Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year! Year End Roundup

Today is a good day to sum up my racewalking activity this year and think about the new year ahead. Here are some statistics from 2004:

Miles walked: 1,854.1
Time spend walking: 14 days, 22h 13m 35s. I spent about 4% of my year walking!
Average pace: 11:47/mile

Number of races: 16
Shortest race: 5k (Dino Dash and Uptown Run)
Longest race: 50 miles (Heartland and SunMart)
Fastest pace: 9:49/mile (Flagpole 8k)
Slowest pace: 15:05/mile (Heartland 50 Mile Endurance Run)

It was a great year and I really enjoyed my training and races and I hope for another exciting year.

Good luck and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you in blog land. Be proud of your accomplishments and look forward to a great new year!

Help Tsunami Victims! Make a donation......

The Tsunami tragedy is horrifying and hard to fathom, and that makes me all the more aware of my good fortune and my wonderful family and friends. If you haven't already done so, please consider donating to one of the many organizations that is helping the survivors. One easy way to donate to the American Red Cross' Tsunami fund is through Amazon alone has already raised almost $9 million! Share your many blessings with the victims of this tragic catastrophe!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Goodbye, Toenail

I lost the toenail on the small toe next to the big toe on my left foot. This was the last remaining effect of SunMart. There was already new nail growing underneath and there was no pain or blood, so I don't expect to have any problems.

Also, I walked today, 4 1/4 miles. I took it easy and didn't push hard or go long. I'm just trying to get back in the habit of almost daily walking and trying to give my body some time to recover and adjust. So far, so good.

Monday, December 27, 2004

2005 Goals and this weekend's walking

A lot of people are posting goals (as usual, Chris got things rolling) so I thought I would post my own.

I really only have four walking/fitness goals:

1. Complete the Heartland 100 Mile Endurance Run in October.
2. Get a bicycle and do some cross training.
3. Stick with an exercise routine--primarily just situps and pushups, but I want to stick with it to improve my strength and reduce my gut.
4. Lose about 10-15 more pounds (about 5 of those pounds were added this month!).

On a related note, I think I'm going to change my race plan and training plan. I had been planning to do another 50 mile race in February (Rocky Raccoon) and then a three day race in March (Three Days of Syllamo: 20k, 60k, 40k). But the problem with racing this frequently is that I am almost always in taper mode or recovery mode so I don't get much opportunity for quality training.

This point was driven home yesterday when I went out for my first trail training walk since SunMart. I went to the North Shore Trail at Lake Grapevine at about 6:15 yesterday morning. It was still dark so I used my new Petzl Tikka headlamp for the first time (it worked well!). I also used my CamelBak M.U.L.E. pack for only the second time since I planned to be out for about four hours with no good place to refill my smaller pack. I also thought I might need to store the headlamp and some of the cold weather clothes I was wearing (it was about 30 degress when I started).

My plan was to do the whole trail (it's a 9 mile trail so out-and-back is 18 miles). It is, in my opinion, a fairly rugged trail with lots of ups-and-downs, lots of rocks and roots, and, yesterday, lots of frozen mud and puddles (I fell once on the ice and banged my knee). I've done this trail before and love it but it can be very hard on the legs. I was in good shape and moving well for about the first 13-14 miles of trail, and my time at the turn around was good. After about 14 miles I started to slow down due to some pain in my left knee and my right ankle (I seem to have a recurring problem with that ankle that I need a doctor to look at). After about 17 miles I was in agony and had to just walk to the finish. After I got home I had some Advil and an ice bath and felt much better.

After thinking about this I've decided I need to take a different approach for a little while. Since I started ultras back in October I've never gone back and rebuilt my base; I've tapered and recovered, but once recovery was over I started high mileage long runs immediately. I think I need to take a little time to rebuild my long distance endurance.

Also, even though I've done three trail ultras, I really haven't trained very much on trails. I'm going to start building my base on trails as much as possible (I can never train on trails during the week but I can do all my long walks on trails if the weather permits). I think part of the soreness I'm getting in my knees and ankle is because I'm not used to the additional stresses that trail walking places on your body. So again I need to take time to rebuild and do as much training as possible on trails.

My plan is to start with some shorter daily walks for a couple of weeks and long walks in the 10-15 mile range for three weeks. Then I'm going to start increasng my long run mileage (increases two weeks in a row followed by a shorter third week). I can't increase by the tradtional 10% because I will never reach ultra distances, but I can increase by 5 miles per week (if my body permits). I'm not going to race in Rocky Raccoon in February. Instead I'm going to focus my attention on the Three Days of Syllamo three day race in March. That gives me slightly over 2 months to rebuild the base before this race. I think this race will be a great training race for Heartland since it will be 74.5 miles on rugged terrain over three days.

After Three Days of Syllamo everything will be focused on the Heartland 100. As I get closer to March I will post my training plan for the 100 miler.

Is everyone else thinking about plans and goals? What's on your horizon?

Happy New Year to the RBF!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Local man needs a Marrow Transplant

The need for Marrow hits close to home. A firefighter in my town has leukemia and will soon need a bone marrow transplant. Think about talking to your friends and family about registering for the National Marrow Donor Program. They could save a life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the RBF and anyone else who stumbles across this blog! Enjoy some time with your family.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Looking for Advice

As you know if you've read my blog for long, I'm really interested in increasing the number of people in the Bone Marrow Registry. I'm on the Volunteer Advisory Committee for the local Bone Marrow Donor Program office, and my wife and I frequently work to encourage people to register their marrow.

I'd like to take this interest to the next level and had an idea that I wanted to bounce off the RBF. I was thinking of asking friends, family members, co-workers, businesses, etc., to sponsor every mile that I walk. By the end of this year I will have walked approximatley 1,850 miles. If I could get people to pledge an amount per mile for every mile I walk in 2005 (I was thinking $.01, $.10 and $1.00 for starters) then every step I take would raise funds for the Bone Marrow Registry. If I could get enough people to pledge a total of $5 per mile, then I would have raised $9,250. Every 50 mile ultra I walked would raise $250!

I would then use the money raised to support local donor drives or some of the drives being organized by patients in need. It costs between $25 and $95 to perform the HLA Typing required to add a potential donor to the registry so one of the biggest problems adding people to the registry is cost.

To increase awareness of the cause and my efforts, I would hand out brochures on the National Marrow Donor Program at races and other events, and I thought I would try to get some custom training shirts made with information on my efforts and a web address where people could learn about what I'm doing.

What do you guys think? Does this seem feasible? I'm strongly motivated to do something for other people, but I've been unable to find the right forum do become active. This would combine my love of walking and racing with my concern about the Marrow Donor Program and the anguish I feel when I read about people waiting for a bone marrow transplant but unable to find a donor (see my sidebar for a list of some of the people who are waiting).

I'm open to suggestions and criticism so feel free to be honest. If you like, you can e-mail me directly (there is a link button on my sidebar). Thanks for your thoughts!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

More Cancer Patients that Need Your MARROW!

Check out 12 year old Amy who has started Amy's Army to find bone marrow donors for herself and others in need.

Sukriti is a 12 year old Indian girl who is also in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Megan is 22 and has been battling cancer for three years.

is a 41 year old mother of two who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in May, 2004.

Kailee was adopted from China and has very severe Aplastic Anemia.

And Sonia is a 15 year old girl who has been battling cancer for 12 years!

Have you registered? Could you be the person that saves a life? Do it today!!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Pictures from SunMart

Here are some pictures from SunMart. For once the official race photographer got a lot of pretty good pictures of me. There's also a picture of me and Frances, my pacing buddy and comrade for much of the race.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

SunMart Race Report

It's long and probably boring, but here is a too detailed race report on SunMart. Thanks again to everyone who commented! I do appreciate all the support and encouragement.

On the mend

I'm slowly getting better. I still have a cough and am tired and weak, but I don't have the stuffy nose and headache any more and my throat isn't sore. Also, I'm pleased to say that almost all of the soreness in my legs is gone! I still have a little discomfort in my left knee area but it is getting better.

And I'm still working on my race report. I've been too tired to do much on it but will probably have something posted tonight.

Take care, everyone. Happy running/walking!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'm sick....

The whole week before SunMart I was fighting off a little bug with vitamins, fruits and vegetables and as much sleep as I could get. It worked and I didn't get sick, but I think now that my body has been depleted I'm not able to fight it off so I'm sick. It's just the usual--sore throat, stuffy nose and head, slight cough, etc. It's worse today than yesterday so I'm taking the day off from work and I'm just going to lay in bed and rest. Unfortunately my wife left town Sunday to help care for a sick relative so I'm single parent this week. But that's OK, Lela and I will just take it easy and watch some movies or read books in the evenings until I feel better.

