Three for Thursday

This is so typical of the left. They trot out a victim of a tragedy willing to spout left-wing talking points, then tell the rest of us that we can’t criticize the victim because he/she has been traumatized; and in this case, he’s just a high school student. I’m talking about the 17-year-old kid CNN is using to advocate for gun control (not going to use his name here). I know he witnessed something terrible that no one should have to witness, but when you turn political, you lose your supposed immunity from criticism. Actually, I’m criticizing the #fakenews media more than the kid. He’s just a kid, and I’m convinced he’s being fed his talking points by the media. You can tell me I can’t criticize if you want, but when you advocate that I should lose my Second Amendment rights because of a crime committed by someone else, I’m going to say something about it. Yesterday, I joined the NRA for the first time in my life for this very reason.

My next half-marathon is the annual Rock-and-Roll marathon in Nashville the last Saturday in April (now officially next month). This will be my fifth year in a row running that race. I always begin my training March 1, but owing to my work schedule and the trusty weather forecast, I began two days early this time, on Tuesday, with a 10K run. It was my longest run since the half-marathon in Memphis on December 2, and my first of six planned long runs (in addition to a bunch of 5K’s) during the next 8+ weeks. The training is difficult, and some parts of it aren’t much fun, but I won’t regret any of it come race day.

When the college basketball season opened and I got to watch the new-look Memphis Tigers in action, I thought, my gosh, we could finish with a losing record this season. We haven’t had a losing season since 1999-2000. We won a series of razor-thin games against low-RPI teams, all played at home, and I figured we’d get killed as soon as conference play began. This roster features exactly two players with previous Division I experience, including Jeremiah Martin, the AAC’s leading scorer, whose season ended two games ago when he broke his foot. As it turns out, we aren’t going to have a losing season. In fact, there is a good chance this will be our first 20-win season since 2013-2014. Memphis is 18-11, including 9-7 in the AAC, which is good enough for 5th place in the 12-team league. This is our 5th year in the AAC, and before this season, we had never won 4 straight conference games. We’ve done that twice this year. Last week, the Tigers won their first game against a ranked opponent in 4 years (Houston), which was the same game in which Martin broke his foot. He went out in the first half with the Tigers losing, and we came back and won that game without him. We finish the season at home with back-to-back games against the league’s two worst teams (USF & ECU), but you can’t take these games for granted, for sure. So even though the Tigers aren’t where I’d like them to be quite yet, the last few weeks have certainly provided some encouraging signs.


Running again

I ran a 5K today. It was my first time running in 10 days. I still have a residual cough from a nasty case of bronchitis, but was also determined to take advantage of a sunny day and get back to running. I can run and have run with a variety of ailments. Bronchitis is not one of them. I know this because I have tried running with bronchitis and it did not go well. My time today was much better than expected (27:44). Also, my right knee, which has been giving me trouble since November, did not bother me. It’s not a bad idea to occasionally take a break from running, especially when you’re 48. I don’t like doing it because I’m always fearful that I’ll lose some of my conditioning. (It’s one thing to whip yourself into running shape, quite another to stay there.) But today it felt as though I hadn’t been away at all. There was no rustiness. I’m a bit relieved because, believe it or not, half-marathon training starts 3 weeks from today. (I can’t believe it’s time again.)

Dreams about running

This morning I ran a 5K. It was my first run in a week, given my work schedule and the terribly cold weather we’ve been having. Afterwards, coming off a night shift, I went to bed for awhile.

I don’t always dream about running, but when I do, I’m usually faced with some sort of adversity.

So I dreamed I was running a half-marathon in Nashville, and doing really well. Unfortunately, I could not locate the Activities app on my Apple Watch. (This is what I used to track all my runs.) It was incredibly frustrating, but I kept running.

Then, about mile 9, I was attacked by tiny, itchy bugs to the the point that it became painful. It was dusk, which is an odd time to be running a half-marathon, but this is the time of day tiny, itchy bugs typically come out in summer.

It was then I woke up, and I woke up feeling all itchy. I’m sure there is a name for this phenomenon, but I’m not sure what it is.

Running in Memphis

Four years ago, I signed up to run the St. Jude half-marathon in Memphis. The event ended up being canceled due to adverse weather. I’ve been wanting to run it ever since, but never actually signed up until this year. Today was the race.

I set a new personal record of 2:12:52, breaking my old record of 2:13:34 set in Nashville in 2014.

I could not be happier.

I love the Memphis course. Absolutely love it. It makes me hate the Nashville course now. I’m already signed up to run Nashville next April, and I have every intention of running that half-marathon, but I’m hooked on the Memphis race now. I may do two a year for the time being.

