Archive for June, 2010

The tyranny of technology

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 by Trail Boy

My Garmin picked a hell of a time to conk out on me.

I was doing a tempo run this morning when it happened. The workout called for a one-mile warmup, four miles at an 8:10 pace, and a one-mile cooldown.

I ran the warmup mile and was halfway through the first fast mile when I glanced at my wrist to check my pace.

Blank screen.

I pushed a few buttons. Nothing.

I let out a string of salty language that I ‘m pretty sure wasn’t protected by the First Amendment. 

After that, I felt a little better. And because I had no choice, I kept running, trying to keep the pace.

It was challenging to pinpoint and hold an 8:10 pace for four miles. Especially at 5:30 in the morning.

But I figured I needed to just run midway between my Yasso 800 pace (equivalent to 6:40 a mile) and easy pace (8:30 to 9:00 a mile). I tried to find that speed and stick with it.

I chugged on, listening to my footsteps and my breathing, with no distractions from my conked-out GPS device.

It dawned on me that this is how distance runners used to train before the age of electronic gadgets.

They just had to know what a certain pace felt like for various workouts. They they learned it by experience, running fixed distances with a stopwatch over many weeks or months, and trained their legs to move at a certain number of footstrikes per minute.

After I thought about that, I began to feel like an old-fashioned runner, maybe Jim Thorpe or Eric Liddell. I swear I could hear the music from “Chariots of Fire” in the background.

Olympic runner Jim Thorpe -- without a Garmin. How did he do it?

For a few moments, it actually felt liberating, free from the tyranny of technology.

Maybe I didn’t need a $200 collection of microprocessors on my wrist. Or whatever is in a Garmin. I could go low tech. Or no tech!

People have been running without watches or GPS gadgets for thousands of years. The digital watch didn’t make an appearance until 30 or 40 years ago.

I began to wonder: who really needs computer technology to run? Is it a necessity? Or mostly a distraction?

Yes, rolling these thoughts around in my head was an interesting exercise. Liberating, as I said.

Maybe too liberating, however. I could slow to an 8:30 pace, if I felt like it, and nothing could correct me.

But I tried not to.  That would be defeating the purpose of a tempo run. So I kept going, pushing the miles.

I think I held my pace. But only the Great GPS Deity knows for sure.

At least I knew this six-mile course, a winding out and back (with a loop at each end) that I call the French Loop. So I knew when I hit the fourth mile of my fast pace and could start my cooldown.

I had to make a wild guess about how long I had run. I had left my watch at home.

When I finished up, I threw my Garmin in a dresser drawer and slammed it. I’ll check on it tonight to see if I can fix it. Maybe it just ran out of juice.

But if it’s dead, I have a few options:

1) Buy a new model, maybe with all the latest bells and whistles.

2) Find a low-priced, secondhand replacement.

3) Keep running like Jim Thorpe. Just me and the ground beneath my feet.

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Day Two: Time to rip up the plan

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 by Trail Boy

What the hell? I’m supposed to take a rest day already?

On just the second day of my training program?

That’s got to be a typo, right?

No. According to the SmartCoach program, today is a rest day — or a cross-training day. So is every Tuesday for the next 16 weeks.

That’s no good. I don’t need to rest on Tuesdays. Monday was an easy day. I’m not tired.

I think it’s time to rip up this coaching plan. Or at least modify it. Hey, Coach, what do you think?

My virtual, long-distance coach, Kevin, agrees. He, too, is using the 16-week SmartCoach plan, and is aiming for the Columbus Marathon on October 17, just like me. But he’s not afraid of altering the plan to suit his needs.

In an e-mail to me, he said: 

I have modifed the default SmartCoach plan to fit better with my own life, and I would encourage you to do the same.  For me, the following pattern is optimal:

Mon:  Rest/XT
Tue:   Speed, Tempo, Hammer, etc.
Wed:  EZ Run
Thurs: EZ Run
Fri:     Rest/XT
Sat:    Long Run
Sun:   EZ “Recovery” Run (4 – 6 miles)

With this pattern, I can go into the two “cornerstone” workouts with a day’s rest.  Also, if the Saturday long run is a bust for some reason (i.e, weather, schedules, …) then Sunday can be a possible backup plan.

Hey Coach, that makes sense. I like that. I’ll do it, too.

OK, so I won’t completely  rip up the plan.

But I plan to do some heavy cutting and pasting.