Sunday was a pretty tough day physically. My legs were really, really sore, and I had trouble fully extending my left leg so I had to walk with a limp. Yesterday was better, but making the transition from sitting to standing or standing to sitting was difficult. Today everything seems to be on the mend and I'm less sore and more able to walk with a normal gait.

I also got three blisters on the tips of my toes. They were pretty ugly--blood mixed with whatever it is that is inside a blister. I think I have 1-2 toenails that are not sure if they want to continue to be a part of my feet but haven't fully made up their mind. And I had some pretty yucky looking chafing in my underarm area. Other than that, I'm in tip-top shape! ;)

This little break will give me some time to work on my race report. I didn't take pictures this time (and I'm glad I didn't or I might not have made the cutoff) but the official race photographers took a lot of photos and some of my friends at the race took some, as well, so I should be able to post some photos soon.

Thanks to EVERYONE for all the great comments and support. It means a lot and I still can't believe you guys read this! Take care and happy trails....

Sunday, December 12, 2004

SunMart results

Well, I made it (just barely). My watch shows 11:47:50 (the cutoff was 12:00). But that's 46 minutes faster than Heartland! And the course wasn't "easy." There weren't major elevation changes but there were enough hills that it was hard on the legs. And portions of the course were so rooty that it was tough going--I saw two runners do full face plants on the trail right in front of me.

I'll post more later when I have time, but I'll briefly say that it was really hard but really fun. And I never, not once, thought "No more ultras for me." I have decided to adjust my training and racing schedule, but I feel like I'm in this for the long run.

Before I go, here is one of the coolest things about SunMart: "premiums." At race check in I went through a line where they handed me a large gym bag with the SunMart logo. Then I walked down the line and filled it with stuff! If I remember correctly, I got:

Pedicure set in a little case with the SunMart logo
Disposable camera
Rain pancho
SunMart hat (choice of colors)
SunMart polo shirt (choice of colors)
Portfolio with the SunMart logo (like you would use at work--pad of paper, slots for business cards, etc.)--I'm really excited about that because I can carry it at business meetings and declare my love of ultras

Then at the finish I received a nice medal and a choice of a Tyvek SunMart jacket or an afghan (I chose the jacket). I came home with about 50% more stuff than I took with me!

Right now I can't sleep even though I'm exhausted. I had a lot of soda and coffee for the drive home (three hours!) and I think the caffeine is keeping me up.

Thanks everyone for your support. I'll post more about the experience soon.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I'm outta here!

Off to SunMart. I'm working about three hours today (let me clarify that--I will be at work for about three hours; I won't say if I'll be working or not!) and then driving to Houston for packet pickup. I'll post all the ugly details on Sunday.

Hope everyone has good training and good racing (VJ) this weekend!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Happy Anniversary! Five Years Cancer Free!!!

Today is a wonderful day for my family. Today is the five year anniversary of the stem cell transplant that saved my wife's life. Angela was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia on her 30th birthday, November 2, 1999. She received chemotherapy but she immediately relapsed. The only thing that could save her life was more chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow/stem cell transplant; happily her younger sister was a perfect match. On December 8, 1999, her sister's cells dripped into Angela's veins and started rebuilding her blood marrow and restoring her to life. She had a very hard time recovering, including time in ICU, two total hip replacements and severe lung damage that will be with her forever. But she is with us today, and that is all I care about.

Here are some photos of Angela with me and our daughter, Lela. Today I celebrate Angela's life and her "5th birthday" and thank her for being such a wonderful wife and mother!

This is one of my favorites, a family self portrait at the State Fair of Texas. We have a lot of fun together.

Here we are on the Midway at the Fair.

Angie and Lela love the food at the Fair.

Mmmmmmmm, funnel cake.......

The two of us at my last birthday.

Lela and Angela at a "Breakfast with Santa" last weekend.

Congratulations, Angela. I LOVE YOU!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Happy birthday to . . .

Tom Waits, the king of cool. Happy Birthday, Tom.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Marrow Registry saves another life, but others are dying - Join the Registry today!!!

Back in October I blogged about several seriously ill people who were waiting to find bone marrow donors on the National Marrow Donor Program registry. Two of them, Pia Awal and Varun, found matches! Pia's organization has added more than 14,000 people to the registry. So please think about registering. You just might be the person who saves a life. Minority and multiracial individuals are especially underrepresented in the registry, so if you are a minority or multiracial person PLEASE consider registering.

Sadly, Sagarika lost her battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia the day after Thanksgiving.

For more information, go here (in the U.S.) or here (in Canada).

Friday, December 03, 2004

New shoes?

I'm thinking of buying some trail shoes: the Inov8 Terroc 330 (scroll down). I like them because they have a lower heel and less rigid sole. The product matrix even mentions "Trail Walking" and "Long Distance Walking" as good uses for them. They've received great reviews from running magazines and from some members of the ULTRA list. I'll have to balance the checkbook and see if they fit in the budget (where's Santa when you need him???).

If I get them I'll let everyone know.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Houston Racewalker gets nice article in the Houston Chronicle

Here's a nice article on Becky Browning, a wonderful racewalker from Houston. She's a very friendly and generous person (in fact, she's the person who encouraged me to sign up for SunMart and she's putting up a shelter for all of her racewalking friends that will be there) and also a great athlete. Last year she walked three marathons on three consecutive weekends and also walked the Antarctica Marathon. Check it out!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Back in town

We spent the Thanksgiving Holiday in Corpus Christi, Texas, visiting relatives. We were very busy because one of our relatives is very sick and requires a lot of care, so my wife and I did everything around the house to give his caregiver a break. I only managed to do two walks, one of six miles and one of ten. But that's OK since I'm tapering for SunMart.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


This is the last weekend before I start my SunMart taper, so I wanted to put in some good mileage. I decided to try something that I've been meaning to do but have never been able to schedule: back to back 20 mile walks.

I went to the lake early yesterday and started walking just before 6:00 am. The day was great for walking: it was in the upper 50s/lower 60s and overcast; the forecast rain came later in the day, after my walk.

I felt a fair amount of discomfort during the walk (soreness in my legs and ankles) but I was able to walk through it and not slow down my pace; I kept a really even pace for the whole walk. I made two loops of the lake and included Loving Hill once in each looop. The lake trail was packed, as it always is on Saturdays, especially with all the competing marathon training programs (Luke's Locker, Train to End Stroke, Team in Training, Run On, Cross Country Club of Dallas). It reminded me why I like training on Sundays.

After the walk I went home, made a nice warm Latte and soaked in a COLD tub. BRRRRRR! Getting in was agony, but it felt great. I wonder if you guys in the North soak in cold tubs--I bet your water is twenty degrees colder than mine, at least. It would have been refreshing to drink, but not so great to sit in!

Distance: 21.4 miles
Time: 4:27:02
Pace: 12:29

Sunday was identical to Saturday. Same weather, started walking right before 6:00 am, same route around the lake, including Loving Hill twice. The second time was brutal--it was more of a stagger than walking. But I felt good throughout the walk and turned in some great times on the last two and a half miles, including 1.5 miles at about an 11:00 pace.

The lake was much quieter today. I really prefer Sunday training--it's nice not to have to deal with the crowds and the groups that like to run in a mob. Afterward I again enjoyed a Latte and an ice bath. It really helps with recovery--it's made a huge difference in my ability to recover quickly and keep training.

Distance: 21.5 miles
Time: 4:27:19
Pace: 12:27

After yesterday's training we went to see the Moscow Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. Today I'm taking Lela to Chuck E. Cheese. All in all, good training and good quality time with the family.


Clif Bar has come out with two seasonal flavors: Spiced Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Apple Cobbler. I haven't tried the Pumpkin Pie, but the Caramel Apple Cobbler is wonderful! It tastes great. I ate one during my walk today and really enjoyed the flavor.

If you like Clif Bars, check this one out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rockledge Rumble Pictures

You can see pictures of the Rockledge Rumble here. I am bib 168. There really aren't any good pictures of me but there are good pictures of the trail and other racers. It was a great day for a race.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Next race

I registered for SunMart yesterday--50 miles. It's only 27 days away! SunMart is one of the biggest ultras in the country. It's also supposed to be a pretty easy ultra--few hills, a rooty but otherwise not too difficult trail. This is good because the 50 mile race has a 12-hour time limit. Since my Heartland time was 12:34:37 I'll need to keep a faster pace to make it under the limit. But I think that the fact that the trail is easier and less hilly, plus my ongoing distance training, will help me meet this challenge. I felt great for 33 miles at Heartland--I think the hills and my failure to eat enough or take gel is what made the last 17 miles so slow. This time there will be no hills and I will definitely eat; people joke that SunMart is the only ultra where you actually gain weight during the race (SunMart is supposed to have phenomenal aid stations). Also the course is four 12.5 mile loops so I will have frequent access to my supplies and snacks.

