Wednesday, December 30, 2009


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Year In Review

This is my second annual “Year In Review” post. In last year’s YIR post not only did I revisit the events of 2008, but I also set some goals for 2009. This year in addition to reviewing what I did in 2009 I’ll need to look at how what I did compared with what I said I was going to do. 2008 was a banner year for me so I set some lofty goals for myself in 2009. The first goal on the list was “run when I can and have fun doing it”. A little vague but that just makes it easier to fudge the results. I would say I did not meet that goal, but went above and beyond that goal. I competed in a record 23 events in 2009. Did I have fun? You bet I did.

2009 started out well enough with a PR at Resolution-Revolution, but in March I began having some issues. While running the Sam Costa I pulled my left calf at mile 9. My pace slowed a little, but I managed to hang on for a half marathon PR. I thought the calf was healed, but then it flared up again at the Mini. This time I was smart enough to ease off the pace and not totally trash my calf which was good because the following weekend I was going to need my calf at the Dances With Dirt 50k. I guess a good romp through the mud and hills of Brown County is all my calf needed, because it did not bother me again the rest of the year.

My next goal was to do a sprint triathlon. I actually started prepping for this in December when I dusted the cob webs off my 1991 Specialized Allez and took it in to the shop for some badly needed, long overdue preventive maintenance. I bought that bike back in 1992 with the intention of doing a triathlon. Good intention, poor execution. In January I was making regular visits to the Avon Intermediate School Pool. One day in January one of my friends asked me to do him a favor. He wanted me to agree to do a triathlon with him, he had never done one either. This was his lucky day because I was already planning to do just that. Well, then the bottom fell out, my job was eliminated on February 3rd. Making plans for summer triathlons suddenly wasn’t a top priority. Fast forward to June, I was still looking for a job, but my economic situation wasn’t as dire as I feared it would have been. I again started thinking about the Indy Sprint Tri at Eagle Creek on July 18th. I only had a few weeks to prepare. I started riding my bike. I went to the pool and tried to swim 500 meters non-stop. I made it. Now confident I could finish the swim; I signed up. Doing that triathlon was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It blew the needle off the fun meter. I was hooked. I almost immediately signed up for the August event. I shifted my focus from just running to riding and swimming. The second tri was even more fun than the first one. My son did this one with me. We even crossed the finish line side by side. I will never forget hearing Don Carr say, “It’s the Haights from Avon, Jeff and Konrad”. It was awesome. I managed to squeeze in a third tri in September. For this one the swim was in a pool. I can’t wait for next summer. The other day while running the snow covered trails along the bluffs overlooking Eagle Creek Reservoir I was day dreaming about swimming in that lake.
The last goal didn’t turn out so well. This goal was to run a 100 mile trail run. I guess I could say this goal fell victim to the economy, but the truth is more like I just lost interest in doing it. Whatever the reason even now I don’t have a burning desire to do a 100 miler. Maybe some day, but no immediate plans.
As I stated earlier, I did 23 events in 2009. Five of those events were 50k trail runs. Actually one of those was supposed to be a 50 miler, but I DNF’ed at 34 miles. I only ran one marathon, that being Tecumseh. If you are only going to run one marathon, Tecumseh should be the one. I ran three half marathons, setting a half mary PR at the Sam Costa in March, I love that race. I also PR’ed the 9 miles at Resolution-Revolution, I think that course is a little short of 9 miles, but still there is no better way to ring in the New Year. I also set a 15k trail PR at the DINO race at Ft Harrison. Lot’s of highlights during the year, the triathlons, running the Indy Half with my son, priceless. Total miles for the year was down a bit from last year, 1056 miles so far I’ll probably squeeze in one more run. Of course this year in addition to the running miles I managed to work in over 40,000 meters in the pool and more than 300 miles on my bike.
So, what’s coming up in 2010? Good question. As always, run when I can and have fun doing it. I will definitely do some sprint triathlons this summer and I definitely want to up the ante and do an Olympic distance or half Ironman. I’ll need to spend even more time in the pool and in the saddle to make that happen. I thought I might do fewer events this year and focus more on training, but that thought flew out the window when Brooks unveiled the 2010 I.D. Race Series. The more races I run the more points I get, the better my chances of winning prizes. Top prize, not that I have any chance of winning it, is travel, hotel, and entry to one of the Rock and Roll marathons. Looks like rather than running fewer events this year I’ll be trying to beat last year’s record of 23. The only other goal I have is to run a spring road marathon and try to qualify for Boston. I don’t want to actually run Boston, but I would like to qualify for it.
As always, make the New Year a happy one! See you at the races!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good News, Great Joy, Etc...

