Thursday, December 28, 2017

Making sense of my Year of Halfs

I've been thinking about how to sum up the year, trying to figure out what running a half-marathon a month for the whole year has meant, or accomplished... or not.

In fact, this thinking started the night before the last half in Kiawah SC  (post for that race is here) when my friend and hostess Robin asked me straight up "So... what did you get out of it?"

What did I get out of it?
Other than a shit-load of medals

When the idea for this quest came to me, I'd just run my first semi-serious 5k in ages.

Before that race, I'd barely been able to run a mile. For me, as a formerly pretty fast dude, and still a guy who identifies as being a "runner", that was pretty humiliating.

So, I set a goal (the 5K), set a training schedule, and knocked it out. And if felt fantastic.

I wanted to keep things rollin', so I needed another goal... that's when I came up with a half a month, with a stretch goal of running them all in under 2 hours.

In my head, it was challenging, a little scary even, but also a sure-fire way to go from semi-fit to rockin' fit. I've always loved the half-marathon distance, there are loads of them, I could travel a bit, and I'd end the year with a ton of hardware, feeling awesome, and maybe some abs.

And that was pretty much how it went down... for a while.

I kept to my 3 runs a week, ramped up my long runs, stretched a lot. The January half went well (even though I missed my time goal, but only because I started behind a jillion people... I was cruising really well after the first 4 miles). February was faster, and March even faster.

Gasparilla: One of my fav pix from the year
even though it looks like a palm tree
is growing out of my head.

Things were going well... I was getting more comfortable with the distance, my training was steady, I was dropping weight, end even the Indiana winter weather wasn't horrible.

April's half was on my home course with perfect conditions, and looking back, my best race... I still wasn't as fast as I wanted to be, but I felt strong, confident, and like I could race the race a little. After that one, I felt as though I'd really accomplished something.

And then... I got complacent. Two-hour halfs were coming easy. Too easy. I wasn't scared of failing any more.

Then, I got lazy. My training got inconsistent. My races got worse. For the May race I showed up unprepared, June was a disaster because I hadn't run a step in the heat, July was a slow slog.

I justified my poor training with "Hey, I'm running a half a month! I can't train consistently. Race a half... a week to recover... a week to get back in the groove... week to train... week of taper... race again."

But that was kinda bullshit. I wasn't racing those halfs. They were long training runs. There was absolutely no reason to not train between races.

The truth is, I'd lost sight of the real goal... to feel good, fit, and fast again. The 12 halfs were supposed to be my path to that. That was the real goal.

August, a trail half, was challenging in new ways, and it scared me enough to train for it, but that was the last one, really... September I had heat as an excuse again... October I ran ok.

We even got to hang with Purdue Pete at October's half.

November was supposed to be my "A" race, the one I'd targeted for my best performance. It was a bit of a fluke, but I did run pretty well... no idea why... perfect conditions helped I'm sure, and the autumn boost after summer heat and humidity. It certainly wasn't from quality training.

And December was a slog... not only because of the stomach distress, but also because I'd barely run a step in a month, hadn't stretched either, and by now had picked back up the weight I'd dropped earlier in the year.

Every half after April was an accomplishment, and I'd celebrate each one, even the shitty ones, but they rang hollow.

Even in those last 2 miles of number twelve, hoping to distract my mind from my roiling gut, I tried to find some emotion, some sense of completion, of accomplishment.

It wasn't there...

I knew that I'd taken a short cut. I'd met the letter of the goal, but not the intent.

In hindsight, after the April race, while I was sitting in Brockway Pub with Jen, feeling that real sense of accomplishment, I should have reset my goal right there... challenged my self to do more, to chart a revised path that would get me to where I truly wanted to be.

Here's why that didn't happen...

When running a half, I divided into 4 parts... the first 4 miles are where I sort myself out, try to get comfortable, and hopefully get past the "What the hell am I doing this for?" freak out. The next part is getting to 8 miles... that's well past half way, "downhill" to the finish, but those miles can be a slog to get through.... I need to keep my wits about me, not do anything stupid. The next part is getting to mile 10... and after 10, it's just a 5 K to go... if things are ok at 10, I know I'll be fine, and I can open things up a bit if I want.

I approached the year of halfs just like a half... and in April, I felt like I had no business starting my kick... I still had a long way to go.

Kinda makes sense... but it's totally wrong.

