Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Ground

Date Night was a total blast, as was sleeping in Saturday. I woke up at 4:30 to a lightning show and heavy rain. I hoped my running buddies bagged their run.

They did, and rescheduled for 6:00 this morning. Under clear skies and 57 degrees, Eddie, Jim and I were joined by Heather, Sara, Joelle and Kristen. The ladies were sniping about the cold ... Go figure! Team Chicago's plan was to run 13, as they are two weeks from their 26.2 in the Windy City. I hoped to run at least 19.

At Mile Two, a runner in his late 50s, looking fitter than Lance Armstrong, joined us. We could tell he was looking for company. So Mike joined us. Mike the Slacker has run 170 marathons and nearly 90 ultra marathons. I told him the only Ultra this group would ever do with him was a Michelob Ultra.

At Mile 10, Eddie, the only runner not signed up for a marathon, started talking like he wanted to run 20. We branched off, heading back on the Grassland course along Old Natchez Road and the Harpeth River, which was high from all the rain. The rest of the fun, feisty group, which included Jim, a lymphoma survivor, and Kristen, who had three heart surgeries when she was young, headed back to Grassland Elementary, our starting point.

Eddie and I found a rhythm. But around Mile 14 in some hills in the Montpier subdivision, Eddie's knee started to bother him. We settled on 10:15s, the pace Eddie and his swollen knee seemed to prefer.

At Mile 16, we hit the famed Old Natchez hill for the second time before turning right on Moran Road. I felt decent through 17.5. Eddie was hurting but showing guts. At 18.5, I started to feel it in my back. In fact, I was now feeling it all over. Eddie and I kept encouraging each other, finishing 19.6 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes, a 10:44/mile pace. We made five pit stops, averaging five minutes at each. I won't have that luxury October 25th.

19.6 is a new milestone for me (by 3.6 miles) and for tough Eddie. The run was great preparation for the big kahuna in less than a month. I'm sore and have a mild headache. Otherwise, all is well. I will run one more long one soon and then start tapering.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Date Night

Running this week has been challenging. I think it's a combination of oppressive humidity, the cumulative effect of training and a minor cold.

Tonight is Date Night for Dori and me. Tomorrow, I won't be running in 72 degree dewpoint. Sunday looks better weather-wise.

Let the weekend begin, FNF-style. As a teenager, I stayed up late to watch The Avengers, a British series with Patrick Macnee and sorta Dori-look-alike, Diana Rigg (aka Emma Peel). Cool chick, cool series and a cool tune.

Musical project, The Traveling Wilburys, produced a super album circa 1988. Tom Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan ... It's pretty hard to blow that up, proof positive here and here.

In the spirit of Date Night, some offerings that should resonate - Dori tunes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chased By Lightning

I woke up at 5, wanting very much to sleep in and certainly not run. But Hal Higdon's marathon training schedule said otherwise.

In my own early morning fog, I checked Heavy rain was approaching from the south. Using plotting skills perfected through many watches on the bridge of a naval warship - and too much coffee-induced analysis with quartermasters and boatswain's mates - I deducted the storm would arrive around 6 sharp, enough time for a four-miler.

At Mile Two, the lightning looked too close for comfort. Naval plotter was now running faster. Prudently, I veered on a side street, cutting off a half mile. At Mile Three, the thunder started. Lightning was closer. I wasn't happy. My body wasn't either. Running fast at 5:35 with sore muscles from a 16-miler over the weekend wasn't the equation I needed.

I cruised into the house, perspiring heavily. It's still muggy here. It's rained eight straight days, too, in spots. After a muggy weekend, the long-term forecast calls for fall-like temps. Bout da**ed time.

A reminder of what this is all about: Cape Cod Marathon preview

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nice Run!

Kathryn made a statement today in cross country.

After Will ran a 7:40/mile, an improvement from last week, Kathryn's group lined up for their run. Will noticed Kathryn jump out quickly from the pack of about 70 girls. "Look at Kathryn!" he yelled. "Wow," I agreed. "She looks determined."

As the group charged to the top of a hill at a quarter mile, I counted Kathryn in 13th place. Hope she stays up there, I thought. She's always been around the Top 20, but never in the Top 15. The girls disappeared, to return at about the .6 mile point.

Two or three fluid runners appeared, then a few more, then Kathryn. She was now 11th, with several girls right behind her. Powerfully, Dori yelled, "GO KATHRYN!!!" I noticed Kathryn running with purpose for the first time in her young life. Her posture was perfect, a slightly forward lean. Her breathing looked relaxed. Her arms and legs were in sync. Will and Dori noticed it, too.

"You look great! Keep it up!" we yelled. Pepper, showing school spirit decked in a red shirt, wagged his tail agreeingly.