Good news! Brooks renewed my membership in their ID program. This year they'll be giving us a team singlet and shorts. Also there are more incentives to run races. For each race I run I get points. At the end of the year there will be a grand prize winner, 10 regional winners, and state winners. I can't imagine I would even come close to winning the grand prize, but it's a nice prize a rock and roll vacation package for two, as in travel, hotel, and entry into one of the rock and roll marathons. Brooks is the exclusive apparel supplier for the rock and roll marathon series. There will also be random prize drawings throughout the year. I'm very excited.

Had a couple nice runs and a swim so far this week. The frigid wind on Tuesday was trying to form snotcicles on my face, but I was generating just enough heat to melt them into a gooey mess. Much warmer run today. Shorts and t-shirt.

I decided to skip HUFF again this year. I'd rather give my knees some recovery time. I also decided against running the 5k's of Christmas race. After the good showing at the Drumstick Dash I was thinking I could finally break my 5k PR, but I haven't really been training for it. Maybe next spring, after getting in some good speed workouts. Besides, with the Brooks incentive, I can see myself running lots of races next year. One race I won't be skipping is the Resolution-Revolution. It isn't really a race, but I always run it as though it were. I can't think of a better way to start off the New Year.

Monday, December 7, 2009


In a typical year there are very few days that would not qualify as good days to run in the forest. Snow, rain, hot, cold do not automatically disqualify a day from being a good day to run in the forest. Seriously, who wouldn’t rather be out running through the forest than sitting at a desk regardless of the weather? While I might not describe this past Saturday as a perfect day; it was an absolutely beautiful day to run in the forest. This was fortunate since Saturday was the 7th running of the Tecumseh Trail Marathon. It was my 4th Tecumseh. For the first two I was neither a trail runner nor a marathoner. I missed last year’s race only because I was in Sacramento that weekend running the CIM instead.

Tecumseh is a challenging race. Dean Karnazes, who ran the course as part of his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days challenge described it as “Hardcore”. There are plenty of hills, rocks, roots, and creek crossings. The water in the creeks seemed to be a little higher than normal this year. Many of the crossings had stepping stones to allow for dry passage. But not all had such luxury. At one crossing I walked across on a half rotted log about 6 feet above the water. I used that same log three years ago. I doubt it will still be there next year. At other crossings I just resigned myself to my fate, a cold wet foot.

The sun was shining brightly at the start and there was little or no wind so it actually felt warm despite a temperature in the low 20’s. It is still hunting season so the race instructions say to wear bright colors. I was wearing my Brooks Nightlife top which according to Ed was blinding in that sunshine. One thing that makes Tecumseh so challenging is getting the pace right. In a typical road marathon I can knock off mile after mile at a consistent pace and know from the start it is a pace I can sustain to the end. Not Tecumseh. I often make the mistake of starting out too fast. This is a huge challenge for me at Tecumseh, because a sustainable pace at the start will feel ridiculously slow. I started out at what felt like a pretty easy pace. Only after it is way too late did I discover it probably wasn’t easy enough. I reached the aid station at 9.7 miles about 6 minutes faster than I ever have. I’m not sure exactly where the half way point is, but I hit the top of Indian Hill Road in 2:07. I still felt pretty good at that point, but that hill definitely sucked some of the life out of me. By around mile 15 I could feel I wouldn’t be able to sustain my pace to the finish. Still I kept pushing myself. At the aid station around mile 18 there was still a glimmer of hope for a sub 4:30 finish. When I reached the aid station around mile 21, I knew there was no way I would beat 4:30. I didn’t give up completely. My legs were trashed and cramping, my tank was empty. I ran as much as I could from that point which wasn’t much. I was making frequent stops to allow others to pass me. The last few miles on the west side of Yellowwood Lake are some of the toughest miles of the race. There aren’t any big hills, but lots of little ups and downs, lots of roots, lots of little creeks. I jumped over one creek and my calf cramped up so bad I’m not sure how I managed to land on my feet. Also, there are several spots where you can see that darned dam, so you know just how far you have to go. Of course the base of the dam isn’t even the end; there is still a little over a mile to go from that last aid station. It is gravel road all the way except for the last hundred yards through the campground. I was determined to run all the way to what is always labeled the “last hill”, literally painted right there on the road, but I didn’t quite make it. I had to take a walk break before the hill, which by the way is NOT the last hill. I guess it depends on your definition of hill. At this point in the race anything going up no matter how slight is a hill and there are a couple rolling hills after the “last hill”. Once I reached the top of the “last hill” I think I ran all the way to the finish, maybe a half mile? It was all adrenaline at this point pushing me. In the last 50 yards or so I heard someone yell out “good job Jeffro”. Not sure who it was, almost no one actually calls me Jeffro, but it’s always nice when someone is there to cheer you on to the finish. 4:53:53. Not my best, not my worst, but as always a great day to run in the forest.

