30 September 2008


T-Minus 6 days to Wineglass. Tonight I’m in upstate New York at mom’s, blogging from my old bedroom, mooching off an unknown neighbor’s unsecured wireless. In the final days, I need to keep loose, so I popped in 5 between leaving work and hopping in the car to begin the journey to Ohio before returning here for Wineglass. Calm, uneventful week. Yeah, right. So, for a calming effect, I’ve rolled out an oldie: my first blog before I knew what one was, my race report from my first marathon, Cape Cod 2005. It’s fun to look back on what was new and wonderful back then. Who knew I’d go sub-3 two and a half years later? And it’s also fun to recount the story of running with Chris Russell before I even knew who he was…

Cape Cod Race Report!

Being sent to people who might only have a slight interest, but hey, it's news!

Executive Summary:
Cape Cod Marathon, Sunday, October 30th, my first marathon
Official "Gun" time - 3:29:09
Net time (crossing start line to finish) 12 seconds less - 3:28:57
Never stopped, not for nothin'
195th out of 1200+ registered, 976 finishers
Hurting, but still alive and breathing.


Long Version (For runner types who give a crap about this stuff):

The Weather: Absolutely horrid on Saturday. Cold, rainy - almost snow, windy. Forecast was for it to clear about 4 AM and for Sunday to be beautiful. I figured the storm would linger, but dawn broke Sunday clear and perfect. By race time (8:30 AM) the temperature was in the high 40's and I was able to leave the wind coat behind, running in short sleeves from the start. It was cool with brilliant sun the whole way, though a bit of wind on the northerly legs - and of course the last mile was a northerly leg. The temperature at noon at the finish was about 60°.

The Start: No time for pre-race jitters. We were shooting the bull, oblivious to the time, when BOOM! - the canon (yes, they use a canon) went off and we were off. I crossed the start line 12 seconds after the canon, so my "net" time was 12 seconds faster than my official "gun" time. I consciously tried not to go out too fast. I swear I tried. Really, I tried. You don't believe me, but I tried. I failed miserably. I never saw the 1 mile marker, so the first split I got at 2 miles was 15:06, or 7:33/mile. Way too fast. Over the next few miles I tried to slow the pace, but the body was in a comfort zone and didn't reply, so I just had to go with it.

The Race Plan: Pretty much went out the window. Chalk it up to experience. The plan was to take it slow, consistent 8 minute pace, be smiling at 20 miles as I was in my longest training run, then hang in there or turn it on a bit at the end. By mile 8, I figured the damage was done, and I'd have to run it out and see how it went, knowing that the "hills" (I still don't think of them as big hills like many others did, but they were certainly there) were coming later. The change in strategy can best be summed up by one guy I was running with - who was targeting 3:10-3:20 while I was targeting 3:30 - who said to me, "Hey, tomorrow you can tell your friends you ran these perfect 8 minute miles and did your 3:30 smiling, or you can tell them how you ripped along the first half of the course then suffered mightily later to gain your 3:30. Which is gonna' make a better story?" He turned out to be completely right - I hope you like the story!

Hydration and Nutrition: I tried to "pre-hydrate" but this turned out to be a mistake. Early fluid intake only led to, uh, mild urging discomfort, if you know what I mean - not enough to bring on a bio-stop, but enough to notice. The problem with that was that I didn't drink enough early on so as not to exacerbate that condition. That condition remedied itself but by then I was into hydration deficit, and significant intake later in the race didn't prevent what was effectively pretty severe dehydration in the last 2 miles. I ran with the Fuel Belt, geeky as it may be, and I'm glad I did, as I would have been far worse trying to drink from cups - a skill I simply don't have. I stuck to my plan of a gel at 40 minutes and another every 30 afterward - also handy and plentiful due to wearing the belt.

The Support Team: My three ladies - Awesome, right in place as planned, and executed a perfect bottle hand-off to replenish the belt without making me break stride! Wish I had that on video!

Race Progression: Splits for miles 1 through 15 ranged from as low as 7:26 to 7:46 on the upgrades. 10K hit exactly 47:00 - an easy split to remember - 7:34 pace. At mile 15 I turned in a 7:40 and was at 7:37 pace on average. Ironically, after the exact 47:00 10K, I also hit another exact split - at the halfway point (13.1m) the clock ticked 1:40:00 exactly (7:38 pace) - neither of these are hedged by a second or two - they were both exact - now what's the chance of that? Mile 16 slowed to 7:59 with a noticeably upgrade, but 17 came in at 7:49 and 18 at 7:54, then things started slowing down. Miles 19-20-21-22 rose slowly from 8:04 to 8:22. Miles 23 and 24 stretched to 8:55 and 9:04. A burst of "speed" (?) brought mile 25 down to 8:39. Mile 26 was utter agony at 9:31. The last 0.2185 miles (that famous 385 yards) were at 9:12 pace - I guess that was my "kick"! In the end, I crossed the line at 3:29:12 from the canon, overall 7:58.6 pace, and (unofficially) 3:28:57 from when I crossed the start. I'm pleased at the fact that I did not stop or walk at any point!

Body Mechanics: The body held up remarkably well. The areas I expected trouble from - the right knee and left ankle - didn't deliver any trouble. Early on the calves felt a bit stressed - I think I tapered a bit too much in the days preceding (but then, had I not, other issues may have prevailed). The only scare came around mile 17 when an odd twinge appeared below the right ankle, above the heel. It was a sensation I hadn't felt before and thus didn't know how to manage. I altered my stride a little to stretch it to avoid cramping, and it subsided within a half mile, never to return. By 20-21 the muscles were weakening, which in retrospect was almost certainly the onset of the dehydration. By the last two miles, the dehydration was pretty severe. I'd liken it to Hell, but the weather was nice and the scenery superb. My pastor would be pleased to know there was prayer involved. Later, multiple expletives emerged. The last 350 yards to the finish were slow motion with the body tingling - not pretty. The race staff sat me down, did a quick lucidity check (exactly what they should have done), realized I was hurting but OK, and served up cup after cup of water. What a crew! 10 minutes and 6 cups later, I was OK.

The Aftereffects: Less severe than expected. The knees are tender and of course the quads and calves hurt, but overall, not bad! The post-race sports massage didn't hurt, nor did a healthy (or perhaps somewhat exceeding healthy?) dose of ibuprofen and a beer.

