11 December 2005

Outside Again

I've been fascinated by the snow that Richmond had last Monday (5-Dec). It was a really pretty snow to begin with but it has just stayed on even though daytime high temps have been in the low 40's most days. Thus, I've gotten several days of dreadmill experience. Every day, though, I've eyed the roads and verges on my drive home, anxious to run outside again. Thursday night, we had rain, sleet, and freezing rain. Combine that with the daytime temps and almost all of the snow on the north, west, and east sides of the streets is gone. It's really funny, though, because there's still a lot of snow on the south side of all the streets -- my yard is devoid of snow but I'm looking out our front window, across the street at a couple of inches of snow.

I stray. Friday evening, it was obvious that my normal running paths were going to be clear Saturday morning. When I got up Saturday morning, it was 21* (Aihhh! That's cold!) So, I bundled up (lightly) and headed out. I knew I was going to run somewhere between 4 and 8 miles but really thought I'd limit to 5. I ended up doing 6.2. Gave me a chance to compare dreadmill and road running.

My conclusions:

** Dreadmill running is definitely harder mentally. There's just something about not making any perceived forward progress, having the mileage and calorie counters and the clock so in my face, and the unchanging scenery that makes it hard for me to go more than 4 miles. The other factor is then basic unchanging nature of pace and incline. While I can change the speed and the incline, I have to make a conscious choice and take some action to do so. Outside, the terrain changes whether I want it to or not and if I need to slow down, I slow down; if I want/need to speed up, I simply speed up.

** Running on the road is harder physically. One "just" keeps up with the treadmill. Outside, you actually propel your body through space. The surface is harder meaning muscles and joints take a greater beating. The change in surfaces adds a challenge. Saturday morning, I ran on tarmac, sidewalks, grass verge, in the gutters. Even the grass verge varied from hard, frozen ground to soft, frosted grass.

** Then there are other challenges -- like making sure I don't get hit by vehicles. I've only been run off the road once (by a school bus!) but there's always the possibility.

** There are distractions when running outside that take my mind off of whatever pain I'm experiencing. The roads I run go through residential areas, wooded areas, commercial areas. Then there are the occasional shooting stars (when I run in the early morning), the full or partial moon, sunrises, nice cloud formations, squirrels and birds.

** For some reason, I also run faster, without thinking about it, when I'm outside. For example, runs on the dreadmill last week averaged about 7:46 minutes per mile; Saturday, I ran 7:24 minutes per mile without even planning to run faster. The only explanations I have are that, outside, I'm not paying attention to the time so I just go and I speed up and slow down subconsciously and end up running faster overall. Of course, the fact that I run faster outside may also be a factor in outside running being physically harder.

Well, this has gone on longer than I planned.

Run well; rest well.
Richmond, VA

06 December 2005

The Dreadmill

The snow was beautiful yesterday in Richmond. The temps were hovering just at freezing so the flakes were huge. It stayed cold long enough for slush to form on the roads but there was snow on the sidewalks. We had driven back from SC on Sunday and so were very late going to bed Sunday night. Thus, no run Monday morning. The IMB was closed a bit early because of the snow Monday, so we all headed to the YMCA around 5:00 for (drum roll): The Dreadmill.

Actually, it wasn't as bad as I feared. I just hate like the dickens having the mileage and the clock right there in my face. However, it was interesting to be able to change the incline percentage and the speed to see how various combinations compared.

I do think the treadmill is a little easier on the knees but it seems to work slightly different or a few additional muscles. I'm just a little sore this morning.

Anyway, it was good to learn that I can do the treadmill when the weather or the roads/sidewalks are just too bad for running outside.


27 November 2005

I'm Thankful ...

... for my family, for children who make me proud, for work in the Kingdom, for God's Word, for good friends, for hope, for being able to run.

I ran on Thanksgiving morning (and on Friday and on Saturday) and ran the best (i.e., fastest) that I've run in almost 2 years. And, at the distance I ran (6.75 miles), the fastest ever. We visited my mother-in-law and each day I ran past my father-in-law's grave, twice. Each time, I was reminded of how thankful I am for the way he raised his daughter, my wife. Fred Anderson was a good man.


