Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year’s Resolution, Part III: Fueling the Runner

Over the past several months I have become attentive to where all of my calories are coming from. Not just carbs, protein, or fat, but literally what type of food and how far it must be transported before consumption. My previous posts were less about a vow to change and were primarily meant as reminders to myself that life happens, deal with it. There are many things that are much more important than running, but when there is time, get out and run. Today’s post is about what I am striving to change. As a runner, I consume a lot of calories (kilocalories, technically). The additional calories I consume to support my running should have as little impact to the environment as possible. For 2009 I will strive to eat lower on the food chain, buy local foods, and supplement our food with a garden.

Eating Lower on the Food Chain: My family does not eat a lot of beef, and I am not advocating a meat free or animal product free diet. A vegetarian/vegan diet would be easier if I either lived alone (don’t want to do that), or had a spouse that wanted to be a vegetarian/vegan (not trying to change her), but my caloric intake beyond ~2,200 calories/day should come from fruits or vegetables, which are the most efficient source of foods when looking at the energy required to produce to energy contained within. I had concerns of low protein consumption if more of my caloric needs were met via fruits and vegetables. Then I learned that many ultra-runners, including some of the very best (see Scott Jurek, for example) are vegetarian or vegan. If they can get all of their protein needs from fruits and vegetables, then I can supplement some of my poultry/fish/dairy protein with fruits and vegetables.

Buy Local Foods: It just doesn’t make much sense to buy food that has been shipped from all over the world, when much of the food that I consume is grown locally. I will buy directly from the local farmers whenever possible.

Garden: I usually grow tomatoes, but this year I would like to expand. We don’t live on a huge tract of land, but we can allocate part of our yard to grow food. I may need to solicit the good folks at the Frost Bottom Farm for some pointers on good gardening techniques.

So that’s it. Regardless of where my running year for 2009 takes me, I will strive to change where all of my calories come from.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year’s Resolution, Part II: Keep On Keeping On

I was fortunate to not have a lingering illness or injury to keep me from running during my 2008 running year. Looking back through my log book, rarely did I take two consecutive days off from running. With the exception of an important milestone, I will strive to maintain that consistency in 2009. The important milestone is that come February, Braedon will be a big brother! I’m certain I will log fewer miles for a couple of months after the baby is born as we get readjusted to life with midnight feedings and changings. I registered for a March 50K and a May marathon as motivation to keep running. Prior to Braedon’s birth, I was an active runner that rarely drank coffee. I also grossly underestimated the demands of an infant on his/her parents’ time. And soon I became a very inactive person that required nothing but the strongest coffee in order to get out of bed in the morning. Slowly, I got back into the fitness thing, and I have since weaned myself from my caffeine fix. Having a better realization of what it is like to be a caregiver for an infant (I’ll let my wife be the judge of that), I will try to prioritize my time so that I can be the supportive husband and good father while still logging a few miles. That I may not be in the best condition possible for my two upcoming races is of little concern to me. The important thing is to keep on keeping on.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Resolution, Part I: Be Flexible

The more you run, the better you get at running. But, because running doesn’t pay the bills in my house, sometimes life gets in the way and prevents me from running. Frustrating as this is, I need not try to squeeze in a five-mile run at 11:00 p.m. just because I had planned a five-miler before whatever life threw at me got in the way. My predominant curve balls from life are: weather, work schedule, illness/injury, and child illnesses. But hey, all of these inconveniences can be overcome. Relax. Be flexible.

Weather: I have absolutely no control over the weather, and while I kind of enjoy running in the muck and the mud, sometimes I should just stay at home. There is nothing wrong with running in what may appear to be miserable conditions so long as it serves a purpose and does not pose an undue risk of injury. Relax. Run tomorrow if necessary. Be flexible.

Work Schedule: I have direct control over my efficiency at work, but I do not always have control over the tasks assigned to me or the expected completion date of those tasks. I need to realize that I will have to work late at times, or over the occasional weekend. I was supposed to be on vacation all of last week, but ended up working on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It happens. I am just glad to have a job. Be flexible.

Illness/Injury: Catching a cold or the flu is a fact of life. All I can do is try my best to minimize my chances of getting sick by washing my hands often, and getting a good night’s sleep. Generally, I am good about taking it easy when I don’t feel well. Injuries are another issue. Although I did much better this year than past years, there were still days I should not have been running due to soreness. A day off from running to adequately heal is better than a week off, a week off from running is better than a month off. Be flexible.

Child Illnesses: Most first-time parents probably learn early on that little kids seem to get sick often. Sometimes, in addition to increasing our own exposure to the sickly germs, this requires staying up most of the night. This is a case of “what’s really more important:” running a few miles, or my kid’s well-being. Be flexible.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Nice Christmas

Braedon hasn’t gotten the full gist of Christmas just yet and he stayed in bed until well after his parents were up and had already eaten breakfast. As a parent, it was a lot of fun to watch my son open his presents. It was also fun to watch him present his mom’s present to her. Back in October when we visited a pumpkin patch, Braedon was ready to take home the first pumpkin he walked up to. My wife had to constantly tell him to just keep looking. A few weeks ago while we were at the Christmas tree farm on a cold and windy day, both my wife and I, bundled up and shivering, asked Braedon on several occasions, “How’s this tree?” And his reply: “Just keep looking.” To remind Mom of this moment Braedon found a little jack-o-lantern charm for her bracelet and hid it on the tree. So when Mom asked Braedon if he had any presents for her, he simply said, “Just keep looking.”

