Monday, March 30, 2015

Cooper River Bridge Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10th; 4th Edition 
50.5 miles run in 2015 races
Race: Cooper River Bridge Run
Place: Charleston, SC
Miles from home: 2894
Weather: 40s; Sunny; Windy

It can be difficult to try to run two races in the same weekend. When they are in different countries, it is even more difficult.  However, when the opportunity arose for me to be part of the Cooper River Bridge Run, even though I was schedule to run the Around the Bay 30k in Hamilton, ON, the day after, I made sure I could do both. But not without some tiring travel.

Suffice it to say it took a great deal of finagling and effort to make all the flights work for this trip and not make it too pricey. I am still holding out for that Sugar Mama so I don't have to worry about prices but I might be about 20 years past that expiration date.  Once in Charleston, I was reminded how wonderfully tiring working a book signing for two days (one of them being a 12 hour day) can be. Fortunately, I know ahead of time, I am not built for fast 10ks, even if properly rested. With an 18.6 mile race the next day, I knew I could keep my hopes low for this race.

Weather for the race was projected to be rather ideal. The morning of, after the previous day's rain soaking the area, proved that forecast right.  When the gun was fired, the temperature sat at 41 degrees. I was seeded right behind the elites in the sub-40 time group, something I have easily done in the past but was unsure of today.  In that group were friends I knew already, like Meagan Nedlo who was featured in my new book with Lacie Whyte, Running With The Girls) and some new acquaintances as well. My goal was to run around 6:20 per mile which would put most of them far ahead of me. I was fine with that.

As this race is going to be part of a new book I am in the process of writing, this won't be the longest of recaps. Instead, I will focus a little more on my own experience.

Miles 1-3: 6:15; 6:44; 7:04

I went out with two new friends who were expecting to run in the 38-39 minute range. Immediately I was reminded that while I am in the best shape I have been in the past few years, I am still working back to "good shape".  Hitting the first mile in what felt like a 5:50 and seeing only a 6:15 made me realize that my goal overall might be ambitious, especially given this wasn't even my "A" race of this weekend.

Up ahead, the towering suspension of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (AKA "Cooper River Bridge")
beckoned. I asked Danielle, one of the new friends I was running with and who had run this race last year, how hard the hill was on the bridge.  "Hard," she said. I took that to heart.

Designed by  Parsons Brinckerhoff, a name that seems completely made-up, the bridge began slightly before the second mile. Being able to see the top of the bridge, it didn't look like it would be too long of a run up the hill or too hard. That thought was rather incorrect. For over a mile we climbed and never being a strong uphill runner, I assumed tons of runners would pass me. Not nearly passed me as I did but I knew I was hardly tearing up the hill. A headwind on the bridge, which made the local news race report which leads me to believe it was at least a little unusual, didn't help. 

My over 7-minute mile told me this was going to be far slower than I was hoping for.  I did, however, remember to at least look around when I got to the top and enjoy the view. It was a clear day, sunny and I can't imagine there is a better vantage point in the entire area. I normally don't give a hoot about "scenery" when I am racing but this one was pretty dang wonderful.  But now back to our normal scheduled suffering.

Miles 4-6.2: 6:21, 6:36; 6:41

Finally cresting the bridge was a relief but not the large exhale I was hoping it would be. I was able to feel a bit more comfortable and was happy to see the downhill portion of the bridge.  By now, however, I was more than holding back. I tend not to think ahead but my mind was now on the 30k in Canada the next day. There was no point of killing myself, even for 3 miles, to still get a subpar time in this race, basically leaving me worthless for the next day.  I zoned out for a bit as a few friends slid a bit ahead of me. My 6:21 mile surprised me pleasantly, regardless of the downhill portion.  I briefly considered revising the exact notion I just posited about reserving energy, as one often does when they feel good. I knew however that would be a fool's errand and simply settled into the race.

With the bridge behind us, I knew we had nothing but flat running left. The sun was bright and keeping us warm even in the coolness of the day. We were flying down Meeting Street and I could see the flag for mile five approaching. I had a young gun next to me who was undoubtedly using me as his barometer. On numerous occasions, he had gotten a distance in front of me, only to fall back and line up even with me.  My own race now of little consequence, I was curious how tied to me he was. I began throwing little surges here and there and he would hang with me every time. I am sure if there is a picture of me during this time, I was smiling. He had no problem letting other people pass him but it was like "Not THIS guy!" Again, I had half a mind to run a ridiculously fast last mile to see if he wanted to come with me.  Then I realized I have never run a ridiculously fast mile ever so bollocks to that idea.

The last mile is where the party really began with the crowds. The streets of Charleston narrow and the crowds hug in tight.  My young assassin finally began to put a little distance on me and I began doing math.  I realized I was definitely not going to break 40 minutes and I had messed around long enough that I might not break 41. Crap. There is a difference between running a relaxed hard pace and throwing in the towel.  I had not meant to do the latter.

As we passed by the finish area, tantalizing us from two blocks to our left but half a mile from our finish, I
picked up the pace again.  At the 6th mile I knew it was going to be close to breaking 41 minutes. I closed the gap on more than a few runners including the young blonde rocket but the gap had gotten too big.  In fact, according to my watch, as I crossed the finish, I also ran myself out of an acceptable time as well, hitting 41:00 on the nose. (According to the official results I ran a 41:02-crap.)  OK, this is not "unacceptable", especially given the headwind and the bridge but it wasn't what I was expecting.  I did place 283rd overall out of 27,342 finishers, which isn't horrific. I also finished 30th in my own age group which tells you something about how many fasties were in that group.  Or how slow I am.  Let's go with the former.  It helps my sore ego.

The race itself, however, delivered what it promised. Logistically, there are far easier 10ks to run out there.  There are far faster 10ks to run. But not all races are run to see if they are the fastest. Some are must runs.

The Cooper River Bridge Run is one of them.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Guaranteed PRs

People trying to sell you something always have the answer.

Regardless of your race, creed, size, beliefs, somehow they think (or more likely they don't think but think they can convince you to think) that their one-size-fits-all program/book/pill will fix what ails you. Few things irk me as much as this, especially in the running world. Running is simple. As such, it is hard to come up with something new to sell to people in the sport. But companies will try. From Power Balance bracelets to Vibram shoes to Chi Running, all claim to be able to make you run better, faster, longer or anything else with an "-er" after it.  Most of the time they fail or are, at best, placebos.   Having said that I, however, know a secret. That secret is something I will share with you on how you can run a new personal best every single time. How?

Run a distance you have never run before.

