2015 in Review

Monthly Summary

January

  • Started work on a solo project at work that pretty much gave me lots of experience building something from end to end.
  • Working from home 2/3rds of the time to work out any kinks for a possible move to Florida.
  • Thank yous going out to people who helped fund Emily's medical mission to Kenya.

February

  • Emily is gone for 10 days on a trip to Africa.
  • I have to dress the kids by myself exactly one day of her absence.
  • ...because the kids were off school due to snow the entire following week.

March

  • The small solo project goes into "User Experience auditing" mode and I get help actually meeting the demands.
  • The kids were off school due to snow (for entire week?) again.

April

  • Painting, final prep for selling the house.
  • Spent a week with mostly no cell signal in St George Island

May

  • Broke news to parents officially that we were moving.
  • Sold the house then listed it. (At least that was the order the offer versus official listing happened in.)

June

  • Packed up the house, closed on the house, vacated the house, and flew off for the Philippines in a span of 5 days (with our 12th wedding anniversary in between.)
  • Last times accompanying at various churches in Louisville.
  • Went to the Daluyon resort on the island of Palawan in The Philippines.

July

  • Celebrated my grandmother's 100th birthday with the rest of the family in The Philippines.
  • Realized the madness that is flying to/from and traveling in a foreign country with very picky eaters as kids.
  • Flew back to the US, tried to adjust to jetlag in 2 days, drove our belongings not packed in a trailer to Florida in two cars (one with a broken A/C).
  • Scrambled to find a rental house that accepted a big dog in the school district we wanted, signed a lease, moved in (in a week from arriving in Florida)
  • Officially began my 100% remote work life.

August

  • Sister-in-law brought our dogs down.
  • Kids started at their new school.
  • I wilted on runs in the Florida sun and heat.
  • Transferred our licenses and cars to Florida officially.
  • Went to beaches

September

  • Emily waited around on callbacks from job applications.
  • Joined in with the Cathedral music program.
  • Went to beaches

October

  • Actually saw a decent amount of the area on foot--running.
  • Not so much with the beaches.
  • Emily started a new job!
  • Olivia made All County Chorus

November

  • Failed at Monkey (intentionally bailed at 11.5 miles, may have missed my bail out point a couple times.)
  • Drove back to Louisville, had good times, but way more hectic than expected.

December

  • Apparently the A/C can mostly not run in December in Florida.
  • Went back to Louisville for Christmas.

Media

Music

  • Quite a bit of Hamilton the Musical.
  • Surprisingly less music listened to at home office than on site. Strange.

Books

  • 72 Books. Getting into Hamilton the Musical led me Chernow's biography of Hamilton. Excellent book, very dense read.
  • Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke and the Space Odyssey series were also exceptional (though I was a bit disappointed in 3001).
  • In following the post-apocalyptic/YA-ish series reads of past years, I got into the Extinction Point series by Paul Antony Jones
  • ...less impressive was the Defiance trilogy (CJ Redwine), probably due to the believability of an alien race doing astounding things versus ordinary humans accomplishing futuristic feats in a world thrown back to the Dark Ages.

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.

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:

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...)

 

Reality

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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10,000 miles running.

Running Log after 10,000th mile run

千里之行﹐始於足下。
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step -- Lao Zi

It's been a long time coming.

65 days worth of running time coming.

Over 5 years since I ran my first continuous mile.

35 of those initial miles had no running at all--those in April and early May of 2006.

Many of those initial miles with "running" in them were still at a slower pace than the average daily walker walks--I recall being unable to keep up with a 15 minute mile back then.

I'm about 55 pounds from my peak weight, and maybe about 5-10 pounds heavier than my lightest weight.

My 5k times have went from 33:44 on my 30th birthday to 19:50 5 weeks ago.

My marathon times have went from ok (4:34:06) to great (3:39:45) to disappointing (4:42:33) to not-as-great-as-I'd-hoped (3:32:20) to DNF to I'm-so-glad-to-be-close-to-4-hours-again.  3 extended injury periods (4-8 weeks) during marathon training. One canceled marathon, one failed marathon, 8 marathon finishes are under my belt.

