Courage of your lungs
The End

Marathon recap:

After a successful carbo load on Saturday night (spaghetti and meatballs…yummo), I actually managed to get some sleep.  I woke up around 5:30 on Sunday morning, applied vaseline to the feet and other, uh, vulnerable areas, donned my special-made marathon running shirt, put on fleece pants and fleece sweatshirt, winter hat and gloves, and sprinted to the car.  It was around 30 degrees at 6:00 in the morning as I drove to drop a car in St. Paul and shuttle to the starting line in Minneapolis.  To think that much of the summer I endeavored to run really early to avoid the heat, and I still sweated like a sprinkler.  Not so this day. 

I frigidly waited in line for the shuttlebus at the Kelly Inn in St. Paul, and then around 6:15 boarded the bus and headed to Minneapolis.  I sat next to an older gentleman and asked if he was running the 10-mile race or the full marathon.  He kind of tsked me and said “full marathon.”  I later learned he has run 40 marathons in his life, including the last 20 Twin Cities marathons.  I asked if he had any advice for a first timer.  He said don’t start too fast, and don’t get caught in the port-a-potty line.  Wise man, this.  Like talking to Yoda.  Run fast you don’t.  Go poop you will.

Anyway, got off the bus at the Metrodome and waited in the concourse inside the Dome to keep warm.  There was a lot of nervous energy inside, so I just sat on the ground, closed my eyes, and tried to conserve, conserve, conserve.  Around 7:45 I left the warmth of the concourse, reluctantly took off my fleece, put it in my sweatbag (which was to be transported to the finish line), and headed for Corral 2 on 6th Street, ready to rock.  The sun was up, the temperature warmed, and the wind had settled down.  It was a beautiful morning, summer yellow giving way to autumn gold.  Around 7:58, I closed my eyes and wordlessly spoke to my mother, asking her for strength and courage to finish.  At 8:00 precisely the gun went off, and the elite runners in Corral 1 crossed the starting line.  Approximately 5 minutes later, I crossed the starting line.  And we’re off.

The first couple miles headed west through downtown, past the Walker Art Center, and then over to Lake of the Isles.  Leaving downtown I saw my favorite sign of the day…”This parade sucks.”  Isn’t that awesome?  I also got my first cheers of the day - my special shirt had the University of Minnesota “M” logo, with the word “Courage” underneath.  So I was serenaded with “Go Gophers” as I neared Lake of the Isles.  The highlight was seeing Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and former Minnesota Viking, Alan Page as he played his tuba around Mile 3.

Off to the lakes in South Minneapolis, first (as I mentioned earlier) Lake of the Isles, then to Lake Calhoun, and finally to Lake Harriet.  I was struck as the race began by the never-ending line of people along the route, and how exhilirating it was as the racecourse narrowed and only a few runners across could fit between the supporters.  It is estimated that 300,000 people line the racecourse.  Not sure if that is accurate, but they were out in droves.  Lots of music, lots of parties.  Awesome.  The other part that was a great surprise to me was the beauty of the course as we circled around the lakes.  Being a St. Paul boy, provincial to a fault, I had never seen much of the trails around Lake Calhoun or Lake Harriet, but they were magnificent in full fall bloom.  Finally, around mile 8, I said good bye to the lakes and hello to Minnehaha Creek.

The Creek is another beautiful setting, treelined with huge oaks and maples, bordered by nice houses.  Nearing 10 miles in, I did an system check.  Everything was holding up.  Legs felt good, toenails remained affixed, lungs were strong.  I decided it had warmed sufficiently to take off my winter hat, which had taken a turn onto the intersection of Wetville Road and Nasty Lane.  Kept my ears warm, though.  On the left side of the parkway, standing on a chair, was the first sighting of my wife, who had biked over to cheer me on.  I was so excited, ran over, gave her a kiss and told her I was doing great.  Newly enthused, after another mile or so, I turned south on Cedar Avenue, then headed around the south end of Lake Nokomis where runners crossed over mile 13.1.  Half way home.  Right around that point, I heard a driving beat get louder and louder, and then experienced a very cool thing:  There was a sound system set up around someone’s house, blaring House of Pain’s “Jump Around” at full volume.  I saw runners and fans all jumping and dancing together, so, as I neared the music zone, I jumped around.  So fun.  I would have loved to stick around, but St. Paul awaits!

