Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Reality Reminder of Who I Am As a Runner and Blogger

A couple of things recently happened that reminded me of just where and who I am runner and blogger wise. I took to heart what happened and or was said to me and have given a lot of thought to these events. I share them with you just to show how quickly I can lose focus on my training goals. Also to express what the true priorities are I should have for both my running and blogging instead of what I may recently had been doing.

Running - I will be the first to admit I still consider myself a very novice runner. More exactly maybe a seasoned beginner that has had some success. I have a very long way to go to get to where I would like to be. I know I have a problem of wanting to be at or believing I am at a level far beyond where I physically am. So what I think I can do or should be able to do is a long ways off from what I am capable of. In many ways I am still on square one and am having trouble getting further down the path than that first square. It’s not that I do not want to do the training or that I want to take short cuts. Instead I often find what I should be doing is not in sync with what I actually am attempting. A result of this is unfortunately about the destinations called races that have taken me off course so to speak. I wanted to prove to a lot of people including myself that I could do the distances. I have over the last few years done most of the shorter endurances race distances up to and including the marathon. Ok, so now what. The endurance aspect is now done and known to me and it’s time to back track and do the proper conditioning and training to now run these distances. I think that is the primary reason I am doing my back to basics approach for next year to really get into shape and just learn to run.
I was reminded of this at the 5k this past weekend. Since the marathon I have run 6 times over roughly 6 weeks. I wanted to take a break from running but decided to do the No Boundaries course during this off period. I’ve done OK in class so I assumed I would do Ok at the 5k race with little to no training. What I found was that even my walking endurance has gone away. I can’t say that I necessarily struggled during the race but it was not as easy as it was just a couple of months ago. I need to focus on the training before me and take advantage to the opportunity I have through the No Boundaries class. I have some other tools and plans for dieting and conditioning that I plan to start this week as well. So that is my priority now, to try and build the best me possibly from the physical perspective. Build it and the rest will follow in time. It is all about the journey and not the destinations (races) that I have been too preoccupied about for the last year. So the Freaky 5k was a true reminder that very quickly I had already lost focus on what my goals were for next year.
A Possible Attitude/Mental Reason - I do think attitude wise that this may be driven by my age. Over the last year or so I have begun to worry about the age thing a little. There is so much I would like to do in life that I just hope there is enough time to do it all. Certainly family is at the top of the list here. I want to be around to see my kids grown and have a family. Starting as late as I did it worries me some that I may not get to see some of the things I would like. Even with running I almost feel I am on a shortened clock of sorts. Between my age, weight, moderately bad knees and weak left foot I wonder how much time I have as a runner. I sometime think I have just so many runs, miles and or races in me before the body goes and it is all over. I know this sounds silly but you never know when something injury or health wise may put an end to it. So I think I have been pushing myself to hit some of these goals or distances before my time is up. Do I really believe this? No probably not. I’ll write later in the week about some recent runners whose success is motivating me and helping to change this thinking. But I do think that I may only have a handful of year to run. Also, mentally I need to change by not being in the “survival” mode to just try and finish these distances. It is now time to run these races for the fun of it and to share more with my family and friends wanting to experience them as well.  

Blog - I was reminded last week on two different occasions to be myself with the blog. It seems the more I try to expand it and or refine it to be more universally interesting I am straying from the original spirit of the blog. It seems the more that I try and do reviews, promotions, talk about organizations, etc… the less interesting it is to the core readers. Even some of my hardest core readers and friends seem either less interested in the new content or confused by it. From the comments I have heard for months now it seems readers like the raw journal of what is happening with my family and I. They care about my somewhat naive view of my training and the races I have done. They want to know more about my family, the crazy schedule and how we deal with it all. So everything else is more or less noise a distraction from the real story to them. Do they read these new features or blogs? Kind of. I have been told that in many cases they skip to the end to see if I liked the product or whatever. So I need to return to my roots, so to speak, but also find a balance where I can provide some insight into what I use or at least trying out.
At the end of the day what I am feeling and being told by you the reader is just be myself. To spend the time to really work through the process of becoming a runner and more fit. Write about that journey and all of the experiences that I have along the way. So that is what I will do. The blog will try to remain true to what I originally set out to do, document my journey and the impact of it to my family. So thank you all for your comments and for hanging in there. I do think the upcoming months will be some very interesting ones conditioning and training wise.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time to Catch You Up On Some Things

