Monday, August 29, 2011

A 2-4 of Canadians

A few things I've learned about the Bismarck Marathon...
  • I am one of 24 Canadians registered for the Bismarck Marathon.. make that a 2-4 of Canadians, appropriate don't you think?
  • The 2007 winner of The Bismarck Marathon was Bert Menoit of Winnipeg with a time of 2:48:38.
  • The winner of the 1993 and 1994 marathon was Manitoban Andrew Beer (coincidence?) with a time of 2:49:50 and 2:48:38. 
  • The fastest recorded time for the Bismarck marathon was set by Joseph Mahoney from Minneapolis in 2009 with a time of 2:32:50.
  • The infamous hill at mile 5 and 18 is one mile in length with a 4 to 5% grade (that's a rise of 350 feet in 1 mile).
  • There are1300 hundred runners registered so far but the race director expect to top 1900 by race day.
  • This is the first year the course had to be reconfigured due to flooding.
I'm on the downside of my training.  One more long, slow dance next weekend and then Treherne Half the following week, then Race Day!  I plan to run Treherne slow.. please remind me.. the testosterone sometimes get the better of me... guy thing.  

I ran a 22 miler this morning and I felt quite strong at the end aside from the rubbery legs.  I enjoyed my secret post-run chilled concoction and had a lie-down (not a nap... that's for old folks, right?) to rest the legs.  The secret concoction you ask?  

It's a little something I discovered last year that's been very helpful.  First I must explain that I have absolutely NO, zilch, nada appetite following a long run.  I can go 5 or more hours without eating anything after 20+ miles and that's not healthy!  I recognize my body needs to eat something, but food has no appeal until I discovered.. wait for it..

 I drink it over lots of ice and topped off with soy or 1% milk.  I know Boost is usually associated with old folk and retirement homes, but h***, it works and I can literally feel the positive effects within seconds.  A certain person is trying to convince me to mix it into a smoothie with yogurt and fruit, but I'm not convinced.  I'm of the mind 'if it-ain't broke don't fix it'.  I only have this not-so-secret-anymore concoction after a long, hot run or following a long sweaty hill workout.  I'll be packing a couple in my kit-bag for Bismarck.  I understand that most runners are ravenous after a long run and can eat anything (I've seen you and I'm amazed), but for those of you with queasy stomachs like me, give it a try.  Tell 'em Mikey sent you.

My other secret weapon is fig newtons on the course to replace gels.  I have one every 4 to 6 miles and they really do provide energy.  I have a sensitive stomach on long runs and they DO work well for me.  

And finally, a running friend suggested I post this clip on SMR.  It's shows a young Mike in training.  Note the pace and form.  Straight back, high turnover, and such focus.  The rest is destiny!

It was a great day to be alive in 1959 as it is in 2011 (although the bones felt better in '59).


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seppo Osala collapses on course.

Way to go Sandra.  Your quick thinking saved Seppo.   

It's a good day to be alive, right Seppo?


(click to enlarge)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bismarck ND Marathon... 28 days and counting.

I'm pleased with my training for the Bismarck Marathon.  I've pretty well followed my schedule to a tee minus a couple of dropouts due to fatigue.  I skipped one speed workout a few weeks back because it just didn't feel right and I cut this week's hill workout in half because of full-body fatigue.  The heat's made things tough, but not unbearably so.  I've also decided to take two consecutive rest days prior to the long run on Sunday.  As I mentioned to a friend the other day, it's all fun and games until the training dips into the 20+ mile zone.  This is when the body becomes weary and the potential for injury rises significantly.  This coming Sunday calls for 22 miles.  Last Sunday was 20.  Funny, 22 is still daunting even after all these years of running.  I still get a little anxious; go figure?

Interesting that I haven't had a GU or any other gell for many months.  I've almost entirely switched over to Fig Newtons for my long run energy food.  They're loaded with potassium, quick-burn carbohydrates, and they taste like real food (unlike the Frankenfood I used to consume on long runs).  I pack a half-dozen in a baggy and down them with a slug of Power Aid every 30 minutes or so.  Past symptoms of nausea have disappeared.  In talking to an elite athlete friend of mine she tells me she packs sandwiches, gummy bears, chips, but no gels, on her 50 to 100 mile runs.

Back to the business of Bismarck....

The course has been reconfigured due to flooding in the area.  Full marathoners runs the half-marathon course twice giving a whole new meaning to "twice the distance, half the fun."  This requires the full marathoners to run the hill leading to University of Mary twice, at mile 5 and again at mile 18.  Ouch.  The hill is one mile in length with a 4% - 5% average grade.  A couple of questions...Why is the spike higher in the second hill?  Why is the profile of the two hills different?  I thought it was the same hill.  Not sure what's up here... or down for that matter.  I hear that the view at the crest is amazing.

It's the same hill so why are the profiles different?

The fact that Bismarck is even holding this marathon in light of all that water is a testament to the spirt of the American mid-West.   Kudos to the race director and the team for their courage, dedication, and especially their Joie de vivre.  This will be a race to remember!