Races are about planning, conserving, pressing when you can, saving just enough at the beginning so you can finish strong.

A racing season is about cycles... pushing for a while... peaking.. recovering... and repeating those cycles every 3-6 months.

The same fear I feel (and I think most of us feel) in a race when I'm reluctant to go fast, worried I'll end up bonking, had bled into my race cycle thinking. I was too afraid to raise the bar... too worried I'd bonk. I thought I needed to cruise until I got to 10.

But without raising the bar, knowing I could knock out a 2 hour half with no training, there was no challenge. It almost became a game... let's see how little training I can get away with and still finish a half.

So... I find myself with 12 kick-ass medals, 11 shirts (still can't find the Zionsville one), a few dozen horrible race photos.

And some fun memories, like...

running with Yoda as Luke Skywalker through Disneyland for the Star Wars half, and

margarita's, and Dali, and killing time at the beach bar with Jen at Gasparilla in St. Pete, and

that dude who told us "200 meters to go" a good third of a mile from the finish at Sam Costa, and

finishing 3 minutes faster than I'd expected at Carmel, and

finally getting to cross the bridges over the reservoir at Geist, and

my buddy Jay giving me water when I was wilting and Jen taking care of me at Zionsville, and

running over the river on one of those steel drawbridges you can see through at Chicago Rock n Roll, and

the knee deep water crossing and seeing Jen next to the (empty!?!) finishers beer keg at the Viking, and

the overheated guy doing the drunk man walk before mile 8 at Mill Run Half in Columbus, and

running the campus, butt dialing my sister 19 times, and post-race beers at Harry's with Jen at Purdue, and

riding the shoulder of the 2-hour pacer for a few hundred yards, and then accelerating away at Monumental, and

running with Bill and hanging with Jen and Robin and drinking bourbon and wine and beer and eating like fools after Kiawah...

All of those memories are awesome, and that's not lost on me.

And neither is how fortunate I am to be able to run at all, to finish even one half-marathon, let alone twelve.

But I also find myself far short of the fitness, and far above the weight, and not anywhere near the level of "feeling good" that I'd thought those races would steer me to. Not their fault, all mine.

Not sure what my goal will be for next year. I'll still run, maybe target a race a month. And those races won't be, in and of themselves, the goal. (And they sure as fuck won't all be half-marathons.)

Somehow I need to quantify and measure "feeling good"... I guessing there is yoga involved... and free weights. I'm open to suggestions.

Thank you for following this quest and for your comments and good wishes. My readers are the best (and scientifically proven to be good looking with high IQs).

Until next year...

Good running,

Ratings of the 12 halfs:
Best course: Gasparilla - gorgeous view of the bay for most of the way.
Worst course: Tie:
   Zionsville - the 2-loop half could be a nice one-loop 10K
   Sam Costa - 1000 tight turns, paths with low hanging limbs, curb jumping... uhg
Best medal: Star Wars - looks just like the one's Luke and Han get in New Hope

Worst medal: Zionsville - phoned it in

Best shirt: Kiawah - technical hoodie? Yup!
Worst shirt: Chicago - boring
Best organized: Chicago - huge event, ran like clockwork
Best overall: Gasparilla - it's at the top of the list of ones I'd do again, and not just for the warm weather - well run, great course, great venue.

PS - If you've enjoyed this series, that makes me happy, and please consider sharing it with others. And, I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, whatever, whenever. If you want to keep tabs, you can follow me on twitter (@DougRun365) or subscribe to get posts via email (I don't get your email address, and wouldn't bother you even if I did), or just bookmark the site.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December Half: Kiawah Island Half, Kiawah Island SC

If you’re planning a trip to Charleston SC, you’ll wanna drop me a note.

I go there a lot.

I know lots of great places to eat and drink and see, but mostly, you’ll want to know what to pack.

For some reason, the travel gods have conspired with the weather gods to ensure that it’s unseasonably cold, and usually rainy, whenever I visit Chucktown.

As you'd guess, this trip was no exception.

For the race, the Kiawah Half on Kiawah Island not far from Charleston, and last in my quest for a half every month this year, it was nearly ideal...if you were running. 41, overcast. It was windy too but we were protected from the wind by trees and huge houses.