So basically it will be a challenge, but I'm ready to take it on. I know a lot of other walkers doing the 50k and one doing the 50 miler, and one of the walkers is setting up her own canopy where we can leave our stuff and socialize, so I think it's going to be a GREAT race.

20 miles, hills and no rain

The forecast called for rain today but there was none while I was walking, so it was a perfect day for a walk--50 degrees and overcast. I wanted to walk the trails at Lake Grapevine today but it rained yesterday so I thought they'd be too muddy for a good walk. Instead I walked at White Rock Lake on the asphalt trail and neighborhood streets around the lake. I threw in as many hills as I could--five repeats of a short hill at the beginning of the walk, then five repeats of Loving Hill right in the middle, then a couple more repeats of the short hill before arriving back at my car. I felt a lot of discomfort in my ankles but I still kept a decent pace. Overall it was a good walk and now I feel relaxed and pleasantly tired. I've got some work to do today (which raises the question, Why am I blogging instead of working!?) so the wife and daughter went to the movies and a craft fair. My goal is to finish my work so we can spend the afternoon and evening together.

Last night we went to Medieval Times as a special treat for my daughter because she was good at school. Medieval Times is not one of my favorite places but she loves it! She wore her Halloween costume, a medieval princess, and of course got lots of attention. She had a great time, and that's what matters.

Distance: 20.00 miles
Time: 4:04:20
Pace: 12:13


This is the face of guts. Chris just knocked down a really difficult marathon, and did it well. Go read about it here.

Lung Transplant Recipient to Racewalk Marathon

This is an incredible story. A man who received a double lung transplant is racewalking his first marathon; he will be accompanied by the father of the 14 year old daughter whose lungs were donated. It's such a difficult story to read--there is so much pain in the world, but it is always so amazing when people can draw some strength from the pain. The story also reminds me of my wife, who has an emphysema-like condition due to her bone marrow transplant and who had two hip replacements due to long-term steroid use (just like the transplant recipient in this article). Life is so tenuous. I hope everyone spends some time with their families today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Unexpected Tempo Training

Today I went out to do an easy 6+ miles; this was my first walk since the 50k on Saturday.

My normal route is to walk about .55 miles to the track near my house, then do 5 miles on the track, then .55 miles back home. Normally the first half mile is pretty slow as I warm up and work out the kinks. But today I looked at my Garmin and noticed that I was doing an 11:30 mile. That's not very fast for me, but it is faster than normal for the first warm up half mile. Once I got to the track I kept a nice steady pace; I didn't push very hard, but I did try to keep a strong form and quick step. My first mile on the track was 10:30! I was really surprised--this is almost equal to my half marathon PR pace (10:24).

I just kept walking at a strong pace, not really knowing what to expect. My next mile was 10:11!! This is faster than my 15k PR pace (10:15). Well now I was intriguted to see how fast I could go. I was really surprised by the speed because I was still in "recovery" mode after the 50k.

My next three miles were 9:41, 9:51, 9:44!!! Better than my 5 mile, 8k and 5k PR paces. If this had been a race I would have beat my 5k PR!

So wow, I don't know what to say. I know a fellow racewalker who always talks about the theories of a German physiologist (named Von Aachen?? I don't know the spelling) who expounded on the benefits of Long Slow Distance for both speed and endurance. I guess the long distances, plus the difficult terrain of the trails, has strengthened my leg muscles and increased my foot turnover. I also think the difficult trail terrain has strengthened my feet and ankles and given me a more powerful toe off, which is a significant aid in racewalking.

So for all you speed hounds out there, don't neglect LSD. It just might make you faster!

Distance: 6.15 miles
Time: 1:03:53
Pace: 10:23

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Worldwide Running Blog Map!

Mark has put together a REALLY cool world map where he will post the locations of all running and walking bloggers. If you'd like to participate, read his instructions here.

Check it out, it's pretty cool!

Rockledge Rumble Results

The official results were sent out to the ULTRA mailing list (they aren't posted to the web yet). I finished 45th out of 60. I seem to consistently finish toward the top of the final third of the pack! I gained ground as the race progressed--at the 9.5 mile turnaround I counted 10 runners behind me. I moved up two places sometime in the afternoon, then passed three more in the last few miles. I'm happy with that result. I can't wait until the next one--I'm thinking of doing the 50k at Bandera. It's supposed to be a really tough course (you can see a photo essay here) so I'm interested to see how I can do.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Rockledge Rumble 50k

Yesterday I raced in my first 50k, the Rockledge Rumble. The race is run on the North Shore Trail at Lake Grapevine. It is a wonderful trail but very rugged--lots and lots and lots of hills, loose rock, roots, boulders.

The race was put on by the North Texas Trail Runners and it was very well organized. There is a 50k, a 25k and a 10k. I was originally registered for the 25k but in a moment of foolish optimism I changed to the 50k the morning of the race.

We started at 7:30 and as we left the start area I overheard a spectator say to a friend, "There go the crazy people." I thought that was a good start to the race.

I decided not to use my Garmin Forerunner during the race because the last time I used it on this trail I lost signal frequently. Since the mile markers on the trail are not reliable and are often missing, this meant I really had very little way to pace myself. I made an attempt to gauge my pace from the locations of the aid stations, but it was too hard to do the math when I was so exhausted. So basically I just walked the best I could and didn't worry too much about pace or time; I knew I could finish within the 8:30 time limit.

Yesterday was not the best day for an ultra. The sun was out and bright all day and the temperature got up to about 80 degrees. Luckily I had lots of liquid with me and my Succeed caps. The aid stations were well stocked with water, HEED energy drink (I don't recommend it but it didn't make me sick) and Coca Cola. They also had the usual fare--animal crackers, potato chips, M&Ms, salty snack mix, etc. I also had a Clif Bar with me and Hammer Gel.

The course for the 50k was out and back on the full trail (about 19 miles), then through the starting area and back out for a 12 mile loop on the trail. It was very hard to walk through the aid station at the start/finish area and not just stop! Also, the turnaround was at the top of a flight of stairs (stairs! After 19 miles of jumping and scrambling and falling and skipping I had to climb a flight of stairs! How cruel!) so I was even more tired once I got there and didn't relish the idea of going back down.

I spent most of my time on the course alone, which is how I prefer it. A couple of times I walked with a few runners and we struck up brief conversations. I was right behind one woman whose significant other met her every chance he could (we crossed a few roads on the course) and cheered her on--it was awesome and very touching!

I was really flagging during the last ten miles and had to slow down. One bad thing about an out-and-back course is that every hill you go down on the way out you will have to climb on the way back, so you know exactly what you are in for. As I started the second loop I knew I would have to do it all again, and I wasn't sure I could. It was about that time that I started eating some Hammer Gel. Lately in my training I've been avoiding Gel. I don't know why, except that I wasn't sure it was making a difference in my performance. But now I'm convinced that it can make a huge difference. As I mentioned above, I was slowing down and very tired on the last loop. I started eating Gel, and with about 4 miles left I got a huge surge of energy--and I mean huge!

The first (and last) aid station is 3.1 miles/5k from the start so I could use it for pacing. My first 5k split was 37:58. My last two 5k splits were 39:26 and 39:13. This is certainly not lightning fast, but I think it's pretty strong for the last 10k of a 50k race. During that last 10k I passed three runners who had past me earlier in the race. I felt like I did at the beginning of the race--I was jumping and leaping up the hills and running down them. Even the pain in my back and ankles had subsided. I can't be 100 percent certain that the Gel made the difference but I didn't make any changes to my eating or drinking habits other than eating Gel toward the end.

I'm going to try eating more gel in my next few training sessions and see if I can tell a difference. Whatever powered those last 10k, I hope I can find it and harness it again in the next race.

The end was somewhat anticlimatic. I climbed the stairs again, but right as I was finishing there was another runner (a man in his 50s or 60s) who was having some medical trouble so I just crossed the line and got out of the way. Fortunately he just needed an inhaler and he was fine. Because of the commotion I didn't get my finisher's awards so I waited until things calmed down and went back up to the finish line. The main award was a baseball cap with the race logo and "50k Finisher" emblazoned on it. It has quickly become my favorite hat! I wanted to sleep in it but my wife wouldn't let me.

Because of the finish line confusion I don't know if anyone recorded my finishing time. But I don't care what the official results say--I know how I did, and that's all that matters to me.

