Saturday, June 7, 2014

10 Idle Thoughts About Running, Part 1

 1. Track coach & Physiologist Dr. Jason Karp asserts that “marathons change lives”. I'm sure there's some truth to that. I'll say that road racing has changed my perspective.

2.  I never cared about how crowned a road was until I started running on them,and my left glutes started giving me a hard time.

3.  Why do cracks appear longitudinally at the top of a road's crown, anyway?

4. Before I started consistently running, I'd grumble about bus routes being interrupted by the Chicago Marathon. Now, I'm running in my first Chicago Marathon, and hey people-it's a temporary disruption! You'll have your streets back in the late afternoon.

5. Do marathons change lives?  I don't know, but running the Madison Marathon made me slightly condescending.  "Why yes, I'll run your flat course, but Darling, we all know real marathons are run over hills."

6. I downloaded the 2013 course.  There are some long straight stretches. "Straighter than a preacher/ longer than a memory" as Steve Earle sang in "Nowhere Road.  After running over 22 miles, that last long stretch up Michigan Ave. looks like a "nowhere road".

7. I felt the same way about John Nolen drive during the Madison Marathon.  I'll spare you the rant.

8. Several weeks ago, when I went to pick up my bib for the Madison Half Marathon at the Monona Terrace convention center, I paused near John Nolen Drive.  I was about to unleash a torrent of obscenities at that drive.  ("Mommy, why is that man yelling at nothing?  Dear, he ran a marathon here back in November, some people just don't know how to let bygones be bygones.  You'll understand as you get older.")

9. I restrained myself and stayed quiet.  However, at the bib pickup & expo, I talked about it with a volunteer who had run the full Marathon.  He observed that it's one thing to see where you finish, which is the State Capitol building, and then another thing to know that you have to run another three miles to get to it.

10. I was going to spare you a rant.  Sorry.  I lied.  Marathons change lives. ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

The 2014 Madison Half Marathon: Thoughts on a "variable"

If my road racing was a scientific experiment, then the first three half marathons I ran would be part of the "control" group,. because
1. They were all run in Chicago, therefore
2.I slept in my own bed at home, and was guaranteed a quiet night.
3. The races  started far from where I lived, therefore I had to get up early in the morning in time for a light meal,and a long bus/train  ride to the start area.
4. They were all run on mostly flat, or  gently rolling terrain.  The only thing approaching a hill was the off ramp turnaround point during the 2012 Chicago Half  Marathon.

This weekend's Madison Half Marathon was DEFINITELY the variable, because:
1. I stayed at a Hostel near the starting area.  My sleep could have been interrupted  by late night travelers/bar crawlers entering my dorm room.  Fortunately that didn't happen.
2.  I didn't HAVE to get up so early, but on race day, I'm used to it.  Get up. Make that Ancora coffee I bought the night before (local shop on King St. -shameless plug).  Big pot for everyone. Eat a small meal.
3. The race had hills! (Feel free to say DUH, it's Madison!) Yes, I knew that from the full Marathon.  But by God, whoever laid out the course wasn't going to let the runners forget it. The Carroll St. Start was on an uphill grade.  Once we ran three sides of  Capitol Square, we ran downhill for a little while before winding our way up, up, UP through some part of the U.W. campus, and then onto Observatory Drive.
4. There were other ups & downs.  The evil geniuses course planners had us run through the Arboretum on a downhill course - which was the opposite direction of the full marathon route, I think.  When that pleasant jaunt was over with, there was a steep hill to climb on Edgewood Ave.  I noted other runners were walking it, but I made it a point to run the hill. It was a slow run.  I had to make myself angry to produce enough adrenaline so I could manage a slow run up a steep hill.  Gasp. Gasp. Goddamnit I didn't pay an entrance fee to walk! Gasp.  Gasp.
5. I didn't get in as much out door running beforehand as I would've liked to.  My expectations weren't as high.  I wanted to not take this event too seriously, so I taped a saying to my back.  See photo.
6. However, if I did better than 2:24:00, I'd be happy.
7. Final time 2:18:50

Saturday, May 17, 2014

More "coming attractions"

Good day for a run down to the Navy Pier flyover construction site.  It doesn't look like much now, but when it's complete, it will reduce a lot of the foot and bicycle traffic that flows under Lake Shore Drive.

Horner Park river bank botanical restoration project

This is a Northwest side  park  that had a dirt trail I used to run on.  The dirt trail is cordoned off now, because it is part of an Army Corp of Engineers project to remove invasive species trees and plants.  They will be replaced by plants and trees indigenous to this area.  Details here 

A couple of Saturdays ago, I ran over to Horner and took some photos.  Sigh,  yes.  A part of my finger got in the way of the lens.  That is NOT part of the restoration.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A DIY "stick" (self massage tool)

Last week, after running the Lakefront 10 miler I decided to stick around for a free massage Chiro One was offering.  My left glutes act up after a long run, so a massage seemed like a good idea.  The masseuse used a stick.  It worked well.
However, after visiting the website I wondered if I could create a cheaper alternative.  I have a cheap store brand wooden rolling pin that I bought at my local Jewel.  Never used the thing.  Could I duplicate the bumpy surface found on some foam rollers?  Sure.  A trip to the dollar store later, and I had  a bath mat, which I cut to size.
How to fasten?  I didn't have the right size nails, nor did I have the appropriate sized staples.  I did have fast drying glue.However, to make sure the mat stayed on the rolling pin, I channeled my inner Red Green and resorted to "the handyman's secret weapon - duct tape".
You can see the result here.