As Dori and I jogged to the finish line, Dori asked, "Where is this coming from? Where did she get this?" I said, "Us." But it really is more than that. Kathryn has learned to battle, I said to myself. She has taken it upon herself to do this.

I wondered if she'd fade the last quarter mile. When I looked out on the course, I saw her staying near the front pack, which then disappeared around a bend.

The first three girls came in between 6:30 and 6:50. Then four more arrived. In the next pack, Kathryn was in a sprint, trying to catch a few girls. They held on, but so did she. She finished 11th (was it 10th?) in 7:35 on a very muggy day. Will stood at the exit to congratulate his sister. Dori beamed. I hung out with Pepper and focused on not getting too high from the performance. Kathryn has had some rough runs, and I'd made sure not to get down on her or let her mope. This was a new challenge.

When she saw me, she smiled. I smiled back, and gave her a knuckle-to-knuckle high five. "Awesome run, Kathryn." "Thanks, Dad," she said. Then she shared what her goal had been.

"I didn't want to lose sight of Mackenzie," her friend who finished third and one of the best 11-year-old athletes in Nashville.

Leaving the course, all I could think of was how delightful this was to share as a family. I thought of Dori's battle to get to this point and all the people who supported her. Kathryn performed well today. And Dori was here to see it.

Positive Trends

The kind of trends we like to see, in large part due to your charity and giving:

Cancer deaths among young declining
Young blood cancer patients living longer

Also positive: I'm not very sore today. Kathryn and I walked a ways to watch the Vanderbilt game last night. I think that helped.

Watching the Dores get smoked 15-3 didn't. We endured gross incompetence from Vandy's offensive coordinator, who acted like he never planned for blitz packages. Ever hear of a screen pass? Sheesh. Run it, dude.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wet One

Training for a marathon, obviously, eats up serious time. I woke up at 4:45, left the house at 5:40 and returned at 10:20. The run went well. I had planned to run 19, but settled on 16 for reasons to be described.

Our crew of 11 started at River Park in Brentwood, just south of Nashville. It's basically a mish-mash of greenway and sidewalks through nice neighborhoods. Conditions weren't optimal for a long run ... very humid and dewpoint in the low 70 range ... but we did have cloud cover (and a good chance of rain).

We lost our teammate Jim, who was having calf trouble, at Mile One. We saw deer in the dawn, the first of three sightings. At Mile Four, I was soaked. At Mile Six, my shoes were soggy from the sweat. At Mile Seven, the hills started. At Mile 11, the skies opened. It rained hard most of the last five miles. Funny, you don't notice it as much when you're already drenched.

Our pace was very conservative the first half ... averaging 11:35/mile. We mostly stuck together today, with few groups branching. Around Mile Nine, Sara picked it up, and Eddie and I followed. Kristen and Joelle stayed close. When the deluge began, Eddie wondered how many folks in passing cars thought we were crazy. "All of them," everyone said in unison.

At Mile 13, some decided to head back, while Eddie, Joelle and I decided to turn right to add miles. I wasn't interested in a 14-miler, nor was Eddie. The rains pounded, while the water ponded. Good-natured Eddie just laughed. I just ran. I decided to finish with Eddie, who was set on 16, rather than run 19. My feet were starting to feel like blistering was possible, and I reasoned 16 in soup is like 19 or 20 in drier conditions.

Final pace was 11:15/mile. I'm happy with it and the weekly mileage - 35.5. The group has 22 on their schedule next Saturday. Should be challenging.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Timeless Stones

I have that feeling I'm fighting a bug. Not much strength, but not too weak, either. C'mon, white blood cells. With another 8.5 miles in the bag (two runs), I'm at 19.5 going into the last run tomorrow.

It's that time. My weekly escape I present to you. Friday Night Flashbacks.

Excellent rendition of a classic, before Ann Wilson went Crazy on Potato Chips and the boys in the band decided tight pants weren't so comfy.

Some zombie coolness circa 1985 from an underrated Philly band, a good one and another from the Stones, and your knight in shining armor and some shelter ...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trader Joe's to the Rescue

About a year ago, a running friend told me Trader Joe's was going to open a store in Nashville. She was jazzed, almost disturbingly so. I filed it away, promising myself I would pay a visit after the grand opening.

Before our neighborhood TJ's opened, Dori, the kids and I visited a TJ's in Sante Fe. Nice store, I thought, as we breezed through to pick up a few things. But nothing to write home about.

Today, my eyes get as wide as my running friend's when I start talking about Trader Joe's. The food? Well, it's Wonka-scrumpdeli-icious and mostly healthy. The service? Quite good. The convenience? With Dori's new job and hectic schedule, we don't have the time for making home-cooked meals, but we still have the time to eat them! We've had some great Indian and Italian the last couple of nights.