If you are looking for a fun, challenging, well organized 50k, I would definitely try this one. I'm planning to do it again next year on the 10th anniversary--the race director said it will be a special race.

Distance: 50 kilometers
Time: 7:21:48
Pace: 14:13

I'm back

Hi, everybody. I'm back after my little break. Thanks for all the comments on my last post. I'm glad you guys find my blog interesting.

I'll offer a little explanation about my last post. I found that two things were starting to cause me problems:

1. I was spending way too much time on the computer, both at work and at home, reading blogs and the news. Some of this was natural (the election was only days away) but I was really concerned that I was going to find myself in trouble at work if I didn't get more productive, and I definitely wanted to spend more time with my family and less time with my laptop.

2. The news and political blogs I was reading were starting to become an emotional and spiritual drain on me. I use the word "spiritual" not in the religious sense, but simply to say that they were a source of negativity that was starting to become depressing.

To solve these problems, I'm taking an extended vacation from the news, politics and political blogs. I use Bloglines to read all my favorite blogs, so I've deleted all my subscriptions except for my favorite blogs in the RBF. Politics is important, but right now the tone in the U.S. is so negative and dishonest (on both sides of the political spectrum) that I'd rather save my personal energy for my family, my interests and volunteer work. I'm exploring several alternatives and will let you guys know when I settle on a plan. I was hoping to coach walkers in the Special Olympics but the local chapters don't have a walking team. I'm also exploring helping with the National Marrow Donor Program or Team in Training, and I've accepted a position on the board of the PTA at my daughter's school. So those things, plus ultrawalking, should keep me busy.

Thanks to everyone for continuing to read my blog and encourage my efforts. It's crazy to think that you strangers keep coming back to read my random thoughts. I really do appreciate it.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Off the grid

Hey everybody, I'm out of here for a while, taking a break from blogging. I've enjoyed reading about everyone's successes, struggles, thoughts and concerns. It's a crazy world out there, and it's not getting any saner, so be careful and have fun.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bloggers! Spread the word!

My wife's life was saved by a Bone Marrow Transplant (also called Stem Cell Transplant, but these are NOT the stem cells that are so controversial right now--these cells are taken from the marrow of healthy, living adults). Fortunately for her, one of her sisters was a perfect match and she was able to have a "matched related donor" transplant. Unfortunately, about 70% of patients who need a transplant do not have a matched related donor and they must go to a donor registry to search for a possible match.

If you are in a minority population your chances of finding a match are dramatically reduced. Stem Cell Transplants can save lives, but only if we are willing to register with a bone marrow registry. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, take some time to sign up! It only takes a prick of the finger and a small blood sample to register your marrow type (called HLA type) and possibly save a life. If you are ever a match, the donation process is simple and almost painless.

I've recently become aware of several people of Indian or Asian descent who desperately need transplants but who do not have a match. Read their stories to understand why this is so important, and why a simple act on your part can save a life:

Pia Awal
Gurdeep Bedi
Hai Bin

You can learn more about stem cell donations at the National Marrow Donor Program website. They have information on the procedure for harvesting bone marrow, information on success stories, and information on where you can register. Sagarika's website also has a very good FAQ on stem cell donations and transplants.

Consider this:
The NMDP facilitates an average of 200 marrow or blood cell transplants each month and has helped give more than 18,000 patients a second chance at life. Each year more than 35,000 children and adults in the United States are diagnosed with diseases for which a marrow or blood cell transplant could be a cure.

Please send this information to your friends and family, and go register yourself. You never know who will be the match. Imagine how you'll feel if you save someone's life!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Go buy this album now

I received the new Elliott Smith album, From a Basement on the Hill, yesterday in the mail. It's really incredible. It continues the direction he went in Figure 8 with some bigger songs and a bigger sound, more electric guitar, some feedback/sound loops, etc. It's also got several of the soft, sweet songs that may remind you of Either/Or or Elliott Smith. Some songs remind me of The Beatles, a couple remind me of Queen, but they are all individualized by Smith's great songwriting and unique voice. I really love this album and have been listening to it non-stop since I got it (right now I'm listening to "Shooting Star"). You can hear some song samples and buy the album here.

One more thing: my favorite song on this album also happens to be the best description of the current U.S. administration: "A distorted reality is now a necessity to be free."

Buy it and enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tough Weekend

It's been a physically tough weekend! It got off to a bad start when I worked the "Goblin Golf" game at my daughter's school carnival. You wouldn't think this would be a demanding assignment, but I had to bend over and get the ball our from under the wooden putting green all night, and it was no easy feat! By the end of the night, and especially the next day, my upper thighs were sore. But I did have a great time at the carnival. There aren't enough parent volunteers (has anyone else had this problem) so a small group of us did a lot--prepared a basket for the silent auction, baked two cakes for the cake walk, donated candy and toys for the prizes, setup and disassembled the three kindergarten games, worked the games all night, etc. My wife and I also make snacks every day for 21 students (popcorn, goldfish crackers, baby carrots, grapes, cheerios, etc.). We love doing it, but when you ask other parents for help (or money) you can hear the wind blowing.

Saturday we spent the day catching up on all the things that had been ignored during carnival week--laundry, house cleaning, working on the carpet stains from last week, etc. Then my daughter and I walked down to a local outdoor art festival in the park near our house. She had cotton candy and two hot dogs! I had some baked peaches with raisins and a cinnamon/sugar sauce. Excellent! We listened to some music, she played on the playground, then we walked home. It was a nice day to be outside and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Today I took the rare occasion to sleep in and do my long walk in the afternoon. My wife and daughter had afternoon plans so I walked at about 1:45 pm. It was a good day to walk--it was sunny when I left the house, but by the time I got to the lake it was overcast and occasionally sprinkling (and in the 80s!). My plan was to do 20 miles and to do some hill work, and to do it at a 12:30 pace. So I used the "Virtual Partner" mode on my Garmin to track my pace. I started at my usual spot and repeated some smaller hills around the 0.5 mile mark. Then I went around the lake to about mile 7 and left the lake to walk in some of the neighborhoods around the lake.

Specifically, I walked "Loving Hill." There is a street near the lake called Loving Avenue, and it is a straight, long and pretty steep hill. We used to train here during my Team in Training days. So I decided to do some hill repeats on Loving Hill. I'm not the only one who had that idea. I saw several bicyclists doing the same thing. The square I use (up Loving, then west, north and east back to Loving Hill) is almost exactly one mile and I did it five times in a row. I was really exhausted but I held my pace most of the time and recovered well on the downhills. I hope to keep increasing my repetitions on that hill to train for future ultras.

I also remembered why Heartland was so painful. After Loving Hill I got pretty tired and my ankles started to hurt. But I still had eight miles to go so I had to suck it up and keep walking.

Throughout the entire walk I had stayed well ahead of my virtual partner. If you don't have a Garmin, the Virtual Partner allows you to set a plan (Pace/Time, Pace/Distance, Time/Distance) and then it shows two little running icons and tells you how far ahead/behind you are. It's a good training tool and a lot of fun because you can actually start to visualize this person following you (or ahead of you, as the case may be). Well, after about 14 miles I ran out of fluids in my CamelBak. I had to stop twice at water fountains to drink, and on my second stop that sneaky little Virtual Partner passed me! I had about five miles left and I was really feeling tired, but I wasn't going to let this guy beat me. I stayed more or less even for several miles (but it was a struggle) and then I finally pulled away at about mile 18 and put some distance between myself and my little digital nemesis! I ended up finishing the day 4 seconds below my intended pace.

Something I learned today: I actually speed up on hills! That may be why the hills took so much out of me at Heartland. I found that I increased the distance between me and Virtual Partner on hills, which I thought was interesting. I kept pushing on hills today because that was part of the intention of today's training, but in races I need to ease off and take the hills at a more moderate pace. That will help me last longer and stay strong to the end.

That's all for now. I'm going to get out in the morning for a recovery walk. I want to get my body used to walking while tired, so I'm going to start walking the day after my long walk. We'll see how that goes!

Distance: 20.02 miles
Time: 4:09:04
Pace: 12:26

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Great profile of Olympic Gold Medal Walker

Here is a great profile of the career of Robert Korzeniowski, winner of four gold medals in racewalking (including gold in the 50km at Atlanta, Sydney and Athens). The has dominated the sport, especially the 50km, for more than a decade. What an incredible athlete!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Leave No Trace

I recently heard about this organization and I really feel strongly about their purpose and "trail ethic." Check out their site and learn more about outdoor ethics. If you can't join, at least consider adopting their Seven Principles when you head outdoors, whether it's on trails or roads.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Back on the trails

Today was my first walk since Heartland. I got up early and went to the Rowlett Creek Preserve. The Preserve is a mountain biking trail with 11 loops that add up to about eight miles. It's a nice mixture of twisty rooty trail, smooth dirt trail and major ups and downs. The trail can be pretty hard on the legs because the ups are not long uphills but quick, steep inclines. I have to run and jump up them--there's no way to walk them.