It works just as well as the stick.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rethinking the drinking #2 - Why not BYOH? ... in Bring Your Own Hydration.

Disclaimer: I have no experience organizing a road race. Specifically, I have no idea how many of gallons of sports drink mix, water and cups to order for a race that has up to 1,000 entrants.  However, volunteering at today's Turkey Chase 8K made me wonder if too much was ordered.

I was at the first hydration station the course map gives you a rough idea where it was.  I can tell you that it was 10 feet from the lakefront.  Today was in the high 20's, and there was a westward wind which could have blown a lot of used cups in the water.  Fortunately, my fellow volunteers and I were diligent, and made sure this didn't happen. 
See photo:

The race started at 9:00 AM CST, and by 9:07 the fast runners, i.e. the ones doing 5-7 minutes splits had zipped by us as if we weren't there.  By 9:15, we were all handing out cups of water and Gatorade, but we were in no danger of running out. (Hey, we even offered drinks to non big-wearing passers-by.) 

In the end, we ended up throwing out stuff in cups. Couldn't drink it all.  Couldn't give stuff away. The unused bottles Gatorade concentrate and and unopened water jugs were set aside for another race.  The experience left me wondering if I had to be there.

To review: this was a very cold Thanksgiving day 8K.  A high of 20 degrees F.  But even if the morning had been in the 40s, did a race that only goes slightly under 5 miles need two hydration stations?  How about one near the turnaround point North of Cermack road, and then all the other liquids near the finish line?

I would not be wondering about this if this was a Summertime 8K. I wouldn't be wondering about this, if it was a springtime race in the South.  Heck, I've done early morning runs in Austin, Texas on Easter weekends.  70 degrees  at 6 in the morning?!? Every one's hydration demands are going to change when the mornings are in the 60's & the 70's.

But I'm in the Midwest.  Even if we didn't have this unusually  cold November weather, no one's going to collapse from dehydration when it's 40 degrees outside, unless they're really careless.  It seems that during October, Midwestern race organizers could "green" up their races a little more.  

In other words:  less hydration stations,  which would mean less paper cups, and thus less mess to clean up.  Encourage people to bring their own water bottles and hydration belts.

Perhaps the waiver could be changed to include a phrase saying: "Although the organizers will provide a limited amount of water and sports drink on the course, you the entrant will be assumed to be responsible for knowing you hydration needs.  You are encouraged to wear a hydration belt or to bring your own water bottle."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Run the Madison Marathon in 4:40? Um, er, how about COMPLETE the Madison Marathon - Part 2

Post Marathon thoughts.
--The official time: 5:05:50
--Yes, I walked some of the race.  Pride, Schmide-at the 18th mile I started alternating short walks with runs.
--I'm definitely buying one of those roller thingies, that are used on the IT band.  I need something to massage the glutes, which started giving me problems around the 18th mile.
--When I went up to Madison in October, I intended to find the "boring parts".  i,.e. long flat parts that SEEM TO GO ON FOREVER.  In retrospect, I should have walked sections of John Nolen drive.  Yeah, yeah, it's a very scenic view of Lake Monona and Monona Bay.  However, it's at the 23rd through 25th mile, BEFORE you make the climb to the finish line at the Capitol.  And it's a long way down Nolen before you get to the turnaround.
--Saturday was a good day to get the pre-race jitters/gawking tourist mode out of my system.  Try the Farmers Market at the Capitol.  They have kale.  Note: they sell cheese curds.  Um, maybe for a post race protein recharge.
--I'm glad I changed my motel registration to a hostel registration.  Not only did it save $$, it was closer to the start line, and - lo and behold - there were other marathoners staying here!  Nice to know I wasn't the only nutter waking up early on Sunday.
--However, I was the first marathoner up.  I've gotten used to getting up early (i.e. 4AM CST) in order to get to downtown races.
--This was the QUIETEST road race I've ever run!  No bands by the side of the road.  There were people with boom boxes once in a while.  Other than that, the loudest sound was the sound of human powered transportation.  MY ROAD, MADISON!  You can have it back on Monday.
--Don't people use these races to play "dress-up"?  I only saw one Supergirl, and one "Wonder Woman".  There was someone wearing a "Run Against Walker" sweatshirt, but otherwise, no snark about the present Governor.
--The spectators were so polite.  That is, no really smart-assed signs, as compared to what I've seen in Chicago. No, KEEP RUNNING - I JUST FARTED.
--However, I did see:  WORST. PARADE. EVER
                                    26.2 IS YOUR BITCH
                                    SORRY, YOU STILL HAVE TO RAKE THE LEAVES
                                     PAIN NOW. BEER LATER
--Then there was the woman holding the sign which said: IF 26.2 MILES WAS EASY
                                                                                      I'D BE YOUR MOTHER