Friday, November 23, 2007

YouTube Thanksgiving

YouTube etc. is a great addition to holiday family get togethers.

You know when you get to talking about stuff you've seen on TV? Or stuff you watched when you were kids?

Now you can go online and find them.

This weekend we've watched:

The Schoeners:

That leather jacket wearing bad boy Lujack from the guiding light:

(Allie has a thing for leather jackets back in the '80s.)

And my personal favorite, Bill Brasky:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Road to Boston

I think I've got it all figured out.

Every man needs a Thanksgiving project. Mine was plotting out Allie's training schedule for her first marathon, and mine for qualifying for Boston.

Buckle in folks. This is going to get absurdly intricate. Midway through, you'll likely think I'm nuts and obsessive. And you'll probably be right. But at the end you might well find yourself saying, I think this guy's on to something.

Alright. Enough caveats. Let's begin.

First, Allie. For her plan, I picked two really cool races that are renowned for being great for first timers.

The first is the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon. It is held in conjunction with the world famous Grandma's Marathon, which I will run. Both are on July 21. We will combine these races with a mid-summer camping and canoeing trip.

The second is The Portland Marathon. By all accounts, this is the best first-timer marathon in the United States. I'll run it with her, and I'll do all the long runs leading up to it with her.

This will all be part of the first two phases of my Road to Boston.

The goal of the first phase is to build a mileage base and to get used to the distance (and to run a few of the really cool marathons!). The first phase ends with the Grandma's Marathon. I won't do any speed work leading up to that one. I'll just keep doing the Galloway run/walk method, and I'll finish three -- Carlsbad, Austin and Grandma's -- without any consideration of time.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, the reason I'm doing Carlsbad and Austin is because the Galloway plan calls for running a marathon before the marathon, so if I'm doing a marathon, I night as well actually do one, and get a shirt, instead of running around KC in the dead of winter. And, like I said, I'm running Grandma's because it looks super cool.

After that, I'm going to do three in the fall: Portland, New York City and Memphis.

I know what you're thinking. Three?!?!

Wait. There's logic to this.

Galloway also has a training plan for folks who have a time goal. In this one, you run a marathon and a 29-mile run before the actual marathon. This is the training plan I'll use in getting ready to qualify for Boston at a marathon in March 2010. So I figure it might be a good idea to try it to get a feel for the mileage, and also to shoot for an in-between time goal.

See, right now I'm running consistently at a pace to finish in about 4:30 or 4:40. To qualify for Boston, I'll need a 3:20. So I figure it'd be good to try to go sub-4:00 first. I'll shoot for that at Memphis.

So... In preparing for Boston, I'll run Portland real slow. Then I'll do New York plus three miles, also slow. Then Memphis.

During the build up to Memphis, I'll start working in some speed work. This will consist of weekly tempo runs, short at first, then building up to 3 miles or so (still pretty short). Along with this, I'll do one day a week of hill sprints and dabble with some short track workouts of 400 at a 3:20 pace (100 seconds). Lastly, I'll start doing mile repeats a couple of Sundays a month, with the miles run at 30 seconds or so faster than the 8:30-min a mile necessary to break 4 hours.

Then I rest for December 2009, running an easy maintenance schedule.

For 2010, it'll be all about training for three specific races.

First, the Hospital Hill Half Marathon. This is a mid-summer classic in Kansas City. My goal for this will be 1:40 -- the exact pace I'll need to go for the marathon.

To acheive this goal, I'll do a modified version of Galloway's schedule for a time-goal marathon. Basically it'll be the same, with the longest run being a 20 miler (no 23, 26 or 29).

After that, I'll take a couple of weeks to recover before embarking on an eight-week 5k training plan. The goal here will be to break 20 minutes. This will consist of shorter long runs and just a little more track work at a good clip. The objective here is to increase speed.

After the 5k, and a couple of weeks recovery, I'll go for one more round on the Galloway time-goal marathon plan, this time picking up the pace on the mile repeats and the tempo runs so that they correlate with the pace necessary to break 3:20 - 7:38 per mile.

As before, this'll have three marathons leading up to the Boston qualifier -- Disney, Surf City and, finally, Napa Valley.

