28 August 2008

History Being Made

What an interesting week. Whether one believes Barak Obama is the leader for the next 4-8 years or one vehemently opposes his policies and dreams for this country, it is hard to deny that yesterday was an historic day for the United States of America. Having grown up in the south (South Carolina) in the midst of all the racial tensions of the 60's, I never thought that an African-American could be nominated as one of the two major candidates for President. But, it has been done and there's a good chance that Barak Obama will be elected in November.

I'm proud that America has reached this stage in our history and pray that, in the midst of all the negativity of this campaign, this step represents a huge leap forward in race relations in our country. We are all Americans and we need to act like it.

Do not take this as a political statement either in support of or in opposition to Barak Obama. I'm just happy this has happened in my lifetime.

Run well, y'all (good advice for politicians),

27 August 2008

Ryan Hall's Passion for Running and for Jesus

Interesting video of Ryan Hall. Ryan believes that his ability to run is from God. Therefore, running his best is Ryan's gift back to God.

Run well, y'all,

24 August 2008

Kenya's First Marathon Gold

Did you watch the Olympic men's marathon last night? What a race! I was 1/3 correct in my predictions -- I had said Kenyans would take 1st and 2nd and Hall would take 3rd. Kenya's Samuel Kamau Wanjiru took the gold in style, beating the previous Olympic record by a whopping 3 minutes.

Hall's 10th place finish was surprising and perplexing at first. But, on reflection, it's not that the Americans ran poorly -- Wanjiru and Kabede ran incredibly well. Given the weather (75-85° and 50%+ humidity), it seemed that nobody except the lead group expected a 2:06 finish. The commentators even said that Hall and his coach were shooting for a 2:09 and that the normal Olympic marathon was closer to 2:12.

One of the reasons that led me to think Hall would finish no higher than 3rd is his age and experience. I thought he needed a few more years and a few more marathons to hit his peak. Well, Wanjiru and Kebede blew that theory out of the water. Both are 21 years old and Wanjiru, at least, had only run 2 previous marathons.

Interesting Olympics with some no-brainer winners faltering -- Bernard Lagat, men's and women's 4X100 relay teams, Tyson Gay; some 'old guys' doing really well -- Dara Torres and Constantina Tomescu; Kenya, despite its dominance in distance running, taking its first ever gold in the marathon; and, of course, Michael Phelps' 8 golds, 7 world records (more impressive, I think, than even the 8 golds), and 1 Olympic record.

It sets up an interesting Olympics in 2012 in London. Speaking of 2012, if you're not a fan of NPR and/or didn't listen to All Things Considered on Friday, you missed a classic example of British self-deprecating humour (the spelling is a recognition of British spelling, not a typo). Go to this link, Imagining The 2012 London Games, and click on Listen Now for a light-hearted look ahead.

Run well, y'all,

23 August 2008

In the Books -- Patrick Henry Half Marathon

Well, it's over. I ran the 2nd annual Patrick Henry Half Marathon in Ashland, VA this morning. Starting temperature was somewhere around 65°, so not bad at all.

And this was a well-run race. They cap entrants at 1500 but only had about 1000 register. The pre-race stuff was relaxed but efficient -- at least 13 porta-johns, bib/chip pick-up was smooth, and they used disposable chips. The course and finish were done right, too -- 8 (I think) water/Powerade stations, Gu's at either mile 8 or 9, very cold and wet towels at the finish (that was WONDERFUL!), best finisher's technical shirt that I've seen, people handing us a bottle of ice cold water at the finish line, great selection of post-race food, very quick posting of finish times (my watch matched their chip time perfectly).

Three of us who have trained together decided we would try to go out at 8:30 mpm and then see how we felt. Well, adrenaline took over and we went out at 8:15 mpm, maintaining that for 7 miles. Though I really felt like I should have been able to maintain that pace, I slowed down. Still, I did fine for 9 miles but really hit the wall and ended up walking more than I wanted to do over the next 3 miles. I was able to pick it back up in the last 1.1 miles to an 8:36 mpm pace and finished in 1:53.10. Seeing my wife and daughter with their neon sign at about mile 12.8 was a real boost and, as you can see, I was even able to smile.