This is what your friends are really thinking when their eyes glaze over as you discuss your pace, your resting heart rate, your personal best, your personal worst, protein shakes, your blood pressure, minimalism vs traditional vs barefoot, tempo runs, lsd's, speed, intervals, Garmins, benefits of running, and all that other jargon that keeps us uptight and anxious.  No wonder their eyes glaze.  Non-runners just don't get do they? They don't understand, how could they?

No one understands an injury like the sidelined runner. To all you injured, I understand your frustration.  I know how it hurts.  I appreciate the ache inside that permeates.  Been there.  I get it.

I'll be seeing some of you on Sunday for a slow dance.  Until then, it's a good day to be alive.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When You Can’t Stand, Run.

It is an ordinary Tuesday afternoon as Tuesday afternoons tend to be, except that I am flying home from an extended visit to France, nearly ready to return a copy of the recently mentioned “The Memory of Running” book to Mike of SMR—nearly ready but not quite. Mike graciously invited a review of the book and because I enjoyed it so extravagantly, I’m happy to write. 

As you might already know, “The Memory of Running” is a transformation story, told by its protagonist, Smithson “Smithy” Ide, a friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk, to quote the book’s back cover. Smithy approaches one of those fork-in-the-road junctures where he has to take a few hard looks at his life and decide how to go on. The situation is unspeakably tragic; he has just learned of the death of both his parents and his younger sister, Bethany (“my Bethany,” he says) within the time span of a single week. What adds to the agony is that Smithy has spent much of his growing-up years literally running courageous searches for Bethany who’s intermittent psychotic episodes cause her to go missing and harm herself in astonishing and public ways. 

Says Smithy, “A person doesn’t get over a family.  Sometimes things happen that make a person feel like standing up is just too much...”

It’s one of those times and Smithy is evidently going down, increasingly dependent on the daily packs of Winston cigarettes, the Vodka, all those beers, the crappy food. He acts like an asshole. His body becomes sedentary, almost immobile, strangely a little like his sister in one of her motionless psychosis-induced poses.

At one point, we learn of a pivotal conversation between brother and sister during the time prior to her disappearance and death. Noticing the beginnings of her brother’s deterioration, Bethany—usually the subject of his concern—puts Smithy on the spot. “I’m not worried that I’m crazy, that I’m going to be crazy. Now I’m worried about you.” Smithy laughs a little, tires suddenly, and casually suggests the worry is unwarranted.

But she gently continues. “Can I tell you something, Hook? (her nickname for him) Can I?” He consents, sort of… 

Bethany asks if he remembers how he used to look for her and let her ride his bike home while he ran beside her. “I’m afraid you’ve stopped running, and I don’t want you to. I want you to stay a runner. I want you to remember running.”

Smithy listens, a tribute to the bond between them. Not easy for him, though. Looking back on the conversation he says, “I had this feeling of somewhere a mad scientist fooling around with his beakers and vials, and he had me strapped to a chair, and there was nothing I could do.” Well ok, sometimes a sister might get a little carried away.

When Bethany says she wants him to stay a runner, she’s saying a lot. ‘Running’ in the book, is a metaphor for hoping, taking action, for thriving and being fully alive, but the meaning of the word is not only abstract. Running, according to Bethany, literally requires the passionate and intense movement of the body, whether you are Norma, the Ides’ family friend, sitting tall and strong in a wheelchair, or whether you’re riding the maroon 3-speed Raleigh bike. Running is not just an approach to life; it’s the daily practice of moving one’s body to its fullest capacity, with abandon, and with discipline and determination.

In the new grief of his parents’ and sister’s deaths, Smithy makes a tenuous but irrevocable return to his running past. Just as he used to, he jumps on his old bike without plan or preparation in search of his sister for one last time. His destination is the Cheng Ho Funeral Home, many states away from his Rhode Island neighborhood.

And here begins one of my favorite things about the book. As Smithy begins to move his body again, we see other things in his life beginning to move as well. As he peddles long days through rain, sun, wind, on freeways and rural gravel roads, he slowly wakes up to himself, comes to his senses—he begins to taste, touch, see, hear. He experiences aching muscles, sweat, his heartbeat, and the deep sweet satisfaction of rest that follows intense exertion. He wakes up to his surroundings too, to the people he meets, some whom he has known for a very long time. He feels sadness, trust, desire.

We don’t ever get over a family. The book shows us how true this can be, how the people we love keep forming and shaping us profoundly, long after they pass on. Bethany’s words stay with Smithy, and maybe they resonate with all of us runners. “What are you going to do,” she asks, “… stay a runner… remember running.”

I could never summarize a book like this, nor would I want to; it’s made of action and unrepeatable moments and its conclusions, if it has any, are modest, provisional, and open-ended. But maybe travelers and readers have something in common—we want to take something with us when the adventure is ending. If that impulse is ok, here’s something I’d gratefully carry with me from the book: Bethany’s wisdom, which becomes Smithy’s also: When things happen that make standing up feel it’s just too much, the thing to do—the only thing to do—is run. Stay a runner.

Hope I can remember that some day when I need to. Returning your book now, Mike, with a thousand thanks for the wonderful read.


"Plans just happen, I have found out.  I was someone who never had a plan, so it shook me up to see how simple they were to make and how often they just made themselves.  It was a tender kind of secret and I loved knowing it."
Smithson Ide