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Chapter 5:

Blame It On the Gumption
Sunday, August 1, 1999

Normal people, if they were inclined to run 22 miles in one day to begin with, would probably rest the next day while basking in the glory of their accomplishments. But I'm not like normal people. I'm on a mission, and in a fever to accomplish it. It must be the gumption.

The last two Sundays I've gone for ten-mile street walks. Today I kicked it up a level with a ten-mile walk on Christiansen Trail, a.k.a. T100, in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. This was my primary source of long runs in preparation for the Crown King 50K in March.

I'm glad it was. When I got to that race, I found that the last sixteen miles the terrain is comparable to T100 — rocky trail with steep hills, and nearly unrunnable in places. But it's good for walking.

Today it was 105 degrees, and felt more like 110. I filled the Go-Be to the brim with icy water and headed out. The trailhead is only seven minutes drive from my home. After slathering myself liberally with sunscreen, I began walking at full steam, starting my watch at 1:53 PM. I wasn't sore from yesterday, just a bit fatigued. The plan, as it was the last two weeks, was to walk as hard as I could for 1:15, giving myself credit for five miles, then turn around and head back.

I hadn't gone far before I realized that in my slathering routine I once again forgot to Vaseline my delicate parts, and was still feeling raw from yesterday. It was going to be a long day.

Although I had resolved to walk only, it was not long before I found myself driven to run the downhills, while fully realizing that the harder I hit the outbound direction, the more distance I would have to cover in returning. I couldn't help it. I ran no uphills at all to speak of today, but ran almost all the downhills. I was amazed that I was so strongly motivated after yesterday's run, and given the difficult conditions I was running under. But the trails are gentle on the legs, and I couldn't resist.

I'm bad at drinking while running. However, I'm quite good at drinking followed by choking, sputtering, gagging, and gasping for air. This holds true even when I'm aided by a tube coming out of a fancy hydration system. It's just plain hard to drink when you are also trying your best to suck in enough oxygen to avoid blacking out.

Perhaps I should practice running a dozen steps or so at a time while holding my breath and then recovering. Once that's mastered, it's mainly a matter of managing the mechanics of drinking.

Today I learned a good trick that I'd like to share with people who carry Camelbak-type hydration systems with tubes. I may be the last person on earth to figure this one out, but it was new to me.

I've always hated that the water sitting in the tube while running gets hot, and that hot water is the first gulp you get when you most need a cool blast. When water is short, I hate to spit out or even splash my face with any of what I'm carrying, but I likewise hate to swallow it.

Then I discovered that if I can suck on the tube, I can also blow into it. When I do this after taking a drink, I force whatever water is in the tube back into the insulated bladder, leaving only air in the tube.

This works well! Although I was out in scorching heat for two and a half hours, I was getting cold sips until past the turnaround point, and the tiny bit of water I had left at the end was still drinkable.

Pass it on.

The biggest problem I had today was with the stinging sweat mixed with sunscreen pouring in torrents into my eyes. I was losing sweat by the gallon. It was painful enough to take much of the pleasure out of the run, as I constantly took my sunglasses off and wiped my eyes on my saturated sleeve. It did little good.

Finally a light bulb went on. I'd been wearing a bandana around my neck, which probably did more to heat me up than protect my neck from the sun. I took the bandana off and turned my hat around backwards, then used the bandana the rest of the run to wipe my face. This proved to be so much better, it's a mystery why I didn't think of it sooner. It just goes to show you what the hot sun can do to your brain.

T100 is normally heavily traveled by bikers and hikers during more reasonable weather. Not today. I didn't see one single human soul until 1:55 into the run, a mountain biker who said a cheerful Hello! as he wheeled by. He was the only person I saw the entire trip. If I'd collapsed from heat exhaustion out there, it might have taken several hours before someone came along and found me.

Happily, I didn't see any rattlesnakes or scorpions today either, though there are many in the area. They had the sense to stay in the shade.

Remarkably, I scored a small negative split on this trip, despite the greater amount of uphill on the return. I turned around on my heel precisely when the stopwatch said 1:15:00, and stepped into the parking lot at the trailhead at 2:28:31. Don't ask how I did it. Maybe I was just anxious to be done.

Sometimes I wonder how it is that trail running is easier on the legs than running on streets. It must be because concrete and asphalt are harder than the random scattering of rocks, scree, gravel, dirt, and leaves found on trails, and landing on a level plane with no give to it jolts the spine and hammers the muscles and joints.

But ten miles on a trail does not equal ten miles on a street. The trail effort is immensely greater, because the running technique is much more demanding.

When running on extremely rocky surfaces, every footstrike is a crapshoot. You never know what you're going to land on. No two steps are on the same level and you rarely get a whole flat foot's worth of terra firma to push off of. Sometimes the rocks move when you land on them. The next step may be six inches higher than the last one, at a slight change in direction. You may have to adjust the length of your stride, and may get only a forefoot on the front edge of a rock rather than landing on your heel. Then the next step presents a whole new problem.

The angles and muscle responses to what is under the feet change with every step, and must be compensated for with strong ankles and joints. The eyes have to see what is coming and enable the mind to make decisions as quickly as new terrain comes into view. Doing that every step for two and a half hours in blistering heat leaves one not only physically whipped, but mentally exhausted as well.

Somehow, though, trail running is way more fun than running on a street or track, unless I misjudge and fall down, something I've done more often than I care to recall.

When I got home I weighed myself. The scale showed 5.2 pounds less than after yesterday's 22-mile run. Almost all of that is water loss, of course. It's now after 11:00 PM and I still haven't stopped drinking for the day.

Tomorrow I get to do nothing but lift weights.

The Wanderer
Tuesday, August 3, 1999

Some days running is a little tougher than on others — today, for instance. I'm still recovering from a many-miled weekend. Yesterday I lifted weights and did no running at all. Today it was my intent to do an easy three miles. I did the miles. They were certainly slow, but they weren't easy.

When I opened my gym bag this afternoon I saw that I forgot to pack either a running shirt or a T-shirt. Most days I wear a T-shirt to work, but today I wore a shirt that would not do for running.

So home I went, where I hopped into some running clothes, intent on running outdoors. I can handle up to four or five miles in 105-degree heat if I have to. So I loaded up my insulated water bottle with lemonade and drove off to the high school to the north, hoping to use the track there rather than enduring the asphalt streets of our boring neighborhood.

When I arrived at the school, the parking lot was full to the brim. On August 3?? I have no idea what was going on. I was obliged to drive to the city park three blocks further north.

The run that followed would have frustrated most people. The crushing heat and tiredness were tough enough obstacles to begin with. After a few minutes my body got used to the idea that I was going to be running for a while, but the heat prevented me from gaining any kind of speed at all. It felt like I was carrying two large suitcases.

It was strange having no predetermined route. All I wanted was to run for thirty minutes. First I ran the park's outer perimeter, then around an adjacent baseball field, through a field full of weeds, across a tennis court, up an alley, and around a fence, where I found a break that enabled me to get onto the school track I had wanted to run on in the first place. There wasn't a soul around. Obviously, the cars had nothing to do with pre-season football practice, my first guess. Given that I was going so slow I decided at least to run 33 minutes rather than 30. After six laps around the track I wound my way back, returned to my car too soon, so ran past it for two minutes, turned around, was still back too soon, ran past it again in the parking lot, turned back once more, and arrived again at 33:02, whereupon I came to a staggering halt. The Chicano workmen sitting in the bed of their pickup truck enjoying an after-work beer gave me a strange look, probably wondering why this loco gringo was acting like a pendulum. Sheesh.