The Event: I cannot say enough about how well this event was organized and run. The 700 volunteers from the Falmouth Track Club and their friends put on a First Class event. Everything was attended to, and everyone was extremely helpful. If you are considering your first marathon, this is a challenging (but beautiful!) course, but well worth considering as your first. If you've marathoned elsewhere, run this one. These people did an awesome job. Check out www.capecodmarathon.com.

29 September 2008

Another (Good!) Day as Groomsman

It’s a under a week till Wineglass, and my prediction yesterday held true. The Weather Channel 10-day forecast has indeed changed already, from rain showers to perfection on race day, literally zero percent chance of rain, cool, windless, and bracketed by more perfect days. This is too good too soon, I’ll bet it will change again. Meanwhile, today was my last speed tune-up…

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Yeah, but I’m of the other gender, so that doesn’t work, and nobody every says, “Always a groomsman, never a groom.” Guys just don’t see it that way, I guess. But from a racing perspective though, it fits me well. Another race today, another 2nd place. At my age, I’m not complaining. But it’s a notable phenomenon.

Today’s event was a local favorite, the Forrest Memorial. The field was reduced a bit by both apparent and real rain. I say apparent as tales emerged of great downpours in other parts of our small city which discouraged at least one friend of mine from showing, but we were spared the deluge and raced under only a light drizzle with 140% humidity, thanks to tropical air dragged north by Hurricane Kyle passing to our east. Nevertheless, the usual local suspects appeared, our club was well represented, and Dick and Rick Hoyt, a couple of the most amazing humans on Earth, made their annual inspirational circuit of the course.

Now, other than obvious biggies like Boston, other marathons, and a few bigger events here and there, I run mostly small, local races. There’s plenty to keep me busy within a tight radius of home. Big races are exciting, but they’re also logistical challenges, and you can easily start blowing big bucks if this habit gets out of hand. Local stuff is more like going to a picnic with your buds, which is, of course, precisely what breaks out at events like the Forrest. No stress, low cost, good race, lots of fun afterwards.

This puts me squarely in the position of being a moderately sized fish in a small pond, which means not too much competition at my pace, but there are always a few to challenge me. And that’s where the groomsman analogy shows up. Out of sheer chance, you’d think that one of these days I’d hit one of these races where enough people don’t show up that given day so as to let me claim it for myself, plant the flag for Team Cattarin, or perhaps Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand or something like that. But it never seems to happen.

Two years back, I skipped the Forrest, as I’d joined the folk group at our church playing what I call bad guitar, and didn’t think I could make the race in time after our Gig with God. That year, the winning time was a minute plus slower than what I knew I could turn on the course. Now, nothing saying that with a challenge, that winning time might have been considerably faster, but it makes you wonder. The next year I high-tailed it over after church, and of course got smoked by a ringer from two towns over. Never fails.

And so has been my story, repeated ceaselessly. Before today, I’d raced 13 times this year. Excluding the larger events, of the 10 local races I’ve landed three 2nd-place finishes and five 3rd-places. But other than a pub run, which really doesn’t count, I’ve never had that Golden Moment. Nor would I today, because there milling around pre-race was my new running friend Chris, of the Great Cross Country Muck Adventure. Chris is about half my age, fresh off a strong college career, and, well, kicks butt. The gun sounded (well, a bullhorn, close enough), and within a hundred yards he was gone. I shouted to wish him a nice run, and settled in to work the rest of the field.

The race itself went well, which was a bit of a surprise, considered I’d felt a bit like a wrung-out dishrag. Recall the weekly bad guitar Gig with God, well, this week for the first time my lead guitarist was out. No place to run to, no place to hide, just me and the piano player leading the choir. To say I was a bit nervous was an understatement. I was literally shaking when it was all over (no major screw-ups, pleased to report). All that good adrenaline that I could have used for the race, burned up and gone forever, and the gun went off a mere hour later.

But adrenaline is produced, so crunch all you want, we’ll just make more. Approaching the mile mark, Chris was in another county, and I was shadowing someone with a notable bald spot which screamed “Master! Get this one!” I’m a hill guy, so at the first hill at the mile point I cranked it up and slid decisively into second, though not, in my mind decisively enough to be sure to hold it. After a few more hills, there’s a screamer downhill at mile two. I’m not a strong downhill racer, and I had to force myself to open it up. Trailing footsteps are a big motivator to remember to open it up.

Those footsteps trickled to my ears a few more times, egging me on to a notable improvement on my course PR, a near 5K PR (adjusted for the long course), and second place by 20 seconds over Mr. Threatening Footsteps. Chris smoked me by a full two minutes, but he’s a youngster, so I retained my non-esteemed title of Fastest Old Fart within a Few Miles on This Particular Day.

Another second place. Another day of being a groomsman, not the groom. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I’m old, and these guys who win are usually kids. And I know darn well I wouldn’t be placing second or third in significant events. I’m happy with the abilities God’s given me, and I’ll work with them to do what I can.

But just once it would be really cool if the fast guys didn’t show up!

28 September 2008

Playing Defense

It’s a week till Wineglass, that time when you check the Weather Channel 10-day forecast every day to see what’s coming, and hope it says rain when you’re still a week out, since it’s usually wrong. I’m happy to say that at present, for Bath NY on October 5th, it says rain.

In the perfect world, the magic time arrives two weeks prior to your marathon, you taper perfectly, you relax, you catch up on sleep, life is smooth and simple. You’re always a bit apprehensive but you’ve got no worries. If you know where that world is, please tell me. In my world, I’m playing defense. It seems like it’s coming at me from all sides.

Pick your favorite scene. Schwarzenegger fighting off a dozen bad guys at once. The star goalie putting on an exhibition, whacking away shot after shot that three guys are firing at him. Sarah Palin being quizzed on foreign policy (shudder!). They’re all coming after Our Hero. That’s how I feel about now. Throw a few more things at me in the last weeks. Make it interesting.

It starts with the obvious stuff. The body was feeling great, till suddenly three weeks prior to the race, stuff started hurting. Psychosomatic? Probably not, this will be marathon #8 for me and I’m already qualified for Boston next year, so there’s no pressure. OK, it will be the first one that dear mother will be watching, so I guess I should try not to look too destroyed at the end, no need to worry her, but other than that, we’re going for a pleasant and hopefully fairly quick stroll through New York wine country.

