Thursday, October 30, 2008

My running superpowers

I don't have a huge wish list of running superpowers. I think I'd only ask for two. The ability not to get injured and the ability not to get bored.

Not getting injured

After the last race (48 Miles in 48 Hours), I've been fighting a bit of a foot injury, which will require a doctor's care to determine what it is. I've had IT band injuries and dislocated my shoulder, all while running. And even if I don't have an actual injury event, I typically have soreness.

For some reason, Dean Karnazes (or "Karno", as he's not to his friends) seems to be immune to these types of things. His foot hits at exactly the right spot and his technique must be technically perfect. Either way, he generally doesn't suffer from these types of things, even after running 50 marathons in 50 days.

I've always thought of Karno (see, we're friends now) as a superhero. He may not always think so, but he does things that normal human can't even fathom, yet do. I continue to be amazed at his ability to run without the pain the rest of us mere mortals feel.

Not getting bored

While I recognize that this would make for a lame super power for most standard superheros, the ability to not be bored with training is one that I would put at the same level as not getting injured.

While New Hampshire and New England are beautiful, I'm not close to many good running trails that would keep me interested. I've got the same roads, often busy with cars, that I need to run to keep my training up for whatever current insane race I'm training for at the time. The runs get monotonous and I sometimes struggle to get out the door to hit the road.

I'm trying like crazy to do different things to keep my fitness up. After the half-marathon in early November, that I may or may not do, I'm going to try my hand at swimming. I need to cross train because hitting the roads day after day after day becomes brutal, both on the body and on the mind.

If someone bestowed on me the ability not to get bored with my training, I think I could even deal with an injury here and there.

This was written as part of the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday. This week's topic was "what superpower do you want?".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Weighting is the Hardest Part

With all apologies to Tom Petty, I think it's the weighting that's the hardest part--not the waiting.

Weight has been a lifelong struggle for me and will continue to be so for the rest of my life. I wasn't blessed with skinny "genes" though I do own a pair of skinny "jeans" as a result of running and eating right.

I have talked before about why I run, so I won't rehash those reasons. Don't get me wrong: I love to run, but it's not the love of running that keeps me going. It's my love of food and my need to keep my weight slightly south of a rhinoceros.

All told, I have lost more than 75 pounds. I was north of 250 and a 40-inch waist and now 31-inch waist jeans are too big for me. It was a journey that started after I ended a long-term relationship and it's a journey that I hope never ends.

The insanity of it

As you may know, I just ran a self-created ultramarathon this past weekend called 48 Miles in 48 Hours. In preparation for that, I cut back alcohol. I had two beers on Wednesday night and then didn't have anything other than water until I was done on Sunday night. And I lost 3 pounds doing that.

Now it's not that I drink much. I don't, really, but I may have one at night and probably a couple more at Happy Hour on Fridays. But I don't have much and I don't need it to get through my day, to sleep, etc. I enjoy it socially. After just 3 days of no drinking, I had lost 3 pounds.

Now I say that in preparation for my next statement. In the two days of running, 8 1/2 hours total, I only lost 2 pounds. And I wasn't eating much... probably less than 1,000 calories a day because my stomach was really upset. Shouldn't I have lost more during physical activity? You'd think so.

So I think there's a bit of general insanity that goes with weight. Marathon runners typically don't lose weight as they're training. In some cases, they gain weight. I know we're hungrier and everything, but come on... we are burning 1000s of calories. I don't think our bodies always get the memos.

Weight isn't everything

Your actual weight isn't everything, though I think we are consumed (no pun intended) by it. We can eat lean meats, boneless/skinless chicken, lots of veggies, etc. and still not lose a lot of weight. Some of it is genetic and there are lots of other factors, too.

If I'm eating healthy, then the weight loss will come. Regardless, I'll lower my risk for heart attacks, diabetes, and other nutrition-related diseases. As many news reports point out, thin people aren't out of the woods. Unhealthy habits may come back to haunt them even if they look thin.

So what do I do?

