Run Safe

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back, Moving Forward

1,260.  My mileage total for 2011 and the most I've ever run in a year.  I started of 2011 with several goals in mind but strangely, this was not one of them, it just happened.  Goals I did set and accomplish this year included running and completing 2 marathons, completing 2 Rock & Roll series runs.  I ran Chicago in August and Las Vegas in December.  Both marathons were local marathons; Rockford & the Fox Valley marathon.  As an added bonus I broke the 4 hour barrier after running Fox Valley in 3:59:39.  I  also committed to "inspiring" 10 other people to take up running.  I didn't really do a good job of keeping track but I know of several friends and family members who asked for advice on running and then completed a 5k or more this year.

This blog and my facebook page were also started as ways to inspire.  This is one aspect of my running journey I hope to continue.  If you are one of the 10 people who will actually read this & have made it this far into what I've wrote, consider adding this to your 2012 goals;  Get one person to discover the joys, pains and obsessive disorder that we call running.

I'm not only proud of my goals but of my family's as well.  All 3 of my children took up running this year.  The two youngest completed a 26.2 mile kids marathon challenge in which they ran consistently over several months until reaching their 26.2 goal.  The both ran their fastest mile this year.  My wife completed her goal of becoming a surgical tech, while working and allowing me the time to continue running.

This year wasn't without its challenges.  In January I lost my grandfather, a man who I've always looked up to and admired.  It's been strange not having him around but he has been with me in my thoughts and in spirit throughout many of my 1,260 miles this year.  I've been reminded countless times this year just how fragile life really is.  Several friends have or are currently battling illnesses, other friends who have lost loved ones and stories of course the stories of runners who have died in races or were killed by careless drivers.

In 2012 I will try my luck at a run streak, as of today I'm 3 days completed.  I also plan to complete an ultra marathon (at least a 50k).

While it's certainly motivating to have goals and rewarding to accomplish them, I think moving forward, what's most important is living each day to the fullest.  Make every day count.  Whether it's for you, a loved one or a perfect stranger (did anyone else just hear Balki from the old tv show saying "Don't be ridiculous"?) just make it count.  Make it count in whatever way you see fit.

I hope you all have a happy, successful, healthy and rewarding 2012.

Happy New Year & Happy Running.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dirt Side Diaries- 12/29/11

7am December 23rd, 2011.  As I start to awaken from a night of very restful sleep, a rarity, I soon realize I'm sore.  At first I’m confused. Why the hell am I sore?  I didn't do anything out of the ordinary yesterday, did I?  Oh, wait! I did go on that six mile trail run, but I've run six miles countless times, that couldn't be it.  Plus, for me, I was running slow.  I couldn't be sore from....Really?  A six mile run, at a snails pace and I'm sore?!  WTF  My lower back, my butt, my quads.  I felt like I had run a marathon or something. Gotta say I didn't see that coming.

December 22nd 2011 was the first time I had ever run trails twice in a week.  Like I said I didn't run fast but considering how I felt, I think I ran effectively.  A fellow trail runner.  Can I call him a 'fellow' trail runner yet?  Anyway, the same guy who recommended I check out Silver Springs told me about a local running club, the Midwest Misfits.  I’ve had no true exposure to a running club or running with other people, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I contacted one of the two people in charge of the club, Kristen, by an email I simply titled ‘I WANT IN’.  Kristen’s response was quick and friendly.  I was instantly a member.  No trial period, No sign up fee, nothing.  Just a simple welcome to the club and here's what's going on. She informed me the group would be meeting for a 10k run at 9am on the morning of the 22nd. 

I arrived a little early (didn’t want to be the new guy showing up late.  Little did I know someone already held that reputation.  Stan. ) and Kristen arrived a short time later.  Our group consisted of myself, Kristen, Katie and Stan.  We headed out onto the trails at a conversational pace.  Several observations I made while on this run;  Conversational pace on the trails is much slower than on the road.  The scenery was much nicer than the neighborhood scene.  We saw no fewer than 15 deer.  Most ran as soon as we got close, but some seemed as fascinated by us as we were of them.  We walked a couple of times (which totally messed with my running mindset) to overcome hurdles on the trail, cross bridges or watch the deer.  A mud, lots of mud.  I don't know how I ended up with so much mud on my legs but I was nice and muddy.  