I'm happy with that time. There were times during the training when I wondered if I would even be able to break 2 hours. However, I still think I can do better and am pondering what I need to change. I didn't hurt -- I was just tired during miles 10-12. I had eaten a Gu before the race and had, by mile 10, eaten 2 Shot Bloks and drunk 16-20 oz of Gatorade. Maybe I need to eat another Gu at mile 7 or so. I'll keep experimenting.

Next up -- perhaps the Maymont X-Terra Half Marathon at the end of September. However, at mile 10, I found myself thinking, And why am I considering the Maymont again?

Enough (OK, yeah, too much). This evening I plan to watch Ryan Hall take on the Olympic Marathon. I'm still predicting bronze for him with the Kenyans taking gold and silver (Ryan gets gold in 2012) but one of my running companions today thought Ryan might even break 2 hours for the marathon. Now, that would be something!

Run well, y'all,

22 August 2008

Mourning the Loss of a Good African

I pondered the wording of the title of this blog. We tend to toss around superlatives so much that they have lost their meaning. Still, I wondered, as I post about the death of President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, is "good" the right adjective. I started to say "great". In choosing not to use that word, I in no way want to imply that President Mwanawasa was not great. I think he was but "great" seemed to me to refer more to what someone has done rather than to his character. And I want to honour President Mwanawasa for who he was, not for what he has done (though he has done a lot).

At the same time, to say "a Good African" could be interpreted to mean either that I think there are no "good Africans" other than Mwanawasa or that a "good African" is so rare that Mwanawasa is an exception. While I think President Mwanawasa is an exception when compared to many, many African leaders, there are multitudes of "good Africans". After living in Kenya for more than 18 years, I know many of those "good Africans" and count them as dear friends and co-labourers.

So, the title should not be read as if I am denigrating President Mwanawasa's greatness or as if I am comparing him to others. It's intended to simply be a statement of my opinion of one man's character.

As president of Zambia since 2002, President Mwanawasa gave every evidence of wanting to improve the lot of the ordinary Zambian rather than wanting to improve the bottom line of his bank account. He seemed genuinely interested in rooting out corruption in his government; he was supportive of efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Zambia and lent the weight of his office and his personality to the only sure way to prevent sexually transmitted HIV, abstinence until marriage and faithfulness after marriage; he looked for ways to improve the daily life of Zambians through clean water and care for orphans. Was he successful? Not completely -- that is a gargantuan task in any African country given the patterns of corruption and self-centeredness on the continent. But he tried and progress was made. All of those efforts were fueled by his heart, his concern for the people. And that's where his goodness shows.

In or about 2003, President Mwanawasa determined to follow Jesus as Lord of his life. From all appearances, that decision was sincere and he followed through, setting aside a rhttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifegular time to meet with his pastor and other members of his church for Bible study and prayer. That seems to have been the motivator of all of his efforts on behalf of Zambians. Not a perfect man -- no one of us is -- nor a man without his critics but a man who seemed, at least to this outsider, to be a good man who was an African.

News articles about President Mwanawasa:

Africa Continent's Legacy: The Levy Mwanawasa Pill
The Guardian
Southwestern Mourns the Death of Zambian President
Mwanawasa Slams Drug Takers
Obituary: Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa

Run well, y'all (both in life and on the road/trail),

19 August 2008

The Forgotten US Olympic Hero

Have you ever heard of Ray Ewry? No? Well, I hadn't either and you won't likely hear this story on NBC/CNBC. (Well, maybe you will since I found Ray's picture on the official site of the Beijing Olympics.)

Monday morning, while we were talking about Michael Phelps' tremendous accomplishment in winning 8 gold medals in this Olympics and 14 total gold medals, my Administrative Assistant said that she had seen that Carl Lewis and company (Mark Spitz, US swimmer; Larysa Latynina, Russian gymnist; and Paavo Nurmi, Finnish track and field) had won 9 golds each but that there was someone who had won 10. Being the brilliant, gifted statistician and Olympic historian idiot that I am, I adamantly stated that she was just wrong. (Is it even possible for a man to be right?) She set out to prove herself right while I set out to prove her wrong. I was faster and proved my ... ignorance, sort of.