It’s been a little while since I had a true update on things especially my family. I thought I would catch everyone up on what is happening in my household.
  • Life has really been crazy with family events such as birthday, sports, cub scouts, church and well life in general. I cannot believe how busy we are at the moment. It seems that at least my son and I are still trying to recover from scout camp two weeks ago but cannot find enough time to do so. I think we both need sleep and a lot of it to get caught up. Add to that he attended a sleep over last weekend and really didn’t sleep much that weekend. He had two birthday parties in one day and then the first ever real sleep over for him. I guess you can imagine how that went with boys staying up and playing all night long. So he is really dragging now and I’m afraid he will melt down soon. But overall life at home is good.
  • Some of the issues we dealt with over the summer and or last year are starting to work themselves out. That means less temper tantrums than in the past. Sure we still have moments from both kids to deal with but that is life in a sense. We will have those no matter what.
  • School is going well for both and I am amazed at just how much and what they learn. The reading and the math is what really gets me. I am so proud and impressed with what they bring home and show us. I try to help them with their homework each night and am getting a kick out of doing so.  
  • One of the biggest days for us is Halloween as we always have a lot of fun. Lucas will be a Clone trooper and Lian a bride this year. No costume for me this time around. I think Lucas has some neighborhood boys and another friend lined up to go Trick or Treating with. My wife and I really do enjoy this and we still walk around with the boys and watch them. It’s a fun way to meet some of the neighbors and just get some exercise. But I can already see the sugar buzz coming after the walk. We try and limit them but it gets out of hand as I’m sure it does in more homes. I’ll try and post some pictures of us in the near future.
  • The No Boundaries class is going pretty well. I think at the moment I am my own worst enemy as I just do not have the motivation to do much of the daily during the week. As of last night I am now half way through the class and at least keeping up with where I was at before the class. Actually I am really trying to push myself and do more running instead of walking during the class. Last night I felt for the first time ever that I was running in a group. I hung with a handful of people for about half of the run. Then I had one of the coaches stay with me and we just chatted as we finished the run for the night. I really enjoyed it and felt a part of the class and can see where people like running in groups now. I only wish that I had been doing more of the training on my own over the last handful of weeks. But starting now I will try and keep up with the proposed mileage. I need to get going. So I do have five more weeks of the No Boundaries class to complete. The last task for the class is to run in the Jingle Bell Run 5k on December 3rd. I sure hope that it is not too cold or snowy for the race. I’ll have to wait and see. Oh yes, got our class shirts last night and they are pretty sweat. I’ll post the picture of it in the loop soon.
  • Tomorrow I’ll be running with my work friends in a local 5k. Yes, I was going to cut down and or stop races for the rest of the year but this one sounded like too much fun to pass up. It is the Freaky 5k run by the YMCA here in Appleton. The weather sounds like it will be cold (in the 30’s at race time) but the colors and scenery through three parts along the river should be great. Also, it is a costume run so I think we will see some interesting sights during the race. Of course I’ll have a race review sometime next week telling you all about it. Oh yes, Happy Halloween everyone!
  • In general as I mentioned I am really not feeling it training wise at the moment. No real motivation as I think it is the post marathon letdown. I spoke with some of the more seasoned runners at class and they agreed it could be that. I guess there is a lot of that after you hit your goal or a major goal. I know I have to break out of this very soon and get back on some routine. I’m not doing badly in class but I could be getting much more out of it if I was doing other runs on my own during the week. I do feel really good after the class runs and could certainly use some of that good feeling the rest of the week. Even the pending5ks have not motivated me as they would have done in the past. I think too I am not looking forward to the indoor season that is fast approaching. The treadmill and indoor track just doesn’t excite me. But I am really going to try and
  • I stumbled upon a great book the other day. Online I was trying to get a book on mental toughness for runners and also saw the seller had one on Triathlon conditioning. Short of it is I only won the Ti book and am I glad I did. The book is called Tri Power: The Ultimate Program for Triathlon Success, by Paul Frediani and William Smith and it is probably the best single source for core strength and flexibility training I have run across. I wanted to do some research soon on what exercises would be good for a core conditioning program, and her it is. I’ll let you know how it works out over the coming months but I think this will be my exercise bible for the time being.
  • One of the races I’ll considering is a special one on 11/11/11. I missed the 10/10/10 race last year and would like to maybe do this one. The local running club, Pacesetters, is having an 11/11/11 11k run at 11:11pm. It’s a Friday night and I think it might be fun to do and it’s of course only $11. It is my son’s birthday that day and I’m sure the party will be the following day but what fun it would be. I guess I would have to do the 12/12/12 next year as well because when else will we ever have opportunities like this again? I think I’ll be too old for the next round of these races and dates.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Friend Connie and the Nike Women's Half Marathon

