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Chapter 4:

Taking it Easy
Friday, July 2, 1999

What a difference there is between resting and loafing! As with so many of the good things in life, rest is best enjoyed in moderation, when it has been earned.

Working at a job or in the home is good. Taking days off is good. Eating is good. Not eating is good. Exercise is good. Rest is good. Both pleasure and worthwhile benefits come from all these pursuits. None should function as a primary end in themselves; each works with the other to make up the pattern of our lives as a whole.

For everything there is an appointed time. — Ecclesiastes 3:1

We live in a world of extremes. Moderation, which means exercising control, has gone out of fashion.

Some persons are dedicated to living a life as office drones, often simply to make money they never have time to make use of. Others live as though the now frowned-upon sentiments of the once popular advertising slogan: "Weekends were made for Michelob!" were an expression of divinely revealed truth.

Some people exercise to work off their overindulgences and lack of self-control. Others eat to fuel their work.

Rest has a special place in among our activities. Sitting and doing nothing is the easiest thing we can do. If we enhance it by putting our feet up, refreshing ourselves with our favorite cold beverage with foam on it and a sweet or salty snack, while watching grown men play with a ball on TV, it's easy to let the advertising we see convince us that "It doesn't get any better than this." It can become our preferred mode, to the degree that getting into that state becomes a primary goal in life, or even an addiction.

As noted previously, rest is good! It's something we need. But the fundamental purpose of rest is to recover, refresh, and restore, to rebuild for renewed activity.[6]

[6] That's seven words that start with "re-" in one sentence. Is that a re-cord?

Among runners and other athletes, the application of this truth becomes a matter of science, with the goal of achieving guilt-free rehabilitative pleasure.

As you may have guessed by now, today is a rest day for me. Ahhhhh! It follows thirteen consecutive days of exercise, if you count the three long days of trudging through Las Vegas on foot in the heat. (I do.)

Last night's run was a chore. It was supposed to be an interval training session, but the previous three days I did a five-mile tempo run, a 10K at moderate speed, and nine miles easy. By the time I arrived at the gym last night I was sagging. What resulted was interval training in format only, not in performance.

My recent routine has been to warm up by walking four laps (not counted in the five miles), and six laps run easily, followed by alternating patterns of four laps hard (0.35 miles) and three laps of recovery, including some shameless walking, if required and desired to catch my breath. I repeat the routine until I run out of laps or energy. Last night the energy faded first. I did six segments of hard running, then shuffled the last twelve laps at a barely mobile pace, until I reached five miles. The total time was pitiful, and my heart rate statistics weren't too hot either.

But looking at the big picture, I know for a fact that I've made significant advancement the last few weeks. My escalator is going up.

Meanwhile, I've earned the right to take a day off training.

Bzzzt! Wrong! When properly timed, rest itself is an element of the training that runners do, just as breathing in is as much a part of the process of learning to play a wind instrument as blowing out. And today is my day to take a breather.

So tonight I'm planning on enjoying a nice dinner, sitting and playing Bach and Ravel on my piano, watching a movie, and reading a book until bedtime, probably while consuming a favorite beverage (likely foamless this time), as I hydrate and contemplate the 16 miles I will be running tomorrow afternoon.

Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind. — Ecclesiastes 4:6

My Wife's Heinous Plot
Saturday, July 3, 1999

My wife is trying to kill me. She buys cookies, good ones, on the pretense that she is doing something that will please me, knowing full well that cookies are my downfall. Last night she brought home a king size bag of Safeway store-brand cookies that just happen to be some of the best cookies I've ever laid my teeth into.

She may as well have brought home pure uncut heroin. I ate about fifteen of them last night, and six more this morning. I'm carboloading for my long run today, of course. It's remarkable that I didn't eat them all.

The Ritual

On Saturdays when I run long I follow a get-ready ritual: Pick out the shorts, singlet, and socks, put them on, pick out the shoes, put them on, pick out the headband, put it on, clean the Oakleys, stick them on my forehead, strap on the Polar HRM, pick up an extra towel, make sure I've got a swim suit in my gym bag in case I want to hit the pool after the run, and sandals, regular shorts and a T-shirt to change into afterward, take three Advil, one Pepcid A/C, and one Succeed! capsule, put three or four Succeed! capsules and a few Advil in a pill box to take with me, drink a couple of glasses of water while I'm getting ready, and finally pull a quart of Gatorade out of the refrigerator. We buy it at Costco by the case. I don't usually try to eat anything on runs of twenty miles or less, but try to survive on the calories from Gatorade.

It may not sound like much, but it takes me fifteen to twenty minutes to accomplish all this, and it ticks me off when I leave something out.

When I got to the gym I realized I left the freshly filled pillbox with extra electrolyte and Advil sitting on my desk at home. I rarely ever consume Advil during a run (maybe three times ever), but it's good to be prepared. On the other hand, I really wanted the electrolyte. Now I'd have to live without. Oh well, I ran for years without the pills; I would survive the afternoon.

Today's plan was to run 182 laps on tRtNE, a total of 16.03 miles. After half a lap I reached up to pull down my shades and realized I had no headband. Bad runner!

My head is configured in such a way that a wrinkle channel pipelines a river of sweat directly into my left eye. It's annoying and it stings. Sometimes I can tolerate a run of three or four miles without a headband, wiping my eyes on my shirttail, but there was no way I would face a 16-miler with that inconvenience.

So I stopped immediately, cut across the aerobics floor, went downstairs to the locker room, and pulled a headband out of my bag. For good measure I took a bandana to carry in my hand. Then I walked one more lap and started running again. Much better.

Ooh! My Arms

Recently I've been talking to some ultrarunners about the technique for an ultra shuffle. I already know to aim for short, quick strides, and to remain close to the ground. That's how I run most of the time. Something new I tried today was an improvement in my arm motion. I've always tended to swing my arms across my chest. Someone pointed out it's more efficient to have them go straight forward and back, in order to maintain the momentum in the direction you're moving. This makes sense, so I worked on it throughout my run today. I had plenty of time.

Another New Running Friend

Fifteen laps into it, I anticipated a good run. Suddenly a younger good runner pulled up beside me, someone I've been seeing for the past month, but hadn't met yet.

He asked me if I was in Arizona Road Racers. Yes. He thought I was familiar. So is he. The fellow is a skinnyfast who favors 10Ks, but has run marathons. He has the distinction of having been awarded third woman overall in a recent 10K, but had to give it up because he was not exactly qualified.

This happened because his name is Caroll, and the scorer ignored the M in the sex column on his registration. I know one other man named Carol (with a single "l"). Their predicament is not unique. Sometimes I suffer from similar indignities, because my first name is likewise more often given to females than to males.

After fifteen laps of chatting I finally gasped to Caroll, "When I run with other people like this, I tend to speed up. Almost everyone is faster than me and slows down to match me, but I speed up, too. Today I have sixteen miles to run, and if I continue at this pace, I'm going to die an early death." Much to my relief, he immediately slowed down, and I started to recover. A few laps later we parted and he continued on at his usual zippy pace.

And On it Went

It was my plan to walk a lap while guzzling Gatorade every forty laps, which is almost exactly 3.5 miles. The fresh quart of Gatorade lasted two cycles. At 120 laps I stopped at the drinking fountain. At 159 laps I just walked one and didn't drink anything.

