Hi, I am Randy from the flatlands of Superior, WI. Back in the day just might be an appropriate title for this. For my 30+ seasons of running I hope to share some regional running history, trail running information, and observations about our sport / activity / pastime.
Happy trails or roads,
June 8, 2011: Not getting ready for Grandma's
Well its’ been awhile since I have blogged. Let's start where I left off with my last entry, sort of! It all started with the Millennium pavement / trail race, that was the first step in my undoing, then the Get in Gear 10K eroded a bit more, with the final nail in the coffin being the Western Waterfront 5 mile. The world of Randy’s running has become very quiet due to injury.
So what's my ailment? It's an encounter with Plantar fasciitis. It’s amazing what your training log can tell you, when you look for the how and why. When I read between the lines, here is the story. This year Grandma’s was clearly in my cross-hairs as a more serious road marathon. It's the 35th renewal of the event you know. The problem was my 26 year old brain forgot to tell my 52 year old body that you aren't supposed to train like you did as a 35 year old. Way back before my trail ultra days I was a confirmed “roadie,” all events and preparation involved lots of encounters with the pavement. That lasted up to about age 35. I thought that I could just step back into that form of training again. My bad!
What my training log uncovered was the absence of early season trail runs. As I reviewed my log entries from recent years I found that I noted how tired and weak my feet felt in March and April after my trail workouts on the Superior Hiking and Voyageur trails. The more I did the stronger they felt and the better my training came together, I made a point of noting that too. This year it was about 3-4 days of single track trail running and lots of pavement up to the Millennium "pavement" run. They say hindsight is 20/20, confirmed!
Considering all that I have read about resolving and preventing PF it seems that a common theme is keeping your feet strong. Well now I’m in recover mode, getting better too. I have a few more Triathlons on the agenda this year. At least I can be two thirds effective, it's heavy on the cross-training. I discovered that running is a solid cornerstone for the other two sports, at least for me. Not running has most definitely hurt my overall endurance for swimming and cycling. Running seems to be my foundation sport by hours and effort. Don't get me wrong, I'm not lamenting, having two other things to do, I'm grateful for that.
Well it would take a small miracle to put me on the starting line for Grandma’s this year, If so, it will be an ultra-style slow run that involves lots of breaks, some walking, and a very low-key informal see what it's all about from the "Back" perspective. I might just have to visualize some trees, single track, wood ticks and such to pull it off. A small meal will have to be included try to authenticate the ultra-ish experience. Hey! Jolly Rancher's at mile 18. I'm almost there. The time involved will be much more like a 50K, or more. This years Grandma’s was to be my 99th marathon or longer event, with the ½ Voyageur as my 100th. It's up in the air now.
For me the score card has been 27 full Grandma's,1 Irving 5k (my Western States 100 year) and 3 Bjorklund 1/2's in 31 years. What's in store this late in the game... only time will tell if I add another category to the score card. If you happen to see a North shore Strides reunion shirt, with "Back" on the back... that's me. I give it a 30% chance of happening as of today...tomorrow perhaps 33%. Let's hope for more recovery
April 26, 2011: Millennium trail / bike path run!
A quick update: wet conditions will have us on the paved trail for a out and back 4.1K run. Bring your road flats and make some tracks. It's billed as a 5K, where did the mile go? Give it to Clint from the Running Company for going the extra mile, and for working through a number of issues to give us a 1st NMTC spring series event.
So to be optimistic, everyone gets a PR at 4.1K. You will be done earlier and cleaner than in years past. With that in mind be sure stop in to one of our fine Superior establishments: The Anchor, Shamrock, VIP, Sammy's... for a bite and a beverage. Enjoy the trail as an urban planner would like you to and for the course as it was intended to be run!
For some it may be a welcome rest from the CM 50K and a tune-up for Get-in-Gear this weekend. Considering the way the weather is trending we just might be running in snow! See everyone on Wednesday evening. I'm glad you will have an opportunity to visit my running neighborhood. Technically I don't really live in Superior, but a neighboring community, with that in mind.
Happy trails ... or roads...or paths...or snowy footprints...
March 15, 2011: Superior Swim Challenge, April 2nd 2011
November 19, 2010: A Different Kind of DNF
Connie’s experience with her recent did not finish (DNF) post moved me to finish something that I have considered posting for some time. Not to imply that this was her situation, it’s all about me! Burnout, aging, motivation, our place as runners on the continuum of life are rarely discussed. Now is my opportunity to share little about my experiences. I consider myself a pretty optimistic and positive individual. I was somewhat perplexed a few years back when I found myself “burned-out” on the marathon.