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Thinking Negative Is Good

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I have so many things for which to be thankful. Of course all the usual stuff, family, job, etc. All of which can be gone in the blink of an eye so I try to be thankful every day and not wait for one specific day to give thanks.

I slept in until 5:30 which is pretty darned late for me. My alarm was set for 5:55 so I wasn’t missing out on much sleep. I’m just happy Dino, Romo, and Kooper didn’t try to wake me up at 3 or 4am. Today I would be hitting the pavement early for a 4.5 mile run with my son, niece, and several thousand of my friends. The Drumstick Dash is a 4.5 mile race in Broad Ripple. This year there were over 8,000 signed up. I’ve always thought this would be a fun race, but every year I was either too busy cooking or out of town. Not this year. After feeding the dogs and cleaning muddy feet I sat down for breakfast. I opted for the usual old fashioned oatmeal with prunes and natural peanut butter. About half way through I started feeling nauseous. I stopped eating, drank some water. Thankfully the feeling passed and I finished eating.

The race wouldn’t start until 9, but I knew the parking would be a problem in Broad Ripple so I thought we should leave around 7am. It was actually 7:15 before the wheels were turning. Then the entrance ramp to 465 north from 10th street was closed so I quickly calculate a reroute in my head. No problem, traffic was light and we made it there in time to still find a spot in the Broad Ripple High School parking lot. Plenty of time to use the porta-potties and build a good case of nerves. Ever since returning to work in early October my training hasn’t been very focused so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping to be able to average 7 minutes per mile. With this large a field, I knew the start would be pure chaos. The organizers were prepared though with large pace signs to help people self seed. I was standing right next to the 7:00/mile sign. Unfortunately there were a large number of people ahead of me who either can’t read, don’t know what pace they run, or just aren’t considerate of others. Oh well, I’m just out here to have fun right?

I zigzagged my way through the crowd to a first mile time of 6:54. Perhaps a little fast, and with the slow start I knew my actual pace at that moment was faster, but I felt good so I figured I would just try to maintain. At the 2-mile sign my watch said 6:45. Still feeling good, but I thought I better take it easy in mile three to save some gas for the last mile and a half. At the 3-mile sign my watch says 6:38. I guess I just don’t know how to take it easy. Now I’m starting to have negative thoughts, as in negative splits. Running negative splits just isn’t something I do. What I usually do is burn myself out early so that I can spend the latter part of the race trying to recover enough to be able to count the people passing me. I can see the 4-mile sign. The seconds are ticking away I’ll have to hurry to beat my last mile split. I just make it at 6:37. Now only a half mile to go. I’m focused, high cadence, short stride, slight forward lean, controlled breathing. I complete the last half mile in 3:03. I feel great! Earlier while eating breakfast I thought I might be spending the day getting up close and personal with a porcelain bowl. Now I’m on top of the world and for that I am indeed very thankful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Highs and Lows

This photo is one of my favorites. It's from the 2009 Mini. This is around mile 7 or so and by the time this image was captured my race was already over because of a pulled calf. I was limping my way to the finish. It wasn't my worst time for a half and I wound up getting a nice gear bag from Brooks for being the fastest ID member in the over 40 age group (probably the only one running that day).

So, last Saturday I was supposed to run the Owen-Putnam State Forest 50k. Well a not so funny thing happened on the way to the race. I was driving west on I-70 when all the sudden there was an object in the road. Not sure what it was, tool box, cooler, I don't know it was dark blue and I didn't see it until it was too late to avoid hitting it. I think it probably fell off the small pickup that was ahead of me but who knows. From the comfort of my drivers seat it didn't seem as though it had done much damage. It was very dark and our exit was just up ahead so I decided to not stop there on the interstate to inspect. The car was still running well when we exited the interstate, so we kept going. After a few miles the check engine light came on and very soon after the engine just died. It was still very dark and almost immediately a guy in uniform on his way to weekend guard duty stopped. He had a flashlight and we could then see that the radiator had been badly damaged. I called a tow service to come rescue us. About two hours and $160 later we were back in Avon at Terry Lee Honda. There wasn't much else I could do at that point so Tom and I headed down to Morgan Monroe State Forest and ran two laps of the Low Gap Trail. It was a beautiful day for a run in the woods. It turns out that the engine was completely fried. The repairs should be finished by Wednesday. Small ding in the front bumper and a slightly used replacement engine... just over $5000. Thank God for insurance.