What's in a running boy's diet from such a fine establishment? Italian-style deli turkey and asiago cheese sandwiches, hummus and lots of it, chocolate milk for recovery after long runs, the best chile pepper sauce I've ever had, Irish oatmeal and dried blueberries (o-my-god), dry roasted almonds, Greek-style yogurt, and the list goes on.

On this good fuel, I've started the week with a so-so solo eight-miler and a three-miler with Mighty Pepper. I had to stretch twice on the longer run and fuel with a GU energy gel. I'm pretty sure I was still asleep the first few miles. This morning's run with Peps was easy, even in 100% humidity. Rain is supposed to linger through Friday. Saturday is a big training day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Knowing When To Say When

Kathryn and Will finished in the Top 20 at today's parochial league cross country meet. Both were first in their peer groups for our school. But it was better than just that.

Our kids showed fight today. Will ran through some discomfort. I liked the way he worked up a hill. Kathryn lost a shoe at the start of the race and was knocked down as she scrambled for it. She was almost dead last as she hopped up, but recovered very well. She expended a lot of energy moving through the field.

In my world, it's been weird not running two of the last three days. I ran four miles Saturday at an 8:45/mile clip, ending the week with 28 miles and without a long run. I feel very rested and jazzed about running eight bright and early tomorrow, when I'll test some new running shoes.

Dori is back after a weekend at the beach with friends. She had a blast. I know she's wondering how she'll manage the next two years. New job, earning a master's at night, raising two kids and handling the day-to-day. Toss in dealing with me, and that's a workload. We are going to have to keep Wonder Woman's cape dry cleaned.

Understandably, I'm concerned things will pile up, so I've added some chores. I'm also asking the kids to be responsible in new ways, mostly chores. It's a work in progress. My Mom is helping by making a dinner or two, and I've gotten reacquainted with laundry, more school pick-ups and some lunch-making, and the list goes on. It's going to be a team approach. I'm determined we will be successful.

Dori's obstinance helped her beat back cancer, but frankly it's a threat to living a balanced life. The biggest thing I've noticed is declining to shut down late in the evening. At some point, great effort without brakes leads to a point of diminishing returns, just like training for a race. The bottom can even fall out, if you're not careful.

Let's just say I'll have my eyes on this.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pass the Cheese

Notice I didn't say "cut."

I ate plenty of cheeses this week. Stilton, sharp cheddar, various mexican. Boy needs his vitamin D and good bones for runnin'.

Repetition leads me to share the following fromage. Pardonez moi ... those aren't pillows!

Cheesy song, creative pairings.

Less cheese from the Ramblin' Guy and some bluegrass legends.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Worthy Cause, To Say The Least

Dori and I support the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation. Some of you may recall why. Anyhoo, this is worth your time and charitable dollars.

Thursday, September 17th from 5 to 8 pm, Lilly Broadcasting will devote three hours of prime time television programming to raise funds for the John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation.

The Kanzius Non-invasive Radio Wave Cancer Treatment is not only ground breaking, but has the potential to make many current cancer treatments obsolete.

Lab tests have proved that the non-invasive targeted radio frequency cancer treatment is 100% effective in killing cancer cells in small animals, but much more work remains to receive approval for human trials, ... .

Your donation is needed to further this research and to make the human trials a reality. You can wait until September 17, or donate through our web page now! All of our online donations will be combined and the grand total revealed during the telethon on September 17th. Our goal is to meet and surpass the total of $100,000 raised during last year's telethon.

Don't wait, with your help, cancer can be defeated....DONATE NOW.

Mrs. Brown's 4th Grade Class

I left work a little early today to visit Dori in her classroom. The unannounced trek was a big surprise to my girl. But her hug was as welcoming as any she's ever given me.

What I saw in the course of an hour-and-a-half was inspiring. Dori's fourth-graders were vibrant and well-mannered. They have a great sense of humor and are well spoken. They look you in the eye, smile and answer your questions.

Many are first generation Hispanic children who are eager to succeed. One wants to be a doctor; another wants to go to Harvard; and two young ladies have told Dori she's the best teacher they've ever had, among several flattering comments.

As awesome as this was, the best part was watching Dori. She's new at this teaching thing, to be sure. I arrived at the end of the school day, a hectic time. Despite the quick pace, Dori was more focused than anything. She had her students moving, in the right lines and places, and did it smoothly. They listen to her. They recognize, like our kids and I, that Dori is a leader.

She was gracious to fellow teachers, who impressed me. The school was clean, which isn't always the case in our system, and the staff was friendly. Like most places, you know a good place from a bad place. Dori is in a good place.

Right now, she's at the local university, working on earning her master's in education. Wednesdays and Thursdays are busy around here. My Mr. Mom hat, which I wear every day at different times, is on most of these days.

Whenever I think it's tough, all I have to do is harken back to two years ago when Dori's life was in serious jeopardy. It's why she doesn't complain about the hours, and why I won't either. We know plenty of people who are striving to be in our shoes. And we're praying for each of them.

