Sunday, September 27, 2015

18 Miles to Start a VERY Long Day

Yesterday I woke up at 3:20 with no idea of what the day held in store.

The first thing to notice is the time. Despite being 3:20, the first thing I thought was "I'm late."  Late for what?  Late to get ready to go running to meet two people at 5 AM.  Why would waking up at 3:20 make me late?  Because I have a good idea of how long it takes my body to be ready to run and I know that my dog gets very unhappy if I don't walk her before I run.  So, I took care of what I needed to take care of including taking my dog for an easy walk around the block, recognized how late I was, gave a moment of consideration to driving part of the way to meet my training partner and her friend, decided against that but texted warning that I could be a minute or two late, and took off.

Garmin tells me that I started at 4:21.

I had to run over five miles to reach the two I was running with.  Not the pace at which I had planned to start my last longer than half marathon run before marathon number 7.

I left the house--in shorts and a tank top, water and a stinger in my fuel belt.  And started off at a pace I'm not used to starting at.  Even in my own neighborhood, I took a small shortcut to get out to the main road to try to make pace.  As I got out to York Rd, I eventually heard my phone (which was in the pocket of my fuel belt) make the noise indicating I'd received a text back.  I didn't really feel I had the time to look.  As I continued down York Rd., I saw a dead rat in Govans.  I think that was a first--just lying on the sidewalk.  Had never seen many dead rats (although I've been known to discuss the athleticism or obesity of rats along the harbor with my training partners) and certainly none that close to home.  

As I approached St. Mary's of Govans and finished my first mile I checked my pace--7:53.  Not a typical first mile on a Saturday.  Even less so when I am running on my own.  Felt good.

As I ran south through Govans I was surprised by the number of people out.  Particularly in moderate sized groups.  A few gave me strange looks.  When I passed individuals I would generally say good morning.  Many said good morning back.  I think they may just have been surprised to see someone running at that early and perhaps in those neighborhoods.  And at the pace I was going, it was clear that I was not just out for a light jog.  

Continued down York Rd and got south of Cold Spring.  Second mile timer signaled: 7:18.  I had not realized I had picked it up that much already.  It was not cold.  But it was cooler. And that pace felt comfortable.  Continuing down to just south of 34th street when the mile 3 timer signaled: 7:12.

At this point, I had to make a decision on where I was going.  I had gone west on 33rd or 29th or 28th a few times earlier in the summer.  The streets tended to be a bit dark.  I decided instead to go all the way down to 25th and then across to St. Paul.  My watch told me I'd gone 4 miles just before I turned onto St. Paul Street: 7:03.  Crazy, I thought.

Running down St. Paul, I then was approaching 5 miles as I neared Penn Station.  Was a little concerned about the time, so on the run (I pulled out my phone), saw that my training partner had agreed to start by going a little north on St. Paul to find me, texted her that I was already at Penn Station, and soon hit mile 5: 6:56.  I don't often text while running.  I don't recommend text while running.  But I didn't really lose anything. 

Then, I finished to run to St. Paul and Franklin and saw my two companions walking north.  I had arrived just before 5:03.  Just a little over two minutes late when all was said and done.  The first 5.6 miles in a 7:22 pace.  

I paused for introduction to my training partner's friend.  Training partner mentioned that her friend is the one she runs quickly with (besides me).  And we took off.  I'd apparently been running that last six-tenths of a mile even harder than the first 5 as my watch when it beeped soon after we took off down Calvert Street told me 6:53 for mile 7.