I got to the trail when it opened at 6:00 am. Unfortunately, I forgot about the shortening of the days this time of year, so it was completely dark when I started. I tried to walk in the dark but very quickly lost the trail. I decided to head home and get my flashlight. However, I forgot that I had been walking in the moist, dewy dirt. Unbeknownst to me, I tracked mud all through the house. I headed back to the trail, did all of the loops once, then headed back home. I was so dismayed to see the footprints all through the living room. I still haven't cleaned them up.

Distance: 10.02 miles
Time: Don't know--Garmin was all over the map today and kept switching to "Rest mode" even though my pace hadn't slowed

Tonight I took my daughter to the local high school track to work on her Marathon Kids program. Like a classic beginner she went out too fast and had to walk after a while, but she enjoyed it and wanted to keep going. She did some running, some racewalking (it sort of looked like racewalking!) and some regular walking, plus we took a nice break after about a mile and watched some guys playing football. Yesterday I took her to Chuck E. Cheese, hell on earth for a parent but a kid's dream come true. Then we went to Paciugo for some ice cream/gelato. If you have a Paciugo nearby you should definitely check it out. Their gelato is delicious and all of the flavors have less fat than ice cream; the water based flavors are fat free.

Distance: 1.25 miles
Time: A long time!

I'm still trying to decide what my race schedule will be. I think I will not race in December (except maybe a local 5k like the Jingle Bell Run) to give myself a chance to train hard for the longer distances. I may do a 50k in January, then a 50 mile race in February, then the Three Days of Syllamo stage race in March. This is all tentative, of course. I'm not sure what my body can tolerate and will have to build up my endurance slowly. I'm really intrigued by the three day stage race so I really want to do that one. It would be interesting to head out three days in a row for some beautiful mountain racing!

Do your part!

It's almost election day here in the US. Don't forget your role in the democratic process! VOTE! As "outdoor enthusiasts," we have a vested interest in the condition of our natural resources. None of us wants to breathe in polluted air or run through polluted streams. I'm sure we all want to preserve the earth's wonderful natural beauty for ourselves and the rest of the planet. Remember that when you enter the voting booth on November 2nd.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Check this out! Three Day Stage Race

Three Days of Syllamo.

Day One: 20k
Day Two: Montrail 60k
Day Three: Ozark Outdoor 30k


Heartland 50 Official Results

The results aren't on the website yet, but they were posted to the ULTRAlist:

Keith Grimes 7:56:05
Steve Plumb 9:20:09
Nattu Natraj 10:23:58
Ross Brennan 10:51:20
Dan Threlkeld 11:05:14
Wes Monteith 11:13:20
Bill Gomboc 11:29:42
Edward Stillie 11:48:27
Stephen Tucker 11:48:27
John Rainey 12:03:10
Marshall King 12:34:37
Verna Troutman 12:52:49
Sherman Hodges 12:54:08
Sam Ferrel 13:13:23

So officially I was 11th out of 14 racers.

Update: There were 16 starters for the 50, so there were two DNFs. If I had been able to stick with my race plan I would have finished 7th. So that will be a goal for next year--lots of hill training, some speed training, and a faster finish! I can't wait!

Official results are now posted here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Feeling Good!

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments of support and congratulations! I appreciate the time everyone took to read my post and look at my pictures.

I've been feeling great! Today I feel no different than if I had done a normal long run on Sunday. My muscles are slightly sore, ankles are slightly sore, hips are slightly sore, but all else is great.

On Monday we took our daughter to the State Fair of Texas. That was hard because we did a lot of walking on the hard cement. But I think the cold bath after the race and the walking on Monday may have helped me recover quickly. I'm planning to take the rest of the week off and then probably do an easy walk on Sunday, maybe 10 miles. We'll see how I feel.

I'm still trying to decide what races to do in the near future. I'm signed up for the Rock Ledge Rumble 25k on November 6th. That will be a lot of fun--it's on a pretty rugged trail at Lake Grapevine, near DFW Airport. I've trained there and it's a great trail. Then there is SunMart in December. It is a 50k and a 50 mile race. I'd like to do the 50 mile but need to see how I feel and what other races I want to do. Also, the 50 mile race has a 12 hour time limit, so I would definitely have to do better than I did at Heartland. So I think I'll consider the 50k, but not the 50 miler yet.

I don't think I'll try to do the new Big Bend 50. It is a 9-10 hour drive to Big Bend, so it would either be a very long drive or a two day drive, which would mean more money for travel and more time out of school for Lela. I think it would be better to skip that race.

Bandera, in mid-January, has a 100k and a 50k but it is supposed to be a tough course. Rocky Raccoon is a 100 mile/50 mile race in early February, so that is a possibility, but I also am considering doing the Mardi Gras Marathon in late February. I won the men's racewalk division at the half marathon this year, so it would be fun to go back and try to win the full marathon.

Whatever happens, I'd like to do Ouachita Trail in Arkansas in mid-April. It's supposed to be a great 50 mile race and the scenery is beautiful.

So basically, everything is up in the air. I definitely want to get in some more races, but I also want to train properly: I've decided to do all my weekend long runs on trails (I'll alternate between North Short at Lake Grapevine [toughest] and Rowlett Creek Preserve [easier with some tough sections]). I'm going to try to do at least one weekday training session on hills. The rest will have to be on roads and the track because I don't have any trails nearby. Hopefully this will help with my strength, endurance and speed.

That's all for now. Hope everyone is doing well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Heartland 50 Race Report Now Available

I've posted my pictures from Heartland. You can find them here.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hills? Kansas has hills??

I will be talking about hills for a long time. My wife and I always joked about Kansas--flat, pancake flat, nothing for miles. I will never, ever say that again. Never. Ever.

The race was horrible and awesome! It was sublime for 33 miles and excruciating for 17. I made mistakes, but I'm already planning to learn from them.

First, the long and short of it: I finished. My official time was 12:34:37. One hour and ten minutes over my "goal" time. But I don't care! I finished. According to my Garmin, I spent 11:42:12 in motion (I'm not sure it qualified as racewalking, but it was movement of some sort) and almost 52 minutes resting. So I was over on my pace and my rest time. And I know exactly why: hills.

I've got lots of pictures (I took about 25 pictures on the course) and you will see hills. Out of 50 miles, only about 5 were flat. The rest were never flat--up the hill, crest the hill, down the hill, up the next hill, repeat. My biggest mistake is that I didn't slow down in the beginning to compensate for the hills. I really thought this was a flat race. I don't know why I didn't pay more attention to the altitude chart (I'll post a scan later). So when I saw those hills I should have slowed down. Instead I stayed right on pace (even a little under) and stuck with my race plan. I spent less time in the initial aid stations than planned and was just slightly ahead of pace. At the turnaround I felt great and got lots of good compliments from racers and volunteers.

Then at mile 33 I just crashed. I was in pain in my ankles and legs, and my back was KILLING me from stooping over when climbing hills. I just couldn't keep up the pace any longer, so I slowed to what for me is a crawl, mostly 15-16 minute miles. But I kept walking. I had to stop for 10-20 seconds every couple of miles to rest my back which was still in agony. But I kept walking. I came to Kansas to finish the race and that's what I was going to do. I just stuck with my slow pace and my forward motion and headed for the finish. At about mile 7 two kids on a four wheeler asked me if I wanted a lift! I felt like the gods were taunting me!! I declined the offer and kept walking. At the last aid station (unmanned) at mile 45.4 I pigged out--M&Ms, pringles, nuts. It was awesome. I'd had some trouble eating after the turnaround (that may have also contributed to my crash) so I loved shoving M&Ms in my mouth by the fistful.

About three miles from the finish I could see the water tower at the start line and I knew I'd make it. I knew Angela and Lela would be waiting for me. I just kept moving forward at my steady pace. As I turned the last corner the race workers, spectators (about three people) and some other racers, along with Angela and Lela, started ringing cowbells. Lela had some balloons for me. They put a lawn chair right in the middle of the street and I crossed the finish line, gave everyone a hug and collapsed into the chair. 12:34:37. Finished!

Interestingly, if I had slowed my pace early in the race to accommodate the hills I still would have come in after my goal, so no matter what this race was destined to be slower than I planned. But I'm just happy I finished. Several other racers dropped (my wife said every time they brought one in she was sure it was me!) so just to finish is an accomplishment. A runner that I corresponded with before the race who was running his first 50 came in an hour after his goal, which he also attributed to the hills.