That's the latest from our outpost. We wind down in an hour or so, and it all starts again at 5 in the morning.

For me, it will actually get going a little sooner. My runs are getting longer and earlier. I ran six on Labor Day at Percy Warner Park, three yesterday with Pepper, and seven at 4:45 this morning. Dori will be out of town this weekend, so I won't be able to join Team Chicago for their 19-miler. Instead, I'm doing longer intermediate runs to get the mileage.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Value of Time

Dori is back to near 100% and ready to go back to school. The Labor Day break came at a nice time for all of us.

Yesterday, I read a poignant letter from Chris to his wife Ann's donor. Ann is celebrating one year post-transplant. Chris captures everything perfectly.

Dori's two-year anniversary is about a month away ... Saturday, October 10. Five days later, Dori and I will celebrate our 15th anniversary. The summer and fall of 2007 seem ages away. I have even forgotten to reflect about it a few nights in recent weeks and months. Time heals wounds, but some wounds never go away. Case in point ... I don't think of our black lab Otis, who we put to sleep three years ago last week, every day. But when I think of him, I still miss him, and it hurts.

One impressionable moment at Friday's Hall of Fame dinner was seeing Kaye, a non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor. In her mid-60s, Kaye took a liking to Kathryn and Will. She asked me what type of blood cancer Dori had. After I said "AML," she said, "Isn't that a bad kind?" Yes, with low five-year survival rates, I answered, before noting Dori is doing very well.

After reading Chris's letter and thinking about the exchange with Kaye, I'm feeling guilty about not reflecting every night on our blessings and fortune. Another part of me is thankful that enough time has passed that Dori's cancer journey no longer dominates most of my thoughts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Finally ... Football

After a good six miler Wednesday morning, I rested Thursday and Friday. I wanted to run at least one of those days, but Dori was battling a virus. She feels fine. Her donor Hans is ready for anything that's thrown at my girl, knock on wood.

Dori's scrap comes on the heels of Pepper, our dalmatian mix, having a mini-scare. His tail was infected a few weeks ago; he was yelping and having trouble sleeping. So I took him to the vet. After a few days of expensive doggie drugs, he started improving. He's also fine.

This morning, I joined Team Chicago for a 13 miler. We ran a similar route as last last week, starting at Grassland Park. The route begins next to an elementary school, weaves through a subdivision and opens up at Mile 1.5, passing an historic home and crossing the Harpeth River. At this juncture, we come upon an expansive, hill-framed farm of soybeans. For two miles along a rolling road, we passed nothing but inspiring horse farms and the homes of several country music stars. Sara and I ran this part of the run.

After a refuel at 3.3, I pared with Dexter, a priest who is friends with his parishioners Eddie and Laurie. Father Dexter is an impressive guy who has run 31 marathons, with two more on this year's calendar. He's the only African-American priest I've ever met from outside our country. I really enjoyed hearing about his journey and his parish.

I ran most of the next four miles at the front of the pack, pacing the group and processing my own thoughts. For the last three miles, I rejoined Sara, and we talked about college football and some of our unimpressive behavior in college. She's an Ole Miss fan, and some of you know I like my Commodores. Dori, the kids and I are getting ready to attend the Vanderbilt-Western Carolina game.

Last night, the kids and I attended a formal dinner honoring nine former Commodore greats by inducting them in the school's Hall of Fame. We had many takeaways, including how a 6'4'' Lady Commodore basketball player thanked her parents for teaching her to "embrace her advantage" instead of worrying about being taller than her classmates. The parent of another Commodore athlete said he asked his six kids every year at the dinner table to set new goals.

Greatness doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen. Kathryn and Will were very attentive. Proud Dad just watched. It was a highlight of the year.

I ran 27 miles this week, not far from my schedule. Next Saturday, Team Chicago is preparing to run 19. That will be a record distance for me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Workin' Music

Happy Friday, all. With Labor Day on the horizon, seems sensible to start with a work tune, starting with red leather-clad Mike Reno and his Canadian buddies.

Great song from Duran Duran, but I've seen more crowd excitement at a healthcare townhall.

Provocative and intense R.E.M., here and below.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dead Legs

Recovery from Saturday's run continues.

I ran three easy miles Sunday with Pepper at Radnor Lake. Actually, that run felt ok. Monday morning's five-miler was harder. Slow for the first half. When the aching subsided, I picked it up a smidge.

Still sore this morning, I blew off a run and then shunned exercise again tonight. Tomorrow morning, we'll see how things go. I'm expecting a return to near normalcy. My aerobics have been improving, but the body takes time at age 44 to repair muscle micro-tears.

At least my running shoes smell better. I washed them after a summer's worth of sweat absorption.

Goodbye, stinky and sore.