Sunday, October 12, 2008

Towpath Marathon 2008

<- Mile 15, approaching the Boston Store

I had to run the 2008 Marathon to keep the steak alive. But this year I also decided to run the Akron marathon, for the first time. These two are sometimes back to back, sometimes one week apart, and this year, for the first time, two weeks apart.

Two weeks apart? So, I have plenty of time to recover, right? Well, wrong! I ran the Akron marathon hard and my old (going 50) body needed more time to recover. Plus, on Friday, I moved some heavy boxes and ended up hurting my back (I have had back problems - herniated disc - in 2002). So, with my back hurting (when I stand up, my body is tilting to the left), and my legs being insufficiently recovered from Akron, I had serious doubts about my performance today, or even running the darn thing!

I set as a goal (best possible scenario) to beat my 2006 course record of 3:36. Have in mind that this is a naturally "slow" course because the running surface is soft and does not give you the bounce that streets do. But, it is flat (thank goodness!)

At 8 am start time it was 50F (chilly!) but the forecast called for sun and high temperatures in the 80s. While I was standing at the start line, freezing with just a T-shirt at the top, I was thinking of my body as an old car, ready to turn the ignition on. Will it start??? I seriously did not know.

"On your marks, get set, go!" And, to my amazement, my legs are moving and I am running! The first 8 miles are OK: 8:14, 7:58, 7:49, 7:55, 7:50, 7:56, 7:57, 7:56.

But already by mile 8 my legs felt tired, and my hips tight. This usually does not happen until after mile 15 and it is happening already at mile 8. Not good! For some reason mile 9 is slow (there are no hills to explain this and I did not stop for a break). Runners are passing me but I manage to recover, and go back to a good steady pace: 8:23, 8:14, 8:08, 8:01, 7:56, 7:58, 8:00 (mile 15)

My wife is waiting for me right after mile 15. I stop, change shirt, and drink Gatorade and orange juice that she brought. I also grab an energy bar "for the road". This stop has added maybe 1/2 minute to my mile 16 time, but things are not going well, as you can clearly see from these times: 8:56, 8:20, 8:42, 8:51 (mile 19)

History repeats itself: I am clearly falling apart, just like last year. Last year I was walking by mile 19 and mostly walked to the finish line. This year, I am slowing down at the same distance. I am telling myself: “Never again! Never attempt two marathons, only 2 weeks apart!"

But something different happened this year. As we turn at the Northern turnaround point at mile 19.5, I got passed by 3 young (20+) girls. I had passed these girls around mile 2, so now they are back, passing me. Maybe it is the "old man's pride" here, but this motivated me to speed up again. I pass the girls and move forward: 8:40, 8:33, 8:21, 8:05 (mile 23).

I am amazed at myself being able to run fast again... My legs are now beyond pain. They are numb. I now pass all these people who passed me from miles 16-19. Some of them recognize me and whisper "nice comeback", "looking strong", etc. I am wondering if I can keep this pace all the way to the finish, but it is difficult: 8:23, 8:44 (mile 25).

<- Finishing strong

At this point, after the water stop at Highland road, Mel (from Vertical Runner) passes me. She is trying to get 3:40 to qualify for Boston, and she is surrounded by a bunch of guys, offering her plenty of encouragement. One guy hands her a cup of water that he had taken from the last aid station, just for her. "What, no water for me?" I ask. He looks surprised but comes back with "You are a big guy, you can take care of yourself". I speed past them. Mile 26: 8:12.

My Garmin 205 is running slow, as always. It shows I still have 0.45 miles to the finish. I am now running with another girl, Janet, a local runner/blogger. I try to strike a conversation, telling her that I read her blog and identifying myself as “DrT”, but, apparently, she is in no mood for conversation, understandably, in mile 26 of a marathon. So I speed up past her. Now I am running really fast. I pass a couple more runners and enter the finish area looking strong. My Garmin recorded a record pace of 7:16 for this last half mile.

My watch at the finish reads 3:37:29. Even though I did not beat the course record from 2006, I am darn proud of my performance, under the circumstances. Especially the reversal of the decline after mile 20.

<- This little girl's sign summarizes the race nicely "Great Job Everyone!"

After getting a couple of snacks (food was a notch down from last year, no roastbeef or scrambled eggs), and socializing for a while, I am heading home. Too tired to even get into the car, my wife drives me home. I took an ice bath, and then a nap (with my wife, she got tired watching me run :)). When I woke up, an hour later, I literally could not get off the bed. I ask for two extra strength Tylenols and only when they start to work, I am able to get out of bed. And then, I am walking like a 98 year old. Why do we, runners, do this to ourselves??? :)

Overall, it was a nice experience. Beautiful weather, nice scenery, great day for running, plus it was nice seeing fellow runners out there... I have gone from running one marathon a year, to running 3 marathons and 2 50Ks this year. I still have 3 more races: Run for the homeless, Fall Classic 1/2M, and New Year’s 5K. I would also like to find a fast course to attempt a sub 20 minutes 5K. Should I sign up for the Winter 50K? I cannot make up my mind and time is running out!
Results: Official Time: 3:37:16, Placement 79/388 overall, 10/45 age group

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why I support the Towpath Marathon?

The Towpath marathon is dear into my heart because:

  1. It is a beautiful area, a great local natural treasure
  2. It comes as close as 2 miles from my house
  3. We (me, wife, running friends) regularly run there throughout the year
  4. I ran my first race there, a 5K in 2002 (21:27)
  5. I have run the Towpath marathon every year since 2003
  6. 2003 - Two people relay, I ran 15.2 miles in 2:00 (7:54 pace)
  7. 2004 - First full marathon! Goal (under 4 hours) achieved: 3:55
  8. 2005 - Improved Course time: 3:45
  9. 2006 - Again improved course time: 3:36 (course record so far)
  10. 2007 - The heat and fast start took their toll.... 3:47
So, I have to run the 2008 Marathon and keep the steak alive

I don't feel I have recovered sufficiently from the Akron marathon... I struggled last Sunday in an attempted long run. The best I can aim for is a course record. This is my goal, but it is hard to achieve. The running surface of the towpath does not favor speed. I run faster in road marathons. In addition, today (Friday) I carried some heavy boxes and my back is hurting (I had a severe back pain problem & herniated disc in 2001).

Target: 3:35

Wish me luck :) I'll be at the "Pasta dinner" tomorrow 5:30 pm (Quality Inn, Richfield, on Brecksville Road, very close to my house)

Friday, October 3, 2008


Reflecting back from the Akron marathon, I have good memories and I am happy I was able to beat 3:30 in such a difficult course. I read that there were some problems in the first water stops. Maybe the race has grown too big. There were a lot of relay runners and some times they interfered with the marathon runners, when they are running “out of pace” (if, for example, a slow runner follows a fast runner in a relay team, or the other way around). I did not mind it, but I think the race has reached its maximum capacity by now.

After the marathon I took an ice bath and this helped recovery quite a bit. I became a believer of ice baths when I tried one last year and saw the results. I don’t do it often. Only when it is absolutely necessary, for example after a hard marathon. Some people fill the bath tab with water and ice and then get in. Ouch! I get in first, then run cold water until it covers my legs, and then dump in the ice. It more gentle this way.

On Sunday we went to visit our daughter in Toledo. We had signed up for the "Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure" 5K. Since wife Liz is still recovering from injury, daughter Lea is not running, and I was hurting from the marathon, we decided to take it easy and run at the slower runner's pace, which is Lea.

The first mile was at 10 minutes. Liz and I could continue at this pace (or even speed up to 9 min/mile), but Lea could not, so the next miles were at 10:30 and the last mile at 11 minutes. We crossed the line by holding our hands up. The crowds apparently liked it and were cheering us up.

So, at 32:30, this might be the slowest 5K in record for me (for a while :)) but it was fun though doing it as a family and finishing together. There were about 20,000 runners and walkers. The crowd support and entertainment was amazing. There were bands and songs in every corner. This is definitely an “ipod is not necessary” race. We will do this again.

The next day I woke up with very little pain, so recovery was surprisingly quick this time. I ran every day (short distances, slow pace) and went to my fitness classes on Tuesday and Thursday. By Thursday there was no sign of pain/discomfort in my legs. Our training group is planning a long run tomorrow, and I will join them.

My next race is in next week and it is the Towpath marathon. I have a special connection to this race. I will talk about it in the next blog.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Akron 2008

<- DrT around 11 am outside the Akron Stadium... tired but happy.

Well, the fun is over... This was my 6th marathon... my first Akron Marathon and second marathon this year. My target time was 3:30 but since I have already qualified for Boston, I had no pressure to meet this time.

