Reason to Run

Donna and Darryl, Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu 1997.
Donna and Darryl, Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu 1997.

My run today was bittersweet. I woke up this morning having dreamed of a very dear friend from not so long ago. Not having heard from her in a couple of years, and it being too early in the morning to call, I decided to do a quick google search to see if I could see if she’d been up to anything exciting since 2014 like a run.

I was devastated to find that the first result to come up was her obituary, taken in 14 short months by cholangiocarcinoma cancer at the way to early age of 47.

My heart today is in physical and emotional pain over the loss of the beautiful woman who gave me so much joy. We shared so much love, friendship, and adventure that she has never been far from my mind no matter how many years have intervened. The loss to her family and friends is no doubt pain beyond understanding.

It would be foolish and disrespectful to her memory for me to deny that I haven’t cried today, I loved her as much now as I ever did. I’m an anomaly when it comes to love – so many people who found love with someone just cavalierly toss it away when the relationship is over. It’s a shame that love doesn’t endure with so many people in this way. True love is everlasting, staying in your heart long after two people part ways. She and I simply couldn’t maintain a long distance relationship, but the three years that we did were magical and will always be part of me.

I owe my passion for running, and possibly my life, to her. This photo was taken at the Turtle Bay Hotel & Resort on the North Shore of Oahu in 1997. It was on this trip that she asked me one morning if I wanted to go for a run with her. I enthusiastically laced up my hiking boots (I had no running shoes), pulled on a t-shirt and cargo shorts (no running shorts either), and headed out through the sand for a three mile run that to this day I remember as almost killing me. It was THAT run, on that day, that ended my cigarette smoking cold turkey for good.

My road to loving the 1/2 marathon and marathon is all because of her. We ran every chance we got, every time we were together we would plan a run. We eventually ran the 1998 Motorola Half Marathon (now the Austin Half Marathon) on February 15, 1998. It was the first 1/2 marathon for both of us.

Donna died February 14, 2016 on the same day OUR half marathon was being run 18 years after she and I shared our love for each other and for running at that race.

Much of my grief is over the loss of contact that too often comes with distance, and divergent lives; the bulk of my grief is from losing someone who truly was a gift to the world and everyone who was blessed by knowing her.

Rest in peace Donna, I’ll never forget the love of running you’ve given me and pray to God that I see you again one day.

Motorola 1998 Bib

Thanks Grandma!


Back when I first started running I made a list of the iconic runs I wanted to participate in.  In less than a month I’ve crossed two of them off – the Bolder Boulder 10K, and now Grandma’s Marathon.

Now I’m two marathons and four half marathons away from my 5-4 goal (5 half, 4 full the year I turn 54).  Just like those stupid Eliquis drug commercials, I’m lying here with sore legs and wondering “can I up my game”?

I’m nearly 100% convinced now that I will run an ultra next year, that the remaining races are training runs with medals and t-shirts.

Recap of Grandma’s:  It’s iconic for a reason, come run it!   A beautiful point-to-point along the shores of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.  I recommend staying in Two Harbors, the small, quiet town that hosts the start; a bus will pick you up and take you to the start 10 minutes away.

It poured rain from the time I stepped of the bus until the start 30 minutes later. Every possible shelter was already crammed to overflowing by the time our bus arrived and so I had to settle for the 30 gallon trash bag I’d snagged from the hotel room.  The rain stopped a few minutes into the race and stayed away for the time it took me to finish. 

Along the course we had magnificent views of the lake, a few small, very supportive towns that were perfumed by blossoming lilacs.

Aid stations were plentiful and extremely well staffed with volunteers of all ages offering water and powerade every 2 miles from 3-17 then every mile from 19-25.  Oddly there was only one Clif Shot station, at mile 17.

The marathon boasted roughly 7800 runners, it took me 14 minutes to cross the start line from the back (I was held up at the porta potties and didn’t feel like trying to push up to my pace group).

Grandma’s is definitely worthy of it’s reputation.