That's when I learned about Ray Ewry. Read his incredible story here. He contracted polio when he was 7 years old and was told he would never walk. Nobody counted on the fact that Ray WANTED to walk and had a strong enough will to make it happen. He did far more than walk.
He broke world records in standing high jump, standing long jump and standing triple jump (also known as the 'hop, step and jump'). He moved to New Jersey in '99 and joined the New York Athletic Club, whose members had watched the inaugural Athens Games in 1896 with deep interest. Back then the Olympics were no more than a fledgling sideshow. The NYAC wanted the Games to succeed. In '00, they would send their best to Paris. They would send Ray.

On July 16, 1900, Ewry entered the standing high jump competition. He took one step and bounced 5 feet, 5 inches. That's 65 inches, with no run-up. The Parisians gaped. Then, in the standing long jump, Ewry flew 10 feet, 10 inches. More gasps and claps and cheers. And in the standing triple jump, Ray covered 34 feet, 8½ inches. The American was a spectacle. He could leap feet backward from a standing start, but that was not an Olympic sport. Neither was kicking the ceiling, which Ray could also do somehow. No matter to the French. By the end of the fortnight, they had named Ewry "The Human Frog."
Ewry won 3 golds in 1900, 3 more in 1904, 2 more in 1906 (more on that later), and 2 more in 1908. He planned to participate in the 1912 Olympics but couldn't compete because of pain from an old college injury. He retired with 10 Olympic golds. More than that, he set a record that will never be broken:
He won four straight championships in each of two events -- a mark that might never fall. No other Olympian in history has won as many gold medals without losing a single competition [until Phelps].
So, what about the 1906 Olympic Games? It seems that they were the result of an attempt to create a compromise between Greece, who wanted all Olympic Games to be hosted in Greece, and the founder of the IOC, who did not. So, Intercalated Games were created for the in-between years. The 1906 IG's were a success but the 1910 IG's were not and the Intercalated Games were abandoned.

Eventually, the IOC determined to downgrade all records set and medals won at the 1906 IG's:
Since the 2nd International Olympic Games in Athens now had become an exception, the personal views of various IOC chairmen caused the IOC to retroactively downgrade the 1906 games, and the explanation for the games became that they had been a 10th anniversary celebration. As more stress was placed on the continuing sequence of four-year Olympiads, the games of 1906 did not fit in. Hence, today the IOC does not recognize Athens 1906 as Olympic Games, and does not regard any events occurring there, such as the setting of new records or the winning of medals, as official.

The success of Athens 1906, however, may have been what kept the Olympics alive. And as the next games are always built on the successes of the last, the innovations of Athens were used again in London, and eventually became Olympic tradition. In fact, the influence of the First Intercalated Games pervades the Olympics, with the holding of the Games concentrated in a small time period, at a small area, and with good organization. To a large number of people these are good enough reasons to continue pressing the IOC to recognise the 1906 games.
Michael Phelps is now the king of gold, but before last week, an unknown hero reigned. Ray Ewry was not just a hero in athletics but could easily stand as a hero to all who face unconquerable barriers with a determination to overcome those barriers.

Uwe hodari na moyo wa ushujaa -- Be strong and courageous.... (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9)

To quote Paul Harvey: And now you know the rest of the story.

Run (and jump) well, y'all,

Summarizing the Research on Diet, Exercise and Nutrition

Granted, a rather pedantic blog title, Summarizing the Research on Diet, Exercise and Nutrition. But, this morning, the Diet Blog posted a bit on some summaries of a large number of studies that have been conducted on diet, exercise and nutrition. The summaries are based on the work of The Cochrane Collaboration which...
...is an international, non-profit, independent organisation, established to ensure that up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of healthcare interventions is readily available worldwide. It produces and disseminates systematic reviews of healthcare interventions, and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of the effects of interventions....Cochrane Reviews are systematic assessments of evidence of the effects of healthcare interventions, intended to help people to make informed decisions about health care, their own or someone else's. Cochrane Reviews are needed to help ensure that healthcare decisions throughout the world can be informed by high quality, timely research evidence.