We chatted while running and found out that my training partner's friend was a second year law student whose husband was in a program at the School where I am Vice Dean.  It was amazing to carry on a conversation at the pace we ran.  We did my mile 8 in 7:21 and my mile 9 in 7:39.  My Garmin told me that my mile 10 was 8:39, but I had a hard time believing that.  Why?  Because I had left my watch running accidentally while we waited at what turned out to be a VERY long light.  Mile 11 was a little slower than how I'd started (8:00), but I think that was by design as we had dropped off my training partner's friend before we finished mile 10.  We had a long conversation and then took off again at a much easier pace completing my mile 11 (8:32) and ending up back at Christopher's place where my training partner and I met others from Back on My Feet.  There we paused again before I said by to my training partner, wished the rest of the crew a good run, they went south and I went north to head home.  Most memorable comment from hanging out at Back on My Feet was when I referred to the third runner from earlier as "Lauren's crazy fast friend," and her mother (who is also a member of Back on My Feet) said that it was good to hear me refer to someone else as crazy fast.  That is how Dee would usually describe my pace.  But, I am, after all, only human and there are plenty of others who are crazy fast compared with me.

In any case, I began by trotting along Madison, up St. Paul, cut over to Charles and passed mile 12 right around Penn Station a second time.  This time my pace was a lot slower: 8:57 as my legs needed to loosen up again after tightening while talking.

What really made an impression on me was what happened on the rest of the way home.  As I crossed Charles and North, I saw people getting ready to sell shirts and other accessories once the sun rose.  I picked it up a little and mile 13 (which I finished just a bit south of the main JHU campus) was done in 8:29.

Continuing up Charles St, I decided to go over toward Greenway and run through Guilford.  There are some beautiful gardens to see after sunrise.  At the time of morning I was there yesterday (it was still not 7 AM), it was dark.  I finished mile 14 while climbing up Greenway: 8:20.  I finished mile 15 as Greenway reconnected with Charles at its north end: 8:22. 

At that point I thought about how I wanted to approach the last three miles.  And I made one fundamental decision.  All the advice I got from Coach Shannon last year encouraged me to run my long runs with a strong finish  Prior to Philly 2014, I'd had a habit of really crashing at the end.  I have not done all my training runs that way this summer and fall and I really wasn't thinking about doing it hard.  But I had hills to go and I really wanted to make sure that I'd be ready for finishing the marathon in two weeks.  

So I pushed.  Mile 16 was mostly along Charles up past Loyola and Notre Dame of Maryland.  7:55.  I then went along Homeland to Springlake Way and climbed that street and then went along Northern Parkway.  Mile 17:  7:53.  And then I just had to bring it home.  And I did in 7:48.  All three miles under the pace I intend to help my training partner hold in two weeks.  Exactly what I'd wanted.

I ended with 18 in 2:21:11 or a 7:50 overall pace.  Not bad.  It was 7:03--just a smidge after the time I'd intended to arrive home but I had not planned on chatting twice.  My legs felt great.  Twenty-four hours later just the slightest tightness.  And I showed that I could come back and finish strong.  And even more importantly come back from stand stills.  That is a new skill for me.

That was only the start of the day.  Gave the dog a second walk.  Helped my wife get ready for a service activity at my middle son's high school.  Took my youngest to the bank and the bagel shop.  Ate.  Returned home.

Then we found that something had backed up our utility sink.  Water all around the basement.  Lots of clean up. Called the plumber.  Got the sink opened again.  But there were other issues.  Got an estimate on fixing a leak that was making water show up on our main circuit breaker box.  We'll be spending some extra money there.

Before the estimate, I'd run my middle son to boy choir.  After the estimate, wife arrived home and we talked about the plumbing and then prepared to take our son to his second hockey game of the season.  That was fun. It was a 5-1 win.  I had thought I would need a nap but made it through the drive both ways without a problem.  

Then, it was time to go to dinner with my oldest and his girlfriend.  Very pleasant and easy going two hour dinner at a Turkish restaurant.  She is a warm and wonderful person, and it will be fun to get to know her better over time.  

We got home just past 10.  I lay down on the floor waiting for Sherry to be done in the bathroom.  And I was asleep by 10:15.  I did make it up to bed before midnight. The day included a great run.  And was more than I'd expected. 

I am blessed to have good health, good family, good friends, and good friends of others in my family.

I hope everyone reading this is equally blessed.   