OK, that was a lot of build-up for a silly statement but it is indeed true. It is also something I am going to be doing fairly often this year. In fact, it starts this weekend. 

First I will be taking on the Cooper River Bridge Run, a 10k in Charleston South Carolina, as part of research for a new book I am working on.  I have visited Charleston a few times and it is a lovely city.  Taking part in one of its iconic races will make me quite happy.

After running that race, running 6.2 miles back to the start, showering and catching a flight to Buffalo, I will drive to Hamilton, Ontario for the oldest road race in North America:  the Around the Bay 30k.  One year older than the Boston Marathon, the Around the Bay has been on my to-do list for years.  This year I finally get to cross it off. While this will definitely make one, if not both of the races a little less than ideal when it comes to my finishing time, at least I will get to see what they both have to offer. I can't tell you pleased I am that they are run on separate days, even if they are on the same weekend.

Then just two weeks later, after running the Crescent City Classic 10k on my first ever trip to New Orleans, I will tackle the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race.  All the distances I have run in all the the place around Earth and I have never done a 30k or a 10 miler. The Cherry Blossom omission is most egregious given that I lived outside of D.C. for four years. But I am ready to remedy that error.  With Crescent City, I have done a few 10ks but have never once stepped foot into the state of Louisiana. This will finally be my foray into the Cajun world and all 50 states will have finally been run in.  That's pretty neat for a boy from a small town in Pennsylvania who until he went to college had barely been more than an hour away from home.  It is amazing where running takes you.

 Plus, no matter how good or bad the times are, I will have myself a nice shiny pair of new personal bests.

Guaranteed.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of (Even More) Julbo Sunglasses

I wear sunglasses on probably 95% of my runs. Most of the time I do so because it is rather sunny here in Portland (no, seriously.) But I also don shades because they protect my eyes from debris, wind, rain, falling branches, etc. When you have spent thousands of dollars on your eyes, you get even more protective than you should since they are the freaking things with which you see. Because I have them on in so many pictures, people wonder what brand they are.  It was then that I realized that it had been nearly two years since I had reviewed the Julbo sunglasses I wear all the time.  As such it was time for an update. Before I go on further, if you want to check out my review of 7 other models of Julbo, go here. 

(Note for those who are interested, I have been a Julbo Athlete for about four years now, so you are welcome to take my recommendations with that in mind.  By that I mean, the sunglasses still rock which is why I work with them.)


First up are the Julbo Run, which I have ironically, never run in.

While they are built with a trail runner and mountain biker in mind, and feature a sturdy, helmet-compatible frame and scratch-resistant, anti-fog lenses that adjust with changing light conditions, I have basically designated these as my go-to everyday Sunglasses. I have no real reason why I never attempted to take them out for a run other than the fact that when I got them I realized that they just looked like I would want to wear them all the time. So I do.

I have seen plenty of other runners wearing them in race situations and they are obviously built to handle whatever you may throw at them athletically but they are just simply understated and sweet. However, the Run is no longer carried by Julbo, so I have an awesome pair of collectibles.  No worries for you out there as there is a similar, if just as wonderful model you can substitute in.

The Kaiser

I don't want to make the Run jealous but I might just like the Kaiser more. They have this sleek, clean and classic line to them that differentiate them from other sunglasses out there, even other Julbos.  In fact, I have two different pairs (Matte Blue and Black) that look uniquely different from each other because of the color scheme.

The Kaiser are sold under the "Travel" category of Julbo meaning they are meant to be used not as performance glasses.  That said, I have no doubt they would be just as effective as the Run mentioned above. But I am too busy taking them on fun adventures of the non-running kind to dirty them with my running sweat.

The Venturi (By clicking this link, prepare to get funky)

I do, however, have a pair of sunglasses that are both made for running and I have put to the test.  When I posted pictures of these sunglasses on Facebook, I had friends comment that they looked like the covered a little more of my face than some of the other Julbos.  At first I didn't think that was the case.  Upon further review, I realized they were right - to an extent. (The lenses were still smaller than the Ultra but a bit bigger than the Swell.) The odd thing is I don't particularly enjoy larger lenses on sunglasses and couldn't figure out how I did not notice it was even close.

For one, the venting on the side of the Venturi allowed the lens to be very breathable.  I didn't feel as if I was wearing an astronaut face shield. Another may had to do with how the nose pieces flexed and bend so if there were any changes in the way they were sitting on my face, the lenses would not bounce all over.  It was like the sunglasses had shocks and struts.

A feature which helped the stability of the Venturi was the curved wrapping temples. As they do not go straight back, you may not be able to throw them on in some cool way like Horatio Caine (you'll lose an eye) but the trade-off is that they actually stay on your head.  And also you don't have to be David Caruso which is a huge plus.

All in all, you would be well-suited for both style and performance by any of the sunglasses listed above. Time for me to put a pair on and go for a run.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Timex RunX20 Review

I am not much of a gadget guy.  At least not for my athletic life. Having an aversion to lots of stuff hindering my sport is one reason why while I do fairly good at triathlons, I will just never really love them. Too much stuff to contend with just to get to the starting line, let alone during the event. Running? Sweet bliss. Pair of shoes and maybe a watch. Even the watches I have that utilize GPS capability only get used about 10% of the time. I run in the same areas fairly frequently, I know the distances, and I just want to know the time.

So when I heard about the Timex Runx20 watch, I was intrigued.  It has GPS-functionality but really, that is about it. That sounds simplistically wonderful.  Time to take it for a run.

When I want to test a watch it take it to Laurelhurst Park in Portland just a mile from where I live.  There is a loop there that is exactly .99 of a mile long where I do more than a few of my runs. The loop is not just a nice oval but rather a twisty-turny loop that goes under heavy tree cover for most of it.  In other words, it is perfect for testing out how accurate a GPS usually is (short answer: not really all that accurate.  But I expect that.)  I did four laps of LHP with the Timex RunX20 on and got .96, .94, .95 and .98 per lap. Honestly, that is far better than I expected.  But it also goes to show people who rely on their GPS too much how relatively unreliable they are (i.e., stop complaining to races when they measure "long" because your GPS says they did.)

Looks-wise, it is pretty sleek. I have the lime green which pops nicely.  I normally go for the plain black versions of watches but this one spoke to me. From a usability standpoint, I read in another review that said it has a high 'just works" factor, and I have to agree. It is rather intuitive in its interface system with easy-to-navigate face. It is customizable for each runner with height and weight, it has a solid 6 hour battery life in GPS mode, and has a pleasing little vibrate/beep every mile. Customizable watch display with a decent but not overly large watchface (with contrast control.)