My in-laws got me a nice, bright yellow, reflective jacket to wear when I run in the dark. I have been wearing a reflective belt when I run, but this jacket is much nicer as it has more reflective material and the functionality of a jacket. My sister sent me a pair of flashing red lights to wear too. I have seen cyclists with these lights and I think they are a good idea for runners/walkers who are out in the dark in or near traffic. They are not too expensive (mine are about $6), and anything you can do to make yourself more visible is a good thing. Wearing my new reflective jacket with one flashing light fastened to the front and one to the back, I set out on an early morning run with a new confidence of being highly visible to motorists. I ran for nearly an hour and a half in darkness before sunrise. I even saw a shooting star – that’s a neat way to begin the day. As the sun rose, my pace quickened and I felt stronger, which probably shouldn’t be too big of a surprise as I could see better and felt better about my footing. The last two miles were downhill, and the sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay was spectacular. I need to start carrying a camera when I run.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I am a Sloppy Present Wrapper

After another epic bedtime battle, a time when Braedon turns into his alter ego, Bedtime Wonder Boy, “we” began wrapping presents. Now, I say “we,” but what I really mean is she, because my wife is the resident present wrapper. I have heard throughout the years that I am a sloppy present wrapper, and, truth be known, I have nothing on my wife when it comes to wrapping presents. My folding never results in aesthetically pleasing congruent angles, and the pattern on the paper never ever lines up at the seam (would you like me wall paper your house?). The best thing that I can do is stay out of the way. So I tried to at least sound useful by saying, “the dog needs exercise, so I’ll take him for a run so you won’t have to.” ….She wasn’t buying it, but I think she was somewhat glad to have the peace and quiet once we left (and after Wonder Boy finally quit the fight for another day). It was another cold and windy night time run; there were even breakers in the bay. And now that all of our work is done, we can say that we were really productive tonight because Braedon finally fell asleep, Joe is resting peacefully by my feet, and the presents are absolutely beautiful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Running with Orion

Another cold day, but it is a clear night for a nice change. The wind was strong off of the bay, but we weren’t running into it for too long. We startled some deer, which ran in the direction of the great hunter Orion as he looked down from his celestial perch. Hopefully he was pleased and will watch over this dog and runner on future night time jaunts.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Frozen Run and a Warm Shower

Winter welcomed me with a mix of sleet, snow, and rain as I stepped outside to begin my morning run. After checking the street to make sure it wasn’t too slick, I decided to run in the stuff (why not, I was already up). It was slow going for the first five or so miles while it was still dark, and because my glasses essentially acted as rain and ice collectors – and the portions of my lenses that were free of debris were usually fogged up. So, I ran most of the way looking directly at my feet, which resulted in running through a lot of puddles. Oddly, my feet did not seem to mind. After about ten miles I began to wonder what kept hitting my neck and shoulders. Only after looking down did I realize that my shirt had frozen. As I neared home, my neighbor greeted me with, “You’re insane!” And my wife said something about being crazy in my head. That may be, but it made a warm shower that much more enjoyable.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joe Louis: 2, Me: 0

Joe Louis and I went for a run after lunch today and he got two compliments within the span of about a block. He can really turn it on when he wants to, and then once we were out of sight, he resumed his squirrel searching, cat treeing, goose chasing ways. How come I didn’t hear anybody exclaim “that’s a well behaved dog” while you were leading me off the beaten path and into the mud, Mr. Louis?!....On another note, it was nice to run during daylight this afternoon and actually see where we were going.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Running Past Bedtime

I worked a lot of hours this week, and the only way I could fit running into the schedule was to run past bedtime. As I often wake up early on weekends to run, I figured why not stay up late on the weekdays to run too. Each night, after Braedon was in bed, Joe Louis and I would head out for our run. The reward was the transformation of tired, stressed, grumpy person to relaxed runner enjoying the euphoric rush of endorphins. My favorite part of each run was about the half way point, when we were the furthest from any road, and all I could hear was the sound of feet and paws hitting earth, and the jingle of the tags fixed to Joe’s collar. Occasionally, we’d scare up some deer, and watch their silhouettes leap and bound against the moonlit Chesapeake Bay. We’d end each run with the sight of festive lights decorating the town and homes in our neighborhood. All in all, I don’t care for sleep deprivation, but if I am going to stay up later than I should, I’d much rather it be for a run than for TV. I’m going to bed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Cold Race

The temperature was in the mid-twenties when the race director started the hundred or so runners participating in this morning’s Santa’s Sleigh 5K. Braedon and I stayed near the back of the pack for the first half-mile, waiting to find our stride until there was room to safely maneuver. With the exception of about a twenty-five yard grass crossing, the course was all pavement and mostly flat, which made for some fast times. I was surprised when we reached the first mile marker in only 7:30, as we usually do not run that fast. Braedon enjoyed seeing the many runners in Santa, or elf, attire and was especially fond of the runners wearing bells. Because there was not a significant wind, the cool temperature did not bother me, and in fact, I felt pretty good. We covered the course in 22:07, faster than expected, which is why Mom wasn’t ready with the camera when we approached the finish line. She is the smart one in our family and stayed inside during the race.
Great job, hi-five!
After the race we did some Christmas shopping and my wife and I are now well aware that the terrible-twos have nothing on a three-year-old’s tantrum…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain

It’s been raining quite a lot in Maryland this week, making the stroller hard to push in the soft ground; thus I have gone on several solo runs. Today I got a quick run in during lunch and again this evening while “running” an errand. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any other runners during either of my puddle jumping jaunts today. Clear skies are in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon, which will hopefully allow for the race course to dry enough so that I can push Braedon in Saturday’s 5K.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Next Time It’s Mom’s Turn