No, not psychosomatic, indeed. Things just started hurting. The sesamoids started acting up again. One ankle started complaining. And, of all things, a shin splint? Oh, for Pete’s sake, I just don’t get those. Now? Yeah, I guess I did put few too many miles on that pair of Kelly green Asics. I guess I did have an emotional attachment to them, having run them to my two sub-3’s this spring. I had told myself that it was good karma to wear Kelly green shoes past Johnny Kelly’s statue. Hey, it worked, whatever. But apparently it’s time to pay the piper.

So the defense begins. We don’t want no killin’s round here, or no stress fractures neither, yah hear? After all, look what happened to poor Deena in Beijing. It can happen to anyone. So I backed off the miles more than I’d like at this point in my taper and added more rest days, at the risk of getting stiff and crunchy. And a few days later, things are feeling better. I think. Now I wonder, did a few days off lose me some of that edge? Or did I not take enough time, and will the pain return? Come on, I’ve been doing this long enough, worry not. Well, worry a little.

If it’s not aches and pains, bring on the viruses. I always tell my friends I’m going into quarantine three weeks prior to every marathon. No thanks, don’t need your germs. But they infiltrate. Eldest daughter starts with the cold, progresses to mild fever. Nooooo! Will I get it? So far, not bad, but at least a little. You know the rule, if it isn’t clear, it isn’t just allergies. (Yeah, yuck, but as rules go, it works.) Haul out the Echinacea. No, I don’t know if it works, but it can’t hurt. But we’re still a week out, we can lick this one. But I don’t really have it full force. Will I get it? Oh, once again, come on, worry not. Well, worry a little.

Now add a twist. The call comes Thursday, my aged grandmother, tragically reduced to a ‘having no fun’ state by Alzheimer’s many years ago, has passed on. A blessing, really. The emotional side is obvious. The logistic side is, uh, interesting. The timing is, in a way, convenient, since I’ll already be heading west, but I really didn’t plan on that far west. So rather than relaxing this week before the race, I’ll instead be driving close to a thousand miles out to Ohio and back to New York for the race. So much for being well rested. But this shouldn’t really bother me, I travel plenty. Come on, worry not. Well, worry a little.

There’s of course a few other little tidbits, stress-inducers, you-name-its I could throw in to lengthen the story (please! I hear them scream, no!). But you get the picture. None of this is all that critical. But there are always a few curve balls to make it interesting when that big race approaches. You tell yourself, come on, worry not. But you still worry a little. And you feel like you’re playing defense, batting them away as fast as they come at you.

So why is it that you never get that smooth ride in the last weeks before the big race? Perhaps it’s bad karma. After all, the Kelly green Asics are worn out.

22 September 2008

It’s Over. It Worked.

It’s over. 72 days straight, running every day without a break, until today. The streak is dead, long live the streak! No remorse, it served its purpose. It was a slump-buster extraordinaire.

June was a tough month. I’d been nagged by an increasing discomfort in the ball of my right foot since early in the year. Like most introspective runners, I listened to my body. But it was only having a pleasant conversation, not yelling at me, and certainly not loudly enough to say stop.

These things either go away or they don’t. After a while, when the answer is ‘don’t’, denial can only carry you so far. But by June I couldn’t ignore it. Dr. Google (a.k.a. Internet, MD) told me my trouble lay in the sesamoids, two little bones and a bunch of ligaments under the ball of my foot. But Dr. Google wasn’t so good about telling me what to do about it. I backed way off on my training, dropping below 100 miles per month for the first time in almost two years.

The ‘moids didn’t respond well to taking a rest. Simple stuff like mowing the lawn hurt more than running. June slipped into Despair, a newly coined month made just for times like this, sandwiched conveniently before July when I had a race planned in Vermont that had induced a family vacation. My family, of course, was looking forward to going up north just for the fun of it. I, on the other hand, was deflated at the prospect of having to skip the very race that spawned the trip.

As the days of Despair passed, I considered radical action. Yes, that which we dread, the Established Medical Profession. Those who have but one answer: Stop. I made the call. Worst possible outcome, worse than an immediate cease and desist order: three weeks to an appointment! Despair Doubled! Three weeks? Do I run? Do I not? What if I not when I could have? What if I do when I shouldn’t have? What about Vermont? What about…oh, perish the thought…

A little sweet talking, and they call me back in 2 hours with a cancellation! There is a God! A quick x-ray at the local hospital and by 2 PM I’m in the chair. It gets better. Dr. Footdoctor is married to a marathoner. He gets it. A glance at the x-rays, and his first words, “You don’t have to stop running.” Not only is there a God, but He is really, really good.

Nothing’s broken, nothing’s likely to get broken, fear not, the good doctor says. Diagnosis? I’m getting old. A little arthritis in the big toe is limiting its motion and putting more stress on the ‘moids. Some good meds to knock down the inflammation, a pair of insoles, good to go. Run.

A wave of relief. Despair melts away into July. Even a return a visit a couple weeks later to knock down some lingering inflammation with a cortisone shot doesn’t phase me (painless, by the way, but the Novocain shots beforehand fall between excruciating and torture). The foot feels good again! I’ve got a prescription for mileage. Let’s go. And why stop?

So I didn’t, not since taking Friday, July 11th off. 72 days blows away my previous Second Lap longest string of 3 weeks, though it can’t hold a candle to my First Lap 375 day extravaganza at age 17. The numbers racked up: 10 weeks averaging 60 miles per week including a new (Second Lap) biggest week and three 20+ milers preparing for Wineglass.

But the numbers weren’t the point. The point was a break-out. June was a low. Mentally I was down and out. The streak blew that away like Hurricane Ike puffing on a beach umbrella. Now, at marathon minus two weeks, the base is there, the long runs are there, there’s not much more to add, it’s just time to taper, heal the sore spots, and stay loose. And admittedly, there are a few sore spots, which is why the only prudent thing to do is to call it a day, hang up the streak, and take a day or two, or, radical thought, even three, off.

We play games with our mind to stay excited, motivated, and engaged. But when it’s time to move on, we move on. At least until next time.

19 September 2008

Cross Country Season!

Fall is in the air and that can only mean nasty politics. And cross country season! We old farts tend to forget about the fun we had in high school slogging over the fields and through the woods, but I had the pleasure today of re-living it in two very distinct ways: coach-mode, and muck-mode.