Monday, September 14, 2015

Boston 2016--Not

Here at the skating rink. It's a Monday night.  And I'll miss several of the next few practices for driving, so I get the chance to take my son (and his two friends with whom we carpool) to the rink this evening.  The shirt recognizes that today is the first day of registration for Boston 2016.  Everyone who ever has run Boston.  Everyone who ever will run Boston.  Everyone who has come to watch and cheer others on.  And all those killed or injured in 2013.  The year I earned my shirt.  I am eligible but will not register.  Tempting as it may be, I have a longer race to run at the end of May.  It is hard not to do things.  I am someone who always likes to get things started, but sometimes has a problem finishing.  And I almost always find it difficult to say no.  But this time I am.

Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, they guide my actions.  My actions reflect my faith.  My faith has been built over a lifetime.

Yesterday at mass, I had a good reminder of the link between faith and action.  I was glad to see Father Sam back in action.  First time we'd seen him at St. Pius X in a couple of months.

The response song was taken from Psalm 40--"Here am I, Lord.  I come to do your will."  That was followed by a reading from the letter of James which talked about faith without actions and how that is a problem.  See my faith through my actions.  

My faith drives my running.  My running is just an example of all the other things that I can do in my life.  Bringing things from start to finish.  Completing.  Excelling.  Focusing on others' outcomes.  Focusing on others' well-being.  Encouraging everyone as I go along.  Making many friends.  Sharing stories.  Sharing hopes.  Sharing dreams.  Sharing disappointments.  Being in the presence of others.  Being an ear to listen.  A shoulder to cry on.  Bringing joy to others.  The joy of service  The joy that comes from being others-centered.  The joy that comes with an outlook on life that says there is always good hat can be found.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015


It is 5 minutes until 7 on a Saturday morning.  I have already run 6.5 miles with a friend, walked my dog, and stopped to say the Serenity Prayer with Baltimore Back on My Feet after finishing my run and before coming home.  What a great way to start a busy day.

Yesterday was September 11.  Many friends took time to reflect on where they were when the planes hit the twin towers.  Or posted about always remembering.  Or posted about never forgetting.

Yesterday, I didn't do any of those.

But I did think about where I was.  (I had dropped my oldest off at school and the first plane struck while I was driving to work.  I arrived at the office of an anesthesiologist with whom I was to discuss collaboration and saw the second hit on a TV in his office.  I tried to work most of the rest of the day.  The sense of uncertainty and helplessness was profound.)  

I heard a story about kids who are now teens teaching even younger kids about 9/11.  I watched part of a documentary made a couple years ago about the children of 9/11.  

And I thought about my freedom.  I also thought about that in the context of another event for me yesterday.  It was not earth shattering.  It was just that the last PhD or DrPH student whom I am formally advising finished the final steps of getting her dissertation submitted yesterday.  She'd had her final defense.  Yesterday was the end of the administrative work.  And my submission of a letter saying she is done.

In the 19 years and three months that I have been at Johns Hopkins on the faculty, I oversaw 21 students completing their dissertations as their dissertation adviser.  (One was a co-advisor role.)  And there were another 5 for whom I was the adviser at some point but who finished (or are finishing with someone else).  And I have sat on many other committees for students.

But with my change in job from the School of Public Health to the Business School two and one-half years ago, I have not started advising any more students.  So, this is the end of this section of my career.  That is a choice.

Of course, a current student whom I have know for 3-4 years now and who has completed two years of medical school also visited me yesterday.  And when she told me that she had completed an ophthalmology rotation and decided that she wanted to do health services research and health economics as related to eye care--I almost cried.  Someone to carry on what I had begun.  That is incredible.  And she would do it as an MD/PhD.  That is her choice.  But the fact that it can fulfill a vision I had it what makes it so relevant to choices I had made.

Choices are great.  The freedom to make them--I cannot place a value on. 

Like the choice to run this morning starting at 5 o'clock.  I can run wherever I want and whenever I want.

Just like the choice of what religion to follow and how to follow it.

Just like the choice of where to live.  Where to send my kids to school What activities to sign them up for.

And I make a choice to carry on.  I make a choice to just keep on doing.  Or sometimes I make a choice to change.

The freedom to make the choices is what makes America a great place.  