The week before the marathon was strange. I was excited about re-starting my ebay auctions, and every night I was working late, going to bed between 1:30 and 3:33 am, waking up around 8 am. So I got very little sleep (5-6 hours average a night), but I did not feel tired and did not have any mid-day naps (as I normally do :))

Marathon day the weather looks good, cool (60F) but rather high humidity. I forgot my hat in the car! That’s OK, without sun or rain, I did not need it.

I started strong, following the 3:30 pacer (Lloyd), together with Jamie, for the first 3 miles and then moved a bit ahead. The first 11 miles on Akron streets were OK: 8:20 7:40 7:41 7:24 7:49 7:48 7:52 8:01 7:38 7:54 7:39. I have set my Garmin to show my average pace. It was stuck at 7:47 (I kept thinking Boing 747, doing OK).

The next 4 miles were on the Towpath. I started slowing down: 7:40 7:45 7:50 8:00. Aaron and Rose had joined us earlier and we were all running together. At the towpath exit I met my family, but did not stop, just waved "hi" at them. At this point I was already behind the group.

As some of you know, the fun really starts after mile 15 when we exit the towpath. A tough section with lots of uphills goes on for the next 4 miles. I start to slow down: 8:12 8:14 8:24 8:29, as expected, but what is not expected is that my legs are feeling tired.

We are back to Akron streets. The people support is great but my legs are killing me...I continue to slow down: 8:03 8:12 8:26. I start thinking of changing my goal to 3:35-3:40. At this point, I hear this soft voice behind me "you can do it George". It is Jen, whose time goal was 3:40. She is passing me! That was a bit of a shock for me. And, behind, her comes the 3:30 pace group.

I decide to stop the slow-down, and follow the pace group. I have to dig deep inside to find the strength to do that.. Lloyd (pace leader) is very nice with encouraging words for everyone around him, including the volunteers. The next two miles are back to target pace: 8:07 8:09. Lloyd says “don’t worry guys, we’ll make the lost time at the downhill coming up.”

Finally, we reach West Market Street, for the last 2.5 miles, mostly downhill. I am hurting, but I manage to run fast, and keep close to the pacer: 7:42 7:31. I see Jen ahead. We now turn on Main Street. I look at my watch: I CAN MAKE IT, but I have to hurry! Last 0.4 miles (my Garmin was running a bit slow) were at 7:06.

I enter the Stadium, sprinting for the finish line. I see that the official clock is past 3:30 but I know it took a while to cross the start line, so I know I am making it, but it is close!

Official Time: 3:29:44

Mission accomplished (barely :)) This is actually my 2nd fastest marathon. This year has been good to me so far.

My family is in the stadium, cheering me up. I grabbed as much free food as I could, plus the 3 beers (I had one right away!) I then went to the car, changed, and came back for some 3d pictures.

Despite the pain, it was a nice day. While the Cleveland Marathon felt very easy, this one was a struggle for me. I don’t think I would have made it, if Lloyd, Jen, and the 3:30 group had not showed up at the right time. Thank you guys! And congratulations to everyone who was out there running today!

Next: Towpath marathon in 2 weeks. But, first, our daughter has invited us to run a 5K in Toledo tomorrow. A 5K the day after a marathon? That’s what I said. But she wanted us to go and visit and run with her. I might have to walk this one. It will definitely be my slowest 5K ever (so far).

Monday, September 22, 2008

1 Week to Akron

<- From the Buckeye Half, two weeks ago... Running with brand new shoes, the same pair I will use for Akron.

Fast group run on Saturday. I joined the CV-Running group at 7:00 am at Peninsula and we ran south on the Towpath for 6.6 miles and then back for a total of 13.2 miles at 1:45. The average pace was 8 min/mile and my mile splits were: 8:43 8:11 8:13 8:03 8:07 7:57 8:03 7:33 7:41 8:11 7:41 7:50 7:54 7:35.

Isn’t that a bit too fast, considering that this is my target pace for Akron? I think so, but the rest of the group was going even faster and I was trying to keep up with them.

For the rest of the week, I plan to take it easy, with easy runs on Sunday-Wednesday and then take 2 days off (Thursday and Friday). I should then be ready for Akron.

I am a firm believer in running a marathon with fresh (new) shoes. I bought a pair of my favorite shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation) and tried them/broke them in the Buckeye Half Marathon. I have not put any more miles in them. I do not believe in prolonged “breaking in”. The shoes start wearing out the minute you put them on. Anyway, I plan to wear these shoes for the Akron Marathon.

Total for the week: 44 miles, 165 lbs

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2 Weeks to Akron (4 to Towpath)

A nice long and very challenging run today… We started from Peninsula at 6:30 am. Up “Initiation Hill” (very steep), then straight at the “Bike & Hike” trail, then down to Boston (water break). Then to Riverview Road and turn right up Stein (hilly). Continue to Oak Hill Road, right on Riverview (briefly) and to Bolanz Rd (water break). From there to Akron Peninsula Rd and back to start. Not only it was a hard and hilly course, it was pouring rain all the way. A tough run indeed.

I tired to follow the leading group but fell behind. I am happy with my mile splits: 10:18 8:10 8:14 7:42 7:19 8:05 8:39 8:35 8:59 8:11 8:06 7:40 8:14 8:29 8:20 8:37 8:12. Average Pace: 8:19, good for the conditions. Total mileage = 16.5.

Other news: I started my diet this week with a semi-fast on Monday (I only ate a couple of fruits). After reaching 168.5 lbs on Sunday, I was down to 162 on Thursday, but ate a bit more on Thursday and Friday and I was fine in the long run on Saturday. I know some people say that this (taper = 3 weeks before a marathon) is not a time for a diet, but that's what I did for Cleveland and it worked.

Goal or Target? I mentioned previously that my goal for the Akron marathon is 3:30. Actually, this is a target time. What is the difference? I think goal is something you really want to achieve and you either make it or not. Target is a time you aim for. You can be off and that’s not a big deal. Since I don’t really care for my time (having quality for Boston earlier), I think I can call 3:30 my goal. I will not be disappointed if I don’t meet this target time. I am taking it easy. The following day Lea wants us to run a 5K in Toledo. Two weeks later I will run the Towpath marathon.

Total for the week: 50 miles, 165 lbs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Buckeye Half 2008

<- Liz & Lea before the race (I know Lea is not going to like this picture, but I tell them to smile! Something to remember next time...)

<- The "redesigned Buckeye Half course: starts a bit lower on Riverview, turn right at Bath Rd., then left at Akron Peninsula, left on Bolanz, left on Riverview, repeat loop.

OK, let’s get to the good stuff right away:

New course record AND new PR for half-marathon: 1:32:50 (previous PR 1:33:14 at the Fall Classic last year).

I am pleased because I ran a good race. The course was redesigned and it was a double loop this year. I have mixed feelings about double loops. While running the first loop, along a long stretch in the Akron Peninsula road, I kept thinking “Oh my God, do I have to go through this again?!!” But the second time around, time was ticking faster (because now I knew how long this stretch is and did not mind it – I was running on overdrive.) Here are my mile splits:

Mile Time
1 - 6:45
2 - 6:52
3 - 6:51
4 - 6:53
5 - 7:04
6 - 7:07
7 - 7:13
8 - 7:19
9 - 7:12
10 - 7:08
11 - 7:02
12 - 7:05
13 - 7:02
13+ - 6:22

I started strong. For the first 4 miles my average pace was 6:50. I could actually see Beth (2nd F) and the other female runners, not far ahead of me. I have set my Garmin to show my average pace (I do not care for the instant pace). After mile 4, the average pace started going up (I was slowing), until it stabilized around 7:02. My goal was to average 7 minute miles and I came very close to this.

What makes me especially happy is that at mile 8 I had my slowest mile (7:19). Doubts were going through my mind. Maybe I started too fast. Maybe this pace is more appropriate for a 10K, not a half marathon. But, instead of collapsing, I managed to reverse the decline and increase my pace again. My GPS watch was running a bit slow, compared to the marked miles. It registered 13.2 miles, instead of 13.1. In the the last 0.2 miles I had the strength and actually sprint and pass 2 runners, with a pace of 6:22!

The weather was perfect for running. Cold in the morning (55F), sunny, turning to cloudy and actually raining for a while. This morning I was 168.5 lbs. I have not been that high since June. Not good. I did not really need any fluids or food during the race, but I stopped in every water station just for the fun of it. For a long time I could see Vince (of Vertical Runner fame) in front of me, running with his dog! I can see being beaten by Vince, but by a dog too? It was around mile 10 that I managed to get ahead the dog, during a water stop. Quite a few runners passed me between miles 5-9, probably running a better race than me (better pacing). I didn't think I'd be happy to see someone pass me, but was happy to see my friend Howard pass me at mile 11. He is a better/faster runner so I was happy I stayed ahead of him for 11 miles.

<- Sprinting at the finish line.

