Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I got up to run yesterday morning excited to go for it in a Christmas present of cold-weather running gear (pullover and winter weight tights). The gift was an unexpected one from my sister-in-law, and I liked some of the features including a mock neck and a slit in the sleeve so I could easily see my watch. Zippered pockets were a nice touch, too.

It was 12 outside. Degrees. I went.

Two pairs of gloves, a balaclava, and a thick/warm headband completed the outfit. Gusting wind and overcast skies completed the weather. A soft blanket of Christmas Day snow completed the scene.

My steps were short at first due to the cold (and the long car ride the day before). Once I loosened up and got going, though, the weather was a non-factor. Yes, it was brisk. When the wind blew I could definitely feel it. But it was quiet and beautiful and the peace of the season surrounded me.

The stresses of the last few months--at least for an hour--subsided. It was just me and the road and the wind. I crossed the Jackson River twice and passed between snow-covered hills on either side. The sounds of the rail yard signaled a return to life after the holiday, but it was a gentle start--not a rush.

As my run wound down, my strides lengthened and got me up the last mile of steady incline. In the end it wasn't easy, but it wasn't too hard either. It was just right.

I got up to run today. It was 12 outside. Again. I went.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Alleghany St,Clifton Forge,United States

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is a little more energy every morning. Just a little. I’m not asking for much, just enough to get me up out of bed when the alarm goes off the first time, which is just slightly more than the amount needed to hit the snooze button four times in thirty minutes.

Once I get up I’m perfectly ready to go. Okay, well, maybe not perfectly. Once I’ve done about eight minutes on the treadmill I’m perfectly ready to go. Okay, well, maybe not perfectly.

Most days in the winter go like this:

Hear alarm at 5:45. Hit the snooze button at 5:45:01. Repeat every ten minutes until 6:15. Get up. Finally. Get dressed to run. Finally. Walk down the steps sideways because your ankle hurts going front-ways. Avoid the lumpy carpet at the bottom of the steps because twisting it there is why your ankle hurts in the first place.

Walk down the basement steps to get to the treadmill. Your ankle already feels better. Turn off the back light so you can’t see your annoying shadow when you’re running. [This is no joke. The only thing more annoying/scary would be a mirror in front of you…] Turn on the front light to further diminish the shadow and to ensure that you don’t break your shin on the spinning bike or the weight bench (to be discussed in another post).

Turn on the TV, start the the DVD, and put on the wireless headphones. Turn the treadmill on at just more than a walking pace. Gradually speed up to a decent running pace--just more than a walk but too fast to actually walk.

Hang on to the bar tight until you’re sure that you’re not dreaming. Think the first tenth of a mile is way too long. Think how much longer four miles will be. Realize that making the treadmill go faster won’t get you there any sooner because your GPS watch only counts steps indoors. In other words, the faster you run on the treadmill the less distance your watch thinks you’re running. [This is also annoying but too hard to solve so early in the morning.]

Finish a mile and feel awake. Grab a hand towel to wipe the sweat away. Watch the hand towel go under your feet when it falls off the treadmill display. Think that looking down to follow/save that hand towel is never a good idea. Realize that you have a whole stack of hand towels and only one face.

Keep running because now you’re in a rhythm. Two miles. Increase pace. Three miles. increase pace. Four miles. Add a quarter mile--and go faster than you really should--so that your watch will tell you that you’ve run four miles and not 3.98.


Slow it down. Cool it down. Turn your watch off. Turn the treadmill off. Turn the TV off. Turn the DVD off. Put the headphones in the charger. Find the hand towel. Turn the front light off . Turn the back light on.

Drink (water).

Treadmill Tip #1: When stepping off a treadmill to change the DVD remember to actually pause the treadmill so that when you step back on it you won’t end up flat on your face wondering how you got there. Trust me on this one.

Know that you just enjoyed what you did and be convinced, for sure, that tomorrow it will be easier to get out of bed.

Well, it will be if I get what I want for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Need a New Goal

I ran a 10k on Thanksgiving, and I finished in under one hour. I hope to be faster someday, but for now that was an okay time.

