Thursday, August 27, 2015

Three Things Thursday -- Aug. 27 Edition

The last Thursday of August is upon us! What, what? Where did summer go? Hard to believe that September is almost here, and while I don't particularly like saying goodbye to the summer, this stretch of few weeks were it starts to cool off and the leaves start to change is one of my favorite times of the year.

*I didn't get a chance to "travel blog" about my trip to Colorado, but one of the highlights of the weekend was the trip I took to Mt. Evans on Sunday. Ken, one of my fellow crew members, suggested I visit there because it was one of the few mountains where you can actually drive all the way to the top.

And what a drive it is! From where you turn onto the road to get to the summit, it is a 14-mile drive to the top, much of it along the side of mountains on a narrow road with no guardrails! Yes, if you were on the cliff side you would be looking at a long drop into a lot of rocks and what looked like an endless abyss!

But once I got up there, the drive was worth it because the views were fantastic! Like many things I had seen last weekend, I was just stunned by the beauty. It was a little hazy Sunday but as you can see by the photo it was still a great view. It was also a bit chilly up there, it was only 48 degrees and when the wind blew it dropped the chill down into the low 30s!

Nearby the sign where that photo was taken was a path that led up to the actual summit at 14,258 feet. That was actually a better place to view things as I was able to look down towards Summit Lake, which sits at over 12,000 feet and shows some deep wall facings that the glaciers carved out a long, long time ago.

Here's one of my favorite pictures, it's the geological marker set on top of the mountain in 1955. I have more questions about how they measured the height of the mountain, so I will be writing a letter to them with my questions! (The joke is in the inscription on the marker)

I later drove down to Summit Lake and looked around there too. The lake was still in the area above the treeline, which meant all of the surrounding area was made up of tundra that several months a year is covered in snow and ice. It is amazing how animals survive up there, but I saw bighorn sheep and mountain goats and they looked like not much bothered them!

I made sure that I waded in the water a little bit, and man was it cold! Like, ice bath cold! But, given there was still snow in the near vicinity, the lake probably doesn't get much of a chance to warm up.

Going up Mt. Evans was a great way to end the trip. Though I have done a lot of traveling, I've never really been to a place quite like Colorado. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to go there again.

*Marathon Training? Meh. Between my travels and my Achilles injury -- which is getting better, well, either it's getting better, better, or I just haven't done enough running to irritate it again -- I've been kind of off my game the last couple of weeks. After my 10 1/2-miler on August 16, I've only run twice since then.

I'm a little disappointed in myself for that, but the St. Jude Marathon is still 14 weeks away so I have time to get back on the ball. Since most training programs are 16 weeks long, in effect I'm just getting started anyway, and my long run is already 10 miles, which is a good place to be.

If I run the next four days (as planned), I can still salvage 25 miles out of this week, given I'm going to go 11.5 or 12 with my long run. The high on Sunday is only supposed to be 82, so that will be some good conditions to get one in. I will probably go down to the Prairie Path, which is about 20 minutes from where I live, and run there. The path is all limestone and crushed gravel, so it's a good place to do long runs.

*Time for cross country. This Saturday marks the official start of cross country season as Aurora Central Catholic participates in the Aurora City Meet. Right now the kids are scheduled to run in at least 13 races (give or take) on the road to the state meet in November.

It should be an exciting season for the kids. The boys team is loaded with juniors, so they have a lot to keep working towards, and while the girls team is small it boasts two potential all-state runners in Karina Liz and Abby Fioresi. Karina finished ninth in the state meet last year and is the two-time Class 2A 800 meter champ in track, while Abby finished 27th at state last year in cross country and ninth in the 1600 meters on the track. Thursday Abby ran 10:30 in a two-mile time trial to set the girls program time trial record. Fast.

Kevin will be running on the freshman/sophomore team this year, and like many of the younger kids he is just taking this year to figure everything out. He's really improved since practice started and ran his time trial in 15:15 on Thursday, which was a PR for him.