I found Diet Blog's summaries interesting on a couple of levels. First, some of the summaries -- notably Exercise for overweight or obesity and Low glycemic index/Load diets for overweight and obesity -- supported theories with which I already agreed and for which I already had personal anecdotal evidence (a high-falutin' way of saying, They worked for me). Others show evidence that something I'm doing may be a waste of effort and money -- for instance, Omega 3 fatty acids for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (maybe I'm wasting my money on the fish oil capsule I take each day??).

One of these days, maybe I'll get around to actually reading the Cochrane Collaboration's documents for myself. In the meantime, I'm going to think about the advisability of not spending money on fish oil capsules.

What do you think?

Half Marathon weekend coming up. I'm tapering this week -- 4 moderate miles yesterday, 4.4 moderate miles today, 5 easy miles tomorrow, and a 5-mile tempo run on Thursday. I may do a very easy 2 miles on Friday just to keep loose -- but I may not.

Run well, y'all,

18 August 2008

Now I Know Why

One of the ladies who works in our office sent me a list of 21 interesting facts about the human body. This one caught my attention:
You use 200 muscles to take one step.
If your stride rate while running is the (supposed) optimal 90 strides per minutes (180 steps), then you take 10800 steps in a 60 minute run and use a cumulative total of 2,160,000 muscles (200 muscles, 10800 times). No wonder I hurt after running a 10K!

Here's the full list of 21 facts. I haven't checked the veracity of any of them, simply passing on something interesting -- that's how urban legends get started:

The human body is a machine that is full of wonder. This collection of human body facts will leave you wondering why in the heck we were designed the way we were.

1.. Scientists say the higher your I.Q. The more you dream.
2.. The largest cell in the human body is the female egg.
3.. The smallest is the male sperm.
4.. You use 200 muscles to take one step.
5.. The average woman is 5 inches shorter than the average man.
6.. Your big toes have two bones each while the rest have three.
7.. A pair of human feet contain 250,000 sweat glands.
8.. A full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball..
9.. The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades.
10.. The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Brit annica.
11.. It takes the food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.
12.. The average human dream lasts 2-3 seconds.
13.. Men without hair on their chests are more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver than men with hair.
14... At the moment of conception, you spent about half an hour as a single cell.
15.. There is about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
16.. Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.
17.. The enamel in your teeth is the hardest substance in your body.
18.. Your teeth start developing (in your gums) 6 months before you are born.
19.. When you are looking at someone you love, your pupils dilate, they do the same when you are looking at someone you hate.
20.. Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people.
21.. Your thumb is the same length as your nose.
22.. At this very moment I know full well you are putting this last fact to the test ... now remove your thumb from your nose and pass this on to the friends you think might be interested in comparing their thumbs to their noses as well.

You did it -- I KNOW you did !!!!!

Run well, y'all,

16 August 2008

Last Long Before Half (and Move a Million Miles)

Move A Million Miles to support Ryan Hall in his quest for Olympic Marathon Gold in Beijing
Today was the last longish run before the Patrick Henry Half Marathon next weekend. It wasn't too bad -- 8.2 miles at 8:22 mpm. The weather has been better the last few days and is predicted to be just as moderate for the next week. I wouldn't mind a 65° temperature at start time on Saturday. :)

Also, at some point in the last week, the Move a Million Miles for Ryan Hall project passed the 1 million mile mark. As of 8:35 this morning, 3258 people had recorded 1,398,833 miles (433 of those were mine).

Ryan Hall and Michael Phelps were topics of discussion on our run this morning.