But did I have fun? You bet. I did the best I was willing to do for today. As long as I can continue to do that every day, it's all I ask.

When Body and Mind Disagree
Friday, August 6, 1999

Occasionally my mind and body disagree with each other. Wednesday my mind told me I had little desire to spend ten miles as a pedestrian. After leaving Cyra-Lea at her piano lesson I readied myself for a four-mile walk, and promptly took off in the 102-degree heat like I was shot from a cannon. Within a few steps I was having a wonderful time.

The route that I walk on lesson days, being near the base of some small mountains, covers some reasonable long hills. I learned on that trek that when walking I prefer moderate uphills over comparable downhills. Leaning into an uphill vigorously causes a pleasant stretching of muscles from the top of my leg to my midsection that don't get exercised as much when running. Despite there being quite a bit more uphill than down in the inbound direction, I returned to the start with a negative split by a margin of 1:07.

Two minutes later Cyra-Lea came out from her lesson and we headed for the gym. But I felt adequately worked out for one day. My mind told me that it was late, I was hungry, I had other things to do that night, and I didn't want to run at all, much less begin a whole 10K. However, if I cut my run, Cyra-Lea would have to miss her own workout.

So run I did. Much to my mind's surprise, my body reminded me immediately that walking four miles outside serves as a great warmup, and that coming a few minutes later into the air conditioned gym is refreshing. Before I knew it, I was running resolutely and enjoying it. The net result was a satisfying training session at medium pace that left me tingling and dripping.

Yesterday (Thursday) my mind and body traded places. I had only three miles on the agenda, and arrived at the gym enthused by the prospect of running them hard. My body said huh-unh.

In half a lap I knew I was by no means recovered adequately from Wednesday yet. I forced myself to go harder than was fun, knowing that at least the discomfort would not last long. The best I could do was barely under a 10:00 pace, over a minute per mile slower than I'm capable of on a good day. (I've run 10K at an 8:51 pace.) No matter. The miles still count, and the session is behind me now.

The lesson I've learned the last two days is: When the mind and body disagree, the body wins.

This month will be grueling. Piling up large numbers of miles is the number one goal. In other training phases I would act more reasonably, and be inclined to give myself more breaks. But there is no way around it — the only way to meet a mileage target is to get out and put one foot after another. If I drop or cut short a session, I fall behind, and because I'm pushing the outer limits of what I'm capable of, I probably won't make it.

It's the same problem one encounters when setting out to achieve a PR. It requires a complete and uncompromised effort from beginning to end, or else it will fail.

Today is a rest day. Ahhh. Tomorrow I will go 24 miles. Why I'm doing that after doing 22 just last Saturday is a topic for the next installment.

Bottle Me Up and Sell Me
Saturday, August 7, 1999

This afternoon I ran 24.04 miles, 273 laps on the Road that Never Ends. I felt so good the whole way someone could have packaged me and sold me on the black market.

My time was 4:14:06, a PR by 1:45, the best of four recorded runs at that distance. I owe a debt of thanks to Mike from Eritrea for the PR, because for nearly six miles he ran me harder than I would have gone without him. Given that my recent paces have generally been slow, this represents an admirable effort on my part, and a major step forward. I'm pleased with myself.

With today's run I tallied 51.07 miles for the week. Next week's long run will be only a half marathon. The week in toto will be more difficult than this week. With a shorter long run, I will have to run more during the week, with no days of rest until Friday.

Why Train Beyond the Marathon Distance?

Most distance runners in my class alternate weeks of long runs with weeks that have shorter runs. So why did I run 24 miles today after running 22 just last week? Because somehow I got out of phase in June, like a marcher leading with his right foot, and have been on course for a head-on crash with this week ever since.

One solution would have been to take two light weeks in a row, but I didn't want to at this stage of my project. Another was to remain out of phase, but that would leave me with my longest run before Twin Cities Marathon either too soon or too late for my liking. It seemed that the best plan was to bear down and get through unusually long runs two weeks in a row.

Being no longer a beginner, and in training for ultrarunning, I don't consider the marathon distance to be quite the Holy Grail and sine qua non of running that I used to. Therefore, though I have never yet done it, I have no compunction about training beyond the marathon distance. My upcoming Saturday long runs will be: a half marathon, full marathon, half marathon, and on the first weekend in September an indoor 50K. (Yes, that's nuts. I'm not likely ever to repeat the feat.) Then I can cut back for two weeks, before tapering until Twin Cities on October 3.

The Dirty Details

Today I did many things right. I began with getting over nine hours sleep last night, and eating the right things during the morning. As usual on Saturday, I was up early, and was out on my feet in the heat visiting people from door-to-door for over two hours. This doesn't make a great prelude to running, but is a circumstance of my life that I gladly accept, and it will not change. It's a handicap I don't have to deal with when I take off to run a race.

I chose to wear my Montrail Vitesse trail shoes rather than my Brooks Addiction IIs. The Montrails, not widely-known by runners who run no further than marathons, are immensely popular among ultrarunners, including those at the top. They're definitely better on trails than on streets or the track. I wore them because I like them, they are comfortable when my feet are under great stress, and they are a half size larger than my Addictions. Recently my toes have been taking a drubbing — I currently have three black ones — so I theorized a little extra room in the toe box might help. It did.

At 1:00 PM I arrived at the track, toting a quart of Gatorade, a quart of fizzy water, three packets of GU, two bandanas, and a pillbox full of Succeed! electrolyte capsules and Advil. The only thing I forgot to do today was to take a tube of Vaseline. My delicates got annoyingly chapped again.

I stuck faithfully to my break schedule, drinking and eating and walking every forty laps, and running all the rest. Last week I got mildly nauseous at seventeen miles and had to make a slight adjustment to overcome it. I experienced none of that today.

At 165 laps, Mike from Eritrea showed up. Mike runs much faster than I do when he wants to. Often he chooses to run with me. Whenever that happens, no matter how hard I try to resist it, I always wind up increasing my pace too much, even when I try hard not to. He asked me how far I was going. Twenty-four miles. How far did I have to go? Nine and a half. Great! He hasn't been running much recently and needed a good workout, so said he'd be delighted with himself if he could hang with me for that long.

Uh-oh! I had been in a euphoric state of runner's high for at least the past eight miles. I've never told a runner who has wanted to run with me that I'd rather he not do it. Would I be induced to run too hard, ruining my groove? Physical energy during a run is like money. Everyone who has ever lived on a limited budget knows: if you spend all your money at the beginning of the week, you eat Top Ramen instant soup the end of the week. There is only so much to draw on, and when it's gone, it stays gone until next payday.

Sure enough, it wasn't long before we were running much harder than I had been. I'd been cruising along with a heart rate of around 128 BPM, 75% of my MHR, hard enough for a long run. When I checked my receiver, I was ticking at 149 BPM, 87% of MHR. The pace was a bit rich for the distance. Despite it, I was still feeling wonderful, so I didn't resist it.

