11 days from 40.

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It’s been almost 4 years since my last post on here. It looks like I have a draft from 2 1/2 years ago as well, but I have absolutely no idea what I was going to say on a topic that seems a world away at this point… It’s at least 600 miles away at this point, since moving from the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky to the suburbs of Pensacola, Florida.

I’m not sure if it’s my packrat nature or some form of self-torture that made me renew a site for the 3rd time since I stopped obsessing about running enough to write about it. Well… it’s been longer than that, with the exception of the car crash that made me pause (mentally and physically).

BQ? No… Baby.

My original “goal” as stated for the purposes of this blog was a “BQ by 40”, but I gave myself until I turned 41, just to soften the target a bit. At the time, that meant a time no slower than 3:20:59 at 40, 3:15:59 from 35-39, or 3:10:59 at the age that I was when I made the goal. In the meantime, the goalposts moved (back?) 5:59 per age group, so that, even at 40, my goal time was 3:15.

I was 3 months from 32 in May of 2008 when I decided “BQ by 40” was a solid goal to shoot for. I had just run my second marathon and improved from ~4:30 to ~3:39 on a diverted somewhat hilly course that ran 1/4 mile long. About six weeks after that, I blew up on the much hillier Hatfield-McCoy Marathon course and ran a 4:42, with my pregnant wife wondering if I had fallen off one of the mountain roads for the final 40 minutes or so.

6 weeks later, we had our second child, and within a few days, I had my first prolonged injury due to running. Some combination of being pressed for time and not getting enough sleep prevented me from staying healthy running. Oh, and maybe the 50+ miles per week. Or 60. I’m trying not to reference the times on the running log for everything here.

Having [mostly, temporarily] learned my lesson from the injury, I managed to gradually improve and built up to 80+ miles per week running in training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon the following fall. It was as close as I got to the BQ goal, turning in a 3:32:xx at the age of 33 in 2009. I could have probably paced it better and got in the 3:25 to 3:30 range, but I started out on pace for a 3:15, and completely neglected how much trouble was indicated by running a PR in the half-marathon distance as the front half of your marathon.

And BBQ. And Beer.

Running started out as a natural progression from walking long distances while pushing my daughter in a stroller. At some point, I couldn’t spend more time walking, so I started running to cover the same distance. I got healthier, and dropped from a peak of 230 pounds before the walking started to a bottom of about 158.

While my job wasn’t always great at the time, the work gym and neighborhood near the office were pretty good for running. As layoffs mounted and work became more and more like busywork, running with audiobooks was a good outlet for the stress of idleness. I’d occasionally run 9 miles during “lunch”.

Then I switched jobs, and while the neighborhood was still decent for running, I no longer had many coworkers that ran. The lack of a shower at work didn’t help either, despite having an office behind a door for the first time in… ever.

Meanwhile, eating habits changed… I started drinking higher calorie beers, which seem to have a direct correlation with weight gain currently. I can drop 10 pounds at my current activity level if I. Just. Don’t. Have. A. Beer. (for a week or two)

And Moving.

Since setting the BQ by 40 goal in 2008, we’ve had 4 different houses we’ve been responsible for, 6 different mailing addresses, lived more than a week in 7 different places, and moved from Kentucky to Florida. Moving alone knocks out a solid week of training if you don’t want your spouse to strangle you in your sleep.

In the midst of one of those moves, I was trying to drive into town via the backgrounds on a rainy morning and slammed into a tree, which has also put a damper on my resolve to “get the training in no matter what the cost.” Sometimes, the cost is really damn high.

BQ by 50?

Is it possible for me to pull off a 3:25 or 3:30? Maybe. Life situations change, and I might be in a position where running is a bigger or more consistent part of my life at some point in the future. I also ponder stopping, changing sports, using the time for other activities… I don’t know that Boston had an allure for me so much as just having a slightly crazy goal itself, anyway.

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One Month Out, “Normal” Still Seems Foreign

It’s been a month since I survived a car crash that demolished my car.

Since then, we’ve closed on our new home, bought a new car, and spent two days’ worth of effort moving in. Because of the second car payment, our finances are not as secure as I’d like them to be, but we’re capable of making it–even if the next 6 months will be stressful.

I’ve gotten back to running to some degree. The last two blips in the graph below represent my “return” the last two weeks, after 4 weeks off. Hardly compares to my normal weeks, or even my “even” weeks before.

Weekly running totals

After running 5.5 miles this week and moving things, I realized my ribs aren’t quite healed enough for physical activity. I had been able to quit taking ibuprofen, but I’m having to take it again due to the pain. Picking up anything over 20 pounds aggravates the pain.

I’m wallowing in a fair amount of self-pity, but, right now, I’m just hoping for a normal, relatively pain-free life–outside of running. Seeing my aunt in her final days of her battle with cancer when she has a brand new granddaughter and knowing that I survived the wreck puts things in perspective, but it doesn’t make the waiting and uncertainty of healing any better.

