15 June 2011


In my real life, I spend a lot of time on a podium - conducting a choir and (when I'm really organized) instruments who are making music for worship.

I have never been "on the podium" in any athletic contest. Not with a team, not with a solo effort, never in a race. (I have a vague memory of 5th grade, recess, and hitting the game-winning run; or was it being hit in for the game winning run? Vague memory, and in any case, there was no podium involved, just lots of fun and one of those "new kid in school" moments for me!)

Quite surprisingly, that changed for me Saturday last, with my third 5k run, or rather my third effort on the only 5k I've ever run. Run for the STARS is an extraordinary event sponsored by College Church in Wheaton. Funds raised by this growing, successful, very well run event, help send children and adults with disabilities - and their families - to summer camp. "I am not a runner," but this I have come to feel is worth running for.

2009, my first run, was a fluke. I woke up on Monday, and my weight was down to where I have felt more or less comfortable running. So I "trained" for 4 days, took Friday off for a bike ride, then ran on Saturday. I finished reasonably well (at a 7:48 pace), and people were saying to me, "I didn't know you were a runner, too." And I had to honestly say, "well, I'm not, really." "Well, you should, that was really good." "Really? Well, OK."

One thing led to another, and by April 2010 I was running my first marathon. Or, I should say, running my only marathon for the first time. I also took up running as my cross training, getting out twice a week most weeks, alternating 5k with 5m. June 2010 came around, with Run for the STARS, and I ran again. This time, my pace was 7:11, and I actually paid attention to the standings in my division. Not close to the podium, but respectable nonetheless. And I noticed that in the next division I would have been on the podium. Food for thought. May 2011, again with the Big Sur marathon, which brought me face to face with another 5k effort and the question: might I make it to the podium?

About a week before the race, I thought, "what makes me think that no one else in last year's race has also turned 55?" And I knew that one of my running friends (a real runner) would take the prize. All I hoped for was a spot; I was happy to place or show.

Imagine my surprise when I printed out my race ticket, while waiting for the awards. Whoa! That can't be right, because my real running friend was clearly ahead of me, by a pretty clear margin. Ah, so he is not my age, not close enough yet. Surprisingly, too, in that uncannily competitive division (male 50-54), Emanuel did not even make it on the podium. That made me realize that next year I will likely revert to my accustomed spot "in the upper half" of my age group.

And I'm cool with that! I held my information in check because you just never know what might be going on with these race details. So, though it seemed like it would be announced, it was still a huge thrill to be announced as 1st in my division: male 55-59 (1/16); 97th out of a field of 834 finishers; run time of 21:43; a 7:01 pace. There is even a medal, and someone took a picture so if you want, I have some proof. I know I need that proof, because it is my first time on an athletic podium, and it's still sinking in.

07 June 2011


Last week was a good one for cycling. The Memorial Day Monday provided an excellent chance for my Saturday morning group to get in a long looping ride from Winfield through Sugar Grove to Kaneville and back - 66 miles. Which also became our Saturday ride, for a nice 132 miles. Add a 38-mile solo day, and a 37-mile ride with friend Fred, and . . . well, I'm rounding off totals here. The official actual is 206.

Pressing on to catch up to my first thousand, the Monday night ABD club ride brought my season total above 800, only 1 week after I hoped to be at 1,000. With diligence, and a break in the unseasonable heat, we could see that nice round number within the week.

Meanwhile, this is also the week for final training for my annual 5k Run for the STARS. Onward!

02 June 2011

Miles to go

I thought I'd be writing more this spring and summer. I've been on sabbatical from my work, and in grad school full time for a semester. During which time I also was training for the Big Sur marathon. It has actually been an adventurous 4+ months, and I have nearly 6 weeks left.

The marathon was undoubtedly the sports highlight of my sabbatical. More on that anon. I have also taken a delightful 3-day self-supported, fully-loaded, bicycle camping trip. Pictures are here.

I like my cycling goals nice and round-figured, and based on national holidays. Memorial Day - 1,000 miles; July 4 - 2,000 miles; Labor Day - 4,000 miles. Well, I'm still working on that first thousand, and I may not catch up by Independence Day. But . . . I'm working at it!