17 November 2005

Creative Thinking While Running

I realize that a lot of people say that they do their best creative thinking while running. Well, that's not been my normal experience. However, today was different. Who knows why. But, today I had some good ideas (the quality rating was confirmed by my wife) aobut doing a missions presention. Now, the hard work of actually doing something about the ideas! :)

I got to run in Huntsville, AL this week. Was there for a meeting of the IMB trustees and ran with one of our new reappointees. We did 2.4 miles together, faster than what he said he normally runs, and then I did another 1.8 miles on my own. Average pace was 07:42 mpm. Today, I'm back in Richmond and ran 6.2 miles at a pace of 07:45 mpm.

The last couple of weeks, there's been a significant change in my pace -- faster overall by about 15 seconds per mile. I'm sure the cool/cold weather has made a difference but I hope I'm just getting a bit faster.


13 November 2005

What Do I Do With My "Ability"?

This morning, the Associate Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist (Richmond, VA) preached on the life of Samson. One of his points was that God gives us 'natural' abilities for the purpose of giving glory to God and in order to advance God's purposes on earth. Samson did that, though at times he promoted himself -- one of the things that makes the Bible so real is that it doesn't cover up the foibles of God's people.

So, that got me to thinking. This morning, in terms of speed/pace, I had the best run I've had in about 19 months. I ran 4.1 miles at a pace of 07:34 minutes per mile. Now, I am well aware that that's turtle speed when compared to a whole host of other runners -- elite marathoners run 26.2 miles at a pace of less than 5:00 mpm; there's a 73 year old Canadian man who has run more than a couple of marathons at a pace of about 6:48 mpm; any number of recreational runners run faster than I do. However, for this 51 year old who has been running regularly for about 2.3 years, running right at 7:30 mpm is pretty fast and gives me reason to believe that God has given me some ability in this area.

Thus, at the end of the sermon, I was wondering how I apply that particular lesson from Samson to my running. How can I use my ability to run, no matter how slowly, to God's glory and for the benefit of others? I don't have an answer, but those were my thoughts today. If you read this and have any insight, I look forward to reading your comments.


12 November 2005

Restoring Your Reputation

I haven't posted much this week. Tuesday night, my parents called about 7:15 and said they were on their way to stay with us a couple of nights. They didn't get in until about 10:30. We all talked awhile and got to bed about midnight. That's not enough sleep for me, normally. So, I didn't run Wednesday morning. I did run Thursday -- it was 67* -- man, the weather cannot make up its mind. The smell of Fall was in the air -- you know, that smell of leaves that have fallen and are slightly damp. Wonderful!

Friday, I left the house at 3:45 am for a flight to Atlanta -- a one day meeting. I got home at 8:15 pm. I was looking forward to my run today and was not disappointed. I got about 8.5 hours of sleep -- I never sleep that much, never. Ended up leaving the house at 7:15 and it was COLD!! The temp was 30* when I left and I should have worn running pants as my legs seemed on the verge of cramping the whole time. I ran 6.4 miles at a pace of 07:45 mpm. That's 8 of the last 9 runs that have been at sub-8 mpm.

On Saturdays, I get the chance to more closely read the Runner's World Beginners' Forum. Someone posted the links about the JeansMarines group taking a shortcut in the Marine Marathon. Later, someone posted a link to the response of the JeansMarines director, Jean Marmoreo: Jean's Response

It is a tremendous response to the charges of cheating. Though I think cheating is a bit strong, I do agree that what the JeansMarines group did was not in the spirit of marathon running. But, Jean did not retaliate or try to jitetea (Swahili for "to defend oneself") Nor did she just blow it off by saying it wasn't serious or that others do the same thing. She set about making it right by:

1. Admitting the mistake
2. Doing the right thing as a short-term fix
3. Setting in place policies and guidelines to reduce the chance that the same mistake will be repeated

I would recommend this letter as a great example of how to set about restoring one's reputation and correcting mistakes.

Run well,

08 November 2005

Monday's Thoughts on Tuesday

This is where my body and running just don't make sense. Yesterday, my 4.2 mile run was hard, hard, hard -- yet, it was slower than any of the runs, including an 8+ miler on Saturday, in the previous 5 runs. Now, today (Monday), I run 5.3 miles and it felt really good -- yet, it was at a pace of 07:45 mpm. Go figure! Weather conditions were almost identical, I had an almost identical amount and quality of sleep, and the route I ran was similar in terms of hills, etc. I didn't watch my watch on either day (I can't stand seeing how slowly I run while I'm doing it).