This morning I took Braedon to his first dentist appointment. It was a wonderful time. The waiting room was stocked with plenty of toys that any child would find irresistible. And then, with the realization that I was the adult responsible for a three-year-old about to meet a dentist for the first time, the hygienist called for us to come on back to the examination room. That alone may have been enough to cause some sort of panic attack, but add to this dilemma the fact that the hygienist was competing with a bucket full of toys for Braedon’s undivided attention, and, well, more eyes were on us, awaiting the action to unfold, than on the television set in the waiting room. It was a hard fought battle, one that included screaming, dragging, and flailing limbs, but in the end, I won (at least in the sense that I met the objective of seating Braedon into the examination chair). Bent over from the kick to the groin, I retreated to the waiting room, which was now oddly quiet, and retrieved the shoes Braedon managed to fall out of during this little escapade. I am sure that the Dentist sees this type of debacle from time to time, and I must say that the hygienist, Ms. Janice, did an excellent job of calming Braedon down and explaining everything about his checkup to him, but I certainly felt like a first class jack ass….at least they said he has nice teeth. On a better note, while returning from this adventure, I noticed a sign for a local 5K. I called the race director, got the approval to push a stroller, and registered us for next weekend’s Santa’s Sleigh 5K.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Busy Week

It’s been a busy week thus far, but who isn’t busy at this time of year. The hectic schedule has forced me to rest my leg, which is good. I’ve only ran a few two-milers this week without incident. I am taking tomorrow off from work to take Braedon to his first dentist appointment. I am certain that will be a joy. After that, Braedon, the dog, and I are going to go for a good run and test the leg.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Keep Right!

We spent an enjoyable Thanksgiving visiting family in the Virginia Beach area. I got a couple of runs in, including an 11-miler early on Black Friday (running is a great way to avoid the crowds). One of the humorous sights on our trip was a sign on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Keep Right! If I were any further right, we’d have been in the drink.

Over the past week, the outside of my right knee becomes slightly sore, or weak, once I run beyond four or five miles. I believe the discomfort is due to my iliotibial band. Regardless, I’m going to Keep Right and take it easy for a few days and then I’ll stick with some shorter runs before testing the four to five mile barrier again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Like Night and Day

My schedule has been just a tad bit hectic this week and I resumed the nighttime running. Last night, after putting Braedon to bed, Joe and I ran our regular five mile route through the VA and the park. There are no street lights in the park, so naturally we slowed down to avoid running into anything. Once our eyes adjusted to the low light we picked up the pace slightly until we got to the wooded road that exits the park. It was pretty dark in the woods last night, and even though I am very familiar with this route, I was still straining to use all my senses to navigate the winding road. At one point I even adjusted my touke to rest above my ears to help me see better, which of course is utterly ridiculous as I do not have bat-like capabilities. Eventually we emerged from the big dark woods unscathed (maybe I do have bat-like capabilities). This afternoon, Braedon, Joe, and I ran the same route in broad daylight. To no surprise, the three of us traversed the five miles much quicker than Joe and I did last night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Braedon's 1st Race

What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday, the race’s scheduled day, the race was postponed, although fairly warm, due to the course conditions after several days of rain. The water remaining on the course today was frozen and, while bright and sunny, the race time temperature was twenty-six degrees. There was a slight delay in the start time while the race coordinators made some last minute preparations, which allowed us more time to properly warm up. Braedon and I went on several short warm-up runs. Some observers may call this “chase a three-year-old around a field and then carry him back to Mom,” but I can call it a warm-up run.

When we were called to the starting area, my biggest challenge was to get Braedon situated in the stroller. Just as earlier in the week, Braedon didn’t want to cover up with a blanket. It took a strong bit of reasoning to cover him up with the blanket.
Once the gun went off, he did a good job of keeping us on course by pointing out the next flag marking the route. He also said, “They’re getting farther away,” when talking about the runners in front of us…nice encouragement. There were a few hills, and the stroller’s engine almost stalled on the upside. Most of the course was on grass, but we did one lap on the track. That track felt so smooth after running and pushing the stroller over frozen bumpy grass. I was putting forth a bit more of an effort than I anticipated, but the nice thing about a 5K is that the discomfort does not last too long. And once the finish line was in sight, we had no choice but to kick it into the next gear. In a photo-finish, it was Braedon that crossed the line ahead of me by a stroller-length with a time of 26:13. Not bad at all for our first race together. Later in the day we admired the new necklaces that we won and our race shirt, and then ate a big lunch before naptime.

Friday, November 21, 2008


It snowed here in Maryland today and I couldn’t have been happier. Joe Louis and I went out for a six-miler in the stuff. It was coming down pretty hard at times, and the river and sky met in an indistinguishable gray blur. It seemed like we were always running into the wind, and the snowflakes kept sticking to my glasses. But was it ever refreshing. While there is a good possibility I’ll see some snow at tomorrow’s 5K, I can’t help but wonder if snow also awaits the runners of tomorrow’s JFK 50 Mile Race near Hagerstown. The JFK is a race I plan to run in the next few years.

Braedon and I revisited our race strategy for our 5K. Yep, I’m going to run and he is going to ride. “Real fast” were his instructions. We’ll see about the fast part. Actually, I don’t think that pushing a stroller will add a lot to our time – it will add a lot to the effort, but I don’t have much speed, with or without a stroller in front of me. So, just as last week, the plan is to enjoy the run.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That Wonderful Cool, Crisp Air

It was cold today (low 30s, with a breeze – that is almost winter conditions here in Maryland). When I got home from work I bundled the kid up, got the dog’s leash, and the three of us headed out for a run. Now, before we left, Mom asked Braedon if he was warm enough no less than seventeen times. Oh, he was plenty warm until about a minute into our run when he decided he’d heed Mom’s advice and begged Dad to go back home for a blanket. It was no problem, although wrapped snug under a blanket, it looked like I was out running with the dog while pushing only a little face in a stroller. We saw several trains (Braedon’s favorite), a few squirrels (Joe’s favorite) and I enjoyed the way the cool air felt on my face. I’ll take these nice cool temps (for running) any day over heat and humidity. We even saw the sun disappear below Havre de Grace while running along the Susquehanna River.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Would You Like to Stop Running Now?

