can be made. What is helpful, as I learn what I've got, is I now know who I can run with, and who is likely just ahead of me. This will help keep me honest.

One fellow averaged 79.4 seconds per 400, running as fast as 77. The average overall was 96.6, with 88 as the fastest average for the first three (not everyone ran a complete workout, skewing the other averages toward the faster runners).

I'm itching to run tomorrow, with some trepidation. He might throw in longer repeats -- 600s and so on, which I suspect will give me some grief until I get a higher octane fuel into the engine.

I don't know what we'll be doing Thursday. Eventually, I suppose we will repeat this workout, and I'll have this as a benchmark. If for no other reason, I'll run more intelligently, learn my pace, and get a feel for time (i.e. what a 1:30 400 feels like).

Everything's ahead of me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Rocky Balboa, the Desire to Compete & the Point of It All

Recently, I let a few friends know I started running again, and that I decided to blog about it. A few questions came about from runners and nonrunners alike.

Why blog?
That's partly due to article in the May 2007 issue of Runner's World. It was #1 in their 101 ideas for motivation. It is also a comfortable medium for me. I had been keeping an Excel spreadsheet of stats, but that's not what is happening.

Running is not the accumulation of sheer numbers, but the living of stories. The stories are about the color of the leaves, the conversations along the run, the look shared just before friendship takes a break and competition begins. It is the pain of a pulled calf muscle, the salty dried sweat, and the tired stumble back to the car. There might be ribbons, medals or trophies, and a cheer to celebrate it all. No spreadsheet can capture that.

So I blog.

Why train, as opposed to just putting in the miles and letting the calories burn?
That's difficult to explain. To a degree, I have tried that. I love long runs, but I need something making it matter more than just doing time on the road. Racing comes into play.

I could just run, get in shape, and try my hand at a few 5Ks. Not for me. I might never meet my sub-20:00 goal, but that's not the issue. Racing involves a race, and the starting gun is long before anyone clips on their number.

Did you see Rocky Balboa? The character is 20 years older than me, and his victories were more glorious, but I get it. Replicating the hard won victory against some young buck isn't what's going on. It is about racing, and being in front of the guy running in my shoes.

Rocky Balboa: Movie About a Boxer, Could Have Been a Runner (review)

Swallow Cliff - A Great Woody Run


Today is a day off. I suppose I could hit the track and waddle about a few go-arounds, but yesterday reminded me with bitter emphasis I need to be careful.

I'm a newbie. I can't forget that. Although I do know a thing or two about running, knowing is not the same as doing. And what I remember about the mechanics of running is filled with uncertainty; I am not sure how I did what was then so intuitive.

I remember the joy of fitness, and remember the wonderful days when running was graceful. Speedier people existed, but no one took more pleasure than I did.

Swallow Cliff in 2009, without the chutes
Swallow Cliff Forest Preserves
When I was in my late teens, a favorite run had me cruising through the perpendicular streets of eastern Palos Heights, and then up the undulating blacktop of 119th Street in Palos Hills. Take 119th to LaGrange, where the road ends and the forest begins, and then the adventure begins.

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep," Robert Frost once wrote. Such were these woods. The trails were more often traveled by horses and deer than people. People rode the horses, but few runners and walkers came through this way. The path was littered with hoof-holes and road apples, both requiring delicate steps from a runner.

The route I took was off the path. I started by going directly west, then would turn right, leaving the path and trounce and bounce up and through valleys made by glaciers long ago. A huge mushroom hung on a tree, like a shelf, all white and impressive. That's how I knew I was in the right place.

The smells of a forest are hard to describe. It is like a strong, hearty soup. Mostly, it is all one flavor, but, with each spoonful, a whisper of an individual ingredient comes alive. Pepper, carrot, beef, barley -- it is all in there, and occasionally they announce themselves personally and not merely by congress.

The woods have this, with oak and maple dominating the air, with leaves growing and dying all at once. Felled trees, working their way back into dirt, have a damp, rotted wood scent. When there is a breeze, this is fine, as it is never so strong to be horrible.

Animals left their smells, and depending on the season, the scent of forest flowers and insects wafted airborne. Wayward skunks might leave a calling card, but mostly, they remained unseen. Beetles en masse have an awful, pungent odor. I don't know if this is a device for protection or a mating call, but I was not impressed. Not when I gulped air by the gallon.

While Henry David Thoreau's view of being mid-wood would not equal mine, I too connected with a kind of minimal materialism. I ran, then, with little between the trees and myself. Just shoes and shorts and a bandanna. I might have worn a singlet, but on hot days it was relegated to be carried by my shorts. I carried a quarter for a call home, just in case the run when sour. Used the quarter only once.