Cross Country – Coach Mode: My daughters are of middle school age and we send them to a small Catholic school here in town. Working with a limited budget, most of the extras are done on a voluntary basis. That makes me Coach Cattarin. Or more accurately, Assistant Coach Cattarin, since Hal, the “real” coach does all the dirty work – the administrative stuff and so on – but he’s not a runner, so I show up with marathon cap on head and try to motivate the middlings to muddle through the mud. Though there really hasn’t been any as the weather’s been fine (Ike ignored us), so they all look at me a little strange when I tell them how cross country is really all about getting yourself caked in mud and not getting in trouble with your parents about it. One of these days it’ll rain really hard and they’ll get it. Meanwhile, they’re out moving and burning innocent unsuspecting calories instead of zoning out in front of a screen, so they’re all winning as far as I’m concerned. And, hip-hip hooray for the home team, there are lots of them this year; we fielded full teams for both the boys and the girls.

This being year #2 of our (Hal’s and my) cross country coaching careers, we figured we’d put our other foot into the pool and actually stage our own meet, rather than just mooching on the other schools like last year. I had the opportunity to design the course, of course (pun intended) with a good hill near the end. Hal, as usual, did the dirty work (with aplomb, mind you) and snared us the park use permit and, more importantly, a visiting team. We had a few tense moments when game time came and went, but eventually they arrived for the festivities.

Nobody died, nobody got lost, and best I know, nobody rolled in the poison ivy, though we won’t really know that for a few days. Hal’s new stopwatch arrived in time, our parental draftees dutifully executed the course marshal posts we doled out, the popsicle sticks did their jobs without complaint, and in general, we pulled it off. And for a final bonus, the sun dropped low behind the eastbound finishers giving us some really cool hair a-flyin’ photos as the kids pushed to the finish – even of my daughter, who normally has her Boston Marathon cap welded to her follicles.

Cross Country – Muck Mode: Coincidental meeting are becoming a habit of late. When that visiting team arrived, their coach seemed somehow familiar, because he was. Only took me about a minute to connect the dots. Chris was the winner of our Labor Day race a couple weeks back. The last time I’d really seen him was at about a half mile mark, after he’d prodded me to a way-too-fast start that turned into my 3rd-place finish, master’s win, and a wicked PR. He’s a young kid from my perspective, closer in age to the middle-schoolers than to me, but a heck of a runner.

Once the kids had cleared out I decided to forego my club’s speed workout tonight and join Chris running the trails from the park back into the state forest. A maze of twisty passages, all alike. Real cross country! We dodged and darted, climbed, explored, got turned around, general woodsy stuff. A twisty maze of passages, all different. We burst out onto the roads for a few miles, then back into the forest to get back to the park. A maze of different passages, all twisty. Twilight. I’ve been on these trails but not that much, and there are plenty of them. A twisty different maze of passages. Disorientation. So what, just keep running. Trail ends, reverse. Hmm, looks different. Well, who cares, these woods aren’t that big and I know the perimeter roads, so…

Critical moment. We burst from a small trail onto a wide abandoned road-like trail. I think I’ve got a bearing. A moment’s thought, yes, this way. Chris follows, the fool! A few yards down, a grassy patch, a big stride in, oh crap, that’s not really a meadowy spot now is it?

Ya’ know, it hasn’t rained much lately, so where’d the swamp come from?

There’s a mental process that happens here. Sort of a denial. First foot in the muck. Didn’t see that coming. Next footfall spot looks OK, take the next stride. Physics commits me to the downstroke, and I can see just before I hit that there’s no solid surface there either. Lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Each subsequent stride appears to be heading for grassy firmness. Each is just going in deeper.

Must’ve been a good fifty yards of this. By about 20 I was resigned to the Total Muck Experience and was just going with it. By 30 it had become fun. By 40 I was wondering if my brain worked, because it still looked like the next step would be firmament, but it kept not arriving. I think we skipped that verse in Genesis, you know, where He created the firmament. No firmament. And it was getting deeper.

Of course, it stopped, it always does, and the good news was that between us we still had four shoes. No super-suction shoe removal action. Good thing, since my car key was tied to my laces! Though I considered abandoning my car and simply running home, as my toxicity level made me question the wisdom of getting inside even my old rust-bucket.

Conveniently my camera was in the car, having brought it along for the kids’ meet, so an innocent bystander documented the environmental impact to our shoes. Yes, those socks had been white. And I thought the tuft of grass was a nice touch.

Did I really say there wasn’t any mud earlier in this post?

17 September 2008

How I Met Your Blogger

It’s probably bad form to steal a title from a television show I’ve never seen. So what? Flog me. It’s catchy. It works. But with the election drawing near, it’s time you all knew. I can see Russia on a map from my house. No, that’s not it. No, what you must know is how I landed on RunRunLive. It’s a fun story, it’s time you knew. (If you’re reading this on Blogspot, my alternate hosting site, Chris’s site www.RunRunLive.com is the primary home. Go there. Cool stuff.)

A couple of posts ago I wrote about a chance meeting with a gentleman named Claude. He was just another guy out walking down the street, or was he? Oh, what you don’t know about people. Well, that’s sort of how I met Chris.

It’s October of 2005 and I toe the line in downtown Falmouth for my first marathon. I’ve followed the standard marathon prep plan. I’ve eked out one twenty-miler. I have no idea what will happen at twenty three, let alone beyond. To top it off, every time I tell someone it’s my first marathon, the almost universal response is, “And you picked this one? It’s hard!”

So to say I planned a conservative race is a bit of an understatement. As with everyone else running their first, all I really wanted was to finish. It was something I’d wanted since my First Lap days. Goal Number Two was four hours. And I’d mentioned to just a few people that I had a stretch goal of 3:30. That seemed unlikely based on my 20-miler pace, but, well, it was a stretch goal.

Cape Cod may be a tough course, but it’s a dramatic place to start your marathoning career: they start the race with a cannon. Ka-BOOM, off we go. Irrational exuberance. At mile 1, someone’s playing the theme from Rocky, and I find myself yelling, “Adrian!” Adrenaline! Pumped! What am I doing? Slow down, you idiot, this is your first marathon, and it’s going to be a long morning.

