Dealing with a bruised ego

Well, sometimes I need to remind myself that I’ve had my chances to have fun.

True: only one of these awards represents a performance that could be considered “athletic” (the 101 miles walked in 24 hours) but every award here is for finishing a race that was a marathon or longer. The medals hanging from the “logs” are road marathon finisher’s medals. The other awards (lying flat) represent 50K or longer.



This second photo represents my McNaughton Park race finishes: the 4 logs are the Mc-Not-Again 30; one medal is a 50K and the other is a 50 mile; the three buckles represent one 50 mile and two 100 mile finishes.



So what if I won’t be able to “go longer, faster” anymore. I can still challenge myself from time to time. One of my goals is do finish one marathon (or longer) a year for as long as I am able…even if that means seeking out longer time limit events or, say, 8-12 hour events. :-)

November 9, 2015 Posted by | marathons, ultra | , | 2 Comments

Facing reality: trail ultras are over for me.

Day: perfect. I knew that this might be rough sledding for me, so the RD allowed me a 1:30 early start (90 minutes).

I needed it.

I’ll just state the facts:

2009: 2:38, 2:49, 3:27 (8:55)
2010: 2:48, 3:06, 3:57 (9:52); had knee surgery that year.
2013: DNF.
2014: 2:52, 3:12, 3:50 (9:54)
Today: 3:12, 3:46, 4:03 (11:03)

I tried to jog a bit on loop one but it really didn’t help much. I had people passing me (10 milers) on my first early start loop and most of the rest of the field on loop 2.

Basically, I fell apart on the “shelf” part during the second loop (first hill after the half way bridge to Golf Hill) and yes, I wandered off course a bit near the final stream crossing (the traditional first stream crossing). I made up my mind to quit then. But as my legs recovered (sort of) I realize I had enough left to finish.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the race director and all who volunteered.

The reality: my legs are simply too weak to handle those hills, at least in an ultra marathon situation. Doing the 10 miler would probably be doable.

My feelings are mixed: I am disappointed about how slow and weak I’ve become. I remember being at 7:50 after my third loop, ON MY WAY TO 100. In fact, I got to 40 miles that day quicker than I finished 30 today.

But that was 10.5 years ago. I am no longer that person.

But on the other hand, I am glad that I hung in there and finished it up.

One thing to think about: I thought that the marathon 3 weeks ago would be great training for this. I now think that it tired me out for this; my legs went dead in the first loop.

November 8, 2015 Posted by | marathons, ultra | , | 1 Comment

Holding myself accountable and warm fuzzies…

Warm fuzzy workout: easy 2 mile walk on my Cooper to Moss course followed by light yoga. I slept in and did not swim.

Why “warm fuzzy”: when I tried to restart running in 1993-1994, I started jogging this course. At first it took me 26 minutes to jog this 2.1 mile course; eventually I got faster as I lost weight. Fortunately, I am still faster than that…if only by a little.

My point: no matter how bad things go this weekend, I can remember where I came from.

Holding myself accountable: I signed up for the Mc-not-Again 30 mile trail event. Last year, I was close to being 2 hours behind the second to last place finisher. This year: the race director has allowed me to start early so I don’t hold things up.

My fear: is that I’ll quit over disgust at how slowly I am going. Yes, the early start gives me more daylight and I am planning to run a bit. And yes, I am in better “long distance” shape than I was last year.

But still, a LOT of the field will catch me. I KNOW that. I just need to keep going, even if I don’t like that I am going so slowly.

Being ashamed of my pace is not a good enough reason to quit.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | ultra, walking | | Leave a comment

wasting too much time…

But it is summer.

Workout notes: lifting, running, walking.