Why Napa Valley?

Ah. Here's the real beauty of it. The part where it starts looking like fate.

For one, early March was the the right conclusion for all the interlocking training plans. Now, there are a number of reputable marathons held at that time of year, most notably Los Angeles and Little Rock. But both of these are quite hilly. So I checked out Napa Valley, thinking I'd find more of the same. But wouldn't you know it? The course is a point-to-point with an overall drop of 340 feet! Perfect Boston qualifier!!

And, to top it off, Allie has wanted to visit wine country for the longest time!!

What's more, it would be my 12th marathon (or 10th on the Road to Boston). Nice even numbers.

So, yeah. Fate.

So there you have it. Still think I'm crazy?

Perhaps I am. Especially if you look at the spread sheet I spent all day making, complete with to-the-second 400-meter repeats to be run on August 28, 2009.

Of course, it's not set in stone. There'll be adjustments along the way. But I think this is a pretty solid outline for a 2.25-year plan to a lofty but reachable (knock wood) goal.

Or at least a fun project for Thanksgiving Day.

You decide.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


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I'm in Allie's hometown. We drove here, which I'm reluctant to do again. Looooooong. And Ohio is a fascist state, when it comes to highway control. The speed limit is 65, and they pack the borders with troopers so everyone is scared straight when the cross over from Indiana and see fellow fast travelers pulled to the side with flashing lights behind them. For the entire rest of the trip we obediently slow-poked along with everyone else. It felt like being on a conveyer belt in an cloud-covered Orwell world.

Allie's folks are in the process of remodeling. Their new, open-layout kitchen makes it seem like they have a new house. That's good because tomorrow I'll be able to eat the benefits. Right now the women are off at the food museum, ogling the collection.

I went for a little run today, the first after going 17 miles on Sunday. Felt a little tight and heavy-legged, and my heart rate was a little bit higher, so I guess I'm still in recuperation mode.

There's a Turkey Trot tomorrow in Erie, PA, which is about an hour away. Allie and I are thinking of heading over there to check it out. It's on an island on the coast of Lake Erie, so it should be quite pretty. I'm tempted to run the 10k, though I'm not scheduled to run long until Sunday. I think if I go real slow and don't let my pride get the best of me, I'll be OK.

The pictures from the Tulsa race are online. Looks just like the ones from the KC run. Except the first one, where they happened to catch me during a wallk break. In it I look like I'm pretty warn out. But I'll have you know that by the end of the race I completely smoked that perky/chipper woman who's smiling in the picture beside me. I kept trading places with her from mile 6 to 12. But when I decided to kick it in, she was toast!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tulsa time

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Did a little more than 17 miles in Tulsa today. It felt pretty good. I started feeling a little tightness at about 9 or 10 miles, as we moved into the hillier section, but it was generally pretty easy.

Instead of doing the beginning of the course with the marathoners, who started an hour early, I decided to do my first four miles through downtown Tulsa. It was pretty cool. They've got a lot of art deco buildings mixed in with Chicago-style modernist towers. This church is especially cool.

The race itself was great, very well organized with a terrific spread of food at the end. Tulsa has a real pretty riverfront road, and a lot of the course followed it. We were joined by the marathoners at the 10K mark, so that was kind of cool having the faster runners move by us. Some of them were obviously hitting the wall. They were laboring pretty hard. One guy was moaning loudly as he moved past me at the final mile mark. I decided to try to keep up with him the rest of the way in. He wound up finishing in 3:20, which is what I'll need to hit if I want to qualify for Boston after my 40th birthday and until I'm 44. So by finishing with him I was able to fantasize about qualifying.

Back at the hotel I chatted up a guy who had qualified. It was his first marathon, no less. He seemed pretty pleased with himself.

I feel a little sore right now, but I think that's partly due to jumping into the car right away and driving for four hours. I suspect that I'll feel a little tight again tomorrow. But by Tuesday I should be like new.

All in all I'm pretty pleased. 17 miles is a pretty good distance. Makes the marathon seem within reach now. I've got two more long runs -- 20 miles on December 9 and 23 on December 30. The 20 miler is the one I'm the most nervous about, because I'll be doing that here in KC. I've talked a co-worker into doing 16 of it with me, though. So at least I won't be alone. The 23 will be at this weird eight-loop Marathon down in Springfield. I'll duck out of that after 7 laps.