I have nice nails.
From the cons-standpoint, the watch is an island. By this I mean it has no way to upload all of its data to third-party software or Strava or whatever else you use to tell people how far you ran that day.  I know for some this is a deal breaker as a run not shared on Instagram didn't really happen.  For others, like myself, I don't mind at all. Considering the watch runs for well under $100 (I saw $80 the other day) I think it is a marvel. Will it blow you away with bells and whistles? Nope.  Is it all you need if you want a reliable GPS with a few basic functions? Yes!  Here are some quick stats for you:

  • Real-time speed,pace,distance and calories on your wrist
  • Crisp, easy-to-read display
  • Simple menu-based system
  • Interval Timer to coach you through run/walk routines or speed workouts
  • 50-meter water resistance, so you cab splash and swim worry-free
With the solid battery, slick functions and usability anyone can understand in a few clicks, this watch will handle most needs of most consumers. If a watch that has a GPS in it can be a workpail watch, even in lime green, this is that watch. 

I give it a solid 3.75 stars out of 5. Good work, Timex.

*Disclaimer*  I have a partnership with Timex which means I sometimes get free stuff. I don't have a "sponsorship" which some people like to loudly proclaim when some very wise company sends them a pair of socks in exchange for those people loudly exclaiming about that company's products ad nauseum. That said, I review products and give my honest assessment of them in order to let others know how they may work for them. If you don't like this, why in the hell are you reading my posts? You know that indifference is the opposite of love, right?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Phoenix Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10th; 3rd Edition 
44.3 miles run in 2015 races
Race: Phoenix Marathon
Place: Mesa, AZ
Miles from home: 1336
Weather: 60s; Cloudy; Windy

This recap is going to include a little bit of navel-gazing. Just putting that up-front for you.  Sure, I am going to talk about the Phoenix Marathon itself but this page is called SeeDaneRun, not SeeAllYallRun so a little self-indulgence should be forgiven. Plus, this race was four years in the making for me. Yet, at the end, it was almost a disappointment.

But first, let me talk about the actual race, meaning the one all of you will experience if you come to run the Phoenix Marathon. This is a top-notch event. I will get to all the good things in a minute. But let me get my one and only complaint out of the way: the name. Except for the first two miles run in Usery Mountain Regional Park, the entire race is run in Mesa, AZ.  (Although an interesting feature of google maps is how, if you type in a city, it will show you the city's "boundaries."  Often those boundaries have odd slices carved out of them for what are some municipal reason or another.  In this case, as you can see, there is a tiny portion which may not technically be in Mesa. Or it may be. I don't know. Damn you internet! You give me even more things to waste my time looking up. But I digress.) I know Phoenix is a cooler moniker, logo, and has name recognition but if I had my druthers, the alliteration alone would make me want to call this the Mesa Marathon.

That, however, is my only complaint. In other words, color me impressed. Starting the day before, a
well-organized and put together expo, everything involved with the planning and execution of this race seemed  top-notch. The course itself is a solid course but one runners must not take too lightly.  There is indeed a downhill factor but many think downhill gives far more than it does. In fact, it often exacts a toll from the foolhardy who mistake human running legs for automobile tires and think they can coast down the hill. Let me break down the elevation for you.

Two of the "girls" from my new book, Running With the Girls
The first two miles are a solid downhill. Running in the dark (the race starts at 6:30 a.m. sharp and I mean SHARP) it can be hard to judge one's pace. When runners streak out like roadrunners, that makes it even more difficult. After making a right hand turn, there is, on basically every elevation map, an almost imperceptible upward bump. It looks like nothing.  For all intents and purposes, it is nothing.  But you absolutely will feel it. I promise. Then it is two more miles of the same sort of downhill. At this point, of course depending on your speed, the sun will be climbing in the East.  If you are fortunate like we were on race day, you will get a cloudy sky. A temperature right around 60 degrees is what we got as well. Far from perfect but about the best you can hope for in Arizona in nearly March.  

For approximately the next two miles you climb up a slow gradient with a few steeper sections here and there. However, once you see the 6th mile, you know that you are virtually running flat or downhill for the rest of the race. While better than uphill, this might not be as glorious as you think.  Over the next four miles, you will continue to take back the uphill and add a little more as you lose roughly 300 total feet of elevation. At mile 10 you turn out of the neighborhood streets you have been running on and head due south for a mile. Crossing over a busy intersection, I have never felt safer in my running life. Along with plenty of police officers a line of those water-filled barriers escorted runners across the highway.  It was like our own Roman Phalanx. Nothing was getting through.

I want to make a little note that the mile between 10 and 11 is mildly uphill.  Again, it looks like nothing on an elevation map but knowing it is there will help your psyche very much. After that you have a right-hand turn and three straight miles will take you under the literal halfway point arch. Then another 90 degree turn south takes you another two miles on blocked city streets. At mile 16, you make a right-hand turn and spend the next four miles chugging along Brown Road. Not 100% flat (you go under an overpass and back up) but about as flat as one could ask for.  Whether you should ask for it or not is a point I will make later.

This takes you to mile 20 where you make a left handed turn, and complete the little "boot" of the course.

Hardly an exorbitant amount of turns, this section was probably my least favorite. That probably has just as much to do with me being tired as the turns or anything else, but I recall wanting to be done. Catching up with some of the back of the pack half-marathoners can be frustrating a bit (congestion) but also exhilarating (passing people like they are standing still.)

The crowds throughout were not exactly overwhelming but they were definitely outgoing where they were.  My favorite marathon sign in quite some time was:
"Don't be a Seahawk. RUN!" around mile 6. Also, the superhero aid station between 21-22 was pretty uplifting as well. In addition, the Mormon community was obviously out supporting the race and the elders in a couple of different places on the course, with fresh-pressed white short sleeves and name tags on shirts were a welcome sight.  The LDS know how to organize!

The final 5k is pretty straightforward and once again about as flat as you can get. You make a couple of turns here and there and the next thing you know you are entering the finish area. As you take the final .2 on a slight bend, ideally I would like to have it straighter, just so I can see the finish.  This is a little nitpicky but I will explain why in a minute. After that, you have a really well-put together race finishing area with plenty of food and drink and places for the wounded to relax, reconvene and recover. When I was done, I spent a few hours here talking with people I have chased, people who had chased me and basked in the camaraderie of runners having vanquished beasts or having been devoured by them. I saw one young chap, obviously distraught when I finished and upon talking with him realized he had just had a bad day.  As did many, actually.  Which leads to my race...