For a December mini-vacation in one of the great cities of the world, it was decidedly not ideal.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a TON of fun. Our hosts, our dear friends Bill and Robin, shuttled is around the city for food and drinks and art and more drinks. It just wasn’t in shorts and sunscreen. Winter coats and umbrellas were the dress for those days.

As for the actual race, I was surprised at how big it was. Lots of people, most of them in line with us to get to the field where you had the option of parking your car or getting it stuck in the sloppy mud. We chose to park, but it looked like people were pretty evenly split.

"Welcome to Kiawah... you're gonna sit here a while."

Time was ticking down to the start time and I didn’t have my number yet. We boarded a nice coach bus for the final leg to the starting line so I could get my packet. But as a twist, the coach inexplicably dropped us about a half-mile from the start.

I kept my shit together for a bit, but with just 20 min before the gun, and not knowing where the hell I was supposed to go, I broke into a panic jog.

I do no the building, just has everyone was leaving it for the corrals. Does no my best impression of a trout in spawn, I surprised, pissed off, and maneuvered around a few hundred people before finding the tables and getting my number and shirt.

After the small miracle of them running smack into Jen and Robin, I dumped my gear with them, and they pointed me toward Bill, who was already in the corral, calm and a cucumber. as a cucumber. But also calm. Which was good because I needed a calming influence to help me dial down my freak out.

Start blow-up thingy

But, I’d made it, with a good 2 minutes to spare. All I had to do was cruise through 13.1 miles one more time. No problem.

The gun goes off, we cross the starting line, and uh-oh...we have a problem.

Within maybe 100 strides, I could feel my stomach. That digestive miracle that I usually don't feel, don’t even think about, especially on a run, and never in a race, was making a statement. It was not happy.

It was not happy at all.

It felt as though someone had slipped a small cannon ball, or perhaps a car jack, into there. And running was helping.

Even now I’m not sure what was wrong. Was it the protein bar (which I’ve eaten before several races with no problem)? The OJ? The 90 minutes in the car? The stress of the close call getting my number? Maybe it was the potpourri of all of that.

This is me not feeling well at all

It really didn’t matter. It just was. But surely it’ll pass...right? Right?

Nope. It was settled in for the ride.

Thankfully, for the first time all year, I had a running buddy. Bill was like a machine, mile after mile...actually kilometer after kilometer. Bill likes to track is progress in Ks to get more regular feedback. Which is kinda brilliant.

Bill, and me pretending all's well

I told Bill I wasn’t feeling well, and I just camped on his shoulder. I apologized for not being my usually chatty running partner...all my attention was focused squarely on getting to the finish before whatever was in me decided to rocket out, front door, back door, or new door Alien style.

My last half of the quest wasn’t the victory lap I’d hoped. It was a serious effort. My time doesn’t make it look like it was, but it really was a difficult 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Sometimes you have to remind
the crowd to cheer for you

And without Bill, it might have been 2:15.

In case I haven’t made it clear, I felt terrible. Had I not had Bill’s steady pace to copy, and his shoulder to ride when I felt especially bad, I’d have walked...a lot.

Jen and Robin made a point of finding us at a few points along the course, which serves as a momentary boost to my mood, and a micro-boost to my pace (a guy always speeds up when his girlfriend is watching).

The after race party looked great... beer, a big buffet, live music. I forced myself to drink part of a celebratory beer, but soon I was chilled to the bone. My lips were turning blue like a 7 yr old who really should get out of the pool for a bit.

So we got back to the car, did not get stuck in the mud, and soon I was defrosting in the shower.

An hour or so after that, my tummy returned to normal. We went out for a bite. And a drink. And another drink. And then back to the warmth and coziness of Chateau Howard.

I registered for this race a year earlier. Thanks to my Charleston friend, bad ass sailor, and unfairly fast runner Craig. He told me how fun and flat and fast it was. And I dreamed of a victory lap and victory celebration on a beautiful island, in shorts, ignoring the risk of sunburn.

Oh fickle fuckers, you.

Craig's in the middle, looking like he finish
about 35 minutes before we did.

Still, though the weather wasn’t great, and my race was soured by my stomach, I can’t think of a better group of people I’d rather stand around shivering with and toasting completing 12 half marathons in 12 months.

Thanks go out to Craig for convincing me to run Kiawah, and for the tip that got me in for $40. I've already registered for 2018, and I've been assured that it's never cold on Kiawah race weekend... at least not 2 years in a row.