Mood has to play a part in it. I was in a funk all weekend; just tired and couldn't focus on anything. There were odd jobs around the house that I could have done but just couldn't work up the "want to" or even the "have to". I couldn't even focus on e-mail. Maybe that had something to do with Sunday's run being hard.

I continued to think about Ezekial but focused more on the obedience portions and the waiting for a word from the Lord. My question to God was, "Where am I disobedient?" I didn't get a specific answer yet it was satisfying to just ask the question and to be open to an answer.

Tuesday (actually today) is a rest day. My pattern lately has been run on Sunday and Monday, rest on Tuesday, run on Wednesday and Thursday, rest on Friday, and run longer on Saturday. In general, 5 days per week seems right for me.

Well, lunch is about over, so I need to get back to work.


06 November 2005

Sunday Thoughts

Man -- after such good runs last week, this morning was a disappointment. My legs were tired and I felt like I was slogging away and slapping the pavement. I ran 4.225 miles at a pace of 8:13 mpm. Now, that's not bad and I really wasn't running for time. If I had felt good, then the time would have been just fine. But ....

It was a beautiful morning for a run and the leaf colours are subtle but beautiful. I do think there will be only a few more days of decent colour, though. I could see the brown creeping in and the leaves are falling.

I read from Ezekial prior to running this morning and tried to visualize the cherubim with their 4 heads and the wheel within a wheel that each had "beside him". Couldn't visualize that -- maybe that's why the run felt so hard! As much as I could meditate while running, I did think about the clearer parts of the Ezekial 10-13 passages, especially the Ezek 13 sections on prophets who speak without a word from the Lord yet still expect Him to fulfill their prophecies. I wonder how many times we do that?


05 November 2005

First Thoughts

Absolutely perfect morning for a run -- 54*, very light breeze, clear with a few wispy clouds, a few stars at 6 am, then pink cloud wisps as dawn approached. I left the house thinking 7+/- miles, about halfway through thought 5+/- sounded good, ended up running 8.7 miles at a pace of 07:54 mpm. This has been a great week of running, almost certainly the best week in 2.3 years of running -- 5 days, 30 miles, all under 8 mpm, and I felt good every day.

I have thought about my pace often. I have no illusions about being fast -- I guess I'm doing all right for a 51 year old man, but really am not fast. So, when I use the terms fast and slow, they are always only in relation to me.

When I run, I don't look at my watch -- I just run. If I want to speed up, I speed up; if I'm a little tired and need to slow down, I slow down. There have been days when I've felt really awful and thought, "Man, I must be cookin'!" but then my pace turns out to have been slow (08:20+ mpm). Other days, I feel so good that I figure I must be running slow but my pace will be closer to 8 mpm or faster. Go figure! This week has been 5 days of the latter. Only on one day did I try to run faster than 8 mpm and it was my shortest run of the week and one of my slowest paces.

Today, though, was pure icing -- 8.7 miles at a pace of 07:54 mpm. I'm pleased.

When I run, I always have one or two songs floating around in my head -- always Christian songs. It's my worship and the songs do help me maintain a reasonably steady pace, whatever that pace might be. Sometimes it's a hymn -- It Is Well is a good hymn for running. More often, it's a contemporary worship song. Today, I was singing We Speak to Nations. My problem with all of the songs is that I never know all the verses. Well, OK, not never because I do know all the words to You Are My All in All and Praise the Lord (K Wilson).

Some people, my wife is one, say they pray and quote Scripture while running. I find that my concentration on any one thing isn't continuous enough for that -- I've tried and will pray for a couple of things but then my mind jumps to something else. So, singing to myself, jumbled around a bunch of other thoughts is my pattern.

This morning, I enjoyed the sunrise and the changing leaves. The maples are really pretty -- not flaming red this year but more subtle -- and mixed with the oaks (yellow this year) and some other trees that I can't identify, it's a really pleasing combination.

Since it's election time in Virginia, I can't help but notice the campaign signs. The signs are as devoid of content as the TV and radio ads are. Mostly, they seem to be about name recognition. One thing that has struck me is that all the signs -- Republican, Democrat, Independent -- look the same except for the candidate's name. Every one of them is red, white, and blue; every one of them has stars and stripes. It's so boring.