The highlight of the run, for me, was when I took the death defying flying leap off a bridge. No. Not like the line your mom used to use “Well if your friends told you to jump off a bridge....”  It was a small wooden bridge built over a rocky, muddy, little creek.  The bridge was angled (like the vortex bridge in a haunted house) and wet.  I was about 3 strides into the crossing when I started to lose my balance and realized I was about to fall.  I took the only option (other than falling)  I had to avoid complete embarrassment.....jump.  Fortunately, I landed on my feet.  Not only did I save myself from a painful fall but I think I may have slightly impressed my new friends.  “Dude, nice save!”  “That was awesome!”, etc.  On a side note, I made sure we avoided the bridge on the second lap around.  I knew that save was luck.  There was no point in tempting fait and tarnishing the spurious B.A. reputation I had gained of my new friends.

I made a second trip to the trail today, which was a whole new experience.  Kristen’s husband, Al,  joined us.  I quickly discovered Al runs much faster than I do but I think this will be another benefit to running with a group.  I know I would have never continued at the pace I was running today, if I had been by myself.  We finished a little over 5 miles in about 45 minutes.  It was a milestone run for me.  I surpassed 1,250 miles for the year.  The most I’ve run in a year.

I don’t know if I will be as sore as I was last week but I’m already feeling a little more worn than I usually would.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Necessity of Etiquette & Assimilation

Maybe it's for the recognition, or the desire to share or maybe just, simply, the "hey look at me" factor.  I can't really pinpoint what has prompted my sudden desire to blog but regardless of the reason, it exists.   Lately, I have been obsessed with thoughts of what to write next.  Should it be something to help new runners?  Should it be a sharing of my experiences? and on, and on, and on....

Obviously, I feel, if I'm going to take the time to write, hopefully someone will read it.  As a result, I started looking for ways I could "grow my audience" and took the advice of another runner who suggested posting links to my blog in other running forums.  Great idea right? Yea, not so much so.

I went to the most obvious of places,, and started posting away.  I quickly learned, not only was this a bad idea, it seemed to be a very popular bad idea.  It seems many bloggers do this, as well as websites attempting to advertise their products.  Many of the "regulars" on these blogs quickly put me in my place.  I received comments such as "I don't read spam", "Thanks for the advice.  I couldn't think of any running websites to go to for running advice.", etc.  There was also, some very constructive feedback, that really made me re-evaluate my "advice."

At first, I was a little bothered by this.  I mean, I've invested the last several years of my life in becoming a pretty descent runner and now I'm taking the time to share and I'm being treated like that! WTF! I've always found runners to be overly friendly and accepting of fellow runners.  So, I never expected this reaction. But, this had obviously pissed some people off.  Although, the more I thought about it, the more I started to understand their point of view.

There is nothing that bothers me more than going to a race and having to deal with people (usually inexperienced runners) who have poor race etiquette.  The slow runners or even walkers, that line up at the front.  The people that walk to the left or center of the course. Or worse yet, the 4 or 5 friends that decided to walk the race and walk side by side, taking up the entire running lane!! The people that spit where ever and when ever they feel like it along the course.  I really don't want to run in your spit!  The people who throw their drinks, Gu's, etc. without even looking at where it's going.  You get my point.

Without even realizing it, I had entered this new sub-culture, of running forums, all cocky and full of myself.  Similar to someone who has trained for weeks in preparation for their first 5k.  But, I failed to take a single moment to consider if there was a right way to go about becoming an accepted part of this sub-culture.  So, to my fellow runners that I've successfully annoyed, consider this my public apology.  I'm sorry :(

I think this was a good lesson.  And a lesson that can be shared with all.  Whether you are an experienced runner or training for your first race, it's important to take the time to learn the ways of the people.  And that, my friends, is my lengthy definition  of Assimilation.

Happy Running!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Adventures on the Trails

Holy shit!  Just when I thought I've had it ALL figured out, I get this bright idea to go run trails.  And let me tell you, the 3.3 miles I ran was quite the adventure.

First, my motivation.  I've been toying with the idea of running my first ultra marathon next year.  An ultra marathon is anything longer than the traditional 26.2 mile marathon.  The standard distances include a 50k, 50 mile, 100k or 100 mile.  I know very little about these races but the one thing I have been told is most ultra runners do not consider you a 'legit' ultra runner, until you've run at least a 50 mile race.  Which leaves me no choice but to skip right over the 50k and start daydreaming about my first (did I just say first?!) 50 mile race.  I've been looking at the possibility of doing this race in 2012.

So, I get to the park, with no plan in mind.  No pace.  No distance.  No expectations.  Just go for a run until I don't feel like running anymore.  After parking, I find an entrance to the trail and off I go.

