Proud To Be A Runner

Boston-Marathon-logo

I have said on here many times that I am not a fast runner.  I am not an experienced runner.  On my best day, I am an average runner.  But, in the aftermath of the horrific events in Boston, I am proud to be able to say I am a runner.

The immediate, passionate outpouring of support the running community has shown for the victims in Boston has been inspiring.  From running 4.09 miles in support of those in Boston, to wearing race shirts and Boston Marathon colors, to organizing runs in honor and memory of the victims, the running community had stepped forward in inspiring ways.  I am proud to be a part of such a close knit community.  Most never knew any of the victims at the Boston marathon, and yet, they treat them as one of thier own:  members of the running family.  I am proud to be a runner. 

Now, I know it is easy to show support like this.  It is easy to do something you do 3 or more times a week anyway, and say it is in honor of someone else.  It is easy to step up in times like this.  Yet, the earnest expressions of support seem to be more than that.   What I have seen does not appear to be borne out of convenience.  It seems to be coming from the heart.   I am proud to be a runner.

The running community was attacked.  Not just the runners, but the entire community, including the spectators (an integral part of the running community), friends, and families.  Rather than shrinking away, the reaction I have seen is one of defiance.  I have seen a re-dedication to run more races to show that we cannot be deterred.  There are countless efforts to raise money and awareness for the victims.  I am proud to be a runner.

All the races

I plan to keep running.  But as it was with my short training run today, running from now on will be filled with thoughts of those who can no longer run due to the cowardly acts in Boston.  Rather than thinking of the pain I am going through, I hope my thoughts continue to turn to being thankful for the blessing to keep doing this.  Thankful for the ability to get out and run, to feel that pain.  I hope I can keep remembering that I am part of a larger community:  One that seems filled with respect and admiration for other members of that community, no matter their role.

I am slow.  I am average.  But I am a runner.  I am proud to be a runner.

Holy Hills! Run The Bluegrass Race Recap.

RTB1

I happened upon this race in looking for something to keep me going between the Walt Disney World Marathon and the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon.  I am glad I did.  It was our sixth half marathon, and by far the most challenging.  Set in Kentucky Horse Country near Lexington, in my mind, it was the most beautiful as well, although my wife may still argue running up Main Street USA is the best.

PRE-RACE

The communication from the race organizers, via Twitter, email, and Facebook was outstanding.  They were responsive to requests, gave great tips and reminders, and did a good job of building excitement for the event.  Nothing was sugar-coated needlessly.  Their last-minute traffic tip on Facebook helped in determining how to get there, and how early to get there.

The two-day expo was also excellent, especially for a race this size.   Registration ran smoothly.   The legendary Hal Higdon appeared both days, and even ran the 7 mile race. The expo featured speakers, race gear, and various local activities.  It didn’t hurt that it took place on the grounds of Keeneland on a bright sunny day.  The location at Keeneland, as opposed to an off site location, certainly helped in building excitement for the race.

RACE DAY

Traffic was horrible, but I don’t blame the organizers.  Poorly-timed major construction on the main route to the race was the culprit.  We arrived with about 40 minutes to spare and had to hustle a bit to get to the starting line (we like to get there early).  The waves/corrals were well-marked, and the lines for the porta-potties were as you would expect.  At these times, it’s good to be a guy.  We lined up in Wave R.  The waves were labeled G-E-N-R-I-S-K, in honor of the famous horse Genuine Risk.  The bibs and medal lanyards were also inspired by Genuine Risk’s silks.  Luckily for those stuck in traffic, the race was delayed 15 minutes to give those stuck in traffic a bit more time to get there (and to let the morning fog burn off).

AND THEY’RE OFF!!

This was an especially good start, as we got to give our boys a high five as we passed the start line.  From that point, as the old Irish Blessing goes, the road rose to meet us, almost immediately.  In fact, it kept rising, over and over again.  The blessing is that it also had its share of downhills, though seemingly much fewer than those of the up variety.  The first hill was within the 1st half mile. This race certainly showed me that I need to work more on my leg strength.  Running the flat races is one thing, this was quite another.