Special thanks to Bill and Robin for the hospitality, food, drink, laughs, drinks, friendship, more drinks, and introducing us to the Albert Finney musical version of A Christmas Carol.

Bloody Mary and/or Mimosa bar
at Paige's

And special-est thanks to Jen for making the trip, and putting up the cold windy rain, and finding me before the start, and looking after me at the finish, and generally being awesome.

And thanks also to Charleston, and the sun, for taking mercy on us before we left, and giving us one gorgeous afternoon.
We had Windjammer to ourselves

Sand. Sun. Ocean.

So...that’s 12. I’ll post a summary, look back, what-the-hell-should-I-make-of-this-year-of-halfs entry before the end of the year.

Until then...

Good running,
Hooded tech shirt... pretty bad ass

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
  8. Aug: Viking Dash Trail Half in Muncie, IN
  9. Sep: Mill Race Half in Columbus, IN
  10. Oct: Purdue Boilermaker Half in West Lafayette, IN
  11. Nov: Monumental Half in Indianapolis, IN

Sunday, November 19, 2017

November Half: Monumental Half in Indianapolis, IN

I knew this race was a mistake.... right up until it wasn't.

The November chapter of the Half-A-Month saga for 2017 was the Monumental. In it's 10th year, this was the first time I've run it.

"Why?" you ask? "Why have you not partaken in a pretty big city event so close to home?"

Uhxxck... I don't know. The course looks boring. It grown too big. It's a hassle.

Case in point... I made the mistake of driving to packet pickup even though it was only a mile from my office. Why drive? Because I left before the mad rush at 5:00 and I wanted to get home fast.

Big mistake... I was actually just in time for the 4:30 mad rush, and traffic was a joke, and parking was impossible and I know that Indy is a small city but I hadn't planned for this!

I spent 40 driving in loops before I got into a parking garage. 10 min walk to the expo from the car. 7 minutes in the expo. 10 minute walk back. 15 minutes to get out of the damn garage!

Yes, I know I could have used bike share. That occurred to me much later.

Anyway... lots of people. Corrals packed.

And there was this guy...

Yes, you're very gangsta...

The first few miles, the interesting ones, were jam packed with people, which was mostly my fault because I started at the back of my corral. But once it the jam opened up a bit, I put it into high gear and took of like a...

Uh-oh... no high gear... something was wrong.

I'd spent 3 miles going WAY slower than I'd planned, and couldn't seem to get myself going any faster. I was stuck. I knew this race was a mistake.

Then, to rub it in... the 2:00 pace group passed me.

Well, fuck...

But then, a long dormant racing gene from the good ol' days perked up. The long lost DNA was saying "Oh HELL no!".

I took a few longer strides and got onto the shoulder of the 2:00 pacer. I was going to hang with her no matter what.

But then... only about a quarter mile later... it happened...

I felt fucking good.

Home stretch of #11

I slowly pulled away. My splits fell. I was making up time, by handfuls.

The last 10 miles were easily the best I've run all year. I was pushing but under control. It almost felt like I was racing again.


Sure, the perfect weather helped (high 40s, overcast, light breeze). I sure can't marked it up to good training. It was just a good day all around... except for my right nipple.

Badge of honor, maybe?

Good running

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
  8. Aug: Viking Dash Trail Half in Muncie, IN
  9. Sep: Mill Race Half in Columbus, IN
  10. Oct: Purdue Boilermaker Half in West Lafayette, IN
Next up, the last one of the year, Kiawah Half in Kiawah SC

Bonus: Fun story about the number... after the race I showered and changed at one our offices downtown. When I got home, I couldn't find my number. No big deal to most people, but I have every race bib I've worn since college. I tore the car apart, tore the house apart... nothing. I had to have left it in shower room. With my OCD flaming out of my ass, I drove all the way back downtown, went the the shower room and there it was... a clear floor. Not in the trash, not in the hall. "I know! I must have swept it up with my towel!", I said with my index finger raised in the customary "Ah-ha!" pose. I was very proud of myself for figuring that out. I was not proud of myself when I was pulling out all of the dirty towels in the shower area... 15... 20 maybe... many still damp. WTF was I doing? I gave up.. mostly... I still looked under every cabinet and piece of furniture, and re-traced my route to where my car had been parked. Dejected, I walked to my car from the passenger side. On a whim I opened the passenger door.. .and there it was... in the slot between the seat and the door. I was at the same time relieve to see it there, and a little frightened at the control that thing had on me... yikes...