I last ran a sub-3 hour race, coincidentally enough, in Phoenix in 2011.  At that time in my running I was churning out sub-3s with a fairly regular effort.  In fact, I had done one just the week prior in Mississippi, which itself was just one week after 6 hour race in San Francisco which I won outright.  The remainder of 2011 was spent training for my 350 mile run up the Oregon Coast in April of 2012. When that was completed, I expected to take a little time off, get healed, and then continue the sub-3 hour streak which I had started in 2006.  Then I wrecked my bike fairly bad. For all intents and purposes, that ruined 2012 for me. The streak was over.

In 2013, in spite of a staph infection which put me pretty close to losing my foot, I got back into the swing of things and nabbed a 3:01 in Washington on very little training.  I assumed it was a one year hiatus from sub-3s and I would be back in the saddle. A nice new PR in the half-marathon during what was basically a training run for my Dane To Davenport told me all signs were go. Unfortunately, that event simply wiped me out and the best I could must was a "slow" win at the Seattle Locks Marathon.

Setting the Fastest Known Time for a marathon run around a cruise ship in January of 2014 had me thinking I would be good to go for sub-3s all year long. But 2014 was one big, gigantic waste. First I had a horrible flu, then I partially tore my achilles. The best I could muster was a 3:06 which I basically did on zero training.  A nice moral victory but I didn't care about moral victories. But as 2014 drew to a close and 2015 started, I felt ready to take it on.

January held for me long training runs I used to never do. I wanted to double down on my usual training just to make sure when I toed the line for Phoenix I would be as ready as possible. I didn't feel unstoppable the morning of the race but I felt like I had a good shot at running 6:52 per mile for 26.2 miles. That was really all I wanted: a 2:XX:XX. I cared about nothing more than that.  The rest of the year would sort itself out after I simply ended the drought. Which takes us to the race itself.

Fireworks started our run after a very pleasant and festive gathering of runners at the start. There was a general buzz of excitement as we milled around using the bathrooms, taking pictures, and getting ready to tackle 26.2 miles. I was ready to run.

I won't bore you with mile splits but suffice it to say the first four miles went better than expected.  The next two mile splits up the worst hill of the course weren't too shabby, either.  I knew this would be the hardest portion of the course but the rest would not be easy.  All that flat later on would wear me out. I am unsure why but a completely flat amount of miles almost always takes its toll on me. That is why races like Chicago have little appeal to me when it comes to trying to set a new personal best. I have gone into races just as flat, in good shape and rarely had good results.

Down the backside of the big hill took us to mile 8 and I could see I was doing far better than expected.  I let most of the rabbits go out, knowing that many would burn out long before the race was over.  (Backing this up is the fact that I had just the 90th fastest 1st half of the marathon and the 46th fastest second half, even though I slowed down.) I did take advantage of the continual downhill; not putting time in the bank but tackling what I do best. I run downhills very well, even though there is definitely a law of diminishing returns.

As we hit the tenth mile, coming out of the shelter of the neighborhood housing, one of my pre-race fears struck me: literally. Wind blowing north stood many of us straight up. I tend to like to run alone, but within ten yards or so of other runners. I like the elbow room.  However, this often doesn't happen. Being 6'1'' I often get a conga line of runners behind me, especially if there is wind.  Here, however, as I battled the wind by my lonesome, I heard a cacophony of feet. Much to my surprise a line of about six runners came up behind me and passed right by. I figured it was batter to work a little harder to fall in line than it was to work a lot harder to run by myself. For the next mile I did the former and I felt great.

I did my best to stick with this group of guys even as we got out of the wind right before the halfway point. However, running a 6:39 mile at a time when I needed basically nothing but 7 minutes, made me make an executive decision. I might be feeling good here but I didn't need a 2:57. I needed one second below 3 hours and nothing more. So I eased off the throttle. The downhills were over and it was time to settle into a pace.

I hated seeing the guys go, especially when I realized that we would be running another 2 mile straight stretch into this same wind from miles 14-16.  But I couldn't think about that right now. I had to remember the immortal words of Gold Five. I hit the halfway point in 1:28:53, giving me 67 seconds to play with over 13 miles. That was just two seconds slower than the half-marathon training run I ran at the Heart Breaker Half two weeks ago. I was feeling good about my chances.


Turning south however at mile 14, the wind bit back again. I had two female runners of contrasting size and style catch up to me and sort of sit down in front of me. They seemed to have enough energy to get with me but not enough to pull away.  I will use any wind block that wants to help me out, regardless of gender and when they chose their positions, I let them do so. Fortunately, at mile 16 we got out of the wind.  The next four miles were critical. For some reason, once I get to mile 20, for the most part, I am golden. Everyone else seems to fear the "wall." I see it as the jumping off point to taking it home.

I passed the time on this long straightaway by watching the women in front of me. The shorter "stockier" female would bounce around a great deal, from side to side. She would surge and get in front of the taller girl and then either slide to one side or the other, letting the taller girl pass. Then she would repeat. Almost always she would slide in behind the taller girl and then slingshot Ricky Bobby Style out there other way.  I wanted to yell "Shake and Bake!" but didn't have the energy.  In fact, I had lulled myself into a false sense of speed watching these two. Even though I was staying right with the women, matching their strides, they were actually slowing. The last 2-3 miles had me losing time I couldn't afford to lose. In addition, I knew this part of the race was pretty darn flat.  As I alluded to earlier, I don't run flats very well.  In fact, most don't after a certain point without at least some change in terrain. It is way too much of the same muscle usage. So I was doing my best to try to focus on trying to use different muscles, keeping my stride the same but working on mechanics the entire way.

Finally, as we neared the turn to head south again right before mile 20, I knew I either needed to pass these women or get right behind them. I wasn't battling the wind alone. However, they seemed to have worn each other out fighting for pole position, so when we made the turn and I slide right by them. I could see remnants of the group of six in front of me from earlier but they were more spread out. I was able to catch up to a few of them as I also noticed many people who had passed me earlier in the race. Some were quite distinct like a really tall guy wearing a white bandana type headpiece. It was similar to what you would wear if you were running in the hot desert.  I wanted to ask the guy if he felt it helped but he had headphones in.  Plus, I thought I might be bad etiquette to ask how a person you are passing how their gear is working for them. It might come back to bit me in the butt later, even though I was generally curious. Fortunately, the wind was not as bad right here or maybe I was delusional. I was able, however, to leap from runner to runner. Slowly and surely, I moved forward.