After the race I ate some pizza that Angela and Lela brought me, then drank two Big Reds Sodas. When we got back to the hotel I took a cold bath (almost as uncomfortable as the walk) read a magazine in bed and then fell asleep. I woke up around 7:00 this morning and went out to get some coffee and drive around town a little bit, then I came back to the hotel and started getting things ready to load the car and head home.

I could write a super long post about the race but I'll hold off for now. Here are some interesting things about the race:

1. I didn't get one single blister. I never changed shoes or socks. I love my feet! They got me through a lot and didn't complain. I seem to have lost feeling in one of the small toes of my left foot, but other than that everything is A-OK.
2. This race only had about 200 racers, so most of the time I was alone. And I didn't mind it. I enjoyed the solitude and thinking about the race and about anything else that popped into my mind.

3. For the last 12 miles I had decided that ultramarathons are not for me. I planned how I would break the news to the RBF; I planned what I was going to send to the ultrawalking newsgroup; I planned to sell the Camelbak 100 liter pack that I recently purchased (I purchased it on eBay and I was going to sell it on eBay); I started thinking about what non-ultra races I would like to do next. But I can honestly say that after five minutes sitting in that lawn chair in the middle of the road, I threw all those thoughts out the window! I'm ready to do it again (later, not now!). It was an awesome experience, and although I hated a fair amount of it I still had a smile on my face, partly because it was humorous to think of myself trudging down the road all alone in the middle of nowhere. I had to laugh out loud when I passed cows on the side of the road because I must have looked like a fool!

But I have such an incredible sense of accomplishment. My wife compared it to childbirth--she hated it, she was in pain, she didn't understand why she was doing it, she swore she'd never do it again, but once it was over she was ready to do it again. I would never compare the birth of my child to a race, but I think the two experiences share this in common: a willingness to undergo pain in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.

So no, I'm not quitting ultras. I loved everything: the informality of the race, the small number of racers, the awesome volunteers, the beautiful scenery, the incredible challenge. I'm tentatively planning to race in the Big Bend Ultra Run, a brand new 50 mile race in Big Bend National Park, Texas, in mid-January. I'm starting to plan my training strategy, and there's one thing for certain: it will involve lots of hills!

I'll be posting a whole photoessay (assuming my pictures all come out) so be sure to check back for that. At a minimum you must stop by and see the pictures so you can say, "Damn, Marshall was right, Kansas does have hills!"

Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement and support!!

PS There are 89 posts to read from the RBF, so it may take me a while to catch up. I saw already that Dianna had an awesome first marathon! As she always says, "Woo hoo!" Nice work, Dianna.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I'm going to Kansas!

I'm already feeling much better than I did this morning. I have no doubt that I will toe the line Saturday morning in Cassoday, Kansas. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and support. I went out tonight to get my last remaining supplies--duct tape, moleskin, a small flashlight and a disposable camera. I finished packing my drop bags and I printed and laminated my race plan (along with a couple of motivational quotes). Here are the quotes I chose:

"Do, or do not. There is no try."

"Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever."
Lance Armstrong

"People should learn endurance; they should learn to endure the discomforts of heat and cold, hunger and thirst; they should learn to be patient when receiving abuse and scorn; for it is the practice of endurance that quenches the fire of worldly passions which is burning up their bodies."

I'm all ready to go!

Tom's a hit!

Tom Waits' new album, Real Gone, is a big hit. Read a great review here. It's definitely the latest adaptation of the signature Waits style. Lots of different moods and styles, lots of strange aural experiences, lots of obscure lyrics with that awesome Tom Waits voice.

I ordered mine from Amazon and I was able to listen to an audio stream of the entire album. It's incredible! If you'd like to hear the whole thing, you can access an audio stream here (but only through the end of the week). Check it out--you'll love it!

Whole lotta racin' goin' on!

Lots of bloggers will be racing this weekend. Make sure you stop by and give them some words of encouragement:

Dianna (the running chick with the orange hat) will be running her first marathon, the Hartford Marathon

Mike Paus will be running the Chicago Marathon

Hilary will be running the Steamtown Marathon

Annalisa will be running the Tufts 10k for Women

And of course Mark, aka the Blogfather, will be running the Royal Victoria Marathon

Special thanks to Mark for the Complete Running Calendar. If you haven't already done so, go here and post your upcoming races. You'll be surprised at the incredible support you will get from *almost* complete strangers!

I'm sick

OK, no need to panic yet, but I'm sick. Three days before Heartland, and I'm sick. It started a couple of days ago with a sore throat, which I hoped was just allergies. I felt a little worse yesterday morning, then last night I felt kind of light-headed and woozy. I took some antibiotics and some benadryl to help me sleep and then I slept late this morning and took the day off work today. I've got work to do but it can be done from home. My plan is to rest and sleep today and tomorrow, then sometime tomorrow make the decision--Go or No Go (I feel like a NASA flight engineer--how exciting!).

I've been loading up on vitamins, fruits and vegetables trying to boost my immune system. I had an Orange Dream Machine smoothie from Jamba Juice yesterday for lunch, and I'm going to have another one today. I've been drinking Emergen-C vitamin packets and took some extra multivitamins. I've also been sleeping a lot (about 10 hours last night). I'm hoping I can kick this before Heartland--my biggest concern is just feeling weak. It's seems fairly obvious that one should not undertake a 50 mile race if one is feeling weak!

Fortunately, I have a backup plan. If I can't get it together in time for Heartland, I'm going to race in the Palo Duro Trail Run in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States and is really beautiful. The race is exactly one week after Heartland so I would have an additional week to rest and recover. I had originally wanted to do this race but decided it would be better to race earlier (at the time I was training for Ultracentric 24 hour race). Now that I'm not worried about Ultracentric, this race would be great. I still hope Heartland works out because I'm excited, I've got a good plan, I'm prepared, I've tapered, etc. But at least I have a backup plan (I need to see how late I can cancel my hotel in Kansas).

So that's the latest from my world. I'm just going to take things as they come and see what happens. If all else fails I will switch back into training mode and continue training (and doing some shorter races). If that happens, I think I will train for two races:

1. SunMart: a 50k and 50 mile race in Huntsville State Park in Huntsville, Texas. I would probably do the 50k.
2. The Big Bend Ultra Run: a brand new 50 mile race in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

One of the cool things I really like about Ultras is all the cool places you get to race! I've been to Palo Duro Canyon several times, but always in the car. We might get out at designated "Scenic Overlooks", then jump right back in the safe car and drive around. It would be awesome to actually be out there "in the mix" and enjoying the canyon in a little bit more primitive manner.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. Hopefully I'll be lined up at 6:00 am in Cassoday, Kansas this Saturday!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Making preparations

I've started preparing for Heartland in earnest. Over the last few weeks I:

Bought three plastic laundry bags at the Dollar Store to use for Drop Bags
Bought two more packs of double-wide wrist sweat bands
Bought 6 Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bars
Ordered a case of Clip2 Energy Drink
Saved plastic grape juice bottles to fill with Clip2 and put in my drop bags
Filled four gel flasks with Hammer Gel (mix of Espresso and Vanilla)
Prepared a race plan and drop bag checklist
Bought a laminating kit so I can print out and laminate my race plan and attach it to my Camelbak
Bought bag tags that can be laminated and attached to my drop bags
Made sure all my race clothes are washed and ready to go

I still need to find some moleskin in case I have blisters. I've never had a problem with blisters in the past, but I want to be prepared.

The race has three manned and three unmanned aid stations. The course is out and back, so I'll get to visit each aid station twice. That's a lot of aid stations for a 50 mile race. My plan is that I will NOT stop in the unmanned aid stations (if water is readily available I will grab it and go). I will stop in two manned aid stations (Battle Creek and Lapland) for no more than five minutes to refill my Camelbak, grab a new wristband or hat if needed, get more Clif Bars or Gel, etc. At the Teterville Road aid station, which is 1/2 mile before and after the turnaround, I will stop once (after the turnaround, so at 25.5 miles). I've scheduled 15 minutes in this aid station in case I need time to change socks and shoes, treat blisters, etc. However, I would love to get in and out quickly. If I stick to my goal race pace (13:00 per mile) and my aid station strategy (total of 35 minutes, which I think is generous) I will finish in 11:25. I'm hoping my pace is a little faster and I spend a little less time in the aid stations, so maybe I will come in faster than that.

Later today I'm actually going to fill my drop bags so I make sure I have everything I need. Then I'll think about what to wear (I want to pick clothes to minimize chafing). Then I'll wait. This tapering is awful. I'm going to walk 5-10 easy miles tomorrow, then walk Tuesday, then no more walking until the race. I'm really, really excited--it's going to be a long week!