This led to a big open grassy area which eventually led up a pretty descent size hill and out towards the highway.  As I neared the highway, I was thinking, I would have to go back the way I came or head out towards the pavement.  No pavement today, this was a trail run.  About 50 yards away I happened upon a fork in the trail, which lead into a wooded area.  I made the turn and headed that way.  It was quite the scene.  Much more tranquil than looking at houses, dogs and cars through out my subdivision.  I decided to disconnect my music and just take in the experience.  It was at that moment I thought, maybe I should blog this run.  So I pulled out my phone and started rolling the video.  I don't think the video does the scenery justice. And, I'd be surprised if you could make through watching the whole thing with out feeling nauseous, but here is my very amateur attempt and videoing while running.....

I think it's pretty obvious, from watching the video, I was not having an easy time on this run.  I was actually running about 30 seconds per mile slower than my normal easy run at, what felt like, a much greater effort.  My heart rate was about 10% higher than normal. The elevation change for the entire run was less than 100 feet but F#*k, it was hard!  

After the video went off, I ended up around the same area I had started and took another turn in the trail. This led to another wooded area.  I had seen, on-line, that it was hunting season in the park and started hoping I didn't get mistaken, by some over zealous hunter, for being a small animal.  Shortly after this I came upon three people walking along the trail.  I knew I was breathing heavy and my feet were hitting the ground much louder than the do on the road, so I never thought to warn them I was coming up behind them.  I felt really bad when the girl jumped as I was passing her, but I was slightly entertained by it.

Then there was the mud!  I saw a pretty muddy looking area coming up on the trail and figured I could just run around it.  This was probably the best test of my Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes, because there was no going around this mud.  As I hit the mud I could feel the cold wet mud penetrating my socks.  Damn it, there goes my $10 socks!  After surviving the mud I made my way up another hill and stopped to take a picture.  I swear the hill felt a lot more challenging than it looks.  But the shoes managed very well in proving good traction here and through out the run.
When I got to the next clearing I looked at my watch and discovered I had only run 3 miles.  Seriously!  3 freakin' miles!?  And I think I'm gonna run 50!?  I made it back to my car shortly after that and headed for home.  

I've got a lot less confidence about doing an ultra now than I did before I went on this run today but I think that may be a good thing.  I'm going to keep hitting this trail, hopefully once a week, and decide in a month or so what my plan will be for 2012.  

To be continued.............

Happy Running

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Random Log Entries

Here are a few of my more memorable running log entries from 2011:

April 14th 2011- 14 Mile Training Run
Between the strong winds & the couple of decent size hills I climbed on this run this became a test of my endurance. I felt great. I'm more confident in my running right now then I've ever been. One hill I climbed I've failed on multiple times, having to take walk breaks. Today I ran it strong and with a smile on my face and that was at mile 9. I can't wait for the marathon!!!

May 15th 2011- Rockford Marathon
Started cramping up again pretty bad towards the end. I'm baffled as to why. The heat wasn't a factor. I was hydrated (even stopped to pee at mile 20) That's were I went from the 11:12 pace to the 9:31. Right at mile 26 I had a very sharp pain on my inner left thigh. It hurt to the point that I screamed out in pain, walked for a few seconds and then just said the hell with it. I'm either running to the finish or crawling!! Overall I'm not disappointed. more than 22 minutes of Chicago from last year. Hopefully I can get this cramping issue resolved and break 4 hours.

My 3 favorite moments in the race were:
-All the gang graffiti just past mile 21 along the trail. I recognized a lot of it haha
-The soft Chips Ahoy cookies someone gave me at mile 24 

-My kids running across the finish line with me

July 8th 2011- Run / Walk / Runmy first attempt at trying a run/walk/run. My motivation was simply due to my recent hip/leg issues combined with spending ALL day walking around Great America yesterday. I honestly didn't even expect to make it this far. I just did a simple run at a comfortable hard pace for 5 minutes and walk for 30 seconds. The first few times I stopped It was tough because I felt great and didn't feel I needed it. Later those 30 second walk breaks became just enough to re-charge me. Maintained a 148 average heart rate and ran mile 14 in 8:33. I think I kinda like this and may continue using it on my long runs.
(I didn't continue it)

July 11th 2011-Storm Tracker 6 Miler
Absolutely the craziest storm I've ever run in. Had about a mile to go when the thunderstorms hit. Wind gusts had to be over 40 mph. I saw several trees bending to the ground and another one snapped in a neighbor's yard as I ran past. I was running directly into the wind, rain drops were piercing my eyes like needles, garbage from two different recycling bins was flying, well swirling, all over the place. As I turned onto my street I finally had the wind at my back. I couldn't stop laughing because I knew everyone who saw me had to be thinking "what an absolute moron!" Then with only several houses to go a car pulled up along side me, it was my wife. She had been out driving the blocks in search of my lifeless body somewhere on the side of the road. I got home and my littler girl was in tears, worried something had happened to her idiotic father. After many hugs, kisses and sorry's we all had a good laugh about it. I don't think I'll be forgetting this run anytime soon.