Pedal power

Unfortunately, I didn’t get Kevin’s advice until midmorning today — several hours after I grudgingly decided to follow the program and do some cross-training (rather than rest).

I rode my bike to work, a 24-mile round trip, as my form of cross-training. It was a beautiful day for it: 70 degrees and clear skies. And no rain, believe it or not.

It felt good to stretch my legs and push the pace, twirling the pedals as fast as I could. I got to work in about an hour.

Tonight, after I ride home, I’ll rewrite my training program to make the days mesh better with my life.

But I have to say, I didn’t mind the bike ride today.


Family calls

My 82-year-old dad broke his hip a few weeks ago and will be laid up for several months. So this weekend, I am traveling to Cleveland to help my mom with daily needs and visit my dad in the rehab center.

I added a vacation day to a three-holiday holiday, so I’ll have four days to help out with yardwork, chauffeuring duties, cooking, cleaning, etc.

I’ll probably also squeeze in a few runs around Cleveland/Akron trails while I’m there.

I’m hoping to run at least once with Coach Kevin. It’s fun to trade e-mails with him, and compare daily runs. But there’s nothing like sharing a run in person.

Hey Coach, see you this weekend.

You too, Mom and Dad.

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Game on: BQ or bust

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s time to rock and roll.

Today is the beginning of my 16-week training program for the Columbus Marathon. 

At the end of this program, I will run Columbus in 3:35:59 or faster — and qualify for Boston. Or I will collapse on the side of the road trying.

Because I’m not leaving anything in the locker room this time.

I’m tired of watching all my friends run off to Boston without me.

I’m tired of getting distracted by other stuff. I’m tired of making excuses. I’m tired of waiting until next year.

This is the year I get my ticket stamped, or I die trying.

In a manner of speaking.

Or not.

To get the job done, I need to take about four minutes off my PR of 3:40:08, which is now six years old. Yes, I got that PR in Columbus in 2004, and have never run a marathon faster since.

Sure, I’ve run a few more in the 3:40-something range, including a 3:48:07 in Cleveland last month. But 3:40-something is not the plan anymore. That’s been done.

So look out. I’m focused like a laser on 3:35:59 or faster.

In fact, let’s make this easy, and just say 3:33:33, and build in a little cushion.

I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a coach. I’ve got motivation. I’ve got an daily data log. I’ve got this blog.

Let’s rock and roll.

BQ or bust, baby.


Day One: Already a sweaty mess

I started Day One with a 7-mile easy run in my neighborhood before breakfast.

The weather was a bit rugged — extremely humid from days of rainstorms. 

 I started sweating right away. Within 15 minutes, my shirt was stuck to my torso like it was glued on — a combination of clingy fabric and sweaty Trail Boy.

I finished in 1:03:03, for an average pace of 8:56 a mile.

One day down. Eighty or ninety to go.


Moonlight run with a teenager

Marathon training is work, yes. But it should also be fun, or what’s the point?

Over the weekend, I had a lot of fun running with Steven, my 14-year-old. He’s doing some conditioning for the upcoming cross-country season at his high school, and has been very good about running several times a week.

We decided to run in the dark, starting at 10:15 p.m., doing loops around our neighborhood.

I wore a headlamp. Steven carried a flashlight for part of the run.

We ran 10 times around a 0.4-mile loop in our neighborhood, for a total of 4 miles.

We had fun watching the moonlight, chatting about the houses we passed, and trying to run negative splits. Steven has become a stronger runner each year, and it’s great to watch him improve and have fun.

Our time for the first five laps was 17:42. Our time for the second five laps was 15:54. Our total time was 33:35.

Our time together was priceless.

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From Here to Somewhere

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 by Trail Boy

I once ran from Delaware to Alabama. During that run, I crossed New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Virginia.

It didn’t take long, probably less than an hour. I felt fine afterward.

Oh, did I mention that these were not states, but the names of streets in downtown Indianapolis?

Yes, a bunch of downtown streets are named after states, for some reason unknown to me.  All I know is when I go for a lunchtime run downtown, I don’t have to go very far to see all the great sites of Kentucky or Alabama — like AAA Bail Bonds or a Subway restaurant or a vacant lot.

That’s just a weird observation. They come and go at the oddest times.

Like this morning. For some strange reason, I was trying to come up with a name for my run.

It all started when I noticed I was beginning my run at the Jordan YMCA trailhead of the Monon Trail, near 86th Street.