Barefoot Beginnings

A few months ago I began exploring using occasional barefoot running sessions to strengthen my feet. It was never my plan to go all out barefoot, but now here I am on the verge!

My decision to push barefoot further than the original plan was instigated by yet another book on running – “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. I’d never even heard of this book until two weeks ago when my sister emailed me a link to a TED talk by Christopher.

My sister is well aware of my crazy goal to run 5 half marathons and 4 full marathons this year and so on occasion will send various news articles or video links.  Watching this video caused an even crazier plan to germinate – running an ultra!  What if instead of treating each run this year as an individual goal, why not treat the entire year as a training year for running an ultra in 2016?  Brilliant!

So I bought Born To Run so that I could read about the Terahumara to see what gives with the extreme distance running.  I received it just in time to take it with me to a convention in New Orleans.  I settled into my seat and started reading before taking off from Omaha.

By the time I got to New Orleans I only had one chapter left to read. Even if you never plan to run a single yard barefooted I highly recommend this book to all runners, I found it very inspirational.  So much so that I called my daughter to recommend that she buy it.

By now I’d already been sprinkling some barefoot runs in, exclusively on the treadmill though.  After reading the book though I decided that I was all in.  I haven’t pushed it hard, I’ve listened to my body, and my body is pretty much telling me to go for it.

I’ve upped my mileage barefoot to the point that all of my runs except the Sunday 15+ mile runs are either barefoot or in my New Balance Minimus shoes.  Not exactly 100%  barefoot, but I’m still working on toughening up my soles and don’t want to risk anything this close to the Lincoln Marathon.

For my everyday wear, like to work and such, I’ve ditched anything that remotely has a thick sole, opting for my deck shoes, a couple pair of loafers, and my beloved hand made deer hide moccasins that I bought at a Mountain Man Rendezvous in Utah.

Tomorrow my new pair of Soft Star Run Amoc shoes will arrive, and shortly after that a pair of Xero Shoes huaraches.

In the two weeks that I’ve switched all of my weekday training runs to barefoot/near barfoot my right knee has actually stopped aching, my left calf no longer complains, and I don’t have any extensor digitorum longus muscle fatigue during the first two miles of my runs like I did with my heretofore usual Asics Gel Nimbus.

I seriously doubt that I’ll run any of my marathons this year barefooted, or as near to barefoot as possible but I might be surprised.  I’m not going to say never.

In fact, I’m going to finish this and head to the Goodwill to drop off all of the other shoes that I’m not going to be needing anymore 🙂


Tattoo You – thanks to a long lost friend

I’m primarily writing this today to show off my new tattoo!  But I will have some insight into cadence training as well.  But first, the tattoo!

Running Man Tattoo

Many years ago (like 18) I was lured into running by my desire to impress a beautiful woman while I was on a work trip to Hawaii.  I was mesmerized by this incredibly cute & smart woman with whom I was working on installing and testing software.  We were both flirtatious as hell and one day she asked me if I wanted to go for a run with her.  In those days I was a smoker, not a runner, but I would be damned if I was going to let that get in the way of going for a run with this angel.

We were staying at the Turtle Bay Hilton on the North Shore so there was plenty of open space where we could run.  So early Saturday morning I put on my cargo shorts and cotton tank top, laced up my Merrell mid-height hiking boots, and off we went.  I can’t tell you now which was worse; running through the sand in hiking boots, or thinking that my burning soot covered lungs were going to collapse – all I know is that it was, to this day, one of my most memorable runs because of who I was with and the relationship that started that day and lasted a fleeting yet glorious 3-years.

I quit smoking cold-turkey that day and started my running quest.  The following year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  Though we’ll most likely never meet again I owe my love of running and my being cigarette free for 18 years now to her and, even though she’ll probably never read this….thank you!

I returned to Hawaii again in 1998, the year I was training for the MCM, and while wandering around the shops at the Aloha Tower Marketplace I stumbled on a print of a Hawaiian petroglyph entitled “Running Man”.  I’ve kept it on my wall ever since and thought that one day it would make a cool tattoo – and it does!