By mile 4 or 5 or so I find myself in an animated group of runners who are clearly fueled on banter. I have no idea who these people are, and I feel a little out of my league since they all seem so, well, so used to this, but like most runners, they’re friendly and don’t mind at all my attempts to catch up with their high-speed conversation. Our chatter is interrupted at every mile marker as I and a couple other newbies check our watches and generate mild curses at our out-of-control 3:10ish pace. What in God’s name are we doing? Why can’t I slow down?
Well, because we’re having fun! These guys are running a marathon and having fun! What a concept. The apparent ringleader of this troupe in particular. He’s chatting up everyone around him, telling stories of his hellacious week ranging from canine-transmitted poison ivy to power failures, and generally keeping our minds off the 20 left to go. Nearing mile 8 I mention that my family will be out, and as we approach he yells, “Photo Opp!” and makes sure the pack parts so my wife gets a good shot (she does, as you can see, one of the few race pictures ever taken where I do not look like Death Warmed Over). After issuing a few more mile-marker-induced oaths, Sir Ringleader catches on to what’s happening in my head and drops one of the more memorable lines I’ve heard in a race, which of course I paraphrase for maximum drama: “Look,” he says, “You can run your perfect 8 minute miles from here till the finish and get your perfect 3:30, or you can do what you’re doing now, go out way too fast, crash horribly, struggle valiantly, drag yourself home, and still get your 3:30. Which is going to give you the better story to tell on Monday morning?”

Of course, he’s smack on target. Eventually I lose track of this pack, and as advertised, things get ugly later on when the Cape Cod course starts dishing out its seemingly endless series of not-all-that-big-but-big-enough rolling hills. I smack the wall, the wheels fall off, the body is goes into a weird tingle zone, the vision is flashing, my wife is pretty darn worried at how I look coming in, and guess what? I get my 3:30. Actually, 3:29. And a hell of a story for Monday morning. So good, in fact, that I get tired of telling it, and write it up. Such is born my first blog. I’ll post it someday.

It would end there, but a few days later I’m perusing Coolrunning, and there’s an article on the Cape Cod Marathon. The author’s got me in stitches. Then he starts talking about these people around him going way faster than their target pace. Gee, sounds familiar. Then, no way, can’t be! The dog and the poison ivy! The power failures! The rest of the story…it all matches up!

Long story short (who am I kidding, my stories are never short!), Sir Ringleader was none other than Chris Russell, writer for Coolrunning and other various venues, author of The Midpacker’s Lament (which, by the way, includes the Monday Morning Story bit), and Exalted Member of the Runnerati, that shadowy network of people who all seem to know each other. We’ve gotten to know each other over the past couple years including a very amusing day at the Fred Brown Relays – another story for another post. My first marathon write-up became a tradition of post-race write-ups, and so when Chris became the Keymaster of RunRunLive, the rest is still being written.

Kind of like running into Claude the other day. Who knew?

15 September 2008

A Race Tale: Going Deep on Goals

Goals are a funny thing. They’re a great motivator – if, of course, you’re a goal-driven kind of person. Or they can depress you if you don’t reach them. Setting them is tricky, since you often have no idea where you’ll fall in the spectrum between way too easy and depressingly unreachable. (Not at all that different from the crap shoot of setting sales quotas that I’ve seen in my career, but I digress…) And what do you do when you do reach them?

I ponder this on the occasion of reaching one of my goals this weekend, a target 5 kilometer time. The event was the local Marlborough Police Chase (I tell you, the place was positively crawling’ with cops!). Hometown crowd, small field, plenty of friends (duly smiling in the pictures!), good beer and even a game of horseshoes afterward; in short, race or not, a good time. The course was custom-made for a fast time – literally, because we (our running club) set it up that way. Home course advantage, and that makes a difference in your race strategy. It’s on the most familiar turf in town, mostly on our local rail trail. Two miles of gentle uphill, the kind you can work without really slowing down, a short downhill screamer to shake the climb off, then a gradual downhill all the way home, carrying you over any late race fatigue. To me this is God’s Perfect 5K, since to me a 5K is a sprint, way too short, way too fast, and I’m way too old for that stuff. I need that late race gravity boost.

Though it was a small race (~130ish), an area school sent their entire boys & girls cross country teams, so there were a bunch of young speedsters to make it interesting. Sure enough, one took off out the gate, another youngster (not a schoolboy, but still a youngster) gave chase, and I hung in the considerable chase pack. By a mile in, one other schoolboy and I had broken from the chase pack and began a dance for 3rd place. At about two and a half, I figured it was now or never. At my age, you simply can’t let it go down to a finish line sprint with a 17-year-old. He’s going to kick your butt. You’ve got to play the psychology and experience and I-Know-This-Course cards. I put him away early, to stave off any finish line challenge.

At the final turn, a bystander gave me the ‘all clear, 30 yard lead, relax signal’. No way, dude, it’s not about that. We’re in personal record territory and smelling that goal. And it’s all downhill from here in this race, and perhaps starting next week in life, too, you never know. Go for it now.

Scream into the parking lot, dive down to the lower lot, hard left, push, push, over the line! The 3rd-place finish and masters’ win was sweet, but the time was sweeter, nearly a half-minute PR, and just below a full-minute boundary that had been my goal all year. (The exact time is irrelevant, but suffice to say it’s still two minutes slower than my best way back in the First Lap days. Speed is the first thing to go…)

So, now what? What’s the next goal? Another minute off a 5K? Seemingly unreachable. Is the next goal always the PR? With 50 just a few short years off, realistically, it can’t always be. Similarly, my goal for this year in the marathon was to break 3 hours. To my surprise, it happened early on at Boston, and again a few weeks later at Buffalo. So now with Wineglass approaching, what’s a reasonable goal? There are physical limits, somewhere, and we can’t let reaching them be the end of our competitive or even general running life.

Is running a microcosm of life? And what’s your goal in life? A 60” plasma TV? A Lexus (or fill in your favorite overpriced status-symbol vehicle)? Retire early with a pile in the bank, so long as it’s not invested in Fannie Mae or Lehman Brothers? Become the epitome of the Renaissance Man? Or peace, love, happiness, and a rousing chorus of Kumbaya?

George W. Bush would be no fan of me, since I’m not one to keep the economy going through purchases of major consumer goods (other than running shoes in bulk, of course). But I’ll gladly take the early retirement on the pot of gold. Chasing Renaissance status is kind of fun. And I tend toward the peace, love, and happiness, and perhaps some nice folk-acoustic music (we don’t have to go quite so far as Kumbaya, now, do we?). So why do I push for faster times, a game that must be nearing its zenith before the inevitable decline, just like that 60” plasma that will fail upon expiration of the overpriced extended warranty?