As I trotted south on the Monon, I suddenly wondered what I should call my run. Ninety-time times out of a hundred, I have no urge to name my run anything, but today, it seemed like a good idea. 

I decided not to fight the urge. OK, let’s name this run. I needed something to blog about, anyway.

Well, I started at the YMCA. I guess I could name the run the YMCA run. Wait, even better, how about “From Y to…” well, to something.

I guess the “something” would depend on what I saw at the other end, about four miles south.

Hopefully, I would see something that would provide a snappy name — like “From Y to Z” or Or “From Y to Why Not.” Or “From Y to Who What Where and When.”

Of course, the chances of seeing something at other end of the trail called “Who What Where and When” were pretty slim. So I had to keep my eyes open to all the possibilties.

I rolled the idea around in my mind and ran on, enjoying the cool air and the greenery. After a couple miles, I ran across the White River and took in the morning view. The river was clear. I saw a cyclist out for his morning workout.

Beneath us, the river flowed somewhere, maybe to the sea. Or maybe to the Who What Where and When.

Yep, this name thing was doing funny things to my mind.


I kept running for another few miles. When I hit four miles, I began looking for a place to turn around.

Hopefully, I would see something with a really cool name. Like a Jewish yeshiva. That would work: “From Y to Yeshiva.” Sounds like a TV comedy.

Maybe I would see someone doing yoga. “Y is for yoga.” I could live with that.

Eventually, I hit Canterbury Park, a small neighborhood park. But saw nothing out of the ordinary, or with a cool name. Just a volleyball net, some slides and a picnic pavilion.

Hmm, would any of that work? How about “From Y to Volleyball Net”? Oh man, that’s just desperate.

I trotted a little further and stopped at the next street crossing, 54th Street. This was my turnaround. This is where it had to happen.

I felt hopeful. The intersection of 54th Street and the Monon Trail is a pretty busy place, with lots of little shops and boutiques. Surely, I would see something with a cool name.

So I started looking around. I saw the following signs on buildings:

* AAA Mower Repair

* A Better Way Nanny Referral

* Locally Grown Gardens

* Momma Carolla’s Old Italian Restaurant

Oh man, this was not working. What a big bunch of nothing. These names were killing me. They weren’t even worth a photo.

If only the Indianapolis Zoo were located on this corner. Then I could call my workout “From Y to Zoo.” That was pretty snappy, I thought.

Unfortunately, the zoo was about 8 or 10 miles away. So unless I had another couple of hours to run, that wouldn’t work.

After a minute or two, I gave up, and turned around. I started running back to my car, four miles or so north.

I guessed the name thing wasn’t going to happen today.  Not unless I wanted to settle for something like “From Y to AAA Mower Repair.”

The hell with that. I’m not naming my run after a mower repair shop.

I kept running. I got back to my car and turned off my Garmin. I noted that I had run 8:49 miles in 1:18:17. That worked out to an average pace of 9:14 a mile. Hmm, that was a little slower than I thought.

But what did I expect when I was standing around, reading signs, taking pictures, instead of running at a steady clip? Sadly, I concluded that taking pictures and dreaming about words can really cut into a workout.

I drove home and decided this name thing was a big flop.

But then, I thought, why give up so fast? I turned on the computer, clicked away to Google maps and began looking for landmarks near 54th Street. Iwasn’t going to give up on this name thing without a little more effort.

OK, let’s take a look. What do we have at 54th and Monon?

Thorp Awning. Indy Granite & Marble. Good Dog Hotel & Spa.

Lame. Lame. Lame.

But hello, what’s this? “Zest Exciting Food Creations.”

Hmmm, Zest. That’s sounds, well, zesty. It’s fun to say. “From Y to Zest.” It’s almost as good as “From Y to Zoo.” Yes, I could definitely live with that.

I said it again, this time out loud. “From Y to Zest.” It sounded like a Dr Seuss book. Yes, it was just weird enough to work.

OK, then. That’s the name.

But now I was curious. What is this Zest? And what is a food creation?

I did a quick Google search and found that Zest is a local restaurant, just half block up the road from 54th and Monon. It has an eclectic menu, sidewalk seating and live jazz entertainment.

The menu (excuse me, food creations) included such dishes as hummus, grilled pineapple salad and crab patties. One dish, called Ahi Tuna Crudo, is described this way: “ahi tuna & tobiko-lemon cream on avocado, lime & cilantro with red chili vinaigrette & wonton crisp. $12.”