August 14th 2011- Chicago Rock & Roll Half Marathon
Well first and foremost ignore the splits. The GPS accuracy is off. This was a great race for me. I went downtown with my neighbors Deann & Scott Ryan along with Deann's brother Tony. We had a great time hanging out together. Also got to avoid the gear check lines because of my decision to join Team Future. We hung out at their tent before and after the race, drank lots of beer and watched people running around in the rain. We also spent a fair amount of time talking to Jackie Evans (former biggest loser contestant) and her son Dan.

Some of my favorite moments along the race were the goof doing the SNL character around mile 4 and the Beastie Boy's cover band around mile 10. I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the pace group (1:45) until about mile 10. Although I think I made up some ground in the last mile because I think I was only about 30 seconds behind them.

Sept. 18th 2011- Fox Valley Marathon
Well somehow all of the data ended up getting deleted off of my watch. ALL OF IT. I'm guessing it had something to do with the weather. But despite this minor detail I had a great race. Ended up running with another guy named Dan for much of the race. Took a couple very brief walk breaks at some of the water stations but otherwise ran the whole way through.

The 4 hour pacer said by his watch he came in at 3:59:30 and I knew I was close behind him but didn't think it was only 9 seconds behind him. Only took me 3 tries but I'm finally a sub 4 hour marathoner.

Very proud of my kids too. They both completed the kids marathon. Since the beginning of June they have been logging mileage towards a goal of 26.2 miles by today. Today they finished the final 1.2 miles. They are both totally hooked. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein. Baahhhhhh

So many other highlights from the year but I'm sure you've got other things to do by now.....
Happy Running

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Whether you are an experienced runner or just starting out, keeping a running log is one way to improve your efforts.  A running log will offer many benefits while providing you with important feedback.  It may also serve as an early warning system regarding injury or illness. Most importantly, running logs serve as a good visual reminder of your progress and provide you with motivation.

I spent the first year of my running journey, just running.  No goal, no training and never worrying about keeping track.  In October of 2007 I started keeping a running log.  A simple google search lead me to a free on-line service, RunningAhead.  (Feel free to search for my log under the community section of the site. User name RunJunkee).  Since using the site, I've logged over 4,300 miles.  I know, I know...I'm due for an oil change!  It's hard to believe I've logged that many miles.  Even though I've only done so for a short time, I enjoy going back and reliving some of those runs.

There are many good sites similar to Runningahead. Map my Run, Buckeye Outdoors, Dailymile, MarathonReady, RunnersWorld and many many more.  (Feel free to leave your favorite in the comments section below).  Many of these are free and some offer 'donations' to help keep them free.

I'm all about sharing my efforts, whether you are looking or not.  I can think of countless times when out running that I would think about the entry I would make on my running log.  What my pace would be, where my mile total would be for the week, etc.  Looking back at my log week to week or month to month, I find that I am motivating and influencing myself to improve.  Improve my pace, types of runs or overall total for that period.

A site like Dailymile is more of a social networking site.  It allows you to log your mileage while sharing it with other people (your non running facebook friends will appreciate this).  No one will get sick of your daily "look at me" updates.  Dailymile keeps track of some fun stats as well; how many cheeseburgers you've earned or donuts, how much gas you've saved and the percentage of the Earth you've covered.

In addition to logging miles, many of these sites allow you to track your diet, equipment (such as miles on your shoes), your effort, type of run and the quality of your run.  Most of these conveniently sync with Garmin, Nike plus, I-Phone and Android Apps.  But fear not, you don't have to have the geeky tech gear to track your miles.  Many of these sites have a mapping feature, usually google maps, that allows you to map out your run before you step out the door.  I try to map out my route before I leave and make sure everyone else knows where I will be going.

So fall in love with the log and discover it's many benefits.  Just think someday when you are getting wheeled around the nursing home your log will provide you with countless hours of entertainment.