I'm really starting to look forward to Carlsbad and Austin. It's making for a fun winter.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

amazing finish

If you haven't seen it yet, this is amazing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tulsa World Route 66 Half Marathon

Tomorrow I'll be heading south for the Tulsa World Route 66 Half Marathon.

The plan is to actually run 17 miles.

This could work out perfectly.

The marathon will begin an hour before the half marathon, and they start along the same course -- which begins with a 3.5 loop that swings back by the starting line. So my plan is to sneak in with the marathoners, run the 3.5, jog for another half mile, and then line up for the half marathon.

Should work, unless they spot my in the marathon crowd and go all fascistic on me. Could happen, but I doubt it.

Regardless, I think it'll be fun -- if painful. This is a fairly large jump in mileage. For the last few months, I've been adding 1.5 to my long run every other week. Now I start adding three miles every third week. I know it'll be painful, because the 14 miler two weeks ago got real tough at the end (in part because it was a hellishly hilly course).

In other news, I've decided to run the Carlsbad California Marathon in January. (This in addition to Austin, because my training program calls for running a marathon before the marathon.) More on that later...

paperback stuff

I'm starting to get a teeny bit of attention for the paperback. Supposedly, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran something, but I couldn't find it online. And the Washington Post ran a lukewarm review.

Other than that, I've gotten a few decent blog reviews here, here and here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

humbling run

I decided to try running fast last night. And all I did was prove to myself how slow I am.

I was almost completely out of breath two minutes in. I looked down at the Garmin and saw that I was running in the mid nines -- slower than I was running at the end of my long, slow run yesterday. Granted, I was running up a hill and, like an idiot, I didn't warm up at all. But still. Out of breath at 9:30 a mile?

A quarter of the way through I got up to 8:14, and after the halfway point, on a long downhill, I clocked a 7:14 average. But I felt like I was all-out sprinting. Certainly not a pace I could carry for 26.2 miles.

Is this because I'm getting older? Because I had a brief smoking relapse during the campaign? Because I'm still relatively early in a consistent fitness program?

I didn't have my heart monitor on. If I had, I fear it would've been pretty darned high.

When I had it on during the long, slow run on Sunday, I kept hitting 168 during the running parts. According to the standard heart rate formula, it should be at 150 or so when I'm training at that effort level.

The next day I called the physical fitness experts at my gym and asked them if this was too high. They said that there's some flexibility in those numbers. That a better gauge is the conversation test, meaning if you can talk while you run, you're doing OK. I'd say I could definitely talk during my run on Sunday (though I had no one to talk to), so I guess I was doing OK.

They also said that the more I exercize, my heart rate will go down. That over time I'll need to gradually increase my threshold by adding distance or adding intensity.

Well, having tried the intensity last night, in a sloppy, impatient way, I'd say it's best I hold off on that for now and just stick with plan of slowly and carefully adding more miles.

Also, I think I should get a thorough check up. Like other runners across the world, Ryan Shay's death has me feeling uneasy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm geeking out on a new toy. It might well be the geekiest thing I've ever toyed with. I got a Garmin Forerunner this weekend. It's amazing.

I took it out for an eight-mile run today. I could glance at it from time to time and see my pace, distance traveled, heart rate, etc.

When I got back, I plugged it into my computer, and within seconds I was sifting through a database, looking at graphs showing how I stood up against hills, what my maximum pace was, etc. It drew up an elavation profile of my run, and even calculated the precise amount of time I was standing behind a bush, pissing.

I always had a sense that I got faster as I ran, but now I can really see it. At the beginning, I ran about 10- or 11-minute-per-mile pace. Soon I was clicking along at a nine-minute pace. Toward the end, I was in the eights. In fact, I often hit somewhat random peeks of about 7:30.

That's cool for a couple of reasons. For one, it didn't feel like I was going any faster. I didn't feel any extra effort when I was going faster.

The other reason is that 7:30 is just below the pace I'd need to maintain to qualify for Boston.

Knowing this makes it seem very possible now.