That particular bit of woods was the Swallow Cliff Forest Preserves. Better known as a toboggan run, it also served as an intense, difficult stair run (see stairs on left of picture above), up and down. I do not recall how many steps there were, but each was awkwardly shaped after years of weathering and erosion. Each step was a careful decision, and no cadence was possible. Physically difficult because each was long and high, intended to support slowly plodding sledders encumbered by heavy jackets and, of course, a huge sled, and not for thin runners hoping to touch each step with only one foot.

Typically, I'd run the stairs 2-3 times. That's a lot. These were no high school stadium seats, but part of runner lore. Bragging rights came from how many times they could be done in succession. I bragged my share.

The whole run -- I really have no idea how long it took, or how far it was. I usually started it in the morning, maybe 8 a.m. and finished -- later. Summer for a high school kid did not required a watch. Time meant little, and so long runs ended when they were over.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Dismal Days Are Here Again

Mile 1 - 9:04
Mile 2 - 18:45 (9:41)
Mile 3 - 29:33.61 (10:48)
course: COD track
81°F
Clear
Wind: S at 15 mph
Humidity: 41%

Not a good showing. I started off feeling fine, and chugged miserably to the finish. As yesterday, a fourth mile was intended, not achieved.

Causes suspected:

  • Poor eating. Had coffee and Ramen, two slices of potato bread. That's it.
  • Hotter than I am used to
  • The out of shape blues coming through loud and clear

Spaghetti's boiling. Carbo loading? Nope. I just like spaghetti. There's no carbo loading at three miles anyway.

I am thinking a rest day tomorrow might be in order. I'd prefer running tomorrow, then resting on Wednesday, but I'll need to play it by ear. I have a meeting that might interfere with Wednesday afternoon's workout. Besides, I would like to be better rested for Thursday.

All's Well That Starts Well: Feeling Good to Begin the Week

Monday check-in

138 lbs. (According to my questionable bathroom scale)
64 - Pulse (after a big cup of coffee, being awake several hours, and a walk across the street)

Thighs are feeling better than they have since Thursday.
Calves are a little sore, but also better.

Overall, I'm feeling good. I'm debating whether or not to run this afternoon. I might need the rest, but the weather isn't looking good for Tuesday and Wednesday. I committed to at least three runs by Thursday. While I don't know that my commitment is irrevocable, I need to do my best.

A friend mentioned he is running Run for the Hungry Children, a 5K starting at Wheaton Academy on May 19. I'd love to jump in, but think it is too early. The cause is good, so I hope they receive a great turnout. I'll do my best to be there and cheer him on.

I am gearing up for a leisurely first 5K with my wife, at her pace. That will be the Cosley Run for the Animals, June 2.

Yesterday's run, although not as I intended, showed me that I probably could run in the low 26s, or, in the 25s in a 5K race situation. Maybe I will test this on the track in a week or two, just to see what kind of juice I have got. It wouldn't be all out, but a hard pace aimed at hitting a precise time.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Three Miles - 27:00

Mile 1 - 8:45
Mile 2 - 17:45 (9:00)
Mile 3 - 27:00.96 (9:16)
Course: COD track
light wind on last stretch
66 degrees

My intention was four miles, 9:15 each. My time-sense is off. Instead of four miles, I was pretty tired at three miles and thought it better to finish strong rather than exhausted at this time of the game

Starting a little faster was no help, especially as my first 400 was at 2:05. I finished my last 400 in 2:05 too, hoping to finish under 27:00, just to say I did. There was more left in the tank, but I did not run today intending to sprint.

Next time.

Today's victory was not that I ran four miles - that never happened, but that I ran two days in a row despite being tired. Tomorrow, I will shoot for four miles, and hope I start slower.

Looking at 20:00 for not just three miles, but three miles plus a smidgen more seems crazy. I can't see that far. I can, however, see 26:00 in the not too far future.

Tomorrow's goal is today's - four miles @ 9:15 each.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Legend of Hitchcock: Birds Overhead

Just got back from COD. Three miles (4,800 m)

Mile 1 - 9:25
Mile 2 - 18:47 (9:22)
Mile 3 - 27:59 (9:12)

It was my first outside run, discounting the track workout. I feel dragged, but my wind was OK. I never pressed, but started at an easy pace and stuck with it.

I feel I accomplished two things:
  1. Ran when I didn't feel like it.
    This will lead to fitness, which will lead to better runs.
  2. Ran a somewhat steady, quickening pace.

I need to learn to run again. This begins that education. Tomorrow afternoon, I will try to repeat the today's pace, but over four miles.