My wife Liz and daughter Lea had signed up for the 5K of the same race. Liz is coming out from an injury (Achilles tendon) and this is her first race since the Fall Classic in November. She was pessimistic, thinking that she could barely run a 9 minute mile. This was her first race last year so she is “celebrating” a year of entering races. Result: She did much better than expected, with a new 5K PR of 26:20 (8:30 pace). But she finished 4/6 in her age group. She would have been 1st in the next age group (and she is moving to the next age group in December) and 2nd in the younger age group. Tough luck!

Lea had not done any running since the Brecksville 5K in June. When I say "no running", I don't mean "no racing". She has not run even once since then. Yet, she signs up, and manages to finish the 5K without walking! Her time (33:58) might not sound great, but considering the circumstances, it is excellent, and good enough for 2nd place age award. Way to go!

As for me, I finished 6/41 in my age group. Had I been in the next age group, I would have been first! Makes you happy to grow older!

Overall, a fine, enjoyable race, well-organized. I like the hoodies too. We had a bit of a crisis... Lea did not get a hoodie because she registered the last day and only the first 500 get one. But Liz gave her hers and she is wearing mine. I don't mind sharing :)

After the race, we had to leave in a hurry. Lea happy with her award, Liz a bit disappointed to get back empty-handed. Me, tired but happy. Looking forward to the next 3 weeks, building up (yes, building up) for the Akron Marathon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

3 Weeks to Akron (& 5 weeks to Towpath)

This year I am attempting, for the first time, to run both the Akron and Towpath marathons. I have run the Towpath 4 years in a row, from 2004 and on. It is my first Akron marathon. Since these two marathons are separated by 2 weeks (first time ever) I think I have the time to recover from Akron and do the Towpath. And since I have already qualified for Boston (from the Cleveland Marathon in May) I don’t care for time in either marathon so I plan to run them easy and relaxed. I think this will work.

From my last two long races (Cleveland Marathon, Buckeye 50K) I have developed a crazy plan. Instead of tapering, I put my most miles 3 weeks before the race. I also go on a diet the last 2-3 weeks. I keep running almost every day. I only rest (and eat well) the two days before the race. This goes against anything published regarding marathon preparation, but somehow it has worked for me. Why mess with something that works?

So, here is the plan for next week: Tomorrow I am running the Buckeye ½ Marathon. This is a test. It will show in what shape I am. I hope to run most miles at 7 min/mile average. The next day, I go on a diet. I plan to fast on Monday (I have not done this for a long time). At the same time, I will run every day 6-10 miles/day, plus a long run on Saturday. I plan to put more than 50 miles this coming week. It should be fun :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

4 Weeks to Akron

<- The VR group before the 20 miler run on Saturday in Akron (photo courtesy of Nick B.)

Yesterday I joined the VR group for another 20 miler along the Akron course. I knew that this was a mistake because I had already done too many miles this week, plus I ran on Friday. Normally, Friday is a rest day and it has been like that for a long time. But, I dropped my car for service in Independence and I decided to run back home (I like to combine running with errands). Total of 9 miles, and I was tired.

I drove to Akron via Riverview Road (no highways). The weather prediction was “sunny” but there was thick fog covering the valley. Driving was a challenge. I met the “usual suspects” at 6:30 am in downtown Akron. A large group, maybe 40+ runners. After the first slow mile, I picked up the pace and joined the lead group. Things were going well at first, but when I stopped at the first water station in the Sand Run Parkway (about halfway), to my surprise, no one else stopped. So I got separated from the group and ran the rest miles alone.

I was gradually getting tired. The last water stop was at the Firestone HS. I could see the running group in front. At Stan Hywet we crossed paths as they were coming back and I was going up. At this point I thought I would catch them, since last week this section was the strongest for me. But this week, it was actually the weakest. Someone had said earlier that this stretch (From Stan Hywet to Market St) is called “Death Row” because a lot of runners are struggling to run it. I smiled when I heard this because I ran it strong last week, but this week I was out of strength and started walking. So it was indeed “Death Row” for me. Nick B. was behind me but he was having trouble too, doing the run/walk thing. Maybe the high humidity (I was soaked in sweat) was a factor too.

Going down Market Street (last week I had my fastest miles here) was no fun. The sun had finally come out and I had forgotten my hat, and that did not help either. I was happy to get done with this run!

My mile splits tell the story: 9:09 8:06 8:14 8:07 7:59 8:05 8:13 8:18 8:28 8:14 8:46 8:49 8:33 9:09 9:45 9:04 10:55 9:56 10:36 10:30. The first 10 miles are not much different from the previous week, but in the last 4 miles I averaged over 10 min/mile while last week these were faster than 8 min/mile.

At the end, it does not matter. I am happy I put a lot of miles this week (57). I am only concerned about my weight which is going up (I have already gained several pounds since Greece). The Buckeye ½ M is next week. I am planning to run it strong and maybe set a PR. We’ll see…

Monday, August 25, 2008

5 Weeks to Akron Marathon

This year I have decided to run the Akron Marathon. This is a first for me. In the previous 4 years I have run the Towpath marathon instead. Since the Towpath marathon is so close to my house and I always run in the Towpath, I felt that the right thing to do was to support the Towpath marathon. But this year there are two weeks between the two marathons so I have decided to try both. I used to think that people who attempt two marathons so close to each other are crazy. Now, I am getting close to being one of these crazy runners myself. :)

I have heard good things about the Akron marathon. I like the course, and the free pair of shoes is an extra incentive. So we are 5 weeks away and our group (part of the VR training group) decided to run a 20 miler in the actual Akron marathon course this past Saturday.

This was a great training run! The weather was perfect, cool and sunny but we ran in the shade mostly, the course was beautiful and the company was very nice. We managed to stay together as a group for most of the run. We started at 6:15 am (had to wake up at 5:15, ouch!) There were several stops with water and Gatorade. My pace was fast (8:07 average with several miles under 8 minutes). I ran the hills strong. I felt great. I was not really tired towards the end (20.5 miles total distance). As a matter of fact, my times the last 4 miles were among the fastest for the entire run (the fact that the last miles are downhill helped too).

Here are my mile splits: 8:39 8:25 8:22 8:07 8:05 8:09 8:11 8:12 8:12 8:23 8:05 8:29 7:43 8:23 8:07 7:49 8:20 7:45 7:23 7:34 8:04. Last year I ran the same course and my average pace was 8:19 (also good, but this year it is even better!)

After such a good run I am confident that I will do well. My goal time is 3:30.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finish Line Sprinting – Does it Annoy You?

<- Finish of the "Perfect 10 Miler". I am sprinting, finishing ahead of Susan and another female runner. Bad running etiquette?

In the September issue of “Runner’s World” there is an article titled “Don’t be annoying”, listing some of things that runners find annoying. I agree with some of them. For example, when people yell “you are almost there!” at mile 20 of a marathon. Well, I’ll be “almost there” when I can see the finish line, so please don’t give me that nonsense, OK? :) I still have an hour to go and I can barely move my legs.

But what I don’t get is this: A reader from Tallahassee FL writes: “What annoys me? Guys that can’t handle being beat by girls and try to sprint by me at the end!”

Excuse me?

Why do you think you are so special and guys are trying to beat YOU? I bet most guys are like me. I always sprint by the finish line. I am trying to improve my time and I think it is a good running practice to give everything I have left, when I see the finish line. I am running against the clock, trying to improve my PR, or break the course record. That’s what I like about running. I am not running against other runners, but against myself.

One exception is if I see someone who I know is in my age group and we are both competing for the same age award. So, I don’t care about any woman that happens to be around me because we are not competing for anything in common.

Case in question, the “Perfect 10 Miler”. See that attached picture. I sprinted at the end and passed Susan. Did I do it because I cannot stand to be beaten by a woman? Of course not! I was already beaten by a bunch of women. Everyone was sprinting at the end. This is the right thing to do. Granted, if there was no one in sight, I would be less inclined to sprint at the end. Having runners around me is an extra incentive. But if Susan was Joe, I would still be sprinting. Sex, age, race, are not important.

Now, here is the interesting part… Looking at the 10 Miler results, there are 5 runners finishing around me within 3 seconds:

41 4/25 John Sobolewski 34 M-30-34 35:28 1:09:56
42 7/43 George Themelis 49 M-45-49 34:41 1:09:57
43 2/33 Lisa Robertson 38 F-35-39 35:00 1:09:57
44 3/33 Susan Louis 38 F-35-39 34:54 1:09:57
45 8/43 Ron Disidoro 46 M-45-49 34:25 1:09:58

John is too young, but Ron, finishing one second behind me, is in the same age group. Of course at 7 and 8 in our age group, we have no chance for an award.