The first few miles went as planned.  I stopped to take pictures of the scenery, and our time was relatively close to how we usually start.  It is always difficult to start as slowly as we need to with all the excitement at the start and the rushing crowd, but we were doing pretty well.  Little did we know, there would be no negative splits on this one.  

100_2438    100_2437

They bill this race as one of America’s prettiest half marathons, and that was not over-selling it.  As the miles went by, and our legs kept begging us to give up, the beauty of the landscape surrounded us.  

Bands were spaced along the course, usually coinciding with water stops.  Each one added to the excitement, in spite of our aching legs.  The volunteers were great as well.  There were also a few friendly four-legged spectators.

This guy was loving the attention.

This guy was loving the attention.

We rolled with the punches through about mile 7 or 8.  About that time our legs really started to rebel.  Mile 8 is one of the most beautiful of the race, with a nice downhill run to the mile 9 marker.  Then, we hit the switchback.  Some call it the S-curve.  A roughly 100ft vertical rise within a little more than a quarter mile.  You know a big one is coming at that mile marker.  You can see it.  The real surprise for us first-timers is rounding the first right turn.  That is when you see the next left turn, still rising with no end in sight.  The legs were screaming after this one.

6.5% (or so) slope S-curve

The bottom of the 6.5% (or so) S-curve

From this point, it was survival to the end.  The hills kept coming, but we kept running – slowly.  We switched to a 1:1 walk run to make it to the end.  Beauty still abounded.  I had long since given up on a time even within sight of a PR.  I now just wanted to avoid this being our slowest.  The 1:1 saved the day on that.  We made sure to run in the downhills, no matter where they fell within our pattern, of course.  We finally crossed the finish line, and were about a minute per mile slower than our PR.

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Run The Bluegrass was as advertised.  Beautiful, challenging, and fun.  There was an air of excitement, even when people were hurting at the finish.  Smiles were everywhere.

Kids’ Race!

The Run The Bluegrass Kids’ Race took place three hours after the half started.  Slightly less than one mile, the race used the same finish line as the “big race.”  The kids got their own fancy starting line, complete with a police escort, and they got the great opportunity to finish in the same chute as the adults.   This was really a great touch.

Thankfully, they delayed the kid’s race for 15 minutes as well, giving us parents a chance to recover a bit and watch our children race.  Our oldest loved it and finished the .9 mile race strong.  The three year-old picked out a special batman shirt (with cape) to run in, but all the kids + nap time meant that he got a bit nervous.  My wife was a trooper and carried him for his race.  He is already asking to run another – he wants more medals!  He has more at age three than I had at 38.  I am proud of both of my boys.

Taken as I was flat on my back after my run...

Taken as I was flat on my back after my run…

Final Thoughts

It would be easy to say “never again” due to the tough hills.  But I expect there is a really good chance we will be back to take this on again.  It was too beautiful.  It was Easter weekend, and I found myself thanking God several times throughout the race for the opportunity to be in that place, with the ability to run, even through the pain.  That’s the thing about running.  In spite of the pain you go through, you feel blessed to have been given the opportunity.  These races give you plenty of time to reflect on the blessings of life.

Race Bling

Nice Bling!

Don’t Let Hurdles Get In Your Way . . .

Overcoming Hurdles

“Overcoming” Hurdles

This picture says a lot.  I saw it in the Daily Morning Awesomeness today.  It pretty much sums up how I feel at some of the half marathons I run. You know, the non-massive halves made up of predominately faster runners.

A few miles into the race, you notice there are not too many people behind you.  In those with out-and-backs, you start passing the masses on their way back to the finish line.  They are bounding like gazelles being chased by a leopard, while I had long since been devoured.

However, this picture says more than that.  The lagging runner has knocked over four hurdles.  He did not quit after the first or the second.  He kept going through the third and fourth, and looks to be well on his way to taking out the last three.  Heck, it doesn’t even look ylike he broke stride.