I didn’t train to run a fast 10k. My ability to do that came as a result of my Marine Corps Marathon training—sort of a by-product of four and a half months of endurance preparation. With speed-specific workouts I’m pretty sure I could have done even better.

Marathon training gives my life purpose and focus. It helps me deal with other, tougher things because it provides a solid framework I can rely on. In the end, it improves my outlook, reduces stress, helps me manage my weight, and makes me feel better about life, in general. All good stuff.

Without a big goal in front of me, though, I feel kind of lost. It’s too easy now to get up early and NOT run because I haven’t put a new plan in place. I feel myself slipping from 6 days of exercise per week to 5 to 4 to 3 (last week). I’m afraid to gain my winter weight back, and stepping on the scale this morning confirmed that creep has begun.

And when I don’t exercise I simply don’t feel that great. Conversely, when I do get up and go I feel all the better for the rest of the day.

So I’m going to find and set a new goal. There’s an inaugural marathon in Gettysburg, PA, on May 1, that sounds about right. To get ready for that, I’m going to need some lucky breaks—not four months of snow like last year. But I think I’m going to look around a little bit, too, before I make that commitment. Maybe there’s a new place to visit in the spring that has a good course to run.

I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

So I think it went pretty well

It actually was about 35 degrees when I started to run this morning. I wore tights, a wicking turtleneck, and a pullover, hat, and gloves. Just about perfect.

The first mile was a little chilly, but no way near unbearable. After that, though, it was a great 5-mile run. I saw one other runner, which made me think there are others that haven’t been able to cross the bed-to-winter threshold. Otherwise, I was one-of-a-kind.

Having commuted by bicycle myself for one full winter I know that takes even more determination than running. And I saw a few hearty cyclists out there this morning. One of them was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Not cycling shorts, mind, you. Just plain old shorts.

I’m not sure I get that, but more power to him.

When you cycle in cold weather your 15mph pace takes those same 35 degrees and applies a nasty wind chill. I remember the tips of my fingers and toes going numb almost immediately, but I also remember how good it felt to arrive at work knowing that I had conquered the elements.

The hot shower was worth it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cold Start

When I go to bed at night, my body is warm and loose and it’s telling me that it can get up and run in the dark and cold the next day. I agree. I am 100% sure I can do it. I have the right clothes for it, after all, and I really enjoy running in cold weather. Really, I do.

But, oh, those first few minutes are tough. At 52, it’s always a little tough to get started, but when it’s cold, well, it’s more than just a little bit tougher. It’s even kind of hard to get up and on the treadmill that’s situated in a comfortable basement with a TV and central heating. Rolling those covers off is way harder than rolling them on.

But I can only run in place for so long without going anywhere so I’m looking for motivation. I find it in my most basic principle: live a life of abundance. Fundamentally, that means do everything I am capable of doing today.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t have another 52 years, and maybe only just another 15 or so to run, bike, and remain as physically active as I am now. So I want to explore my limits and try new things as often as possible.

I always hope that I can look back on my life and know that I made the most of it. And not just by exercising, but learning, growing, feeling, and doing as much as I can.

The forecast is calling for about 35 degrees tomorrow morning at 6:00. I think I’ll have a cold start—and a warm shower afterwards.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not Your Typical Motivational Speaker

Several years ago, on the way back from a long ride, my knees were achy. I had gone on a hilly course, and even with 20 gears on my bicycle I was pretty worn out. All I had to do was crest one more modest hill, and I would just about be home. It didn't feel easy, and I was griping to myself about that nagging pain.

Just as I reached the top a guy passed me going the other direction. He was perfectly balanced on his bike-- and pedaling at a comfortable pace--but he had only one leg. I stopped griping immediately.

I've seen that same gentleman many times since. Even in the last few weeks, as I tapered down to the marathon, I saw him pass me by. He's not racing or pushing; he just glides along. I often wonder what he would do if he had to catch himself in an emergency, but his demeanor says that he's got that pretty well figured out, too. I admire and respect people that can overcome physical odds to do things that many others would probably just not try.