Lifting: 4 sets of 10 pull ups (ok), rotator cuff recoveries. Barbara scolded me about “swinging” through these; she was right.
incline presses: 10 x 135, 7 x 150, 7 x 150 (strong)
pull ups: 1 set of 10
superset of pull downs, dumbbell military presses, rows:

military: 2 sets of 12 x 50 seated, supported, 10 x 40 standing
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 150 double pulley, 10 x 150 alternate machine
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 60 (each arm), 10 x 110 alternate machine

Then to running: 11 minute mile on the treadmill, then 8:53/8:31 for 17:24, enough to get to 3.18 in 30 minutes. 6.7/6.8 for mile 2, 6.9/7.0/7.1/7.2 for mile 2.
Then walking outside; great day (4 mile Cornstalk course, untimed).

Note: I’ve had recent left knee soreness (not so much this week) and some light rotator cuff soreness; I need to stay diligent with stretching and rotator cuff stuff.

In a nutshell:
running is really sucking.
walking is getting stronger (significantly so)
lifting is getting stronger
swimming: what one would expect on one swim a week. Time to bump it to 2.
Bodyweight: hovering in the 187-189 range right now, up from the pre FANS 183-185 range.

But the extra weight doesn’t really show, at least visually:


More photos: here are some of my favorite shots from June’s FANS 24 hour event. Though my 59.9 miles was, well, what I could do while untrained..dang..”if only” I had picked it up, perhaps 10 minutes earlier?

COULDAWOULDASHOULDA doesn’t count, does it? But I did have fun and here are some shots of the 12 hour winner, 2 centurions, and a strong 24 hour runner who entered as a walker and still picked up 80+ miles.







July 23, 2015 Posted by | running, ultra, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Aging and endurance sports: the difference in photos (personal and trivial)

early 1980-1982

My first public race (10 miles in 1:21, August 1980), my first marathon (3:33, December 1980), my only sub 40 10K (39:50 in 1982), and my “out of shape 4:24” marathon in October 1983. I transitioned from “mostly lifting” to “mostly running”. I was never fast though.


My trip to morbid obesity: 225 in 1985, 250 in 1987 and then to 300 in 1991..then at 320 in early 1992. One thing I did right: I kept working out and during this phase I could bench press 300 pounds (best was 300 at a bodyweight of 226; I got 310 but weighed more) I did exactly ONE 5K during this time (23:00 at 230 lbs in 1985)


My transition away from morbid obesity: 1995 (early; back down to 220) and 1996 at 190 or so. I picked up running again and ran a 23:15 5K in basketball shoes. I actually teared up when I finished.


My second running phase: 1997-2001. You see the Quad Cities marathon in 1998, the Prostate 5K in 1999, Lone Star 10K in 2000, and Lake Geneva Marathon in 2001. (my last “good” one: 3:40). I had a couple of sub 20 5Ks, a couple of sub 42 10Ks and 4 sub 1:40 half marathons; best marathon was 3:38. Though these are not “real runner” times, these were the last running times I felt good about.


Utramarathon walking phase. You are seeing a couple of judged racewalks 2003, 2004, a running 15K in 2005, and a 24 hour (83 mile walk) in 2006. I finished 3 of my 4 100’s during this phase, and had 3 more 81-88 mile 24 hour performances. I did some judged racewalking to help out my ultra walking.


Limbo: mostly I battled a torn meniscus and a damaged rotator cuff during this phase: 2007, (5K walk, taking on a runner), 2009 (last sub 5:30 walking marathon), main street mile (disaster) in 2011. 2011 was probably my low point; I was recovering from both the knee problems and the shoulder problem, hence I could neither lift, swim, run nor walk fast for a long time. It showed. But I did get my PR in the 5K swim (1:36 open water, 1:34) in 2009 and 2010, before things really went south.


2012-2015: where I am now. I can’t really train for anything but I participate a lot. I did run a couple of 24:xx 5ks in 2014 when I was training to try to break 7 minutes for the mile (and I failed the latter); I had one token “marathon or longer” finish each year. All my long performances were very poor.

July 7, 2015 Posted by | running, swimming, ultra, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

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 | , , | 2 Comments

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


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