He is on the track, rather than being relegated to the sidelines or bleachers.  I feel my running is kind of like this guy.   I made the choice to get off the sidelines and step down from the bleachers.  I am not the fastest runner, or even close.  However, for almost two years, my wife and I have faced several hurdles to our running:  Busy work life, injury, kids’ activities, weather, laziness, etc.  Yet, we have not let those hurdles derail our running or our goals.    They have slowed us down a step here or there, but we have not let them stop us.

Such is running, such is life.  Both throw hurdles your way.  How you deal with them determines your outcome.  Do you give up after the first, or do you charge through to see what’s on the other side?  I hope I can be like the guy in the picture and punish those suckers along the way. . .

I hated running. . .

Bighit4Boy did I.  When I was in high school, there were very few things I despised more than running.  I played football and golf.  In football, at that time, running was punishment.  The last thing you wanted to do in golf was run.  Heck, that’s why I played golf.  Track & cross-country:  running.  Baseball:  Running (albeit short bursts).  In college, a couple dozen pounds ago, I was a diver:  No running.

Not until the last year or so have I come around to running.  Prior to that, I was still firmly on the side of “running sucks.”  I still thought of running as punishment.  Why do that to yourself?  Eventually, the scale, and my wife, got to me.  I started swimming, and went through a 5 week jury trial.  That combination led to a 30 lb weight loss.  But it was hard to get back into the swing of swimming after the trial, and the gym membership was killing me.  Then my wife wanted to do a half marathon, and the rest is history.  Running was essentially free, except for the cool shoes, “must have” gadgets, the treadmill, and the race entry fees. 

Either way, once I started running, I stopped seeing it as punishment.  I am not saying I love every minute of it.  I always have thoughts of something else I could be doing.  I often fight those rationalizations and excuses in my head for not running.  During a run, I have those moments where I question why I am doing this to myself.  However, I have not had a time that I remember where I finished a run and was sorry I did it, even after this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon where I hit the wall at mile 17.  I still was glad I did it.  

In fact, I am really excited about our next half-marathon, the Run The Bluegrass Half.  It is called “One of America’s Prettiest Half Marathons.”  All of the comments I have read about it mention the hills:  “For the hardcore hill chasers,” “hilly but gorgeous,” “the hills come early and don’t let up.”  Some may see this as punishment, but I am really looking forward to running through the beautiful hills of horse country.  Things have really changed.  I am fairly certain they have changed for the better, but check with me after March 30 to see if I feel the same way.

Am I a runner?

Fake runner

I play golf, but I am not a golfer.  I fish, but I am certainly not a fisherman.  I run, but am I a runner?

I think the answer is yes.  I will never be confused with an elite runner, or even a very good runner.  Maybe someday I will flirt with a sub 2:10 half marathon:  not fast, but my speed is not why I can be called a runner.   Running is a different animal than many sports.

Anyone can go out and take swings at a golf ball, but unless you have a low handicap, most won’t put you in the category of “golfer.”  Anyone can wet a line in the lake or pond, but it takes a lot more than that to become a fisherman.  Running is different.  To be a runner, you just have to run.

If it is on the internet - It must be true

If it is on the internet – It must be true

Anyone who puts forth the effort can certainly be considered a runner, and count themselves among the running community.  I don’t subscribe to the attitude that you are not a runner unless you break 1:45 in a half marathon, or 25 minutes in the 5k, etc.  To me, to be runner, you don’t have to be fast.  You don’t have to be thin.  You don’t even have to be particularly good at it.  You just have to have the will to do it, and the dedication to keep doing it.  That is yet another beauty of running.  I may not be able to keep up with much of the running community, but that doesn’t mean I am not a part of it.

If nothing else, I can call myself a runner because I have said almost every one of the things in this video.

Rural Running

skunkOur long run this weekend took us to our hometown, which is where we like to do our long runs.  Our families are there, and we still have a place there.  It is mostly rural, with lots of farms, forests, and fields.  Most importantly for us runners, it has a lot of long, straight, low-traffic roads.  My mid-week training runs are usually from subdivision to subdivision, dodging cars on the road between them.  I enjoy these runs, but they do not compare to the beauty of our long runs in the country.