I wanted to talk about one of my oldest readers today and her completing a very special goal recently. Many of you may recognize the name Connie Koerth from the blog. She was the first reader to comment on any blog, to come out to meet me and also to do a group run with me. She has been a friend since our first meeting back last May I think it was. Connie recently completed the Women’s Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco. I am very proud of her, her determination and for having such an important goal.
Connie has historically reminded me of what is important and why I should do something. That is, why I should do something for the right reasons. You see her race in San Fran was in support of the Team In Training for Leukemia. The disease has touched her family directly as her daughter Nicole has the disease. For the first moment I ever spoke to Connie this was a very important goal for her to complete the marathon to show support for her daughter and also to help raise funds for the cause. She has struggle with some physical injuries during her training and it never stopped her believing she would complete the half marathon.
With the completion of her goal and the Nike Marathon Connie has decided to finish her blog. I am sorry to see it go as it is one of the few that I read on a regular basis. But I hope that you will take the time and go out to read her full story, it really is one of faith, strength and determination. I cannot do it justice in this one blog so I encourage you to go out and read her story. Her marathon review is wonderful and even more detailed than mine was! Yes, that would mean a lot of detail on her experience but it is one of the best and most complete reviews I have read to date.  I learn a lot from Connie and hope after her break she will select another goal for 2012. Thank you Connie for your story and inspiration.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weight of the Matter

A big part of my Back to Basics training goals is to lose weight. It was a goal of mine last year and it started off pretty well. During the first part of the year when my eating habits were under control and the training was more frequent I lost 23 pounds. Since then I have bounced around that number no matter what I do eating or training wise. So I want to focus on this and really try to drop the extra pounds over the next year or so. I’m actually to a point where some food just doesn’t appeal to me anymore since I have had some much of it recently. I hate to admit that I have had a lot of larger meals, cake, cookies, chips and well even other sugar filled things like candy, donuts and ice cream. This is not typically me and I guess it is all due to stress of one kind or another.

I have several family and friends who currently are working on dropping a few pounds. Most are doing a great job in changing their eating habits and life style to take the weight off. Most are on Weight Watchers and doing well with the new point system. In most cases as well they have taken up exercise to help. I think walking and or running is one of the key exercises they are doing. So I am thankfully surrounded my good role models for me to attempt to follow. It has been interesting to learn from them and take a look at what some of my favorite food is calorie wise. I know that the next couple of months with the holidays coming will be difficult, but if I can watch what I eat during the holiday season it should be really easy the rest of the time.