I got up early for a ten-miler this morning. I was surprised by how much cooler it was this morning (mid-30s), considering that yesterday, even with all of the rain, it was nearly 60 degrees. Today was the first time since last month’s marathon that I ran ten miles. Ten miles is well within my mental comfort zone for an achievable running distance, but after several weeks of shorter runs and a minor calf strain, I knew that this run would not be a “jog in the park,”…..well, actually it was, as I did run in the park. Ordinarily, I rarely stop mid-run, and then only if absolutely necessary. Today I took a different approach and stopped and walked for one minute after every twenty-five or so minutes of running. I felt just as good when I finished running as I did when I started. It worked out that I walked for three minutes. Three minutes may not sound like much, but I do not think I would have felt so good throughout the entire run had I not had the short walking breaks. I have read about this training strategy before, but never tried it because somehow felt I would be cheating myself if I didn’t “run” the entire time. I decided to use this run-walk approach in looking ahead to the 50K. My goal is to finish in an efficient manner and recover quickly. To meet my goal, I do not intend to “run” all thirty-one miles of the event, rather I will take short walking breaks on a regular time and terrain basis.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The rain over the past few days and last night turned the planned 5K route into a muddy soup. It was pouring when we arrived at the site, and the support crew personnel were already dirty from their reconnaissance of the course. As such, due to liability concerns, the race director decided to postpone the race until next Saturday. That is too bad because running in the mud is a lot of fun. But, I’m glad for the race delay because there was no way I would have been able to push a stroller through some of the mud holes on the course, and my son is psyched for his first race. So we will try again same time next Saturday. When we returned home, the dog and I went for an appropriately muddy run of our own through some of the nearby fields.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Number 5

I picked up my racing bib for tomorrow’s 5K at the local running store. Bib number 5! No doubt, the low number reflects my elite status in the stroller pushing division, err, or maybe I was just the fifth person to register. Oh well, it has been rainy for the past few days and it will probably be more of the same tomorrow. No big deal. The course is mostly on grass and there are a few hills, but we will just take our time and enjoy the run.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nighttime Running

Due to my schedule this week I have had to run at night. Just running at a different time of day can make all the difference in the overall experience. The same boring route looks so different once the sun goes down. I run a fair amount by dawn’s early light, but that is a lot different than dusk’s late light. Just the “change” of scenery forced me to slow down, which is a good thing – not that I am a speed demon by any sense of the imagination (and speed is relative to the individual anyway…). On shorter runs I tend to go too fast. And there is no reason to go fast, so this nighttime running has allowed me to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Just the Boys

My wife spent a relaxing weekend in Hershey, PA, leaving me and my son to fend for ourselves at home all weekend. And we had a good time. We kicked up some “reindeer” on our morning run through the “big woods.” We also played kickball in the rain, jumped into mud puddles, and a lot of other fun stuff that Mom does not allow.

Running wise I felt pretty good this week. I expect I’ll be able to get some longer runs in over the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to pushing my son in the 5K on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Going Long

My next long event will be the Hinte Anderson Trail (HAT) 50K in March. One of my friends mentioned the event and I kind of said that would be fun. When I looked at the event’s website my interest grew when I noticed that it takes place about a fifteen minute drive from my house in the Susquehanna State Park. Being that it is so close, I figured why not, and I registered for it. Since registering, I have thought more about it and have grown more and more excited about it. Running on trails and through fields is a more pure form of running. There won’t be any mile markers, the hills will be steeper as the trails are not graded for cars (No cars, YES!!!), and the streams (did I mention there are stream crossings), well, I’ll have wet feet. All in all, it sounds like a nice way to spend a few hours – or more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


My son’s third birthday was today. I can’t believe he is already three, and at the same time it is hard to remember what life was like before he was born. This morning we went for a five miler; first to the river, under the train tracks, then around the park, and finally through the “big woods.” Last night we had family and friends over to celebrate the big day. My wife knows someone through work that is very talented when it comes to making and decorating cakes, and we truly enjoy giving her a challenge. This year she made a dinosaur cake, which is all together fitting because my son was a triceratops for Halloween. In the spirit of Halloween, the dinosaur was “dressed” as a ghost. I can’t imagine what a cake like this would retail for, but I’m certain it would be more than I would want to pay for a birthday cake. Knowing a creative cake decorator has made my son’s past two birthdays even more memorable. She did a phenomenal job in my opinion.

No Discomfort

I ran three times since Thursday night’s chiropractor visit, totaling about twelve miles. I did feel some mild tenderness in my calf at first, although I am unsure how much of that was due to real discomfort or the fact that I am very conscious of the recovery. All in all, my calf feels very good and I think the Graston Technique assisted in the recovery.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Graston Technique

I had a chiropractor appointment this evening. Dr. Olivacz is a certified chiropractic sports physician. He asked how I was doing and I told him that I strained my calf last weekend, but was recovering well enough that I thought I was ready for a short run tomorrow. When he looked at my calf he said that he had an instrument that could speed the recovery. He said the Graston Technique is analogous to using a comb to straighten tangled hair. I felt some resistance when he rolled the instrument over my calf. It didn’t hurt, but I felt a kind of tingly sensation like when your leg falls asleep. Afterward I did some calf stretches and he told me to ice at as soon as I got home. My calf wasn’t super sore when I went in for my appointment, although I could still feel it was not 100%. It feels pretty good though now. I’ll see how it does tomorrow during an easy run. If you have any painful muscles or tendons, you may want to further investigate this technique as a remedy. I’d be interested to hear feedback from other people who have had this treatment, especially from people who have had much more serious pain than that of a strained calf.

From the Havre De Grace Chiropractic website, “Dr. Olivacz is trained in using the Graston Technique® which allows him to better detect and treat these areas because it uses a stainless steel instrument that glides along a patient’s muscle, tendons or ligaments and acts like a “scar tissue” stethoscope. When knots or bands of scar tissue are encountered, both the doctor and the patient sense a restriction or a granular feeling. The instrument can then be used to “break up” this restriction or adhesion. Stretching exercises are then used to promote re-alignment of the fibers so that they behave more like normal, healthy tissue.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Strollers Allowed!