Another Anne sighting at mile 14, where she grabbed my stinko hat (bless her heart), and then I headed to the river for the next stretch.  Now, East and West River Parkway was where I did most of my training, so this was home territory.  Body was still holding up as I ran under the Lake Street bridge (another Anne sighting!) and neared the Franklin Avenue bridge, finally crossing over to the east side of the Mississippi after 19 miles.  7 to go.

I had made some mid race adjustments.  I was now walking through water stops, saving energy and making sure I didn’t spill Powerade all over myself.  I can’t drink and run.  It’s one or the other.  I saw Anne for the 4th time at mile 20, along with my kids, Ellie and Sam, and my sister in law Carolyn.  Hugs and high-fives all around.  Awesome.  My body, surprisingly, felt strong as I trudged uphill from the river to Cretin Avenue, and then a quick left onto Summit Avenue. 4.5 miles to go.

At this point, my body was showing signs of wearing down.  My feet were very sore and my legs were stiffening.  But I was still running, still felt under control.  The first part of the Summit stretch is a gradual uphill, but I stuck to my strategy of walking through water stops, which now came every mile, and, once it seemed likely I would finish without a major blowout, I calculated my remaining pace and distance and realized my unofficial goal of 4:30 was within reach, if I just stayed at my current pace.  However, after a few high-fives with friends and family, when I finally reached the end of Summit and looked down to the State Capitol, finish line in sight and about a half mile to go, I realized I needed to step on the gas to break 4:30.  So I finally “unleashed the dragon” (shoutout to my friend and dragonmaster Doug Kleemeier) and ran as fast as I could down towards the finish.  Folks, it wasn’t THAT fast.  But the fans were cheering “Go Gophers!  Go Courage!  You can do it!”  And, choking back tears, I crossed the finish line.  4:29.42.  I did it.

Never in my life have I felt so supported as I did on Sunday.  It was an amazing feeling.  After getting my medal, and some chocolate milk, chicken broth, two bottles of water, a banana, and potato chips, I found Anne, who biked down to see me at the finish.  Gave her a hug and a kiss - what a blessing to have her following me around, offering encouragement and her wonderful smile.  My favorite smile.  Finally, at that point, as my body cooled down and the winds picked up, my legs stiffened as if to say “okay, asshole, we did our part, so get us some relief.  Now.”  Oh boy…those legs were barking.  The walk up the hill to my car was a long-un.  Two women, fellow marathon finishers, were walking as slowly as I was, so I jokingly challenged them to a race.  They said “you first.”  We laughed.  We were fried.

In the car and, after a long journey to leave the parking lot with all the marathon traffic, I finally made it home.  My kids made me a Epsom Salt bath, and after a soak we had some friends over to celebrate my accomplishment.  It was really fun to see friends and family, and really great to receive lots of hugs and well wishes.  After a great day, I collapsed into bed at 8:10, legs sore but heart full.

Monday was way different.  I stayed up until 8:40. 

And so this blog ends, around 6 months after it began, with the same wonderful quote from Jesse Owens -

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes, your support of my fundraising, and for taking this journey with me.  I wish you all health and happiness.  And courage.

One week to go…

What started in late March ends next week.  750 miles of running.  Two pairs of Ghosts.  One jar of vaseline for proactive blister protection on my feet.  Two dead big toenails.  Approximately 14 packets of goo.  Two half marathons, one 20 mile race.  And 25 blog posts…my marathon recap will be number 26.  How’s that for planning!

My last longish run - an eight miler - went off without a hitch yesterday on a glorius fall morning along the Mississippi River.  The leaves are close to peak colors, the morning temperature was perfect.  I don’t know if this is technically Indian Summer, but 80 degrees on September 29 can’t be all that normal.  Twin Cities Marathon fever was in the air - I passed three different groups of runners, all talking about running the marathon next week.  Pace times, personal goals, anticipated hills.

For most of the summer, the marathon was an abstract notion, outside my grasp…one, it was in OCTOBER, which seemed like it would never come as we enjoyed one of the hottest summers ever.  Two, I have never run a marathon, so the concept of running 26 miles (Twenty six?  Ugh.) seemed unreal.  Well, unreal or not, it’s coming.  Like a freight train.

On yesterday’s run, I sported my specially designed marathon shirt.  Maroon in color, with the University of Minnesota “M” logo and the word “Courage” on the front and the name of the Center for Lung Science and Health on the back.  Many thanks to my friends at Links Print Resources for helping with the shirts.  Now you know what to look out for if you come cheer on the runners next Sunday.

