Moving ahead intelligently

These thoughts will be of only interest to me.

Last weekend revived my interest in walking long distances. I’ll still do some running and some 5Ks here and there, but I am again interested in walking.

So, I started scouting out races…which is the wrong approach for me. I don’t need to do another long event for some time. And the reality is: I haven’t walked a good marathon since 2009 (Rockford (5:14), Quad Cities (5:28, with a torn meniscus)) I did have a decent 20 miles at Lake Wobegone in 2012 prior to getting sick.

And if I can’t sustain a decent pace for a marathon, my longer stuff will be 16-18 minute per mile strolls with naps every so often.

So, for NOW, that is what I need to work on: marathon intensity walking speed.

Tentative plans: Peoria Marathon October 18, McNotAgain 30 mile (48 km) in early November, Houston Ultra at the end of the year (50 mile? 24 hour?). The marathon will be the A race, the 30 miler a “use your fitness to finish” event and the Houston one will be to see if, while in “participation mode”, I can improve on the FANS performance.

June 10, 2015 Posted by | marathons, ultra, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Random thoughts on 24 hour races


I know that I go on and on about long events that I just finished. One reason for it: during the next few days afterward, my sleep becomes segmented; right now I am in one of those “awake in the middle of the night” periods. I get that way when I get fatigued. There is some evidence that humans once slept in segments.

So I am using this awake time to read (articles like this one) and organize photos, etc.

Random thoughts:
1. The best performers, with a few exceptions, tend to be people in their 30’s and 40’s. There are old timers such as the lady I am walking with. She is in her 70’s and can still walk briskly for 40-50 miles; previously she has won the walking event. I also walked a few steps with past winners of the event (both as runners and as walkers); they can’t do what they once did, but they ended up with 70 and 80 plus miles respectively.

It is tempting to say “well, if old timer X can do this, why can’t you?”. But it is helpful to remember that the old timers who show up are often those who were very good when they were younger.
On the other hand, I have always sucked; I am transitioning from a slow younger person to an even more glacial older person. :-) Most people of my ability have learned to give it up when they get older.

2. My poor performance at this event reflected my limited training (two 20 mile walks TOTAL as opposed to the 2 20’s in a single weekend that I used to do when I was serious). But I could do the event safely as I knew when to take a long break.

3, TMI: I always stink after I’ve walked or ran a long distance. Some of it might be due to the high tech fabric and the type of bacteria that grows on such fabric. But I always get a very specific type of odor after a very long ultra; that hasn’t changed with time. I am not sure why; I suspect it is a body chemistry thing.

4. I often get to walk with others for at least a bit of distance; for some reason I hear some life stories and grow to like the person I am walking with, even if I have never seen them before and never see them again.
In the days of old, that used to happen in marathons.

5. At night and at dawn, we saw some animals. We joked about the turtle and how it “was moving faster than we were.”.

6. At night we wear headlamps or use a flashlight. Some spandex makes quite the light show when you see it…and yes, for some reason, I noticed this much more on the females than the males. There is nothing like a cute shimmering butt to keep you going. :-)

7. At these loop events, slower people (like me) see faster people…a LOT. So one is not only a participant and a competitor (though this year, I was more of the former than the latter) but also a fan. Though the truly competitive have a few extra concerns (such as getting out of the aid stations quickly), much of their experience is shared with the others. How do I know this? Part of this I got from reading their accounts, and part of this comes from the times when I showed up with a performance goal in mind and had to take those little extra things into account.

8. One has to find the balance between being realistic and pushing yourself; there are times when one should push through the mental or physical anguish and times when it is necessary to take a break. My long break was necessary; the shorter breaks at the end were more due to mental fatigue than anything else. Proper training helps with BOTH aspects, and I didn’t have that this time around.

Other photos:

The winner of the 12 hour (51 miles) is also a mathematics professor (John Greene). John is a US Centurion.

We had 5 new Centurions who walked 100+ miles in 24 hours. We had an Australian couple Sharon and Justin Scholz (who bicycled from New York to Minnesota prior to the race!), two from the Netherlands (Jantinus Meints and Antoine Hunting) and Rob Robertson from Oklahoma (blue shirt)


Yes, I walked 101 miles in 24 hours back in 2004, but that was not a Centurion race and there were no walking judges, so I am not a Centurion. But what these folks did was more difficult than what I did, as I had a track and perfect conditions; these people endured heat, humidity and then a rainstorm and some wet gravelly roads. I was so impressed at how they overcame the various extra challenges.