On top of it, Mike wanted to chat. It seems they just found out his wife is pregnant. It will be their fourth. They have three boys already; the oldest is 17, and the youngest is 6, so there is quite a spread there.

Eventually we were joined by two other runners I see often, one I know only as Steve, and another with an Italian accent, around age forty, whose name I have not yet learned. The Italian is a superb runner. He can run ten miles or more if he wants to. Most of the time he runs shorter, and he is fast. His stride is unusually compact. When he sprints his turnover rate must be well over 100 cycles per minute. This afternoon he graciously joined our little excursion for a dozen laps.

This proved to be my opportunity to break off from the rest. As I finally started to wind down, and the others became engrossed in conversation with each other, I dropped behind.

When I stopped at 200 laps to pick up my water, I planned on taking an electrolyte capsule. My Tupperware pillbox was gone! The only conclusion I can draw is that some lowlife pondscum feeder stole it from me. I definitely had it before, took an E-cap and an Advil out of it, and put it right back. And now it was gone.

It's a cute little pillbox. But the thing that frosts me most is that I really wanted a capsule. Here I came to the gym, intent on doing a hard afternoon's serious work, prepared for it by doing everything right, brought all my gear and GU and liquids and pills, and some pea-brained stoop just decided to take it for himself, as though he couldn't tell that the Tupperware box sitting on top of a towel alongside two bottles, a row of GU packets, and a soaking wet bandana, wasn't lost or left there accidentally, but belonged to someone who was at that moment working on the track. The loss may have been minor, but that's a plain old case of stealing, not to mention being callously inconsiderate.

The toughest part of the run was the next forty laps, until my last break at 240. Mike dropped out after six miles, and I was left alone again. At 220 I slowed down to a wobbly shuffle. At the last break I took a long drink at the drinking fountain and splashed cold water all over my face and head. This worked. From then on I felt revived. I didn't have any kick left for the end, but my last 33 laps were run considerably faster per lap than the 40 before it.

With the increased intensity of that middle section, my average HR for the run was 134, 78% of MHR, higher than it would have been without Mike's companionship. There were times when I was pulsing in the mid-150s, and my HRM said I maxed out at 161. I rarely get it that high, except in interval or tempo runs.

Boredom Comes from Within

People often wonder how I avoid boredom on long runs, particularly running on a smallish track. They usually add that they would certainly be desperately bored themselves. My knee-jerk inclination is to respond with a comment such as, "I'm sorry you find yourself such a boring person," but I don't because it wouldn't be nice.

Boredom comes from within. I feel sorry for persons who must be entertained by things external to prevent boredom. I can't remember ever being bored while running. It may sound egotistical, but when I'm running, I'm with myself, and I don't find myself boring. I'm a creative person — a musician and a writer and an engineer and a spiritual person, in addition to being a runner, and can always tap into a plentiful supply of interesting notions to occupy my thoughts.

Sure, I get impatient sometimes, wishing the run was over for a variety of reasons, from tiredness to concern with other matters that need tending to, or from lack of concentration. But I don't get bored.

Putting Things in Perspective

As I write these words, I'm aware that by now, and no more than two or three hours ago, Ed Kelley has completed and won the Sri Chinmoy 3100 mile race, running 5648.69 laps on a sidewalk around a high school in Queens, NY, in a time of 48 days plus probably about 11 hours. Two of his competitors will likely finish tomorrow, and the last one will finish on Tuesday.

The human soul is capable of more than most of us ever dreamed of.

Saying Uncle
Monday, August 9, 1999

Hokey dokey, folkeys. I know when to say uncle.


It isn't just that I'm tired from an unusually hard weekend of running, although I most definitely am. Real Life stepped in and added an important chore into the scheme of things — two chores, actually.

Yesterday afternoon, when I tried to clean the swimming pool, the end of the vacuum hose broke. Both ends are split, so I needed to go buy new ends, fix the hose, and clean my pool before it turns green with algae.

Today, rather than heading to the gym, I went to the pool supply store a few blocks from my house and then went home, fantasizing that I might still be motivated when I was done to go for a walk of some sort. However, as I opened the front door, my wife said to me in her inimitable way, "PICK YOUR BROTHER UP FROM THE AIRPORT!!!"

Oops! Last week I had picked up Dwight and Julie at 5:00 AM to drop them both off at the airport. Dwight was on his way to see our mother. Julie was on her way to Istanbul, Turkey, to clean up a toxic waste dump.[9] When I left them, I assured Dwight I would pick him up and return him home at 3:45 this afternoon. I forgot to add the task to my calendar and it never crossed my mind again from the time I left them at the airport last week.

[9] Less than one week after she returned, a large portion of Turkey was turned into a new sort of toxic waste dump, when one of the biggest earthquakes in the region's history struck, killing thousands, and leveling countless homes and other structures.

Putt, putt, putt! That's the sound of Lynn scurrying to the airport, where Dwight was waiting patiently in the heat. Putt, putt, putt! That's the sound of Lynn scurrying back to Dwight's house on the northwest side of town. Putt, putt, putt! That's the sound of Lynn scurrying home to do the job he had originally intended to do.

By the time I finished it was close to 7:00 PM, and although I was no longer feeling inordinately tired, and it was not horribly hot, I decided to play it safe and call it a rest day. Even with no mileage today, my last seven consecutive days add up to 51.07 miles. More would be too much right now. That statistic has proven to be a useful guide recently.

There is a possibility I may snag the lost miles on Friday instead of resting, since I'm doing only a half marathon on Saturday. If so, I'll make my target of a fifty-mile week. I'll have to see how it goes the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, three people have now finished the Sri Chinmoy 3100 mile race. The last, the lone woman, who was ahead for a week in July, will finish late tomorrow.

I Feel Fine
Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Silly me. Yesterday I forgot entirely to mention that I did my ten-mile walk on Sunday afternoon, when it was 102 degrees. Because I'd run a great 24-miler the day before, I limited it strictly to walking — no running at all, except to get across a few intersections. But I pushed it hard.

In the evening we entertained guests, so by Monday I was beat, as previously described. I could have walked if I'd forced myself, but running was out of the question.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I ran-walked 10K at the track, wanting to cover the distance without unduly stressing my still throbbing legs. I walked the first four laps, and thereafter ran eight and walked one until done, except that I ran the last eleven laps without interruption.

The real test of recovery was today. Could I muster up the energy for a full-blooded ten-miler on the third day after a 34-mile weekend?

I both could and did. I arrived at the gym anxious to get started, and enthusiastic about the run. The first three laps I ran slowly in order to get my body used to the idea. Then I picked it up, and ran steadily, increasing intensity significantly the last twenty laps. The time was 1:39:39, my eleventh fastest of 36 recordings at the distance, and fourth fastest of 1999.

This installment isn't particularly instructive, funny, philosophical, reflective, or even very interesting. I have no lessons or anecdotes to share. But one thing I know — I'm in a solid groove right now, and am headed in the right direction. Everything I've been planning for months is working out. Life is good!