Monday, October 30, 2017

October Half: Purdue Boilermaker Half in West Lafayette, IN

Number 10 on my half-a-month journey was on and around the campus from whence I matriculated, the Purdue Boilermaker Half in West Lafayette, IN.

Purdue's campus is nice. The weather was cool-ish. 

The only snag, I'd forgotten to bring my GPS watch, which meant I had to run with my phone. I don't like running with my phone, even with my fancy phone holder waist thingy. And I had my other, non-GPSy FitBit that syncs with my phone so I could at least keep track of my splits, but still... it's a pain.

But, I brought Jen, also a Boiler grad, with me for moral support.

And we made a friend!

We ran into Purdue Pete on the way to the start!

The crowd was considerably larger than I'd expected... way bigger than last month's half in Columbus. Quite a few students, or VERY recent grads... let's just say plenty of people way younger than me.

And there was this guy...

I'm gonna guess he's making a boiler.
Just a guess.

I lined up behind this woman, who I'm gonna go ahead and assume is named Amy, though I didn't ask...
I did however high-five her because she was running her 100th half! Pretty cool. She ran with a friend, who was not running her 100th half. I wondered if that other woman felt insecure about her measly half tally, but again, I didn't ask.

The gun went off, I fumbled a bit with my Fitbit and phone to get them synced and working, and then it went pretty... uneventful.

Me running uneventfully

Well, ok... now that I think about wasn't completely uneventful.

Somewhere around half way, my FitBit went all vibratey on me... it was telling me that my sister Deborah was calling. "Uhg... why now? Why in the middle of a damn race?! She's so clueless..."

Then she called again!

And again!!

And then another number called me a few times. "Does she think she can fool me with the ol' 'Call From Another Number' trick?"

Eventually she stopped calling and I went along my merry way.

I ran a comfortable, steady pace. The hills didn't bother me. I didn't wilt in the heat because there really wasn't any. I finished strong-ish and broke 2 hours by a minute and a half.

Requisite finish line photo.

After the finish I went for my phone to see if Deborah had left a message, only to find my phone dead. "That's weird..."

We took the long way back to the Union hotel, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the changes to the campus. What used to be a grid of brick buildings and asphalt streets is really lovely now.

 Think your University is cool?
Neil Armstrong's moon boot print.
(Drops the microphone.)

Eventually we got back to the room, I plugged my phone in and took a shower.

And then I saw this...
My shame... let me explain...

So... remember when I said I didn't have my GPS watch, so I had to use my other FitBit and my phone in the fancy phone holder waist thingy?

And remember when I said I fumbled at the start with my phone to get the Non-GPSy FitBit to sync?

Yeah, so apparently I didn't quite get the phone turned off either... when I put it back into the fancy phone holder waist thingy.

And... apparently... while I was running, I kinda sorta butt-dialed my sister.

19 times.

She did leave a message one of those times she called. I rather frantic message that went something like "I can't hear you when you call. I'm working in the food truck at the IU game. I hope you're ok... call me please to let me know you're ok. Ok?"

That was after 7 calls.

I butt-dialed her TWELVE MORE TIMES.

After I stopped laughing, which took a considrable amount of time, I tried to apologize...

Oh, and those calls from the strange number? They were from the fine people she was working with in the food truck at IU. The ones who were also terrified I was barely able to press my sister's speed-dial and unable to speak because I was losing consciousness while having a heart attack in a ditch somewhere. They were considering packing up the food truck and leaving the IU football game to try, somehow, to rescue me. When they heard I was ok, they sent their best wishes...

We laughed some more.

Then we went to Harry's and had victory beers and burgers. And laughed even more.

So... finished under 2 hours, hung with Purdue Pete and Harry's Chocolate Shop, touched base with my sister... a pretty good half.

Boiler right the hell up!

Good running,

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:

  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
  8. Aug: Viking Dash Trail Half in Muncie, IN
  9. Sep: Mill Race Half in Columbus, IN
Next up is the Monumental Half in downtown Indianapolis

Monday, October 9, 2017

September Half: Mill Race, Columbus, IN

September races are supposed to be more temperate, right? Even cool... crisp perhaps? They're supposed to be the reward for surviving the heat and humidity and general misery of summer running.