The first and most important thing that I did was recognized that I had an eating problem. The second thing was to determine where and when I had that problem. That allowed me to change my behavior. So, here's what I know.
  1. I have will power at the grocery store. If I only buy healthy things at the grocery store, I can only eat healthy things when I'm home.
  2. I don't have will power with food at my house. If it's there and it's bad for me, I'm going to eat it and eat it quickly. Brownies, cookies, pies, cakes... they're all typically gone within 24 hours if left at my house. My will power simply does not exist if the food is available to me.
  3. Corollary to rule 2. Tell people to take things home with them. If people bring food over or want me to take food home, I refuse. I simply say that "if it's here, I'm going to eat it." And I don't want to eat it.
  4. If there's something healthy at a restaurant that looks good, I can order that. I don't mind going to steak restaurants because they typically have good salmon or tuna. I'm quite good at restaurants. I don't need the fries.

Finally, what motivates me? That's really enough for a whole other post. The simple answer? See the before and after pictures below. 'Nuff said.

Before (2005)

After (2008)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yes, I am an ultramarathoner!

About a week before the crazy weekend-long run, I asked the question: will I really be an ultramarathoner? I mean, I was doing this over 2 days, and you normally have to continuously run to have it all considered one race.

I decided that that was a dumb rule. I thought about the pain and the distance and the fatigue and the fighting of injuries, and you know what? I'm an ultramarathoner... for two reasons, actually.
  1. On the first day, I ran 27.18 miles, so by the technical definition, anything more than a marathon is an ultramarathon, I did it that on day 1.
  2. More importantly, I think ShirleyPerly said it best. If you feel in your heart that you're an ultramarathoner, then you are one. And you know what? I do!
48 miles was a staggeringly long and difficult distance and it required me to fight through physical pain and mental fatigue more than any marathon I've ever run or ever will run. This run changed me and reminded me that I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it.

So, let me say it again: I AM AN ULTRAMARATHONER!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

48 Miles? Done!

I finished this sucker at 8 hours, 34 minutes and 5 seconds. Segment 5/6 and race report to follow. Now I'm off to find the greasiest pizza I can.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Following me tomorrow

As much as possible, I'll be updating at the end of each run. During each run, I'm going to try to use Twitter. You can follow my progress at

Wish me luck and I'll see you on the other side.

48 Miles in 48 Hours - One day to the craziness

At this time tomorrow I'll be done with my first segment and resting/eating in preparation for segment 2 of my 48 Miles in 48 Hours 2-day affair. I'm doing 6 segments over a 2 day period to total 48 miles (2 days x 3 segments x 8 miles).

I first came up with this idea in June after a heat-filled 5-mile run. I thought it was crazy then, but that was 4 months ago. Now, it sounds extra crazy.

I spent some time worrying yesterday about what I had gotten myself into. I know that I'll be able to do it, but I've now moved into my unbridled fear stage of things. And while I'm sure I'll drift back into that between today and tomorrow morning when it starts, I had a visualization during my last run today that will get me through.

Since I'm using a Garmin, I can keep track of the miles. Rather than reset it at the end of each segment, I'm going to keep the total running. That way, at the end of the 48 mile run on Sunday evening, I'll have a watch that says I ran 48 miles. That will be the picture that I post to this site and the event site. That's what you'll see. And then I'll blow that picture up as large as I can and frame it.

Details to follow about who is running virtually with me and how to track my progress.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

iPod tip: tuck in the cord

This may sound minor to most of you, but I just realized how to solve the long headphone cord problem that I've had since I started running.

Unlike most people, the standard iPod earphones don't fit in my ears and fall out constantly. So I've needed to go with more standard sport headphones that look like standard headphones without the foam.

But that leaves a long cord that can get caught in trees, caught by other runners, etc. I just recently discovered that if I tuck the cord from the bottom behind the Nike+ armband and next to my arm that it solves the problem. So, rather than just let the cord dangle from the bottom of the armband, as it naturally would, I'm tucking it next to my arm and letting the cord feed up from the top.