I heard back from the race director for the Eagle Pride 5K today and she said, “You are more than welcome to push the stroller along if you would like!” There has, however, been a change of venue. Rather than a road course, the race will follow the high school’s cross county course, which traverses hilly fields. Knowing that, I will take the course conditions on race morning into account before pushing my son along – hopefully no mud. Aside from that, it looks like he’ll be ready for his first 5K. I think there is even a shirt for this too. I’ll get a small shirt so my son can wear it.

My calf is still sore, but getting better. A few more days off from running and I should be able to get back onto the road and trails!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch Day

Today we made the short drive to the Applewood Farm for a morning of picking pumpkins and getting lost in a corn maze. After carefully looking at numerous pumpkins, after which my son would usually declare, “just keep looking,” we finally found the perfect Halloween pumpkin.

Following a quick hayride back to the main barn to weigh (a 27 pounder) and pay for our pumpkin, we were ready for the corn maze. I’m usually pretty good with my sense of direction, but keeping up with an energetic two-year old does tend to throw my internal compass for a loop. Even with several dead-ends, missed turns, and backtracking, we eventually found our way out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I got up early this morning for a run in the dark. I like running in the dark, in the middle of roads ordinarily too busy to cross. How different the town looks without the hustle and bustle of day time activity. Once I got the VA grounds, where the street lights cease and I run along the Chesapeake Bay, I was startled by a few cats as they’d wait until the last possible moment to scurry across my path. When I got to the park, a warm wind picked up off the bay, which I thought unusual after yesterday’s cooler temperatures. Around this point I began feeling soreness in my left calf. I made it home all right, but my calf has been sore throughout the day. I’ve iced it several times and will have to take it easy for a few days and see how it feels.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Joe Louis Redeems Himself

My son, dog, and I went for a very enjoyable run this evening. Joe Louis must have taken the talk we had earlier in the week to heart, because he ran like a champ. My son was eager to go too, no tears today! It was a cool, gray day; the kind of fall day that I love, although had it been about fifteen to twenty degrees cooler it would have been absolutely perfect. I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which isn’t the coldest spot on earth, but is colder than Maryland. I miss the cold, overcast days of fall and winter. My wife, on the other hand, thinks I am a bit odd for looking forward to cold, gray days. As she is from a warmer clime (Virginia Beach), she requires a daily dose of sun – like a house plant I joke. But yes, she is right, I seem to be the odd one because I find bright, sunny fall and winter days to be depressing, while cold, miserable, gray days are invigorating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unfit for Duty

Preparing for a run at my house is an ordeal. From the dog getting all worked up and in the way at the first thought of running to my, as of late, wishy-washy son. Today he was a wash and did not want to go for a run because he wanted chocolate milk instead. However, the report I heard upon returning was that after approximately two minutes of my departure, once his chocolate milk was all gone, my son realized I had left and began screaming that he wanted his dad and his dog (cute, kind of… even cuter being told the story rather than witnessing it first hand – or ear).

So the dog and I set out on what I thought would be a fairly uneventful run. We even went further than we would have had my son been with us. The problem was, I don’t recall when the last time I ran with just the dog. In hindsight, I believe the stroller keeps the dog somewhat in line. Tonight, the dog started running in front of me, then to the left and to the right. That in itself is not too problematic. Although not conducive to good running form, I still have control of him when he runs out in front of me, for the most part – passersby beware. It’s when he begins to run behind me that I worry, and when he laps me – with only a six foot leash. I lost count of the number of times he clipped my feet from behind me. Once we got home I demoted him and declared him unfit for duty, which is a shame because I just praised his running prowess yesterday. After dinner, the dog and I had a long heart to heart talk and decided to take a step back and dedicate some time to remedial running obedience and etiquette (no tripping, no lapping). On second thought, I hope that before the next run we don’t have any chocolate milk and that my son will want to run with us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back on Track

Running in the cool fall weather makes the post marathon recovery easy. I’m getting back on track and feeling great. Tonight my son, dog, and I went for a three miler in a brisk wind. We could have gone for a lot longer if it weren’t for the darkness setting in. I think our dog enjoys the cooler weather too. I can’t remember the last time the two of us were running stride for stride rather than one of us (the four-legged one) trying to get ahead by a mile while on a six foot tether. I have an email in to the race director for next month’s 5K asking about strollers in the race. Hopefully strollers will be tolerated and my son will participate in the race.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Next

I went on a short run this evening with my son and our dog. The legs are still a little sore, but not too bad. I think I am recovering well, which, aside from not hurting everywhere, is encouraging because it indicates that my training prepared my body for the rigors of a marathon and built it strong enough to recover quickly. So where do I go from here? Running a marathon is what got me up and out the door all those early mornings. For the next couple of weeks I will focus on rest and easy runs. I did sign up for a 5K next month (15 Nov) that is being held as a fundraiser for one of our local high school cross country teams. I do not aspire to run as fast as I absolutely can at that race, but it should be fun. If the race director allows, I'll even push my son in the race. He'll like that.

A couple of my friends are registered for the National Marathon (21 Mar) and will begin their training cycle next month. I’ll probably join them on some of their long runs because I do want to maintain this fitness level, but mostly because I like the long run.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Quick Look Back

I looked back through my training log and my marathon splits. Obviously, I overestimated my ability by about ten minutes. However, this is one of the aspects I find alluring about marathoning; until I gain more experience, I won't know the maximum pace I can maintain for the entire race. With shorter race distances, I can push the pace over the race distance in training to get a feel for my race capabilities, yet still adequately recover within a few days. During the marathon evolution, I get one shot – race day. I've been in email contact with one of my friends since the marathon. He is a 2:40ish marathoner and says that a good rule of thumb is to take a recent half-marathon time, double it and add ten minutes to get a realistic marathon prediction. That rule applies well to me. About two weeks prior to Baltimore, I ran a half-marathon training run in 1:40. Doubling that and adding ten minutes is 3:30, while my actual time was 3:32.