That freedom is something I cherish.

That freedom is something I would never want to give up.

The freedom to write my story.  The freedom to rewrite my story.  The freedom to change the story when I want to.

It is all great.

And I will continue to enjoy that freedom.

That is why I note September 11. It was a day on which we were not sure how our freedoms and choices would change.  Some have been changed forever (like how we proceed through airports.)  But some are still very alive and cherished.  And will be celebrated always. 

So I end noting that four weeks from today I will run marathon number 7.  And it is called "Freedoms Run."  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Miles and Miles

Today I received an email from the Boston Athletic Association that registration for next year's marathon begins next week.  However, given my upcoming running goals and overall travel schedule, it is not even on my radar screen this time around.  I remember the first time I qualified for Boston how overjoyed I was to qualify and how much I was excited when registration came.

In contrast, this year, I have already registered for an ultra-marathon that will be about six weeks later next spring.  For that, I have already registered.  And that was exciting when I did.

That race will be 56 miles.  That is a crazy long distance.

Over the past five days, I have accumulated 56 miles.  I can imagine running it all in one day, but I am a long way from that.

What is most amazing is that on Saturday I ran the 9.8 miles in the low 8's.  On Sunday, I ran the 18 miles at a 7:50 pace.  On Monday, I ran 10 at an 8:50 pace.  On Tuesday I ran 10 more at an 8:00 pace.  And today I ran 9.1 at an 8:40ish pace.  For anyone doing the math, that adds up to a little over 56 miles.  But during that entire span, none of the average paces are as slow as I plan to run.  I figure a 9:30 pace overall would get me to the goal I want--the medal for finishing in under 9 hours.  And only a very small number of the miles were even that slow.

A friend gave one piece of advice--she reminded me that I will focus on the quantity of the miles between now and then rather than the quality of those miles.

That will be a real change for me.  In the meantime, I have one marathon on October 10 and possibly a second on the weekend of Thanksgiving in which I plan to run 3:30 and then better than 3:20.

As I move ahead, I will have to pace myself.  Stay healthy.  Consume LOTS of calories.  And say the serenity prayer many times: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (like the distance of the race or the number of miles I must train to finish a 56 mile race safely), the course to change the things that I can (like my own training style), and the wisdom to know the difference.  God's will, not ours, be done.  

I will face the challenge of taking my own advice and following my own prayer.   Helped by my sons and my running family along the way.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Weekend of Running

Over the past three days of the long weekend, I've run 37.8 miles.

I didn't run the Charles St. 12, but I am glad for everyone who did.

I didn't participate in any of the local 5K's--color run or otherwise.  But I am glad for everyone who did.

I did get a chance to do 2/3 of one of the runs (6.4 of the 9.8) with one of the closest members of my "running family" and about half of the miles (18 of the total) with another of the closest members of my running family.  And those are worth way more than any race.  Of course, I am training for races with both of them.  And I will run side by side with at least one of the two this fall.

I did get a chance to experience the fellowship of runners.  After the 6.4 miles on Saturday morning, we joined the Back on My Feet groups from Baltimore who were meeting at Christopher's Place, recited the Serenity Prayer, and then took off.  She for many more miles on Saturday.  Me for just another 0.9 on Saturday morning.

The fellowship continued when I circled back to Christopher's place sooner than any other runner did (I was done after just 0.9 more miles as I'd preceded my run with Lauren by 2.5 to warm up.)  I had the opportunity to speak with someone I had not had more than 30 seconds to say hello to in quite some time.  That was cool.  I got to hear about her completing 33.4 miles.  And talk about my plans for 56.

I did get a chance to share vulnerability with my running family.  Making goofy comments like noting the athleticism of rats as they jump incredibly high.  What does this tell me?  Either I have a very tolerant running mate who doesn't mind delirious comments at 5:30 on a Saturday morning by the harbor or that our friendship is strong enough to just take in those types of crazy comments.  On Sunday, I led my training partner from Timonium to Towson U, down Charles Street to Guilford where we talked about house envy, and then back over some demanding hills.  We made two pit stops with her complaining of some stomach issues and she tripped for the first time when I've been running with her in almost five years.  She was a trooper and finished.  She also shared her new nose piercing.  For the two of us who were pretty straight-laced when we met in the fall of 2010 to now have one of us with a big tattoo and the other with a nose piercing is pretty big.  Both are pretty main stream these days but I'm not sure either would have imagined the other doing that when we first me.