So last night I finally got the tattoo.

I look forward to adding 5 half hashmarks and 4 full hashmarks at the end of this year.

Now to the useful portion of this entry – Cadence Training:

The other day I bought a small, portable metronome that I could use to try improving my cadence and boy was I impressed!  If you’re struggling with trying to create music playlists that have songs with 90BPM that you can use to optimize your cadence training let me tell you – this is FAR, FAR better.

Take a look at my Garmin Connect training entry from that day and you can clearly see the benefits of using a metronome.  I was on the treadmill which made it very easy to control the training and optimize the use of the metronome to achieve the cadence I was looking for.

Bottom line – if you want to incorporate some cadence training to improve your efficiency then buy one of these.

How Quickly We Fall

Does anyone else out there get as complacent and lazy as I did after the cold weather began and the racing season wound down?  I freely admit that I had a certain degree of hubris about my fitness level, especially after the magnificent group showing in Richmond in November.  I slacked, and I slacked HARD!

The week of Richmond, November 10-15, I was able to easily pound out 50 push-ups and 10-12 pull-ups was nothing.  This morning I struggled to complete FIVE push-ups and was lucky to get TWO pull-ups.

Now this could be age related.  It could be that I felt like I was invincible (as invincible as a 53 y.o. can be).  The more likely scenario is that it was a combination of age, hubris, and my new found fascination with the craft bourbon trend!

Stay tuned as I work hard to unravel the sticky web of inactivity and come out stronger than ever.  My official marathon training schedule begins next week, but I’m not going to sit around waiting for it to arrive.  I was happy to discover this morning that, despite my recent laziness, I could still manage 50 body squats without any trouble – so all is not lost.

I await my second (in one month) copy of Unbreakable Runner by T.J. Murphy and Brian MacKenzie.  I took that with me to read on the flight to/from the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon in December and read it cover-to-cover.  Convinced that the plan made sense, sense enough that I would give it a shot, I promptly left in the seat pocket of my return flight 😦  The replacement arrives tomorrow.

My one sentence take on Unbreakable Runner is:  Crossfit meets primal eating meets distance running.  Two of those I already (mostly) do, so I’m going to incorporate the crossfit element and see what happens.

Are you still drunk?

What? No!
Are you sure, because this sounds like something a drunk man would do.
I didn’t even drink last night.
Then what’s that bottle over there?
Well okay I did have exactly ONE drink at midnight, you can see that the bottle is still nearly full, so why would you ask if I was still drunk anyway?
Because I was reading over your shoulder as you were planning your 2015 running.
Oh, yeah that.

So New Year’s Day arrived and I was considering what I should do vis-a-vis my running goals for 2015.  I feel like I want to do something epic.  But yet I still have to be realistic.

So how can I blend Reality with Epic?  I’m going to call it Realepic!

I’m going to keep it realistic by keeping it fun; we all know how unfun training can be when we don’t keep it fun – and in the stage of life I’m in now the only way to be realistic about what I can and can’t do is to understand that I’m not 20, 30, etc.  I’m nearly 55 and, despite all the running I did in 2014, I’m not in really good shape.

I realize that I kept 2014 a little too fun, hence the shape I find myself in.  The last 5 months of 2014 were Epic, I ran an organized 1/2 Marathon every month starting with the Revel Rockies half in Denver and finishing the year with the MetroPCS Dallas half.  But by the time I reached Dallas I had become complacent with my conditioning which resulted in a disappointing finish to the year.  The Dallas finish is what has me motivated to make 2015 an even better year than 2014.

So to keep this short, and give me things to write about as I progress, I’m going to lay out the still nascent plan.  I happened to be reading some Hal Higdon articles when I came across his 6-6-60 and 7-7-70 accomplishments.  So the seed was planted, from which is sprouting my 5-4-54 plan for 2015.   Five half marathons, four full marathons, during the year I turn 54.