Goofy Runners
Thursday, August 12, 1999

Many inexperienced runners show up at the gym to do a few laps. One sort in particular I refer to as the goofy runners. My objective here is not to ridicule them, but to make an amusing, self-deprecating comparison, which will follow.

We were all beginners at one time. We started working out, and whether deliberately or by sheer experience, we got better. And we learned in the process to be analytical and observant. At least I did. One advantage of running at the gym is that I get to watch many other people running.

As for me — although I remain slow and will always be so, I've tried hard to correct any biomechanical problems I am aware of. I'm sure a coach could point out plenty of flaws. However, I believe I run basically correctly for an uncoached runner.

In this month's Runner's World there's a two-page spread of a guy running, demonstrating what is supposed to be perfect form. Whether it really is or not I won't debate here. It looks mighty good to me.

Two nights ago I sat and studied the picture carefully, reading each paragraph accompanying the various body parts, and compared my own running. Then yesterday during my entire ten-mile run, and all through today's 10K, I paid attention to form. Sometimes I would forget for a while, then it would pop into my mind suddenly, whereupon I'd give myself a surprise inspection.

In auditing myself this way I was reasonably pleased with what I saw: my face, shoulders and hands are consistently relaxed, my arms are at the right angle and swing back and forth, not across my chest, my position is straight up and down, my hips are forward, I land on my heel and push off from my toes, and I take quick steps with a turnover rate that is around eighty cycles per minute. I don't bob up and down, slouch, or tighten any muscles, at least not until I get desperately tired.

My stride is short, which is one reason I run slowly. The perimeter of the track is covered with mirrors, giving me plenty of opportunity to watch myself, in addition to increasing the feeling of openness in that closed space.

Now you know why I run with my eyes nearly shut most of the time.

The goofy runners are the ones who violate these principles of form, sometimes all of them at once. Some look like escapees from an Australian zoo. Some rock back and forth, rotating their whole upper body from the hips on every step, swinging their arms in front of them, bounding up and down as though they were leaping over sleeping dogs lying on the track, pumping their knees, heads held like they're looking for ants crawling on the ceiling, heaving chests puffed out rather than breathing diaphragmatically, landing on their toes, running with loping six-foot strides, their feet striking far ahead of their bodies. Others run with their toes splayed out, landing as though they are trying to lead with their heels.

Most of these runners last no more than a half dozen laps, and most I never see again. The younger ones, who often show up in pairs, can sometimes be seen five minutes after they first appear, bent over double and clutching their sides beside the track. Some of the kids among them probably think to themselves, "Well, I guess I sure showed that geezer how to run!" As a teenage friend laughingly told me once, "They storm by older people because they think it's funny. They're kids. What do you expect from children?" Coming from him it was a funny remark.

Little do these hot dogs know that sometimes I've already been running for hours before they get there, or will still be running hours after they have left, or both.

The amusing thing about it is this: Nearly every single one of those goofy runners is way faster than me. In a dead sprint of fifty yards almost anyone with two legs, or even one leg, a good crutch, and a little practice, can beat me. But I'll bet there aren't many who can run longer than me, even if they slow down to my pace. Even my seventeen-year-old daughter, who occasionally runs 10Ks way slower than me, can beat me on a single lap burst.

The Beat Goes On

I'm still going strong. Today was a reasonably good 10K at 9:39 pace. I was never comfortable, but I didn't weaken and slow down. I avoided looking at the clock the whole time, and when I finished, found I missed going under an hour by 22 seconds. It seems I should be able to go sub-1:00 consistently, as I was doing a year ago, but presently I'm finding that magic goal to be elusive. Perhaps if I would precalculate split times and watch the clock more closely I would do better.

On the other hand, the cumulative total mileage for my previous seven days now stands at 57.28. The first of those seven days was a zero, so if I run five miles tomorrow to make up the session I missed on Monday, tomorrow's accumulation will jump up to over 63 miles, pushing the upper limits of what is practical and plausible for me.

There's little room for flexibility in a schedule that is closely packed to allow for fifty pedestrian miles a week all this month. When I was forced by circumstances to cancel my run last Monday, I thought I would lose the five miles and not make the goal this week.

Then I considered running the missed session yesterday instead of resting. But I seem to perform better doing a long run following a day's rest rather than a medium long run without any rest preceding it. So yesterday I rested, and instead of running the half marathon I planned to run today, I ran eighteen miles.

I'm glad I did. My last three Saturday runs have all been superb. And next Saturday I'll attempt a full marathon at the gym.

Quick, someone send me a gift certificate from Dr. Kavorkian!

I wasn't as rested as I had wanted to be, and was worn down from being out in the heat for two hours this morning. It was only in the low nineties, but the humidity is way up. It would have been better if I could have just done my run. That's not usually how my life goes, so I just have to deal with it.

At Bally's, on the Road that Never Ends, eighteen miles is 205 laps. I decided to divide it into five sections of 41 laps each, drinking and walking laps 41, 82, 123, and 164.

At the start it was tough going. At lap 36, four laps before my first break, I noticed that I was finally running smoothly and enjoying it. I was tempted to run through the break, but decided not to mess with the plan.

Segment two was better, but not great. On the third leg I suddenly caught fire and cranked up the pace considerably. Once again I was tempted to run through the break, but decided against it by reminding myself I was not running for time today, and that I have a big week coming up, in running, in work, and in Real Life, so I didn't want to take a chance on blowing a gasket.

At the beginning of segment four, a big, long-haired, young guy I'd never seen before and who had been watching me, said as I went by him, "Awesome, deewde!" He was still around an hour later, and I hadn't slowed down. Segments four and five were both better than the first and second, but the third took honors for best effort.

My time was 3:08:43, my second fastest of five recorded runs at that distance. I was pleased with that, given that I've been running so much recently. Going the extra distance left me with a total of 52 miles for the week. I finished off today with twenty minutes of light weights, something I've necessarily neglected lately.

Presently I'm content to hover above but around the fifty mile a week level. Raising it higher than that would not bring me any significant additional benefits, and it could put me at risk of injury or overtraining. At the same time I'm continuing to extend my long run, with a marathon training run planned for next week, and a 50K in three weeks before I begin tapering.

A simple arithmetic consequence of fixing the weekly mileage while increasing the long runs is that I can rest a little more next week. Tomorrow I'll do the ten-mile walk-run routine that I've been doing every Sunday for the last month, and a ten-miler on Wednesday. Subtracting those and the marathon from fifty miles leaves me barely four additional miles needed between Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I've decided to do them all on Tuesday, and cross train on Monday. I have some important research and teaching to prepare to present on Thursday evening. If I have time I'll do a little strength training after work, but I'm more likely to rest both Thursday and Friday, setting me up nicely for Saturday.

The beat goes on, and it's as strong as my heart. I'm feeling invincible.

Running On Another Planet
Saturday, August 14, 1999

Runners who live where they can nonchalantly put on shorts and shoes and head out the door, maybe with a bottle of water, have no idea what it's like to go out in the desert heat. Ask yourself if you'd dress the same for a spacewalk as you do for your run and you'll get an idea what I mean. Running in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve in the dead of summer is not merely hot. It's like stepping onto another planet.