29 March 2011

Nearly there

"Are we there yet?" That's what Kathryn and I wanted to know this past Friday when after 3 hours we weren't home yet. 18 miles is a long way to run (but we'll do one longer before race day), but it's a lot nicer to run together than alone.

Speaking from experience. Looking over last year's training log, I see that my last 3 long runs were solo: 16, 18, 21. All of them in the Morton Arboretum, and I think all of them cold. Coach Rich set me up well earlier by introducing me to those roads, pacing me, and encouraging me through some dumb mistakes.

This year it has been great to get nearly all the long runs in with Kathryn. We will run the Big Sur course together, so why not train together? It isn't convenient, living about 25 miles apart as we do. But she's a good sport to come out on the weekend, and we try to keep our time flexible, convenient, and fun.

She had a foot injury - probably resulting from the 14 miler we did on our last outing together. She missed her 16, which I did alone on the Prairie Path a two weeks ago today. But as of this past weekend, the foot was back intact, and she had some catching up to do. We decided to scale back the pace quite a bit (which, now I think of it, might have been prudent on our 14-miler). Understand me now - I really enjoyed running this slow!

Last year even my longest training runs came in at just under 9-minute miles. So Kathryn's proposed 11-minute miles struck me as ... I don't know, pokey? Kathryn, you know I love you, right? But once we settled into the pace, I have to say it was downright enjoyable. She was good at not letting me push our pace, and that helped me just relax and enjoy.

We started late morning, because it was yet another cold overcast late March day. [Insert grr here] We thought we'd have sunshine before we were done, but knew it wouldn't warm up. And it didn't warm up; but the sun came out within minutes of our start, so we had a nice, long, slow run in the sun. Our route was the Illinois Prairie Path - again, deferring to the recovering foot we were staying off the hills we should be training on. Closed out of the western leg due to tree removal crews, we turned back east and enjoyed the run through Wheaton into Glen Ellyn, then back to Winfield and through the Hawthorne Woods subdivision of West Chicago.

This week is scaled back, and next week is our longest training run - 21 miles. We will hit the hills this week, and see about the 21. Kathryn has demonstrated that she is ready to go the distance. She just has to believe that she can, relax and enjoy. I'll try to help with that, by learning to enjoy her pace!

14 March 2011

A spectacular tumble in paradise

Week Eleven of marathon training passed largely in Southern California.

The day before departure, Kathryn and I ran 15 miles in the Morton Arboretum. Coach Rich introduced me to the Arboretum last winter, and there he paced me through my first hills. We ran in snow and rain. There last spring I did my last long training runs, alone; the last one - 21 miles - in full sunshine with the Arboretum just coming into bloom and flower. It was about time to introduce Kathryn to the Arboretum. And true to my own introduction, she got a long, hilly, rainy run in.

The next morning, Saturday, my Karen and I boarded a plane at 30 degrees and walked off four hours later in sunny LA, 60+ degrees. Spring break! Spring vacation! We were greeted by long time friends John and Kathy Josselyn, who gave us a great tour of their world and put us up in their lovely California home. Out their front windows there looms a high ridge, part of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. Sunday after church we took a long leisurely hike there (but not up to the ridge!), and I knew where I would be doing my easy Monday morning jog!

Saying nothing here about all the great places we were taken, the beauties of coastal California and the framing mountains, of Sunday morning worship, and brunch right on the rocky beach at Malibu. Delightful company, delightful sight seeing.

We were to have rain on Monday, so I was pretty sure my run would be on streets. It did rain, a slow, soaking rain, Sunday night. Monday dawned bright and clear, and I decided I would, after all, hit the trail in Wildwood. It is not a gravel trail; it is not crushed limestone. It really is, um, dirt. Which clung to the soles of my new Brooks shoes ... and so I guess aided the workout factor, as I had more weight to move along with each step. The hills were definitely "not Chicago" but also not overwhelming. And it was great to get in a run so utterly unlike what I would have at home on any given Monday morning.