My coaching duties so far have involved following the kids around on the bike as they train and doing things for the team's Facebook page. I'm looking forward to being involved in the race day stuff this weekend!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Leadville 100 -- Sometimes It's Just Not Your Day

It's kind of funny that I'm writing this like I actually ran the Leadville 100 trail race -- I didn't, my friend Noah did -- but in a lot of ways, having been a part of it yesterday feels like I should be writing a race report! What follows is our day and my next-day feelings about the event.

The bad news first: Noah did not finish the race. He had some issues at the toughest part of the race course and missed the time cutoff at 60 miles. But you know what? That takes absolutely nothing away from what he accomplished and what he did. He ran like the beast he is and did his best, so there is no shame in that.

Because unless you can see this race, see the terrain and understand how difficult this race actually is (only 50-60 percent of the people who start the race actually finish it), you don't know what a massive accomplishment even getting 60 miles into the race really is. I'm so proud of what he did and my own personal admiration of him grew by leaps and bounds yesterday.

When he started the race at 4 a.m. Saturday, I was still in bed! Michelle, another friend who was crewing and doing pacing duties, took him to the starting line and I grabbed a couple more hours of sleep.

Once we got up and going, Michelle's friend, Jess, and her parents, Ken and Carolyn, joined us in the crew vehicle, and we headed out to find Noah at about the 13-mile mark. They drive there was amazing (I'll be using this word a lot), we went around Turquoise Lake and some of the views up there were just so beautiful. Since I was driving I didn't take any pictures, but I'm going out and about today and will post those later.

When we saw Noah, he looked fantastic. We swapped out his food and drink and sent him back on his way in 2-3 minutes, then moved to the 27.5 mile mark to wait for him again. The one thing about crewing is that you do a lot of driving and a ton of waiting, but that is kind of the fun of the experience because you get to meet lots of people and see some other good runners.

While waiting there we saw the front runners go by -- they are just some crazy talented men and women. We saw one of the leaders come by and I figured out that he ran the marathon distance in around 3 hours, 20 minutes, doing that in the opening 26 miles of a 100-mile race! At altitude!

When Noah came by at about 9:25 he looked well although I was getting concerned because he was already feeling some effects of the temperatures. It wasn't all that hot at that point but as you can see in the above photo, they ran about five miles totally exposed to the sun and the elements.

We got him cooled off and sent him along his way. Ken, Carolyn and Jess were going to the next checkpoint, Twin Lakes, while I drove Michelle to Winfield, the 50-mile turnaround point of the race.

This is where I realized I wasn't in Bartlett any longer. To get to Winfield, which is an old mining town that was abandoned over 100 years ago, we had to go off the main road and follow a gnarly, nasty 12-mile dirt road through the mountains.

The views were stunning, though, which made up for the drive, which took us 30 minutes because of the conditions of the road. Here is a photo of the runner check in area (that's Michelle in the foreground in the ponytail and black arm sleeves), but look in the background -- unbelievable. I was told the tree line is at about 12,000 feet, which means the peaks behind there were much higher.

I made sure Michelle was settled in and I started to head back, but just as I was pulling out, the first runner -- Michael Aish -- was just coming in, having covered the 50 miles in seven hours, 51 minutes. Quick sideline about the difficulty of this race, Aish is from New Zealand and was a great track runner who represented his country in the Olympics and later made the jump to untramarathons. But despite all of those credentials, a man with all of that experience and a 13:22 5K PR dropped from the race at 86 miles. Yeah, it's that hard.

I made it back to Twin Lakes but had just missed Noah by about 30 minutes. He checked in a little over eight hours into the race and by all accounts was doing well.

But what we found out is that the 21-mile round trip from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back is the race. Twin Lakes sits at 9,200 feet and runners have to cross Hope Pass, which represents a 3,000-foot climb in just five miles! Struggling with dehydration and altitude sickness, Noah barely made it to Winfield ahead of the cutoff, but decided he wanted to try and see if he could work his way through the bad patch.