That was the low, now for the high. Yesterday was the final DINO Series race for 2009. Ft Harrison is perhaps my favorite DINO course. It has hills, rough rocky ankle twisting trails, horse crap, even a creek crossing. And since it is an out and back course you get to cross the creek twice. On this course it is not a question of will you roll your ankle it's a question of how many times will you roll it and how bad will it hurt. It hasn't rained all week so the creek was only ankle deep this year. I went out pretty fast but felt pretty good at the turn around. I was starting to fade on the return, but passing everyone still heading out was a bit of a mental boost. The hills on the return were killing me, but I was still running well on the flats and downhills. With just over a half mile to go there is one last hill, not very big, but I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top. I glanced at my watch and thought I might be on record pace. There's no point in finishing with gas left in the tank. The downhill side is smooth grass and I was flying down it. The last half mile is mostly grass and flat. You can actually see the finish area from before the last hill and through the entire last half mile. I was pushing as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line at 1:06:00, I'm certain this course isn't quite a full 15k. Still that's a PR for this course by almost 2 minutes. I certainly wouldn't have been able to do that had I run the 50k the week before. I have been worried that I've haven't been getting in the speed work I need to, but yesterdays race is lifting my confidence a bit. I have a 4.5 mile road race coming up on Thanksgiving Day. Then December 5th is Tecumseh where, if the conditions are right, I'll be trying to beat 4:30. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I think I rolled my ankle about three times.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stone Steps 50k

Last Saturday I ran the Stone Steps 50k in Cincinnati. The event was held in Mt Airy Forest which is a large park just north of downtown Cincy. The weather could not have been better. Well maybe a few degrees cooler would have been nice since I failed to pack a short sleeve shirt. This race is the 4th and last race in the ORRRC 50k series. Once again the ORRRC put on a spectacular event at a bargain price. I do have one suggestion for improvement. The race is run over two loops. The first loop is just over five miles and the second loop is just over 3 miles. You run the five mile loop first and then the 3 mile loop. You repeat this 3 times then run one more 5 mile loop. Both loops start and finish at the same spot so there is only one aid station. The aid station was stocked with all sorts of goodies. The one thing missing was my primary and favorite race fuel... pretzels. Preferably pretzel rods. I've already emailed the race director and volunteer to supply the pretzel rods for next year's race. That is if I return next year. I can't imagine why I wouldn't; this was a fun and challenging course.

The 5 mile loop is fairly easy for the first mile but then the trail gets pretty rocky and rooty. Then just past 2 miles you reach the infamous Stone Steps. I've read somewhere that there are 90 steps, but that can't be right because I'm pretty sure the elevation gain is at least 200 feet from top to bottom. One time up isn't too bad but by the forth trip these are killer steps. If you do make it to the top the trail back to the start/finish area is again fairly easy. At least that's the way I remember it but then I'm not sure how much brain function I had after reaching the top of the steps. The 3 mile loop is a walk in the park compared to the 5 mile loop. Part of this loop run over a Disc Golf course so the most challenging part of this loop was dodging the flying discs.

Through the first 2 circuits I was on pace to finish in around 6 hours. At the time I didn't feel I was pushing too hard. Starting the 3rd circuit I still felt pretty good and was running pretty well all the way to the stone steps. The 3rd time up seemed to suck some of the life out of me. I absolutely was determined to finish this race though so I throttled back a little to make sure I would have enough gas to finish. I used the relative ease of the 3 mile loop to recover physically and mentally. At the start of the final repeat of the 5 mile loop I felt pretty good mentally at least. I felt certain I would finish this race. I wasn't pushing hard, wasn't worried about time, just moving forward toward the goal. I would like to say I was enjoying the scenery, but I was too focused on the trail. I definitely did not want to fall on this rough terrain. Earlier on my third pass I saw another runner take a bad spill. He had hit his head and I think he may have received a concussion. I thought there was no way he would make it back to the aid station, but somehow he did. Anyway as I started up the stone steps for the forth and final time the muscles in my left leg suddenly cramped up and I stopped dead in my tracks. Call in the medivac, start spreading the jelly because I'm toast. Fortunately I still had a few Enduralytes left. I took one and within seconds the cramps eased up and I was able to continue. As I reached the top of the steps I felt lucky to have made it. I regained my senses and kept moving toward the goal. Another runner caught up to me and we walked, talked and even jogged a little together to the finish. 6 hours 42 minutes. Not bad at all. I think I can do better, but considering my lack of distance training I'm happy with it.

Next Saturday is the OPSF 50k. My plan there is to take it easy and just use the race as a final long training run for Tecumseh. If the weather and trail conditions are good on December 5th my goal will be to beat 4:30 at Tecumseh.

This is my son and I finishing the Indianapolis Half Marathon. It was his first half. He said it was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but he looks pretty happy in this picture. Next week he's doing the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon so I guess he's hooked. Now I just need to lure him over to the trails.