The scenery is gorgeous.  The drivers in the cars that do pass, do so with a wave and a smile.  On this particular run, we saw cows, horses, a muskrat, Canadian geese, sandhill cranes, and two dead skunks (luckily, they had been there a while).  The cows seemed every bit as interested in us as we were in them as they came to the fence to check us out.  The horses just looked at us like we were crazy.  We passed rustic old barns and gleaming new ones, and were able to take in the fresh country air.  Just like the roadtrip games in the car such as sign alphabet, and I spy, rural running presents the opportunity to play games to pass the time while on a long run: What’s that animal?  What’s that smell? What’s that sound?

About those skunks.  We met the first one about 1 mile in, and the second one was at about mile 8.  They got me thinking, what do you do if meet a live one or fresh one?  Honestly, I had no idea what I would do.  You can’t exactly go to a nearby house and ask for help.  First, there aren’t too many close by.  Second, who wants someone stinking like skunk showing up at their house?  My only conclusion was that if I had such an encounter, I would have to turn around or tough out the rest of the run.  It would certainly be a PR for whatever distance that would entail.  I will just have to hope I don’t meet the critter halfway through the run.

But just in case, I now have a de-skunking recipe (albeit one designed for dogs – but if you are in a situation where you need it, who really cares?).  I share it below for anyone interested.  I bet the ladies running the RunDisney Princess 1/2 Marathon didn’t have to worry about that this weekend.  Still, the scenery along our run was every bit as gorgeous as the scenery at Walt Disney World, and I felt even more blessed to be there.

De-Skunker:

(Adapted from Humane Society of The United States)

Mix together:

1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at your local pharmacy)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap
DO NOT get the solution in the eyes. (If you don’t have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)

Caution: Do NOT save this mixture or make it ahead of time, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.

Scrub, Clean, and Rinse
Don’t leave it on too long (peroxide can bleach). Rinse thoroughly.

Shampoo
Next, wash with shampoo and rinse thoroughly.

You can rid your clothes of the smell by using regular laundry detergent mixed with a half-cup of baking soda.

Running Season & Running For A Reason

First off, I feel pretty good about my last two weeks of training.  I did not miss a run, in spite of having a trial and a conference to attend.  In fact, I think the runs actually helped in both circumstances.  Training is going well.  Seeing all the races this weekend that my friends, Nascar drivers, and Team RunDisney participated in added to the motivation to keep it going, and reminded me that running season is beginning.  I was amazed at the times of Nascar drivers Kasey Kahne and Jimmy Johnson at the half marathon they ran the morning before qualifying for the Daytona 500.  Both sub-1:30!  Congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend.

Things are getting ready to shift into a higher gear for me.  A two mile run with my oldest son in a couple of weeks (can’t wait!); only a couple more long runs until Run The Bluegrass; and then it is the Kenucky Derby Mini Marathon and Bay to Breakers in short order after that.

Snowy lunch run

Snowy Wed. lunch run

Warm Mid-Morning Run

Warm Fri. Mid-Morning Run

I thought I would share the weather for my last two runs.  It is a miracle I am not sick.  Wednesday brought a snow burst and 30 degrees.  Friday brought a conference in Fort Lauderdale and 70 degrees.  I think I enjoyed the 30 degree run more, and was actually excited to get to run in the snow, although Fort Lauderdale warmth certainly had its benefits.  I felt blessed to be able to run in both climates, but in Fort Lauderdale I missed running my long run with my wife/running partner.  I think it was our first long run that we have not shared over the last year or so.

On another note, for anyone looking to make a training run more meaningful, I would suggest the Sandy Hook Run For The Families, taking place on Saturday, March 23.  No, you don’t have to go to Connecticut.  You can run or walk virtually and join the more than 10,000 runners and walkers that will be participating in Hartford, CT, to support the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. You can enter the race as a “Virtual Runner” for a $25 entry fee (until 2/28 – $30 after that).  You run a 5K wherever you are. They will list your name in the results (without a finish time) and will mail you a race shirt after the event. Your entry fee is a 100% donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.  What a great idea to support a great cause.  If you’re going to run or walk anyway, why not sign up for this?

logo_Sandy_Hook

Just Be Awesome. . .