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Alternative Paths

Today could have went very differently.

  • I could have slept in after waking up in the middle of the night.
  • I could have driven the main roads instead of the winding back roads.
  • I could have driven the back road route that I knew much better instead of the slightly longer back road route.
  • I could have listened to the call to run 7 laps around the subdivision’s loop.
  • I could have let go of the artificial call to hit a certain goal mileage every single week.
  • I could have made time yesterday to stay on track with my goal mileage.

Today could have been a normal day, with no ER visit, no loss of the faithful car that I’ve had for 14 1/2 years, no facing 4-6 weeks off from running.

Instead, I woke up at 3:30am, and sat impatiently until 5am, when I went outside to leave for the gym.

At 5:35am… my car ran off the road and hit a tree.

My haste to be out the door before anyone was awake meant that my wife didn’t answer when I tried to call. Had I been injured to the point where time was crucial, I wouldn’t have survived. Four cars drove by that lonely stretch of road in the early morning between the time I quit calling my wife to dial 911 and the time when the police officer arrived on the scene.

My daughter, who normally drags her feet and daydreams during the morning routine became all business when my wife told her that they needed to get dressed quickly so that Mommy could go see Daddy who was in a wreck. She’s pretty skittish about anything that might be a threat to Daddy or any of the rest of the family. She’s just started to calm down after a year of fretting about every little lightning storm after she found out that a classmate’s dad was killed by lightning.

My son was blissfully unaware of what my crash meant. He thinks I just made my car “messy”. (Honestly, it always is.) I think of my coworker who died when his son was 2, and how my son might have a vague memory of me, but not really know me.

My wife often badgers me about time I spend doing this or that activity. Outside of things that involve money, my “other activities” are what I usually feel the most disagreement between us over. And yet, she is a conscience for me. Is it about me or the family? She keeps me as honest as one person can do for another.

While spending 40 hours per week doing “extracurricular” activities would likely always be an issue, the bigger issue that I must resolve is choosing the right path in context. Not all alternative paths have the same weight across different scenarios.

Lately, I’ve been so obsessed with not losing momentum with my running that I’ve failed to recognize context–we’re moving, my wife is working extra shifts, etc… In so doing, I have also now managed to lose momentum with my running.

I know that an accident like this morning’s could have happened at any time, for any reason. I also may be magically better in a couple of days. However, poor decision making has certainly not helped.

In the meantime, I have at least a few days to reflect a little more closely on what my priorities are. I’m not considering giving up running, or really even backing off of running, or other activities for that matter–but I do need to reconsider my willingness to knock their priority to the bottom at the appropriate times.

I don’t need to see if I can survive another wreck that makes a car look like this:

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Map of Marathon States Completed

  • Kentucky – 1 – KDF 2012
  • New York – 1 – NYC 2011
  • Tennessee – 3 – Flying Monkey 2008, 2010. Memphis 2009.
  • Illinois – 1 – Chicago 2010
  • Indiana – 1 – Indianapolis Monumental 2009.
  • West Virginia – 1 – Hatfield McCoy 2008
  • Ohio – 1 – Flying Pig 2008
  • North Carolina – 1 – OBX 2007
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The Curse of the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) Marathon

Those who know my running history have heard me talk about “the curse” of the KDF marathon.

The History

Despite finishing 9 marathons total, I’ve never finished a marathon in my home town.

My history:

  • 2009 DNS – Signed up for the KDF marathon in January. Got injured in late January and ran/walked about 1/10th as much in February and March as I did in January.  Never started the race.
  • 2010 DNF– My kids got a stomach virus the week before marathon week. I avoided the nastiness, but my stomach didn’t feel right the day or two before the marathon. During the marathon, I sat down on the side of the course at mile 11 with intestinal problems. After fighting to get over the last hill in Cherokee Park at mile 16, without the guts to do so, I saw a friend spectating around mile 17 and used his phone to call for pickup.
  • 2011 DNR– I didn’t sign up, but I helped another runner train for his first marathon. The week before the marathon, we ran 20 miles at a pace similar to my two fastest marathons. It was like KDF was taunting me.
  • 2012 – Signed up. My Garmin flew apart two weeks ago in Iroquois Park, at mile 7 of an intended 20 miler. Last Saturday, I stubbed my toe and it turned black and blue (no breakage upon X-ray, but still…)



No, I don’t really believe in the curse. I’ve taken the race for granted. I don’t take care of things like I would if I were more heavily invested in another race:

  • I know too many people near the course who I can hang out with if I quit.
  • I push things too hard, because all I have to risk is the registration fee…  not vacation time, travel fare, reservations.
  • *or* I don’t take training seriously because I haven’t spent $100s or $1000s.
  • The race will always be there next year.
  • There is no difficulty getting registered for the race.

The problem is, none of these factors have changed, and now I’m obsessing over a toe. Obviously, the only remedy for this “curse” is finishing.

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