I have read a number of things on what my weight should be. On one side the military says I should be around 203 for my age and height. Other tables put me at 168 at the true desired weight and to get me into the proper BMI range. To me this seems a little extreme since I have not been at that level in over 25 years. The 168 goal would be I think too much off at almost 90 pounds from where I started. So what should a guy do? The simple answer is I will do my best and try and lose as much as I can safely do. I think my first personal goal will be to try and get below 200 pounds. That will be 39 pounds off from where I am currently. Through continued running and better eating if I go beyond that great. Would I like to see even 190? Yes that probably is my true long term goal. But I will not try for something quick to get the weight off. I will work on this over the next year of two and really try and change the way I eat and exercise. So starting this week the more formal attempt to lost weight begins as step to of my Back to Basics program.

One tool I will use to keep me on track is the Lose It! Online log. The site helps to calculate your goal by determining a timeframe and amount of calories daily for you. You then simply put in the food you eat daily along with any exercise as well. You can then update it with weight loss as time goes by and or link it to some of the high tech scales out there. Anyone wanting to use this site I think it is a really good one to use unless you are on the Weight Watcher’s site or some other program site. If you do use the Lose It! Site please include me as a friend on it. I can always use some support while working on this weight goal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Never Give Up and the Let It Be Foundation

Today is a special day (October 21st) in our household; it is my wife’s birthday. As we joke in the family it is less about a “birthday” but more about a birth month celebration for her. But today’s blog is a special dedication to her and the struggle and fight she had five or so years ago. I have mentioned it before but she is a breast cancer survivor. Those days seem so very long ago now but they still haunt us in a sense. There is always some reminder of that period and how cancer seems to affect so many family members, friends, neighbors or the world for that matter. You never forget the details of first hearing when someone has cancer. You’ll never forget the chemo and radiation treatments and the reactions to some of her medications. During that time you learn a lot about what is important in life, what really matters, the strength of a family and the love or commitment of your friends. In the end I am very proud of her for the way she fought it and how that period brought us closer. I am also very proud of her support for cancer organizations and the effort to find a cure or support others who have or have had the disease.

So my online gift to my wife today is to help bring awareness to one wonderful book and organization that helps persons or families dealing with cancer or other impact-full illnesses. It is my way to share her renewed life and the general message of hope, faith and those who try and make the world better for others dealing with illness.

All of this began some weeks ago when I was contacted to see if I wanted to review a book entitled Never Give Up - How to Find Hope and Purpose in Adversity. As much as I was intrigued by the email and description I did not think it would be a fit for this running blog. A second request came and once again I pushed it aside. Then on the third email I took a new look at what the spirit of the book truly was about. I realized is about never giving up even in the worst of times and to live each day of your life. The bells finally went off and I saw why I needed to talk about this book and organization. We all need to hear the message that the book brings. So today I offer this review of the book Never Give Up  - How to Find Hope and Purpose in Adversity by Ruthe Rosen. I am very pleased and proud to be a part of their online/blog book tour and to help spread the work of both the book and Foundation.

The Book

The formal description of the book is: When Ruthe Rosen’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Karla,  was  diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given only a year to live, Ruthe and her entire family did more than cope with the unimaginable—they embraced it. In their love and faith they found the strength to be there for Karla in every way as she endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments. And when, after a year of hopes lifted and hopes dashed, Karla lost her fight with cancer, they created The Let It Be Foundation in her honor, turning their memory of her courage and unwavering optimism into a legacy of community service. Throughout her ordeal, Karla never succumbed to self-pity or despair, and despite their grievous loss, neither did her loved ones.

The book is a journal of sorts of roughly the last year of Karla’s life. The core of the book is from her diagnosed of brain stem cancer, to her passing and the eventual creation of the Let It Be Foundation a couple of years later. The book is about that year long journey dealing with their daughter’s illness and the spiritual strength and faith Karla had in her last year. Yes, it is about the struggle of an illness and the loss of a young life. But it is more importantly about attitude, belief in one’s faith and the willingness not to succombed emotionally or spiritually to the illness or situation. It is about making the most of your life and truly living your life to its fullest. Thou Karla’s story is about a fight with cancer, the message of the book is for any struggle or fight in life. It would be a misunderstanding of the message to only think the book is about cancer.

