Wednesday, August 31, 2011

42K Relay

Most runners have never run a relay. And that's a pity.

I'm not talking about a 4x100 relay on a track in high school. I'm talking about an adult relay. And I don't mean it's "adult" the way an adult bookstore is adult. I mean it's for grown ups.

There are a couple flavors of relays. The most popular is the "point-to-point". That means your team starts at one point, takes turns running a bit, and ends somewhere else... somewhere way the hell far away from where you started. And unless you all want to run from the start to way the hell far away, you need a van.

There are A LOT of vans

It's fun to decorate your van

These are our kind of people

You also need some rules.. like No Butt Baton*

The van takes the team, minus the one team member who happens to be running at that time, from one handoff location to the next. Usually, these exchanges are in the middle of nowhere.

The middle of Southern Illinois' nowhere

Everyone piles out of the van, the next runner takes the baton from the just-finished runner, the team cheers, and then everyone, minus the new runner, gets back into the van. This happens many times because everyone runs 3 or 4 or more times during the race. Eventually, you and your teammates start to get a little loopy...

My friend Joe is actually quite brilliant and normal. I swear.

I've done three of these. They are a total blast.


It takes a lot of work to pull off a point-to-point relay. Depending on the distance, these relays can take 10-24 hours to complete. The logistics are complex. If you don't have a veteran in the van, one who knows the course and the stops and the best places to park the van, and someone who happens to own a big-ass van, then you're in for a long day. And no matter what you do, your van will smell like funky runner for the long ride home.

Again, these relays are totally worth the time and expense and travel.


There's an alternative.

There are the rare "loop" relays that cover the required distance one loop at a time. Instead of a everyone minus the current runner riding from exchange to exchange stinking up the van, the team members who aren't running get to hang out and socialize with the other teams until it's their turn to run. When it's your turn to run, you meander to the one common exchange zone, take the baton, your team cheers, you run your loop and return to the same spot where everyone welcomes you back.

It's essentially a big party disguised as an endurance relay. The real beauty of the loop relay is that it's ultra low maintenance. Anyone can do it. Seriously... anyone.

Sounds like fun, right? Excellent... I have a proposition for you.

On Sunday October 23, the good folks at Back on My Feet are putting on a 42K relay in the unfairly beautiful setting of White River Park in downtown Indianapolis.

I'm tellin' ya... beautiful

The loop is a 2.2 mile course that runs along the river on sidewalks and asphalt paved trail, crossing the river twice (via bridges... they don't make us ford the river), with the start/finish right by the NCAA headquarters. It's gorgeous, with fantastic views of downtown, just the distraction you need to make a 2.2 mile loop effortless. Each team member will run just 3 loops, with about an hour in between to hang out and meet new running friends.

You can run 2.2 miles, right? Sure you can! And I assure you, no one will care how fast you run. As soon as the gun goes off (or someone says "Go!" since I doubt there will be an actual gun going off) it's not about winning, it's about having a great time.

Plus, the total distance covered by your team is only 42K, which is 26.2 miles, marathon distance. So even if you take your sweet-ass time, you'll be home for lunch, unless you and your team stop off at a nearby pub, or dinner, or other such social venue to celebrate your heroic efforts. Still, home by 3:00pm, easy. Plenty of time to mow the lawn. Or nap. I'll be napping.

So here's my proposition. If you can field your own 42K Relay team, you are awesome! Here's the link: Back on My Feet 42K Relay. Get your team together, sign up, and come find me on race day.  I'll be the guy in shorts that are too short for 2011 fashion norms. Better yet, drop me an email ( or post a comment below with your team name and I'll come find you. We'll high-five, or fist bump, and acknowledge our mutual awesomeness!

However, for those who are interested but don't want to go through the hassle of recruiting 3 other runners, then drop me an email (, or post a comment, and I will find you a team. What a great way to meet new running buddies! I promise you will be on a team that will be thrilled as hell to have you as a teammate.

This is a fantastic event, at a perfect venue, at a great time of year, for an insanely great cause. And I guarantee you will have a wonderful morning of running and fellowship with the best people in the world... your running brothers and sisters.

Good running,

*Butt Baton is the ill-advised practice of shoving one end of the team's communal baton down the back of one's shorts. Carrying it traditionally in one's hand, or in any other no-fecal-transfering method, is highly preferred over Butt Baton.

Images from me and my past relay teammates here and here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Running Through Depression

I've never finished a run and not felt better than I did before the run.