I did have more significant thoughts on the election, though, than just the boring signs. I really cannot decide which candidate, Kaine or Kilgore, to vote for on Tuesday. My leanings are generally toward the Republican party but I'm not hard and fast there. I am anti-abortion but I'm also pro-environment but not to the extent that the needs of a small spider are taken more seriously than an individual's right to use (not abuse or destroy) his or her property. I'm fiscally conservative but my heart breaks for those who are poor and trapped by the excesses of a business-first economy. I don't know what the answer is, but I know we (the government but, more, the individuals who make up the middle and upper segments of the economic brackets) have responsibilities towards our brothers and sisters who need a helping hand. But, unregulated welfare doesn't seem to be the answer. I'm having a difficult time deciding which of the two (I'm discounting the Independent because my vote for him, if I chose to do that, would simply be a statement as he doesn't stand a chance) I should vote for. My run didn't get me to a decision, but it did give me time to think. I have a couple of more days to run before the election -- maybe I'll get some clarity.

Enough for the day. Enjoy your weekend.


Initial Thoughts - 2 years, 4 months

Today is the first Saturday of November 2005 and this is a test -- not a test of blogging but of how I do with blogging about running. My writing won't likely be inspiring and probably will bore anyone but me to death. My wife actually suggested that I do this.

I ran track (1 mile, 1/2 mile, and mile relay) in high school and was moderately good -- no records, but good enough to win the 1/2 mile in our small conference (AAA in South Carolina) one year. After my junior year, though, I ran only sporadically -- a few months, then off for a few years. My wife loves to walk, but, even though I really enjoy being with her, I don't like walking for exercise. She can really churn up the pavement walking and if I'm going to put forth that kind of effort, I'd rather go ahead and kick it up a couple of notches and get really sweating while running.

We have lived in Kenya since 1987, serving as missionaries with the International Mission Board, SBC. Just over 2 years ago, I was very dissatisfied with my weight and overall fitness. At 5'10", I had let myself get to 210# -- that's a BMI of just over 30 or slightly obese and I don't like that term applied to me. My waist measurement was up around 40, though, out of vanity, I was wearing 38" pants (imagine that sight!). My wife needed to lose, too, but she can choose to talk about that or not -- the key thing for this is that we were in this together.

We decided to follow the Sugar Busters! eating plan -- the condensed version is no sugar, no white bread, no white potatoes, no white rice, fruit only at certain times, and very limited high glycemic vegetables (the only part that was hard to keep in mind). We also decided to start walking, together -- at 49 years old, I knew better than to jump right into running. Starting the first of July 2003, we walked 45 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week when we could schedule it. We were absolute fanatics about the food (drove others nuts -- partly because we were so fanatical and partly because (I think) they wanted to lose weight but wouldn't/couldn't make the commitment to eating right.

After 6-7 months, I had lost about 40 pounds. At my absolute lowest, it was 45 pounds (165#). Further, my waist was down to 33". Pretty dramatic -- so much so that Kenyan co-workers secretly wondered if I had contracted AIDS. One of them let that slip one day in the office -- it was a natural thought for them because of the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Fortunately, I could dispel that. Except for a 3 month break when I injured my knee (medial meniscus) and a 1 month break with Achilles tendonitis, I've kept up the running and have pretty much followed Sugar Busters! since then -- the longest I've kept running in my entire life. I currently weigh 175# and want to shed 5#.

In May of this year, we agreed to take a 3-year assignment in the US with the International Mission Board so we currently live in Richmond, VA. During the past 6 months, my running has taken an upturn. I'm averaging about 5.6 miles per run and have run 100+ miles in 3 of the past 4 months. In the 2 years and 4 months I've been running, I have logged just over 2100 miles and worn out 5 pairs of shoes (I'm in my 6th pair). My goal was to make the Double Digit Club (a group on the Runner's World Beginner's Forum who have had at least one run of 10 or more miles) by the end of September 2005. I did that on the last Saturday of September and have since had an 11 mile run.

That's the background. The next post will begin my running journal -- random thoughts on running, weather, observations during my runs, etc.

Press on,