Is it because they’re there? (Sorry, Sir Edmund, a bit of a bastardization I’d say, ol’ chap.) Or maybe running is indeed a microcosm of life. Trophies and medals are our plasma screens and sport luxury vehicles. Some get them, some don’t, and they’re nice, but after a while they too will lose their luster. The memories count much more. Our pot of gold on which we retire is a healthy body that lasts longer. Our Renaissance status – always striving for a higher plane – are our racing and training goals. And our peace, love, and happiness are, hopefully, our state of mind knowing that fast or slow, we’ve done what we can for ourselves and had a good time.

So, goals make this fun. Goals make this a challenge. Goals can be anything we want them to be. I’m thick-minded enough that I’m not convinced I’ve hit that zenith yet, so I’ll still push for a little but faster. But when it’s obvious that’s over, I’ll think of something else.

Deep stuff, isn’t it? Now, lighten up, and go slice 15 seconds off your 5K.

10 September 2008

Training the Distance

It’s a ritual. Count the weeks till the marathon. Incrementally extend the length of your long run till you hit that magic twenty miler. Complete the twenty, and congratulations, you’ve graduated, you may pass Go! and the starting line, and chances are you’ll collect your medal (sadly, no $200) 26.21875 miles and several hours later.

Almost every first-time marathoner follows the formula for the simple reason that it works. And then the giant sucking sound commences (we miss ya’ ol’ Ross…), we get pulled into the vortex, and each successive marathon calls for just a little bit more. Sure, being able to complete twenty means you’ll be able to struggle to twenty six. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the last six miles comprise a race unto its own.

The twisted marathoner logic of self-abuse coupled with self-betterment then drives us in two dimensions: distance and reps. Surely if I can survive one twenty miler, doing two will train my body to handle that distance better, putting me in better shape for the final six! Surely, if I can survive longer than twenty in training, that last Dead Zone Six will shrink to a Dead Zone Four, or less! Taken to its logical conclusion, why not eliminate the Dead Zone entirely? Why not train to extend the onset of The Wall to some point beyond the finish line of the marathon? Why not train the distance?

Few do it. Why? My non-scientific view sees two reasons: long-term endurance and fear. For many, completing 26 miles takes a toll on the body that takes too long to heal. Training the distance can, for many, wipe out readiness for the race itself. But bigger than that is fear. Fear of that decimation, whether real or not. Fear of the mystique of the marathon. After all Phidippides died, didn’t he?

Well, yeah, he did, but the rest of the story is that he’d also put in a 200-some mile week. That part tends to get left off or at best, hidden in the footnotes. And let’s face it, the shoes in ancient Greece, well, sucked. No Gu, either. With modern conveniences and a solid conditioning base, we’re not likely to execute a Phidippides face-plant.

I’ve now run seven marathons, and have increased either the number of long runs or the longest run leading up to each one, relative to each previous race. And I’ve improved my time in every race but one (other than the first one, of course). So with number eight approaching, I put in a 24-miler two weeks back, exceeding my previous longest by half a mile. My plan called for one more long one, for a total of five – a pair of 19s, a 21, the 24, and… yes, I wanted to train the distance.

The time came, the weather was perfect, I was a little shy on sleep, but the planets align only now and then. Off I set with a plan to do 24, then, if the moons lined up too, add a few neighborhood loops and train the distance. Just walk out the door, run a marathon, walk back in, and resume normal daily living. No big deal. But, somehow, how odd…

It’s very different doing a marathon solo. No starting line, no crowds, no water stops, no fellow runners (save the pair of Army runners I passed at about the midway mark). It’s an odyssey, passing through six towns in this case, and one of my head games is to identify the extremes, east, west, north, south, and contemplate the span of turf I’m surrounding. There’s no pressure, no race adrenaline, and no good reason not to stop when you get back home at 24. What? A few extra loops? Including a killer hill at 25.5? And no medal for all of this? Are you kidding?

Somewhere around 21, as I was making the long climb back up just to get to the base of the hill upon which I live, I was utterly and completely convinced that 24 would be fine. But after cresting the last big hill, rather than heading down the other side to home and comfort, I found I couldn’t stop myself from doing the two short flat loops up top first, such that when I did pass home, there was no way possible not to do the last loop – the one with the hill, of course. What? Stop at 25.2? Are you kidding?

No finish line clock, no med tent, no Mylar blankets, no after-race party, but I just ran a marathon, indeed, what would have been my 4th fastest marathon had it been official. Most importantly, I got a tremendous confidence boost. I’m reminded that I respect the distance, but I don’t fear it. I’m reminded that I can hold a pace for marathon distance. And after the many hills I just covered, I’m comforted in knowing there are no hills at 25.2 at Wineglass; for that matter, there really are no hills there, period. Training the distance does that for you. Wineglass? Bring it on.

Who Knew?

Would you recognize Robert Cheruiyot on the street? How about Ryan Hall? Or a past champion like Boston Billy Rodgers? (Past? No, always a champion in my book!) How about Salazar? Even having just seen him in both a Runners’ World advertisement and a commercial during the Beijing Olympics, I probably wouldn’t pick him out from a lamp post. OK, maybe a lamp post, but not a crowd. And these are the faces we know and have seen. On the race course they perform, then they put on normal clothes and vanish into the crowd. What about the more ‘normal’ runners? Would you spot them? The city has a million stories, and if you’re lucky enough, you just might catch one or two. If you only knew they were there.

Ordinary day, ordinary run this morning. Just underway, I was thinking about working my schedule to get that last long one in before the marathon – you know, the one that didn’t happen Sunday. About a half mile in, I pass an “older” gentleman whom I’ve seen walking the neighborhood in the past. Nobody you’d take any special note of, so I just toss out a simple, “G’mornin,” as I pass, as usual, which serves two purposes, the first being general pleasantries, and the second being myocardial infarction prevention when running past someone from behind. I get the usual, “How ya’ doin’” in response.

And it should end there. But Runners’ Tourette Syndrome is powerful. Don’t fight the force, Luke, just go with it, feel the power. So almost without thinking, I bark back not just the standard, “Pretty good,”, but also, “Four weeks till my next race.” This is, of course, a lie. My next race is Saturday, a local 5K with my local running buds, with local beer and local burgers and all that wonderful stuff and we’ll have a grand time. But Runners’ Tourette’s thinks only of the big things, because we want the world to know, but we won’t go so far as to actually tell them. We just drop the hint. Four weeks to my next marathon. But even I won’t say that, it’s just too, well, boisterous.