I was delighted by how loose I felt the whole distance. Two or three times I picked up the pace for ten laps, then for two miles I ran almost as hard as I would if I were doing an ordinary mid-week five-miler. I finished with energy to spare, feeling satisfied, having run it at a 10:15 pace, 25 seconds a mile slower than my fastest at that distance, run in May 1997. Given that my times have been generally slower recently, I was not disappointed.

We had to go to a party early tonight, so I skipped the weight training and swim. I wasn't happy about this. The July 4 weekend is when everybody leaves Phoenix, so the place was practically deserted and quiet. They had even turned off the sound system, so I didn't have to endure Sheryl Crow. I'm planning on going back for more tomorrow.

Running Slowly Is Fun
Sunday, July 4, 1999

Running slowly but with perfect control is fun! That's what I did today, for 3.08 miles.

The object was to work on my 24-hour track ultramarathon shuffle technique, monitoring my posture and armswing in the mirrors that surround the entire perimeter of the gym. I've been told by those who have mastered it that they can run for many hours at a time without stopping this way. The more I work at it the more I sense why this is true.

During this run my heart rate averaged only 73.7% of my MHR, and never got higher than 78.9%. This not much more strenuous than walking.

This week will be another weird one for me. From Thursday through Sunday I'll be in Tucson. It will be difficult for me to run much at all, especially on Sunday.

I'll do no long run this week, but will take no rest day until next Sunday. With tomorrow a holiday from work it will be convenient to run eight miles. If all goes well, the following three days I'll go 10K, 10 miles, and another 10K. I'm expecting to do that second 10K in Tucson on Thursday evening. I'll be forced to be content with three-milers on Friday and Saturday.

You'll notice that this July 4 report is notably free of fireworks.

Growing Confident
Monday, July 5, 1999

With an awkwardly-laid-out week before me I decided to front load as many miles as I can get in before Thursday. The weekend ahead will provide opportunity for token runs at best.

What delights me presently is how quickly I seem to be recovering from my runs in this period of buildup. This suggests that the hard work I've done over the past several years is sticking with me.

As I take aim at the Grand Slam challenge I've created for the last three months of 1999, it's heartening to know that I don't have to start at the beginning every time I set a new goal. As an experienced runner put it, "It's a lot easier to stay in shape than to get in shape."

In my case being "in shape" is a figurative expression. I'm weighing in heavier than I have in the last 4.5 years, and the shape I see in the mirror seems to be getting rounder by the day. I shudder to think what I would look like if I didn't run forty miles a week and work out with weights.

After following through on Saturday's sixteen miles with three easy miles yesterday, I felt as if I had cheated myself out of a good workout. There's no doubt in my mind I could have gone five miles or 10K with beneficial results.

More Fun Going Slowly

Today, with the advantage of an extra day off work, I made up for yesterday's blown opportunity. The plan was to go for eight miles while once again practicing my newly acquired ultra shuffle technique. In a 24-hour race runners need to walk often starting from the beginning. So I rolled my walking laps into the count, and traversed the whole distance as if I had intended to go for five hours or more. The basic routine was to shuffle twelve laps (1.06 miles), then walk three laps quickly.

And so it went for eight miles, with one exception. The pattern got skewed when a gym acquaintance I hadn't seen in several months showed up, caught up with me on a walking lap, and wanted to chat.

This fellow (Steve) could be an Aryan Nation poster boy: in his early thirties, about six feet four inches, blond, and white as John Elway, and around 230 pounds; fit as can be, he used to run track in college. His wife teaches aerobics. He still runs, but only short distances. His bulk causes mechanical stress on his anatomy, and he's forever monkeying with new shoes and changing routines just to stay healthy.

He's shown interest in my geezerly running activities, and asks how it's going whenever I see him. It was late last year when we last spoke, before I embarked on my journey into the world of ultrarunning, so there was much to fill him in on, which Steve listened to indulgently.

It took some extra walking laps to relate all this. When I started running again and we parted ways, I tried to make up for it by going two miles without walking.

The numbers didn't matter today. I had hoped to shuffle at an overall pace between 12:00 and 13:00 miles per minute. It came out at 12:07, and I was happy with that.

Technically I'm not much of a walker, at least not yet. Because I do so little of it during training sessions, and most of what I do is directed at recovery, I haven't developed the ability to walk fast. Leisurely strolling won't cut it in a 24-hour race, where the purpose of walking is to avoid running so as to recover, conserve energy, and eat, and still make as much forward progress as possible.

But today I felt good from the beginning, and started to get a coordinated motion going during the walking segments. I wanted to practice it while I had the opportunity.

Therefore, when I finished my regular eight miles, I continued on for an additional two miles of speed walking, just for technical practice. Whee! I felt as though I could have walked until midnight. It was the easiest ten miles I've ever logged.

After that I worked out hard with weights for an hour, and headed down to the pool to see if it was clear. Usually I'll swim only if the pool is nearly empty. Sometimes it's full of bouncing, jiggling, fat ladies doing a water aerobics class. Today all the lanes were occupied with persons who seemed to be seriously occupied with swimming, so I contented myself with coming home and cooling off in my own pool.

Holiday break is almost over; tomorrow it's back to the cubicle farm for two days.

Gone With the Wind
Tuesday, July 6, 1999

Today the 29 total miles I've run the previous three days caught up with me — my legs have gone on strike. However, I wanted to get in 10K today, so it was back to ultrashuffle mode. If necessary I would have walked it.

It was indeed a slow run, but not as miserable as I'd feared. By two miles I knew I would survive, and that my time would be unreal, but that I would not walk. I just had to exercise the patience of a farmer waiting for a crop to come in.

At such times I call to mind that training runs are finite. They have a beginning, and they have an end. When I know how far I plan to run, I can estimate closely when it will be done. There is no use whatever fretting that the time has not come yet, any more than watching the clock will make a tough work day end any sooner. So I just stop whining and run.

Being in a good mood can cause one to run faster, just as being in a bad mood can steal the wanna right out from under you. Last week when I encountered sad-eyed, recently jobless George, he was running like a man on the way to his own execution.

Today was quite a different scene. I had a little over two miles to go when George arrived and caught up with me. It seems that on Saturday he got three different job offers. He accepted one that offered him 25 percent more pay than what he had been earning. He started today.

George's pace had improved to match his soaring spirit, and naturally, he wanted to spend the last two miles of my run telling me all about the new job. So instead of patiently lumbering on, I found myself gradually increasing speed to match him, until the last three laps, when I ran extra hard. By then I just wanted to be done, so I sprinted the last lap, with George right on my tail, and came gasping to a grateful halt. I left without doing my stretches, because I had a tight schedule tonight and was in a hurry.

Despite the surge my total time was still so bad it was almost off the chart: 72nd of 76 recorded runs at that distance, and my slowest since late August 1997.

As Scarlet O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Tracking a New Statistic
Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Today I added a new column to my training log. It shows the accumulation of miles run and walked over the past seven consecutive days.

My theory is there should be a correlation between that number and perceived performance. The higher the mileage the more tired I expect to be, which will manifest itself as slower times or dead legs.