The picture shown here is of another person with a relentless, positive attitude. I literally came across John Tartaglio at Mile 14 of the 2009 New York City Marathon. He had been ahead of me up to that point, but the arduous task he faced made mine pale in comparison as I gradually caught up.

It's kind of hard to tell what he's doing in the picture, but Tartaglio is "running" with no legs. He lost them both--almost all of the way up to the hip--to an infection when he was in high school.

To ambulate, he straps both of his stumps to a single spring and then competes on crutches. I described the sight later to friends by saying that he "runs" on a tripod. He usually competes in his racing wheelchair, but his goal that day was to become the first amputee missing his thigh bones to run NYCM.

It was truly an amazing thing to witness, and I was not embarrassed to stare for a while at an incredible example of perseverance and courage in a young man of just 22 years. And, yes, I learned later, he does make motivational speeches. I'd like to hear him.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In His Honor

Elaine, Pidge, and Sally, my marathon support team
As I waited for the starter's gun to go off, I was fully aware that it had been a long and sad few weeks. My training had gone perfectly well. In fact, I had completed 99.5% of the 640 miles I needed to cover over the last eighteen weeks. But the anticipation and excitement I felt last year in New York were missing, and for good reason. I miss my dad.

My friend Michelle's enthusiasm and nervousness should have influenced me more. The power of the exuberant crowds and all of the "first timers" should have rubbed off on me. The perfect weather should have made me relaxed and confident. My support team, with Sally among them, was waiting for me at Mile 4, again at Mile 8, and, finally, at the finish. All of those things were good, and true, and helpful, but they couldn't make me complete. I miss my dad.

I cried in the parking lot of his last "working building," the Pentagon. I cried as we passed the park where I ran the base paths as a toddler. I cried as we ran by the place where we fed the squirrels. I cried as we went by the Department of Labor, the Air and Space Museum, the HHS building, NASA headquarters. I cried as we passed Arlington Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest soon.

For the majority of his career as a civil servant, Washington, DC, was my father's life. Yesterday, it was my honor and privilege to finish the Marine Corps Marathon on the very paths he graced with his skill, his dedication, and his energy. While I was exhausted and sad for much of the 26.2 miles, I never, ever, ever considered quitting. When I reached the finish at the foot of the Iwo Jima Memorial, I raised one hand and silently pointed to the sky.

Yes, it was a hard day. Yes, it was a sad day. But, mostly, it was a good day. I got to run with my dad one more time.

Rest in peace, Dad, and thanks for coming with me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Something That We Do

Country singer Clint Black wrote a song about the love he and his wife share. Love is not something that we have, or find, or fall into, he says, it's something that we do.

My father and I never said "I love you" to each other very often. I can only remember a few distinct times when I said so, and not many more when he did. Yet I always knew, and I hope he does, that our love is true and steadfast and eternal.

I remember him on the cold sidelines during my November soccer games. I remember playing catch and throwing spirals. I remember watching the first moonwalk together. I remember him crying when President Kennedy died and again when my grandfather passed away. I remember him smoking fat cigars--that smell forever reminiscent--while watching Redskins games together. I remember him convincing me that cold "Navy" showers were a good idea. I remember him as my first cubmaster. I remember him at the dining room table on Sundays, his great "stone face" teaching us manners and respect for our family and my mother. I remember his embrace when I didn't make the William and Mary soccer team. I remember his happiness in all of my successes, and his compasion when I didn't succeed. I remember his kindness toward all of my friends, and his affection for my wife.

This is love. In none of those times was it ever stated. It was just something that we did.

There's no request too big or small
We give ourselves, we give our all
Love isn't someplace that we fall
It's something that we do

I love you, Dad.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Be All That You Can Be

In their tenth try, my soccer team had the best and most consistent performance they've ever had in a tournament. Playing against two rival teams, and a third they had not played before, they won three consecutive matches to make it to the championship. While they faltered, finally, in the last match, there was no question that they had done their very best.

Yes, they had been in championships before, but there was no mistaking their path this time. They didn't have to wait for the outcome of any of the other games to see where they stood--as they sometimes have in the past. This time they did it all on their own.