Because of the cushion I had at the half I knew I could run roughly 5 seconds slower per mile and still get under three hours. Unfortunately, I seemed to be using that five seconds every damn mile. The superheroes I mentioned earlier actually gave me a boost and I ran my first sub 6:50 mile in more than a few. However, in a race where I am on the cutting edge of times, whenever I run something which is a tad faster than I think it should be, I rarely think that I am doing better. Almost always I think the mile marker must be a tad off. Even though I know mile markers are not certified it is always nice when they line up with your own watch.  In fact, at almost every mile marker a chorus of watches from the runners around me would beep.  Either we were all spot-on or we were all off together. Regardless, it was comforting to be the same as everyone else. A couple of quick turns had me a little confused as to exactly we were until we hit a straightaway and I saw the 23rd mile.

When I hit the 24th mile, I seemed to have surged and had a few more seconds to spare. I almost paid dearly for this hubris and should have never thought I had any time to spare. The problem was I absolutely needed to use the bathroom and those spare seconds afforded me, in my head, the opportunity to hit the john. Blessedly, the portapotty at mile 25 was open. I think I was going before the door even closed.  My total time in the bathroom was probably sixteen seconds. I hadn't even bothered to latch the door.

With the last mile to go I couldn't do the math.  What did I have to run to get under 3?  Did I have it in my
legs to do so? One guy passed me.  About two hundred yards later, two other guys passed me.  Half a mile to go and a gentleman with "Mexico" on his shirt and another female who I had not seen for many miles slid right by me. I decided to use their pacing to take me home. Undoubtedly they too were shooting for sub-3.

I silently cursed at some half-marathoners hugging the wrong side of the road.  It is indeed their race too, but couldn't they telepathically understand how I needed to run zero more inches than necessary?  We made the final turn and this is where I sorely wish the finish was more straight.  I saw I had to travel the last point two of a mile in about 45 seconds. That was going to cut it way too close, even at the pace I assumed I was going.  Sure enough, when the clock and finishline came into sight, I had less than 20 seconds. I could tell I had about just that amount left of real estate to cover.

I turned on the jets, or what reasonable facsimile I have and gave it all I had. Another guy passed me but I cared not. I was only racing one enemy today and its red face was unblinking and unyielding. It had no remorse or conscience. So I had to make it hurt.

Passing over the timing mat in 2:59:57, I finally got what I wanted. I felt neither relief nor joy.  In fact, I was almost angry at myself for making it this close. It should not have been this hard to get this time. But I had it.  Nobody could take it away. I finished 57th in what was a very fast top 5% of runners. I have only finished worse overall in a sub-3 hour race in Marine Corps (117th), RnR Arizona (103rd) and Pittsburgh (73rd), all races which had, at the time, many more runners.

In hindsight, I guess fate should have told me this would happen (you know - if I believed in fate.)  I have run four different marathons in Arizona and never run a bad one.  My first Boston qualifier was here in 2005. Three of the four marathons I have run have been under 3 hours. Two of those have been personal bests. I guess I just run well in Arizona. Given how poorly I run in heat, and none of these were races I would consider "cool" temperatures, it is just one of those anomalies of running.

Ironically, a 2:59:57 is not the closest I have gotten to running under 3 hours. I ran a 2:59:58 at the Martain Marathon for my second sub-3 ever. Thinking back, that sprint was even more of a mad dash tan this one.  But the end result was the same: a time starting with 2. This was my 18th sub-3.  A few years ago I would have thought I would had run a few more by now.  Then again,  I have only run 5 marathons a year the past three years. Given all that is going on I am quite pleased to be running at all. The desire, however, to get faster remains.

I called this race my barometer race for 2015.  It would show me where I was not only on this day but in overall fitness. I am roughly where I thought I was and where I would hope to be. Now I must simply build on this and keep getting faster. I also have now had a Boston Qualifier every year since that race in 2005.  11 straight years. I also have started another sub-3 hour streak. I plan on making this one last longer than the first.

I would highly recommend running this race if not just for the relatively fast times you can run but for the overall excellent race organization. Hands down, this is my favorite Arizona marathon. Great volunteers, excellent aid stations, finely-tuned and of no surprise to be gaining more and more runners each year. Sincere kudos to those at the Phoenix (hopefully soon, Mesa) Marathon.

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I/O Merino Wool Apparel Review

A few months ago I had heard of merino wool as a clothing option for runners, but that was the extent of my knowledge of the fabric. Now, in a perfect rendition of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, I can't stop hearing about it. I have tried out a few different products with the merino wool, such as the PEP I reviewed here, but I was really impressed with the I/O Merino.

Portland this winter has not, well, had a winter. It has been downright warm, sunny, and pretty much bereft of any cold conditions. While the folks at I/O Merino insisted I could wear their product during warmer temperatures, they obviously do not know the superhuman power that the yellow sun of your galaxy gives me in the sweat department. However, since there appeared to be no cold weather in my near future forecast, I thought I would give it a go in the warmer climes.

I tested a short sleeve version of the I/O Altitude Base Layer Tank on a couple of runs to see what it would do for me on normal trots around the neighborhood. First and foremost, I was impressed with how well it kept me warm. I didn't need the extra heat per se but even a hardy soul wearing no sleeves in chillier temps might notice some cold nipping at their flesh.  I noticed none.

What I did notice was how effectively it wicks sweat away from my body.  Many mistakenly think that a wet shirt is a bad thing.  In fact, it is a wet body which performs poorly and the I/O did a fantastic job of removing the sweat from my torso to allow it to cool. It also allows me to marvel at how I can possibly sweat this freaking much in 40 degree weather

Next up, I decided I would brave the potential meltdown and wear the long sleeve half-zip on a less than cold day.  Granted, it was still cold for some (in the 40s) but for a Pennsylvania boy, February means it should be of the "Why does the air hurt my face?" temperatures with negative signs in front of them. However, on the day I decided to wear the Altitude Zip Base Layer, the sunny outdoors belied how chilly it was because of a biting wind. As such, I had actually been what I thought might be a tad unprepared as I was wearing nothing under the Base Layer.  Yes, I know it is called a "base layer" but I still planned to have something on under it every now and then. I march to the beat of a different accordion.

Not only did the shirt provide me with the excellent wicking I found in the short sleeve version, it left me completely unharmed from the wind blowing through the trees. The long sleeve with the thumblocks to keep the sleeves in place, as well as provide a little extra warmth on the wrists, was excellent.I actually needed to unhitch the old thumbs and roll the sleeves up a notch because of how toasty it kept me.

I always seem to have a problem with the zipper portion half-zips. If they are zipped all the way up they are choking me. If they are zipped down the open zipper's teeth tend to cut into my neck. As I pondered why any running shirt has a half-zip I realized I was having neither of the problems with this shirt. I don't know if it was just luck of the draw or purposeful design but I loved how it fit.