Two days later, my Karen and I woke up in the Montecito Inn, Santa Monica. (Again, to say nothing here of our beautiful run out through Ojai and Solvang, etc.) This was to be a lighter week all around, according to the training plan; and uncertain, to honor the idea of vacationing together. So, with permission, I set out toward Butterfly Beach (a walk of maybe 5 minutes) for a prospective 40-45 minutes run.I have never run on sand, not run run anyway, and didn't think this would be the morning to begin. A possible destination - Stearns Wharf - was 3.5 miles from the hotel ... farther than my promised time allowed, longer than the training program required, and tantalizingly close ... and to get there off the beach would give me a pretty sizable hill. Off I took.

The hill route took me by the entrance to the Music Academy of the West (nice surprise, that) and the Santa Monica Cemetery, back down to beach level and a nice long running/cycling path parallel to the shoreline. At 20 minutes out, it looked like the Wharf might not extend the run too long. At 25 minutes, I promised myself I would turn around at 30 if I hadn't reached the Wharf. At 28 minutes, there I was, I walked a small circle at the street end of the pier, and headed back to the hotel.

There's this parking lot on the way. The path empties into it, and if the sidewalk were not under construction, one could take that around the lot. I approached the decision point - a public changing room bath house - scanning for options, slowing but not much. I entered the shade of the bath house ... and failed to notice the small change in surface height. A spectacular tumble! I went down on my left side, scraping the heels of both hands, my left calf, and rolling on my left shoulder.Of course someone was sitting right there to see it all. "Man, are you OK?" he asked? Yes, I think so, said I, getting up. "I usually do that on a bike, not on a run!" I told the guy, sitting there with his own bike. "You sure?" Yep, thanks. He sent me on the way with this cheery thought, "You know, you're not getting any younger!"

I was OK, and now I have the calf abrasions as a mark of this year's training. I got back to the hotel with a total run time of 56 minutes, a pace just over 8 minutes per mile (including the tumble!), and hotter than with any run so far in this training period.

To run in paradise, mid-way through this adventure, was sheer joy. Even if I had to pay for it with runners road rash, I wouldn't have missed it!

20 February 2011


A treat to run outdoors for the mid-point of this year's Big Sur training:
13.1 miles at the end of week 8.

The route snaked through a Winfield neighborhood to Jewell Road just behind Central DuPage Hospital. Crossing the tracks at Winfield Road, it goes up Park to Washington to Summit to Gary's Mill Road. One of these days I'm going to have to run all the way up Summit ... but not just yet! I believe it is actually steeper than any segment of the Big Sur course, so even though it is not as long as most of the inclines there I just don't relish doing it. Park/Washington/Summit works pretty well for these training runs.

West on Gary's Mill Road makes me miss cycling. It is a standard route "out of town" for the Saturday morning cycling group. Running it in the winter is lonely by comparison, and since the shoulders are either icy (as they were last year) or mushy (this year), it requires a bit of caution and judgment regarding on-coming traffic. Do they see me? Will they move? Can I get on the shoulder without twisting an ankle?

The day was full-on sunny, and the temperatures in the mid-40's, with a fair west wind that had some nip to it. I was glad to be in running tights, and had put on a head-band "just in case." Once I warmed up, the "in case" was pretty much when headed directly west. My and large, I feel that drivers along a stretch of road like this sort of get it when they see a runner, and have not yet felt threatened. I guess it helps to use common sense and run when when traffic would be lighter. This was early afternoon, on Friday, with the run finished before 3.

Just before Gary's Mill bisects Roosevelt Road, there is a charming neighborhood off of Morningside, to the north. Largish lots, many of them with small horse barns and paddocks. The loop is about 1.5 miles around, with an interesting though not challenging terrain. Doing the circle twice makes the full run, house to house, 12 miles. An additional loop in my neighborhood, plus a bit, makes a neat little half-marathon distance. A fairly steady 9-minute pace brought the run in at just under 2 hours.

So, we enter stage 2 of the training, and so far so good. In the first stage, Kathryn and I ran together only twice. (More on that another time.) We are eager to make most of our long ones together. Onward!

29 January 2011

Again with Big Sur

Just finished the workouts for Week Five, ramping up - again! - to the Big Sur International Marathon.