But, how do I explain what happened? There were just as many reasons why we shouldn't have done well as why we did. Five of our girls weren't available to play and were replaced by two younger players who were unfamiliar to our team. One of our keepers could catch and throw, but couldn't kick due to an injury. Really, they will always be competitive, but who would expect them to be winners this time?

I guess I do, always, and they do, too.

I don't think it ever occurred to a single Avalanche that they should do anything but go out and win. They played with passion, intensity, and consistency. They played together, and when the play got rough they were fiercely competitive. When they had chances to score they made them, and when they needed to make a great defensive play they did that, too. They accepted their guest players who then lived up to the expectations set by their temporary teammates.

Yes, they ran out of energy in the second half of the final, and lost to a deserving champion, but what a thrill to see these rapidly maturing, smart, intense, and beautiful athletes playing as a team game in and game out--each match better than the previous one. It's called "living up to your potential," and it was a gift to behold.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Think of Yourself as More Than You Are, and You Will Be

Prior to yesterday, over the past two seasons, my girls soccer team had played 11 games, The record? 3 wins, 3 losses, and 5 ties. Yes, that's right, almost half of the matches have ended in ties. Overall, the record is exactly even. As you might expect that puts us sqauarely in the middle of the pack: not too bad, but not really too great either.

So before the game yesterday I said, "I think we're too satisfied with being average." The reality is that the Avalanche is in a very competitive division so ties can actually be something to be proud of. On the other hand, real accomplishment comes when you break through that tendency and do whatever it takes to get just beyond the break-even point.

How many ways have I come up with to say that a tie is "good enough" when I always believe that we can do better? Can we think, collectively, that we are really better than our results show, and what would happen if we just got that in our heads right from the start?

So they tried it, and it worked. Not right away, but gradually. You could see it happening. At first, they started out slow, which is their tendency, but then you saw one or two girls really stepping up, and confidence started to spread from Allyson to Taylor and from Barta to Schwind. By the end of the game, it was happening up and down and across every inch of the field.

3-0, Avalanche wins. It pays to think big.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Inspired Again

In 1980, I was inspired by the incredible cross-Canada "marathon of hope," a personal crusade by a 22-year old Canadian name Terry Fox. He was raising money for cancer research after losing one of his legs to the disease. Yes, he ran nearly 4,000 miles on one leg and a crude (by today's standards) prosthetic. His gait was more of a hop-skip-and-jump because his artificial leg was inflexible and acted more as a balancing platform rather than a second leg.

Two days ago, ESPN ran an episode of the "30 for 30" series and Terry Fox was the central figure. I was struck by many things including the raw aspects of his trek. He labored mile after mile with only a single friend following in the van they shared  most of the way. He was not supported by Nike (not really even in existence then) or any other major sponsor. He was not in it for the personal wealth. He was not trying to become a hero. He was just a young man who was doing something quietly spectacular, quietly awesome.

I remember a brief mention in Runner's World about Terry Fox back then, and maybe a little bit on the national news. I was impressed by him, but never imagined doing anything like that. I still can't fathom the pain he must have been in, but I know this: Terry Fox convinced me that you can do anything you put your mind and heart into.

Terry Fox, you have  inspired me again. Rest in peace.


Last Sunday it was just supposed to be light rain, but it fell pretty hard. This time it was supposed to be heavy so I figured it would be light. But when the 6:00 alarm went off I was wrong, and it was pouring. Thirty minutes later, I was soaked at the end of the driveway. Man, was it fun. And not just for me, but for this one other guy.

The trail I run on was formerly a railroad bed that was paved over and made into a 40-mile long and skinny park. Paralleling the trail is a "horse path" that is more rugged, less flat, rutted, rocky and overgrown. It's a good change of pace when your legs are tired from the hard pavement, but it's more stressful because you have to watch every step carefully. And, on a day like this one it was guaranteed to be a river connected by soggy grass and puddles of uncertain depth. With my marathon just four weeks away, I really didn't want to risk a twisted ankle.