Unfortunately, it didn't. In the end, it took him over 11 hours to make the 21-mile trip, with the last five miles from Hope Pass talking 2 1/2-3 hours in itself. By the time he arrived back in Twin Lakes, it was almost midnight, more than two hours past the cutoff.

The hardest part for me was the waiting. With the mountains it was very difficult to communicate, so we had no idea how things were going until we heard from Michelle just as they were descending off of the mountain. With everything having gone so well we were there by 5:30 p.m. in anticipation of his arrival.

Twin Lakes is a great place to be during the race. Twin Lakes is a really small town of a population of 216 people and whose streets are made up of dirt roads. On the day of the race the number of people in town swells to well over 1,000 people and it takes on a bit of a party atmosphere.

Watching the runners come through on their way back was equally crazy and inspiring. It was fun to sit along the street and cheer on runners and their pacers. It was certainly an interesting observation as some people looked great and others looked like they probably wouldn't be able to continue much longer.

Watching the runners come through was equally crazy and inspiring. As I mentioned at the top, it is just wild to think about what it takes to do this race, and I was so inspired by the people I was watching. That became even greater as the 9:45 p.m. cutoff approached. If you couldn't make it under the black inflatable by that time, your day was done.

As the time approached, runners were sprinting to try and get under by the cutoff. Think about that, people who had already been on their feet for close to 18 hours, and they were driving themselves as hard as they could to just try and continue, and if they continued to make cutoffs they would have another 10-12 hours to go. That's just so gutsy to me. Even runners who came by after the cutoff were determined to get to the checkpoint before they were pulled from the course.

It was about then that we heard from Michelle and that they had roughly four miles to go. As we waited the race staff began tearing down and packing up everything, but still a few runners straggled in. I went out about a quarter-mile onto the path and waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, the radio signal got stronger and I could see their headlamps in the distance. We all walked in together and race staff removed his timing strips from his bib. His race was officially over at just before midnight.

All things considered, Noah was in a positive frame of mind. He's someone who loves analyzing things and loves to learn (he has a PhD, by the way), and he will take all of the information from this race and use it to do better the next time.

Today he was in pretty good shape both mentally and, outside a bad blister and a couple of mangled toenails, physically too. He is already thinking about his next race and also thinking about sometime coming back and running the final 40 miles of the course. He's competitive and determined, I expect the next time he comes to Leadville he is going to nail it.

For me, the weekend was a success, because I feel like I finally had the opportunity to be in a situation where I could be a good teammate, which was very important to me. Back in 2009-10 I ran two Ragnar Relays, and for various reasons -- 2009 I was going through some serious personal problems and was anti-social all weekend, and in 2010 I was out of shape and slow and felt like everyone was mad at me -- I was a horrible teammate. I didn't really cheer for anyone and just felt very selfish.

This time around, I tried hard to be a leader with my crew team, I cheered for everyone, runners and pacers alike, and I tried to talk to and meet a lot of people. In the end it was a highly positive experience for me and really wiped away any of the bad memories I had from a few years ago.

Most of all, I was just happy to be there for Noah. Over the years he's come up big in my life in various ways, and I was just glad to have the opportunity to feel like I paid him back for all of that. I know neither of us keeps score or anything, but to do something of this magnitude for him feels very good. I'm looking forward to crewing for him the next time he comes to Leadville and accompanying him the final mile to what will be one of the best finishes of our lives!

Friday, August 21, 2015

State Number 12 -- Colorado!

After knocking out state number 11 in states where I have run, I quickly added another to the list when I woke up in Leadville, Colorado and put in a 3-miler!

(Note: At the bottom of this post is a list of the states, countries and continents where I have run)

As many of you know, I'm in Colorado to help crew and pace my friend Noah as he tackles the Leadville 100-mile trail race, which starts at 4 a.m. Saturday morning. My flight from Chicago arrived in Denver at about 7:15 on Thursday night, so the trip over to Leadville was almost entirely in the dark, which made me wait until Friday morning.