The Memphis course has several advantages over Memphis. It’s much flatter. It’s far more scenic. You get to run through the St. Jude campus, where they remind you what you’re running for. (I might be a fundraiser next year, Lord willing.) The water stops are more frequent. The exit process after crossing the finish line (at AutoZone Park) is far less convoluted. There are fewer turns. The final 3+ miles are a virtual straightaway. The only advantage the Nashville course has is the starting point. Broadway Avenue is much wider than the starting point in Memphis, which is on 2nd Avenue. In Memphis, you’re literally packed together like sardines starting off.

The weather was perfect. It was in the upper 40’s when I arrived just before sunrise, and in the 60’s when I got back into my car after finishing. It was sunny with no wind.

The irony is that I felt really fatigued during miles 7-9, and started to wonder if I’d be able to run the entire distance. That’s always my primary goal, to be able to run the entire 13.1 miles without having to walk. I was a little concerned, because I wore down a little more than midway through.

And then something happened that I cannot explain. The course turns west for that final straightaway right before the 10-mile marker. I checked my time at that point. I was at 1:42, and figured I was about a minute slower than I needed to be for a personal record. Could I speed up enough to shave off a minute? I was going to try. At that moment, everything seemed to click perfectly. I suddenly felt wonderful & confident. I was tired, of course, but no longer so fatigued. I sped up for the final three miles. I was passing other runners. I never speed up at mile 10. This has never happened to me. That’s the point where I typically start to fade, with my pace decreasing with each successive mile. My 11th mile today was my 4th-fastest of the race, and, oddity of all oddities, miles 12 & 13, at 9:11 each, were my two fastest miles.

And so I broke my personal record. I’ve never felt better after a half-marathon. I wish I could save my best for last every time. But I don’t really know how I was able to accomplish this.

Today’s run was made even sweeter by the fact that the Nashville race back in April was such a dud. It was hot that day — in the 80’s for most of the race — and my time was by far my worst ever. It was confidence-shattering, and I really was hoping to redeem myself in Memphis. And so, at 48, I broke the personal record I set at 44.

Also, my sore right knee & right quad that have plagued me the last 2+ weeks were not a factor. I arrived downtown almost 2 hours prior to the start of the race, and had time to stretch out ad nauseum. And that’s exactly what I did. Believe me, it made all the difference.

The conclusion of half-marathon training & right-side ailments

This afternoon I ran a 5K. There’s nothing remarkable about that by itself. I do those all the time. However, the next time I lace up, Lord willing, I’ll be standing on 2nd Street in downtown Memphis Saturday morning waiting for the St. Jude Marathon to start. That means my half-marathon training is complete. The only thing left now is the actual half-marathon.

Since October 1, when I began training, I have logged 125.7 miles. I have met every goal I set for myself. It has become routine for me to take off the two days prior to every half-marathon, and I’m going to enjoy those.

But what would running be without ailments? Two weeks ago, I did something to my right knee. It was the second of back-to-back “short” runs. Normally, I take a day off between runs. But on the 14th and 15th, I ran on back-to-back days. The second of those was a “hill run,” which means I incorporated “the big hill” in the subdivision next to mine. I only started doing this as part of my half-marathon training in order to build up strength and endurance. (I normally do not confront “the big hill.”) On this particular run, I did something to my right knee that I have not been able to overcome yet.

Indeed, I’ve been running with some soreness in my right knee & right quad ever since. It’s not debilitating, just a nuisance. In fact, I was able to pull off an 11.5-mile run last Monday. So I do know I can run with it. Incidentally, this is the same leg in which I tore my calf muscle near the end of January. I’ve been running with a compression sleeve ever since. I don’t know if all that is related, but it seems as though every time I have a running ailment, it’s on the right side.

I’ve done everything I need to do to prepare for this half-marathon. I’ve never run the Memphis course, and I’ve never run two half-marathons in one year before now. I do know that after Saturday, I’m taking a few days off. I’ve spent one-third of 2017 training for half-marathons, and, at 48 years of age, they do not get easier.