I have to admit that reading this book was difficult for me. In reading a book about someone’s life and their passing you know unfortunately how it will end. I knew the book would be about the journey she took and not really about the final destination for her. I also found I had a lot of old memories and feelings come to the surface while reading the book from back when my wife was going through treatments. So there were some repressed emotions starting to surface before I even broke the cover of this book. I pushed aside the best I could those emotions to focus on this recorded journey of what I would soon discover to be an amazing young woman , her family and the community around her. Once I started the book I could not put it down. Any spare moment I had I needed to read to see what happened next in the journey.

The story to me is just how quickly life can change. Even with the Rosen’s they seemed to be living the American dream. A family with three healthy kids and very busy like most of us are running their kids to their various activities. A series of headaches, a cat scan test one afternoon and a medical result changed a family and really a community forever in just a matter of hours. Your healthy child who is so excited to perform in their first school dance performance now is told that the priorities in her life have just changed. That life as she knows it will be drastically different. In a matter of a few days the busy, scheduled flow of the Rosen’s life changed on a dime. It was now all about doing the most for their child and journeying into the unknown. But what comes out of the book is light from the darkness and a story of how this one family worked through it from the darkest days to days of great news and hope. Of how their daughter Karla provided a rare understanding of her situation and expression of her faith. How she helped not only her family and friends better come to peace with her illness but to help others as well with their illnesses.

I personally have to say that this book has touched me. It is so very strange that a book or the story of a young woman that I never met moved me so deeply. But through the pages of the book I did meet her in a sense and could feel the spiritual force that she shared with her family, friends, care givers, other patients and community. I have been lucky enough to have met some powerful or influential people in my life. But the true goodness, caring and faith that Karla shared with the world during her illness is truly remarkable. I wish I would have known her even for a short time, to experience firsthand this energy and faith you typically never experience. The book reminded me what is important in life, that you should be thankful for each day and do the most with each day you can. It also reminded me just how fragile life is and that there are no guarantees of tomorrow. I think we all forget that with our busy lives and sometime focus on things that may not truly be so important while we need to embrace other things like our family and faith. I know since reading the book that I hug my family a little more, get upset with them a little less an am very appreciative of everyday I have them.

My fear today is that my review does not do the book the justice it deserves and the message that it tries to communicate. I hope that you will read the book for yourself and see what message it communicates to you and how it might strengthen your faith or demonstrate why you should never give up.  As Karla would have said "Amen".

The publisher has been kind enough to provide three copies of the book for me to give away to the Sole Daddy readers. Anyone interested in reading this wonderful book or giving it to someone who is in need of such a message of faith please email me. 
10/21/11 11pm – Looks like we have our three winners for the book. The readers receiving a copy of Never Give Up book by Ruthe Rosen are Connie Koerth, Kathy Miller and the Mothers of Disciples FUMC group. Congratulations everyone and enjoy the book. The book will be forwarded to you as soon as I receive them from the publisher.

The Let It Be Foundation
In today’s world it is sad to think that stories of children being ill are not uncommon. But maybe this has always been the way historically with children, that is being no different than adults with illnesses. Maybe in today’s world of instant media we are simply more aware that these children and young adults struggle with the same terrible illnesses that we adults do. There is such a need for support in so many different ways for these families as they deal with the illnesses. I know personally cancer and heart disease has impacted my family in a very personal and deep way. But I remember even when I was a small boy the support that my grandmother received from organizations for medical supplies while dealing with cancer. In more recent years a wonderful organization helped my wife through her fight through a number of services and by providing counseling and other support. God bless these people and organizations for what they do.