Pretty amazing is all I can say! Now I can understand why so many people rave about this state. I took a lot of pictures but there were even more stunning views that I didn't have a chance to shoot. I'll throw out a few photos now, and check on my Facebook page for the rest.

The one thing I was curious about was what it felt like to run at altitude, as Leadville officially sits at 10,152 feet! I have to admit that after I arrived and the first few hours I was here, I felt a little bit out of it, just a foggy feeling where I couldn't put together very many rational thoughts.

I felt better Friday morning, though, and headed out around 8:30 a.m. One thing that was REALLY different was the temperatures -- after running through a Midwest summer, the 50-degree morning felt fantastic! Our rental place sits about 1.5 miles from the main road, so the plan was to run there and back.

It's very wooded and rural here, and I was greeted by three free-range goats who belong to the guy who lives next door. They were actually kind of cool, and when I started running the ran alongside me for first 100 meters or so. That certainly doesn't happen in Bartlett!

The first half-mile or so of the run was downhill so it fooled me a little bit. As I was cruising along at about a 10:35 pace, I was thinking, "hey, this altitude thing isn't so bad!".

Then I made a left on another road and headed uphill. Ouch, seriously. At just around a mile I had to stop and walk for a second, and I was breathing as heavy as I would if I were doing speedwork on the track back home! I realized then that you run as fast as your body will let you, otherwise it can get really painful.

I made it to the turn-around point, having been a bit disappointed with the view, I must admit. Because of the wildfires in the West, there was a smoky haze over the mountains, but of course I took some pictures anyway. But as I turned to go back, I was floored by the beauty of the mountains going the other direction. I ended up stopping at least three times to get a better picture. One thing about finally getting to travel somewhere is that you get to find out that something is REAL, it's not just a photo in a book or a figment of someone's imagination.The peak in the picture tops out at around 14,000 feet. I definitely plan on heading there on Monday once everything has calmed down.

I felt pretty free running down the hill, but the uphill back to our place was brutal. I realized that the altitude bugs me the most going uphill, but that on the flats and downhills I seem to do OK. I finished the run having averaged 10:38 per mile, which is probably about a minute slower per mile than back home. It felt really good to get out and run somewhere that is so totally different than anywhere I'd ever been before.

Once I finished my run, it was time to start getting into crew mode. We headed to Lake County High School in Leadville for a runner briefing and crew Q&A session. The gym was absolutely packed to the rafters! In all, the race of right around 700 participants had people coming in from 47 states and 26 different countries! The gym was lined with the flags of the countries that are being represented, and they included Kenya, Italy, France, Mexico, Canada and Switzerland, among others.

There was definitely an excited buzz in the gym. Like a marathon, this takes such a massive commitment to prepare for that when it is almost here you are about ready to explode! One thing that was obvious is that there were a lot of very fit people there.

One thing you can't really see in this picture is that, at one time, Lake County was a state power in cross country, having won 19 combined boys and girls state championships from the late sixties until the mid nineties. Leadville certainly a great place to train runners.

After the meeting, I jumped in a car with Noah's friend, Michelle, who is running the point on this, and her parents -- oh yeah, and their dog, Emmy, a 6-year-old black lab. We drove to many of the checkpoints along the course to get a feel for the terrain and possible parking situations, which is good to know. The course is an out-and-back, so I bet it will be packed with cars and runners pretty much the entire time we are out there.

These pictures are from Twin Lakes, which represents the "lowest" part of the course at 9,200 feet, and is the checkpoints for miles 39 and 60.

Without a doubt, this is even more exciting than I could have imagined! It's just so insane to be a part of this, and I am looking forward to helping Noah reach his goals. It's going to take a huge effort from all of us to get him across the finish line, but I know that we are going to make that happen.