If you didn't see Phelps' 7th gold medal 100 m butterfly race last night, you missed one dramatic finish! [Washington Post article or NBC's video -- if you can watch the video, the reactions of Phelps' mother of the man in front of her are priceless] The commentators called it a fingernail finish -- .01 seconds separated Phelps from Cavic. I went to bed right after that but learned, after my run this morning, that Serbia had disputed the ruling. But, the officials watched their very high definition video and ruled that Phelps had won. Amazingly, Phelps was in 7th place when he turned at the halfway point. Frankly, it did seem impossible that Phelps had won because Cavic had his arms stretched to the wall while Phelps' arms were still moving forward above the water. But, Cavic 'coasted' in while Phelps took a final half-stroke and that push was the difference.

Do you think Ryan Hall will win the marathon next Saturday? That was the question we started our run with this morning. I am a big Ryan Hall fan both for his incredible running and for his genuine faith in Christ. I would love to see him win, but I'm predicting a bronze medal for him in this Olympics. (Maybe I'll get to eat my words!) I think he has a real shot at gold in 2012 but I think the Kenyans will take gold and silver in 2008. Having lived in Kenya for 18.5 years, I'll be almost as happy about that outcome as I will be if Hall wins. Who do you think will win the men's marathon?

Women's Marathon: Saturday, 16 August, 7:30 pm EDT, NBC
Men's Marathon: Saturday, 23 August, 7:30 pm EDT, NBC

Run well, y'all,

15 August 2008

Want to Live a Long Life? Run.

Now here's the kind of news that makes me happy! Read the whole article here.

Here are some key (read "interesting to me") findings from a Reuters' news article reporting a study published on Monday by Stanford University in California. All participants were 50 or older (I can relate):
... middle-aged members of a runner's club were half as likely to die over a 20-year period as people who did not run ... At [After] 19 years, 15 percent of runners had died compared with 34 percent of controls

Running reduced the risk not only of heart disease, but of cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

... runners exercised as much as 200 minutes a week, compared to 20 minutes for the non-runners.

... the runners groups continued to accumulate more minutes per week of vigorous activity of all kinds.

... people cannot use the risk of injury as an excuse not to run -- the runners had fewer injuries of all kinds, including to their knees.

So, get out there and run like your life depends on it -- well, actually, it does. I'm going out in the morning for 8 miles toward a healthier life.

Update: Saturday, 16 August, 8:21 pm

Dean Karnazes commented on this in his blog, Dean's Blog, on 12 August.

Run well, y'all,

13 August 2008

Crazy Walk

Now this would be a challenging run -- actually, it looks like a challenging walk!

Run well, y'all,

10 August 2008

8 on the 8th Report -- Greenville, SC

Short report. We traveled out of state to celebrate our son's wedding with our extended families. They got married in Cape Town, S Africa in early March and most of our family were not able to attend. So, our family and friends mostly live in the eastern half of the US, so we did one "reception" in South Carolina on Saturday. Her family is in Washington state so they fly to Seattle on Tuesday and will have the west coast reception next Saturday. Lots of fun -- got to spend some time with people who we hadn't seen for 4 years.

Anyway, all of that necessitated an adjustment of my training schedule for the half marathon in 2 weeks. I ran 12 miles on Friday morning. The hills in Greenville, SC are much worse that the ones I run in Richmond, VA. Still, it was a good run.

For the 8 on the 8th race, I opted to use the average of miles 2-12 to calculate my 8 mile time since I forgot to mark my time for miles 2-9 (my first mile of a training run is always slow so that I can warm up). With that caveat (and with the assumption that our wonderful, understanding race director will allow my calculations) and reminding myself that this race was 8 miles out of a total of 12 (thus, a bit slower than normal), here's my result: 8 miles @ 8:31 mpm = 1 hour, 8 minutes, 9.9 seconds

Nancy, the race was well organized but I must say the 5:30 AM starting time was a little early and there weren't a lot of spectators out. Having a banana and a Gu (Chocolate w/caffeine) before my start and being able to pick up 22 oz of Gatorade Freeze and a package of Shot Bloks as I walked to the starting line was wonderful. Then, my support team was in place at the end with about a quart of ice water. So, you really did outdo yourself with the organization. Thanks.

Run well, y'all,