Running in the desert is no less inconvenient than running at the gym. It takes a good twenty minutes just to get ready. First I start drinking. I put on my magic Montrail Vitesse trail running shoes. I wear shorts with pockets because I have to carry stuff like keys, ID, food, and pills. I need to be sure to drop the darker lens set into my Oakley M-frames to get maximum protection, unless I want to acquire a splitting headache. Usually I choose to wear a cotton T-shirt, probably because it covers more of my body than a Coolmax singlet. I put on both a headband and a running hat. I carry a hand towel, not just a bandana. I grease up all my tender parts with Vaseline. A PowerBar goes into my pocket.

As the last preparation before leaving, I put three cups of ice into my CamelBak Go-Be, and top it off with filtered water from the refrigerator. I love my Go-Be, but anyone who has one knows that filling it is no trivial task. Usually then I have a mess to clean up in the kitchen before I leave.

When I get to the trail, only seven minutes drive away, I go through the disgusting ritual of dousing myself with gobs of gooey sunscreen, strapping the Go-Be on tightly, picking up all my gear, and making sure I've put my key in my pocket, not in the trunk of the car. Then I'm finally ready to start walking or running.

It's a chore to be sure, but if I want to get away from the Road that Never Ends, that's my alternative. So that's what I did today.

Furthermore, I hammered it. My routine on these Sunday walks has been to get as far as I can in exactly 1:15:00, call it five miles if I've put in a good effort, and then make my way back as fast as I can.

This time I resisted the temptation to run the downhills going out. Coming back I trotted every downhill I could. There's definitely more uphill returning than going out, but I finished in 2:22:27, a negative split by 7:33. I ran out of water, but was only 15 minutes from the end. The drinking fountain at the trailhead pumps about a quart of cooled water before it runs hot; I emptied it.

The trail is heavily traveled during the cooler months. Today I saw only two bikers and one walker the whole time I was out. I didn't see any other living creatures at all, not even birds.

This has been another highly productive running weekend. Tomorrow I get to do only strength training and can rest my legs. I've earned it.

My Own Niche
Tuesday, August 17, 1999

I've formed a singular relationship with the Road the Never Ends, the 155-yard track at Bally's gym. Most runners can run faster than me. Quite a few can even run farther. But even some experienced ultrarunners have told me they would have a hard time doing what I do. It seems my curious circumstances in life have led me to find my own niche in the world of running. Somehow I doubt that it will make me famous, though — except maybe in the National Enquirer.

Runners have different reasons for running. For instance, some runners talk about running fifty miles a week so they can qualify for Boston. I would have to knock fifty minutes off my PR to qualify for Boston. When I run fifty miles in a week it's for a different reason. I run fifty miles a week so I can say I ran fifty miles a week. It's all about the training, not the races.

I would run even if I didn't produce this journal. I have in the past, and will again when this project is completed. Nevertheless, I will admit that going public with my activities has provided me with extra incentive to keep working at my goals. I used to be a musician. Every performer does better with an audience.

Yesterday the theater was dark. I worked out with weights for forty minutes. I was careful to avoid leg work entirely, other than to do some good stretching.

When the curtain went up today, I needed only four miles. After half an easy lap I felt like a big hand pushed me from behind. I changed my motion from lazy warmup-shuffle mode to run-like-I'm-leading-Boston mode. OK, I thought to myself, I don't know where this spark came from, but I'll stretch it out for a lap or two just to see how it goes.

By the third lap I was gasping. My options were the same as they always are under these circumstances: slow down and wimp out, or stop whining and run. Today I took the latter, wondering how long I could keep it up before my lungs burst into flames. Somehow I managed to hold the pace the whole four miles. It wasn't fun and it wasn't pretty, but it did the job.

I've read that one should practice speed work for the sake of working on form. This theory holds true for about two laps. As exhaustion sets in, followed quickly by discomfort and then desperation, the whole act falls apart.

I finished with my fifth best recorded time at the distance of 46 entries, a full 1:48 off my PR, but still my best at the distance this year.

The question that now presents itself is: Did I ruin myself for my ten miles tomorrow?

A Marathon at the Track
Saturday, August 21, 1999

This time of year many distance runners who race are getting down to the nitty-gritty polishing phase of their fall marathon training. Some runners here in the southwest desert don't do fall marathons, at least not an early one, because it's too blasted hot to train for them in the summer. That is, of course, unless you're a nut like me who trains for marathons in an air conditioned gym.

It could be worse. I could be running on a treadmill.

Today I ran 298 laps on tRtNE, officially 26.24 miles if the posted distance around the track is correct. That's 137 feet farther than a marathon, if my calculations are correct. Close enough.

Details will follow. But first this message from our Sponsor.

Running and Spirituality

Recently on the Ultra List there has been a discussion on the theme of spirituality and racing. A subscriber requested that readers submit so-called spiritual experiences they have had in connection with running.

The honorable good Doctor George Sheehan used to punctuate his more strenuous runs with frequent loud outcries to his Lord. I don't think this's what the inquirer had in mind.

I've been known to call on mine while running, too, and I keep Him close in mind at most other times, but prefer to do so privately. I don't think that's the sort of spiritual experience the spiritual inquirer was looking for either.

It seems to me that what he expected, and what people responded with, centered largely around feel-good spirituality. Many people believe that when you feel good and are happy about something, that is a spiritual experience. Most of what was described as spiritual experience had to do with the enjoyment of attractive scenery, and feeling high on endorphins and other substances during a run.

It's not a coincidence that in ancient Greek the word for spiritism (the practice of communicating with supposedly dead spirits) was pharmakia, which means "druggery." In those days spiritistic religion was characterized by mumbo jumbo ritual and was closely associated with the taking of drugs. If one believes that spirituality means getting emotionally pumped up, whether from caffeine, or a natural drug like endorphins, or whatever else pins the needle on his spiritometer, he should ask himself honestly whether it's possible that he is getting a false reading.

One reader of the original version of this segment responded that she worships a different God from me. I'm sure this is true.

Another said she finds God under rocks and in the woods. As innocently naïve and simplistic as this may sound outwardly, her statement is not altogether emotional poetry or without foundation. It is undeniably true that rich satisfaction can be had by anyone from experiencing our natural surroundings close up.

For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world's creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, ... — Romans 1:20

But don't make the mistake of confusing experiences enjoyed while running with spirituality. There is no substitute for the real thing. Spirituality deals with concern over matters of the spirit. Put plainly, it has to do specifically with concern over matters relating to God.

As his opening statement in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need." It has been my long-time personal experience, based on talking face-to-face with thousands of persons about it over the past thirty years, to observe that many persons manifest no consciousness at all of such a need, yet live quite contentedly without it. They substitute other things for this need, just as a person with one leg substitutes a crutch or prosthetic device for his missing leg, and gets along happily without the missing part as though it was never needed in the first place.

Others think of spirituality in terms of devotion to some ideal. If a person is a dedicated runner, and running is the main thing in his life, then running has taken the place of spirituality, but even then it is not the same thing as spirituality. Running is a pleasant, healthful, and richly rewarding activity, but running is just running. It has no deeper meaning.

Show me a person to whom running is the most important thing, and I will show you a person who needs to get a life. Here is a simple truth: We are what we do. If all we do is run, then all we are is runners. Being a runner is good, and I'm proud to call myself one, but it's not enough.