Note: Betty Green took the above photos.

June 9, 2015 Posted by | Friends, ultra, walking | , | Leave a comment

Day after…

Workout notes: I woke up sore and stiff.

TMI to follow (for my own records): I had my first BM since before the 24 hour race started; not sure what that means except that I didn’t eat that much during the race.

Back to not TMI: I figured that I’d do some light exercise. I jogged 2 miles on the treadmill in 21 minutes (11:05 first mile; sped up on the second; first 4 minutes were HARD for me but then I loosened up.

Then I went walking for 22 minutes in the Minnesota Wildlife Refuge just across the street; I made some crows very angry though they did not dive bomb me.

So that was 2 miles of running; 1 of slow hiking.

There is something about my ritual of pressing “reset” on my watch after a race; that means the last race is really over and it is time to think about the next one.

Seeing the Centurions inspired me but I have to remember that isn’t going to happen for me; if I ever want to walk 100 miles again, I should think about a 30 hour time limit and train HARD for it.

A few more photos:

DSC_4632 Ollie

Somewhere around mile 20 (I’ve moved my number to the front); my form has already started to fall apart (over striding, bent forward); that is a conditioning issue from not doing enough long walks. I said that this was “participatory” (and they didn’t judge knees at this race, thank goodness).

DSC_4577 Ollie

Early in the race, coming off of the gravel section.

DSC_4541 Ollie

Early in the race; note my support leg is nice and straight.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | running, travel, ultra, Uncategorized, walking | , , | 1 Comment

FANS 24 hour walk: preparation, talent and attitude

I’ll say more about the exciting news that we have 5 new Centurions (those who walked 100 miles or more in 24 hours at an official race): one American (from Oklahoma), two Dutchmen and a couple from Australia. I should point out that they endured humid conditions, a couple of rainstorms and some mud (on the gravel part of the course).

The Australian couple are incredibly fit; they biked from New York to get here and they tied for first (in the walk) with 105 miles. The American was third with 102 miles; he looked so strong throughout the night; I could detect no degradation of his (excellent) walking technique at any time, even when he was well past 90 miles.

Screen shot 2015-06-07 at 3.30.50 PM

In this post I’ll focus on my race. Given my sleep deprivation, some of the names of the people I met are gone; I’ll look up those names when the finisher’s list comes out.

Particular shout outs: Jenny (?) who helped me take stuff to my car without my asking, The Greene’s (John won the 12 hour walk with 51 miles; Betty took photos throughout), David Hollman who, off of his second Comrades finish, gave encouragement and helped out, Barbara Curnow who walked part of the last long lap with me (she won the walk many previous times), and others I met on the course and did some distance with. I heard some interesting stories.

My race: I knew coming in that I was grossly underprepared. I had gone a grand total of 20 miles, two times total. Most week had: 1-2 swims, 2-3 weight lifting sessions, 3 runs (6-8 miles; one a 5K race), 2 walks (6, then longer; 14-20). That is grossly inadequate preparation.

But I just got the urge and I felt that doing this would get me going again. I set some very modest goals and almost reached my “B” goal; attitude held me back.

Facts about the Race
race is at a state park near the airport; the airport hotels are really, really close (3 miles or 7 minutes by car). I stayed at the Hilton but the other nearby places are fine.

Venue: state park; course is one 1.73 out and back, followed by multiple 2.136 miles loops. Bike path, long section on gravel road, one section on coned off park road (about .5 miles), bike path. The gravel can get soft and muddy; it was ok this year.

Pre race dinner: in a community center. My recommendations: get directions from someone who knows the place. The address is misleading; it is right where 11’th S. Av. splits into two roads (straight, then a turn on a road, then straight again) and Mapquest had me going on one very narrow, “parking on both sides” road to get there. The dinner IS worth it though, unless you have celiac or some other condition.

Personal Report
Total: 59.9 miles (ARRRGH!!! 60.0 sounds better).

What I did right: I did keep the effort under control early, so I never had serious nausea. I also focused on salt and small portions of food.

What I did wrong: I let sleep deprivation get to me; I had more to give in the final miles but didn’t; so while I had something left for the final 2.5 miles (very strong), I would have been better served using some of that over the final 3 hours.