He gulps at the bait. “About time to taper down, then, eh? Which one are you running?” Whoa! It’s like a long fly ball to left, just outside the foul pole. Hasn’t changed the score yet, but sure makes you take notice. He knows about tapering down? He wants to know which one? Not, “What are you running?” but, “Which one?”

Runners’ Tourette’s has just scored! This guy opened the door, I get that chance to say, Marathon! Not just a jog around the block! As I’m heading around a corner, I shout back, “Wineglass, a small marathon in Upstate New York.” And that’s that.

No, it’s not. He sends the next pitch deep, way back, way back, over the Green Monster entirely: “That’s a great race!” he shouts back.

What? He’s heard of a 600-person marathon 350 miles from here? I mean, had I said, “Boston!” (yeah, never mind that it’s September), or even “Hartford!” and gained an ounce of recognition, well, that’s plausible. But this guy has heard of Wineglass?

I rarely stop on a training run. I’m stopped dead in my tracks, circling back. Game, set, match.

Turns out Claude is recently retired, going a little stark raving mad since he’s now got the time but can’t run due to a back injury and a foot problem. Turns out Claude was at one time a sub-3 hour marathoner and from the sounds of it has run at least 20 of them. Turns out Claude has some great racing stories: classic tales of mis-routed races, his pursuit of sub-3, the many different marathons he’s run. No, he hasn’t run Wineglass, but knows about it, and speaks well of it. (Gee, nobody in my running club had even heard of it.) Turns out he was just as pleased to get ten minutes to tell his stories to someone who would appreciate them as I was to sneak out the fact that yes, I run marathons. All this, contained in a discreetly wrapped package that you'd never suspect. Runners’ Tourette’s is a beautiful thing.

We probably could have shot the bull for a couple hours, but I had miles to cover and work to get back to. I’ll probably see him around again, but now his secret is out. A million stories, and some great ones too, if you only knew they were there.

Who knew?

08 September 2008


Tropical Storm Hanna roared through New England last night. It was one of those nights you have to shut the windows not because the rain is coming in, but because the roar of it falling is just plain deafening. The morning dawned gorgeous, though still a bit windy. That, and the expectation that a few key spots in my planned run by might be submerged by the deluge made me hold off till mid-day before venturing forth. Which meant it got hot. Sort of. I think.
It’s only four weeks till Wineglass, my selected fall marathon, and my internal odometer is nudging me to one more 20-plus miler. Somehow I knew the body wasn’t up for it today, but no matter how much I’ve run, I still really can’t tell, so I planned a route that would let me go for 24 if I felt good, yet gave me an escape hatch if it wasn’t going to happen.

Good thing, as it didn’t. It was an odd day, cool & breezy yet hot. Go figure. Pushing 80 degrees, but still it felt great, nice breeze, comfortable. But lurking in that deceptive breeze, it was hot. Fooled me completely. Just plain hard to figure. Sure enough, about 10 miles in, it started feeling ugly, I suddenly noticed that perhaps it was hot (except that it sort of wasn’t), that I’d only packed four bottles on my fuel belt, and it was time to reach for the ejection lever and use the escape hatch.

I’m guessing that no pilot alive wants to pull that lever, and few enjoy the harrowing ride down. The last five miles this afternoon were about as much fun. Next time, just strap me into that ejection seat, at least the ride down is free. For me, no such luck. I was reduced to chanting the passing landmarks: “Into the turn, out of the turn, next fire hydrant, past the cross street…” as I agonized the last miles home. You name it, every identifiable pothole made it into the cadence. Anyone close enough to hear me would have had me committed. Call it mental toughness training for mile 25. That’s just a euphemism, but it sounds better than saying that it pretty much just stunk. Mamma told me there’d be days like this. And it’s days like this that I regret living in a spot that can’t be reached without climbing a significant hill at the end. Ouch.

I haven’t felt that wiped immediately after a run for some time. But in the after-run analysis, I was surprised to find that my pace was 20-30 seconds faster per mile than I’d thought. I don’t carry a GPS – at some level, outside of a race with marked splits, I just don’t want to know (or do I?) – so this was a pleasant surprise. At least if I’m going to feel like crap I can be happy in knowing I’m still moving at a decent clip.

It just serves to show how clueless we can all be. Clueless about how our bodies will perform any given day. Clueless about how they’re performing even during a run. Certainly clueless as to what’s coming tomorrow. Heck, clueless about today, can’t even judge the current weather.

But that’s half the fun, now, isn’t it? If we knew what was coming, well, what’s the sport in that? Complete mastery is overrated.

On a Completely Different Topic… My daughters’ middle-school cross country team met for their first practice this afternoon. This will be my second year as the assistant coach, which means that the head coach, who’s not a runner, takes care of all the administrative stuff and I get to try to get the attention of a group of 5th through 8th graders and tell them about running and racing. Motivation at this age is amusing, ranging from a few with the true racing instinct to those out to be with their friends, but so far as I’m concerned, they’re chugging around fields instead of watching TV, so my hat’s off to all of them. More on this as it develops, film at eleven.

05 September 2008

You Look... Mahvelous!

After an unusually cool and wet July and August, summer finally decided to arrive here in New England yesterday. Apparently summer was scared that a tropical storm (Hanna is on the way, arriving tomorrow) would show up before it showed its face and it risked suffering grave embarrassment. While it wasn’t blistering, it drove enough humidity that our contingent of seven intrepid running club die-hards who showed up at the local track for some speed work last night ended up soaked to the skin. Ah, there’s nothing quite like when I arrive home and bound up the stairs as fast as I can to avoid leaving too many drips on the rug along the way and proceed to jump in the shower fully clothed. It’s really the only way to detoxify the togs.

The discussion after our intervals, spurred by significant fluid losses, centered on the diminutive, as we compared our weights, trading numbers that would make most ‘normal’ people cringe and put a lot of health clubs out of business. Since most who read this are runners, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but it’s worth stopping to appreciate the amazing impact this little hobby has on the human body.