The the Mill Race Half in Columbus Indiana, a lovely mid-sized race in a wonderful city brimming with architectural masterpieces (I'm serious) and #9 on my half a month for 2017, was a scorcher. Warm, humid, nary a puff of wind, and a sun that I'm pretty sure chose this day to get back at us for the mocking it took during eclipse-mania.

I knew before I'd left home at 4 (f'in!) 30 in the morning that it was going to be too warm to try anything, so I knew going in that this was a well appointed training run. So, I took it nice and easy and smart.

The first 4 miles were not only the best of the course, touring the downtown, many of the aforementioned architectural works, and Mill Race park, which couldn't be lovelier. And because the sun had yet to peek over the trees, the pace was smooth and easy.

The second 8 miles were not as scenic, but thanks to a mostly sun-at-your-back course that looped around an enormous Cummins Engine plant ("They're the title sponsor Bob, if they want us to run around the perimeter of their parking lot, we're gonna do it."), my pace only dropped a little as the air got hotter.

Exiting a covered bridge in Mill Race Park

Then... 8.5.

I know it was 8.5 because I looked at my GPS watch when I turned to corner.

I looked at my watch because I was wondering just exactly how far I had left.

I was wondering how much was left because I didn't want to end up like the guy I'd just passed.

The guy I'd just passed was walking, but not well... he was drunk walking.. at mile 8.5. He was NOT doing well. His long sleeve shirt (event shirt, so you know he was a newbie) was soaked through and his eyes weren't sharp.

I pulled up next to him and asked if he was ok. He clearly wasn't, but insisted he was good and started running again.

He ran out ahead of me. Maybe he was ok.

A  couple minutes later I came up on him again. Drunk walking, again.

This time I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I stopped to walk with him and started to tell him that I was going to walk with him to the next water stop. Before I'd finished my sentence another guy came along side...

Me: "Are you with him."
Dude: "No. He's just my friend."  (ok, I didn't mean "with him".. yeesh, relax)
Me:"He's in bad shape man."

The friend dude grabbed our drunk-walking guy's phone from his hand. "What's your password!"

We were almost at the rest stop. I knew he was in good hands.

So it was time for me to get to running again... but I didn't.

Something in my head said "Nope, I think we're done here."

Maybe it was seeing drunk waling guy. Maybe it was a flashback to my June half in Zionsville when I let the heat get the best of me.

Or maybe it was me listening to my body...

The blue is a trace from my GPS watch of my pace. The red is my heart rate. Look at those spikes just before I slowed down. Those spikes were the start of what could have been a very bad day. That was my body over-heating.

I didn't "feel" it, not really, but I did feel something... something not right.

It was that quiet, almost silent "ahem" that your body gives you when something is starting to tilt, the signal too often we ignore, or worse don't even hear or feel.

[Note: To be clear, I didn't see that heart rate trace, not until 2 days later when I pulled it off of my watch.]

But at that moment I felt something, something had changed.

As I walked through the rest of the water stop, I literally told myself "I don't want to end up like drunk-walking guy."

I decided I was going to end the long run portion of this workout and do 3x 1-mile intervals with recovery walks in between, that would feature copious amounts of fluids, and get me to the finish.

And it actually worked out great. I got in a good workout and felt great. My time sucked, but I didn't care.

I poured water on my head in my finish photo*, walked to my car, changed from wet to dry clothes in the parking garage (!!) and drove home safely in time to take lunch to my son.

Part of running is pushing ourselves, extending our limits, and sometimes competing against others. But above all, running is about tuning in, connecting to our bodies in the most intimate way.

Our bodies are smart.

Listen to what your body is telling you.

Good running,

PS. I think Dwight Schrute may have moved from Scranton PA to Columbus IN...

Race packet swag...
from Schrute Farms?

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
  8. Aug: Viking Dash Trail Half in Muncie, IN
Next up, Boilermaker Half on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN (my alma mater, thank you very much).

*Note: A bottle of water feels considerably colder on your head and neck than it does in your hand.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August Half: Viking Dash in Muncie, IN

If there is an exact opposite of the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half I did last month, it is probably the Viking Dash Trail Half I did this month. Other than the distance, and the planet on which the races took place, and I suppose my name in the results, they have nothing else in common.