Course: 2.136 mile loops (with an initial out and back); it featured park road, bike path and one gravel stretch (which got slightly slick with rain; nothing serious this year).

Note: after the rain, there were frogs and toads out and about. They were very cute.

Start: pleasant weather at first; it was to warm up to get uncomfortably warm.
Lap 1: 3.866: 1:03:12: took my time; I lined up at the back. The rest of the laps are 2.136 miles each.
Lap 2: 32:29 1:35:42 mile 6
34:21 2:10:03 8.14
32:46 2:42:50 10.3
34:37 3:17:27 12.4
37:00 3:54:27 14.5
37:44 4:32:12 16.7
32:57 5:05:09 18.8
36:19 5:41:28 21.0 (my long walk distance; getting hot here)
35:40 6:17:09 23.1
37:15 6:54:24 25.2
34:59 7:29:23 27.4 (1.2 past a marathon)
34:54 8:04:18 29.5
37:12 8:41:30 31.6 (just past 50K..HOT )
39:31 9:21:02 33.8
38:20 9:59:22 35.9 (started to feel it)
43:26 10:42:49 38.0 (stopped; exhausted; food was starting to not digest)
6:42:18 17:24:49 40.2 (back at the hotel room; finally felt good 5:30 or so into the rest, drove back, finished the lap)
37:22 18:02:12 42.3 feeling good again
42:19 18:44:32 44.5 ate soup and one slice of pizza;
36:07 19:20:39 46.6 good
34:38 19:55:18 48.7 good but wondered: is 50 miles ever going to get here?
36:14 20:31:32 50.9 good but after this lap; I just got mentally tired of pushing
1:12:40 21:44:12 53.0 sat down twice; thought about bailing; sleepy and mentally exhausted
1:03:40 22:47:53 55.1 sat down twice; wobbled and finished the lap with a new friend
38:57 23:26:50 57.3 was really struggling until Barbara Curnow caught me; I walked with her and she perked me up.
6:44 23:33:34 (half mile; started to push after 60; I had misread 57.3 as 57.5
6:14 23:39:49 pushed
6:13 23:46:02 pushed; wanted to catch Jeff Hagan
12:03 23:58:05 best mile; really after 60.
1:22 23:59:27 last .125 mile; thought that put me to 60.1, but it was only 59.9. went so hard my bottle of water popped out.

Note: my final 2.615 miles took 32:37 (12:28 pace) So I did my best walking right at the end. Had I been mentally tougher, I could have squeezed out at least 1 more long lap and perhaps .5 less in the final surge; that would have gotten me 60 +.

So attitude matters.

Talent does too; I have very little of that (my body is too big to be good at this, and I am not a good athlete) but, in my case, there is very little doubt that my lack of preparation hurt me badly.

Of course, long walk training prepares the body (specificity). But it also prepares the mind; it isn’t always easy to distinguish when you are really “in trouble” and should stop vs. when you are just having an attitude attack and are capable of pushing through it. The long training walks help with that.

I am not down on myself for not preparing as this was sort of a “whim” event for me, just to see what my baseline level is based on a “generic keep in shape” program.

I might focus a bit more on distance this year:

Leanhorse 50K (long time limit; not ready for 50 m) August
Peoria Marathon (October)
McNotAgain 30 mile trail (November)
Houston Ultra (24? “fast 50″ (goal: sub 13?) December

Training plan:
I’ll have a goal of one longer walk every weekend (20 +) and two medium walks (2:30-3 hr at a faster pace) during the week or weekend. My teaching schedule should all for this. I’ll supplement with 3 shorter runs (3-6, one “faster”), 2 swims, 2 weight sessions.

Ultimate (Walter Mitty) goal: one more 100 finish (30 hour on a reasonable course).

June 7, 2015 Posted by | Friends, ultra, walking | , , | Leave a comment

All settled in

And I’ll be off line for most of the weekend; I hope.

The gang is with me in the hotel room:


Frogs, goats, Dogbert and Grumpy Cat

I just hope it is quiet in the rooms tonight. The pre-event dinner was fun, even if I struggled to find it. There was a weird “jig” in the road that made the location difficult to find exactly.