Not that every runner out there, or every runner in our club, or even every runner at the track last night is a string bean. But we’re all enjoying the fabulous freedom to pretty much eat whatever we darn well please. Imagine, I was at a picnic a couple weeks ago and weeks ago and was bummed to open the cooler and see only light beers. Having cranked out close to 20 that morning, light beer just wasn’t part of the carb replenishment plan I had in mind… But you can’t explain these things to ‘normal’ people.

Now, I’ve never grown to the size to qualify for the Big Man Run (read the Big Man Run Creed for a smile or two!), but over the gap between the First and Second laps, despite all the hiking, cycling, walking, and yes, I mow my own lawn (lawn service? Shirley, you jest! Get off your lazy duffs and mow it yourself, people!), the poundage crept northward. By the numbers I’d added a solid 35% over my First Lap days. Suddenly photos started making my look, uh, considerable. Not considerable in the societal norm way (I still fit easily into airline seats), but certainly considerable compared to my historic weenie guy self.

Then came the Second Lap. Within a few months of starting, Einstein’s magic set in and mass turned into energy (yes, I know, this was the chemical, not nuclear quantum relativistic E=mc2 style of conversion, never mind, it’s just creative writing). Within months a full thirty pounds vanished. On a weenie small-framed 5’7” guy, it makes a difference. Back to within just 10 pounds over those First Lap days. Being the frugal type (a much nicer word than cheap), this of course means extra holes in the belts and an expanded definition of the popular phrase, “casual fit”.

I’m not alone. Fellow sweat-sponge Bill at our speed workout tells the same story. Six months. Thirty pounds. My First Lap coach & mentor still runs, purely for the joy of burning off his beer. And our Fred Brown Relay team back in 2006 was aptly named Run to Eat. You get it. Running is simply amazing.

Which brings me to my neighbor. A fine guy, and yes, he mows his own lawn, though on a tractor, but he’s got a double lot, so we’ll give him that. But not one you’d think of as the athletic type. Not the athletic build. He looked like, well, like a guy who mows his lawn on a tractor.

Funny thing happened. His daughter moved to The Cape (that’s Cape Cod if you don’t live here, it is the only cape that matters, in the fashion that New Yorkers refer to The City, which irks us native Upstate New Yorkers). Specifically, to Falmouth, home of both my first marathon and, more importantly for this story, the famed Falmouth Road Race. Last summer on a lark he and his family jumped in. Darn near killed ‘im, I think. This summer, he got serious. He started training, for real. He worked up to it and ran the whole thing, not in any record time (by his words, he did beat a few old ladies in wheel chairs), but well enough to earn some well deserved pride. And in the process, the transformation was rapid and amazing.

I might have some of the details wrong – I didn’t interview him and take notes. No matter. In only a couple months or so, he looks great. I mean, as in, even far away you can tell. It’s an extreme makeover sponsored by Asics or Nike or whoever. And it caught him a little by surprise. He didn’t even think to weigh in before this, so he doesn’t even know how much he lost.

Another funny thing: he’s hooked. I caught up with him the other day a mile or so from our homes and several weeks after Falmouth. I was so pleased to see him out after the race as I didn’t know if it would stick. His comment: “I think I understand you now, I can’t stand a day when I don’t run!”

I love this sport.

Art, congratulations, and by the way, if you remember Billy Crystal’s SNL character Fernando, “You look… mahvelous!”

02 September 2008

Run Good, Do Good

There’s nothing like a close-knit club when it comes to pulling off a great fun event on the cheap. This morning my local club, the Highland City Striders, put on its annual Laborious Labor Day Ten Miler here in hometown Marlborough. (I’ve always insisted the course is short, but the Laborious Labor Day Nine Point Eight Five Miler just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and besides, the hills make up for any lack of distance.) A great time was had by all, and we did some good in the process.

This is a zero budget event. No revenue to the club, no costs to the club. No awards. Refreshments are donated by club members (really, how much are a couple cases of water at the Price Chopper? Just buy it!) Very low tech – just check out our sophisticated scoring system! No frills. The Official Race Photographer was none other than my wife. And she was only official because I just decreed that, just now. But there’s one really great thing. There is an entry fee. It’s food. A bag of food, ten items suggested, which we then haul over to the local food pantry.

It so happens that the food pantry, technically Marlborough Community Services, which supplies local families with food and much more, is a favorite charity for my family. We walk in regularly with food and items to donate. Their clients are real people – and lots of them – who we see around town. We know they need help, and we know they’re getting it based on person-to-person assessment of need and ability to help. This isn’t Big Charity Incorporated. So the fact that my local running club was already doing this before I arrived was a sweet coincidence. Way to go, Striders!

The Laborious Labor Day Ten Miler is not a big event – about 40 runners this year – but that’s about 300-400 items of food (it's hard to see, but that's a group of Striders and a carload of food you're looking at!). And we do it again at Thanksgiving, usually for a somewhat larger field. Run good, do good.

As for the race, it’s called Laborious because it’s a shade on the hilly side. Not legendary by any means, but the big one comes at 8 miles in when you wish it wouldn’t. I’ve got a bit of a home field advantage for this one since I live two-thirds of the way up that big one, just off to the right, and as a result run it several times a week. Know your enemy! Know your course! Also on the home-field advantage side, having my club-mates out there as course marshals was a nice bonus boost.

The field went out quick, and a half mile in a pair of youngsters (22 and 28, youngsters to me), separated themselves from the rest of us about the time that I was separating myself from the rest of the rest of them. I didn’t know what their pace was (I’m not one of those GPS types, at least not yet), but it seemed reasonably high on the insanity scale. At the mile split, I found myself somewhat elevated on that scale as well, but decided to go with it. What’s the risk? It’s a local club race. You die a horrible death out there, so what? No risk, no return.

To my surprise, my reasonably insane pace held up pretty well, though the famed Hosmer climb certainly hurt. I refused to look back, since I knew my ultra-fast training buddy John would probably be on my tail, and I just didn’t want to know. As it was, he did indeed follow me in, though with a few minute gap. Hey, he just ran the Reykjavik Marathon a few days ago, successfully dodging the lava bombs to be the first American finisher! I ended up with a race & course personal best by several minutes and dropping my best 10-miler pace considerably, but best of all, for once I didn’t look quite as bad as usual in the photo my Official Race Photographer wife shot as I neared the finish.

Big races are cool, big races are exciting, big races bring on big competition, but nothing beats a local small scale romp in the park with your best running buds for some casual fun, and it’s even better if you can run good and do good as well.