But Lisa is the same age as Susan and finished first in her age group, while Susan finished second with exactly the same time. I bet Susan would have sprinted a bit harder if she knew how close she was to getting first place in her age group.

Here is a funny story that happened a few years ago. I was running a local 5K when someone caught up with me. I looked at “him” and “he” appeared to be younger. "How old are you?" I asked. "41" “he” said. "OK, I am 46, we are not in the same age group, you can pass me."

So “he” passed me and when we hit mile 3, “he” was a few yards ahead. At this point I went into an amazing sprint, passed “him” and finished well ahead. After I finished, I looked at the “guy” and he appeared to be a woman (short haircut, flat chest, etc). Later I looked at the results and indeed she was a woman. I could think of some smart things she could have said to me when I said "you are not in my age group”. "I am not even the same sex, you moron!". That would have been quite embarrassing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfect 10 Miler 2008 – Race Report

Yesterday I ran the "Perfect 10 Miler" race in the East side of town. I ran this race last year for the first time and I enjoyed it. My time last year was 1:08:31, which is also a 10 mile PR for me. Before the race I tried to figure out a reasonable time goal. I know that I have lost speed the past few months so I knew that a new course record was impossible. Plus, instead of resting, I ran 15 miles yesterday. So I figured that I would be happy with a pace of 7:30/mile, which gives a time of 1:15.

Traditionally, the weather is always rainy for this race but this year it was an exception with nearly “Perfect” weather, cool temperatures and sunny. The race started at 7:30 am. I hooked with a couple my “buddies”, Susan, Rose, Mike, and Brett for a short time in the first mile but I felt good and pulled ahead. Mike passed me around mile 3.

The race is on residential streets, following a rather complicated pattern (see picture here and also in this link where you can follow the race route:

The first 4 miles are rather flat but for the next 2 miles there is a gradual uphill. Last year this uphill slowed me down, but this year I was running it strong and comfortable with a nearly constant pace of 7 min/mile.

There was a water stop at mile 5. I was getting ready to grab a cup, when the guy in front of me dropped a cup and then took the last cup so I was left without water! This made me a bit mad, and I stormed ahead. At this point I passed Mike and did not see him again.

Miles 7 and 8 are downhill and then mostly flat from there. I was getting tired after mile 8 but I did manage to maintain a fairly constant pace. I got passed by a couple of runners towards the end and suddenly I saw Susan passing me. This motivated me to run a bit faster to keep up with her. We entered the High School stadium for the final 50 yards on track. I started sprinting, along with everyone around me. I managed to pass Susan right before the finish.

Final Time: 1:09:57 (pace of 7:00)
The pace was fairly even with 34:41 in the first half and 35:16 in the second half.
Placement: 43/405 overall, 7/42 age.

Overall, I am happy because I exceeded my goal. Actually, my time in this race is better than the Hermes 10 miler earlier in the Spring where I won 3rd place in my age group. I now see that I can run 7 minute miles in long runs. If I can maintain this pace I can improve my 1/2M and Marathon times.

Comparing the races in 2007 and 2008, I see that even though I was 1 ½ minutes slower than last year, this time loss came mainly in the first 4 miles:

------- 2007 - 2008 ------
Mile 1 - 6:25 - 6:49
Mile 2 - 6:43 - 7:07
Mile 3 - 6:34 - 6:51
Mile 4 - 6:46 - 6:57

The next miles are about even, which means that I have gotten stronger in the later part of the race:

Mile 5 - 7:02 - 7:03
Mile 6 - 7:14 - 7:10
Mile 7 - 6:57 - 6:52
Mile 8 - 6:50 - 6:58
Mile 9 - 7:11 - 7:12
Mile 10 - 6:56 - 7:02

Next race: Buckeye half marathon, September 7.

Greece 2008

If I have been “missing in action” for the past 4 weeks it is because I was in Greece, enjoying a 2 week vacation… (and I was busy before and after)

<- Group shot from our July 28 run, courtesy of Nick B. I am the 3rd from the right.

The week after the Buckeye 50K was mostly recovery week. I went for short runs (1-3 miles) on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday I was feeling better and did 5 miles, and 8 miles on Thursday. I joined the VR group on Saturday for a 12 mile run. Here is a group picture taken by Nick B.

We left for Greece on Thursday July 31. We took Delta to NY and then switched planes for a direct flight to Athens. The flight was uneventful (everything was OK). We stayed in Athens for 3 days and on Sunday we flew to Santorini, a popular Greek island. We stayed in Santorini for a week (with my family and our 3 older nieces), enjoying the sea, sun and good food. We then returned (by boat) to Athens and stayed for 4 more days. We returned back to the USA on Thursday August 14.

<- Santorini (also known as Thira) is a very popular Greek island, famous for its volcano and beautiful scenery. We stayed in Perissa in the south end (green mark). Shown here is my running route along a stretch of 2 miles by the beach that I did almost every day (4 miles back and forth).

While I was in Greece, I ran every day (except for one) but shorter runs, from 3 to 5 miles. In Santorini there was a long stretch by the beach from our house to the end of town. This was 2 miles. I would usually run it once back and forth (4 miles) early in the morning (around sunrise). One time I ran it twice (8 miles) and one time I took side roads for an extra mile. The weather in Santorini was beautiful, sunny with not a single cloud in the sky. Temperatures were in the 70s (hotter in the sun) with a nice breeze. Definitely ideal vacation weather. In addition to running we did a bit of hiking (two times, several hours each time), enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking plenty of stereo pictures (I returned with 42 rolls of film).

In Athens I found a loop, starting from our house, up to Acropolis and down by Thesion. Then back to the bottom of the street near Acropolis, and back. (You can "play" my route by going ito this link: This was a total of 3 miles. Athens is a big city with narrow streets and lots of traffic, but this route was on pedestrian only streets so I did not have to deal with traffic. Overall, it was a fine family vacation.

<- My running loop in Athens (click to enlarge). Starting from our apartment, by Acropolis, I headed to the left through Thesion, ending with a small loop by a park and back, running in front of Acropolis, followed by a small loop (right) by Plaka and then back home. An enjoyable route.

I was afraid I had lost some running fitness, definitely speed (I had not run fast for weeks now, due to the 50K training) and possibly some endurance since I did not do any long runs in Greece. So I decided to join the VR group last Saturday for a 15 mile training run, even though I had signed up for the “Perfect 10 miler” race on Sunday. I figured that a long run was more important for me than a good race.

For the 15 mile run we did this popular route: From Peninsula to Boston Store via the Towpath, then up Boston Mills Road (difficult uphills) then on the Bike and Hike trail, all the way to the road connecting to the Carriage Trail, then back to the Towpath and from there to Boston and finally to Peninsula. A total of 15.6 miles. At first I was afraid that the group was too slow for me, but I hooked up with two new guys, both faster than me and had a good run. My mile splits: 9:04 8:37 8:34 8:30 8:20 7:56 7:53 7:52 7:48 7:49 8:21 8:23 8:29 8:26 8:28 8:06. This run gave me the confidence that I needed. I have not lost any endurance, thanks to my daily runs in Greece.

Monday, July 21, 2008

BT50K - Aftermath

I woke up on Sunday with pain in every muscle and tendon in my legs! From hip to toes. Clearly my quads were hurting, but also my hips and my lower foot. What a difference from last year!

Last year I ran the BT50K and I was fine the next day. A few months later I ran the Towpath Marathon and then I was in pain for a week. So I concluded that a Marathon is much harder on the body than a 50K. Others agreed, and different theories were proposed to explain this: The 50K is run at a slower pace, with walking breaks (“It is not the distance but the speed that kills”.) There is a variety of terrain, leading to a variety of muscle work, which is much better for the body than the monotonous constant pounding of the pavement during the Marathon.

All this sounds good, but how do you explain what happened this year? My Cleveland Marathon was a piece of cake. I was ready to resume running the next day. And now, 2 days after the 50K, I can barely walk. With great pain (and lots of swearing) I can get down the stairs. I am suffering!

This leads me to believe that it is all relative. I was well prepared for the 50K last year and the Cleveland Marathon this year. I was under-prepared for the Towpath marathon and the 50K this year, and I tried hard in these two races. The 50K felt harder this year because I put (a lot) more effort to it. And now I am paying for it. It is that simple.

<- This picture (of me finishing) was taken by LloydT. My wife is in the back holding a camera (click to enlarge). Thanks Lloyd!

Photos and reports on the BT50K are coming in… The unofficial results are posted with 25K splits (new this year). There is some interesting information from the 25K times.