Again, it probably sound ridiculous and obvious but it wasn't either to me so I thought I'd pass it along.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Call for runners this weekend

After months and months of planning, I'm finally doing the 48 Miles in 48 Hours run this weekend. I'm doing it to benefit the American Cancer Society.

I have people joining me live for 5 of the 6 segments (every one but the first segment), so I'll have company for most of the two days. I'm keeping track of their mileage and will add it to my total miles at the end of the weekend.

That said, I'm now looking for virtual runners to join me each day. I'd like as many people as possible to join me to make the total miles run as high as possible.

If you're planning to go for a run Saturday, Sunday or both in support of my race, please let me know and leave a comment on this page to tell me how far you've run (or are planning to run).

Thanks for your support!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stretching tip: try it barefoot

Purely to stop my procrastination before heading out the door for a run, I decided to stretch before I went downstairs to put on my running shoes.

What I found is that when I stretch barefoot, the stretches are actually a lot more effective and can be done more accurately. I don't know if having running shoes on just tends to move your foot around or if they restrict your movement a little. I'm not sure what it is, but I know that I get a much better stretch when I do it barefoot.

I find that especially true in calf stretches (on carpet) where you're leaning against a wall. I find that when I stretch the non-extended leg that I can still keep a stretch on the extended leg. (See the picture at left, obviously not me.)

Since I've been doing it, I've noticed less tightness when I'm running and afterward. Nothing like getting back to basics, eh?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Will I really be an ultramarathoner?

In my upcoming 48 Miles in 48 Hours event, I'll be running 3 8-mile segments two days in a row. That obviously totals 48 miles (3 segments x 8 miles x 2 days) which is more than a marathon. That distance qualifies it for an ultramarathon. However, as I look at definitions, I'm slightly less sure.

Wikipedia defines an ultramarathon as any sporting event involving running longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers (26.21875 miles, 46,145 yards).

Other definitions around the web define it similarly.

While my event will be longer than the required distance, it will be accomplished over a period of two days and across multiple segments. Does that mean that I won't really be an ultramarathoner? Is each day or each segment considered an event?

I guess I can think about it like a 50-mile race. Those are typically accomplished over multiple days (noon to noon, for instance), and the participants are able to stop at aid stations and rest as necessary. No one would say they didn't meet the criteria to be called an ultramarathoner, right?

I know it sounds ridiculous to even have this debate because it's really more about the event than it is about the label, I guess. It's probably also the product of an overactive law school mind. But I really, really want to call myself an ultramarathoner after this event. But I'm not willing to do that unless it's accurate.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Progress - 10/8/08 (Fairland, OK)

I'm now 1,205 miles into my journey and have crossed from Missouri into Oklahoma. I'm now directly south of Kansas City and I passed just barely south of the Kansas state line on the journey. I came from Springfield, MO and am on my way toward Tulsa, OK.

It's a very small town of only 1,025 people. The picture shows what the town looked like on July 11, 1911. My guess is that it's not much more industrial these days.

I'll continue on Route 44 into Tulsa and then around Oklahoma City before I jump onto Route 40 for the next 1,200 miles. Texas will be the next state followed by New Mexico. Away I go!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Applefest Half Marathon Race Report

I ran the Applefest Half Marathon yesterday in Hollis, NH. It started at 10 AM which was nice because it didn't require me to wake up in the middle of the night to get there. It was an hour away so I left the house at 7:30 and had plenty of time to get there, get my number and wait for a while before the start of the race.

The half marathon is now in its 26th year and attracts between 900 and 1,000 individual runners. While that's a decent amount of people, it was quite manageable as they blocked off half of the street for the runners. I was behind people in the first mile, but after that, it thinned out and you could really run at your own pace. They put limits on the number of entrants and apparently it sells out early.

I'll separate this report into 3 sections: Interesting Things/People, My issue with the headphone ban and finally my running of the race.

Interesting people/things

While I was waiting to get started, I met a great guy named Fred. He was 70 but didn't look a day over 55. He retired at 55 and traveled the world going to great marathons. He ran the first marathon after the Berlin Wall fell where they ran across from East Germany to West Germany. He also did the first marathon of the millenium in New Zealand on January 1, 2000.