I was pretty sore on Sunday, although I was still able to move around and take care of some work in the yard. I was less sore yesterday and feeling better today. This is the first time this year that I have taken three consecutive days off from running. I am going to go for a short and easy run tomorrow to test drive the legs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Baltimore Marathon - Race Report

Running strong for two-thirds of a marathon means coming up one-third short. I executed my race plan beautifully over the first eighteen miles and ran near even splits at a 7:40 per mile pace. Shortly into the nineteenth mile I began having fatigue, dehydration, and energy issues – or to put it another way, I was on a crash course with a wall. I still finished, just not in the energetic fashion I envisioned, although I did manage to throw my arms up for the obligatory finish line photo. With a time goal of 3:20, I completed the twenty-six point two in 3:32. Aside from that, I have a lot of positives to take away from the entire marathon process, which for me began in May when I registered for the event.

I thought the entire Baltimore Running Festival was well organized and an enjoyable event. The course is very challenging, especially the second half. Running through the neighborhoods was a lot of fun and I tried to slap hands with every little kid who had his or her hand up for a high five. The lap around Fort McHenry was nice and serene before heading back to the large crowd at the Inner Harbor. A couple of my friends volunteered at a water stop near the half way point, and because of the layout of the course I got to see them twice, which was cool. Apparently, they even saw me finish, but by that point I was oblivious to anything other than the food and water on the other side of the finish line.

A BIG THANKS to the Gummy Bear People near mile 23. Those guys rock! And then there was a guy dressed in a tiger suit dancing on the top of a car with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger blaring from a radio near mile 24. Hey, you don’t see that every day, but that’s one of the many things that make marathons fun.

My wife and son did not attend the race because I left well before their normal waking time – and it is best to not wake sleeping two-year-olds, or at least my sleeping two-year-old. When I got home, I showed my son my finisher’s medal. He was impressed. Tomorrow he is going to help me pack it up so I can donate my medal to Medals4Mettle. M4M gifts donated marathon finisher’s medals to people displaying strength and courage while dealing with a disease or handicap. I ran a marathon yesterday and experienced some discomfort, but I think people that put forth that type of effort every day are more deserving of a medal than am I.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marathon Week!

Marathon week is finally here and I can’t wait to get started on Saturday morning. Physically, I am as ready as I can be given my fitness level. I have familiarized myself with the course as best as possible without actually running it – much thanks to google maps. And now I am just going crazy in this phase of training called the taper. My legs, however, have not complained about the reduced mileage over the past two weeks. In fact, they feel pretty good, and I can’t wait to see how fast they will carry me over the twenty-six point two! If all goes well, I will be off from work on Friday and be able to take my son to the race expo. Should be a good time; the expo is in M&T Bank Stadium - Home of the Baltimore Ravens.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Wail of a Run

My son, dog, and I went for a quick run in the cool October air last evening. Unfortunately for the rest of the town, my son was taking advantage of his last month in the “terrible twos.” Nothing that either my wife or I did was satisfactory to his desires (that must be rough). Anyway, I thought the best thing for him would be some fresh air while he was strapped into the seat of his running stroller. And it was, except this two-year-old filibusterer was wailing about his parents’ perceived injustices for most of the run. Even the dog was howling. So, to the town of Perryville, I apologize for last night’s outburst. Funny thing is, when we got back home, he wanted to know why we were done so soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Benchmark

I ran a gmap pedometer certified half-marathon yesterday morning as my last hard workout prior to the Baltimore Marathon. I even woke up at 5:15, just like I will on marathon morning, and waited until the marathon start time of 8:00 to begin my run. Usually I begin my Saturday run at about 5:45 so I can get some miles in before my son wakes up, and then we finish the run with a few miles together. Yesterday I ran solo to get a feel for where I am as far as my ability to hold a steady pace for several miles. My son woke up earlier than usual, especially for a Saturday, around 6:15. After breakfast, he helped me gather my gear (shoes, and camelbak), and fuel (grapes - I’ve never tried eating those fancy gels and gues, maybe I’ll get some free samples at the race expo). After that we worked on a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle and read about Nimo and his lucky fin.

By 8:00 I felt pretty good. I begin most Saturday runs with a slow jog to loosen up the legs. But having been awake and up for a few hours naturally stretched my muscles and I was able to comfortably begin running at a faster pace. Except for the very high humidity, it was nearly perfect running conditions (overcast and ~65 F). I felt strong over most of the route, which included big hills over miles 7 to 11, and finished in just under 1:40. I am happy with where I am and think that a 3:20 marathon is reasonable. Of course a 1:40 half-marathon doesn’t automatically translate to a 3:20 marathon, however, I ran yesterday on tired legs and yesterday’s hills were longer and bigger than the marathon course hills, and there were no cheering crowds and bands playing along the route yesterday which can contribute to “marathon magic.”

I learned a very good lesson yesterday too. Even without the cheering crowds and bands along the route, I felt so good and ready to go at 8:00 that I did the first mile in 7:00 flat. I averaged 7:37 for the entire run, so to begin with a 7:00 was starting out too fast. The Baltimore Marathon’s first three miles are uphill, and with the added excitement of running with thousands of people I will have to really concentrate to run at a pace that feels way too slow. A few 7:00 miles at the start of that course will make for a bad marathon experience for me. Now it is time to rest up, fuel up, and mentally prepare for marathon day. Yeah!