But too often, when we need a run the most... (sigh)... we just can't do it.

When you're in a deep funk, you forget that running will make you feel better because you're pretty sure nothing will help you feel better. Ever.

So, you skip the run.

And you regret skipping the run. You might even hate yourself for skipping the run.

And the funk gets just a little deeper.

Rinse and repeat.

At first you can play it off to over-training, or a bad day, or you might even blame the weather. But it doesn't take long before you know that you're letting yourself down. And it feels like you're powerless to fix it.

Truth is, you aren't powerless at all. You just need to disrupt the cycle.

How do you fight the hopelessness of depression, pushing it back long enough to put on your running shoes and get out the door? You take the choice out of it. You make yourself run because you know it will lead you back.

The best way to lift yourself out of that dark place is to do something every day that makes you feel better about yourself. Everyday you remind yourself of the best version of you, the version that you want to be again. Everyday you get a little closer. Every day you feel a little better, even if just for a while.

But when you're in a funk, you aren't yourself. You literally are not in your right mind. You can't trust yourself to make good decisions all of the time. You need someone, or something, to keep you on track.

Here's what works for me...
  • Make out a schedule, something realistic, something very doable, something that will work for you. Do this at a time when you're feeling half-way decent.
  • Commit yourself to following it for a set number of days or weeks, 100%, without exception. It takes time and effort to climb out of a dark hole, and each day on the schedule is one step closer to the top.
  • Treat your schedule like a drill sergeant. Do what it says. Don't think about it, just do it. Skipping or cutting short is just an opportunity for self-loathing to join the party.
  • DO NOT think you can skip the schedule part and just run when you feel like it, because you won't feel like it.
  • You don't have to run every day. You don't have to run at all. You do have to do something else on the days you don't run, like yoga, or cycling, or swimming, or walking, or journaling, or reading, or meditating. Just do something that makes you feel better after you do it than you did before you started.
  • Be selfish. You need this time to get out of your funk. Don't let anything or anyone keep you from your schedule. It's like the flight attendants say... "Put on your mask first, then help others who might need help."
  • Enlist supporters. Have buddies meet you for an early morning run, or to drag you out for a walk at lunch. Tell the yoga instructor that you have made a promise to yourself to come every week for two months and just wait until you see the support you get.
  • If you stumble, don't quit. Pick yourself up and start over.
  • Even if you start to feel better, and you will, follow through with your commitment, complete the entire schedule. The early-onset euphoria will be replaced with a long-lasting sense of pride and accomplishment that will help you through rough patches later.
  • When you finish, enjoy your accomplishment. Be proud of what you have overcome. Look inside and around you and notice how much better you feel and how much brighter the world looks.
  • Then, set a new goal, workout a schedule, and take your next leap forward.
The runner that you want to see in the mirror is inside you. And that runner's ready to go. Just let him/her show you.

Ignore the doubts and the excuses. Put your shoes on and run.

It only takes a few steps to remind you that it really does make things better.

Good running,

PS - I'm not a doctor or a shrink. If you feel you are depressed, see a professional. If you need meds, take them. But also do something for yourself, every day.

Image from here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Running Against the Demon Within

I've spent a lot of time writing about how great running is.

I stick by that.

Nothing's better for clearing your mind of the fog that an average day leaves behind.

Running's the best way to rid your body of stress, and pounds.

Running is the purest form of exercise you can do, and I always feel better after a run than I did before.

But running's not always fun.

When you can run exactly as far as you want to, and exactly as fast as you want to, like you did when you were a kid, it's glorious.

When you have goals, when you are pushing yourself, when you're retraining your body to be faster, or to run longer, there are moments of less than delight.

Running for running's sake is wonderful. Running to stay fit is pleasant. Running to get into good running shape is work.

There's something extra crappy about turning something you love into work.

As soon as you start to measure your run, by the mile, or by the minute, or in the worst case, both, you build in the opportunity for disappointment, even failure. This is especially so when you are far from your goal.

There are moments of despair. There are times when you hear a tiny voice saying that you'll never be as fast or as strong as you want to be. That's your brain talking, and your brain's job is to keep you alive. To the brain, uncomfortable is a couple steps in the wrong direction from alive.

Your brain is protecting itself from you, and your intellect. It's your intellect that has you outside, running past comfortable, knowing that the effort will make you better.

But the brain is strong, and loud, and if you're mentally weak, it can take over. Becoming a stronger runner is as much a mental process as it is physical. In fact, wrestling the brain's rationalizations and fear is a lot harder than running farther, or faster.