Between all of the duties as far as crewing goes and being out of cell/internet service for most of the route, I won't be updating this blog as we go along as I planned, but I will offer up an epic recap by Monday.

Please keep all of us in your thoughts while you run or race this weekend, and especially throw some vibes towards this guy! Don't let the goofy pose in the clothes he slept in fool you, he is one of the toughest and most focused dudes I know. It looks like I'm going to go the final few miles with him, and I look forward to crossing the finish line with him sometime on Sunday morning.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Leaving On a Jet Plane!

Well, almost!

I'm starting to get super excited about my trip to Colorado this weekend to crew for my friend Noah as he runs the Leadville 100 trail race. My flight to Denver leaves late Thursday afternoon and then it looks to be a couple of hours up the hill from there to Leadville.

I'm looking forward to reconnecting with Noah as I haven't seen him since my wedding last year. At the time he was living in Chicago but then started a new company called Quorum Robotics, things took off and he moved to San Francisco a few months ago.

Noah and I go back 15 years to when we started working tech support at my company. We both completed our first Chicago Marathons that year and have been long-distance running partners ever since. He's always been so supportive of my running and in turn I've really derived a lot of motivation from him because of his determination and his ability to will himself through anything, which is why I think his run this weekend will be a very successful one.

He's also an interesting guy. When we started working together, Noah had been out of college for a year and was living in Chicago, which meant he had a two-hour commute (each way) ever day. He spent his time on the train reading about networking and it wasn't long before he became our company's network administrator. About a year later, he left to attend the University of Southern California to earn his PhD, and before this year had made a career in the research field.

He only started running ultramarathons when he moved to San Francisco, but like always, he will be well prepared and ready to go. I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about stepping my game up like that, too, but I think I'm ready. Looks like all of that basketball coaching may have paid of after all!

One thing I'm looking forward to doing is acting as a pacer during some of the race. The event allows pacers after 50 miles, so I'll jump in and run a few miles here and there. I've never done any trail running and have never run at altitude, so it should be fun!

Actually, my biggest challenge is figuring out what to pack! The low temperatures in Leadville are supposed to be somewhere between 35-40 degrees, with highs in the 60s somewhere, but I'm sure it will get much hotter when we are in valleys or lower elevations. It will be weird to think of wearing a hat and gloves and then a couple of hours later being in shorts!

Oh well, this is my first trip to Colorado and I'm looking forward to all it has to offer. I've watched a few YouTube videos some participants have made and they are so cool! Seeing Noah (and the other runners) cross the finish like will be very exciting.

*And another thing! Two things, really. If you watched my Periscope video from yesterday (you can follow me at letsrun4ever), you'd know that I cleared a bit mental hurdle on Sunday night when I ran 10.3 miles. It was the first time I had gone that far since the Indy Mini, and it went very well as I had an average pace per mile of 10:28.

No matter how many times you have run more than 10 miles -- whether in training or racing -- if you don't do it for a while it can become a daunting thing again. I've run more than 10 miles probably 100 times or more in my career, but it's still a big hurdle if I'm not doing it regularly. Doing so on Sunday, and running well in the process, was a  nice springboard to the next few weeks when I start adding more and more distance.

The other thing is that my training paces have been slowly going down over the last 2-3 weeks. Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned my blood pressure medication and how the fact it contained a beta blocker was possibly a reason as to why I hadn't been running well? I was off the medication for about a week when I went back to my doctor. She is keeping me off any blood pressure meds as my BP is lower than it has been (yay!).

I asked her if I had to go back on anything in the future if we could make sure it wasn't a beta blocker, and when she asked why I told her that I felt like it was possible what I was taking was killing my running. She immediately agreed! Or, in her actual words: "That would do it".

So after my good run on Sunday I went out Tuesday for a 4-miler and when I ran my first mile in 10:06 (usually it's in the 10:30-10:40 range) I knew I was onto something. I finished the run with a 9:39 average pace and ran the last two miles at about a 9:10 clip. There were some hills in there and I never thought I was pressing all that hard, which is a great feeling. I'm planning on running a 5K on Labor Day weekend, maybe a sub-28 is in my future!