Forecast - 7 days out, so subject to change - is for a high temperature of 57 degrees, warming from the 30’s, with little chance of rain.  That sounds pretty good to me. 

My last blog post will be my marathon recap.  Hopefully with a happy ending.     

For those of you interested in making a gift in honor of my marathon, you can give online at www.mmf.umn.edu/giveto/murphy.  Although this will lead you to the general Minnesota Medical Foundation donation page for the Lung Center, all gifts given through this link will be tracked as part of my fundraising effort, helping towards my goal of raising $10,000.  I know many of you have already made a gift in my honor.  I can’t thank you enough.  Be well.

And then there was one…

This summer of running has been a summer of firsts for yours truly.  I had participated in only two half marathons before this year (one in 2010 and one in 2011), but I ran two of them 6 weeks apart in May and June.  Then, as marathon training kicked in, I completed never-before covered distances.  14 miles…16 miles…18 miles.  And now, after yesterday, 20 miles.  Twenty.  Hells bells.

The Bear Water Run consists of two laps around White Bear Lake.  My friend David Moore gave me a ride up to White Bear, and we arrived around 7:20 for an 8:00 start.  A cold breeze was blowing off the lake, but it was a beautiful day to run.  I pinned on my running number (#440 in your program, #1 in your heart!), made a last minute pit stop at the port-a-potties, and then got in line to get started.

About 1 mile into the race, a woman was holding her side, in pretty obvious distress, walking against the grain to the side of the race course.  I saw that her bib number was - 439.  Uh oh…is there some numeric ash borer epidemic swweping through the runners?  What happend to #438?  Am I next to go down?

Luckily, no…and I hope #439, wherever she is, has fully recovered.  Now this race had a 10 mile division and a 20 mile division.  As I finished the lap, there were signs for the 10-milers to veer left to enjoy their snacks and adulation, where the 20-milers were told to veer right and go once more into the breech.  As it happens, I was with quite a few 10-milers at the time, and I was the only one veering right.  As I ran the next few miles, I had one racer in front of me, barely in eyesight, and no one behind me.  What have I done?  Did I take a wrong turn?  Is this racer in front of me some random jogger?  Did I slip through some weird wormhole?  Luckily, the sign for mile 14 and the water stop volunteers helped me realize I was on track.

Slowly but surely, I neared the end.  I hit the 18 mile mark, still feeling relatively strong, as I once again entered undiscovered country.  One last water stop (one water, one gatorade, please), and I trotted on.  Finally, for the second time that morning, I entered the White Bear Beach from the northeast, and this time, I got to veer left for my own snacks and adulation, but not before getting a high-five from my wife - on our wedding anniversary, no less - and an awesome “Go Daddy Go” sign from my daughter. 

I did it.  3 hours, 28 minutes.  And I felt like, if I needed to, I could have gone another 6 miles.  But I was glad I didn’t need to.  Now, the taper begins.  I’ve run my long runs, and for the next three weeks I rest the machine for the marathon.  My legs are strong and my spirits are high.  Bring it on. 

For those of you interested in making a gift in honor of my marathon, you can give online at www.mmf.umn.edu/giveto/murphy.  Although this will lead you to the general Minnesota Medical Foundation donation page for the Lung Center, all gifts given through this link will be tracked as part of my fundraising effort, helping towards my goal of raising $10,000.  I know many of you have already made a gift in my honor.  I can’t thank you enough.  Be well.

There will be Hal to pay

Open letter to Hal Higdon…

Dear Hal.

Greetings from one of your many, many devoted followers.  I hope you are well.  I have been doggedly following your training guide for my first marathon.  Hard to believe it is only 4 weeks away!  I have hit every run, every distance, for the past 12 weeks.  4 runs a week.  I’ve been way more nice than naughty.

Hal, I have a confession.  This is supposed to be my heaviest mileage week of training.  40 miles total - 5 miles yesterday, 10 miles today, 5 miles tomorrow, and 20 on Saturday.  We’ll, I only ran 6 today.  I blew off the 10.  I broke from the training schedule.  I have my reasons, but I won’t bore you with justifications, Hal.  We’re beyond that, you and I.  Just know that I will follow your last few weeks to a ‘T’, and I will run my marathon with wings blown aloft by the wind of you, Hal Higdon. 