When you defeat the demon inside your skull, it's exhilarating and liberating. When the demon gets the best of you, it makes for a shitty run.

My run today: Demon 1 Me 0.

Rematch tomorrow.

Good running,

Image from here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Went to a funeral yesterday.

Funeral was for the GF's uncle, a really great guy.

He was also a veteran. That means he got military honors.You've probably seen military honors on TV... Arlington National Cemetery, marines in white gloves and crisp dress uniforms, rifles firing a 3-volley salute in perfect unison, a bugler playing taps, then the snapping of the flag as it's folded with precision and dignity, and then presented with whispers of gratitude from our country to the family.

That's what we saw yesterday, sorta. This service had a volunteer group that provides military honors for all branches of the military. These are retired military men. They've been retired for a long time. I think I overheard one of them talking about facing Napoleon.

They wore white gloves, but they weren't very crisp. Let's just say that their snap, crackle, and pop have been sitting in milk for a while. The rifle shots were pretty good. And the flag folding went ok. Where the whole thing kinda came undone was Taps.

For my money, Taps is the one thing you really need to do right. It's a funeral. Our volunteers do not include a bugler. Or a trumpet player. Or a tuba player. Instead, it's a guy holding what at least at one time was a bugle. Inside the "bugle" is a speaker that plays a very nice version of Taps, and possibly Reveille, and maybe Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.

I'm not saying you have to have a bugler play taps. Recorded taps is cool. But I'd rather have a bugler play taps poorly than recorded taps. And the last option I'd chose is to have recorded taps played from a speaker inside a bugle, with a guy, a very nice volunteer, holding to his lips. It seems wrong.  It's especially wrong if the bugler hits the play button, and waits for a bit with the bugle pressed to his lips, and nothing happens, so he takes a look inside the exit end of the bugle to see if he'd switched it on incorrectly, only to have taps start up, and then he puts the bugle back to his lips. That kinda kills the illusion. Actually, there wasn't much of the illusion left to kill anyway.

Still, it was nice. And I think it's awesome that these old soldiers come out to see to their fallen brothers-in-arms. They were respectful and solemn and gave the service a strong honor vibe.

I was never in the military. There won't be rifle shots, or a folded flag, or even taps played from a magic bugle. And I'm totally cool with that.

Still, it got me thinking. I think it would be great to find a way to honor fallen runners, and by fallen, I mean dead, not just on the ground. It would be nice to have a way to recognize a fellow runner's love for our sport, to send them off.

Here's my idea... during the funeral, at the grave site*, a small group of volunteer runners emerge from over a hill, or around a corner, or somewhere else out of sight, and silently run by the grave site and off back out of sight again, like a flyover.

Imagine it... the grievers, all in black, under umbrellas because there's a light rain, all turning when they hear the footfalls off in the distance, and each turning, slowly, following the runners as they pass, imagining their loved one running with them, and then turning back to the grave when they are out of site. Wouldn't that be cool?

I'll volunteer for runner's honor duty. Who's with me?

Good running,

*For runners who are being cremated, we could have a ceremonial run-by after the memorial service, or when they are taking the casket out, or something. We'd make it work, without running up and down aisles of a funeral home.

Images from here and here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pay Back

A few weeks ago, I used my dark corner of the internet to ask you above-average looking readers to help me help a tremendously awesome organization, Back on My Feet. (You can click the link back there at the beginning to learn just how awesome it is.)

Today, it's time for some pay back. Time for me to fulfill my part of the bargain. The post is a little long, but worth the read, even if you aren't one of the featured, if only to see a sample of the good people that have gathered here, people like you.

So, without further ado, flattering anecdotes about the generous donors.

Patrick - Pat lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, yet doesn't work for Amway. He works for Microsoft. That's how I came to know Patrick. And as it turns out, I was later to learn, he's also a runner. I understand that there are many a business relationship that are cemented on the golf course. But I don't think there's a better way to get to know someone than to go out on a run with them. My first run with Patrick was in Indianapolis on my favorite little trail behind the office. Unfortunately, the quaint little trail was covered with a quaint 8 inches of snow. Ever tried to follow a completely snowed over trail in the woods? Not easy. But it made for a good, slow, adventurous run.  And Patrick didn't complain once, despite the obvious risk to life and/or limb. Since then, Patrick and I have met up for runs when we are in the same place at the same time and both have gear. Oh, and he also plays violin. Like really plays. Like in symphonies and stuff. If you're ever on a run with Patrick, ask him about the violin, it's a good story. Thanks Pat for your donation and your friendship. 