As I said, it's just a theory. Sometimes there's no way to explain a particular performance — today's, for instance.

Because of my skewed schedule, the total for the last seven days before today's run was 52.12 miles. That's high for me. So today I expected a death march.

However, I spiced up my routine with something a little different. Every other Wednesday I take Cyra-Lea to her piano lesson, and sometimes, mainly during cooler weather, I run during the lesson. Last night we had a big storm that cooled things off. It was 99 degrees this afternoon, snowshoe weather for Phoenix in July, so today I powerwalked for one full hour, and credited myself with four miles. It was a little more than that I'm sure, but I was being conservative.

After that we drove to the gym. I took off on a 10K run at a relatively decent pace of 10:00 flat and never varied it from end to end.

By all outward expectations, and according to my theory of accumulated distance, I should have crawled that 10K on my hands and knees, but I felt great the whole way, though I didn't press it.

Go figure.

Tomorrow should be interesting. We are driving to Tucson. I was hoping to run there in the late afternoon, but it won't be possible. Therefore, in order to run I will have to do it in mid-morning, with well short of a day's rest.

Evaluating Progress
Thursday, July 8, 1999

Despite having only seventeen hours rest since I last ran, I had yet another good run today. A probable factor was nine hours and fifteen minutes of that time spent in blissful slumber.

This morning I got up at 6:30, took care of business at home, read mail, and headed out to the gym. The distance goal was 10K. I figured that surely by today the cumulative effects of the past several days would tackle me.

At Bally's 71 laps on tRtNE is 6.25 miles, 0.04 miles longer than a real 10K. In 1997 and 1998 I frequently ran that distance three times, and sometimes four, during mid-week, in addition to a long run on the weekend.

The first few laps were slow but not bad. Before long I was running briskly. I kept it up to the end, and had enough left for a strong surge at the finish. My time was 1:00:09, a 9:37 pace. Rats. Good enough to qualify as a tempo run, but I wish I had broken an hour. I've done so only twice during 1999, but did it nineteen times during 1998.

At this time last year my speed had improved to the degree that I believed I should never go over an hour again for this distance except on unusually tough days. Most of my runs at that distance had been in the 58:00—59:30 range.

However, today's run was only my third fastest gym 10K of 1999, and was 31st of 79 of all my recorded runs at that distance.

Is it because I'm too old and too fat and am just slowing down due to forces beyond my ability to control? I thought I had at least two more good years left before I hit my peak and the aging curve began to take over. It appears I'm already a has-been who's really a never-was.

Viewed from another perspective, with today's run, my last seven consecutive days total distance is 53.30 miles. And the first of those seven days was a day of rest, so it also represents what I've done the last six days. Considering that I feel great and that my goal right now is to increase mileage without unduly stressing myself, I shouldn't complain too bitterly that I'm not clocking 55:00 10Ks every time I hit the track.

The lesson I'm slowly learning is that there are many variales to be considered in evaluating one's progress. Is it possible for a runner to say, "I may be slow, but I'm good?"

That would, of course, be a bit of an overstatement in my case.

And now we're off to Tucson until Sunday, during which time I'm looking forward to some recovery.

Fear of Quitting
Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Non-running friends sometimes ask me how I cultivated the ability to train so consistently over such a long time. The answer is simple: Fear of quitting.

Everyone has heard the tired comparison that runners make, the one that says running is a "positive addition." I prefer to look at it using a different simile. Sometimes I compare myself to a kidney dialysis patient.

Most persons who require this medical treatment need it badly, need it regularly, and are obliged to go out of their way to get it. The typical dialysis patient must go in three times a week and submit to a process that takes about four hours per session to complete.

For most people, this is a gross inconvenience. But is it optional? Would someone with kidney disease reason that he's too busy to make it today and has better things to do, so he'll just skip it? Not if he wants to keep on living.

That analogy may be a bit of an exaggeration as applied to one's need to run, but it's close enough to be useful. To me, not running is not an option. Therefore, I just do it.

I first started running productively in July of 1977, when I was living on the central Maine coast, the day after I met a mother of seven children who ran daily, and was inspired by her grit.[7] My first runs proved to be a revelation to me, as I learned that after just a week or two of working at it, I could actually enjoy running distances at age 34 that were inconceivable when I was a kid.

[7] More detail is in the first heading, Fleety, of the first chapter.

Although I'm not a substance abuser, I imagine the experience was similar in ways to what an alcoholic or drug addict goes through in giving up his self-destructive practice. I acquired health benefits I never thought I would ever enjoy in my whole life.

At the time I never ran any further than five miles, but I kept this up more or less consistently for at least two years. Gradually, the concerns of life encroached upon my running. It tapered off, became a matter of run-walking on weekends when I could spare the time, then walking only, and eventually I stopped altogether. I had fallen off the wagon and stayed off for many years.

By June of 1994 I weighed 220 pounds, and could not run from my house to the end of the block on a warm day.

Then one day I hit a turnaround point. It was not the product of relentless soul-searching and struggling, not a desperation measure following a sequence of frustrated diets and crash get-in-shape plans, and not the result of some quasi-religious conversion that turned me toward physical fitness. The reality was a lot plainer than that. It just happened.

One hot Saturday in that June of 1994, I bought a new pair of sneakers, and later took them out for a trial. I was appalled that I could no longer run at all. But I did my best, running fifty steps, walking until recovery, and repeating the cycle, for a total distance of what I have since measured with a wheel and now know is 1.6 miles. The next week I ran more and walked less, counting steps as I went. Soon I increased the distance. Even though I was doing this only two or three times a week, improvement was being made, though not enough to lose any weight. Yet somehow a good attitude button had been pressed inside my head. It's been jammed in the on position ever since.

The rest of the story is an often told one, having been experienced by countless other runners both before and after me. By mid-October I was working out hard enough that the weight started to come off, over fifteen pounds by the end of December 1994.

That's when I went to a gym for the first time since I was in college. I went, enjoyed it, and have been going five or six times a week ever since.

Meanwhile I've become a runner. I'm clearly not a good runner, but I've gotten such great personal benefits from running that I feel like the drunk who has gotten back on the wagon for the last time. There is no way on earth I'm ever going to allow things to go back to the way they were before.

But as we know from the experience of those who are or were alcoholics, staying on track takes more than firm resolve at a time when one is peaking and at his best. It takes a permanent commitment to living a different lifestyle, and constant watchfulness to avoid anything that could trigger a relapse and consequent descent into forsaken ways.

Therefore, I've become by necessity meticulously orderly and insistent on sticking to my training, as though I were a runner who is good at it. I happen to love it, so this is not a big deal. If daily runs were an ordeal to suffer through like kidney dialysis, my life would be considerably less joyful than it really is.

Reasons and Excuses

Throughout life we seek to rationalize what we do. In the process we produce reasons and excuses. Reasons explain why things happen. Excuses point to factors beyond our control, and can let us off the hook when seeking to assign blame.

"I wasn't paying attention" may be the reason someone drives through a red light, but it's not an excuse. In contrast, "I'm stone deaf" is both a reason and an excuse for not hearing someone calling our name, because a person can't be criticized simply for not being able to hear well.