Wanting to continue to try out the shirts in differing patterns, I did indeed take on a half-marathon with the sleeveless base layer. Running the Heart Breaker Half Marathon, I had the combination of hills and chills to test how the shirt ran in race conditions. I feel it passed the race test with flying colors.

My only complaint was that the shirt might have been a little too long for a race situation but that might be simply because I ordered the wrong size. Its length is definitely something one would want to have in normal conditions, though.  The extra material keeps one from having their flesh exposed if they had to bend to tie a shoe or something of that ilk. Given I have a long torso, this is something I have to deal with often, even just in a normal run. So I am  not complaining about the extra length. Also, I didn't actually notice it was long during the race.  It never bothered  or hindered my stride. I only saw later in race pictures that it looked like I might be going to a teenage slumber party with no shorts on. That also has to do with the fact that I wear 1970s RollerGirl short shorts in my races as well.  I have nice quads. You'd do it, too.

The final tests for the product would come a few weeks later when I was in Salt Lake City for the Endurance Expo Show. While it had been 60 degrees the day I arrived one of the early morning runs I went on had the temperatures in the 20s with one hellacious wind.  As I circled my beloved Liberty Park, the wind was inexplicably in my face on three of the four directions I was running. I felt the cold sting of the dry Utah air on my face and legs (yes, I was wearing my Skins compressions shorts- I told you about my quads) but the I/O fought back this wind as well.

On a later, less intense (and therefore susceptible to running a little cooler than normal) run with my buddy Vanilla Bear, I had the final test of the long-sleeved base layer. We went out for a hour long run along the city streets and backwoods trails of Salt Lake. Within a mile, in spite of the cold temps, I was, of course, sweating. Also, the I/O was wicking away the sweat as Vanilla noted the crystallizing dampness on the back of my shirt. Nothng stops me from sweating so I need something which combats that while also keeping me warm. I can say the I/ O does just that.

To say I am impressed would be an understatement. I am greatly looking forward to trying out more of the products of I/O. Also, as I know it matters to some people, not only does the running apparel and regular day-to-day clothing perform well, it also looks really snazzy as well. I wore a Vital Longsleeve all day at the aforementioned expo and had more than a few people mention how nice it looked.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how this doesn't itch one single bit. It was such a non-factor I almost forgot to say it didn't exist. My only memory of wool before wearing Merino was that how anyone could possibly stand it touching any square millimeter of their skin without needing to scratch at it like a methhead.   But with this product - absolutely no itching, even when it was directly on skin (as it was in all the testing I did.)

All in all, let's simply say I/O seems to know what they are doing down there down under (they are based in Australia) and I look forward to trying out more of their stuff.

(Just as a side note, I was not compensated for this review, lest you feel that is something which actually happens in the world. If it does, please put me on the list of people who get that.  It sounds like a sweet deal.)

Addendum: I was able to score a sweet deal for my readers. Use DANE20 to get yourself 20% off any full priced item!  Who loves ya, baby?


Monday, February 16, 2015

Heart Breaker Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10th; 2nd Edition 
18.1 miles run in 2015 races
Race: Hearth Breaker Half Marathon
Place: Portland, OR
Miles from home: 16
Weather: 40s; humid; mostly sunny


Having run the Heart Breaker Half last year, I knew what was in store for me this year.  Basically, if you don't want to click on that link, let me simplify: I knew I was going to be running my fair share of hills. Fortunately, my body was in much better shape this year.

Note I don't think I am in much better running shape this year. Rather, this time last year I was developing a problem with my calf that would leave me hobbled for half of March and occasionally for other portions of the year. In 2015, however, I knew I wasn't dealing with that problem and my goal was significantly different.  Instead of just surviving, I wanted to give the course a solid go. With the Phoenix Marathon in two weeks, this would be a barometer run.  Not an all out effort, mind you, but rather one where I see where I am on this exact day and how that points toward the future. But I did want to take myself under 1:30 - something I hadn't done since my PR of 1:20 a little over a year ago.

One of the things I love about not traveling to races is sleeping in my own bed. Even if I have to get up and drive a few miles or more, my own bed with my own clothes in my own drawers is just a marvelous thing. This race was no exception as from the minute I left my door until I parked in the school parking lot which served as the start and finish of this race, was 20 minutes exactly.  Couple that with a nice warm gymnasium/lunch room to sit in with plenty of bathrooms and this is the ideal setting for a race. Five minutes before the race started, I walked out the door, hustled across the track we would be ending on in just a bit and lined up for the start. That is perfection.  Just like gum. Gum would be perfection. (Google that if you don't get it, you damn millenials.  Or here.)

To to the top of the Heart Breaker
Mile splits: 6:29, 6:37, 6:58, 7:21

Since I do not even warm up in any race until 6 miles in (which makes 10Ks a bad race option for me), and I don't exactly like starting a run by going uphills, this race presented a little bit of a problem. The undulating hills were bad enough but the namesake of the race (which was actually a combo of three hills separated by two different right angle turns) awaited from miles 3-4. The race has a special timing mat to show who gets to be the King/Queen of the Hill, as you were. I knew the crowned royalty wouldn't remotely be me and last thing I wanted to do was kill myself 23% through a race. Even more so, I wanted to get up the hill without dying before I even got to it. So I took off at the start in what I felt was a conservative pace.

Normally, I say that I felt conservative, look at my watch after one mile and see I have ripped off something 30 seconds too fast. This time, however, it was right what I thought it would be:,which of course, worried me to no end. If it felt good and it wasn't fast, does that mean the rest of the day was going to be too slow? Fortunately, the next two miles played right into my plan. Now time to tackle the beast.

Surprisingly, the beast felt much easier this year than last.  Knowledge is power and knowing it was there, and wasn't going to require a Sherpa and an oxygen mask, made it much easier. In fact, I think I hit the mile in a little over 7:10.  Not too shabby.  And only one person had passed me during its ascent.  Not too Shabby 2: Electric Boogaloo.

To the Start of Loop Two: 
Mile Splits: 6:23, 6:44, 6:40, 6:47 

My favorite part of this race is cresting the big hill, coming down a nice steep downhill and running under this ridiculously high railroad trestle. It really comes out of nowhere and seems completely out of place. It always picks up my spirits.