That ends the preaching for this book. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.

The Big Picture

Most people who run marathons do them early in the morning after a good night's sleep, and it is the primary activity in their day.

Today I slept in until 6:30 AM, a little later than usual for me on a Saturday. I did some studying, then went out in the heat, on foot and in a tie, as usual. Although I cut my work a little short this morning, by the time I got home and out the door to the gym it was 11:30 AM. It was going to be a long afternoon.

This time I performed the detailed offices of my ritual with accuracy: I got the right shoes, the right (ahem) drugs (just Advil and electrolyte capsules!), Vaseline in the right places, plenty of GU and Gatorade, and all the rest. The only thing I forgot was to carry my bandanas up to the gym floor. I decided to do without them.

Running 26.24 miles on a two-lane track is a chore, there's no two ways about it. I saw only two people I ever say hello to all afternoon, so was essentially alone the whole time. But I wasn't there for social visits or to impress anyone else. It was time to do a big job.

It was my earnest desire to run the whole 26.2 miles except for hydration breaks, allowing myself one lap in forty to chug fluids and gobble GU. In this goal I was successful.

I'll spare you the lap by lap account. Each one is much the same as the next one and the one before it. Each one takes about 140 steps, and the fast ones aren't much faster than the slow ones. There are no oceans, rippling ponds, flowing brooks, redwood forests, or flowering meadows for me to run near and have a "spiritual" encounter with; just four right turns per 155 yards, lots of mirrors, and a white stripe down the middle of a hard, dark green rubberized path surrounding a bunch of machines being used by sweaty, grunting people.

Sometimes I get through these long ordeals by viewing them one lap at a time: "OK, I got through that one, now let's do another." It seems I can always do one more, no matter what.

Today may have been the exception. My split time at the half was 2:18, on target for a 4:36, which would have been very good for a training run. I wasn't pushing for a great time. I felt strong and steady right up to twenty miles, the traditional falling-over juncture in a real marathon. From then on it was no longer fun, but a laborious job that urgently needed finishing.

With only twelve laps to go I began to feel distress in my stomach, like the nausea I felt on July 31, that took me off the track for a few minutes, thinking I was going to lose it. Being almost done, I didn't want to blow it, and I didn't want to walk. By this time I had slowed greatly, but my heart rate was the same as it had been most of the afternoon, hovering around 135, 79% of my MHR. So I proceeded cautiously. One at a time the remaining laps clicked off. Finally I finished, exhausted, with a positive split of six or seven minutes, with the final time of 4:43:20.

Afterward I didn't even take a warmdown walking lap. I went straight to the aerobics floor fifteen feet away, found a mat, and laid down for five minutes before proceeding to do a little stretching.

I was out of there in less than ten minutes. My day was far from over. I had things to do. We had guests arriving for dinner in less than an hour, and I had to go home, help out, clean up, and be ready to be a lively, cheerful host for our on-time company. And so it went, bringing me finally to my back-room office, the computer, the writing of this account, and the end of a lovely day. And tomorrow I will be up early once again to continue the studying I left unfinished this morning.

It's only in retrospect that I can appreciate what great shape I must be in, when I consider what a busy day I had. Up early to study, out walking in the heat, run a little old marathon (as if it was a chore like mowing the lawn), entertain guests at a dinner party, and write a column-length article. I believe I'll sleep soundly tonight.

Catching Up
Sunday, August 22, 1999

Yesterday I neglected to remember that the previous report was written last Tuesday, and forgot to account for what I've done since then.

On Wednesday I repeated the same routine I've done several times recently, walking four miles outdoors while Cyra-Lea was at her piano lesson, then following that with a moderate 10K at the gym.

On both Thursday and Friday I rested completely, in preparation for the indoor marathon I ran yesterday. My week's total distance was recorded as 51.59 miles, bringing me to today.

This morning I was up at 6:30 to get finish preparing a public lecture I gave this morning at a Kingdom Hall in another part of town. After the meeting, some friends took us to lunch, where I ate spicy jalapeño chicken on pasta, probably not the best thing to eat prior to heading out for a desert walk.

It was 3:00 PM before I was free to go for a long walk. I've been choosing one of two routes each Sunday: the difficult mountain preserve, or the streets starting from my house. Today I chose the latter, not feeling up to the challenge of the hills and rocky trail.

The whole trip was an ordeal, as I struggled to keep moving quickly the whole way. It seemed hotter than usual. I thought it was just my imagination, or else the jalapeños, and that I was just suffering from a combination of tiredness from yesterday and a heavy meal at lunchtime. When I got home I learned the high temperature was 111 degrees today, and the current temperature was 109. That would explain a thing or two.

This week will be one of the toughest I've ever faced. A constant mileage goal, with a shorter long run, which I'm planning on next week, means longer short runs during the week. It seems I can handle the long runs, but the short midweek runs nearly do me in. The next four days I'm planning five miles, 10K, ten miles, and 10K, before I take a rest day on Friday. Frankly, I don't know if I'm up to it.

Fat Man's Misery
Thursday, August 26, 1999

In the summer of 1954, after completing sixth grade, at 106 pounds I was an overweight eleven-year-old early adolescent. That summer I got my first and only crew cut, because the singing group called the Crew Cuts had made this the latest fashion statement. It did nothing to enhance my blubbery appearance. Frankly, I looked like what I was — the kid who was always chosen last in sports.

In July my father took one of my younger brothers and me on a camping trip through the Wisconsin Dells, where we hiked a guided tourist trail that had a narrow pass between two rocks, aptly labeled Fat Man's Misery. It was indeed narrow enough that an unusually large person might have difficulty squeezing through it. There was room to crawl under it, but not much.

Being somewhat worried at the time about my future body configuration, the experience stuck with me. I concluded that I did not want to be a miserable fat man who got asthma every time he did something strenuous.

Remarkably, I grew out of that phase during the next two years. By the time I graduated from high school my weight was normal. I had even been chosen to be the drum major of the band my last two years, a job that I was glad to have, not for the glory, but because then I didn't have to suffer trying to play my trombone while marching around on a cold and windy football field. But I did have to fit the uniform, which was made for a trim person.

Later, like most persons who never exercise and eat all the wrong things after they leave college, my weight crept up once again, until in mid-1994, at age 51, I had become an out-of-shape 220-pound blob who no longer could fit into any of my clothes. That period marked the beginning of my present involvement with running, as described earlier in this journal.

My weight bottomed at 170 by August of 1996, not long before I ran my first half marathon. That reading was probably taken in a dehydrated state after a long run. Not long afterward I stabilized at between 173—175, which I held for at least two years.

Then my weight started to creep back up. For I while I held it under 180. This morning my deadly accurate won't-tell-a-lie Tanita digital scale with strain gauges strained its gauges all the way up to 184.6, two tenths of a pound less than the most I've weighed since I lost a big chunk after starting to exercise regularly.

The by-line I've appropriated for myself includes the expression "a slow, fat, geezer with gumption." There's admittedly a certain amount of calculated exaggeration in that description, aimed at adopting a writerly persona. I'm slow, it can't be denied, as my consistent eightieth-plus percentile finishes demonstrate. But I neither look nor act my age,[10] nor at twenty pounds heavier than I would like to be, would most persons other than me consider me to be much overweight, if compared with the average non-exercising recliner-dwelling sloth. Whenever I've stood up properly the excess hasn't even been noticeable until recently.