See you in Colorado!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

State No. 11 -- Michigan!

Darcy and I headed up to New Buffalo, Michigan this week for a couple of days away, and I took advantage of it to add another state to the list of places where I have run.

(The complete list of states, countries and continents appears at the bottom of this post.)

I did a lot more than that, of course. We had a great time, the bed and breakfast we stayed in -- Garden Grove -- was very, very nice (I highly recommend it), we did some wine tasting (lots of fun), ate some great food and I played a little golf.

We'll start with the run. I had planned on getting up Saturday morning before breakfast and getting out, but just couldn't do it! So I ate a smaller breakfast and had about 40-45 minutes to fit something in before we had to check out of the BNB. I hung a right out of the driveway and headed straight down Union Pier Road towards Lake Michigan.

It was exactly a mile from the driveway to a stairway that went down to the beach, and I decided to head down and spend a little time near the water. It was about 77 degrees but being next to the 72-degree water helped cool things down a little bit.

I've seen three of the five Great Lakes (Michigan, Erie and Superior) and I've never had a bad view at any of them. It was especially stunning Saturday morning with the sun beaming down from a cloudless sky.

After taking in the view for about 10 minutes or so, I headed back, so at the end of my run I covered 2.1 miles in 21:13. I saw several runners out and decided that if we come back next summer (which is the plan) I'm going to look into running routes and such ahead of time so I can take even better advantage of the beautiful surroundings.

Though I only ran once, I got a couple of other "alternate" type workouts in, one of which was the first night we were there. After checking into the Garden Grove, we headed into New Buffalo and ate dinner at a place called The Stray Dog, which was within just a couple of minutes walking distance from the lake. It was just starting to get dark as we made it to the beach, but I noticed that there was a seawall made up of stones and concrete, with a metal 200-foot long metal grate thrown in for good measure,  that stretched out a few hundred feet into the lake and that people were walking back and forth over it.

It was kind of a treacherous trek but I made it to the
end! It wasn't very easy, and the more time I spent out there the more I realized that most of the people who were out there were very, very young. I wasn't as nimble as they were but I was able to make it through with just a little scrape on my big toe. I mentioned my lack of my mobility to a teenage girl as she bounded by me and she looked back and said..."I think you are brave!" So I'll take that compliment!

Friday afternoon we went to three wineries, which was a lot of fun. Before heading up there, I had no idea that Southeastern Michigan was a place that was known for its wines, but as you drive around there are a lot of vineyards and close to 20 wineries.

We went to three, Gravity, Lemon Creek and Tabor Hill, and enjoyed them all. My favorite was Gravity, they had a nice, open air type of tasting area and even let you take the samples out onto their deck, which was different from the other places we had been to. They were also playing 80s music over the speakers, which is a very added bonus!

We liked Gravity so much we took home two bottles of wine from there. I don't consider myself much of a wine drinker, but tasting it gives you a chance to pick out favorites, and I'm figuring out what kinds of wines I do like!

In the end, we bought five bottles to bring home with us. One of the more interesting ones came from the Lemon Creek winery and is called Snow Moon. The grapes for that wine are picked at night in the winter when the temperature drops below 17F. It's hard to describe the tastes but it was like...WOW!

Last month when we went to the IndyCar race in Iowa we stopped by a winery in Des Moines where I sampled something I really liked. So we have a nice little start to a wine cellar going. One of the things I like to make is risotto, and my recipe uses a cup of red wine...I wonder how it would taste with one of the new ones I got!

One of the beaches I enjoyed was at the Warren Dunes State Park. While the beach was insanely busy, one of the big attractions to the park is a huge sand dune that sits a little way from the water. It is an incredible hike to get to the top, but once you are there, what a view!