My form is shaky at best because of having been off the track, but also because my body is different. I am trying to relearn running from head to toe, literally, accommodating my heavier, older body.

Running at COD is different than at Wheaton College. My old high school track was in better shape in the 1980s than this one. Parts of the rubber coating are coming off, pieces of equipment were in the first lane, weeds poked through along the edge. The coating was low quality in general, not kept up well specifically.

COD is a leading community college in the United States in a financially strong county. That a small private college has a far superior track is strange.

When I arrived this afternoon, the sound of brown and white birds screamed in the infield. One flew close over my head, to let me know I was close to their nest. I have had this problem with red wing blackbirds and geese, so I took them seriously. I shook my keys, clapped my hands, and kept moving. A few laps later, the birds left. The legend of Hitchcock remains.

My Achy Break Body Hurts Two Days Later

I'm still sore.

The track workout was Thursday. Today is Saturday. I said I would get in 3-4 runs before next Thursday. I skipped yesterday, and hope to hit COD's track this afternoon. The math is against me if I don't run today.

Frankly, as sore as I am, I would rather skip. If it were the kind of sore that comes from injury, I could justify it. It isn't. It is just plain old out of shape blues in body ache form.

My inspirations for wanting to return to form are many, and will wait until later entries. One though, worth noting has been a friend's persistent effort to lose weight. He eloquently records his journey of dropping pounds on his blog, with a whimsical ditty or two, My Weight Loss Poems.

My First Track Workout

5:30, Wheaton College Track, Thursday, May 3. I got there, ran a few laps slow. I could tell that the long day I had endured was not going to finish well on the track. I was tired before I started.

Maybe it was that I have not stepped outside to run in at least a year. Or, was it that I was nervous having not run on a track in over 20 years. That is, run fast. I have done a few miles here and there on a track, but this was different. This was speedwork.

I have been hitting the gym at the local community college for a couple months. I ran on a treadmill. Different stride. Different form. Aerobic, yes, but my pace is not mine. It's the machine's.

When Jim arrived, it was 6:00 p.m. He was trying to work his bike through a tall turnstile. What do you expect from a 3:49 miler? Same as you expect from everyone else trying to get a bike through an uncooperative turnstile: a request for help.

He sent me on to run an 800 warm-up. He looked at me funny, not sure if I understood 400s meant the same as laps, but that's fair.

The rest of the group came back from their two mile warm-up on the Prairie Path. It is a small group, so Jim introduced me around. There were no more than 10-12 runners.

He explained how things will go.

First, six striders. Those are 100 m runs, not fast, but faster than slow. It is basically to loosen up.

Two sets of three 400s, 200 m recovery. The pattern would be two 400s at a decent pace, then the third a few seconds faster.

  • First 400 was 1:41. Exhausted.
  • Second -- 1:59
  • Third -- 2:02
  • Break
  • Fourth -- 1:47
    (edited for accuracy 5-9-07)

Overwhelmed? Yes and no. I was not overwhelmed with the workout per se, just my inability that day to complete it.

To say I ran makes it sound better than it was. I suffered. It was part physical, part emotional. I wanted to have a little more fire in my legs, but I had what I had.

Next Thursday, I expect better things. Between now and then, I will try to get more slow running in, something I have sorely missed.

Operative word: Sorely.

Beginnings: Hitting the Track Again After All These Years

I joined a running club this week. A track club, really. I don't know its official name, but American track great Jim Spivey coaches it. It might not have an official name. I don't care. It was great to be on the track again.

I used to run. A lot. At one point, I had reach 100 miles a week, and was biking four days a week 13 miles each way to practice. I was 17 or 18 then, and now I'm 40.

What Has Changed?
For starters, 22 years. Then, I gained 37+ lbs. I'm just under 140 now, but, in my day, I was a lean (some say gaunt) 107 lbs. I have lost a few since poking close to 145. Not one ounce gained is muscle. Add to that at least one bout with severe bronchitis. All of this affects my ability to run fast.

A big change too, is I have no clear goal about why I am running. Then, at 17, I had dreams beyond my abilities.

Vaguely, I want to run under 20:00 for a 5K. It is embarrassing to not know if it is possible after having run many in the low 16s. Still, it is a nice number, and guys my age run 19-something all the time. However, if I hit a road race today, this morning, I suspect I would be lucky to get 27:00. That is nothing to be ashamed of, mind you. I know that. Ultimately, the great benefit is health.

Running, at its core level, will offer me a cleaner body. Muscles will be tone. Stress will be released. A myriad of other physiological benefits will be gained. Mentally, beyond stress, there is the excitement of racing.

That excitement already exists, even at my slow pace.