Last year I was encouraged to run, and encouraged in my training, by guys from church who also ran the 25th Big Sur. This year that encouragement, and training partner, comes with daughter Kathryn. Kathryn was at the finish line last year, and her first word in the recovery area was, "I want to do this!" Well, so we egged each other on, and one day we both registered for BSIM 2011 ... and got consecutive bib numbers!

My goal this year is to run the course with Kathryn. She thinks that will mean "sacrificing" my run. But she is training for a 4-hour marathon, and my time last year was a respectable 4:09. Hey, it sounds like a great idea to me.

We have talked about trying to do the long training runs together, when - or as often as - we can. This week was our first time to actually pull that off. We had hoped to run in Chicago, in her favorite forest preserve, with her roommate Lauren. That changed, we opted for her to come out to the 'burbs and we ran a few loops in neighborhoods contiguous to the homestead.

With temperatures barely reaching 20F, we headed out at 9:30am. It took a while to settle into a pace that worked for us, but ultimately it really did work. We chatted most of the way, and finished 10 miles in almost exactly 100 minutes. That is a pretty solid 10-minute mile, which if it continues to work for Kathryn as the distances increase, will set her up well for the 4-hour goal.

I love the exercise I get with Kathryn. She gets, and does not fear, that cycling and running have as much to do with eating as anything. So we enjoyed lunch with my Karen, a nice way to celebrate our first long run, and a harbinger of May 1, when we cross the finish line together, meet up (again!) with Chris as he finishes the 21-mile walk, and head off to lunch with Karen and Pat.

3 months to go!

10 January 2011

Undocumented 2010

I sort of went offline once summer got underway, blog-wise speaking. I guess, given the choice of riding or writing, I chose the former. Not that I did all that much riding either. The season was much more affected than I would have guessed, by the early spring marathon training. This year, I have a plan to fix that. (And more follows to unpack that comment.)