Your pal,

Murph

My 20 mile race is in 3 days - two laps around White Bear Lake - and then I begin a three week taper until Race Day, October 7.  I will give you a recap after my 20 miler.  Wish me luck.   

For those of you interested in making a gift in honor of my marathon, you can give online at www.mmf.umn.edu/giveto/murphy.  Although this will lead you to the general Minnesota Medical Foundation donation page for the Lung Center, all gifts given through this link will be tracked as part of my fundraising effort, helping towards my goal of raising $10,000.  I know many of you have already made a gift in my honor.  I can’t thank you enough.  Be well.

Run…Rinse…Repeat

Neil Young has some great lines in his song “World on a String” - “Although the answer is not unknown/I’m searchin’, searchin’, and how I’ve grown.”  I have thought of those lines often lately, for two reasons.  One, my band, HamDog, is working that song into our rotation, and I am singing it with my good friend Andy Droel.  He be low, I be high. 

Reason number 2 however, more to the point of this blog, is that thousands upon thousands of people have trained for a marathon.  It is not, at all, an uncommon thing to do.  The answer is not unknown.  And yet, for me, it has been a very unique journey.  It has been among the most difficult and all-encompassing things I have taken on.  Day after day, run after run, 4-5 times a week since March.  Lots of blisters.  Lots of sweat.  Lots of time to think.  Last Friday I ran 18 miles.  Next weekend I’m doing 20.  And of course, 5 weeks from Sunday, all this effort culminates with the Twin Cities marathon.

One surprising thing I have found is the meditative aspect of running.  Some nights I go to bed really excited for the next morning’s run to start.  I can’t wait to listen to my breathing and my heartbeat, to smell the dewey grass, to see the rowboats on the Mississippi River as the sun rises. 

Other mornings (like THIS morning, for example), I wake up, check my iPhone to see the radar for my 9-miler, and then play Angry Birds Seasons for 30 minutes before I reluctantly start off.

I am happy running on behalf of the U of M Center for Lung Science and Health, and honored that this experience will raise some awareness and some financial support for the Center.  But I am also happy that I have only 19 training runs left.  Yes I am counting.  And only 4 more runs over 10 miles.  Yes, I’m counting those as well. 

This season of running has reinforced my strong belief, and I hope you all take this to heart, that it is NEVER too late to make a change in your life, to push yourself in a new direction, to try something you never thought you would try.  Honestly, 3 years ago I had never, ever run more than 1 mile, and that was way back in high school gym class.  Now, here I am, on a reconstructed and arthritic ankle (thanks to a freak basketball injury in college) and with 1 1/2 lungs, writing about brands of energy gels, different running shoes, and ripping off 30-40 miles per week in training.  Run.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Life is one strange trip.

My next mountain to climb - a 20 (!) mile race in White Bear Lake - is in 10 days.  I will give you a full report. 

For those of you interested in making a gift in honor of my marathon, you can give online at www.mmf.umn.edu/giveto/murphy.  Although this will lead you to the general Minnesota Medical Foundation donation page for the Lung Center, all gifts given through this link will be tracked as part of my fundraising effort, helping towards my goal of raising $10,000.  I know many of you have already made a gift in my honor.  I can’t thank you enough.  Be well.

Solitary Man

Summer is dwindling, school is imminent for young Murphys, change is in the air.  The only constant is my manic devotion to following the all-powerful Hal Higdon’s guide to finishing my first marathon.  I have conquered a 15-mile and a 16-mile run.  Upcoming long runs include a 18-miler this weekend, a 20-miler in 2 1/2 weeks, and, of course, it-which-shall-not-be-named on October 7.

It has been surprising to me that I have stopped listening to music on my runs, even the long ones.  I have discovered an ability to zone out for longish stretches, and when I “come to”, I am 1/2 mile farther along, or 5 minutes farther along, than I realized.  Kind of a nice skill, to zone out like that.  However, these runs sans music also lend themselves for a tremendous amount of self-reflection, and on recent runs, I have tackled this question…have I turned into a prick?

Here is the data…I have logged well over 600 miles during my training since April.  I have run every mile - EVERY mile - by myself.  No running buddies.  Friends have casually asked to run with me, and I have casually accepted, from time to time, but I have not followed up with anyone to actually join me.  Ever.  Now, why is that?  At first I thought maybe I was self conscious about my running skills, be it my speed (or lack thereof) or my technique (or lack thereof).  But I decided that wasn’t it…for every person I pass when I run, 10 people pass me, but it doesn’t really bother me.  Well, maybe really old people who pass bother me, a little bit.