Averaged out, my running and walking together put me at a 10:21 pace. Not bad, considering how slow I was going on the walk parts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

boston qualifier

I've been doing my mid-week runs in the evenings. On Tuesday, I didn't get out until after dark. It was a little breezy, and the wind picked up the leaves that were kicked up by my stride and swirled them around, filling the night air with the papery sound of autumn. For the second time, I spotted deer on the Gladstone path. This time they huddled in a dark spot near a bush, with only the tops of their heads sillhouetted against the glow of a street lamp. At first I thought they might be big loose dogs.

Coming home after a run like that, on a chilly night, is so satisfying. The house is warm and warmly lit, and Allie's filled it with the scent of spicy soup.

Yesterday, I got out a little earlier, before the sun went down, and got a fair distance up Cliff Drive before turning around. We're amidst a fabulous autumn here in KC, bright colors everywhere, and it was warm enough yesterday to go in shorts and short sleeves.

I picked up the pace a bit as I moved along. In my mind I was running much faster than I actually was. I imagined moving along at a 7:30 clip, knocking out the final miles of a marathon with strength and determination. I was mere minutes away from qualifying for the Boston Marathon, bolstered by the confident assurance of a the sports medicine doctor I'd visited a couple days earlier, who told me, without a second of hesitation, that he saw no reason why I couldn't qualify for Boston.

When I look at it objectively, it seems a real stretch. I'm running a good three minutes per mile slower than I would need to to qualify. And that's for 26.2 miles, a distance I haven't even hit yet. It's hard to fathom.

On the other hand, it's not. On a cool autumn day, when I have a beautiful road like Cliff Drive all to myself, and I'm deep in the throws of a runner's high, it feels totally possible. It feels like it's actually happening. Like I'm already there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

dumb dems

I haven't been happy with the insiders of the Democratic party for some time now. I thought the choice of Jim Kerry as presidential nominee was a really poor one. He struck me as arrogant, elitist and aloof. I supported him, of course. I probably would've supported anyone over Bush. But I had a sense from the get go that he lacked the sort of charisma and charm it takes to win a nationwide race.

Now I have a sense they're making the same mistake again by propping up Hllary Clinton. Obviously, she's got a tough hurdle to overcome in sexism. And maybe that's subconsciously what's behind my misgivings about her. But I don't think so. I think she's just plain cold, claculating and elitist.

Check out this long TV commercial from the Edwards camp.

Make no mistake, these candidates gravitate to the top of the field because Democratic leaders want them to. And my suspicion is that the reason they want them to is because they know they'll play ball.

That's the way it works locally.

In congressional races and such, the party insiders, the ones who fund the campaigns and doctor the spin, only back people who know and respect the current and long-standing landscape of interlocking feifdoms and patronage arrangements.

No reason not to believe that's how it happens on the national level. Especially when they keep ponying up candidates who are completely out of touch with regular folks.

Monday, November 05, 2007

rock stars

Allie and I caught up with our friends Joel and Jocelyn in Lawrence last night and went to the New Pornographer's concert. Much fun. I can't remember the last time I paid to see a band. They're easily my favorite group right now, have been for months, but it's funny how little I knew about them.

Like, I had no idea one of the singers is an alt-country star. I think my uncles might find her interesting.

And I didn't know that one of the other singers hheads up a totally different band.

The former was explained to me last night by my much hipper friends from Lawrence. The latter we figured out when we watched Kathryn Calder perform in the opening band, and then break down their equipment, and then return to set up equipment and play with the headlining act. (Afterward, Allie wondered if she'd also be driving the bus to the next show.)

Also, I was surprised to see a bearded man stumble out onto stage carrying a beer and proceed to sing some of my favorite songs. I thought they just had one main male singer, A.C. Newman. But no, there's also this beer-guzzling beardy guy who has a totally distinctive voice that I shoulda figured out earlier when I was listening to the records. Beardo kept coming onto stage from near where the sound board was, so I wondered if maybe his main gig is sound guy.

Anyway, the whole deal sort of reminded me of my cousin Jake.

Partly because Jake's voice is kind of like the beardy guy's. But mostly because every time I tell my uncles that Jake's destined for rock stardom, they say, kind of wryly, "Yeah, well, he surrounds himself with talented people."