Two weeks ago I was unable do to my long run because I was occupied from early morning until after 10:00 PM with something far more important than running. That was an excuse, and I didn't feel the least bit guilty about it.

But any day I blow off a run without some truly good reason, namely a valid excuse, is a day that an arcade full of bells and sirens go off in my head. It's a day that I begin to examine the dam for cracks.

Yesterday at first analysis seemed like such a day. However, I've reconciled it, as I'll explain.

Across the Great Divide

Sunday evening we returned from our four-day weekend in Tucson. On this trip I was obliged to live all day long in a suit for three days, from early morning until after dinner, because we were attending our annual district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, and we always dress for these.

Suits and ties are the pits, but as a minister I must wear them frequently. Fortunately, I do not have to wear them to work, where shorts, running shoes, and T-shirts are the norm.

I took only one on this trip — a black one, except for the white stains from the instant oatmeal I succeeded in spilling on both the front right and back left leg Friday morning. I brought three shirts. The first was white, the second was white, and the third one was white. However, all three pair of socks were black. One had cows on it. The tie was designed by Jerry Garcia. OK, so call me a wild and crazy rebel.

Since the last installment my admitted age incremented to 56. Because we don't consider birthdays special, I prefer not to publicize the date, but I do notice the passing of the day. Another day older and deeper in debt, as Tennessee Ernie Ford used to sing.

By Thursday I had racked up over 53 miles for the previous six consecutive days. I needed, wanted, and deserved a day of recovery. It was my intent to get up early Friday and walk three miles before heading out for the day. Instead, I enjoyed a little extra sleep.

Oops. Did that small compromise produce a tiny crack in the dam?

On Saturday morning I was up at 6:00 AM and out the hotel door by 6:10 for what became a profoundly stinky run-walk, which I mostly walked. It took four minutes to negotiate the complicated intersection a block away. I chose the direction that looked most promising, but immediately ran into a sign that says ROAD ENDS. It did. Back to the main street I went, and down another block, where I found a park with an asphalt path surrounding it, quickly loading up with geriatric strollers. Perfect. I felt right at home.

I ran two laps and walked two laps. The time it took to run exactly one lap suggests that the path was about 0.6 miles. The total run-walk was about four miles, in slightly over an hour. Then it was into my straitjacket for the day.

For me, running in the morning stinks. I can't get going. But walking is less of a problem. I was finally just starting to get loose when I had to quit.

On Sunday I knew I would not be able to run because of a tight schedule, which included packing and checking out of the hotel. This, too, was planned and acceptable.

Traveling stinks. Heat stinks. Humidity stinks. Temperature and humidity are additive properties on a discomfomometer. Sunday my knees started to ache. That stinks, too.

Now that I'd had three days to cut back a little, I recognized that my knees were feeling seriously stressed — not enough to be considered an injury, but enough to get my attention. It's time to start monitoring it closely, and to start doing serious quad work. I've never had knee problems and don't want to start now.

Back home on Sunday night, after peeling off the putrid clothing I'd been stuck in all day, I planned my running for the week. It's time to get back to work. I wanted 44 miles for the week, and Sunday was already a day of rest.

I'm not going to make it. Yesterday (Monday) I was obliged to remain at work nearly two hours later than usual, and I had important matters to care for at home last night. By the time I escaped, I calculated that I was looking at 8:00 PM before I would have dinner and a shower, and be ready to tackle the evening. Bummer. So I called my wife and told her I'd be home in a half hour, and chucked my scheduled run more casually than I have in a long time. Phhht. Gone. Fugedaboudit.

Another crack in the dam? Maybe so — maybe not. I realize in retrospect I badly needed an extra day's rest. But that was not the reason I gave myself and my wife for canceling my run last night. I was ready and able to run, but didn't, only because I didn't want to get home too late. I've gotta watch that sort of thing.

Yesterday is history, and today is another day. My knees don't hurt any more, I'm rested, I've eaten right, I feel good, and I want to run. Will I do the 10K I promised myself tonight, and will the wagon keep rolling with me on it? I think so, but until it's a fait accompli I won't know.

Recognizing Pain
Wednesday, July 14, 1999

With three of the previous four days off you would think by yesterday afternoon I would have been ready for a run that was both vigorous and comfortable, but it didn't happen.

The goal was 10K on tRtNE. After three easy laps I ran into Boston Bill — no, not that one. Bill Perkins is a runner I have seen and talked to a couple of times a week for the last two and a half years. He's a history teacher, age 47, and has qualified for Boston Marathon the last several years. He's even run it three times. Bill loves to yack about running, even when he's tearing around the track at a 7:30 pace, at which time he's always talking about it to someone other than me.

Bill didn't get picked in the lottery for St. George Marathon this year, his favorite race, and is ticked about it. He's still looking to run this year's qualifier, and it appears Tucson Marathon will have to be it.

He said he heard a rumor that they changed the course this year — that it will start further up the road and avoid winding around through the town of Oracle, including the one gigantic uphill. This is good news. The bad news is that they are ending in a different location from previous years, and the last mile is steeply uphill. This rumor was not confirmed by a check of the Web site, however, which still shows the old course.

I picked up speed to go closer to Bill's pace so we could talk. In 9:00 I had covered one mile and was gasping, going much too fast for me to sustain for 10K. So I dropped back considerably. The inadequate warmup aggravated my shins, which started to ache and cramp.

I've had this problem before, and have learned that if I patiently run extra slowly for a while, and shake my feet from the ankle slightly on the forward stroke, eventually I'll loosen up and run through it. It worked, but it took over thirty laps to happen. Meanwhile it wasn't fun. I came close to stopping. I've stopped for pain only twice.

Lest you misunderstand that statement, let me clarify: I don't mean that I ignore the warning signs of pain. For one thing, I'm too much of a wimp to do that. I also have a measure of good sense.

There's definitely a time to stop running: when one is injured or in imminent danger of becoming injured. I've been fortunate in that I've had almost no problems with injury, other than a chronic bit of Achilles tendonitis that bothered me the first two years, but which I have learned to monitor closely and has been no problem at all for a long time. The two times I've stopped in the middle of a run were both cases where that problematical heel flared up, and I was forced to give up immediately or face serious consequences.

Finally I got into a slow rhythm. It felt as if I was carrying a huge load, as I labored around and my feet pounded hard with every step — slap, slap, slap, slap. Hey, at 183 pounds I am carrying a huge load.

Where's My Tree?

On the trip home a freak, short, but unusually violent storm tore through our neighborhood. Barely two minutes before I arrived home what may have been a small twister touched down in several places on our block, including our front yard. There were garbage cans and trash scattered on the street.

As I pulled into the driveway Suzy was standing in the doorway saying, "Where's my tree!?" Sure enough, the three-year-old tree we had planted in the front yard was totally gone. This tree was eight or ten feet tall. It snapped off cleanly at the ground level, as if someone cut it with a chain saw, and was carried away by the wind. When Cyra-Lea and I went hunting the neighborhood for it we found it in someone else's yard 200 yards up the street. The owner of the house in whose yard it landed couldn't believe it had come all that way. Neither did we. We were fortunate the house wasn't damaged. Our neighbor's entire side fence was lying in the sidewalk. Cyra-Lea and I dragged the tree back home and laid it in the yard to take pictures for insurance.