I then thought on a more philosophic level, maybe I decided this is my mountain to climb, and I need to climb it myself, if only to prove to myself that I can do it.  A path that I need to walk alone.  Maybe?  Nah…I’m not that deep.

So, what?  Why this insistence in going it alone?  I never run with anyone.  I have become less likely to acknowledge people running the opposite direction.  Not even the stoic, two fingers up, small head nod, Minnesotan greeting.  I’m like a cold machine, Ivan Drago with blisters.  Will people, at the end of my running odyssey, come up and congratulate me, but say “hey, great job on the marathon, but, I gotta tell you, I’m kind of glad it’s over, because you, Murphy, were kind of a huge tool.”  Hmmmm.

Today, I found my answer, I think…on this morning’s 9-miler, I was running across the Franklin Avenue bridge, heading west.  As I neared the bridge, I could see the University of Minnesota hospital.  The place Mom was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.  The place she received her life-saving transplant.  The place she, without fail, arrived at every Monday before and after her transplant for lung support group.  The place she entered October 10, 2005, complaining of a little cold and some shortness of breath.  And the place where, on October 20, 2005, she peacefully passed away, surrounded by her loving family, with her son holding her hand.

So, in reality, I have never run on my own.  Mom has been with me.  Every step of the way.  My guardian angel.  And my friends and well wishers are all with me.  Always.  But, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to smile more…probably good advice for us all, no?

For those of you interested in making a gift in honor of my marathon, you can give online at www.mmf.umn.edu/giveto/murphy.  All gifts given through this link will be tracked as part of my fundraising effort.  I know many of you have already made a gift in my honor.  I can’t thank you enough.  Be well.

The Undiscovered Country

During the course of my running here in 2012 (and in previous years, for that matter), I have traveled many different routes, during many different times of day, fighting many different physical difficulties.  There has been one constant, however.  None of my runs have ever gone beyond 13.1 miles.  Until last Friday.

Now, this run came the morning after a performance by HamDog, a musical group of which I am a proud member.  We played at Gluek’s bar in downtown Minneapolis, to a somewhat subdued crowd until a merry band of millenials stumbled in to see what all the fuss was about and proceeded to whoop up a dancing storm.  Much fun was had, but I didn’t crawl into bed until around 12:30.  A short, short 5 1/2 hours later, it was time to rise up, vaseline up the footsies (growing nastier by the mile, thank you very much), and tackle a 15 mile run.  15 miles.  Boldly going where I have never gone before.

It was a beautiful morning…cool, with the feeling of fall.  I set off without music, choosing to say hello to all I passed while my senses fully took in all the beauty around me.  The steam coming off the river as I passed over the Franklin Avenue bridge.  The rising sun struggling to shine through the thick tree cover on West River Road.  The smell of coffee and hash browns coming from the Longfellow Grill as I passed Lake Street…twice. 

I felt the usual fatigue set in as I hit miles 11 and 12.  Unfortunately, I was not one mile from glory…I was on mile from having to run two more miles.

The GPS on my watch told the story…13.2 miles…13.3 miles.  I was in uncharted territory.  How would my body react…would my head explode?  Would my legs collapse?  Would I spontaneously combust?  What?

I drew nearer to the end, 14.7 miles, and I knew I had only one more obstacle…climbing up the hill from the river back to my house.  And then I’d be done.  But that hill never looked steeper.

Conserving every ounce of energy, I trod along a worn path in the grass, just off the paved pedestrian walkway…I figured the trodden path would save me around 20 feet of running before I crossed River Road for my uphill climb.  Now this path was full of very small, rocky outcroppings, easily missed by either hopping over them or stepping around them.  Sadly, this was too much to ask for my shuffling clown feet, which I could no longer lift off the ground.  The sounds was like a skipping record player as I shuffled along.  I tripped over one of those small rocks.  And.  I.  Fell.

There is a story about the first time Bob Dylan met Johnny Cash in the 1960’s.  Apparently Dylan looked up at the Man in Black and thought Johnny looked like a big tree.  I tell that story because after my fateful trip I, too, resembled a big tree.  Why?  Once I tripped, it felt as if it took about 30 seconds to hit the ground.  Like a big redwood.  TIMBER! 

On the ground, it took me a few seconds to check the integrity of the hull.  No sharp pains.  No major scrapes (other than a couple of raspberries on my right forearm).  Dirt turning to sweaty mud on my neck and my legs, but major injury averted.