After that is a quick up and down and then you join the 10k runners on what will be your first of two loops of a 4.5 mile section.  This part I do not particularly care for (either loop) because of how you have to bob and weave through the masses.  One of the reason I want to continue to run as fast as I can is so I don't have to run with the crowds. I don't like people around me when I am racing. I want oodles of elbow room. Not sure why that is but I think the contact sport portion of my brain doesn't want people that close. Don't get me wrong. This section is hardly NYC-subway crowded but it is more than ideal for me.  The long slow gradual climb followed by another quick downhill takes you to a good mile flat straightaway with just an elbow of a curve. Here you have a chance t open your legs a bit and get into a groove.  Up head you can see the turn you have to make and the runners in front of you.

Up this quarter mile gradual climb, you then punctuate this loop with a steep down and back up.  That is your 4.5 mile loop.  If you are running the 10k you turn to go home.  If you are running the half, you get to do the second and third miles of the course again and then the remainder of the loop you just did.  I like knowing what is coming. I just wish what was coming was less hilly.

Heading Home:
Mile Splits: 7:00, 6:56, 6:38, 6:52, 6:37 

Starting the second loop I had not really done any math with regards to my splits. I had run a 1:33:14 and change here last year and l knew I was much faster than that here. How much faster I couldn't tell for sure.  When I hit the 9th mile, I got a better picture. It was going to take some slacking for me to not go under 90 minutes. Also, if I picked up the pace I was looking at something in 1:28. Hardly smoking fast but better than I had done in quite some time. The first 7:00 minute mile of the day other than the hill didn't make me feel good but I had eased off the throttle a bit getting ready for the last four miles.

I had been running in a bit of a vacuum for most  as the last person who passed me had done so at mile 5 and I only passed one person at mile 8.  Even with all the other runners I was passing who were a lap behind or in the 10k, it gave me no idea of my actual speed. I saw the women's leader up ahead but as she dodged  runners with headphones in who were not really paying attention, I could not mentally lasso her to use her to pull me in.  I was basically stuck not moving too slow but not moving fast enough. I was pleased that more than a few people did have just one headphone in or the volume low enough to hear approaching footprints. Unfortunate, in the midst of a race you forget those nice people an concentrate on those lost in la-la land an walking four abreast. Slowly.  If looks could kill.

When I hit the 11th mile, I knew I could run two 6:51s and that would get me under 1:29. Running a 6:52 for the 12th mile didn't dampen my spirits because of the huge hill in that mile. Accordingly, I knew I had the time in the bag. I just had to execute. It is when I know what I need to do I can reflect, even when I am in the middle of a race.  I thought back to relatively excellent race organization.  I don't know why the one aid station on the downhill around mile 2 (and 9) was on the far outside of a turn, and on a steep downhill but it was. Other than that, the volunteers were friendly and helpful. (When going back onto the course to cheer on my friend Shannon, I was able to garner a few extra seconds less in Runner Purgatory by stopping two runners from running off course less than a quarter of a mile from the finish and then moving a sign to make it more prominent to other runners as well.)

While I was doing the thinking, I realized this last mile felt good. Not thrilling but nice.  I stretched my legs out. I felt the road beneath my Karhu Flow Light shoes. The beautiful sunny sky beat down on my face and as always I was happy to be wearing my Julbo sunglasses. Even though it was only 45 degrees the I/O Merino wool shirt I was testing out kept me amply warm. In fact, I was more than covered in sweat. I don't remember being this sweaty as an athlete growing up by by golly I sweat a lot now.  How I ran with just two sips of water on the course is a testament to how I camel-train myself on a daily basis.

There was a much tougher field this year than last. I could hear a runner catching up to me in the final stretch but I had too much left in the tank and they did not have enough real estate to make a surge. As I crossed the finish in 1:28:51 in 18th place, I know this would have netted me a top ten last year. This bothers me none as place finishes are far more a by-product of who happens to show up. Instead, the time pleased me greatly as it showed I was much further along at this point this year than last. (As a side note: the runner right behind was a 16 year old girl.  She basically ran the same time as me. That's an impressive run, young lady.)

Times are basically irrelevant.  No one really cares whether I run another sub-3 in Phoenix in two weeks but me. Those who like me will support me if I don't. Those who don't like me will find excuses if I do.  The only person that matters is me. We have to look at ourselves for most of our pleasure and satisfaction. I know that each run is a crapshoot.  Did you not feel sick that day? Were you able to keep your ankles twist-free?  How did last night's dinner sit in your stomach?  These are questions we can only find the answers to when we put our shoes on and hit the road.

Today's answer to the many questions was I was quite pleased with how everything went.  Time to get ready for the next race. Thanks to the AA Sports people for always putting on such great events. Looking forward as always to running more.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weight Watching - January Edition

I have been known to be a little hard on the obesity problem in America.  I do so because I understand how hard it is to stay in shape. Usually statements like this from from athletes get eye rolls and "Yeah, right"s. However, I am constantly battling not only my desire to get faster but also the numbers on the scale. I truly
get it.

Let me be clear that the numbers in and of themselves matter very little to me. What the numbers represent, however, mean the world. Be them fat or muscle, weight for a runner means you have to move weight through space in order to get to the finish. Mass times acceleration equals force and the more mass you have the more force you will have - if you can accelerate it. Therein lies the problem.

As I pointed out in another article, ten pounds is akin to an extra nine minutes of time over a marathon distance. I wrote that article on January 12th. The next day, after an 8.65 mile run, I weighed myself. This is nothing new. I weigh myself constantly. I had a friend issue a challenge to me to stop weighing myself in order to feel better. I replied that weighing myself and seeing the numbers did not upset.  Not being able to figure out how I couldn't get them to go down (or stay down) did.

I ran on 30 separate occasions in January. My goal was to weigh myself as often as possible after these runs. While I might be a bit dehydrated or at my lightest of the day, at least weighing myself at the same time would be a constant from which I could draw data. I was able to get measurements on 18 of those 30 runs. Circumstances or forgetfulness sometimes kept me from using my scale before I ate or drank (which would skew results.) My first weigh-in of the year had me at 191.4 lbs. I was not surprised. I have been in the 185-195 range for about two year. (For the sake of comparisons I ran my marathon PR right at 180.) It is not where I want to be or what I race best at but it is not too high. .

Over the course of this past month, my weight would yo-yo with seemingly no rhyme or reason.  Down to 188.  Up to 193. It was baffling. A week ago I ran two good solid long runs in a row (13.3 and 15.9). My weight was at 185.8 after the second run. I thought I might have finally had a break-through and was finally getting down to around 180 or maybe a few pounds less. The next day I went to the gym and swam with no running. The day after that I ran a 7.25 miler but forgot to weigh myself. The next day I ran a very hard 8.2 miler- and promptly weighed 191 lbs. Over a 5 lb gain. Three more days of runs (5.4 miles of sprints; 8.25 of hard intervals and then 10.3 of tempo) and I went up one pound before coming back down another.I finished at 191 lbs.