It weighs at least 150 pounds. Does that count as strength training? I don't think so.

Today's ten-mile run was a totally different scene from yesterday. My intent was to go slowly, work on good form, and finish with something to spare, saving energy for tomorrow and the long run coming up on the weekend. It was not a day for a tempo run. I began at a slow pace and felt completely relaxed from beginning to end, resisting the temptation to push it, except for a little bit the last two miles. It was one of the slowest ten-milers I've ever run, sixteen minutes behind my PR, but one of the easiest.

A Noble PW
Monday, July 19, 1999

The previous section of this saga was written last Wednesday. Journals, like long runs, being a record of life, can have dull parts in the middle of them. Thursday and Friday was just such a period.

Boredom is judged from the perspective of the one who is bored — in this case me. The daily training sessions come and go, one much the same as another. One day I'm excited, amazed, and filled with the wonder of it all, and the next it all seems like so much horse manure. Then I get over it and life goes on.

Another reason I've been missing is that my ISDN line at home went down on Thursday. It took until this morning, under pressure of five phone calls and a lot of whining, to get it fixed. Consider that an advertisement for US West telephone company.

To fill in the gap: Thursday was a ho-hum 10K run-walk, when I ran a few laps, then walked a few laps until I was done. It was supposed to be a walking exercise. Friday was a rest day. Then things got interesting again.

Saturday's plan was to go twenty miles. I followed my usual long run preparation ritual to the letter, remembering to bring electrolyte caps, a quart of Gatorade, and a PowerBar, and to take two Advil and a Pepcid A/C before starting. All systems were go.

I started slowly, and soon dropped into the 24-hour shuffle motion I've been working on developing almost immediately and stayed with it. When forty laps came around I was in such a groove that the thought of stopping annoyed me, so I decided to push my break out a little bit.

At sixty laps I still didn't want to stop. Then I played with the idea of going all the way to ten miles (114 laps) before breaking, and doing it regularly after that.

Two summers ago, when preparing for my first marathon, I had not yet started taking walking breaks on long runs. But neither had I ever run further than eighteen miles. On July 12, 1997, I went fo my first twenty-mile run. I did it entirely without stopping to walk, and therefore also without drinking anything, because to this day I'm incapable of drinking and running at the same time. I just wanted to see if I could do it. I did. From that time on I have always walked during widely spaced hydration breaks.

Perhaps not coincidentally, from that time on I've gotten fatter and slower. But that's another issue.

As I lumbered around the track on Saturday I thought about that run, and wondered if I could repeat my feat of two years ago. I was moving like a machine, geared to go forever. So while my Gatorade sat getting warm in an alcove beside the track, I rescoped the session and settled in for the long haul.

On long slow runs I increase my sense of isolation by running with my eyes nearly shut, and with my Oakleys on. The gym is usually quiet on a Saturday afternoon. There is just the occasional clanking of weights, the droning of treadmills, and a grunt now and then. When the radio pipes music in, it reminds me of lazy summer days when I was a kid, lying on a blanket at the Wilmette Beach on Lake Michigan, letting my mind drift, listening to the moving sounds of distant voices and portable radios being carried in by park patrons, patiently watching for girls who walked by.

When ten miles came I was shocked as I noted my split time: 1:50 and change. I've run ten miles more slowly only twice ever. Despite this, I was happy to be feeling as good as I did, and gave no consideration to stopping or giving up on the plan.

I never did. By mile twelve I thought I might even run an extra mile, so I could snag a PR for longest distance run without stopping, as long as I was also on course to set a PW on the same run for the time. But it became increasingly difficult to concentrate or to drift into that earlier state of idyllic reflection. From mile sixteen on the run became a chore to be done with, and I dropped the idea of an extra mile.

The lack of water didn't affect me badly, probably because I was uncomfortably bloated and took a Succeed! cap before starting. I was thirsty when I finished, but not dry or threatening to cramp up.

For at least two miles in the second half I sped up markedly, thinking I would try for a negative split, since my first half was so dreadfully slow anyhow. But the last two miles, even though I managed to maintain good form, I slowed considerably, and wobbled my way down the path. Going faster was not an option.

My final time was a preposterous 3:40:33, with almost exactly even splits. To put this in perspective: this was a PW for the distance by 1:59, and 12:01 slower than the session two years ago I was hoping to emulate. My twenty-mile PR is 3:20, a whole minute per mile faster.

Despite this, I was pleased. In all respects other than speed it was an outstanding run.

Back At It

Most people would rest the day after an effort like that. But not this geezer. I've got work ahead if I hope to survive a 24-hour race in a little over five months. I need to work on my walking, and on moving forward when I'm tired. One way to accomplish this and also recover somewhat from running is to go for long powerwalks on days following long runs.

Yesterday afternoon I filled up my Camelbak Go-Be and headed out in the 102-degree heat. I made two mistakes. First, I brought no electrolyte capsules with me. Second, I didn't wear sunscreen, though I did wear a hat, and put it on backwards to protect my neck better.

My initial goal was to walk for two hours. However, I decided I would press on to 1:15 before turning around, which I estimated to be five miles, allowing for a conservative pace of about 15:00 per mile, and therefore ten miles round trip.

On the return I broke into my ultraboogie motion periodically, overall for two miles or more. The total excursion time was 2:17:20, for a 13:44 pace. Walking is an important component of ultrarunning, and needs to be practiced on its own. It seems I've found a satisfactory way to work it in.

And that brings me to today. My total mileage for the previous seven days is running high again. I needed a shorter run. So it was back to the gym for a four-mile tempo run. I didn't wear my HRM, so don't know what my heart rate was, but knew by the time and intensity that it was a good run. It sometimes amazes me when I pull a hard effort out of thin air, in this case following a weekend with over thirty miles of pedestrian activity. Now my seven-day total is at 57.37 miles. The mileage is adding up.

So why am I so fat and slow?

Johnny B Goode
Thursday, July 22, 1999

I've entered the very heart of the most intense training period of my life, and am feeling the effects, both good and bad. I feel strong, and I feel tired; I sleep well when my muscles are not aching too much to prevent it; I'm enthusiastically moving forward and at the same time preoccupied with important matters having nothing to do with running that require even more energy and attention.

Good and bad periods seem to come in streaks rather than as individual days. Presently I'm on a positive roll, with an accumulation of 58.28 miles for the past seven consecutive days, and good strong runs each of the last three days. All three qualify as tempo runs.

Should I be doing three consecutive tempo runs while I'm working on building up mileage and endurance? Probably not. It's just a case of making hay while the sun shines, running hard when I feel like it. I may not want to on a day when my schedule says I'm supposed to.

Tuesday was a 10K at 9:45 pace at an average 85% of my submaximum heart rate. Whoop-dee-doo.

Today I ran the hilly streets near Cyra-Lea's piano teacher while she took her lesson. It was 103 degrees when I started. Rather than running, I powerwalked four miles, returning just as the lesson was over. This makes a great warmup. Some would prefer to call it a meltdown. I've been walking in Phoenix summers for 21 years, and love it, even in the hottest weather. It's running in the heat that I can't do.