So I spent the better part of the morning on New Year’s Day scouring the schedules for runs that would fit into the plan.  The only thing that I had already committed to was Grandma’s Marathon in June, so I had to build around that.

My training starts as soon as I publish this, it’s cold out and I haven’t run one single mile since the Dallas Half three weeks ago.

So far the plan looks like this:

April 18th – Half #1:  What better run to kick of the 5-4-54 than with one sponsored by the one piece of technology I absolutely obsess over after every single run than the 2015 Garmin In The Land of Oz run?  I’ll kick off the year with a half just like I did 2014.   I want to start the year off right, since I didn’t finish 2014 like I wanted, with a PR.   I’m wiping the slate clean for now, so I’m not including my times from the late 90’s.  All PR’s moving forward are post-heart surgery PR’s.

May 3rd – Full #1:  I’m going to have to get up early if I’m to succeed in getting registered – The Lincoln Marathon.  The registration is capped at 12,000 which sold out last year in under 12 hours.  So I’ve got my alarm clock set to get up and get in.

May 30th – Half #2:  I’m going to head back to Iowa for half marathon number two in the series.  The iconic Dam To Dam in Des Moines.  It looks fun, it’s been around for 35 years, and the people of Des Moines really know how to support runners.

June 20th – Full #2:  The one I’ve always wanted to run, Grandma’s Marathon! When I first started running in the late 1990’s, to impress the smart and beautiful DB, I dreamed of running Grandma’s Marathon.  So it was natural for me to dream of this race once I started running again (to impress no one this time LOL).


September 13th – Half #3:  A short jaunt north to South Dakota for the Sioux Falls Marathon.  I’m hoping that being a little further north at this time of year will equal cool temperatures.

September 20th – Full #3:  The Omaha Marathon.  I ran the half last year and it was pretty enjoyable.  I have to say that as far as public support this one isn’t the greatest – Omaha really needs to step it up a notch to get the people of Omaha more involved and make this a go to event.  It would really be nice if they could somehow incorporate the Old Market into the race.

October 18th – Half #4:  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one.  It’s just recently been announced, 2015 is going to be the inaugural of the Nebraska Marathon.   My back up runs for this if it doesn’t get off the ground will be either the Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver or I’ll return to Des Moines for the IMT.

November 22nd – Half #5:  Out of town again for the last in the series of half marathons for 2015.  I’ll be running on Tulsa time at the 10th running of the Williams Route 66 half marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

December 13th – Full #4:  I’m going to finish off 2015 just like I did 2014, just twice as far – The MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.   I loved the half so much that I have to go back and do it again.  This race was so well organized, the expo was unbelievable, the people of Texas fantastic (as usual) and like the song says the women are beautiful.

Now that I’ve laid out the plan it’s time to break out the plastic and get registered for all these 🙂

I ran Dallas for a cause, I was saddened that I only raised $80.  Should I try to raise money again this year?

First Jog of 2015

So, here’s a link to the start of 2015.  Not very impressed?  Neither am I!  It is true that I completely slacked off of everything since running the MetroPCS Half Marathon in Dallas almost three weeks ago – running? slacker; eating? slacker; sleep?  slacker;  booze? SLACKER!

With 2015 and the 5-4-54 firmly in my sights today was the day to stop slacking.

One of the most important things I’m planning to do this year is to take the cardiac challenge more seriously.  I’ve been stubbornly reluctant to consider a beta-blocker to control my heart rate, but I’m going to have a serious discussion with my cardiologist next Wednesday about going back on and here’s why;  My heart rate should be way lower than it is.

I had an appointment with my physician on Monday and even she commented on my RHR.  She knows how much I ran all year and believes that my RHR should be closer to 70, not 98.  Ditto the running heart rate.  Given all the miles I’ve been logging there is no reason for me to be pushing the mid 160’s with an RPE of 3-4.