First, it appears that there are only two negative splits (someone actually did the math and posted the info in Vertical Runner's discussion list). You must make a special effort to go very slow in the first half, in order to have a negative split (run the 2nd half faster than the first). I think Vince mentioned that last year Jeff Hirt had a negative split. Maybe he was running with friends in the first half and then decided to go ahead alone. But this year, looking at the first page of the results it looks like the closest to an even split is a 4 minute difference. 2nd half times are from 4 minutes to over an hour slower. This from just looking at the first page. (Correction: finisher #84 Roy Heger who finished in 5:42 actually has a negative split: 2:55/2:47)

My 25K split is 2:33, so I ran the 2nd half 15 minutes slower than the first. No surprises here. I knew this was going to happen and I did not care. I thought I would be much worse than others, but, looking at the results, it appears that my second half was better than most.

Another good piece of information from the 25K splits is how many runners passed me and how many runners I passed during the 2nd half. Everyone who finished ahead of me had a faster 25K time, which means that no one passed me in the 2nd half. From the 9 people who finished after me, 7 had a faster 25K split, which means that I passed these 7 runners in the way back. That makes me feel good. :)

Since this is only my 2nd Summer BT50K, I am trying to figure out how I did, compared to last year. My time this year (5:21) is 7 minutes slower than last year (5:14), but my placement is better (19th vs. 28th). I see that Kam Lee ran 15 minutes slower this year. If I reduce my time by 15 minutes, my placement is about the same in both years, so I conclude that 15 minutes will account for the weather difference between the two years.

I am now looking forward to the next 50K race!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Buckeye 50K - Summer 2008

<- After 5 hours and 21 minutes of running (some walking too) I am ready to cross the finish line - finishing in 19th place, a great accomplishment for which I am very proud :)


I am happy… for two reasons:

1. The ordeal is over. As I told my wife “this was the hardest thing I have ever done!” And I am glad it is over!

2. Despite inadequate trail training, I did great… a) Even though my time was slower than last year (5:21 vs. 5:15), because of the hot weather everyone’s times were slower by 10 to 20 minutes, so relatively to others, I did well. Last year I was in 28th place (out of 149 runners), this year I finished 19th. b) I finished ahead of all my running friends, including those who are younger than me and have faster marathon times.

The Weather Factor

Last year we were blessed with a cool weather and dry trails. This year it was hot (70F at 6 am, going up to near 90F with humidity). It has been like that for a week now. The good thing about this dry weather is that the trails were mostly dry. For most people this hot & humid weather was a problem, but, for me, I will take a hot day with dry trails any time, compared to a cool day with wet trails. Plus, it was cloudy and it felt cooler in the woods. So I did not have a big problem with the weather. Yes, cooler would have been better, but it could have also been a lot worse.

My Training

Why was my training inadequate? For some reason I was unable to complete a trail run over 12 miles. The unusually wet weather in June/July proved to be a problem for me. I get very tired running in the mud. For example, my last training run before vacation was scheduled to be 24 miles. While the rest of the group was running half the distance (Brecksville to Pine Lane, about 15+ miles) I decided to do next week’s run of 22 miles (Brecksville to Boston and back). The first 6 miles were fine but then I got really tired, got bitten by flies and bugs, and ended up walking in the way back from Boston and finally walked home after 15 miles, aborting my planned run. In short, it was a disaster! After this fiasco, I had doubts whether I could finish the 50K race.

We then left for vacation to California where I did a lot of (road/dirt road) running (see previous blog). In 5 days I ran 65 miles, including one 20 miler. This increased my confidence. After vacation I went to a conference. I came back on Tuesday, 5 lbs lighter. On Wednesday morning I was 160 lbs. For the next 3 days I did nothing but eat and sleep. On race day I was back to 165 lbs, rested and with full reserves. (I followed the same strategy before my succesful Cleveland Marathon - diet, then fill up). A proof that this "filling up" works is that, unlike last year, I did not need to eat anything during the race, I was filled. But I drank water… plenty of water!

<- This is the entire Summer Buckeye 50K course. We start at Brecksville at the top. First aid station (6 miles) is at Snowville Road. Then from Snowville to Boston is 5 miles. Then, 4 more miles to Pine Lane. And then we run back.

Race Day:

I got up at 6:00 am. The lights in the kitchen were on and I could smell something nice cooking. My 19 yr old daughter was up and she had baked a banana bread for me (I had a slice for breakfast). She said she stayed up all night long because she wanted to come with me to the race start to take pictures. How nice of her. She drove me to the start... She then met me at the first aid station (at Snowville).

The course is out and back and has three sections, with an aid station after each section:
1. Brecksville Park to Snowville Rd. (1.5 from my house) 6 miles.
2. Snowville to Boston, 5 miles
3. Boston to Pine Lane, 4 miles. Turn around, and 3, 2, 1 back to the finish.

The race started at 7:00 am. I positioned myself near the front. The first 6 miles felt easy. I caught up with Bob Clarke and Lindsey Loftus and we ran together at a rather fast pace of about 9:00-9:30 min/mile. Both these guys are better runners than me, so I was happy to keep up with them.

In a trail run like this, individual mile splits are meaningless. They are all over the place, depending on the uphills/downhills on a given mile. Most runners (myself included) walk the uphills. I was more interested in my average pace. For a long time this was around 10 min/mile which is very good, if not too fast for this kind of weather. But it gradually drifted to 10:30/mile.

My daughter met me at the first aid station and changed shirt. From Snowville to Boston I was following Bob and Lindsey. Right after we crossed Columbia road, Bob stopped to drop something (a bottle of water for the return?) I went ahead, thinking these two will catch up with me later, but I never saw them again. I ran the rest of the race mostly alone. The trail was not closed to the public, so we met walkers and other people enjoying the trail. I remember a group of runners that passed me in that section. All young males (local cross country team) all without shirts, running really fast. Later I met a (smaller) group of young female runners.

At Boston I was greeted by the helpful volunteers. Everyone was very helpful, asking if I needed anything. Howard Murray from our running group rushed to fill my bottle with cold water. I was very impressed by the efficient service and individual attention. Thank you guys!

As it turns out, I just missed my wife and daughter at Boston, by only a few minutes. I continued to Pine Lane. At some point I saw a young guy running in the opposite direction. Could that be the lead runner? Sure enough, a little behind was Kam Lee, the winner of previous year's race (and a number of years before that). These two guys were well ahead from the rest of the group (at the end, Kam Lee won the race). As I was getting closer to Pine Lane I got to see other runners in their way back. Around runner no. 6 I saw my friend Beth (mentioned in this blog) who was the leading female runner. As it turns out, Beth finished first and Elizabeth second. Elizabeth has improved a lot in the last year (she was well behind me last year and well ahead of me this year).

I reached the Pine Lane aid station, filled up my bottle and headed back. This year I tried to spend very little time at the aid stations. Saves a bit of time. In the way back I got to see all the runners behind me. Then I realized that I was doing very well, running ahead of Aaron, Jamie, Nick, and other runners who are faster than me. They were all very encouraging… Rose, Susan, Jen and Jamie were running together and got really excited to see me “way to go George!”, hi-fives, etc. That was really nice!

Even though I was running rather comfortably, I was not sure if I could even finish the race. My hip was starting to hurt from mile 13 and I was getting progressively tired. I had decided to run as I felt and if I had to walk the last miles, I would walk. If I had to quit, I would quit.

At the Boston aid station I met my wife and daughter. After that, my daughter went to sleep and only my wife followed me in the last aid station and the finish. It is nice to have a familiar face meet you at the aid stations in these long races. Makes you look forward to getting to the aid station. Plus it is nice to be greeted by the volunteers, encouraging you to go on.

The return from Boston to Snowville road was mixed. I did a fair amount of walking but also good steady running at some sections. I passed a couple of runners. I clearly remember when I was getting close to Snowville. This was one of the highs of my race, running fast and steady, not feeling tired at all.

Finally, I arrived at Snowville for the last leg of the race. These final 6 miles are the most critical. They usually make or break a runner. And, in a hot day like this, most likely break :)

I started this last leg very well and actually passed a few runners, but gradually I started to get tired. I was of course walking the uphills but soon found myself walking the flat sections too. I was running alone and was looking back but could not see anyone behind me, so, as I was getting more tired, my motivation to run was declining. It got to the point where instead of running with a few walking breaks, my run was reduced to walking with a few running breaks. I was afraid that people would catch up with me, but there was no one I could see behind me.

Finally, I reached a (unmanned) water stop with a sign "1.7 miles to go". I filled my bottle, drank plenty of water and poured water over my head. This refreshed me and I started running again. My times in the last two miles were surprisingly fast: 9:00 and 9:30.

I entered the park area looking good (looks are deceiving... I was feeling like s---t!)... My wife was there to take pictures. I crossed the finish at 5:21. My whole body was hurting. I could barely walk. My first reaction was to sit down, take off my shoes and pour cold water over my toes. I needed plenty of cold water. I told my wife " this is the hardest thing I have ever done" and "Why am I torturing myself like this? I don't think I will do it again next year".