Bally's is less than five minutes drive from the piano teacher, close enough that I don't cool down completely by the time I get there. I added an invigorating 10K run to my walk, at 9:36 pace. Excellent. But I was in bed by 9:20 PM, after my head nearly hit the desk while trying to get some work done, then again attempting to appreciate an Ernest Hemmingway story that seemed less exciting than the reputation that preceded it.

My most frequent rest day is Friday, but later this evening all my time is dedicated to preparing and presenting a talk at our Kingdom Hall. So I'll rest today and run tomorrow.

The beat goes on.

The Degree of Struggle Is Relative
Friday, July 23, 1999

Today I ran 3.08 miles, 35 laps on tRtNE at a 9:21 pace. A single day of rest can revitalize. Because tomorrow I'll run long, I didn't overextend myself, but rounded the session off with 35 minutes of strength training. Time constraints have forced me to neglect this lately.

Someone else has been busy running laps, too. Four people have been running an average of 61.91 miles per day for the past 33 days on the sidewalk around a 0.5488-mile block surrounding a high school in Queens, NY, in the third Sri Chinmoy 3100-mile race.[8] They run in opposite directions on alternate days. This is supposed to give them a change of scenery. Sometimes blessings come in small packages.

[8] Yes, you read that right. Yes, people really do these things.

The leader, Edward Kelley, passed 2000 miles late yesterday. The rest did so today. With only 85 miles separating first and last place, by ultradistance standards they are running neck and neck.

They have 18 more days to reach 3100 miles. I wonder whether they still get a T-shirt if they don't make it?

The four runners have each reached 2000 miles between two and eight times in their careers. The runner in second place, Suprabha Beckjord, is a woman. She led for several days, during the most intense part of the heat wave in early July. Today she is still only thirty miles behind the leader.

All four are vegetarians. I wonder if they like cookies? That's what I eat.

A fifth runner withdrew on the 21st day after a paltry 1170 miles. What a wimp. He probably didn't eat enough Wheaties.

Somehow my feeble struggle to sustain a month of fifty-mile weeks seems insignificant in comparison.

Running When You Have a Life
Saturday, July 24, 1999

Most people, if they did nothing but run and rest, would be much better runners than they are. That's how top performers achieve high levels of accomplishment in their chosen pursuits — they allow their interest to become an obsession and do little else. In the process some of them cultivate personalities that are as interesting as an evening spent blinking and breathing.

There are such runners. They run 100 or more miles a week and rest when they are not running. While they're resting they talk mostly about running and plan for their next run. They place well in competitions, and take home lots of hardware and sometimes even money. They're in wonderful shape, but they have no life.

I will never be one of them. I've got a life outside of running. Sometimes it makes keeping to my program a difficult challenge — like today, for instance.

This morning I was up by 6:00 AM, as I usually am on Saturday, to do some important study and research. Then I had to be out the door before 9:00 AM with a tie around my neck. Nearly every Saturday of my life I participate in the door-to-door preaching work that Jehovah's Witnesses are well-known for. It's an obligation that takes precedent over most other activities in my life, including running.

The temperature peaked at 103 Fahrenheit today, with humidity that was unusually high for Arizona. My clothing was sticking to me before I even got settled in the car. Afterward we remained outdoors most of the time for nearly three hours.

When I returned my stinking, wilted body home it was after noon. After checking email, I hurriedly prepared for my long run. Today I added the element of slathering my feet in Vaseline to the ritual. I've been suffering from blisters the last several weeks, something that has not been much of a problem before.

The goal for today was 149 laps on tRtNE, 13.12 miles, an indoor half marathon. However, I had an extremely tight schedule. At 4:00 PM I had to appear once again at our Kingdom Hall, ten minutes from the gym, clean and wearing a tie. On a good day it takes me 2:10 to run a half marathon training run. The time when my feet started running was 1:15 PM. If I had a good day I would be done at 3:30, and would have exactly a half hour to cool down, take a shower, and get to where I had to be next.

So I walked only two warmup laps, then laid into it, being motivated by external circumstances that had nothing to do with running. My split times indicated that I was on target, but I didn't know if I could keep it up. However, in the second half I was able to pick it up, and ran a negative split by over two minutes, finishing in 2:13:26, my eighth slowest run at the distance out of ten recorded runs. Both of the slower ones were recorded last month, so I might be headed in the right direction. But I was never comfortable the whole time.

Yes We're Going to a Party Party

Being unskilled at dealing with deviations from my planned routine, I discovered that I had neglected to bring underwear, socks, and a belt. I brought my biggest pair of pants, which I used to wear when I was 35 pounds heavier, and were way too big for me then. In addition, I dropped my tie on the ground next to the car on the way in, and didn't discover this until I returned to it, dragging my gear with me while struggling to hold my pants up with my spare hand. I was obliged to head home to pick up the missing items of clothing, which made me five minutes late to my meeting. Meanwhile, I had zero time to eat, though I did get to guzzle some water and diet root beer.

My family waited for me, expecting me to arrive home before 6:00 PM. We were invited to a large covered dish party. My business wasn't finished until 6:22. By the time we got to the party, I was starving and dehydrated. The natural consequence of this condition was to inhale a two-pound plate of enchiladas and other gooey dishes, followed by cheesecake, and chase them with three beers and a glass of wine.

After that I finally started to unwind. I sat down at the lovely grand piano in the living room of our hosts, whereupon I gave vent to the opportunity to indulge in totally free improvisation for over forty minutes. I haven't had that pleasure for quite a while, nor have I been willing to do so with other people listening. There were over sixty persons at the party, none of whom understood a moment of my abstract and sometimes avant garde way of playing.

"My, that was certainly interesting, Lynn. Most unusual." That's a polite way of saying, "What in tarnation was that all about?"

Playing music was at one time far more important to me than running is now. In many ways it still is. As creatures with finite amounts of time available we are required to make choices regarding what we do. Music is a part of my Real Life that has been ransacked, sacrificed in part to running because I recognize that at this time in my life I get more immediate and tangible benefits from the running than from music. Therefore I put up with the loss, though sadly, as I reflect on my degenerated playing skills. But I do have fun abusing a piano now and then.

So I may not always eat right, and I may be slow, but I do have a life. Urp. Now I hope the beans will let me sleep.

Sunday, July 25, 1999

Last night's party continued to boogie inside me while I tried to sleep. Ah well — every day is a new beginning. Yesterday's poor decisions need not become today's bad habits. My body is finally just now getting the message that I quit my frivolity and returned to a sedate life nearly twenty hours ago.

Walking is the ideal way to pile up extra training miles without killing oneself. For runners who aspire to run ultras it constitutes more than mere crosstraining; it is an essential part of the big picture. It's my intent to work a great deal more of it into my program as time goes on, especially on days following long runs, rather than resting on those days, the course that popular wisdom dictates is the wise and proper thing to do.

I rarely accept popular wisdom as gospel.

Today's training was a virtual repeat of last Sunday's — ten miles of mostly walking outside. The weather has been unusually unpleasant lately, even for July in Phoenix, because of the increase in humidity. The high temperatures I can handle to some degree, but the heavy polluted air nearly sucks the wanna right out my soul.