Weather conditions like these scare off all but a few fervent exercisers. In about an hour I had seen only a few bicycle commuters and just one other runner. He passed me going the opposite direction as I went out and in the reverse on the way back. I was safely on the hardpack and he was giddily on the soft. He bounded through the deepest puddles without cracking a smile, but I could tell he was absolutely enjoying it. Every step created a huge splash. He just pounded away as if it was the only sensible thing to do on a day like this. His shoes might have been ruined, his socks muddy and sopping. But he just kept going right on down the road. Cool.

I hope he didn't fall later on, but maybe that would have been okay with him, too, because maybe he would have made a bigger splash.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Running in the Rain, Mostly Fun

I wanted to be on the road at 6:00am yesterday to do 20 miles of training. For some reason, I was especially anxious to get this one done. In other words, I wasn't getting ready with my usual zeal--not to mention that the weather man reported a slight chance of light rain for the next couple of hours.

It rained for the first ten miles. Non-stop.

Honestly, I enjoy running in the rain. Always have. Since I have the pleasure of living near a 40-mile bike trail, often under a canopy of beautiful trees, running in the rain means a reduction of athletic traffic and a calming, quiet run. The moment I left the house the first raindrop hit my forehead, and it didn't let up until I turned around to come back.

But it shouldn't have been that cold this time and I was underdressed in a lightweight shirt and shorts. I just never really felt as comfortable as I would have liked and found myself fussing with all of my gear, checking shoelaces too often, adjusting the tuck of my shirt, trying to get water bottles in and out of my fuel belt. I think dri-fit means that the sweat comes off your body quickly, but the rain comes back through with full force. Bleah. No fun. One of my soccer girls says that I run "slow as a turtle," and I felt that way a good bit of the time. Monotonous. Slow. Cold. Wet.

You know what, though? I finished that run, and I did okay on pace, too. And today I feel like that kind of session--the ones that aren't that fun--end up meaning the most when I look back on my training days leading up to a marathon. I could have quit altogether; I could have taken some breaks. But I didn't. I just kept going.

Side note: I saw a turtle on the trail, Anna, and I was definitely going faster. Really.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1 of 100,000 Steps

I have a very cool watch that accurately tracks my running mileage and route via GPS. An associated "footpod" tells my watch how many steps I take each time I run. I average about 160 steps per minute--counting right and left--when I'm at my normal pace.

So last week I ran about 100,000 steps. That number equates to a lot of running. Each 1 of that 100,000 gets me closer to my training plan's daily goal and to my long term fitness strategy. Each 1 breaks the all-time steps record in the Chas division of life. Every day I set a new lifetime achievement record for the number of steps taken as living and breathing me.

Someday I'm going to take my last step, and I don't know when that will happen so I'm going to keep taking them--and relishing them--until I can't any more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Right Impression

I have coached two soccer teams in the last 15 years: a boys team, the Vipers, and a girls team, the Avalanche. The teams are approximately ten years apart in age. Recently, the boys--now out of college--have come out to help me coach the girls--now freshmen in high school. The guys have been around the girls enough to be seen as big brothers, but I need to them to be seen as coaches.

After practice today, I talked to Chris, Tim, and Anthony about how they have to switch gears from someone that is there for fun to someone that is there to teach. "You have to realize," I said, "that they hear everything you say and listen to the way you say it." Although the girls are all growing up rapidly, you still have to pay attention to the impression you make. Arrive on time, work hard, set examples. Be serious when seriousness is called for. Be fun and funny when that makes sense, too.

Next to parents and teachers, coaches have greater opportunity to influence children than many coaches realize. Creating a successful team environment--regardless of winning percentage--sets them up for success in life. How many organizations today profess to be team-based or team-builders? In my company, we call our alliances with other businesses "teaming agreements" and  we evaluate individual performance based, in part, on how well a person works within a team.

On the athletic field our children find ways to grow, to communicate, and to play together. Their ability to do that, molded here, will serve them well throughout their lives. We, as coaches, need to be committed to that concept and do everything we can to make their time at practice and in games worthwhile for the long run.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Inspiration

The other day I finished my first 20-miler of this training season. Over the next month, I'll do it two more times before beginning my taper to the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31.