June 6, 2015 Posted by | travel, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

For no reason at all: 50+ miles

2004 McNaughton 50 12:46 (trail)
2004 Cornbelt 24 hour track 11:13 (100 in 23:41)
2004 Cornbelt 24 hour track 12:28 second 50 mile; en route to 101 miles
2004 Wandelweekend 24 hour: 11:15 (88 miles in 24)
2004 Ultracentric 24 hour 11:24 (81 mile in 24)
2005 McNaughton trail 100 miler 13:23 (100 in 34:16)
2005 McNaughton 100 20:43 (second 50 mile of 100)
2005 Leanhorse trail 100 (groomed) 12:50 (100 in 29:34)
2005 Leanhorse traill 100 16:44 (second half of a 100)
2005 Ultracentric track 24 12:27 (70 miles in 24)
2006 Houston 24 hour 12:28 (76 miles in 24)
2006 McNaughton 100 (DNF 70) 15:17
2006 FANS 24 hour 12:38 (83 miles in 24)
2007 FANS 24 hour 13:41 (66 miles in 24)
2007 Ultracentric 58 miles in 24 hours; my 50 mile split was somewhere around 19 hours.
2008 McNaughton 31 hours plus (52 miles; done in stages)
2009 McNaughton 100 24:18 (100 in 47:55)
2009 McNaughton 100 23:37 (second 50 mile)
2009 FANS 24 hour 12:43 (66 miles in 24)
2011: FANS 24 hour 22:52 (54 miles in 24)

May 29, 2015 Posted by | ultra, walking | | Leave a comment

Mission accomplished: I know where the red wing blackbird nest is.

Today’s walk: 18.4 miles (just under 30 km) in 4:39; I was at 18 in 4:33 and added .4 miles to make sure I got over 18.

Weather: sort of muggy; 71 F, 84 percent humidity at the start; 80 F, 64 percent at the end. It started out overcast and then showered a few times…and had bright sun a few times…all in the same walk.


Route: up Maplewood to Columbia Terrace; Broadway to McClure to Sheridan, at which point I picked up the old Boredom course; which I followed to mile 7 (8 from the House; 2:02) I took the Bike Path (Rock Island; saw a deer there); I followed that route to old Woodruff High School (2:44), at which point I did 2 miles on the track (29:29; 4 laps in lane 2, 4 in lane 1 with a correction) then back (via the Goose Loop; 3:55 at Hooters) to finish in 4:33…but I was worried that it might not be 18 miles so I did a .4 mile loop (past Markin to Bradley Ave.) to get…it turns out..18.4. The map had my original route at 15.99 (without the 2 track miles).


The good: it wasn’t that difficult (and as slow as it was, it shouldn’t have been). This was my best since October 2014.
The bad: well, look at how slow it was; it took the track miles (near mile 11) to perk me up a bit.
The essential: every year, at about this time, the dreaded red winged blackbirds start nesting. There is usually one or two who attack and it is essential to find out where the aggressive one is. I found it:


It was sitting on a sign and attacked me as I went along the sidewalk. Next time: I cross a bit further up; I’ll have to wait for a big break in traffic and maybe run a bit. My goodness, I hate these things:

They are known for attacking:

Sometimes these nasty things merely escort you.

Other thing: well, I wanted to see how my body would hold up to heat. It was…ok; I’d give it a C+ today.

But…do I tray a “fun” 12 hour (goal: 50K hot, 60 km cool) or 24 hour (goal: 50 mile if hot; perhaps 100 km if cool…breaks/naps planned in) in 3 week’s time? I’ll make my decision after next week’s walk, which should be longer (maybe 90 minutes more?)

The reality is that while I stood up well to today’s walk, I felt is “oh so slightly” in the stomach and wonder what shape my stomach would have been given 2-3-4 more hot hours. My intensity was slightly too much to be sustainable.

May 17, 2015 Posted by | ultra, walking | , | Leave a comment

Memories and reality

14 mile walk in 3:34; this was the old Boredom course.


I started at 7:40; I wish I had started 1 hour earlier. Still, it was chilly at the start and just lovely, though auto traffic had picked up on the final third of the course.
I saw one small training group out there and Peggy Shadid as well; she was jogging easily with a friend and a dog. She won the female open Steamboat 15K multiple times as well as MANY other races; I’ve seen her run a 3:04 marathon and a 38 minute 10K.