This time I remembered the sunscreen. Rubbing greasy goo all over my skin is not a method I would endorse for enhancing the fun to be had on a blazing hot afternoon of vigorous walking in swampy air. But I do it because it's a bad idea not to. Off I went, after filling up the CamelBak Go-Be, starting from my house.

I followed the same routine as last Sunday, walking the identical course, except that I ran a total of perhaps five minutes outbound, in order to test out my legs. My legs failed the test. They were catatonic, worse than I had feared, but there was nothing wrong with my walking.

In an hour and fifteen minutes I traveled about 200 yards further down the road than last Sunday. Just before the turnaround I saw a huge bird, with a wingspan of about three feet, circling not far away. I was afraid it was a vulture licking his beak and waiting for me to keel. In reality, it may have been a large hawk, or even a falcon.

On the way back I did trot a few short portions, but nothing longer than a half mile. My total time was 2:27:30 for roughly ten miles. One of these days I'll measure it with the car's odometer or my friend's surveyor's wheel.

If all goes as planned, I should log over fifty miles for the week by Saturday.

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Yesterday I made a scientific effort to measure my fastest walking pace. I've been estimating it at between 13:30 for a powerblitz to 15:00 for a comfortable mosey.

The results surprised me: 23 laps on the flat indoor track, for 2.03 miles in 26:32.52 comes out to a pace of 13:06 a mile, faster than I thought I was capable of.

That was the only aerobic exercise I did yesterday. I rounded it off with thirty minutes of strength training and went home.

Different muscles are used in walking fast than in running. Whenever I try to push a walk hard, sustaining it for more than a few minutes, I pay for it the following days with soreness where I don't usually experience it, usually in my shins.

And so it was. All day, every time I got up from my desk at work, my legs were totally dead, though not sore. I'm living on the edge again.

When I got to the track I had visions of running 10K at low intensity, but my body had visited a different oracle. After walking three warmup laps I started running. It was less than half a lap before I knew it was not going to be a fun afternoon.

Seven or eight laps into it, running clockwise, my shins started to ache, especially the right one. Usually I can run through this trouble if I slow down and wait it out.

I suffered with it for over two miles. Finally I gave up any idea of forcing it and walked two laps, ran two more, walked two, then ran four, until I completed four miles, then threw in the towel, thinking that even though it was my lousiest run in months, at least I had sacrificed only a little more than two miles. Tomorrow I'm supposed to do a ten-miler, so why pre-trash that session with a destructive effort today?

At home, when I recorded the run, I saw to my amusement that I misread my schedule — I had written in four miles for today, not 10K. So in reality I didn't lose any mileage at all, and am still on target to make fifty by end of the week, assuming I cover 22 of that on Saturday. If I had realized the end was that near while I was running I probably would have toughed it out slowly and not walked any laps.

Some persons might be inclined to suspect that these things happen because of overtraining, and that rest is what is needed. In this case I'm sure the problem is not too much running, but too little walking. It appears that I need to work more regularly and harder on intense walking in order to build up those muscles that don't get used as much during running.

Preventing Pain
Wednesday, July 28, 1999

A reader emailed a wonderful suggestion on how to get over shin aches. She recommended walking on my heels, and doing it regularly, for a couple of minutes a day.

The technique is to lift your toes and forefoot completely off the ground and walk around a while on your heels. It's not easy to do, looks geeky, and causes the lactic burn to start in a few seconds. The goal is to work up the time. I was able to handle two minutes the first time, but it was tough.

This exercise works the exact muscles that hurt me earlier in the week. They don't get worked nearly as much when running, which is why even experienced runners who don't walk often will get sore shins when they walk hard.

Cyra-Lea had no piano lesson today, so I went straight from work to the gym. Not knowing quite how the day would go, I arrived at the track planning on running ten miles. I wanted to complete the mileage, so was willing to walk any amount of it I had to.

As anticipated, the aching started soon after I started, but was not as bad as it has been. I tried to avoid going too hard in hopes that I would loosen up in time. I did.

This run was one of those backward efforts that started badly and kept getting better all the way to the end. By five miles there was no sign of shin tightness. Soon afterward I picked up the pace, and continued pushing until the end.

Six laps from the end I ran into Boston Bill's wife Cheryl. Bill runs up and down a mountain in south Phoenix every Wednesday, even in the heat, but I usually see Cheryl, who is a more casual runner (a lot faster than me when she tries), but in excellent shape. She asked me if I was doing the Mormon Lake Half Marathon up near Flagstaff this weekend. I'm not. She and her husband both are. She hasn't run a half marathon in two years, and has never run further.

I had to slow down a bit to talk with Cheryl, but I broke away and sprinted the last lap. The time was 1:42:46, mid-range for me, and not bad considering the slow start and the problems I've been fighting.

When I finished I ran into Caroll (see Another New Running Friend, and he, too, asked if I was running Mormon Lake. So I introduced him to Cheryl, who stopped two laps after me. One more link was made in the local running community.

As I walked out the door I felt completely relaxed and untired. There's no doubt in my mind that I could have taken off on another ten-mile run if I'd wanted to.

Like Nothing At All
Saturday, July 31, 1999

This afternoon I ran 22 miles (250 laps) on tRtNE. For a while it went so well that at fourteen miles the expression "like nothing at all" ran through my head.

I wish. Although it was an excellent run in toto, it was not entirely without a hitch.

Any way you look at it, 22 miles is a long way to run. One advantage I enjoy over some distance runners is that I genuinely enjoy running long, and cherish the time I can get out there and go for hour after hour. They are some of the best times of my life, even on the track. Trails are admittedly better.

Thursday I walked hard for two miles at a pace slower than Monday's similar effort, but still at well under 14:00 pace. I topped it off with forty minutes of strength training. Yesterday was a much appreciated rest day.

This morning I was out on my feet for two hours, as usual for a Saturday. My best Saturday long runs are on days when I can stay home in the morning. Those are almost non-existent, except for those days I take to run races. It's one of the facts of life that adds an extra challenge to my training program, something to find a way to overcome.

My Gadgets Revolt

At 12:46 PM, after four laps of warmup walking (not counted in the 22 miles), I began running. After running two laps I checked my watch and noticed it was on the wrong scale. Rats! Fortunately, I started my run exactly when the second hand on the wall clock hit twelve, so made a mental note to take my time off that clock.

The first 25 laps I had to fight off the onset of cramps in my right shin. This seems to happen lately every time I run the track in the clockwise direction.

A few months ago Bally's changed the direction schedule on the track. The new protocol must have been designed by someone from the planet Mo'ron. The default run direction on every track in the world is counterclockwise, unless explicit directions are posted saying otherwise. All track races are run counterclockwise. On most tracks runners can run any direction they want if no one is there, often the case on school tracks during off hours.

On tracks where the direction changes on different days, I would expect the majority of days in the week, and the days that people tend to use it most, to be designated as counterclockwise days. The track at Bally's was set up that way, until the forementioned Grinch from Mo'ron, or some recliner-dweller from a central office, who has never set foot on a track in his life, changed it for reasons having nothing to do with running, and had signs posted saying that Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are clockwise days. He probably got a merit raise for a job well done.

Ever since then I've had trouble with my shins. I look on this as yet another little challenge, and an opportunity to strengthen those weaker muscles. Meanwhile it hurts, and gives me an opportunity to gripe about something. I'm allowed to complain about so little.