Chef Bill Bailey had prepared a nice meal for us but I was in no mood for food, other than a few bites of fruit that my wife brought and plenty of water. After resting for half an hour, my wife drove me home. I could barely get in and out of the car. At home I took an ice bath and felt better. I then got dressed and drove back... Jen had already finished ahead of the rest of the group. Rose finished a bit later, with a smile in her face, looking fresh as if she had just come back from a 10 minute leisure walk. Susan looked really tired. This was the first 50K for these three ladies, and maybe the last, if we can believe the after-the-race statements. :)

Finally, I was feeling better and ready to eat! Chef's Bailey's wrap was delicious! My friend Dan was there, so I had a good time eating and socializing with other runners.

When I got home I went for a long walk with my wife. I am already feeling better. And guess what? I am making plans for next year's 50K run!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Vacation to Remember - July 2008

<- 4 runs to remember (Top to Bottom, Left to Right): 1) Outside Yosemite Park on a beautiful 5 mile dirt road, 2) Monterey CA, 3) San Fransisco downtown, 4) Grand Rapids MI downtown

We left for a 6 day family vacation to California on Thursday July 3rd. My wife had a conference in San Francisco and we turned it into a family vacation.

We started with two days in Yosemite. We stayed at a lodge just outside the park. We arrived on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning I went for a run on a local country road. It was 5 miles, mostly uphill from our lodge, ending in a campout site up the mountain. This was a dirt road with no traffic. Regular shoes were OK but trail shoes gave a bit better traction.

I started around 6:30 am, with the temperature at 50F. It was absolutely beautiful! I crossed streams, meadows, and beautiful vistas in the rising sun. I was inspired with this nice run that the next day I did the same thing but took my stereo camera to record the beautiful scenery and my audio recorder (Olympus LS-10) to record the sounds of nature (birds, etc). So I took my time combining photography and running.

<- Scenic Monterey CA run (click for a more detailed map)

Saturday afternoon we left for Monterey where we stayed 2 more days. On Sunday morning I went out running and right away I saw a group of runners along the seafront. I joined them for a long run. They were part of a local running club, doing their long Sunday run. One fellow (who happened to be Greek, like myself) was training for a marathon in 3 weeks so he was doing a 20+ mile run. It was again a beautiful route along the Monterey bay, a combination of roads and dirt trails, with the rocks and waves on our side. Part of the route was along the famous 17 mile scenic ride.

One runner expressed surprise that so many runners showed up in that “cold” and “rainy” day. Well, this day was perfect for running, beating the hot & humid days we often experience in Ohio. The next day (Monday) I went running alone, 10 more miles.

<- I would not mind running in SF every day! (click for details)

Monday July 7th we left Monterey and arrived in San Francisco in the afternoon. Another beautiful city! On Tuesday morning I went for a long run by myself. I followed Market street to the Bay, then towards Fisherman's Wharf and I ended up at the Golden Gate bridge. I ran half way through the bridge and then back. Total of 15 miles. Again, gorgeous run. This is the best way to see/experience a city: Run through it! I was again carrying my camera and stopping to take pictures along the way.

This was only the highlight of my runs, not including all the walking, tours, shopping, eating, and other family activities. Overall, a memorable vacation. I came back with 20 rolls of film (stereo pictures) and interesting audio recordings. In 5 days I ran 65 miles: 10 + 10 + 20 + 10 + 15. This must be a new record.

I returned to Ohio on Wednesday July 9th. The next day I left for Grand Rapids, MI, to attend the NSA (National Stereoscopic Society) annual convention. During the convention I ran a total of 4 x 5 = 20 miles in 6 days. This was fun too. I also did not eat much so I lost some weight, but gained it all back, while carbo-loading in preparation of the Buckeye 50K race tomorrow.

I have dropped all my film (20 + 17 = 37 rolls) for processing and I look forward to mounting the stereo slides and re-living this memorable vacation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bees 5K Cross Country 2008 – Race Report

The Bees 5K race in Brecksville is back! I ran the inaugural race in 2003. Then again in '04, '05. Skipped '06 because it was the same weekend as the Jim Klett race. The race was not held in '07, so now it is back under different management (apparently) in 2008.

This is a cross country race, using the Brecksville HS cross country course. It is TOUGH! In previous years my main problem was running on a muddy, slippery, trail-like course. That’s before I was running trails. If you want to see the course and “play” my run, go to this link:

Here is my history of the event:

2003 - 26:27 (8:28 pace) first 2003 RACE - Bees Inaugural 31/118
2004 - 24:25 (7:49 pace) 1st Age Award!!! 13/132
2005 - 22:50 (7:18 pace) dry fast course, 2nd age group
2008 - 22:23 (7:12 pace) 15/130

Somehow I managed to improve my time from last time. I wore trail shoes thinking that this will help handle a slippery course. But the course was mostly dry, despite the heavy rains the past few days (in rained at 6:30 am this morning). The weather cooperated (75F and no rain). I am pleased with my time on a very tough course. Lea struggled a bit (expected) but finished with a respectable time. I am happy and proud of her. Liz (still recovering from Achilles tendon injury) came for support and took pictures.

<- Lea storming ahead. This part of the course was on grass. We later entered the Brecksville HS cross country course, which reminded me of the local trails, but well marked, including markings of roots and other obstacles.

For some reason this year they did not give age awards. I do not personally care since I enter to support a local race for a good cause (the money goes to support resurfacing the Brecksville HS track). But I think age awards are a good idea for a lot of the older folks who enjoy being rewarded for their efforts. Also, it would be nice to see the final results posted in the internet. The only awards went to the top 3 runners (M and F), plus the first Brecksville and first Broadview Hts runners, which essentially means that the same people received two awards, while the rest got nothing. Not a great idea, in my opinion. I hope they will change this next year if they want to attract more runners other than Brecksville students and their families (there were a lot of kids running this race).

The race T-shirt was nice (yellow with black letters with a touch of red – I am wearing it now!) and the refreshments and race organization were first rate. I will definitely enter again next year.

Week 25 – Training Report

S: The week started with the 3rd Buckeye Trail training run. Started slow from Columbia road but picked up the pace and actually lead the group in the Boson-Pine Lane section. Maybe it was the greasy dinner the night before, or the new trail shoes… I’ll never know.
M: Drove to Chicago to pick up passport. 2.5 easy mi. with Lea in the evening.
T: Fitness but skipped running
W: Aborted trail run because I was tired and had the wrong shoes. Snowville to BT, to Columbia and back, 6 mi.
T: Interesting day: At noon I went for 6 miles, Columbia rd and back, all road. It was hot (80F & sun) and went fast. In the afternoon after fitness class I decided to run home. The trails were wet and started raining around 7 pm. Fell down (first trail fall for a long time!) Got soaked (totally soaked). But for some perverted reason, I enjoyed the run! Walked up Snowville home.
F: 1 mi with Liz at noon. She is getting back!
S: 6 am with group 6 miles, then 1 mi with the 7 am group and the home. Took a shower, got dressed, got the family up and we went for the Brecksville Bees 5K run (see report).

Total for the week: 46 miles, 166 lbs

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Buckeye 50K – Training Run #3

Training Run #3 was really short, from Boston to Pine Lane and back, about 8 miles. To make it longer, I parked at Columbia Rd and ran to Boston (3 mi). This added 6 more miles to my run, a total of 14.2. Since I was tired all week and ran 15 miles yesterday, I was not sure if it would be a good idea to run today. I was tempted to skip this run. But I forced myself to get up and go, and I am glad I did! Somehow I had one of the best trail runs so far. I am not sure why. Last night we went out and ate a hamburger, fries, melted cheese, so lots of calories and fat. Maybe that helped :) Anyway, I led the group for quite a while. Average pace 10:34. I made a new friend, Beth. She is a short, thin (95 lbs!) runner, running her first trail run. I expect her to do very well in the race.

Week 24 – Training Report

The week started with the 2nd Buckeye Trail training run. My legs were tired from the Jim Klett 6mi race the day before. Unlike last week, I could not finish the run… very slow and walking. Felt really tired. After the trail run, I took an ice bath again. Not sure if it helped. Felt tired for the rest of the week.

S: 2nd Trail Group Run, Snowville to Boston for the group (Columbia to Snowville extra for me) 15 mi.
M: Yoga & water running
T: 2 mi in the morning, run to the RC for fitness (BT trail, 8 mi) in the afternoon, tired!
W: Trail run (Columbia to Snowville via the Trail), 6 mi
T: Run to RC via BT (8 mi) & Fitness – still tired
F: Rest
S: 6 am with group 7 fast miles, then 8 mi on Tow, slower

Total for the week: 53 miles, 166 lbs

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Buckeye 50K – Training Run #2

<- My Sunday trail run. I have now found (again) how to transfer the Garmin Data to MotionBased and mix them with Google data to get maps like thsi one.