Unbreakable Runner: CrossFit Endurance for Running

My road map for 2015:

Unbreakable Runner: CrossFit Endurance for Running.

I read this book cover-to-cover last month when I flew to Dallas for the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.  I decided that I was going to use the training plans in it to see what it could do for my running this year.  Granted, at the time I was reading it, I hadn’t any plans to run 5 halfs and 4 fulls; but now that my plan is in place I think this book will be even MORE important to my success.

Run Happy (Natalie)

I just came back from what I consider a magnificent 10-mile run and this gem was in my inbox. Well said Natalie, today was one of those days where, despite the 34F temp, the run could only have been better if I were younger and faster.

D.I.Y. Fitness Blog

Perhaps the most inexplicable attraction of running is the enjoyment. Some people run for the social scene, others for the fashion statement, and then (insert sarcasm here) there’s the devoted cadre that runs for the associated health benefits (everybody runs for the health benefits). As much as I love the fashion statements (no sarcasm there), I’d have to say that sheer enjoyment is the root of all my reasons for running. I thought about this when one of my running friends recently said to run happyme that she didn’t think she could ever run a marathon and be as happy as I looked during the Richmond marathon. Hearing this from another runner made me reevaluate what it means to “run happy.”

Generally, my philosophy about running (and life, really) is that it is what you make it. If I were to approach running from the perspective of some grueling self-imposed torture…

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Thinking about the spot where half marathon finishers medal #6 is going to be I realized that I’ve been giving short shrift to the “Six Halfs In a Year” headline.  At the completion of the MetroPCS Dallas Half next Sunday I will have completed a major running event each month for the last five months, more of an accomplishment than I’ve been considering it to have been.

Granted, there are probably thousands of runners out there that complete an organized half marathon event every month so in they eyes of the world my accomplishment is far from earth shattering.  But for me it’s a great achievement considering where I was at the beginning of the year.

On a whim I decided to fly down to Austin to run the 20th annual 3M event (it was brutally cold here in Omaha so why not?).  I hadn’t really been training for a half, hell I don’t even think I’d actually put in any more than a handful of miles of actual “running”.  Truth be told I’d only been working on my fitness since mid-December.  I didn’t even run Austin, I “Wogged” it – a word I came up with to describe my walk/jog approach.

I had no grand expectations, I just wanted to finish in 3:00 or under.  I met my goal with a 2:51.  In a galaxy far, far away I had run the Baltimore half in 1:54, so that 2:51 kinda pissed me off even though it was what I deserved in light of my lack of training up to that point – but the gauntlet was thrown.

I came back to Omaha on a mission, not to run six half marathons in 2014, but to prove to myself that I could get back to being able to actually RUN the entire course without any walk breaks.   To motivate me on this mission I registered for the Revel Rockies inaugural, the Omaha Half, the Des Moines half, and a couple months later the Richmond half.  Dallas didn’t even enter into the equation until after I’d finished Des Moines and then realized that I couldn’t finish the year with an odd-number of finishers medals; it’s a left-brain thing.

I felt redeemed when I finished the Revel Rockies a full 23 minutes faster, and that with a pulled muscle in my right leg that manifested itself at mile 7.  My 2:16 in Omaha a month later quieted the naysayers in the back of my mind telling me that Revel was a fluke because it was all downhill.

My daughter Kelly, with whom I ran the Richmond event last month (I the half, she the full) has challenged me to PR for the year in Dallas with a 2:10.  An ambitious challenge to be sure, but considering what I’m running Dallas in support of – challenge accepted!  I already have my race day shirt packed, I’m running for a cause and so I’ll cross the finish wearing my Navy Seal Foundation shirt.

I’m just unhinged enough that I’m considering a run at 12 medals next year.  I’m already registered for Grandma’s Marathon in June, with the Ogden half slotted in May on my training calendar.  Now I’ve got myself thinking that I should run a half each month leading up to Grandma’s, then a half in each of the next five month’s and cap off the year with a full in December.  Major undertaking, but I think it’s possible.