It's hard to look cool with a headlamp, but I'm pretty sure I pulled it off.
The Viking Dash is a trail race.

Run at night. In the dark.

With 19 finishers. The winner barely broke 2 hours.

There were no bands. No spectators aside from the brave few at the start/finish.

Jen and Chloe were two of those brave spectators.
Not a single Elvis spotted in Muncie, but there were about 15 Viking LARPers.

In Chicago we crossed the river, on a bridge, like babies. In Muncie, we crossed part of a lake... no bridge.

About 30 feet across, maybe 40, knee deep, not too cold
Chicago had peppy millennial MCs getting us "pumped" at the start. The Viking had Eric warning us of horse droppings on the course. He also suggested that the best time to turn on our headlamps was when we couldn't see anything. 

Eric - Race director and "MC"
I fell twice. Once hard. Once really, really hard.

I was off course once for about 0.2 miles.

I let/made a guy pass me at the 11 mile mark, knowing I was probably giving up an age group award (I was) just to have the trail to myself.

I finished 9th, 2:23:18.

Chicago was a good race for me, right when I needed it. Big race, big city, big crowd.

Muncie was a harder race, and a longer race, but it was also just exactly what I needed.

I was super anxious about this race. Before this month I hadn't run trails in years, and even then, my training runs hadn't gone particularly well, and bonus, since it started at 8pm, I had all day to think about how unprepared I was for the race.

Trail running is so unlike running on roads.  

Trails are hard. You can't keep any momentum... it's up and down, left and right... all broken rhythm.

You really don't know what the course will throw at you. Even a trail you've run a hundred times is different every time. 

It's a challenge. It's primal. It's real. It makes you feel alive, aware, connected to the Earth.

It's slow. It's hard. It's peaceful. It's quiet. It's alone. It's natural. It's scary if you think about it too much. It's addictive. It's pure.

It's the best way I know to learn how to be truly present, to achieve that state of here and now and nothing fucking else.

If your mind wanders too far from the trail for too long, it'll be brought right back... right at that moment when you fall on your face.

Those 2 falls of mine? I fell the first time looked at my watch, third mile... I looked for half a second... just a peek... and wham, rock grabbed my toe, heels of my hands collected bits of gravel. Too far, for too long. Second fall, mile 12, I wished a fellow runner well as we passed... didn't quite catch what she said... tried to process it... didn't get my foot fall right... wham! hard to the ground on my shoulder. Too far, too long...

But I needed this... I wanted it... to be reminded of, reminded how to focus... to find that level of hyper-presence again.

Crossing water up to your knees, or trudging up a steep, gravely hill, or darting left and right as the trail twitches this way and that... your mind is beautifully consumed with the present. Time doesn't mean anything. Pace isn't in your mind at all. How far you have to go doesn't even occur to you. Your brain is busy, focused on where to place your next foot fall among the ruts and rocks and roots... there's no capacity for anything else.

Now... add darkness, and a headlamp... your entire world is tree trunks that border a thin line of dirt that bisects an ellipse of light that extends maybe 15 feet ahead. That is all you see, all you know, all that matters.

5 1/2 days before this race I drove 562 miles round trip to see 2 minutes and 28 seconds of a total eclipse of the sun. I've never felt as aware of my place in the cosmos. This race, though, helped me feel more aware of my connection to my time, and place, and planet.


While I was training for this race, after a rough, hot, long but not as long as planned trail run, I sat with a stranger at a picnic table.

He ate his lunch. I changed my shoes.

He was retired, I'm guessing late 60s early 70s, training with a heavy pack for a long walk, the Camino Trail in Spain. I told him how poorly my run had gone that day, how I was obsessing about the heat, how hard the trail was, and how far I had to go. He reminded me "It's all about being where you are... step by step... 'I'm here... I'm running here... no where else matters.'"

I was in that zone in Muncie. And I look forward to finding "here" again, out on some other trail, very soon.

Pretty cool medal - a Ulfberht sward
Good running,

PS - The beer was gone when I finished... damn 5k LARPers drank it all... fuckers.

PSS - Beer supply aside, I highly recommend the Viking Dash series. Well run, good "trail runner" vibe. Check it out. If there's one in your area give it a try.

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
  7. Jul: Rock 'n' Roll in Chicago, IL
Next month Mill Race Half in Columbus, IN.