AwesomeI saw this quote recently, and for some reason it turned out to be my motivation for the day.  In fact, I told my son this today when he was nervous about his presentation at school.  It seems so simple – just be awesome.

When I first saw this quote, I thought of the Nike slogan – “Just Do It.”   That slogan was very successful, and served as motivation for countless people.  However, I think it could use some improvement.  Just doing it is a start.  Getting out the door is a start.   Getting moving is a start.  That first mile, 5k, 10k, or half marathon is a start.  However, I have found that once you “do it,” you want to do it better.  That’s where “Just Be Awesome” comes in.

To me, “Just Be Awesome” doesn’t mean I have to be the best or the fastest.  If it did, I might as well find another hobby.  I am never going to be mistaken for a top flight, or even a very good runner.  It means doing it right.  It means having fun while doing it.  It means not taking shortcuts.  It means enjoying it.   “Awesome” has many meanings:  magnificent, fun, surprising, inspiring, beautiful, wonderful. . .(Really, it does. I looked in the Thesaurus).

So, my goal is to make that next run Awesome, no matter when it is or where it is.  It may not be a PR, but it will be awesome.  If I can meet this goal, I cannot imagine how great I might feel.  Luckily, this year looks to have a lot of potential for Awesome in it:  WDW Marathon, Run The Bluegrass, Derby Festival Mini Marathon, Bay To Breakers, Dumbo Double Dare – and whatever other cool runs we can find.  And from the way our boys are talking about wanting to run a bit themselves, they are in for some Awesome as well.  Can’t wait. . .

The Beauty Of A Winter Run

Let's run that way. . .

Let’s run that way. . .

I cannot tell you how hard it was to go out for our long run this weekend.   This was our first long run since the Walt Disney World Marathon, and it could not have been more opposite, weather-wise. Then, it was sunny with temps in the low 80s.  This time?  Temps in the low 20s.  Cloudy.  Windy.  Light snow blowing.  However, after my last post,  we couldn’t skip this one.  I am glad we didn’t.  It turned out to be one of the more beautiful runs I had been on, in a cold sort of way.  

We tried to pick a road that would not have too much traffic due to the fact that snow covered parts of the roads.  It is one thing to have to get into the grass to make room for a car.  It is quite another to jump into a slushy snow pile.  We decided on a road outside of town where the river had just receded.  It turned out to be a good choice.  There were only a few cars along our way.  Surely more more than one of them wondered about our sanity. 

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

The landscape was gorgeous.  The sound of the sandhill cranes filled the air.  The horses came out of their barn to see those crazy people running down the half snow-covered road. The snow added so much to the beauty of the run.  I felt so lucky to be able to be there in that moment with the opportunity to enjoy that view.  Yes, it was a harsh winter’s day.  But it was one filled with beauty, and a bit of slush in our shoes.  Each of these pictures was taken along our route.  I am glad we walked out that door.

Checking on us

Checking on us

River Receeding

River Receding

Winter Beauty

Winter Field

It’s A Lovely Day For A Run

Photo Credit: KiG (aka Er.We) via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: KiG (aka Er.We) via Compfight cc

Snow.  Wind chill in the single digits or worse.  Schools are closed.  But the sun is out, and the roads are clearing.  To Run Or Not To Run, that is the question.

The answer to that question may say a lot about you and why you run.  If you run to ease stress, and it has been a stressful week, then yes, it is a good day for a run.  If you run because you have made a commitment to get fit and be more healthy, then yes, it is a good day to run.  If you run for fun, then yes, it is a good day to run.  If you run because people say you can’t or shouldn’t, then yes, it is a good day for a run.  If you run because that marathon you completed last month really kicked your butt, and you want to see to it that it does not happen again, then yes, it is a good day for a run.

In fact, as I thought about it,  I could not come up with a good reason no to run, even on a day like today.  My mind had a counter argument for every excuse I could think of.  (Too cold!  Add layers, you’ll have a good running story to tell).  I suppose that means that my conversion is complete.  That, or I am just crazy.  Either way, it looks like a lovely day for a run.