A good samaritan came over to see if I was okay.  After I told him I was, he said ”the same thing happened to me a few minutes ago”.  I assumed he was just trying to make me feel better, until he showed me his running shirt, which was filthier than mine.  That gesture strenghthened me.  I’m not alone in my clumsiness…I had a dirt brother!  I got up, dusted myself off, and ran home.  15 miles complete, with a slight detour.

Coming weeks have even longer runs to conquer - 16, 18, 20 miles.  And, of course, the big one on October 7.  But I will continue to push through the limits of what I thought I could do - to explore more undiscovered country.  I hope this blog inspires someone to do the same.   

Hey…Where’s my medal?

According to the teachings of my personal marathon sherpa, Hal Higdon, the time for wimpy weekend runs have ceased.  Now the rubber hits the road.  Now we separate the wheat from the chaff.  Now we see the cream rise to the top.  Now it’s on like Donkey Kong.  Now, I have to run a lot.  A.  Lot.   

This past Saturday, Hal called on me to run 13.1 miles.  A half marathon.  Now, I have run that distance four times previously.  Each time, on a route lined with people, with volunteers handing out gatorade and bananas, and finishing with a balloon-framed finish line.  Then, as I gather my breath, I lower my head to collect my finisher’s medal.  And that’s that.  This past Saturday morning, I started off on my fifth 13.1 miler.  No crowds.  No volunteers.  I did have a banana, but I ate it before I started, and I had to peel it myself. 

It was a beautiful morning, and I started off at a pretty good pace.  As the miles went by, my pace…slowed…down.  I am trying to teach myself to slow my pace down, to make the 25th and 26th mile of a marathon not so painful (yeah,good luck with that, partner).  Less hare, more tortoise.  Don’t unleash the dragon.  Keep that mutha tied up.

Finally, after slightly more than two hours, I returned to my house.  No applause.  No medal.  I did get a icy lemonade from my wife, along with an air kiss (I was pretty sweaty and nasty).  And then, after a cold shower, I did some dishes and read to my son.  Not a bad way to spend a morning.

In two weeks, training runs grow beyond 13.1 miles…longer than I have ever gone before.  Undiscovered country.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gentle reminder - if you want to explore ways of supporting the Center for Lung Science and Health, that direct link is http://www.lung.umn.edu/contribute/home.html.

Running on Empty

On I go, heading towards October 7 and the Twin Cities Marathon.  Each weekend, since the end of March, has included a long run (anywhere from 6-13 miles) for me.  Some have fallen on Saturday and some on Sunday, but I haven’t missed one yet.  I must admit the level of dedication has been a little surprising - and kind of impressive, no? - but I must also admit that my dedication for these long weekend runs hasn’t been tested very much.  It helps to have a willing partner at home, and I have one in spades.  Shout out to my wife, Anne…one of the 5,294,795 things I love about her is her encouragement and unwavering support through this odyssey.

But I digress.  Let me pose a question….what do you do if, theoretically, you are on a long weekend with 6 other buddies, full of golf and fishing, beer and corn chips, all sleeping in the same room, dozing to a cacophony of sounds and a smorgasboard of smells.  Where do you fit in the 12 mile run you need to complete per your Hal Higdon marathon training schedule?  That was the large dilemma I faced as I headed up to northern Minnesota for a boondoggle with my high school pals.

The best candidate for my run was Saturday morning, before leaving to meet a fishing guide on Lake Vermillion.  Before I tell you about Saturday, let me describe Friday…36 holes of golf, a beer or two (or more), sleep at a reasonable hour but multiple wakeups to go to the bathroom thanks to my hyper-hydration regime.  So, with the alarm hitting 5:45, I vaseline’d up the feet (and assorted other, uh, VULNERABLE sites on the body), turned up the iPod, set the GPS on my watch, and headed out, leaving behind a dark, dank room 209 at the Giants Ridge Lodge.

It was a nice morning, cool yet humid, and the sun hadn’t risen above the tree line yet.  It was a beautiful setting for a run, through the tall trees.  I have been slowing a touch on my longer runs (averaging around a 10:00 mile) to ensure that my body doesn’t explode or spontaneously combust on marathon day…that would be kind of a downer. 

The first three miles on this proposed 12-miles went great, running down the hill from the Lodge toward the Mesabi Trail (a paved path good for bikers and runners alike).  And then came mile 4.