Jane - I'm related to Jane... somehow. Not sure how, really. She's floating around somewhere on my step-dad's side. I'm not even sure when I last saw her and her husband Roger. Probably at a funeral. But what I do remember is that at family gatherings, I was always glad when they showed up. They were always fun to talk to, interesting, and funny. And thanks to the glory that is Facebook, Jane has found Doug Runs 365. She's become a frequent commenter and "like"-er, and she gave to Back on My Feet. Thank you Jane, for your donation, and your friendship over many years.

Holly - Holly is my step-sister. She's an audiologist. She's good people. She married a Canadian, Peter, who is also good people. I have many fun stories about Holly, like her dinner with legendary NHL coach Jacques Demers, but I'm going to limit myself to just one. For this one, we need to go back to 1990 when I was married, a newlywed in fact. For our first vacation as a couple we decided to go to the IndyCar race in Toronto. Just so happened that that was where Holly lived, pre-Peter. She graciously put us up for a week in her apartment. I had my first calzone at an Italian hole-in-the-wall that was in her neighborhood. She even drove us to Niagara Falls. But what I remember most about that trip was her collection. Holly had every episode of The Fugitive*... recorded from over-the-air broadcasts... on Betamax tapes. I thought that was so crazy, and cool. Thanks to you, and Peter, for your hospitality, and your generous donation to Back on My Feet.

Scott Van Dyke - Scott and I work together. The first story I always tell about Scott, which really has nothing to do with Scott, involves the system we used a couple years ago for performance reviews. It had this feature that, in principle, was a good idea, but in practice, was ridiculous. The idea was that along with checking for spelling and grammatical errors in your write up, it would also look for potentially offensive slang, and suggest a less offensive term. Everyone who provided feedback for Scott was treated to the suggestion that perhaps he should be referred to as Scott Van Lesbian. Still makes me laugh. Not very flattering, though. Scott is the most selfless dad I know. He spends every moment he isn't at work, sleeping, or on the toilet, shuttling one of his kids to a game or practice or tournament or awards banquet. And this isn't the run of the mill "Let's watch Susie pick daisies in the outfield" stuff. His kids are studs. And he or his wife are often the coach. So they're all-in, every evening, every weekend. Vacations are spent at big-deal tournaments. And Scott never misses a beat. We joke about him going "postal" one day, and of all the people in the office, he's my pick to snap, but I'm pretty sure he loves it. He's also in great shape, hs been known to run every once in a while, eats raw meat and pork rinds, and drinks Mountain Dew by the pitcher. Thanks Scott for your donation to Back on My Feet, and for friendship in the office, and on motorcycle rides.

Mary Ann - Mary Ann is also a co-worker, and she's a little nuts. First, she bought a condo in what is, for all intents and purposes, a retirement village. Then, without selling the condo, she moved to Asheville, NC. And she loves it. But we hate it because she's not around nearly enough. She's the most cheerful person in the office. Even when she's pissed, she's pissed with a joke and smile on her face. And she's funny as hell. What I like most about Mary Ann is her vagabondness. She seems to be always on her way to somewhere, or just back from somewhere else. I love that she has two homes, and an RV. And she's a dog person, so we know she's alright. Mary Ann, thanks for your donation to Back on My Feet, and your friendship. Next time you're in town, we shall drink beer, because, as you know, Mr. White needs a Guinness.

Marino - Marino is the GF's brother-in-law. He's Irish-Italian, lives just outside London. And he's a hell of a runner. And not like me, a few miles here and there, maybe a marathon kind of runner. This guy's gone loony. Last fall he let his brother talk him into running a 40 mile race. 40 miles, with essentially no special training. (One might argue that you can't really prepare for a 40 mile race, but still.) I think an excerpt from his race report will give you a good idea what he's like, and why we get on so well...
A tactic that worked enormously well was to adopt a run/walk strategy from mile 25 (5 minutes running, 1 minute walking). That provided a physical break for the muscles, while also allowing us to break the distance down into tiny, manageable chunks. In our strategy, the next 5 minute block always felt achievable, whereas thinking in terms of "another 20 miles" was pretty horrible. As I recall advocating to my brother, "If you have to eat a shit sandwich, cut it up into little canapes first." 
It did become impossible to eat and drink towards the end, as our bodies began rejecting food and water. The thought of eating even an energy gel made me nauseous. Mark (my brother) was getting brief blackouts in his vision, and I was on a manic, babbling high for the last 5 or 10 miles. Post race, I crashed HARD, and thought I would either throw up or pass out on the train back to the start (thankfully a nice Burger King double bacon cheeseburger fixed me up nicely). Back home our wives did think we both looked pretty grey, and that we had "seen the fear". 
All that aside, I had a great time, and I'd definitely do it again!
If, as you read that, you got that "Oh, man, how horrible. I wish I could have done that." and you weren't surprised at all when you read "I'd definitely do it again!", when you're one of us. You should run with us. He's since completed a few marathons, a 50 miler, and is getting ready for a 100 mile race. Let that sink in for a bit. Marino is a doting father and husband, and just a damned good guy. Thanks, mate, for your donation (yes, Back on My Feet takes Euros or pounds or whatever eBay is paying you in), and for your friendship. Run soon, man. And save us a good spot for the Olympics next summer.