Happy Running

Friday, December 9, 2011

Las Vegas Rock & Roll-The EXPERIENCE

What do you get when mix a company turning road races into a profit making venture, with the most obscenely capitalist city in the world?  A half marathon that did virtually nothing right. You didn't have to be there to find out all of the things that went wrong. Check out the race event facebook page or take a look at the many news headlines and countless blogs that have been written since the race.  While, I too had some less than pleasant experiences over the weekend, I've decided to focus on the positive.  After all, if your reading a running blog, I'm going to assume you are more of an optimist and would prefer to leave here feeling all warm and fuzzy.

A group of us made the decision back in April to sign up for this event as a way to celebrate.  We called it the "Fill in the Blank" celebration.  Some celebrated birthdays while others celebrated anniversaries.  A couple of people were using this as their very first 1/2 marathon.  We had lots of good times leading up to the race; drinking, gambling, eating and collecting cards on the strip.  You know, those cards they smack in their hands before passing them out to you?  Thinking they were valuable trading cards, we ended up with quite the collection. Surprisingly, no one really seemed interested in trading cards with us.  I got to meet a fellow DailyMiler, who came out from Indiana to run the race.  She has now become known as Pistol Annie, a nickname she acquired from my wife for reasons still unknown.

Running at night was weird, it threw off all of my planning and preparation rituals.  I wasn't sure what I should eat or how much to drink.  When to stop eating.  When time to target that last really good BM before the race. When I should I start getting ready?  Should I nap before hand?  I ended up sitting a blackjack table in New York New York all day, made a little bit of money and decided to just let things happen however the happened.  It was kind of crazy how many runners I met.  I think all of Vegas was either there for the race or the Rodeo. 

About 3:30 in the afternoon, we start making our way to the start line.  I made my way to corral 20 for the Team Future "family" pic, got a beer from Rich.  Rich intended to follow the sweeper car at the back of the race and drink beer for the entire 13.1 miles, so I figured I could handle one before I ran.  As soon as I finished the beer, I see 20 Elvi walking through the start corrals.  "What the hell was in that beer!?  Oh wait, I'm in Vegas and I'm in a it's all good." 

I had decided long before this, that I had no intention of taking this race serious, I just wanted to have fun.  Of course, once I got up to my start corral (corral 3) my mindset drastically changed.  I went into competitive mode and now had every intention of kicking ass.

Believe it or not there were some cool things about the race.  Obviously, running on the strip at night was a way cool experience.  The crowd, within the first 4 or 5 miles, was great!   Yeah, there were a couple times I thought "I should stop and take a picture of that!" (Pawn Stars, Little White Chapel, etc.) but of course, I didn't.  I ended up missing a PR by less than 2 minutes and finished in 1:48:02.  Considering the amount of alcohol and food I consumed in the two days leading up to the race, I'm pretty proud of that.  I got through the finish with no issues.  Got my blanket, medal, drink, food, etc.  And let us not forget all of the selfless volunteers.  THANK YOU!  (Side note- If you never have, volunteer for a race.  It's one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.)

(And, yes, I did drink the water.  There were two aid stations that I thought the water tasted funny but I had no issues the night of the race.  The following Tuesday (two days later) was a different story.  Stomach cramps and several trips to the John and I was all better.) I don't know enough about contaminated water to say that was the cause, but I do know it's never happened to me before.  And there was nothing out of the ordinary that I did in those two days.

After the race, while making our way through the madness aka Mandalay Bay I found a half marathon medal on the ground.  No one claimed it, so I scooped it up.  When I got home and saw how many runners didn't get a medal, I decided to see if I could put it into the hands of a deserving runner.  I posted a message on the facebook page and a lady from Wyoming responded.  Later, I started seeing other people on the page offering up their only medal to first time runners.  Kudos to them.

Other fond memories were the "entertainers" at Coyote Ugly, the cool head lamp in our goody bag, the glow in the dark medal, running 13.1 miles in a kilt, the crazies on the streets and plenty of laughs.

Sure the organization was poor (at times even dangerous), the crowd (even the runners) was not as friendly as past races, there were long sections of the run with NO crowd support and so on and so on.  I doubt I'll ever run this event again, largely because of all the f' ups but there were still plenty of smiles this weekend.  For me running is all about the experience and whether its good, bad, ugly or whatever, it's what I've signed up for.  Not to take away from the terrible experiences of other runners, but I refuse to be left with only the negative thoughts.  We runners are known for being obnoxiously optimistic and intend on living up to that stereotype.

I put together a little collection from some of the weekend "highlights".

And for the record, Competitor Group, it doesn't matter how you try to make it better, I will not run Vegas RnR again.  But that's ok, because I've run Chicago twice and it is one of my favorite races!!!

Happy Running