I told her that I was tempted to turn around and show her up; she and her friend had a good laugh. :-)

The course I did (14 miles) consists of the “middle 10″ miles of the classic Boredom course: (I pick it up at Sheridan and McClure)


But that brought back memories. I first did the Boredom course in the Summer of 1998 when I was taking part of the Illinois Valley Striders marathon training group; in those days the 12 mile course took me about 1:40-1:45 to do (at an easy pace). The 14 took around 2 hours.

In 2003-2005, as a walker, I did the 14 mile course in just under 3 hours (2:56-2:57); that was when I walked a marathon in 4:44, a hilly trail 50K in 7:14, a paved 50K in 6:20 and the 100 mile in 23:40 (101 in 24).
Now I am over half an hour slower with the same effort.

I remind myself of this not to lament the expected degradation of my abilities but to remind myself of where I am so I can set realistic goals.

So, for the October marathon, 5:45 would be a good goal for the marathon walk. Maybe I can aim for 9:30 for the McNotAgain and, if those two events go well…who knows; maybe something special in late December or early January (in a southern climate!).

But a 100 miler isn’t going to happen again, unless I enter a flat 48 hour race and really pace myself, take naps, etc. I simply don’t have another one in me.

So, I can still get out there, go hard and have fun! But, to put it simply, the events I enter ARE going to take me longer and some events in my past are now beyond my reach. But that’s ok; others get to enjoy those now. :-)

April 26, 2015 Posted by | ultra, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Following one’s own advice

Workout notes
swim: 2 x 250 (slower than 5 each), 5 x 100 (fist/free) on the 2:10 (1:53/1:57 each)
4 x 250 on the 5 (4:40, 4:43, 4:47, 4:50 (lazy)), 200 fins (4 x 25 back, 4 x 25 fly)

This was “just swim”.

Advice I follow a lot of people on Facebook, including many runners. And time and time again, I’ve seen someone work up to running a 5K at, say, 8:40 mpm, and then try to move to doing lots of half marathons, marathons, and then attempt an ultra.

All the while, they get slower, slower and slower until it is downright painful to watch them attempt to run.

When I returned to running (1996), I ran for about a year prior to running a half marathon for time (as a 38 year old) and I ran a 1:40 and didn’t injure myself.

So, I kind of “tut-tut” to myself about the mistake I think that the new runners are making….though it is none of my business.

Then I ask myself: WHO is entertaining thoughts of a 12 hour walk this June, given his current is a painfully slow 3:48 walk? Hmmmm?

Yeah, that is the old “I remember doing 100 miles” talking but while the brain and memory is still there, the body isn’t.

BUT, I am on track to be able to train for a walking marathon in October and IF that goes well, 30 miles in November and maybe, just maybe, a paved bike path 50 miler with a 14 hour time limit in late December (Houston, TX) (goal might be to crack 13 hours; I last did that in 2009 during a 24 hour).


I need to get to where a 6-7-8 hour training walk at a relaxed pace is comfortable first. THEN I can entertain such thoughts. I need to follow my own advice.

April 20, 2015 Posted by | swimming, ultra, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Quiz: which is the “earlier in the 24 hour walk” photo?

Workout notes running: I “ran” the park portion (and the “to the park” portion of a my 5.1 Cornstalk Hill course plus an extra 1.23 mile loop. I walked the final mile (run 5.3, walk 1). I didn’t feel sick or tired, but my legs…just nothing there; at all. This was truly a shuffle. My guess: the hill workout I did on Tuesday; I really did that one hard.

Then I lifted: super set of pull ups and Lifefitness rows (4 sets of 10 pull ups, 3 sets of 10 x 110 rows), then military presses (2 sets of 12 x 50 dumbbell, seated, supported), 10 x 85 barbell standing and 2 sets of 5 pull ups to get 50 total.

I did rotator cuff and bench presses (3 sets of 10 x 135, seriously!), 2 sets of 10 x 160 pull downs (traditional), 1 set of 7 traditional, 7 low (100), incline press: 1 x 135, 4 x 135.

This was a bit weird, but once again I gave myself little rest between sets; it was pretty much go-go-go.

I really am not that tired.

Quiz: was it really June 2006 when I did the FANS 24 hour and got 83 miles?

One of these was taken at about mile 20; the other at about mile 75. Which was which? :-)

April 17, 2015 Posted by | running, ultra, walking | | Leave a comment


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