[10] Is this a good thing?

In any case, it remains true that underneath the outer layer of pudge lives a strong body that can carry my bulk a long time for a long distance. And I recently measured my resting heart rate while sitting at the computer, tanked on coffee, at 42.

So the thing that has me concerned is the trend seen in light of the knowledge that I'm in my second year of sustaining an average of over thirty-five miles of running a week, and am now in my fifth consecutive week of fifty-plus pedestrian miles, with more than a month of forty-plus weeks before that. And though I haven't talked about it much in this journal, I do as much strength training as time and energy allow, in addition to the running.

The solution for most afore-described gutpiles begins with more exercise. In my case more running and working out would not only be impossible, it would be ineffective. All that's left is for me to eat less, even though I don't think that I eat all that much to begin with. Therein lies my personal "fat man's misery," and a summary of the only thing wrong in the present state of affairs in my training.

A Prophecy Fulfilled

The prediction I delivered on Sunday about how difficult this week would be has so far proven to be true prophecy.

Sunday's ten-mile walk, the day after that indoor marathon, was tough enough. I neglected to mention that the distance I covered in 1:15 was a quarter mile short of the intersection I've been reaching in previous jaunts. I turned around anyhow, and gave myself credit for only 9.5 miles rather than the usual ten.

On Monday I scheduled five miles, hoping to rest on Friday, but it would have been useless even to try. The weekend's effort finally caught up with me. Though I was not sore, I had no energy or leg power at all. So I rested Monday, but am planning on making up that distance on Friday.

On Tuesday I wanted to do 10K at the gym. It was one of the silliest excursions of my life. I sloughed two miles, then alternated running a few laps and walking one until five miles, when I finally came to my senses and stopped.

Wednesday is my usual mid-week ten-mile day. Could I do it?

I did, running the entire distance by concentrating on the task without feeling sorry for myself, in the recognition that I was much better off than the day before. Though I won't say that I suffered, I can't imagine I could have run much more slowly and still have been moving in a forward direction. All but one of the runs I have ever recorded at any distance, where I have run the whole thing, including Saturday's marathon, have been at a faster pace.

That brings me to the present. It's to be a 10K. I don't expect to do well today, tomorrow, and maybe not on Saturday's half marathon either. But I'm doing what I set out to do, including, in part, disciplining myself to run when my body is tired. And I'm counting on the belief that a good night's sleep, seemingly the single biggest determining factor in how well I do on a given day, together with a couple of days off next week, will serve to prepare me for my final assault on the indoor 50K I have planned for September 4.

It's All Too Much
Friday, August 27, 1999

The sign on the wall at Bally's claims the distance around the track is 155 yards on the white line down the center. I pretend that figure is a physical constant as reliable and accurate as the time it takes an electron to revolve around the nucleus of a cesium atom.

There are only two lanes: inside and outside. The track designers from Mo'ron have posted signs that say "Slower runners use the inner lane." I've always wondered — Slower than what? So I made my own judgment: Slower than me. I always run in the outside lane.

Most of the time I hug the white line, but if people are passing me and I see them coming in the mirrors, I swerve to the outside to let them pass, giving them enough room to remain outside the white line if they want to. Regardless of what the signs of the track architects from Mo'ron instruct, every runner prefers to pass on the inside. It's shorter, and therefore faster. Meanwhile, I get the full benefit of the advertised distance.

If I report that I run 10K, I mean I run 71 laps. In the Emacs Lisp functions I wrote to keep my running records, I set the elisp constant bally-lap equal to 0.08806818181818182 miles. Close enough, OK? That times 71 equals 6.252840909090909 miles. 10K is 6.21371192237334 miles. Expressed in elisp it looks like this:

(- (* bally-lap 71) (meters-to-miles 10000)) =>
   0.03912898671756881 miles

which is about 207 feet more than 10K, plus or minus one or two one-hundred-quadrillionths of a mile. Every distance I record is really the next whole number of laps more than the round-number distance I claim it to be.

Naturally, I round all my distances to two decimal places.

Oh! You didn't think I recorded it to seventeen decimal places, did you? Gracious, what do you think I am, some kind of a numbers-obsessed nut? Huh?

Hang with me, I'm not done yet.

Today I walked the track. As I trudged I wondered how much difference in distance there is between running the outside and inside lanes. So I made a rough estimate. I walked several brisk laps at a constant pace on the inside edge, counting the steps. It came out consistently at 139 steps per lap.

Then, because the track was nearly empty, I walked three laps right on top of the white line, counting steps. It measured exactly 146 steps every time. Assuming a constant length stride, that's a difference of 0.004222447073474467 miles per lap less on the inside track. That amounts to 22.29452054794518 feet less per lap, seven steps with an average stride length of 3.18 feet.

Let's switch to more realistic numbers. A 71-lap 10K will be about 1583 feet shorter run on the inside edge than on the white line. That's nearly 0.3 miles. And a 298-lap marathon would be 6644 feet shorter, a whole 1.26 miles. So it makes a difference.

That's why I always run the outside lane and never cut the corners deliberately. What would be the point of recording a 10K run when I've really run three tenths of a mile less? There's no benefit to deluding myself about the numbers. "Just gimme some truth!" as John Lennon once cried out.

I'm So Tired

All day my legs felt like stumps. There's no way to deny it — I'm pushing my outer limits, and must watch myself carefully to get through this next week successfully without getting injured.

My original intent was to run the five miles I canned on Monday today. By the time I got to the gym I had decided to walk it, or crawl it if necessary.

To my surprise and delight, walking felt wonderful. Once I started I snapped immediately out of my lethargy. My only problem was with encountering acquaintances who wanted to walk a few laps with me, but couldn't keep up, so I had to slow down for them.

It's difficult for me to walk hard enough to get my heart beating fast. I wasn't wearing my monitor today, but I doubt it ever got much over 100 BPM.

The further I went, the harder I walked. I finished the five miles in 1:09:40, a respectable 13:52 pace, giving me a formidable seven consecutive day total of 63.47 miles, and left me wide awake and refreshed after feeling like death all day.

Saturday, August 28, 1999

Normally I don't use an alarm clock, but get up when I want to. The last few years this has usually been between 5:30 and 6:00 most work days.

This school year Cyra-Lea is a high school senior in a health careers program, aiming ultimately to be a nurse practitioner. She doesn't drive yet, so I drop her off every weekday morning at 6:10 AM. The last two weeks, for the first time in many years, I've been setting my alarm clock, and my foot has been hitting the floor at precisely 5:25 AM.

This schedule has worked out well except that I still haven't mastered the art of going to bed when I ought to. Some people are morning people and some people are night people. I'm one of those unusual folks who loves the early morning (but not for running), and also the late evening. It's the middle of the day when I'm supposed to be hard at work that really rots.

By last night I had built up a sleep debt and was in serious need of some rack time. Fortunately, I got a solid eight hours. However, it wasn't enough to absolve me from the consequences of 63 miles of running the previous seven days.