Final long run

Today I reached another goal in my half-marathon training. I always do a long run of 11+ miles during my training, and the 11+ mile run was the next in sequence. That was this morning. It had been 12 days since my last long run, and it’s 12 days until the half-marathon. As the runs get longer, I have to space them out a little farther, and I’m so thankful the weather cooperated. It was perfect. I began a little after 10 a.m. It was 42 degrees with full sun and very little wind. It was sufficient for short sleeves. I slowed it down to my half-marathon pace, and squeezed out 11.5 miles. So my next long run will be the actual half-marathon next Saturday. The thing about increasing my long runs by about a mile each time is that I’ve always got just enough to complete each one. When I ran 9+ miles back on October 30, I thought to myself I could not have gone much further. When I ran 10+ miles back on November 8, I thought to myself I could not have gone much further. And today, I thought to myself I could not have gone much further. But in 12 days, I will have to go further — 1.6 miles further than today. The one advantage I’ll have in Memphis is that the course is much flatter than what I’m used to training on here. Today’s run was quite hilly. (I ended up taking a different course than my usual route.) So if I were to subtract out the hills, maybe I could have gone further. At any rate, my remaining training goal is to work in 4 more short runs (5K to 4 miles), and then take off the two days prior to the half-marathon on December 2. As always, I’m excited and scared all at the same time.

Running up a storm

My 5th half-marathon is 4 weeks from today. Four weeks is all I have. This will be my first time running the St. Jude race in Memphis. I have run the Nashville race the last Saturday in April every year for the last 4 years, and am already registered for next year’s.

As always, I am both excited and scared about the upcoming half-marathon. I get nervous just writing about it. Despite the nerves, I am training better and smarter than any previous training regimen. I had to change the way I did things back in the spring when I was coming off an injury, and I about have it perfected now.

I’ll typically do maybe 3 short runs in a week, plus a long run. My short runs range from 5K to 4 miles or so. On these, I’ll deliberately run extra hills just to increase strength and stamina. My long runs are the variable, and they form the backbone of half-marathon training. My initial long run was supposed to be 5 miles, which would increase by a mile each time so that by the end of October, I’d be up to an 8-mile long run.

But my initial long run ended up being 10K. So I started out a week ahead. And my most recent long run, this past Monday (October 30), was 9.35 miles. So I’m still a week ahead. This way, my weekly miles increase only nominally, which I have to be careful about. (I’m still paranoid abut re-injuring myself, and still wear a compression sleeve around my right calf even now.)

So my long run next week, Lord willing, will be 10 miles, and then 11miles, and so on, until I work my way up to 13.1 miles on December 2. Every time I add a mile, it gets progressively more difficult. It’s one thing to add a mile to a 5-mile run. It’s quite another to do an extra mile after you’ve run 9 or 10 and you already want to stop. Indeed, this is the part of half-marathon training that isn’t very fun.

I’ve never run two half-marathons in a single year. I’ve always run just one. The thing about running a half-marathon is that you don’t just show up on race day and run without preparation. For me, it’s a two-month commitment. I have to train for these things. After each half-marathon, I go back to running mainly 5K’s. So I don’t stay in half-marathon shape year-round. Committing to two half-marathons in a year means I’ll spend one-third of the year training for half-marathons. And 3 months after the December 2 race, I’ll start training for the next one. I don’t think I’ll regret this, but I don’t know that I’ll make a habit of running two races per year, either.

After every goal is met, my confidence grows just a little. My long run on Monday took 1:25:20, which averages out to a 9:07 mile. If I were to maintain that pace for a full 13.1 miles, I’d finish the course a few seconds under two hours. My personal record for 13.1 miles is 2:13:34. I’m under no illusion that I can maintain a 9:07 mile for 13.1 miles. Every time I add to a long run, my pace slows, so by the time I run the actual race, I’ll average, at best, maybe a 9:30 mile. And I’d be perfectly happy with this.

Why training for a half-marathon beats watching the NFL

My next half-marathon is December 2 in Memphis. It will be my 5th half-marathon — my 2nd this year — but my first outside of Nashville. I always allow myself two months to train for a half-marathon, which means my training officially began yesterday. I ran just over 4 miles and tackled some unrelenting hills nearby. The objective was to increase physical strength and also endurance. I’ll go on longer runs later on that don’t involve so many hills, but I’m going to make my shorter runs as difficult as I can.

I’ve been running almost exclusively 5K’s since my last half-marathon on April 29. My monthly goal is always at least 50 miles. I was faithful to this goal all during the summer. But summer heat means shorter runs, and it takes quite a few 5K’s to add up to 50 miles. Now it’s turning cooler, so I can begin to lengthen my runs. You won’t be prepared for a half-marathon by just doing 5K’s.

Yesterday, I went to church, then came home and ran. I continued my recent tradition of completely ignoring the NFL. I have not missed “No Fans Left” since cutting it out of my life last year. There are some parts to half-marathon training that are not fun, but even the most demanding half-marathon training still beats the NFL without question.