Well, yeah. Isn't that the point?

Worked for this A.C. Newman cat. He sure earned our 50 bucks.


I'm totally on a running-watching kicking. I've been trolling the Internet for footage of races. I found a few that gave me goose pimples.

Check out this trailer for a new documentary about marathoning.

And then check out the finishes in this year's Chicago Marathon for both the men and women's division.

The women's is particularly exciting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

cranky race fan

When I was in junior high and totally hooked on running, my favorite sporting event was the New York City Marathon. They used to broadcast it in its entirety on network TV. This was back at the tail end of the glory days of American distance running, when Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and Greg Meyer were tearing it up.

This morning I want nothing more than to watch the race. But I can't. It's not on TV. There is a webcast available, but the software is incompatable with Macintosh. So I have to wait until 2 p.m. for a one-hour highlight show.

Not fair!

Above all, I can't understand why. Marathons are more popular now than they ever were. All morning our local NBC affiiliate has been showing infomercials and reruns of Matlock. I have a hard time believing they wouldn't have made more money off the marathon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

fiercely competitive also-ran

I ran another half marathon this morning. Actually, I added a little bit to it and ran about 14.5 miles. It was a small race down in Olathe, Kansas, and the course was a killer,with lots of hills.

I stuck pretty religiously to the run/walk plan today. I did it all the way to the end.

It's kind of entertaining. Throughout the whole race I'm catching up with other folks who went out faster than me. Often it takes me quite a few run/walk cycles to catch them. I gain a little on the run, then lose a little on the walk. It's kind of like fighting a big fish on the open sea.

My biggest fish today was The Flag Man. I saw this guy at the KC marathon two weeks ago. He runs the whole course with a flag pole propped on his shoulder and a great big American flag waving behind him.

I can't stand this guy. All I want to do is to beat him.

Today I got him in my sights at about mile five. I didn't catch him until nine. The whole time I'm thinking, You patriotic son of a bitch. I'll show you a thing or two about American pride! (Mind you, we're both running11-minute miles, near the absolute back of the field.)

But as I got closer, my eyes locked on his slow but steady form, the bright colors of Old Glory rippling in the morning sunlight, I found myself feeling some affection for him. If nothing else, he'd given me something of a purpose for the middle four miles of the race.

But when I sidled up beside him, making my big pass, he didn't even look over to give me a friendly "Hi there fellow 'Merican!" nod. He just looked straight ahead at the same spot in the road in front of him, a beed of sweat dangling from the brim of his hat.

What kind of patriot is that?

One about nine miles into a grueling 13.1-mile run, probably. Too tired to bond with a fellow countryman, I suppose.

That's right, Mr. Flag Man.

This 5.5-mile-an-hour lightning bolt of real American pride done passed you by!

Pledge alegience to that, bee-yotch!!

the awesome and the awful

I'm so into running these days that I'm paying attention to the pros. If track events and road races got as much coverage as football and baseball I'd probably be wasting my weekend afternoons in front of the tube.

Today was the Olympic trials for the marathon. NBC showed a half-hour summary of the event.

Quite a story:

One guy set a record. Another dropped dead.

Ryan Shay, who won a national championship in the 10,000 meters for Notre Dame, collapsed early in the race and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. He had just gotten married in July. His wife was good friends with the wife of the race's champion, Ryan Hall. She was a maid of honor at the Shays' wedding.

Meantime, Ryan Hall broke the record for the event by a minute or so. He was so cool to watch, the way he pumped his fists and pointed skyward as he came in to the finish, high-fiving folks in the crowd and shouting like a he-man. He's definitely the new great American hope for distance running. At just 25, he's already set the American record in the half marathon and the fastest ever debut in the marathon.

America might be bringing home a medal from Beijing next year. When's the last time that happened? LA in '84, when Joan Benoit won?

But still, can you imagine? You run a totally kick ass race, make it to the Olympic team, and find out a good friend and training partner just suddenly died.

Or worse, to be his new wife? You know they had to have arranged their lives in preparation for this day. To have this happen -- sheesh, it boggles the mind.

28 years old.