I never burned out running as a road racer, marathons, 10 milers or 5 milers, 5K’s any number of fast competitive races, sometimes two in a weekend. I was always fresh and energized, ready to go. That was my motivation for almost twenty years of running. Then I started adding in the ultra-marathon events, moving up in distances to "grand" achievements. Every event--skiing, ultra-running, the marathon--all had an epic quality, extra significance, or a standard to be met. I built them up in my mind and knocked them off: 50 milers, 100 milers, Boston…1st wave in the Birkie…year in and year out. Stay qualified for Boston, have a 50 mile time handy, should the desire to run the WS100 occur again, keep the 5K time under 20 minutes…That went on for some time. Focus on everything, try to achieve it all. I guess my type “A” is showing, huh?
Then the came ½ Voyager 2007. During the race I just quit! Not physically, but mentally. As sure as if I had been taken off the course in a "broom wagon". It wasn’t a particularly hard day, I wasn’t suffering. My feet crossed the finish line; mentally I was done. I recalled coming out of Gill Creek my absolute favorite section, and thought, “I’ll never have to do this again, ever, in a marathon." I had sworn off the marathon or longer forever, no more, ever! I closed the book on that chapter. Of course, I reveled in completing another marathon to some degree, but was glad to be done with one category of events. This went far beyond the hurt after an event when you say to yourself; “I’ll never do that again.” This came from the place of, "I have simply had enough, I just can’t do it anymore.” No more death march at the end of Grandma’s, no more marathon anything! Or so I thought.
2007 came to a close with a focus on some new sports, triathlons and some 5K’s. The mental quit of the ½ Voyageur just never really went away. For all of the time and energy that I put into training, resting, diet, being in tune to my body, I couldn't fathom how I arrived at this place. How did I burn out? My first clue was when I was getting ready for the Gobble Gallop 5K while doing a track workout. My plan was to run 10 by 1:30 to 1:35 quarters, 1:40 to 1:45's were all that I could muster. Standing on the dark UW-Superior track I had one of those “moments.” It wasn't about disappointment, but rather realization. That’s as fast as you can run, live with it! My expectations and abilities had been tempered by years of better times, so this is where you are now. Get over it, and get on with your workout! You know what you need to do, forget the clock! Be grateful for what you have. How many 48 year-old runners were out there doing repeats with me that evening…none! That proved to be an “epic” revelation.
My second moment of understanding came while I was meeting one of my friends that returned from California over the holidays. He’s an ultra-distance cyclist, the double century type. We share in our adventures and exchanged experiences about our respective endeavors. He inquired about any big events that I had planned for the upcoming year and recent results. Absent form the conversation was anything "grand" or "epic" on my part; however, I was feeling pretty good as an athlete and runner again! We discussed motivation and the mental elements of our respective sports.
What occurred was a realization that nearly every month of my previous years of athletic calendars were filled with grand, epic, or a standard to be met. I had to learn to become okay with the idea of letting go, and sometimes just doing. I attributed my burnout to years and years of overlapping expectation for every sport. Add in the realities of age and multiple goals, it was no wonder that things came to critical mass at the 2007 1/2 Voyageur. Exit “grand” and downsize to happiness.
Gaining an understanding of my place and pace in the running community helped me find my way back to the marathon and beyond again. I gave myself permission to "stink it up" on occasion, in some events. I allowed myself to realize that you cannot perform at 100% twelve months per year. Life is very good as a runner without all of that self-imposed expectation baggage now. I gave up doing Grandma's every year, did a few half-marathons, catch the Voyageur every now and then.
Now my focus is on one or two specific key events per year. My training is more directed at those events, and not anything or everything. I think part of my burnout was the lack of a specific focus too! Don't get me wrong, I still race a lot and enjoy pushing hard to the finish line on any given weekend. It's just not a make or break deal at every race anymore.
Life as fifty-one year old runner is pretty good, actually better than when I was younger and faster. Years ago I could, within a few positions, tell you exactly where I would finish in a given race when I took the start line. Today it's more of a surprise, I get to take my competitiveness to runners one-half or a third of my age, and I have a runner rich race environment with lots of competitors across all age groups (AARP-ing them). Now a good race is a well executed strategy, or an unplanned recent best ( RB, after 50 you don’t have personal records PR's anymore), or the experiencing the great community of runners I get to interact with. It's about creating new interesting goals, like running three marathons (or longer) in four weeks.
For me that mental DNF was the endpoint of an accumulated lifetime of achievements and the inevitable realities of age. Add to the mix a lack of focus. All of those things converged at one time, I guess at he Voyageur 2007 I found the "the wall" in the big race--life! Just like “the wall” in the marathon, you adjust pace and work through it.