Training Run #2 was scheduled to start at Jaite. This parking lot is about 0.4 mi from the Buckeye Trail entry, off Snowville Road. Since my house is off Snowville Rd, only 1.2 mi from the Buckeye Trail, my first thought was to run from home to meet the group. This would add about 2.5 road miles to the run. But I wanted to put a bit more mileage in so I decided to start earlier from Columbia Road, thus adding 4 trail miles to the run.

I left home around 6:20 am, parked the car by the Buckeye Trail in Columbia Road and ran the 2 mi (trail) plus 0.5 mi (road) to meet the group. We then ran back to the Buckeye Trail, to Columbia Road and continued to Boston. From Snowville Road to Boston is about 5.5 miles. My legs were tired from the 10K race yesterday (even more tired than last week) so the run was a bit of a struggle for me. Things took a turn for the worse when I got near Columbia Rd in the return. I was tempted to just get in the car and go home, but I found the strength to resist the temptation and ran from Columbia and Snowville and back (total of 4 miles). My pace however had slowed to 12 min/mile! I made it home tired (very tired) but pleased.

Total: 15 miles (most all on trail) at 2:48 (11:13 pace). Mile splits: 10:47 10:09 11:19 9:50 9:31 10:41 10:21 11:55 10:37 14:41 12:01 11:21 12:19 12:20. For next week the plan is to run from Boston to Pine Lane and back, only 8 miles. I am thinking of running from home to Boston via the Buckeye Trail, a total of 13 extra miles.

Jim Klett 2008 – Race Report

<- The Jim Klett 10K route, a nice loup with some challenging rolling hills starting at mile 4.

Below: With daugther Lea, posing before the race. It was a rainy day. Wife Liz did not run because of a recent injury.

Another year, another Jim Klett race. I have been running this race since 2003. I have only skipped one year (2005) because there was conflict with something else. I had a very good race in 2004, and then last year (2007) I set a personal course record with 42:23. I knew that this year I would not be able to match this performance. I was hoping between 43 and 44 minutes, and that’s exactly what I did (closer to 44):

<- Sprinting at the end of a hard (for me) race!

2003 - 45:43 (7:19) - Fast 10K but no awards! 36/128
2004 - 43:29 (6:57) - 168 lbs! – Fast race but 41/176, 8th in age group
2006 - 45:08 (7:13) - Hot day! - 31/136, 8th in age group
2007 - 42:23 (6:47) - 23/174, 4th in AG
2008 - 43:53 (7:02) - 29/179, 3rd AG

We woke up to a constant rain. Liz is out of commission with an Achilles tendon inflammation, while Lea was looking forward to the race. The course is a nice loupe, quite scenic, but with some rolling hills in the end.

I made the mistake to challenge Mike Juppe the day before the race. Mike and I are at similar running fitness levels. He is faster in shorter races but slower in longer races. Last year I passed him in the Jim Klett race at around mile 5. This year I passed him in the Cleveland Marathon at about mile 24 (he was walking), but he did better in the Hudson 4 mi race. He is older than me so we don’t have to compete for the same age awards.

<- George and Mike, after the race. Mike was no. 1 and I was no. 2 in this "personal challenge".

The race started at 9 am. I positioned myself behind Mike. The first mile was downhill, giving me the fastest time and I went down from there. Mike increased his distance and I could not match his pace. I was competing with the top female runner, who I passed briefly, but ended up finishing behind her. At mile 4 a series of hills start. As expected, pace slows even further. Mile splits: 6:32, 6:48, 6:57, 7:01. 7:34, 7:16, 6:40 (last 0.2 mi according to my Garmin). I finished at 43:53. Liz and Lea were at the finish with the digital camera on hand.

Lea ran the 5K and managed to run the entire race without stopping. She was wearing our new Garmin 405 watch so now I know her time splits: 8:44, 10:19, 10:10. Her time was 30:21.

We stayed for the breakfast and awards. This year the award was a nice coaster. Quite unusual and unique. When they called Lea’s age group we did not hear her name in the first 3 places, so disappointment was setting in, BUT, they called her 4th and she got an award! (They often go deeper than 3, depending on how many runners are in the age group). For my age group I got 3rd place. This is actually my best placement in the entire history of the race. So, we went home happy!

<- An unusual award this year: A coaster with the race details printed in it.

Week 23 – Training Report

The week started with the first Buckeye Trail training run. My legs were tired from the Hudson 4mi race the day before, but I still managed to run a fairly strong training run. After the trail run, I took an ice bath. Not sure if it helped. My quads continued to hurt. I should have taken the ice bath after the Hudson race.

On Monday, Liz and I took a Yoga class. This involved a lot of stretching, especially in my hips. After the Yoga class, I played basketball with Tony and his friends. Now, I love basketball and I played all my life regularly until about 2002. Then running took over. I would like to get back but I have to do it slowly, or I have problem with my Achilles tendon. Result of the yoga & basketball: My hips and legs (bottom) were hurting for the rest of the week!

S: 1st Trail Group Run, Snowville & back, 12 mi
M: Yoga & basketball.
T: Fitness & running back slow (3 mi). Hurting!
W: 3 mi in the morning, Liz sees doctor Shah, 6 mi trail.
T: Fitness & 7 mi trail run back home
F: Rest, Liz starts Physical Therapy
S: Jim Klett 10K race.

Another highlight this week: The Garmin 405, which I had ordered for Liz in February, arrived this week. I played with it for a while and overall I am very pleased with it. I am thinking of getting the back model with the heart monitor for myself. Basically, I am getting the same information as my 205 but it looks much sleeker and it can be used as a regular watch (shows the time in “sleep mode” with satellites turned off).

Total for the week: 43 miles, 167 lbs

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buckeye 50K – Training Run #1

<- The first leg of the Buckeye 50K race, Oak Grove in Brecksville to Snowville Road. See my house off Snowville Road.

Sunday we had the first Training Run for the Buckeye 50K race in July. We met at Oak Grove in Brecksville and run to Snowville Road and back, a total 12 (6+6) miles. I am familiar with this leg of the trail because I try to run it after our fitness classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

About 40 runners showed up on Sunday 7 am. Vince talked briefly and then we started. I learned something new: The trail is marked with blue squares in the trees (I knew that) but I did not know that when there are two squares, one higher than the other, you are supposed to turn towards the side that is higher. That’s a useful tip for someone like me who gets easily lost in these trails!

My quads were hurting from yesterday so the first couple of miles felt a bit rough. I made an effort to stay with the front runners. I was following Bob Clark and Jamie Carr. We were walking the uphills, while Tracy, just ahead of us was running them. The trail was mostly dry since it has not rained for a couple of days. When we reached towards Snowville, there is a very steep downhill and I took off. Tracy said “you’ll break a knee”. I am of course very careful but I like to run the downhills fast. I then caught up with Vince in the front.

As Snowville Road I had left a cooler with cold water and an energy drink. The temperature was over 80F (maybe 90F) and it was humid, so the cold water was needed. Many people use insect repellants but I don’t feel I need them. After the water break Vince and company decided to go forward, while the rest of us headed back. The way back felt fine. I led the way for parts of it. I did not collapse in the end like I did last year, mainly because this year I carry water and I am properly hydrated.

I finished the run in almost exactly 2 hours. The pace was about 10 min/mile. Mile splits: 9:36 8:43 8:55 10:42 10:50 9:21 10:15 10:18 11:10 10:51 9:22 8:49. The first 3 miles are fast because the ground is mostly flat. Miles 4 and 5 have a lot of uphills. Mile 6 is fast because of the downhill and flat areas.

I am trying to figure out how fast can I run in these trails and what a good goal for the 50K race is. It all depends of course in the weather. If the weather is cool and dry and the trails are dry then I go faster. If the trails are muddy, I go slower and expend more energy. My times in the training runs and races, from last year:

Training Run 2007 2008
1 10:10 10:00
2 10:03
3 9:55
4 9:41
5 10:41
Summer Race 10:09
Winter Race 10:42

I cannot compare the training runs in 2007 and 2008 because the route is different, but this table gives me an idea of how fast I run these runs. A good goal for the training runs is 9:30 to 10:00 pace and a good goal for the 2008 race is 10:00 pace or better.

By the way, the Buckeye 50K registration is already closed. See the web site for a list of Entrants: It is really amazing that the registration closed before the first training run! Last year, I waited until the last training run to register and there was still time. This means that trail running is getting more and more popular every year.

Hudson Run for the Parks 4mi Race Report

<- The race course, from my Garmin watch. The small loop towards the end is only 0.8 mi but it feels much longer. Maybe because of the all the turns and twisting or because it is later in the race. After exiting the part, the finish is only 0.5 mi away.