I felt great through the first 18 miles, and then I faded kind of badly for the last two. Encouraged by finishing, I was a bit discouraged by my slow pace at the end. Run finished, I stiffly crossed the parking lot to my car. I watched two men work themselves into their sports wheelchairs. One had no legs, and the other had them, but could not use them.

The pain I was feeling disappeared. No complaints.

The Only Way Out is Through

My friend, Linda, has been dealing with ongoing foot pain (and associated surgery) for many months now. She perseveres, though, and she says "the only way out is through." I like that way of saying it.

Running 5, 10, even 13 miles is something that I did many times during the running boom of the 1980's. I could do that. Even without much thought or preparation, I could do that. Well, actually, when I was young I could do that. But, at 51, getting much beyond a few miles (and running the whole time) was a challenge. In fact, my initial plan for my first marathon was to walk about 1/3 of the time and run the other 2/3. And that was a BIG jump from where I started.

I kept going, though, and gradually I could run 3, 5, 6, even 10 miles without walking at all. Diligitently following a training plan for newbies was going to get me where I wanted to go. I started to believe I could do it. I was slow, mind you, but never still.

The first time I went beyond 13 miles was "no mans land." I had run that distance once before. Quite literally, once before, and that was in 1981--nearly 30 years ago. As I worked my way up to twenty miles, each greater distance brought a breakthrough physically and mentally. I found my mind settling into a new kind of consciousness that was calm, deliberate, and steady. Focused on only the next few yards, I simply put one foot after the other and I made it through. It was never without pain, and it was always with reward.

Tell me when you're ready to run (or walk) your first 5k, Linda. I'll go with you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Soccer Girls Growing Up

I coach soccer girls who are now high school freshmen. It's a little tough for me to realize that their once highly important weekend soccer match is now lower down their lists of priorities. It's tough just because I like them so much, and I enjoy the times we spend together. I remember the same feeling with the boys team I coached for ten years when they started to become strong and independent young people.

Today we lost a game--a really close one--but that's not really important. What I liked about itwas the way the girls are making decisions for themselves. I still do "coach" from the sidelines, but I would say they hear very little of what I'm saying. Sure, there are times when I wish they would hear me more because I can see some things that they can't. But, the highest compliment a coach can receive comes in the form of the success his players have on the field and in their lives. The fact that they don't really hear me now means they have grown confident enough to create and think on their own, for their team, and for each other.

You can read more about the Avalanche on their web site.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

MCM 44 - It's Cold Out There

Although the last several mornings have been cool-er, this morning was the first one that I would call "cool." The summer was brutally hot so early morning runs would produce high volumes of sweat even in darkness. Now it's dark at 6am and the first steps out the door are always the toughest.

I leave home through the garage. When I use the keypad to close the door behind me I become an official part of the pre-dawn morning. There is light from the street, but everyone is still asleep. When I put my headphones on I'm back in the middle of, "Darkly Dreaming Dexter," the novel that inspired the popular TV show. I check my watch, and off I run. Absorbed in the story of a serial killer who only kills "bad people," I have six miles to do.

There is a short time period at the beginning of every cold-day run during which you debate turning back. That's what makes staying on a consistent plan--and having a longer term goal--so important. Without the focus of an upcoming marathon I am certain that I would choose to remain next to Sally for the extra hour. On other hand, I believe that I'll be able to stay healthy longer and have many more days and nights next to her because I got up today.

Even on the coldest days, the chill goes away after a few minutes. You just have to get your heart, your mind, and your body beyond that point of no return.

Here We Go

So, I'm going to attempt to maintain a blog for a while--at least until I have finished the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31, 2010. That is not to say that I only have one thing to discuss or one thing to do. In fact, I have many passions I hope to express here.

In my daily life I work to enhance the lives of the people who work for FGM, Inc., a small federal government contractor. I'm the SVP of Human Resources there so I make my living by working for my customer, the people of this company. It's a fascinating role to play ranging from satisfying to difficult and everywhere in between.

I don't really know if the things I think about and do will matter to anyone, but maybe.