(Sigh) Mile 4, where my body said “no no no…I will not support you like I have in the past.  I will not allow you, at 40 years old, to drink and eat like a 22 year old and then, after some restless sleep, get up for a long run.  Basically, you’re screwed.”  And screwed I was.  Knees sore, ankle sore, chest heaving, sweat pouring.  Twelve miles seemed beyond my grasp.  Actually, running any further seemed beyond my grasp.  I ran and walked for two more miles (for a total of 5 to that point) when I turned around and began to head for the lodge.  Ten miles is still pretty good, right?  Hal will understand, right?

The final five miles included a variety of running, walking and a small amount of staggering.  Finally, the Lodge was once again in sight.  Once the run/walk was complete, I returned to our room to find nothing, and no one, had moved much for two hours.  I retrieved my bag of post-race goodies (cookies, apple, banana, ibuprofen, Gatorade) and sat on the bed as people all around me slowly came to life.  Some buddies stared at me with wonder (“You woke up WHEN?  And did WHAT?).  When it was my turn, I headed for the shower to rinse off in cold water, washing away the sins of Friday and the redemptive sweat of Saturday morn.  My trial has been completed; my dedication had been tested, and I passed.

The rest of the day saw me groan with every ingress and egress in and out of a chair.  And the weekend runs only get longer and longer from here.  13 miles…16 miles….20 miles.  Hopefully my prep for these races will improve from the Biwabik, Minnesota “have a beer and a smile” training regimen.  The marathon is getting closer, but still feels far away, just outside my grasp.  But on I go.  13 miler this weekend, and 10 more weeks until the big day.

Gentle reminder - if you want to explore ways of supporting the Center for Lung Science and Health, that direct link is http://www.lung.umn.edu/contribute/home.html.

All Hail Hal Higdon!

I am a relative newby to running.  Up until three years ago, I had never run more than one mile in my entire life.  Then, in the winter of 2009, in an attempt to get into a shape that wasn’t quite so round in nature, I took some classes with a personal trainer at the Lifetime Fitness gym near our house.  My trainer’s name was Andrea…she was very nice, but also carried a glint in her eye that made me afraid to not do EXACTLY as she said.  Anyway, part of my training regimen was running…one and a half miles at first, then two miles, and then three.  My wife, Anne, knew I was running a bit and suggested we run the Twin Cities 10-mile race together.  Much to her surprise, I accepted.

At the time, running 10 miles without my entire body exploding seemed as far away as walking on the moon.  I needed direction.  I needed a running sherpa.  And I found what I was looking for on the internet…a guru by the name of Hal Higdon.

Hal has developed many different training schedules for different levels of runners and for races of many different lengths - 5K to multiple marathons.  Anyway, I followed his guide for a novice 10-miler to a T and had a great run with Anne.  The next year (Summer of 2010), I signed up for my first half marathon, and Hal helped me conquer that distance as well. 

Well, as you know, now I’m training for my first marathon, and again I turned to Hal.  But, rather than simply taking his guide as gospel, I found myself questioning ol’ Hal.  I mean, who the hell is this guy?  What makes him the end-all and beat-all of running trainers?  For all I knew, Hal could have been some roly-poly Gen X’r living in his Grandma’s basement and creating training schedules under the avatar of some distinguished, silver haired, trim gentleman, laughing his ass off.

Well, after some additional internet research, I am now comfortable Hal is, indeed, a real person.  And not only that, he must be smart, because he is a graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, launching pad for some of the finest minds of our age.  Like that of your humble author.

Anyway, I am now in week 7 of an 18 week training schedule, calling for running 4 days a week.  My long run this weekend is a 10-miler, and then subsequent weekends bring longer and longer runs.  I need you more than ever, Hal.  Take me home.

I found some other information on the internet, much more sobering…the Center for Disease Control released a report that stated, as of 2008, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) replaced stroke as the 3rd-leading cause of death in the United States.  There is no known cure for COPD, and it is woefully underdiagnosed (The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates the number of people who have COPD is on the rise — more than 12 million are currently diagnosed with it, but it is estimated that another 12 million may have COPD but not realize it.)  All the more reason to cheer on the efforts of the University of Minnesota Center for Lung Science and Health, helping people to breath easier.

Gentle reminder - if you want to explore ways of supporting the Center for Lung Science and Health, that direct link is http://www.lung.umn.edu/contribute/home.html.