I mentioned that he probably had a lot of t-shirts from all of these runs. He chuckled and said at last count he had 880! That's unreal. What a neat man.

While I was running, I saw a great shirt that helped me to keep things in perspective. It was a shirt from the Make-A-Wish foundation. It said:

In other words: Dead Last Finisher is better than Did Not Finish is better than Did Not Start. What a great way to look at it for those of you doing something for the first time. The mere fact that you're getting out to do something is so much better than having never gotten off of your couch.

Headphone ban craziness

As I mentioned in my original post, they have beyond Draconian rules for headphones. While I know that saying there's a headphone ban allows them to get and keep insurance, I can't imagine any insurance company requires them to be this over the top with their enforcement. From their web site:

"Applefest does not consider this a game of wits, stealth or technology changes. If any device is capable; 1) of playing music, 2) of acquiring the ability to play music, 3) of being a continuous distraction to the user, then it is disallowed."

Wow. They also say that "mere POSSESSION of disallowed items on the race course will be considered a violation and the runner will be disqualified." So if they even see an iPod on you, even if you're not using it, then you're disqualified. They also said they'd pull you off the course. This is beyond ridiculous and a big reason that I won't be doing this race again next year. While I didn't wear my headphones, I thought it was a ridiculous and insulting way to go about enforcement of the rule.

In fact, why even enforce the rule? Tell people they can't have them and if they break it, it's on them. At least the Portland Marathon got it right by being music friendly.

About the Race

Now that I stepped off my soapbox, on to the race. It was a fairly nice course with some rolling hills and nice declines through the woods. The temperatures went from 53 to about 60 degrees by the end, which was perfect.

I had some stomach aches earlier in the race but my left knee and lower back were feeling fine and I was keeping a pretty good pace, sometimes as quick as 8:05 a mile. I was really feeling great through 8 and felt like I could run forever.

Then came mile 9 and 10. There's a 200 foot rise in elevation over a set of hills (elevation profile below) and that was just killer. We rose for almost 2 miles near the end of the race and a lot of people dropped off. I was determined to at least keep running, no matter how slow. I did it, but by the time I got to 11, I was quite tired. Ironically enough, there was a cemetary at the end of the hills. That gave me a quick chuckle.

I finished the half-marathon in 1:54:58 which is within 30 seconds of when I've finished almost every half-marathon. I don't know what it is, but my body doesn't want me to move any faster or slower, no matter how hilly the darn thing is. I ran almost exactly the same on the first half (about 57:15) as I did on the back, so at least I was consistent there.

Though I'm not concerned with the times much anymore, I did want to at least stay until 2 hours, which I did handily.

When I got in, I was treated to apple crisp and bagels (with apple butter as the glue). That and some sports drinks made for a nice ending.

So the numbers for the race... I came in 367/908 and 32/49 in my division (20-29). Without looking at the relay teams, the individual runners ran a combined 11,894.8 miles which is the distance from New York to LA out and back twice and a quarter of the way there again. That's impressive.

Next for me is the 48 Miles in 48 Hours event on the 18th/19th and the Seacoast Half-Marathon on November 9.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My upcoming running schedule

I'm going to have a rather packed 6 weeks of running coming up.

Tomorrow I have the AppleFest Half-Marathon in Hollis, NH. I haven't specifically trained for it, but that won't matter. I'll just use it as a training run for the next event I have coming up two weeks later.

Two weeks from that, I have my 48 Miles in 48 Hours event. That will be a two-day event over October 18 and 19.

Then, only three weeks after that, I have the Seacost Half Marathon on November 9. That means that I'll have to stay active after my 48 Miles in 48 Hours event, which will be no easy task.

After that, well, I'm thinking my body and mind may need a break from running, at least as much as I've been doing. I'm planning to join the Y and get some swimming in over the winter. Since I'm not training for a marathon in February like I did last year, I can afford to mix things up a bit while still hitting the roads.

Wow, that schedule gives me a headache.