The Let It Be Foundation seems to me to be another of these truly caring and special organizations. Why? Because the Rosens lived it and know what is needed during such times.
The Let It Be Foundation helps families with children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses or medical conditions. It provides such services as housekeeping, grocery shopping and meals, opportunities for family recreation, and help in meeting the needs of siblings. This caring assistance allows the children and their families to maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives and sustain hope as they battle the most serious illnesses.

I think it is a great way to remember Karla by keeping the spirit of her faith and caring alive. If you are in the area where this organization is active, please support it. As it plans and tries to expand out to other areas of the country in years to come also please consider supporting it and or being a part of that growth. If there are other similar organizations or even Hospices in your community please consider supporting it in some fashion as well.

To support the Let It Be foundation or purchase the book please visit Proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit foundation.

Book Details:
Never Give Up: How to Find Hope and Purpose in Adversity
Ruthe Rosen
List $16.95
Trade softcover 186 pages
ISBN 978-1-879384-86-6
Published by Cypress House
Publication date September 15, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So I have Some Real Goofy Goals

Over the last few weeks I have thought about what to do goal wise. I posted some possibilities a few weeks ago and realized I need something a little more motivating long term to stay on track. I pooled all of my ideas for both running and my 50th birthday and slowly worked through them. I knew I needed something that was going to be such a challenge that I had to stick with my back to basics training plan to ensure I would complete the task/race. Yes a race or series of them is what I would like to do for my 50th birthday. I just don’t see a plain cruise or mini vacation for the celebration. I also realize that if I do make it a race of some type that many of my friends and or family will probably pass on it. But it is my way to celebrate half a century of life.

Some of the races I considered are ones that I think I may end up doing in the long term anyways. Races like Big Sur, Hood to Coast Relay, New York, Chicago, London or the Marine Corp Marathon in DC. All are ones that could have been a wonderful experience especially if family and friends were there to partake in it. But there wasn’t that Wow factor to them for such a celebration. And for some races there was not a guarantee that I could get into the race like New York or London. Of course the ultimate race that I would do in a heartbeat for my 50th birthday would be Boston. But until some athletic miracle occurs within the next 12 months there is no way I would remotely qualify for Boston. The only way is if a non-qualifying slot is given to me for some reason. So if anyone has one of those and would like to make someone very happy on their 50th birthday … Someone surprise me! OK it was worth a try.
In the end what I would like to try for both physically and financially is the Goofy Challenge at Disney World in January 2013. I want it to be special and in a sense magical. I am a big fan of the Disney properties and what better way to celebrate than to run through the various theme parks at Disney World. I think at least for me it most likely will be a once in a lifetime event due to cost. With roughly 15 months before the race I think I can have the time to truly learn the basics, train and save enough money to make this dream a reality.
For those who do not know about the Goofy Challenge let me brief describe. The Goofy Race and a Half Challenge is a 39.3-mile adventure held over two days, participants will run the Half Marathon on Saturday, followed by the Marathon on Sunday. If you finish both races within the pacing requirements, you will be awarded the coveted Goofy medal in addition to your Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse finisher medals. I like the shiny medals and to run for the Goofy would be fun I think in a warped way. The only physical concern is that for the marathon (the day after the half) I would need to come in under 7 hours. I truly expect that I will be way under that time with a year of training. But I hear almost everyone who has done this Goofy Challenge says they take their time on the course and stop for most fo the on course entertainment. They say they take pictures with the Disney characters and the sights around the parks. So it is for many not a real run or race but there still is an element of time to it. Now add in there are roughly 15,000 runners for each event and that can impact your time and ability to stop for the entertainment as well. I understand that Disney will sweep you if you are not keeping the required 16 minute a mile pace for the race. But I am getting way ahead of myself on getting concerned on the details.
I would almost like to try later in 2013 the Disneyland half marathon as well. I think there is an opportunity if you do multiple Disney races between the two parks you can earn yet another medal as well. I know that would be financially more costly but I would have almost another 9 months to save for that. Why not go for it if you are already doing the Goofy and shoot for the Disneyland. But that is just a dream at this point and almost two years in the future. I want to first focus on the Basics an then start to train for the Goofy challenge.
So I know up front that even if I formally set this goal now that a lot can happen between now and then. I know that I will be traveling much more in my current job and that could be a factor. I also know that financially that this goal of my will be a very costly one compared to my local races. The entrance fees for 2012 are $310 for the Goofy an then you have $200 a night for hotel, food and airfare. I’m guessing that at a bare minimum I will be looking at $1500 for the race. So I have a lot of saving to do between now and then to cover the cost. But what is life without goals and dreaming. So for the 2012 year the blog will center around two main themes. The first is the Back to Basics that has already started. That will get me on the right track to be fit enough for the Goofy Challenge. The second will be Getting Goofy and training for the Disney races.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Trouble in Blogger Land