I've discovered that the soft, i.e., flat, marathon is often a lie, especially if it's Chicago. Flat is often harder than rolling hills, and Chicago weather is unpredictable. It seems that cool weather in October is not a guarantee in Chicago--a strange concept to someone living 3-4 hours to the south.

I've discovered that you can't have any time expectations in a marathon of over 20,000 people once you're behind half of them.

I've discovered that running at the beach at sea level is often hot, humid, and rough, even at 5:30am, but you're still running at the beach.

I've discovered that a marathon race experience is often dependent on the nuttiness of the race director.

I've discovered, in my training, that I'm not as patient as I'd like myself to believe.  That's where the injury often comes in.

I've learned that half-mile repetitions at my 5k pace will more safely improve my 5k time than half-mile repetitions at a pace that my body is unfamiliar with. Making the extraordinary commonplace automatically moves the bar on extraordinary.

Finally, I've discovered that running slow for 2 1/2 hours isn't any easier than running the same distance at a faster pace, and a 4:42 marathon can hurt far more than a 3:39 marathon.

Best of luck to those just now discovering running. You're guaranteed to have days in which you won't want to continue. I still do. I had days this past week while on vacation where I laid in bed trying to rationalize sleeping in during my first week of marathon training, but I somehow managed to find a way to motivate myself. Regret lasts forever, and the reward of sleeping in lasts a couple of hours.

On New Boston Qualifying Standards, Fairness, and Determination

Warning: The title was initially "On Qualifying, Fairness, and Determination". I'm not sure if I'm sticking with that topic.  It just echoed the general reaction from runners in response to the new qualifying standards and procedures for the Boston Marathon announced 10 days ago. That's part of my inspiration for this post. I threw in the linkbait-ish "New Boston ... Standards" bit just so the post title is clear without the context of the blog as a whole.

Waaaaa...

Obviously, I'm late to the pity party/pile-on about Boston.  I probably whined 3-5 times on Twitter, so I'm not completely indifferent in how the B.A.A. has ruined my life and all (self-deprecating sarcasm, people...).  However, to be honest, for 31 years of my life, Boston qualifying was as unattainable as the Olympic trials is for the average marathon enthusiast.  I didn't even run for 30 of those years. It was only after breaking 3:40 in my second marathon that I needed a bigger dream. Boston, for my running ability, pretty much fit that mold.

Besides, I'm still too busy being annoyed with our own local half-marathon's changes to care about what's changed with Boston.  That, and jobs, kids, life, and actually finding the time to run.

My new standard

I don't really see that I have a new standard.  I set out with a goal of 3:20:59 [or 3:15:59 for the next couple of years] before I turn 40.  Those new standards are 3:15:00 and 3:10:00 respectively.  There is no sense sweating 5 minutes and 59 seconds when I have at least 12 minutes of gap to close before then.

Qualifying is one thing. Gaining an entry through qualification is more a matter of luck, unless meeting the standard wasn't a major challenge for you in the first place. The guaranteed entries will go to those who beat their respective standards by more than 5, 10, or 20 minutes.  The leftovers will go to those who just barely beat their time.  Given that the women's standard is 30 minutes slower than the men's, those margins are smaller percentages of the overall time for women than men.  This is not to mention the argument that the women's world record is only 9.2% slower than the men's, yet the fastest women's standard is 16.2% slower than the men's.

However, in terms of fairness and tough standards, Boston has, in the past, required a 2:50 for under 40 men, 3:10 for all other men, and 3:20 for women.

Determination

I can imagine that many people will abandon their pursuit of qualifying for Boston over this. I don't really see how a single organization managed to redefine the term "self-improvement" in the dictionary. Do you cease professional development because another layer of management was inserted between you and the CEO? Never mind. Don't answer that.

Challenge

All of this rambling aside, life changes, marathon entry changes, and course changes have made me reevaluate what a challenge is for me--at least this year.  It's not about lining up with 10000-50000 of my closest friends, although I'll probably do that in New York this year. It's not about hitting 10 PRs--I'm hoping for two.