This weekend I have a schedule that is altered from the norm. This morning I was at home doing some work. I broke away by 11:30 AM to get to the gym. Today was to be a half marathon, 149 laps on tRtNE.

I felt immediately upon starting to run that my lower right back was in a knot and my right leg showed the potential of cramping up on me. My middle body felt as if it was locked in a vise.

To make matters worse, I was bloated and suffering fallout from whatever I ate yesterday. As I ran I left a jetstream behind me. Pffft brat-a-blip. Blup, blup-blup brrrap. You wouldn't have wanted to be drafting behind me. Fortunately, the best remedy I've ever found for this condition is a good hard run.

A few laps into it my breathing was labored, forced, and shallow. If I can't breathe well, I can't run well. No one can. It was going to be a tough session.

At least it wasn't unbearable, and I knew that I would get through it one way or another. I concentrated on making the best of the situation. When I hit the halfway point I saw that I was on a pace to finish at 2:18, a PW by several minutes.

Getting Better

Sometimes the unexpected happens. At exactly halfway, for reasons that were unplanned, I started to run faster. When I did I felt better. It seemed easier, so I kept doing it.

As I continued, I loosened up and started to enjoy the exhilaration of pushing. I had to concentrate hard on breathing. When I do this I always work on forcefully exhaling. Some runners suffocate themselves trying to inhale deeply into lungs that are already too full of carbon dioxide saturated air. I've learned that if I breathe out hard, pursing my lips and making a whooshing sound, I have no problem getting enough air in me on the inhale part of the cycle. But I have to do it deliberately.

That's my tip for today. Pass it on.

Suddenly the laps were flying by, my legs were turning over well, and my form was smooth. Best of all, it felt wonderful. I was having fun again.

With three miles to go I pulled out all the stops and decided to run as hard from there to the end as I could. Nothing could stop me. I flew over the finish like I was trying to beat a batch of close competitors in a 5K.

My final time was still deep in the crummy zone, but the strenuous increase in effort gave me a negative split by over five minutes. Given the added aerobic benefits, I had turned what would have been a poor token effort into an excellent tempo run, and pulled my finish time into the normal range, rounding out the week with my fifth consecutive fifty-plus mileage total.

Why Don't We Do It in the Road?
Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Sunday I did my usual streetwalking trick, except that I intentionally covered eight miles instead of ten. This week I don't need to cover much ground because of my anticipated 50K on Saturday. I'll put in the twenty miles I need, but won't push it.

My schedule was disrupted Sunday. I had to give a public discourse at a Kingdom Hall on the other side of town in the afternoon. We were home in the morning, but preoccupied with study and weekend chores. Later a friend took us to late lunch; I couldn't begin to claim any part of the day for training until we returned after 5:00 PM.

The weather is barely growing more temperate. It's still over 100 daily, but cooling off when the sun sets. I weathered my two-hour walk, starting at 5:30 PM, without sunscreen, and didn't even take water. It was downright pleasant when I got back.

On the return cycle I interspersed a pattern of gentle short runs between walk segments, starting with 50 steps, and working up to 200, with 100 walking steps between. I ran with about the same intensity I imagine I will have after twelve hours at Across the Years in December. Reeeeaaal easy. I ran nearly half the distance back in this way.

Doing this sort of thing is physically refreshing even when I'm tired. Soreness and muscle fatigue seem to be aggravated by complete inactivity. The day after a hard effort I often find myself stretching and twisting into unusual positions, even when sitting and watching TV, just to give my body the benefit of the increased circulation that results. Otherwise I become stiff as a board, and slow my recovery.

Normally my long run is on Saturday. Nearly every Sunday of my life I conduct a one-hour study of an article in The Watchtower magazine at our Kingdom Hall, unless I'm giving the public lecture that precedes it. In either case I spend about an hour standing behind a lectern in front of a lot of people. Friends have noticed that I tend to rock back and forth and othewise move about more than other speakers while I'm conducting. It's not a mannerism, merely a case of trying to keep my recovering muscles from aching. It hurts a lot more to stand perfectly still. I do try to do this as inconspicuously as possible, and make it look more like I'm fired with animation than doing calisthenics.

It's a joy to trot along, tripity-stepity, tripity-stepity, feeling as though I'm floating, while the street passes beneath my feet. I've come to where I crave to start running, even for short segments, and even when I'm tired, simply because it feels so good to be in motion.

Yesterday I enjoyed 65 minutes of strength training at the gym, but no running. Now my upper body aches a bit.

No Reply

The last three months I have trained harder and more consistently than at any time in my life. I'm obliged to ask myself whether I'm any better off for it.

One point I've noticed frequently the last few years when I've been working hard is that I feel trashed much of the time. Sometimes I wish I had a few days to sit back and enjoy my assumed superior health without having to prove that I've got it by engaging in strenuous activity. I can't always perceive it directly by the way I feel. If I were in any better shape I'd have to be carried around on a stretcher.

The jury is still out on the question because the evidence is incomplete. The reason the evidence is incomplete is because the project isn't finished and won't be until early January. I'll let you know what I decide.

Meanwhile, today is the last day of another month, giving me occasion to run some totals and do a little analysis. I'll do that after I complete my three miles later this afternoon.

As Arnold says: I'll be back.

Get Back
Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Again

I'm back.

This afternoon I did a brisk three miles at the gym at 9:20 pace, not super fast, but sixteenth out of 74 recorded runs at the distance.

My end-of-month statistics are satisfying. The most noteworthy figure is a total of 216.43 miles for the month, my second consecutive PR, by a margin of 10.37 miles. This should prove to be my sixth fifty-mile week in a row, heaped on top of a series averaging in the mid-forties.

After cogitating through the numbers, I mapped out my runs as closely as possible for the whole month of September, with weekly totals after this one of 40, 30, 20, and finally 11 miles early in the week of the Twin Cities Marathon. The hardest part will be not eating too much as the miles decrease.

I'm theorizing that my endurance buildup with a bit of intensity now and then, followed by a good taper and rest is going to add up to a superior performance, if not at Twin Cities, then certainly by Tucson.

It's now only four months to go until Across the Years.

Ask Me Why

Five years ago I was not aware of having ever met anyone who had really run 26.2 miles, and was on the side of the fence with those who question why any person would ever do such a thing.

Now I know or correspond with countless hordes of regular marathoners, including persons who have run hundreds of ultramarathons, for whom weekly thirty-mile training runs is what they do when they're taking life easy. I no longer ask why any person would ever do such a thing, because I know, but I'm sure I can't explain it adequately to someone who hasn't tried it.

One thing is certain: I don't do it to demonstrate how good I am at it. Persons familiar with running readily recognize there is nothing remarkable concerning my training program, other than my singular devotion to an indoor track, which I regard as a necessity. Variations of the same routine are being carried out by persons of every description in all corners of the world. The only thing that makes my program unusual is that I'm immodest enough to publish my bumblings and fumblings on the Internet.

Gumption, rather than any physical attribute, may be my strongest attribute as a runner. But that gumption translates into effort, and effort pays off. In baseball sometimes the only difference between a home run and another ho-hum fly out is swinging just a little bit harder. Maybe if I run just a little bit further, and a little bit harder, I'll get the results I'm hoping for.

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