Well, well. That’s a little exotic. Maybe I’ll stick to the cheeseburger. Or, since I’m trying to lose weight, the granola and almonds.

So anyway, I’ll have to check out this restaurant one day. It looks interesting. And it gave my run the name it sorely needed.

From Y to Zest. And back again.


Yes, that was today’s workout, running slow and thinking weird thoughts.

Yesterday was different. I did speedwork at the track: 5 x 800 meters @ 3:20 – 3:30. That range is not super-speedy, but good enough for now.

I started early, 6 a.m., to beat the heat and get my sleepy boy to cross-country training.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much gas in the tank, or bounce in my legs. I had only five hours sleep, so it was a struggle.

I did an easy warmup, six times around the track (1.5 miles), then got into the workout. A stiff wind blew in my face on the back straightaway. My legs were moving a little slower than I wanted.

But I got the job done, more or less. Here are my times:

Loop 1 — 3:31

Loop 2 — 3:24

Loop 3 — 3:25

Loop 4 — 3:28

Loop 5 — 3:29

Those times don’t look too bad on paper, actually. I achieved my goal. But sadly, my legs were heavy and mind was not into this workout.

I lacked a certain something.

Maybe it was zest.

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What Would Michael Moore Do?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 by Trail Boy

I could never be a gonzo journalist like Michael Moore. I’m conventional and polite and so middle class.

Moore, on the other hand, is outrageous and bizarre and completely Screw the Establishment.

Still, I think his documentaries are hilarious. I’ve seen them all. I love watching him chasing down the rich and mighty and asking them tough questions.

My favorite Moore film is his very first one, “Roger and Me,” in which he brazenly chases down Roger Smith, the chairman of General Motors, who has closed several auto plants in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Moore barges in everywhere he thinks he can find Smith — in his private club, in the GM headquarters, in a fancy hotel ballroom — trying to get an interview. Eventually, he does get a short interview, and lots of laughs and outrage in the process.

I thought of that movie today as I did my morning run.

That’s because this wasn’t just any run. I decided I was going to spice up my route today by running past the house of the biggest celebrity in my neck of the woods, Larry Bird, the former Boston Celtics forward and now president of the Indiana Pacers.

Here’s the catch. Larry Bird lives in a gated community.

Correction: He lives in a gated community within another gated community. It’s not far from my house, just a mile or so.

But I wondered: Could I get past all the gates and security guards to see where Bird lives?

It might be like crashing a State Dinner at the White House, or pushing my way into the NORAD command center.

Or maybe not. Perhaps it would be easy — like walking into the employee break room of the CVS pharmacy — someplace you’re not really supposed to be, but not too tough to do if you set your mind to it.

Well, there was only one way to find out. Go check it out.

I didn’t want to interview Bird. I just wanted to see where he lived.

It would be a minor thrill. Bird is a huge celebrity in Indiana. He grew up in a poor, rural Indiana town called French Lick, then became a world-famous player for the Boston Celtics. He was called the Hick from French Lick.

And he was good. He was MVP of the National Basketball Association three times. He scored 21,000 career points. I remember watching him play when I was in college.

Bird, who grew up dirt-poor, became very famous and very wealthy.

So I wanted to see his house.

But where exactly did Larry Bird live? That was the first challenge.

He’s not listed in the phone book. His address is not on I’ve heard he lives in the Sycamore Springs gated community, not far from my house.

Luckily, like Michael Moore, I know a thing or two about digging up information. For starters, I turned to, a web site that helps track down information on just about anyone, including Larry Bird.

And within two minutes, I had Larry’s address. Two clicks later, I had Google map to his house.

So off I went, with my camera, to see how close I could get to Larry’s house.

There was no particular reason for doing it. I just needed a new running destination, and this would spice up my morning.

I ran for about a mile and a half until I arrived at Sycamore Springs — or at least the wall around it:

And a little closer:

I ran along the wall, looking for an open gate. I wasn’t going to jump the wall. I really didn’t feel like having a guard chase me down or call the cops. But if I could find an open gate, I would waltz right in.

Damn, this one was closed and locked:

I stood there and looked at the gate and thought: WWMMD? (What Would Michael Moore Do?)

Well, he wouldn’t run back home, without getting his story, or his photo. He would keep trying.

So I ran on. A few hundred feet laer, I found another gate.  This one was open. Score!

I didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs. I didn’t see any guards in the guardhouse. So I trotted through the gate and down the road.

I grant you, it was easier for me to do than Michael Moore. I was an average looking guy, with a small camera. I wasn’t a 300-pound guy with a camera crew.

No one would notice me. So I ran down the road and took a look around.

Funny thing, though. I didn’t see a single person on the sidewalk or on a front porch. This looked like a ghost town.

But it was a pretty place, not a single piece of litter or an untrimmed tree. The houses were all immaculate, and patriotic looking to boot.

In fact, if truth be told, I’ve been in here before. One of my son’s friends lives in the neighborhood, and I take him there to visit every now and then. But the front gate is usually closed, and I have to dial in from the phone box at the guard house when I’m dropping him off.

I turned down one road after another. The houses were of various sizes, some modest, and other gargantuan.

Finally, I found Larry’s street. And there was another gate. This one, too, was wide open.

Again, no guard. No “Keep Out” sign. So in I went.

This was the swanky area. Many of the houses edged up alongside a pond with a big fountain.

The houses were much bigger here. I tried to see which one might be Larry’s.

Was it this one?

No, that address didn’t match.

How about this one? It has a basketball net in the driveway.

No, that address didn’t match either. Besides, Larry’s a rich guy. If he wanted to shoot hoops, he would have a full-sized, indoor court in his basement, not some cheesy net in his driveway.

Well, how about this house? It looks like it belongs to some sports millionaire.

Nope, wrong again. But we’re getting warmer. Larry lives right next door, in this house:

Not a bad-looking place, is it? According to the satellite photo, it has a tennis court and a pool in the backyard.

I couldn’t see Larry anywhere. I thought I might get lucky, and see him mowing his lawn, or getting his newspaper.

If I were Michael Moore, I’d go right up to his front door, press the intercom and start a conversation, like he did with Charlton Heston in “Bowling for Columbine.”

But I didn’t have any big questions for Larry, except maybe, “Hey, why do the Pacers stink so bad these days?” Or maybe, “Don’t you wish LeBron played on your team?” Or “When are you going to draft a forward as good as you were?” Or “Did it hurt to see the Celtics lose game seven of the championship last week?”

If I got the interview, I’d have to call it: “Larry and Me” — in honor of Michael Moore and his best movie, “Roger and Me.”

I took one last picture, and then starting running home. Altogether, I ran 5.6 miles in 50:28.

Hey Larry, next time you’re out for a run, feel free to come to my neighborhood. I don’t have any gates. And there’s a good chance I’ll be out front, mowing the lawn.

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24 hours in Nashville

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by Trail Boy

Oh, my aching head.

It’s filled with 1,000 new facts about open-records laws, social network sites, search engines and lawsuits.

I’m attending a two-day journalism seminar in Nashville, Tennessee, on investigative journalism. We’ve had our heads stuffed with story ideas and ways to find big stories that will make a difference.

It’s extremely interesting and valuable. But it’s intense. So of course, that means I needed to clear my head this morning.

I went for a four-mile run around Vanderbilt University, about a mile from my hotel. I ran a few times around the shady quad and meandered here and there around the campus.

The city is hot, humid and hilly. But I needed the run.

I got back to the hotel feeling much better. And ready to face another day of open-records laws.

Along the lake, under the moon

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2010 by Trail Boy

Today was a hot, sticky, miserable day — in the mid-90s, with high humidity. So I decided to wait until sunset to get in a quick, easy run.

But the good news is I finally found a way to get into Lake Clearwater, a private, gated lakefront community just a few miles from my house.

In the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve never figured out how to get close to that lake. Usually, I have to just satisfy myself by just craning my neck and looking over the gate. I’ve always wanted to see the lake up close.

So this weekend, with the help of satellite photography and a friend who lives in the area, I found my way in.

There’s a small paved path that runs for a few miles along the water. You have to know where to look to find the start of the pathway. It doesn’t say “No Trespassing.” So I decided to go for a run tonight and enjoy the view.

Here are a few photos:


Altogether, the run was 5.75 miles. I wrapped it up in about 50 minutes, and got home in the dark.

Well, that was a satisying end to a weekend — running along a lake under the glow of the moon.

In fact, the whole week has been pretty good. I ran six times for a total of 38.6 miles

I had a good mix: four easy runs, one speed workout and one long run on trails.

Here’s to another good week ahead!