Reinventing my purpose from time to time, changing up events, and allowing for renewal, it helped me understand my age much better. “Grand" is now more about being there, on a start line, with a clean slate, fresh attitude, and not being somewhere bigger, better, or meeting a standard. "Epic" has now become my longevity as a runner and being motivated to compete and train for years to come. I still have the desire to race hard, get to NYC, do Boston again, and perhaps another 100 mile, or even an Ironman, but all in due time.
I just may have learned that my burnout (the mental DNF) was more about life pace than race pace! Did I go out too fast? For an activity that is so simple: put one foot in front of the other and repeat with increased frequency. I could be overanalyzing it all. I really don’t think so. It’s more about the difference between just showing up for life and experiencing it.
October 8, 2010: TRI-umphant in Redwing
The Saturday Running events for the Twin Cities Marathon was always a time when my wife and I would take our three daughters to St. Paul to in run the children’s races. We would spend a day doing a few special Twin Cities activities. Fast forward through middle school, into and beyond high school. My girls are no longer no longer little girls anymore. Today the finisher’s medals still evoke special memories and stories for them, and for us as parents. The opportunity arose again this summer to build some special memories with one of my daughters.
2010 becomes triathlon time for my youngest daughter, and it's time for me to help her through her first full event. We chose the Wingman Triathlon in Redwing, MN. The experience from the team race last year gave her the desire to tackle an individual sprint tri this year. Redwing, like Duluth is built on the side of a hill, so I was a little apprehensive about the cycling part for her. She did fine except for being confident with her speed on the descents. I didn't account for that. She had her white knuckle moments due to her lack of experience on a fast rolling, high pressure, skinny tire road bike. Her transitions were smooth and the run was uneventful. She even shared the company of her dad to the finish. That's how we could write this.
Here's how I experienced it: She kicked my butt in the swim (duh! she’s a SHS swimmer). T-1, she’s out in short order and on the bike. I'm confident in my cycling abilities and figure that I'll have caught up to her within the first 4 miles of the 13 mile ride. From there it's dad and daughter to the finish line. For me, I'm out of the swim and into T-1. I manage to get my tri-top stuck on my wet body. I get it stuck in such a way that it rolls up to create a man-bra; the “Braun” really does exist. Up down, up down, tug...a garment version of a finger trap! I get that mess sorted out so I could move on to changing my shoes. I used running shoes and cycling toe-clips instead of the usual clip-in pedals. It’s not a problem until you pull your speed laces, the elastic breaks, and it snaps back into the shoe. Major problem! How to tie a knot with one-half of a lace, I “MacGyver” a solution and begin my run out of transition with my bike and crash face first on the chip timing mat.
My wife looked on in amazement. I’ll bet she probably thought “Randy Triathlon” had been replaced by a far less capable clone "Lost in Transition Randy." The usual 30-45 second transition is up to three-minutes. I leave Coville Park with no cyclists in sight. I now become "Last out of Transition Randy, Butt Last Randy, Pending Oxygen-debt Randy” … you get the picture.
Up next a train! Can this be happening? Thankfully, it didn't stop the race or impede anyones progress. I make it to the RR crossing just past four miles, and I spot a biker off in the distance. I didn’t recognize who it was. This rider didn't appear to be a rookie. I put my head down to do my best Lance (1999-2005) impersonation to catch-up. To my surprise, it's Megan. Wow! She’s riding with a flat back, up-tempo cadence, relaxed arms, uphill, and with excellent form! Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery! We enjoed the rest of the bike and run together in the spirit of father, daughter bonding.
It seemed like nothing more unusual could happen until....while finishing up in the locker room my wife yells in: "You better get out here ASAP you won the 50's division". How cool is that! My daughter gets to pace me to an age group win and completes her first tri all in the same day. I accept my award and wonder--where are second and third place? There were no other Grand Master's. Perhaps it was meant to be that way. So, in a way my award becomes more of a participation award.
Isn’t it ironic that for all of those years of supporting her and her sisters to get those participation medals and creating special memories at the TCM Saturday events. Her role as a triathlete had allowed me to get a participation award and create a special memory, including a fun story. This time it was my daughter making me feel a little special. So in the 2010 Wingman Tri, only one 50 year-old male participated, longevity rewarded.
That age group award for me, marks that body of work (years) on the life continuum, of seeing a little girl participant grow to a young woman / athlete. She hasn’t let me off the hook for being so “ancient” that I’m running out of competitors and age groups.
That’s part of what daughters are supposed to do too!