Just an FYI for all of the Sole Daddy readers. As of this morning, Friday October 14th, the Blogger service is having some issues. Any uploaded images have disappeared from the Sole Daddy site. Looking at other Blogger sites it appears it is a wide spread issue. So for the moment please bear with the situation and I hope it is resolved soon. Until then I will hold off publishing the next blog until it is either fixed or at least until Monday the 17th at the latest. Sorry everyone for this inconvenience, it was a bit of a shocker to see every picture gone this morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Olde to Runner Joe

I mentioned during the review for the recent Cheesehead Half Marathon an older runner that I dueled with for some miles. I wanted to take this blog to talk a little more about him and what I saw and thought about running with/near him that day.

Near the one mile marker I saw an older gentleman running ahead of me. At first site he looked well older than most for a half marathon. He was about my height, that being six feet tall, and thin. Thin in the sense that he was pure muscle and grizzle. I immediately thought that such a body does not come in a short amount of time but over many years of running or other activities. He wore a running singlet, split running shorts. Binding these two together was a stark black back brace/support that seemed to be at least 18 inches tall. Attached to that back support was a single water bottle. To top everything off was a fishing hat that had seen many years of use and better days. Collectively he was one of the most interesting and intriguing runner I have even been in a race with. For some reason I named him Joe at the start of the race. From that time on I would think about Joe, his running style and maybe what his story was.

For the next six miles we ran very close together and played a bit of a cat and mouse game with each other. His approach was a moderately stead paced shuffle/jog. I on the other hand would run for so many hundreds of feet and then do my power walk. It was a constant back and forth between the two of us. We never spoke to one another the entire time. I am not sure why I never spoke to him as I talk a lot during a typical race. Maybe it was the focused look he had on his face or the stern look he would give me each time he passed me. I could tell he did not like this back and forth disruption to his race plan. His body was in in the groove he wanted and I seemed to be little more than a bothersome fly buzzing around him for the time being.  Somewhere around mile 7 Joe pulled away and his stead pace slowly put distance between him and I. The next time I would see him would be in the food tent at the end of the race.

During the race as I have said before your mind does tend to wonder. I starting thinking about who Joe was, why he was out here, how many races and or miles he had put in over his life. I tried to calculate how many miles on average he might have put in for so many years over his life time. The number I came up with was a crazy amount but then his body wore those miles as a type of badge. I actually kind of got into the whole story creation about him just to pass the time. Was he a widower who does this to forget about life? Is he a onetime elite athlete who’s time was long ago over? I even thought that maybe he is a spirit of a runner that use to run these country roads and appears to those struggling from time to time. In the end I will never know who he was and what his story is. But I do know that I learned a lot from him that day. I learned that even in your later years you can be an active strong runner. I certainly learned that a good stead pace will get you to the finish line in a strong and expectant fashion no matter what others do around you. That your race is exactly that, your race. Stay with your own pace and run how you train. In short Joe helped to drive home everything that I always read about and or knew I should do. It was great to have such a good example share several miles with me that day. In hindsight running with Joe was the highlight of my day. I know that I will remember him for some time to come. Maybe one day not too far into the future I will see him again at some race. Or at least his spirit will come to me when find myself struggling during some race.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Georgia (Running) On My Mind