Bob - Roudy Bob was an overweight, unhappy, smoker when I met him. Now, he's a poster boy for what running can do for your body and your outlook on life. Bob's one of the smartest dudes I know, and not just because he's marrying Trena. When we worked together, I liked watching him in meetings. He could read a room, and turn it to his way of thinking. He's relentless, but in a way that makes you want to keep talking. Personally, he's pretty easy-going, and funny as hell. And what I really like about him is that he isn't shy about being sincere and telling you what he thinks, even what he feels. He's become a hell of a runner. I remember well reading his FB post about his semi-impromptu 13 mile run around Paris. And much to my delight, he's even taken to defiling fountains. Nothing makes my evening like getting an MMS from doesn't matter where, with a picture of Bob up to his knees in a fountain. Bob, thanks for your generous donation to Back on My Feet, and for all of the great talks we've had, on the run and otherwise. Been too long, man. We need to get a run in.

Scott - Scott used to work together. He was the first guy I could stand at Aprimo. We sat in adjoining cubes. I enjoyed, and respected, his ability to summarize a situation with one dagger of a line. With one short sentence, he would have my forehead on my desk, laughing my ass off. He's a devoted dad. He's smart, without being a dick about it. He's a beer geek, in the best sense of the term. And he's a runner. Yet we've never run together. Yep, I've know this little bitch for like 12 years, and he's been running for at least the last three or four, hell, the punk even trained for a half-marathon last spring, but did he ever call me up for a run? Uh, no. Well times up, "Daffron". Even though you got pipped by a dollar for the highest donation, the sniper has requested a different form of compensation, so you're the big winner. You get have to run with me, and this run will include a shared fountain experience. And if you get your hair cut, we'll put a picture up from the run. Thanks for your insanely generous donation, for your beer advice, for all of the laughs, and for your friendship. He's a good one, girls, and rest assured, that's like a cousin or something in the picture. He's plenty single. And I'm pretty sure he's straight.

Robin - RoHo was the grand prize winner and she has requested a substitute prize that will be served up in this here corner of the internet as soon as I finish it. Which means I need to start it, I guess. But she still gets flattery... She's the wisest person I know, and she doesn't even know it. (That doesn't make her any less wise, just modest.) She's a fervent foodie, a wonderfully open and warm yoga teacher, a fantastic writer, and the best traveler I have ever seen. You all should bookmark and keep up with her Twisted Pigeon blog where she puts so much of life into perspective and reminds us what we should be working on, as well as what we should just let go of. And she does all of that in small, impeccably well written, bites. And you should also bookmark and follow the travel blog that she keeps with her husband Bill, Bagette Travel Tips, unless you are a hermit, in which case you wouldn't really appreciate the wisdom and wit and travel-porn that they provide. If you are lucky enough to have spent time with Robin, you know that her circuitous route through life has made her an insightful, hilarious, and fascinating person, and like me, you're lucky to know her. Thank you Robin for your insanely, and only slightly snipey, donation to Back on My Feet, for your writing, for reading my stuff, for your advice, for your hospitality, and your friendship.

Ok, I'm all paid up. My goal was $180, 1/10th of what it takes to help one person get their life together. These people gave a total of $411 to Back on My Feet. I have wonderful, generous friends/family/readers. If any more of you would like to make a donation to this amazing organization, it's not too late, just click here. It's too late to win the grand prize, but I will happily say something nice about you here at Doug Runs 365.

Good running,

*I hope I remember that right. Holly will tell me if I don't.

All photos lifted from Facebook or Twitter.