In other words, I ran 247.25 miles and only lost .4 of a pound. When you are a big guy and can lose 5 lbs on a hard treadmill workout, this is seemingly criminal.  There is definitely something else going on other than exercise.

This leads to thoughts of eating and how what you put in your mouth means a great deal. I did not keep a strict food diary but I know I averaged about 2500 calories a day. Not a minor amount but hardly a gluttonous sized helping of food, either. In addition, the food I eat is very healthy. I do have a salty tooth (I like me my potato chips) and that might be the thing I need to have less of. I am no longer 17 and can burn though 400 calories a day with ease.

I don't have a conclusion as of yet. Drawing one from such a small sample size would be folly. I have a small amount of data from the first month where I have felt strong as an athlete in well over two years. (Bike crashes, staph infections, etc tend to weight you down.) I do know on February 1st I ran a solid 20 miler (which felt fantastic and gives me hope for running fast this year) and weighed in at 188 lbs. But with just a small run on Groundhog Day in the evening (where I didn't weigh myself because it came after meals) I'd bet I weighed over 190 again.

I am doing all of this for a number of reasons:
1. I love data and numbers.
2. I want to be able to see how much running and how much eating affects strength, weight, and performance.
3. I know many have false ideas not only about their own performances but those of others as well (I had one guy say he would never be my speed because I was one of those "fast, skinny guys" - then it turned out I weigh more than him.)

More or less, I am experimenting and make notes to be able to hopefully provide all of you with information you can use for your own purposes. I also know that I will be soon be getting periodic blood work done to not only monitor these changes but also to check on my Gilbert's Syndrome and how it affects my running. So, check back every month and I will be giving you updates on how I am progressing and what perhaps these numbers mean. Maybe we can find an answer together.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Alan Turing: Genius Gay Marathoner Murdered by British Government



I got a chance to watch The Imitation Game this past weekend. First and foremost I would highly suggest you watch it. It is not a documentary, so let’s just nip all the “it plays loosey-goosey with the facts” talk in the bud right here. Much of history is a series of mundane details which eventually add up to amazing things. A movie cannot encapsulate all of that and keep its excitement all at once. So deal with it.  A movie can, however, ignite passion to learn more about, or even remember forgotten, details about history.

In high school, I was blessed to have a computer teacher who has, 21 years later, remained a good friend.  Mr. Karl Engleka made computing an enjoyable thing, long before the internet was anything but a BBS (google it, you damn millenials) I could only dial-up (*gasp*) for about 15 minutes a day before school started. In fact, he made programing so fun I actually was decently proficient in BASIC and a few other hence-forgotten programming languages. He also introduced me to many different figures in history I might not have otherwise known. 

Alan Turing was one of them.

Turing’s involvement with the Enigma device which coded German communication finally became widely known in the 1990s- when I was in one of Karl’s classes. I learned a great deal about Turing but much stayed rather hush-hush. His homosexuality and subsequent punishment for were one of the things I don’t remember reading much about then. Another was his running career.

Perhaps I heard about the running but as someone who was not interested in the sport, I quickly forgot. The fact remains, however, that Turing was an excellent runner.  His best time of 2:46:03 in the marathon was only 11 minutes slower than the winner in the 1948 Olympic Games. In fact, in a 1948 cross-country race he finished ahead of Tom Richards who went onto win the silver medal in the Olympics. Obviously a cross-country race and a marathon are quite different but this shows his abilities were obviously quite high.

This led me to wonder how much his teammates may have known about his homosexuality. I did some research and it appears some seemingly knew nothing about Turing’s attraction to men. One teammate said “We never had any indication whatsoever [of his being gay.] There was our dressing room, with 20 or 30 young men, running around naked, darting in and out of the showers. He never approached one of them, invited them out for a drink or anything.” This makes me question if this ignorance was actually a company line or if it was that really well-kept of a secret. Regardless, I have a feeling that if some knew (I have no doubt some had an inkling) that by and large, even in a time where being gay was a crime, it would have been gladly accepted by his running mates.

How can I make such a bold claim of tolerance in a time of little? Mostly because runners and the sport of running have long been ahead of the rest of society as a whole when it comes to accepting the new. Be it gender, race, or sexual oritentation, the over-riding feeling amongst runners has been “Can you keep up?” 
 
When Kathrine Switzer was afraid of running in her first Boston Marathon, her spirits were buoyed by so many men who were supportive of her being there. Ted Corbitt, the grandson of slaves was the founder and first president of the Road Runners Club of America and the founding president of the New York Road Runners Club. Janet Furman (formerly Jim) experienced some shock when she had a sex change but for the most part, runners seemed to be rather accepting of the choice she made. (This acceptance was perhaps selfishly made when they saw the surgeries and hormones made her run far slower as a female than as a male but acceptance can be hard to come by.)

Turing’s story is a sad one inevitably, which is where the title of my article comes into play. When found out to be a homosexual years after being one of the people who helped end World War II, he was given a choice by the courts in England: either two years in jail or chemical castration to “curb his sexual desire.”  Turing chose the latter for what was probably a variety of reasons. Around a year later, still being forced to take these drugs, experiencing both breast enlargement, sickness and physical bloating of his entire figure, Turing committed suicide. (There is some ambiguity into his death by cyanide poisoning that leads some to believe he may have accidentally killed himself.) In essence, the same country he kept from getting bombed on a daily basis, more or less gave him a death sentence. 

I know some may still feel this was a fine punishment even today. In fact, I would bet my life savings if given Sodium Pentothal there is a member or two of our own Congress who would still agree with this punishment. But my belief is that those feelings are far outnumbered by others and do not represent those in the running community, then or now.

Perhaps it is na├»ve or revisionist of me to believe Turing was accepted by his fellow runners, regardless of his sexual preference.  Projecting views on the morality and decisions of the populace in the 1950s with a 2015 perspective can be one fraught with peril. But when you hear Turing say “I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard” one can only hope that by his side were a group of supportive running friends, running just as hard. 

If nothing else, hopefully his story can resonate and help people see how just like prejudices against races and genders needed to be broken down, so do those against those in the gay communities. Keep in mind, Turing was only pardoned "for being gay" in 2013 and that was only after immense public scrutiny. Estimates for the nameless others who received the same punishment are easily over 50,000. 

When we look at life we realize in the end we all run in one race: the human race. As a society the only way we are going to win this race is if everyone makes it to the finish line together.