I started my Runtastic app on the way down and from the top it was only about 670 feet but in that small amount of space, the elevation changes 120 feet! The sand was really thick so it made for a super workout too. I have the feeling my quads will remind me of that tomorrow.

Here is a view from the bottom and another looking down from the top. Just stunning. It's hard to tell in the picture of the lake, but the water is actually really clear and where the beach was sitting, the water was only waist deep for a couple hundred yards from the shore. I forgot to bring my suit so I only stood ankle-deep in the waves, but there were a lot of people enjoying the water. Like I said, it was about 72 degrees but it's kind of like an ice bath, once you are in it starts to feel kind of good! :--)

As it was starting to get a bit on in the afternoon, we decided to head home, but one had one more stop...2300 Jackson St. in Gary, Ind.!

For those not familiar with that address, it is the boyhood home of Michael Jackson! Going there was more Darcy's idea, but I have to admit I was a little interested in seeing it. Michael's personal life -- as well as that of his who family, I guess -- was unfortunately a major train wreck, but his music is amazing and, once you see the house, you get an appreciation of where the family started.

The neighborhood where the house sits is a bit run down, but the house itself is beautiful and well-kept. I'm sure the number of visitors who pass by each day is substantial, because just the few minutes we were there we saw about a dozen people stop and lots more cars drive by. There are also some enterprising neighbors who had t-shirt stands set up in their yards. I'd be curious to know from how far away people come to see this little house.

I know this is more of a travel post, but I hope I was able to capture some of the great places you can see in Southwest Michigan. It is truly a beautiful place, and if you have the chance to go there on vacation sometime, by all means go! You won't regret it.

I'll have these pictures as well as others up on my Let's Run Forever Facebook page. Check them out, and don't forget to like my page while you are at it!

States Where I Have Run

New York
South Carolina

Countries Where I Have Run

United States
United Arab Emirates

Continents Where I Have Run

North America

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Three Things Thursday! August 6, 2015

Triple T is back! Sorry it's been away, but I hope to be back full force with my blogging soon. It's just been a crazy summer, but with Kevin's cross country season starting, St. Jude Marathon training kicking in and my duties as a Indy Mini Marathon ambassador getting going, I should have plenty of material!

Here we go!

*Officially, the cross country season starts next Wednesday, but Kevin and several of his other Aurora Central Catholic teammates have been gathering three times a week for workouts. Like other sports, coaches are allowed a certain number of "contact days" over the summer, which means they have some structured workouts, and the rest of the time they are free to run on their own.

The first meet of the season will be the Aurora City Meet on Aug. 29, and then they will race every Saturday except for one all the way through the end of October. Cross country is one of my favorite high school sports, and I'm glad both of my boys chose to participate. While Matt decided not to run at Benedictine University this fall and instead focus on his studies, I'm glad Kevin is now part of the ACC family. am I! After a few discussions with Troy Kerber, the XC and track head coach, I have decided to become a part of the coaching staff for the upcoming season. Troy feels that with the numbers we will have in terms of participation that we will break into as many as five training groups, and he wants an adult coach with each one.

I told Troy that with my work schedule I could make it 2-3 times a week and of course be there for all of the race weekends, and he was excited about that prospect. I've known Troy for 15 years and really respect him as a coach, so I'm excited to work with him.

I'm really excited for Kevin, too. He seems to be getting along well with the other kids on the team and ran a 2-mile time trial in 16:15 last week, which comes out to about 24-25 minutes for the 3-mile race distance. That's a really good starting point for him!

Things became official last week when I was given my stopwatch! Once you have a stopwatch, you are in!

*One more day of work...and I'm on vacation! I fortunate that since I have been with my current employer for coming up on 17 years that I get a lot of time off, and while I typically use them for long weekends or whatever, I only seem to take off more than that when I am going somewhere.