Friday, September 26, 2008

2 Weeks and Counting

It’s just about here. The Baltimore Marathon is only two weeks away and tomorrow is my last big preparation workout; thirteen or fourteen miles hard. I have run one other marathon, Green Bay in 2003, but this time I feel much more prepared, although still very inexperienced at the marathon distance. Tomorrow’s workout will be a gauge of where I am. I have not trained with any specific time goal in mind, and this isn’t a must-do situation, not for me anyway. This entire marathon process is just another step in the road, a log book of entries to review and improve upon for the next process. I have enjoyed the evolution of increased distances and faster speed workouts, but most of all I have enjoyed the additional miles with my son; that is our time. Whether “honking” at the geese we see in the park, or discussing Thomas the Tank Engine and his useful friends, it makes everything simple. While I doubt he realizes it, my son has been a good coach, because simple running is good running.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Running into the Sunrise

One thing I have enjoyed as summer turns to fall is the later sunrise. I’ve been heading out for my Saturday morning run at about the same time each week since June, which is generally between 5:30 and 6:00. There was plenty of light by 5:30 in June and July. Now that it is mid-September, the same brightness doesn’t occur until 6:15 or 6:30, and I kind of like running in the dark. Running is a nice way to view a sunrise. And tomorrow morning will be another good day to see the sunrise. Mile repeats in the park before running a few miles with my son and dog. Cheers!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Tortoise or a Hare

I did my last long run, a twenty-five miler, before next month’s marathon. I did about sixteen with my neighbor over the real hilly part, and finished the last nine relatively flat miles on my own. I did not run with my son or dog because there was a good chance of rain, and I’m not sure I would have made it very far; the last five miles were especially tough. Lesson learned; it may be better in the next marathon training cycle to not be satisfied with a twenty mile run, but to incorporate another twenty-five miler into my training. I know there is something called “marathon-day magic” when everything will come together, but yesterday was a rather humbling experience. Now I must concentrate on the mental aspect to maintain my confidence in running strong for twenty-six miles. I may reshape my initial race-day strategy and remember that it is better to make steady progress than to fade like a rabbit.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Big Cats and Falling Fish

I did mile repeats yesterday in the Perryville Park, which is a nice place to do that because the road that loops around the park is about a mile. On my way home through the VA Hospital grounds I saw a big feral cat. There are many feral cats that live in the VA/Park area and a lot of them get quite large as they are well fed by visitors. As I neared the cat I startled a bird of prey that was in a tree just between me and the cat. There are numerous birds of prey that reside in and around Perryville, including osprey, hawks, and even bald eagles. I was not able to identify the type of bird I startled, but I know that it was a bird of prey because I did catch a glimpse of a rather large bird, and the fact that I was nearly hit with a fish as it flew away. Apparently I chased the bird away from breakfast. I really didn’t mean to do that. I guess the cat will have another healthy meal. I’m glad the fish didn’t land on me. I don’t know what I would have thought, but being hit with a fish is the last thing on my mind during a morning run.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Not-Fast-Enough 20 Miler

I got my first 20-miler in last weekend in preparation for the Baltimore Marathon. It started out all wrong, but, as with every run, I felt great (mentally that is – physically I was a little sore) upon completing what I set out to do. I woke up at 5:15, ate a little breakfast and got the body loosened up for a 6:00 start when Mother Nature decided to intervene with a thunder storm. Running in a rain storm is one thing, but running in a lightning storm doesn’t seem too smart. I sat on my porch waiting and watching the sky. The thunder subsided and the clouds were less dark by about 6:40. My neighbor, who was going to run the first fifteen or so miles, had to bail out because of the delay due to other commitments, so I set off alone in a drizzle. I enjoy the solitude of running alone, but running with someone else sure lightens the load psychologically. The rain persisted for a little more than a half hour before the clouds lifted and intermittently allowed the sun to shine through. I selected a route with a lot of hills, big hills - mile long hills, to better condition myself for the hills I’ll run on the Baltimore course. The hills nearly got the best of me, but not quite. I save that honor for my son. I ran a fifteen mile hilly loop, then stopped at home to put my son in his stroller for the last five miles. Even though those last five miles were flat, pushing his forty pounds around made for rather slow progress. That and listening to his demands of, “faster daddy, you need to go faster!”

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vacations are Great!

My wife, son, and I visited my home town, Gladstone, MI, to attend my cousin’s wedding. We had a wonderful time visiting family and friends and my son enjoyed his swim in Lake Michigan. While we were there I got an 18 mile run in, which is farther than I intended, but that is what happens when you don’t map out a route beforehand. I was a little sore for a couple of days afterward, but have since fully recovered. Thus far, I have been very pleased with my fitness progress while I prepare for the Baltimore Marathon.

Heading out for a swim in Lake Michigan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tired Legs and Off Days

It is amazing what a day off will do for tired legs. As I look forward to a fall marathon, I have added some “faster” running into my repertoire of workouts. Most of my running in recent years has been just for the sake of running, and not for running fast. So I’ve started adding tempo runs and mile repeats into my training to build speed and endurance at faster paces. Problem is, man, do I get tired. I have been careful thus far to listen to my body and avoid injury. And usually a day off is just what I need to adequately recover. After taking off from running and cross training on Tuesday, I did a nice and easy 3-miler today and my legs felt springy and were ready to go. Now I’m on track for a 16-miler this weekend.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The 2008 Diamond in the Rough Triathlon

The Diamond in the Rough Triathlon was yesterday in Perryville, MD, and my son, neighbor, and I cheered on the athletes at a couple of points along the course. Conditions were about as good as one could hope for in mid-July; although the temperature and humidity rose as early morning progressed into mid-morning, and swimming progressed to biking and running, the water was calm and there was not a noticeable wind.