Finally, this morning I ran alone.  Sometimes those types of runs are great.  This was no exception.  I ran a slow and easy 8:50 pace.  At one point I was running in the bike lane against traffic.  I saw a bicyclist coming.  I quickly went up onto the grass and had a short "cross country-like" run on the grass and among the trees just south of the golf course that borders Lake Avenue.  The cyclist actually waved and said "thank you!"  I didn't think I needed thanks, but it was great to hear.

And, finally, today, I celebrated one year since the passing of an incredible runner.  She ran 50 races in the year starting when she turned 49 and leading up to when she turned 50.  Her favorite line was "finish lines not finish times."  Today's run (with my slow pace) showed that quite a bit.  My 56 miler will be about the finish line--and somewhat about the time.  She just embodied the spirit of running and encouragement. I met numerous people after I met her and they have become good online friends over the past year.

I look forward to what running will continue to bring me.

This was also a great weekend with family--cleaning that was long overdue.  Two dinners on the grill.  No meals out.  No real travels.  Just enjoying life together.

What more could I ask for in a weekend of running and Labor Day weekend in general?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

When Running is Just RIght

Today I ran what people training for marathons refer to as Yasso 800's.  This involves ten 800m (just short of a half-mile) intervals.  Between each, I run a 400m (one lap around the track).  In an ideal mythical world the one laps active rests would take the same amount of time as the 800m intervals.  I usually run the active rest periods a little fast. The idea is to remain as consistent as possible. And, as a wise running mentor once reminded me, the idea of the Yasso 800 workout is not to run the 800's as fast as I possibly can and feel dead at the end but to run them consistently and feeling like my boy is stressed but in a good way and that I am under control the whole time.

I've run this workout very fast in a few cases since working on my first marathon training season back in the fall of 2010.  In those cases, I think I was a little beyond the point of being under control the whole time.

Today, I went to a local private school track by myself.  There were two other people who were on the track at some point during the near an hour that I was there.  So, I was pretty much on my own the entire time.  And it was hot.  And it was humid.  And I had some PowerAde with me.

I ran the ten intervals in a pretty tight range.  The fastest was 3:03.  The slowest was 3:08.  I ran one at each end of the range--meaning that 8 were within a three second range.  That is not the ultimate in consistency, but doing that on my own felt like quite an accomplishment.

In addition, there were times when I pushed a little or made sure that I absolutely held my pace running all the way through the finish line.

I did stop for hydration breaks after numbers 4 and 7.  Those added maybe 10-20 seconds to my total rest time.  And helped me to stabilize my body temperature.

But it just felt good.  I did have to concentrate a bit but it really wasn't any effort that was extreme to do what I did.

That is a really cool place to be.

It reflects the value of nearly 6500 miles I've accumulated since May 2012.

It reflects the value of the the 1330 miles I've put in so far today, including  today's workout.

And it reflects the nearly 500 miles that I've put in during the last two months.

On top of that, it reflects that I have finally learned that I don't need to do the really fast 800m intervals but I really need to try to keep a pace.  The pace may result in faster intervals over time, but the goal for any given day is to hold pace.  Build up. And eventually be ready for more.  And use the constance and consistent an appropriate and controlled training to help me to perform better but not to try to get all if my improvements in one workout.

This type of building up one step at a time, can be used in business and education as well.  Each of us needs to think about how to improve ourselves over time.

The lessons from running (and most of all that the volume of activity matters) can be applied elsewhere in life.

And some might ask, "Did I feel the runner's high?"  No, but I felt a great sense of satisfaction and I felt like everything was just right.  With a little over five weeks to go until the next marathon I'll run my body is in some of the best shape it has ever been in.