Friday, October 01, 2004

My daughter's going to run a marathon!

We've signed her up for Marathon Kids, a program that encourages kids to eat healthy, exercise and run a marathon over a five month period. We will track her distance every time she runs and she'll run her "final mile" at an event next year. We went to the kick-off today where she ran her first loop around the track. It was crowded, but not crowded enough. This was the kickoff for all of the Dallas area, but there were probably only 1,000 kids there. I was disappointed that my daughter's school didn't make more of an effort to recruit kids. I only saw a few of her schoolmates there, but other schools arrived in buses with dozens of students (one had over 140). I think next year I will work with the school to promote this event because I think it is so important. Childhood obesity is growing rapidly (as everyone knows) and PE time is diminishing. Kids need something to compete with the television and the video games.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Save your pennies! October 5th will be a great day!

Two of my favorite artists have new albums coming out on October 5th!

Tom Waits will release all new material on Real Gone. Tom Waits is the Alpha and Omega of all music cool and innovative. His recent albums have been almost flawless and incredibly diverse.

Anti records will also release the last album recorded by Elliott Smith before his suicide. from a basement on a hill has 15 songs, including two of my favorites, "Pretty (Ugly Before)" and "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free."

Best of all, they are being released the Tuesday before Heartland so I can buy them and listen to them on the long drive to Kansas!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Tried something different today

Since I'm tapering for Heartland I'm not doing any difficult workouts. But I still want to walk, both to maintain my weight and for the enjoyment of it. So today I tried a slightly different workout. Instead of planning a set distance, I set my Garmin Forerunner to alert me after 1 hour 20 minutes. My plan was to walk to the track and around the track for 1:20, then walk back, giving me about 1:28-1:30 of walk time. I also turned off the auto-lap feature of the Forerunner.

Then I started walking. I didn't look at my watch; I didn't monitor my distance or pace. I just walked until Garmin told me I had hit 1:20, then I walked home. I thought this would be good mental training for Heartland; I don't want to spend 50 miles and 11 hours staring at my watch every five minutes. Interestingly I really enjoyed the walk. I don't listen to music while I walk so I just spent 1:30 thinking, about work, about the race, about goals, about the family, about anything. A great way to clear my mind and enjoy the physical activity without the stress of laps, pace, etc.

Distance: 7.21 miles
Time: 1:28:03
Pace: 12:12

Sunday, September 19, 2004

50 km at Goal Pace; Time to Taper

Today was my last long walk before Heartland. My goal was to do 30+ miles at my race pace. I've decided for Heartland that I will try to maintain 13:00 minutes per mile pace, plus I'll take approximately 35 minutes of breaks at the aid stations. That's 10:50 of walking, with a finish time of 11:25. The cutoff is 12:00 so I think that will give me plenty of time.

My biggest trouble today was going slow! I had a really hard time going 13:00 mpm; I only walked 5 miles over 13:00; I walked one under 12:00 and a lot between 12:00 and 12:30. My overall pace was 12:38 so that's pretty close. At least I know I can slow down and still stay on track.

For the next three weeks I'm going to take it easy. I'm still going to walk 4-5 times a week for the next two weeks, but the walks will be slower and shorter. The last week I may walk Monday, then not at all until Tuesday. This will be my longest taper ever but I think I need it. I was pretty sore by the end of the walk today so I need to get over that and build back my strength.

I hope everyone had successful training or races this weekend.

Distance: 31.1 miles
Time: 6:33:08
Pace: 12:38

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Nice weekend so far

We've had great weather here in Dallas and I took advantage of it. Yesterday my daughter and I went geocaching. I heard about geocaching by reading Jon's blog and Flashes of Panic. It's basically like a "treasure hunt" or scavenger hunt with GPS (if you're interested there's a lot of great information on the Geocaching website). I thought it would be a good activity for my daughter and me, a good way to get outdoors and get her used to exploring slightly unknown areas. We didn't go any place exotic--all of the caches were within two miles of our house, and one was in the very park where she plays. But it's interesting that normally we stick to the sidewalk and the marked areas and never venture off anyplace unusual. Geocaching encourages us to explore. I'm excited about a series of caches I read about yesterday--there are 6 caches along the DART red line light rail. I'm a big fan of mass transit (both as an environmental issue and as a cool thing to enjoy--I have a Master's degree in Urban studies) and I've taken my daughter out on the buses, trains and trolleys here in Dallas, so I think we'll really enjoy a cache hunt combined with light rail.

After the cache hunt (we found three of the four we were hunting) we ran our normal weekend errands (Whole Foods Market, Tom Thumb, etc.) and we all spent the evening together at home. I made Bar-b-que'd Sweet Plantains for dinner, then my wife and I fell asleep watching Full Metal Jacket (we're both huge Kubrick fans and like all of his films except Eyes Wide Shut).

Today I walked on a trail I had never walked before, the Rowlett Creek Preserve. It's primarily a mountain biking trail maintained by DORBA. It's a good trail with a lot of variety (some nice dips and hills, some smooth and easy sections, lots of shade) but since it's more urban than the North Shore of Lake Grapevine there was a lot more trash around the trail and in the creeks; it was kind of depressing. I wanted to do some trail walking but I didn't want to push too hard since I need to start tapering for Heartland, so I just walked all of the loops once, completing almost 11 miles. My pace was fairly slow because I stopped frequently to enjoy the wildlife: lots of large spiders, a baby snake, some turtles in the creek, etc. I will probably walk this trail again since it is only 15-18 minutes from my house, but I prefer North Shore and will probably spend more time there. North Shore is also a more challenging trail so it will provide better training; I think I spent about 30-40% of my time at North Shore jumping, hopping, running up hills, etc.

For the rest of the day we are just going to prepare for the week: laundry, cleaning, etc. I've got to make a quick trip to San Antonio Monday night, coming back Wednesday night. I'm also going to start planning my gear for Heartland. I'll post more information soon about the race, the aid stations, the route, etc. One bad thing is that there is a high probability of flat tires for crews, so my wife and daughter will probably not crew for me at the race. They will be there when I start and finish, but my wife is not physically able to replace a tire due to her reduced long capacity so it's too risky to ask her to crew for me.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and great racing/training!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

New blogger from Iraq

Here is a blog from a running member of the U.S. military in Iraq. Interesting reading. Go back to some of the first posts in June
to learn a little more about him and his history.

Friday, September 10, 2004

More flip flops than John Kerry

Just kidding! I'm a Democrat (actually I'm left of the Democrats) but I'm not a big fan of Kerry. I do think the charge of flip flopping is unfair (considering how much the world has changed in 30 years, I would expect someone's views to change).

Anyway, this isn't a political post. I'm doing the 50 mile ultra in Kansas. I know, I know, I said I wasn't. I've been struggling with my goals and my purpose lately. Not in a bad way--struggling is probably not the best word. Exploring, considering, pondering, wondering, hoping. What I've finally decided, for the time being, is this:

1. I like being outdoors, I like trails, I like the variability and unpredictability of trail walking.
2. I want to be outdoors for longer periods. I don't like short races.
3. I want to explore other outdoor/endurance activities, such as fast packing/ultralight backpacking. I want to do some of these activities with my daughter.
4. I want to forget about pace, time, ranking, etc. I want to get outside and move and enjoy it.

So I decided to go ahead and go to Kansas and put my ass on the trail and see what happens. I'm not going to do the 24 hour track race. I'm going to focus on trails, some ultras and some shorter distances, and I'm going to learn about hiking, backpacking, primitive camping, fastpacking, etc. I'm a city boy. I don't know anything about the outdoors or survival or camping. But I want to know. I want to walk away from the world for several days with just a pack on my back. I want to introduce my daughter to a world beyond cars and concrete and work. I know this all sounds weird and hopelessly romantic, but this is what is inside of me right now. I'd like to go on some exciting adventure with my daughter when she is older, like hiking the Appalachian Trail or hiking in some remote spot overseas or something else crazy and adventurous!

So my plan is to race in the Heartland/Spirit of the Prairie 50 mile race on October 9th. I've also signed up for the Rock Ledge Rumble, a 25k trail race here in the Dallas area. After that I don't know what I'll do, and I don't care. I will probably explore more of the local trails and spend some time just enjoying the outdoors and my own movement. I just want to have fun, to feel fit and to feel challenged.

Thanks to everyone for their recent suggestions and support. I'm excited!