Checking out the progress of the swimmers

Not wasting any time, these participants ran to their bikes

We watched the swimmers exit the water of the Susquehanna River/Chesapeake Bay and run to their bikes in the exchange zone. As it is difficult to really observe a mile swim from land, we wanted to find a nice place along the bike route to cheer. We selected a parking lot in Port Deposit, about ¼ mile from the last big climb of the day – the Alpe d’Huez of Cecil County. Ok, so maybe comparing any hill in Maryland to the monster of a climb that Lance Armstrong absolutely dominated in route to winning the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times is a bit of a stretch. But to us mere mortals, this hill in Maryland still poses a respectable challenge. I have climbed this hill on my road bike several times and it always makes me suffer. Well, we watched most of the bikers from this point and my son really enjoyed waving, clapping, and blowing his Thomas the Tank Engine whistle as the riders passed us by.

Cheering for the bikers

These guys were fast

Watching a triathlon can only hold the attention of a two-year-old for so long, and after about forty-five minutes of cheering on the bikers, my son adamantly stated that it was time to go home. So we didn’t get to watch any part of the run – we ate lunch instead – and then took a nap:) Never having participated in a triathlon, the event appears to be well organized and staffed with many volunteers. Congratulations to the participants and kudos to the event directors and volunteers that make it all happen. If triathlons are your thing, and you can travel to northeastern Maryland next year, check out the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon, and we’ll see you next year. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Training for a Good Night’s Sleep

I like to sleep. Make that I love to sleep. Problem is, as I’ve aged, I’m now 35 years young, it takes longer for me to fall asleep, I wake up earlier, and I usually can’t sleep if I nap on a lazy afternoon. One of the benefits of putting a marathon on my calendar has been that it has forced me to really focus on running. Over the past few months I have gradually increased my weekly mileage and workout intensity. My tough workouts have become tougher, and the long runs longer. Coincidentally, my level of exhaustion at the end of the day has also increased over this same period, making for a very short trip to dreamland. As I see it, I’m no longer training solely for a marathon, but for a good night’s sleep as well. Good night.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Prepping for the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon

I rode my mountain bike for about a half hour through the park this morning to loosen the legs up from yesterday’s run. While I was in the park I spoke to some folks that were preparing to ride the bike route of the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon. The DITR is next Saturday and entails a mile swim in the the Susquehanna River, a 27-mile bike ride over hilly terrain, and a 5-mile run on an out-and-back, fairly flat course. Never having participated in a triathlon, I can’t provide a credible overall assessment of the course (hey, I’m certain that a flat five mile run is a lot more difficult after a long swim and hilly bike ride). But I do know that the bike route is challenging. I have pedaled my road bike over most of the course at one time or another and there are a lot of rolling hills over the first half of the route. For participants not familiar with the course, the river can be a false sense of security. After traversing the hills over the first half, the route then follows the river for approximately six flat and fast miles. But expend too much energy along the river, and the last and largest hill of the course will demand a toll. The hill is more than a mile long, much of which exceeds a 7% grade. Ascend the hill, though, and it is all downhill to the exchange zone.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Long Run for Independence Day

Waking up at 5:30 in the morning to go for a run is not how most people begin a National Holiday. Add a little rain, some long hills, and the knowledge that there will be discomfort and the thought of running becomes even more absurd. But as runners, this is our curse, our drive, and our life. This morning, my neighbor and I set out on a rainy 14-miler before enjoying the rest of the day’s festivities. We ran a 9-mile loop with some good hills, stopped at home long enough to collect the dog, and then the three of us ran five miles through the town park. Because of the rain my son stayed at home today. Besides, he had an important job of taste testing the waffles my wife made for breakfast. He did a good job too, because they tasted great!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Running Twice a Day

Running twice a day is something that may conjure up images of training fanatics or elite athletes (or both). Two-time Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger offers his expertise on the topic at http://pfitzinger.com/labreports/twoadays.shtml. Pete states that runners should not introduce running twice a day into the training regime until their weekly mileage exceeds 55 miles for runners targeting a 5 km race, or 75 miles for marathoners. For runners attempting to push themselves to the limit and run as fast as their body’s will allow, following the advice of experts like Pete only makes sense. For the rest of us, running twice a day can still be beneficial, but for different reasons, depending on our individual running goals.

As a fifteen to twenty-something mile a week runner, I fall well short of Pete’s guidance for even considering running twice a day. Occasionally, however, I manage to run twice a day – and feel good about it (I do not consider myself a training fanatic and I am definitely not an elite athlete). As my schedule permits, I run during lunch at work. Although my lunchtime run usually only lasts twenty minutes, it recharges my batteries and enables me to better focus on the rest of the day’s tasks. Arriving home after work, my son sometimes wants to go for a run, and the dog is always ready to run. So, periodically I will head out again for another twenty or thirty minute run with my two favorite training partners. Physically, there may be more gain from running four miles, rather than two miles twice in the same day. Mentally, however, running twice gives me the mid-day boost that I need to get through the day and an opportunity to visit with my son.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Dog, a Stroller, and a Runner

Run with a dog, run with a stroller, but don’t run with both. This is sage advice I have heard in person and read online. But what is life without a little hectic multi-tasking; get a nice run in, enjoy some quality time with my son, and exercise the dog all at the same time. Fortunately, the routes I run are not terribly busy, and much of it is in a city park, which allows us the luxury of added space when it comes to keeping the three of us moving in the same direction at the same time. My son was seven months old the first time I strapped him into a running stroller and took him for a jaunt through town. Shortly thereafter our dog, a boxer, joined us on our runs. That was two years ago, and since that time the three of us have logged a lot of miles together. Every run is interesting, but usually more so when there are a lot of squirrels on the route. Boxers are rather easily distracted, and at the first site of a squirrel he forgets all about being tethered to my arm… But when we get into a rhythm, we can make some good time. Joe, the dog, will take the point. My son must think that Joe does all the work. This must be what it looks like to drive a dog sled team. I wonder if any boxers have led a team during the Iditarod…..well, probably not unless there are no squirrels in Alaska.

We run enough together that if I go for a run without my two companions, some people will actually stop me and ask about my son and dog. It is kind of cool for us to be somewhat recognizable in town as “that guy that runs with a dog and pushes his son in a stroller.”