Let me give a few examples:

  1. You can spend upwards of $100 on authentic NFL jersey. But why would you spend $100 just so you can wear some other dude’s name on your back when you can purchase a new pair of running shoes for less? I’ll get 350 miles (about 6 months) out of a good pair of running shoes. That’s money well spent.
  2. Let’s say you go to an NFL game with a friend or maybe your spouse. By the time you fight traffic, pay for parking, buy decent tickets, and eat overpriced concessions, you’ve dropped at least $300, not to mention having invested the better part of your day. Entry fees for the last 3 half-marathons I’ve registered for have totaled less than $300.
  3. Let’s say your team wins. Congratulations. What have you gained? Maybe you’re in it for the experience or camaraderie with the other fans. That’s great. And if that’s what you want to do with your time and money, then fine. But your joy is going to be fleeting. After all, you’re just piggybacking on someone else’s preparation and game day performance. You didn’t really do anything except make a little noise. Running a half-marathon (or any race of any length) belongs to the runner. He/she isn’t piggybacking on anyone else. If you’re a runner, then its your own preparation and your own race day performance that you get to celebrate.
  4. In the NFL, you’re paying to watch other athletes perform. In a half-marathon, you are the athlete. The spectators are cheering you and encouraging you. Granted, I’ve never performed at the elite level of an NFL player, I’m not earning millions of dollars, and no one’s asking for my autograph, but I’m also creating my own glory and authoring my own performance. Believe me, the joy and satisfaction I feel after finishing a race dwarfs any joy and satisfaction I’ve ever experienced after watching a professional team win.
  5. If I watch an NFL game either on TV or in person, I’m largely sedentary. I’m no better off after watching a game. I haven’t improved myself in any way. But running is all about self-improvement. The proof is in the satisfaction you feel after a training run, meeting a goal, or finishing an actual race.


Competitor Running is an online publication dedicated to runners that I susbscribe to. They often have articles that I find useful, and a few days ago they ran a piece entitled, “8 different types of runners that you will definitely encounter.” I figured I’d scroll through the piece to see what type of runner I classify as and was dismayed to discover that I’m a “back-of-the-packer.” I bristled at the slight. The description fits me perfectly, but in self-defense, I typically finish around the middle of my age group and not the back. I don’t fit any of the other categories. I’m not an ultra-runner, I don’t dress up in costumes or excessive running gear, I’m not a “do-gooder,” I don’t do obstacle courses, I don’t run Disney races, and I don’t try to work my running into every conversation. So that only leaves one category: back-of-the-packer. According to the article, “This group will forever hold a dear place in my heart long after my running shoes have been retired. I easily fall into this group, so I’m slightly biased. These guys are out there, rain or shine, pounding the pavement for the sheer satisfaction of finishing. Yes, we have our time goals too. But we don’t race for the glory of the win. We race for the love and zest of life it brings us.” Well, that’s me.

The heart of a runner

Today was my annual physical. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it’s a necessary evil. Every three years my doctor orders an EKG as part of my labs. Today was one of those years.

I always show up well before my appointment time in order to knock out my labs first. That way, once I see my doctor, I’m done. So as I was sitting in the waiting room between my labs and the actual visit with the doctor, I received a call from the technician who had done my EKG. She needed to see me.

I knew exactly what this was going to be about. She had already shown my doctor the results of my EKG. They were concerned about my low heart rate. It was 40 beats per minute. She relayed the message that my doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist for further testing. “I’m a runner,” I informed the technician. “I run half-marathons. My ‘at rest’ heart rate is always in the 40’s.” (Sometimes it’s even lower.) She told me to just talk to the doctor about it. In the meantime, she handed me a lab order I was to give the cardiologist when I made my appointment.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. The last time I got an EKG, the lab technician doing the test was a little concerned about my heart rate. It was something like 48 that time. Once when I went to the local walk-in clinic, I set off their low heart rate alarm when they were taking my blood pressure and pulse. So this is something I’m always prepared for.

At any rate, after sitting in the waiting room watching a small army of pharmaceutical reps take priority over the patients, I finally got in to see my doctor. I asked him about the EKG. I reminded him that I am a runner and that a heart rate of 40 is perfectly normal for me. “You know what,” he admitted, “I forgot that you’re a runner. I actually had you confused with another one of my patients who is overweight and doesn’t exercise at all.” He listened to my heart and lungs as part of the examination. “Slow and steady,” he remarked. “Don’t worry about that lab order. I’m not concerned.”