Next week's wont be (totally) like that, and will be a nice, relaxing end to the summer. I'll be home Monday through Wednesday and then Darcy and I are heading to Michigan for a couple of days. I'm looking forward to that little trip, it will be all about golf, trips to wineries, and of course a run or two!

Getting a run in will certainly be a must. I'm kind of dorky like that in that I like to keep track of states (10), countries (4) and continents (3) where I've run. As of now, Michigan isn't on that list, so I'm looking forward to adding a new state in the coming weeks.

*I've taken some time off from running -- not intentionally -- but am looking forward to getting back going. The reason? I was told that I could stop taking the meds for my high blood pressure!

OK, this is a strange story. Well, sort of strange, sort of dumb on my part. Anyway, back last fall I started taking medicine to bring down my blood pressure. It worked well and I was feeling great -- but then I started having this horrible cough that just wouldn't go away, which turned out to be a side effect to what I was taking.

Fast forward to April and I was put on another type of medication. It was working well too but the doctor told me to let her know if my resting heart rate started slowing down. Over the course of my running/training, that would be expected, so when it was in the 52-55 range I didn't worry about it.

Then one day a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk and out of the blue decided to check it again...and it was down to 39! I checked it a few more days in a row and it registered between 40 and 44. Not good. At least that part, because my blood pressure was perfect!

I called the doctor and they said to cut my dosage in half. I did that and my BP stayed constant but my RHR only went up to about 48. I called them back and they said to stop taking it altogether!

Turns out the medication was a beta blocker, which is why my RHR went down so low. The flip side of that, as I discovered through a little research, was that your max rate goes down too! I read a few blog posts of some athletes who had gone on and then off the same meds, and their data pointed to a significant improvement in performance once they were off the medication.

Then a light came on in my head! I had lost weight and had been training well, so why hadn't I gotten any faster this summer? Why was trying to stretch out runs so hard? How could I not be getting better after dropping 20-plus pounds?

Looks like this is my answer! I'm going to really crunch some data over the next few weeks and see if it does make a difference. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime...despite being off the medication I don't think my BP has risen back up far enough that I'll have to go on something else, which in the end is the best news of all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I'm IN!

Back in May, I ran the 500 Festival One America Mini Marathon for the eighth time. It was the eighth time I had run the race (I ran my first Mini in 2001) and renewed my relationship with my favorite race in the world.

So I was pretty excited to see an item on their website a few weeks ago that they were looking for runners to act as ambassadors for the 2016 race, so I applied for the program and started playing the waiting game. I have to admit that I didn't have the highest of hopes, mostly because I live 200 miles from Indianapolis and thought they were more looking for local representation.

Much to my surprise, I was checking my e-mail at lunch and saw I had a message from a person named Kim Gale, with "Congratulations, you've been selected!" in the subject line. For a second I thought it was junk mail, until I remembered that Kim had liked my "I'm Gonna Be Faster Than Frank" Facebook page (which was dedicated to my Mini run this year) and is the Director of Marketing, Running Events and Programs for the 500 Festival.

I opened the e-mail and was so excited to see that I had been selected as one of the 33 ambassadors for next year's race! I will be representing the 500 Festival and Mini Marathon for the next calendar year, acting as a community (and social media) advocate for exercise and making healthy choices, while "encouraging participation in the 500 Festival's running and walking events".

Our first official function will be an orientation meeting on September 3, and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of such an awesome organization. I hope through this blog and other social media platforms, as well as face-to-face interactions with fellow runners and walkers, I can motivate people to get moving and, most of all, enter the Mini Marathon next May!

One of my duties will be to help recruit runners to sign up for the Mini (registration opens September 15) so look for this space to be, as always, a way to share my passion for others, but also to extol the virtues of this incredible event and race. If you have never run the Indy Mini, it is an incredible event that should be on everyone's list.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this blog and who has supported me on this journey! I love running and look forward to having the platform to share it with an even bigger group of people moving forward. Next year's Mini is on May 7, 2016 -- just 277 days away! I hope to see you there!