Coincidentally, I made this decision yesterday and booked a hotel. Today in the mail I got my race packet. I feel like everything is meant to be. Our hotel is in El Dorado, which is mentioned in one of my favorite poems ("Wichita Vortex Sutra" by Allen Ginsberg) which was then made into one of my favorite musical works (the poem read by Ginsberg himself with piano accompaniment by Philip Glass). Here's a good excerpt (curse blogger for removing the formatting!):

Let the States tremble,
let the Nation weep,
let Congress legislate its own delight
let the President execute his own desire -
this Act done by my own voice,
nameless Mystery -
published to my own senses,
blissfully received by my own form
approved with pleasure by my sensations
manifestation of my very thought
accomplished in my own imagination
all realms within my consciousness fulfilled
60 miles from Wichita
near El Dorado,
The Golden One,
in chill earthly mist
houseless brown farmland plains rolling heavenward
in every direction
one midwinter afternoon Sunday called the day of the Lord -
Pure Spring Water gathered in one tower
where Florence is
set on a hill,
stop for tea & gas

Check out this blog!

Check out Tales of slow, brave Athena. What an athlete! And what an attitude! Go, Athena. You're an inspiration!

Thursday, September 09, 2004


I wrote two posts on Tuesday and I thought they were lost. They never showed up on my blog and I got a "Page Not Found" error when I tried to post them.

Well, now they are here! I don't know how or why, but I guess Blogger finally posted them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Last night I wrote a long post about walking in marathons, based on this article from Runner's World. Then Blogger lost it. I don't have the energy to rewrite it.

Then I overslept today! I will probably only be able to train one day this week (tomorrow) because Tuesday was a rest day, I overslept today, and Friday I feel like I should take the day off before the 5k on Saturday. Oh well, it is what it is. I also feel like my cold is coming back, so maybe it is better that I didn't walk today.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Runner's World article on Marathon Walkers

Chris Brogan pointed me to this article in the current Runner's World. I had heard that someone was writing an article through the Yahoo! Marathon Walkers group but I hadn't seen it yet.

My first thoughts on reading it:

1. It doesn't really apply to me. While I'm no elite racewalker, I can compete with a fair number of runners out there and don't want to finish at the back of the pack any more than runners do. I'm out there to compete and push myself, even if I'm only competing against me.

2. Most of the complaints about walkers have to do with race etiquette, not walking in and of itself. There are plenty of people (runners and walkers) who line up at the front when they shouldn't, or congregate together and block the path. Walkers are only more visible and an "easy" target for complaints.

3. This is more of a problem in these large, mega-events. In the few large events I've done the start has always been crowded, confusing and frustrating, no matter where you start. I often have to dodge around people (and people often have to dodge around me) because of the sheer number of participants. This is one reason why I much prefer smaller races, especially 100-300 people.

4. I completely respect the position of the race directors. They have to make money or the events we all love will go away. I feel that they should set reasonable limits on their events and expect that the participants will manage themselves and their own capabilities. There is a large market in walkers so some events will naturally cater to that crowd. But there is nothing wrong with an RD who puts a 6 hour or 5 hour limit on the race. In racewalking I've seen some shorter races (mile, 5k) that told you not to show up if you couldn't keep a certain pace (and they were paces I could not maintain) so this is not exclusive to running.

All in all it was a pretty balanced article that I'm sure will receive a lot of feedback. I don't think there is any reason that walkers and runners can not coexist. They are each trying to accomplish something different. Think about trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers. When I recently walked the North Short of Lake Grapevine, I was very proud to complete the out-and-back in a little under four hours. A mountain biker could probably finish in 1-2 hours; a good trail runner is 2-3; a hiker in 7-8. Each of us sought something different out of the same route. I don't compare myself to runners because we are in different sports, just like a road cyclist shouldn't compare him/herself to a runner.

There was only one quote that bothered me, by Bob Glover, author of The Competitive Runner's Handbook: "Now they just go out and do it because they're told they don't have to run it, they can walk it. It's a cop-out for an underachieving society." That is an unnecessarily harsh and unfair statement. Someone who walks a marathon has achieved something! Most people, even most reasonably fit people, could not walk 26.2 miles. It is an achievement. Like I said above, it is a different achievement. I doubt any of these eight hour marathoners count themselves in the same "league" as the elites like Bob (jerk). I am totally in awe of olympians, elite marathoners, ultramarathoners. But I'm still working my butt off to be better and faster and stronger and healthier. To criticize my effort is to criticize amateurism in general. Should only superstars play basketball? Should only prodigies play the violin or the electric guitar? Should I stop playing chess? Or better yet, should I tell my daughter to stop learning chess if it becomes apparent that she will never be a Chess master? ARRGH! I have to stop before I get more angry!

Since I'm on this topic, I did receive an interesting comment during my race yesterday. I usually negative split my races because it takes me a little while to warm up. Therefore I usually pass a few people during the race. Yesterday was no exception--I probably passed 10 people in the last half of the race and was only passed by one.

Right before the turnaround I passed a woman who said, "I thought this was a running race." She immediately said, "Just kidding," but she didn't really sound like she was kidding. She might have been. Or she might have felt discouraged that a mere "walker" was passing her. Who knows.

In the last mile of the race a woman who passed me said, "I've been so impressed with you for the last few miles. Good job!" Mostly I've met with tons of encouragement and nice comments, even from people I'm passing.

So much of someone's attitude toward walkers depends on one's attitude in general. That's the main lesson I've learned. What do you think?

Monday, September 06, 2004

Rainy, Messy Labor Day 15k

Today I returned to racing on a wet and rainy Labor Day. My wife had some insomnia last night so I ended up waking up at 4:30 and never going back to sleep (it's hard to sleep when someone is watching "The Shining"!). I was reading the news on the internet and relaxing when I heard the sound of very loud and hard rain! I hadn't checked the weather in a few days so I wasn't expecting rain. Luckily it slowed down by the 7:30 start; it lightly rained about half the race and then stopped for the other half.

My legs felt pretty heavy and slow during a lot of the race. I think that might be because I didn't train at all last week; I took an unprecedented seven day break from racewalking. But I still had pretty decent times, a negative split and a PR. I had one really slow mile in the middle (mile 6) but that was mostly due to slowing down at an aid station and adjusting one of my safety pins that was starting to rub uncomfortably. My splits were: 10:22, 10:22, 10:22, 10:09, 10:12, 10:34, 10:11, 10:15, 10:15, 3:12. My previous PR was 1:38:20 (10:33 pace) so I trimmed almost three minutes off my previous best and 18 seconds per mile off the pace. I think if we had had dry weather I could have done even better.

Distance: 15 kilometers
Time: 1:35:37
Pace: 10:15/mile

I'm planning to race in a 5k next weekend (9/11, the Freedom Run). I'm hoping to set a PR but since I haven't been doing any speedwork that may not be possible. I thought I could go faster today but never got below 10:09/mile, so I may not be able to push the pace below my current 5k PR of 10:08. I am planning to do some speedwork on Wednesday so maybe that will remind my legs what it feels like to go fast!

Happy Labor Day and happy racing/training to all the other bloggers out there.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Big news

It was on June 8 that I announced my intention to race in a 24 hour ultra. Today, I'm announcing that I've changed my mind and I'm cancelling my plans. I've decided that I just don't want to push myself that hard right now. As Chris Brogan mentioned in one of his comments, this is supposed to be fun, but it's not fun for me right now. I'm burning the candle at both ends to get in my miles and it's starting to catch up with me. I've been sick since Sunday and haven't walked at all since then. I've decided that for the time being I want to work on speed and I want to RACE! I'm tired of walking at a 12:30 to 13:00 minute per mile pace when I know I can do 9:20 to 10:20.

It's funny but this hasn't been a difficult or agonizing decision. I'm tired of walking slow, I'm tired of not racing, I'm tired of being sore all the time, I'm tired of walking myself to the point of exhaustion and pain each Sunday. Once I decided this isn't what I want to do right now I felt much better. I'm really excited and already have some race plans.

If I can get over this cold I'm going to race in the Labor Day 15k on Monday, then the Freedom Run 5k on 9/11. Then I might do the Lost Dog 20k on October 10, and the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon on November 7.

I'll probably do a 5k race in November, along with the Turkey Trot, then finally I'll Run the Rock in the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Last year I did the half and I've always wanted to do the full marathon. This is Dallas' premier marathon and always draws a large crowd.

So that's my news. Thanks to everyone for their comments, thoughts and encouragement. I'm excited and and glad I made this decision. I'm looking forward to training again and hope to set some PRs in my upcoming races. After all, I have been walking 50-70 miles per week, so that's got to help my strength, endurance and speed. If I spend some time focusing on speedwork I hope to get my pace below 9:00 per mile on some shorter races. I'm not there yet, but that will be my new goal.

Happy running and walking!