So, without doing any justice to the highlight adventures of the second half of 2010:
  • June Century with Kathryn - still on her fine hybrid, we were committed to a ride mostly on paths, not roads. We made our way out through West Chicago to the Fox River, with our first - and highly anticipated - first stop: Cocoa Bean in Geneva. Continuing north to St. Charles, we then picked up the Great Western Trail, to our second stop, in Sycamore. I believe I have already sung the praises of Elleson's Bakery, a classic small town shop that is all by itself worth the 60+ mile round trip from my house. Nothing fancy, it is far from Cocoa Bean in every respect. But a worthy stop and one every cyclist should be aware of. At this point I rather cavalierly proposed a little circle on the road, rather than the full 18 miles of GWT back to St. Charles. Kathryn was game, and she was strong. I was a bit addle-pated, and managed to get us lost, adding miles and hills. Eventually we got back to the Trail, and just in time to stop for an excellent margherita pizza trail-side in Virgil (or is it Wasco?). An excellent restorative, and we managed to get home in one piece after about 102 miles.
  • Family Reunion in Tennessee - this warrants a separate post. The sport part of the outing was being able to hike in the Smokies, ride Cade's Cove Circle without auto traffic, and running - hills! 
  • The end of the reunion came with a family surprise, as my Karen's mother had just fallen and broken her hip. So our planned visit to the home county was changed up a bit, and I was able to introduce Kathryn to the glories (so to speak) of Branch County, MI, back road cycling. Through the month of July, Karen and I got back there a bit, so I had more cycling this year, in that county, than at any year since junior high, I'm sure!
  • July Century with Kathryn - well, it was dicey from the outset. Friday evening weather was iffy, and the forecast for the night and Saturday morning was not encouraging. Indeed, we had lots of rain, and in the morning while the rain was "probably" over, the roads bore evidence of danger everywhere. The neighborhood retention pond could have hosted the swim component of a triathlon, and the adjacent street was too deep to drive through, much less ride in. We cut our losses and stayed in to eat a hearty cyclists breakfast ... minus the cycling! By late morning the weather had cleared and we were itchy to do something. Kathryn had a cycle savings wad in her account, dying to be spent. So we went bike shopping. Prairie Path Cycles --- what can I say? They are a first-rate shop, with the best people running and working it. OK, so maybe my Karen would prefer it weren't only 1/2 mile from the house. That shop did not have something that would work for Karen in her price range; but a brief call to the Batavia shop revealed that there might be just the thing for her there. So out we went. On she sat. Off we test-rode. As we were walking out the door, to go home and "think about it," we both said, "Really?" If K. had the money, had done the research, and liked the bike, why wait? It was sudden, but hardly an impulse. So she came away with a sweet Gary Fisher ION Pro GS road bike, green. We had our first road ride together, from home, a 17-mile loop I like to take, and she was hooked. It nearly made up for missing this month's century.
  • So the August Century was a very different outing altogether. My Saturday morning peeps were also headed out that day, to ride from Winfield to Savanna, IL. (They would make the 120+ ride out on Sat., and back the next day. My Sunday job sort of ruled that out for me.) I had the route notes, map and cue sheets, and K. and I were going to head out at about the same time as the guys. So, our plan: meet the guys and head out with them, and let them go on ahead when they out-rode us. We did not in fact see them in the parking lot on our way out, so we thought they must have pressed on early. (I had not told them our plan, so there would have been no reason for them to delay or call us.) Or if they were behind us, surely they would catch up to us. The route included quite a bit of road that I've been over with these guys, so I felt pretty good about it. And it was all new to Kathryn so that was just plain fun. We got as far as DeKalb (30+ miles) without seeing the guys, and I was sure at that point that they must be ahead of us, and that we might even see them leaving the place where K. and I would make our first long stop. But we didn't see them, going or coming. We pressed on to Malta, where our century route looped out and away from the Savanna trip sheet. [Turns out the guys got a pretty late start; and they detoured around a bad stretch which K. and I slogged through.And they had all day!] We rode a nice rural loop around back to Sycamore ... and I had my first roll through Sycamore without a stop at Elleson's! Instead we parked at the grocery and bought a real lunch and sat at a picnic table in the sun (too hot!) and got some real fuel. It was turning out to be a pretty warm day in the full sun. We rode back through Sycamore and south to pick up a route that I know from the Saturday rides. Throughout the ride I was trying to acclimate Kathryn to drafting, and she was trying to pick it up. In the end, I think I benefited more from it than she did. By the time we got to the Fox River in Batavia, we were pretty bushed, but still had about a dozen miles to go. Lots to drink, and some energy foods, and a pretty good sit-down on a bench in the shade - these helped, but we had a long, slow slog home. We managed 108 miles, and I was glad for some decisions I had made that I thought would get us home at about 99 miles. Oh well.
  • No September Century, and a short, brutal "Ride for Refuge" in October turned out to be a less than glorious day on the bike. But it is an excellent ride, well managed, for a great cause. The day was cold and fiercely windy. I had hoped to do the 30-mile loop, twice, and was glad to be able to finish it once. Next year, I want to ride it with others - to expand the fund raising element, and also to be more successful in the wind!
The winter rolled in, and I was glad to again register for the ABD "Boot Camp." Great club, great winter training sessions. I didn't do this last winter, in deference to the marathon training, and felt my cycling season really suffered for it. This year, registered for the same marathon (on this, more anon), I finally figured out how to make Boot Camp my "cross training" for the marathon prep. And so, off and ... well, running!

08 January 2011

Man you old!

Driving through Indiana yesterday, we stopped for gas. Already stopped, and it being still early, I slipped into McDonald's for a cup of coffee. (Note: Indiana, early, stopping for gas. This is not my first choice for a cup of coffee.)

The young boy who rang me up (could he really have been only 12 years old, as he looked?) said, "a dollar nine, please. No, oh, wait." His fingers flew on the cash register face like he was texting. The screen changed, and he said, "that will be 39 cent."

"Whoa!" I replied. "How did that happen?"

"Senior discount." A blank stare from me, mouth agape. "I'm not saying you're old."

Funny thing is, yes I am 55. But this is the first time I've been offered a senior discount, no questions asked.

Drove off singing Paul Simon ...