 I had a great weekend this past weekend attending a family wedding in Georgia. My wife’s cousin was married near Atlanta and it turned out to be a family reunion of sorts. It was one of the most fun weekends I have ever had at such an event. I had not been in Georgia for almost 25 years since I was in training with the Army. It was so strange to be back there as I was just a young man full of energy and dreams when I last spent any time in the state.  I have always liked Georgia and have many fond memories of my Army time there and the people I was stationed with. But that was truly a life time ago and to be back now was kind of well different. No, I didn't run or even walk while I was visiting this past weekend. I was offered to join some family on a walk but passed. I wish I had now.
But as most things I do now I began to think about running and how I could possibly blog about this. I started thinking about the old me and the new me in regards to running. The Army trainee was certainly in shape and a lot less weight wise. I think when I was at Fort Benning I was around 172 pounds and 21 years old. Just before arriving at Benning I had lost 82 pounds at basic training. We ran every where and I guess when you do that and really watch what you eat the pounds do fall off. Fort Benning was the last real place I ran during my military career and in many ways even up to this day. I recall getting up at 5am for runs three times a week. Benning if you are not aware is the home of the US Army Infantry, Officer Candidate, Airborne, and Ranger schools. So it is a pretty hard core in a training sense. Our morning runs use to be around the airborne training areas and the airfield. I honestly don’t remember how far those runs were but my guess would be at least 5 miles. The military is kind of strange in its running. It is one speed and everyone runs (or tries) to keep up. I think it is more about running by fear because you certainly didn’t want to stop and or fall too far behind. I remember those days where we would be running before dawn and the pace seemed just too fast. I remember being towards the back of the runners even then. I think I got wise after a time and just lined up near the back so as not to seem like I was falling back so far.
My best running instruction came at Benning where we had a first sergeant that loved to run. Almost every day at lunch he would take me out for remedial running in the hot Georgia summer heat. We would run on a 2 mile red clay track for the entire lunch hour. The rules were simple, keep up with him or at least stay within a certain distance. After a while I was able to hang with him. In hind sight he was probably what would now be considered an ultra-marathoner or true distance runner. Pace wise I have no idea what it was but I knew that he could run forever if he had to. I think that those lunch runs were the best running training I ever have had. Yes it was fear driven but there was a true desire to help me become a better runner as well. I was the only troop that took advantage of those training runs while at Benning. I wish I would have continued with such runs after I left hat unit. As hard as those runs were I think they were some of the best Army training memories I have of that time.
In contrast when I moved across the state to Fort Gordon I honestly do not remember any running outside of a PT test once. Being in the Army Signal school I don’t believe that running was as high on the priority list was it was at Benning. At that time the Army standard was to be able to run two miles as a part of a three event test. The other two events were sit-ups and push-ups. I know that each event had to add up to a certain overall point total to pass along with at least hitting a certain level of points within a given event. I could do sit ups really well so that was my high point event. Push-ups were so so. Running would make or break me for the test. I know I was slow even back then but would not really walk during the tests. I remember being one of the last to finish during most tests. Looking online at requirements the slowest you could do was 20:40 for two miles. That is fast even for me today pacing at 10:20 miles. I vaguely remember that I would run somewhere between 16 and 18 minute miles for the test. Not a lot of points by any means but I would kill for that kind of time today. Maybe one day I’ll get back to that type of time, but I won’t hold my breath. That trend continued for the rest of my military career. Maybe doing some running just before a PT test, but nothing on a regular basis. I actually swore to myself when I out processed from the Army that I would never run again as I hated it so much at that time. Funny how life comes back around and sometimes gives you second chances to do something like running.