At what I presumed was 97 laps I looked down and saw that my lap counter said seven laps. Huh?? It had been right all along. It's one of those metal mechanical doodads they use to count attendance at events. It's a virtually failsafe device. Not today. The gearage must have discombobulated itself and jumped a notch somehow. I'll have to keep an eye on it.

For a while I couldn't remember where I was supposed to be. Believing the digits column was correct, I guessed the tens by looking at the clock and making a quick calculation of where I should be, and clicked them off back to the right number by hand. Another problem solved.

Geezer Gets Noticed

For the past several months I've been seeing a young woman who runs sometimes as much as five miles, and does it well. She maintains good form and posture, with little up and down motion, gliding along at an 8:30 pace or better.

Excuse me if it sounds chauvinistic to say so, but there is nothing quite as entrancing as a well-trained female body in motion. If that weren't true nobody would go to the ballet. The male dancers may be able to leap higher and further, but in a pas de deux we all know who everyone watches, including the women in the audience, and why. It's just a sight worth beholding.

I've never spoken to this lady until two days ago, when she said Hi one evening. First contact. As I mentioned in Consequences of Being Shy, I rarely initiate conversations with people I haven't met. That applies particularly, and with some deliberateness, when it comes to women, who go to a gym like Bally's to exercise, not to be approached and bothered by strange men. Appreciating the possibility of apprehensiveness, I rarely make the first overture on general principles to avoid any misimpressions. On the other hand, I'm openly friendly toward anyone who takes the first step.

Today the lady in question ran a mile, took a break, stretched and did other exercises, then got back on the track for five more, during which time she passed me several times. We were the only ones on the track for most of that time. Eventually she quit, stretched another half an hour, and finally walked several laps.

As I was passing her the last time before she left, she spoke up, asking me how far I was going. When I said I was headed toward 22 miles her jaw dropped and eyes nearly popped out of her head. Ha! Geezer's still not too decrepit to impress a young chick.

Ahem. Enough said of that. As my wife reminded me, when I related it to her with amusement at dinner, she's the one I should be concerned about impressing. Quite so. Suzy is a lot tougher audience, but the rewards for success are better.

Surely I must look a bit nutty to some of the non-running weight lifters as I go by. There's a crowd of regulars in the free weights room, mostly big fellas with their hats on backwards, some of whom I've been seeing most of the five years I've been going there. Sometimes I can sense that people are looking at me and wondering: "Who is that guy!?"

Just a geezer with gumption, sir or ma'am. And I'd be pleased to make your acquaintance once I stop moving, in just a few hours.

Geezer Nearly Loses His Cookies

When the lady left the gym I barely ten miles done, but feeling high at the moment. I had no pains and was savoring the experience. But the biggest problem of the day was yet to come.

I followed a cycle of stopping to guzzle first Gatorade then water in great quantities once every 40 laps, while walking the lap. At 80 and 160 laps I also took a Succeed! electrolyte cap.

Finding the right mixture of water and electrolytes is a balancing act, and I'm still learning how to judge it. It is possible to have too much electrolyte, so I'm told.

At 175 laps, twelve minutes after the last S-cap, taken with over half a quart of water, I suddenly sensed a teeny bit of distress from my stomach. I figured either I was imagining it, or it would go away.

It was real, and it didn't go away. As the laps rolled by, the discomfort spread down to my gut, and before I knew it, I was dealing with a mild case of nausea. Though this problem is common among ultrarunners, I've never thrown up during a run. Nor did I want today to be the first time, especially on a track, where I would have to run for a bathroom, and certainly not on a day when I'd just impressed a young lady with my machismo.

Other than the stomach distress I was absolutely fine — no pain, no tiredness, easy breathing, heart rate steady at 135 (78.9% of maximum). I wanted to run forever. But my stomach had a different opinion.

My proposed solution was to slow down and tough it out until 200 laps, the next scheduled walk break. But nope! Suddenly, at lap 190, I found myself taking an unplanned walking lap. During that lap I debated over what to do. At halfway the decision was made for me — I had to hightail it to a bathroom.

If you are sensitive you might want to skip the next paragraph.

My stomach decided not to wait. One little urp with my hand over my mouth. Only a little water off the top came up. Nothing foul, thank goodness. Oops, a second little urp. More of the same. I was getting panicky as I neared the stairway, fearing a major blast of upchuck was imminent. The lockers and pool are on the first floor, and the gym and track are up 22 stairs. Then there was a third little urp. Same story. I was in a hurry.

Welcome back.

I made it and nothing happened. By the time I got into the locker room, I no longer felt the need for it. Cautiously, I parked my derriere on the nearest bench and sat quietly. I remained for less than thirty seconds before determining that this run was by no means over, and whatever just happened, I was once again fit to proceed.

Out the door I charged. I bounded back up the 22 stairs and hit the track, though I walked one more lap to be safe before running again. Instead of walking at 240, just ten laps from my goal, I broke again at 225, and continued to the end without further problem, though naturally I was tired by the time I quit.

Slow Is Us

I had scheduled six drink-and-walk laps. As it was, I still took six breaks. The barf break at 190 was two laps, with a forgivable amount of time sitting down, which nonetheless altogether put me a couple of minutes behind what I was hoping for.

My final time was 4:05:19, a PW of three records at that distance, but by barely minutes. C'est la vie! Whenever I do my best and can rationalize any anomalies, I'm not disappointed by a slow time. What should I expect? I'm a slow runner. I should hang a sign with a red flag on my butt that says "Slow Is Us."

Judging from the amount I've been drinking all evening, my hydration level must have gotten too low, despite having drunk a full quart of Gatorade followed by a full quart of water. It's four hours since I stopped running, and I'm just now slowing down my rate of water intake.

My only other physical problem today was an unusual amount of chafing. Yes, ye olde nipples took a scraping, not to mention my inner thighs, one curious spot on the underside of my right upper arm, and other places too delicate to mention. My feet fared well — no blisters or black toenails, even though I forgot to slather them in Vaseline.

I made my mileage goal for the week with a grand total of 51.57. The escalation phase is over. Now I hope to sustain it in the low fifties for the entire month of August.

Meanwhile, the four runners in the Sri Chinmoy race continue to run an average of 61 miles every single day on New York sidewalks during a record heat wave that is killing the rats who live in the sewers. Makes ya wonder, doesn't it?

Analysis Time

This being the last day of the month, it's time for me to analyze my month's totals and averages.

Most notable was a PR for a monthly total of 206.06 miles, my first PR of any description since March 20, and only my fifth of the year, as compared with 25 for all of 1998. But it was a whopper: a gain of 25.34 miles over the previous best, a 14% improvement.

This brings the year's total mileage up to 1102.73, an average of 5.20 per day. Last year I predicted that I would run fewer miles this year than last year (1825), but this will likely not prove to be the case. I'm on track to hit 1900 for the year, and will probably do even more.

The customary bad news is that my weight is holding steady at the third highest maximum of the year (184.6), and the highest minimum (179.0). The gauge seems to be stuck permanently on: =>TOO FAT!

Next month will be harder than this one. Now the real fun begins.

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