The Hudson Run for the Parks 4 mi race was this Saturday. The race is sponsored by Vertical Runner. I have run this race in 2004 (Inaugural) and last year (2007). This year I signed up to run with wife (Liz) and daughter (Lea). Lea had not trained well for the race, running only a mile or two, a couple of times a week. Liz has been injured since last week and could not run well but she was going to try. I was OK but have not done any speedwork since I had the marathon 3 weeks ago. Last year I ran a very fast race and I knew there was no way to match it in a hot day like this.

It was sunny and hot! Temperature at 8 am was 80F when we left home. Parking was no problem and it looked like there were less people than last year. I saw Cindy and a couple of people from the Vertical Runner group. While standing around we were trying to figure out what the chances for award were for Lea.

The race started 9:10. I was running fast behind Mike at 6:30 pace or faster. It did not feel that fast. Soon Mike pulled a bit ahead. At mile 1 we had the first water stop. I tried to grab a cup but I missed and it fell down. We continued to run through Hudson residential streets until mile 2.6 when we entered a park. This is the part where I usually do my attack. Like last year, I passed a couple of runners, including the top Female runner (Tracy) during an uphill.

Also like last year, this part inside the park feels really long (Lea agreed too) but it is only 0.8 mi long. There is water in the entry and exit (a welcome relief!) After exiting from the park we only have about ½ mile to go. The finish is on a street going downhill. I could hear someone coming from behind. I thought it was Tracy, but as it turns out it was a young kid trying to get ahead. I accelerated and entered the finish first, but the final results show me behind him.

Anyway, my time was 26:55. This was more than a minute slower than last year, but good enough to get me 10th place overall and 1st age group award, in a smaller field. Here are the results compared to previous years:

2004 26:34 (6:38) 33/298, no AG!
2007 25:47 (6:29) 14/169, 2nd AG
2008 26:55 (6:44) 10/95, 1st AG

Mile 2008 2007 Difference
1 6:31 6:15 -16
2 6:41 6:30 -11
3 6:53 6:37 -16
4 6:50 6:43 -7

So I ran each mile about 10 to 15 seconds slower than last year. I think I need some speed work to get back to faster times in short distances.

Wife Liz had to abandon the race right away. Daughter Lea did her running/walking routine and finished at 42:59 (10:45 pace). This is faster than her first 5K race (11:02 pace) but slower than her second 5K race (9:17 pace, she did not walk). She did not win an award (4th in her age group) but is still excited about running.

<- Like last year, my award was a plant! This is appropriate for a "Run for the Parks" race.

After the race we stayed around for the awards. Like last year, my award was a plant. Also, in this race instead of a shirt we got a pair of socks. And an energy drink. It is nice to get things we can use and we all have to many race shirts anyway.

Our next race is next week. Both Lea and myself have signed up for the Jim Klett race next Saturday (I am running the 10K, she is running the 5K). Liz has a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday. She is a bit depressed that she is missing these races and running. Let’s hope the doctor will find out what is wrong and how to fix it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Week 22 – Training Report

<- My new routine, running from the Brecksville RC home via the Buckeye trail. I start running up on Brecksville Rd until Prakway Rd and I get into the trail there. I end up in Snowville Rd and I run (or walk when I am tired) up home (1.3 mi) from there. It is an enjoyable run, about 6 miles in trails.

S: Towpath 9 mi with Liz. She gets injured..
M: On my way to running trails, last dry day but Lea stopped me and did 3 each miles with her..
T: 2 mi with Lea
W: Run at noon around EH, full 8.2 mi. Then with Liz slowly in the afternoon.
T: RC and Buckeye trail in return. Trails were muddy. Time a lot slower.
F: Rest
S: Hudson run for the parks 4 mi. report to follow.

Total for the week: 36 miles, 166 lbs

Week 21 – Training Report

<- Carriage Trail (loop) picked from Towpath Trail

One week after the marathon. Logged a lot of miles! The highlight of the week is my new system of running back from the Rec Center via the Buckeye trail. I leave Brecksville Road running up. Then at the Parkway drive I enter the trail, go down, then continue on the Buckeye trail until Snowville and then run uphill home.

S: Towpath Carriage Trail with Liz, 5.2 mi.
M: Memorial Day. Ran alone from Columbia to Boston via the Buckeye Trail & back, 6 mi.
T: Fitness and back via Buckeye Trail, 8 mi, The trail is in beautiful & dry condition.
W: w/Liz Snowville down, buckeye trail, and back via Columbia, 6 mi, fun!
T: Same as Tuesday. I ran ALL the uphills! I really enjoy these trail runs.
F: Slow 2 mi with Lea.
S: Trail running 6:30 with Cindy’s group. Started at Boston and did the winter Falls part first and then the Pine lane part. It rained the night before and the trails were muddy, so they were not fun. I collapsed in the way back and started walking. Felt really hard and was eating all day long. Total of 13.5 mi.

Total for the week: 49 miles, 165 lbs

Lessons Learned from Recent Marathon

Ready for a bit of controversy? Before my marathon race I did a lot of reading. I read all the recommendations and then, as usual, I did my own thing. Here are my observations.

1- Mileage: It is disturbing to read (for example in the Cleveland Marathon official literature) that to run a marathon you need to be running 50-70 miles/week. My first 3 marathons were done with only 20-30 miles a week, peaking to 35. This year I was up to 40 miles/week, peaking at 50 mi/week. Yes, maybe you will run a better race with 70 miles/week (at what cost?) but please do not tell people that they need 50 miles/week to complete a marathon.

2. Long Runs: Yes, I know, they are important. But somehow I have managed to complete 5 marathons with basically only one 20 mile run.

3. Tapering: I never understood or experienced “Taper Madness”. For me, cutting down on mileage is a welcome relief after hard training.

After the experience of last year’s marathon, I became a believer of shorter tapering. They say that you cannot gain fitness the last two weeks before the marathon. Maybe, but you can lose fitness if you are not careful. This is what happened to me last year. An injury forced me to do very little running the last two weeks before the marathon. I did not mind it, thinking that tapering was good, and I paid for it.

This year, against the usual recommendations, I peaked mileage-wise two weeks before the marathon. A week before the marathon, 8 mi. long run is recommended. I did a 12 mile run at near marathon pace and then 7 more easy miles with my wife in the afternoon. I only tapered one week. The last week I ran every day, but shorter runs, but I did not run the last 2 days before the marathon. That's enough rest for me. And it worked well, since I had plenty of strength in the last part of the marathon.

4. Eating & Diet (my favorite topic!): Against most published advice, I went on a diet 3 weeks before the marathon. I kept the diet until the last days before the race. On Friday morning I was 162.5 lbs. I then ate well for two days. On race day (Sunday) I was 166.5 lbs. 4 lbs of glycogen and water that I needed for the race.

I am wondering about some of the things I read... "4 hours before the race eat a small meal...." Do they really expect me to wake up at 3 am to eat? All my eating was done on Saturday. When I got up on Sunday I only ate a 1/3 slide of bread with almond butter and half an orange. And a sip of water.

During the race I did not have anything to eat. No energy bars, liquid packs, gels, nothing. No food at all. It is not that I have sensitive stomach (I do not). It's just that I was not hungry, or weak, or anything like that. I did not need to eat and I was not going to force myself to eat. And I did not hit the wall. I did not come anywhere near feeling weak. I think I have large glycogen reserves. One day of eating (the day before the race or a long run) is enough for me.

4. Hydration: In my opinion, hydration is overrated. :) I made no effort to hydrate before the race. The morning of race I only had a sip of water. I was not thirsty and I did not want to force myself to drink water. This extra water will only be a problem at the race. Having to pee, holding it, looking for potties, and wasting time to pee. Who needs that?

The weather is a big factor. It was rainy and 50F. That's not weather for needing water. I took a bit water and gatorade at the aid stations and that was all I needed for the race.

5. Pacing & Walking Breaks: Even pacing is a myth that does not apply for ordinary runners. There is no way you can maintain the same pace for 26 miles. You have to plan for a at least 30 seconds difference in pace between the first and the last miles. You have to run the bulk of the marathon at about 10-15 second pace faster than expected time, to account for expected slowing down later on.

My first 3 miles were slow/cautious. I then settled in a comfortable pace for the next 19 miles. This pace was 15 sec faster than projected time. I built up a 3 minute buffer which helped me psychologically. I slowed down the last miles by about 30 seconds/mile but I had enough strength to finish with a fast last mile. I finished 2 1/2 minutes faster than goal time.

In past years I had taken walking/stretching breaks, even a break to change clothes, including shoes! This year I did not need/use any of that. I even ran through the water stops (trying to drink while running, something I had not practiced before). No potty breaks either. Just running.
Considering the good outcome, I plan to stick with this plan, until I have a problem next time :)