This year is about running consistently, every week, every month.  I'm working on my 3rd 50-mile week in a row.  I'd like to build up a streak of at least 20 of those.  I'm also working on my second 200 mile month this year. It'd be quite an accomplishment for there to be 12 of those this year. With jobs and family, keeping running going this year is my Boston qualifying.  With a year of consistent running, maybe I can build a successful training problem on top of it late this year or early next year.

2400 miles later

This has been the best disappointing year ever!  200 miles per month averaged, despite barely creeping near 200 miles a couple of times the last few months.

A Running History

In 2006, I started running.  By virtue of every race being my first at that distance, I set 4 personal records [5km, 15km, half-marathon, 4km].  I ran my first race, a 5k race, in 33:44.  That's a pace of 10:52 per mile, which is a slower pace than my worst marathon finish out of 8 marathons.

In 2007, I set 9 PRs.  10 if you count the 9.2 mile leg that I ran for a fundraising relay race.  Among those were:

  • 2 - 4 miler PRs
  • 2 - 5k PRs
  • 1 - 10k PR
  • 1 - 10 miler PR
  • 2 - half marathon PRs
  • 1 - marathon PR

In 2008, I started the year on fire and feeling invincible.  I ran a PR in every race [6 total] through my second marathon in May.  I beat my first marathon time by almost 55 minutes.  I followed up that marathon performance with my worst marathon performance ever, 8 minutes slower than my first marathon time.  Angry about my performance, I destructively ran hard, started getting injured, and proceeded to insure a prolonged injury by trying to bounce back too hard after a few days off.  I recovered from my injury and hobbled through a marathon, and went on to run a 5k PR a couple of weeks later.

In 2009, I quickly injured myself out of being able to run any races until late spring [a 5k].  From there, I slowly built up mileage, peaking out at 70 and 80 miles per week toward a November and December marathon.  I PRed in November and had a fairly strong marathon in December.

2010

This year, I had the usual trifecta of PRs in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running -- 5k, 10k, 10 miler.  Unfortunately, my 10 miler performance had me horribly disappointed.  I had mediocre and uninspired training for the next few weeks leading up to my spring marathon, with a stomach bug circulating in the house the week prior to the marathon.  I never got noticeably sick, but I didn't have the guts [literally] to finish the marathon.

Since my spring marathon attempt was little more than a 16 mile long run, I went straight back into marathon training, setting my sights on Chicago-10/10/10.  I ran a 5k race after a high mileage week [80 miles?] in early August, and broke down during the subsequent 60 mile weeks.  I took 3 weeks off with lots of stationary cycling, and managed to get back into the swing of training 5 weeks before the marathon.  Chicago was a disaster.

Again, I tentatively trained through the marathon.  This time the Flying Monkey marathon was up.  Not exactly the "redemption opportunity" that one would hope for after crashing and burning on a flat marathon course.  Nonetheless, I ran 22 minutes faster than my previous Flying Monkey marathon and 17 minutes faster than my Chicago time.  While 4:08 is not exactly a good marathon outing for me, I was still very happy with some level of redemption for the year.

With Monkey over, I was a measly 140 miles or so from 2400 miles for the year with 5 weeks to go.  35 miles per week was going to be easy, even with travel, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Then a nasty little sinus infection struck the day after Thanksgiving.  I've felt bad before and managed to go out and trudge through 15-20 miles.  I did a 22 miler with a sinus infection two weeks before my first marathon.  It felt bad, but not much worse than sitting around feeling miserable.

This time, I've had two weekends where I just didn't care to start running a long run, much less go the full distance.  I've had a fairly persistent cough for 5 weeks.  The doctor last weekend had me x-rayed for pneumonia [two opinions later, both came back negative].  The cough is mostly on its last legs now, but I've had to take things far easier than I can stand.  Nonetheless, 2400 miles are in the books.  150 miles more than last year.

2251.2 miles for the year and other accomplishments #running #twit2fit

Accomplishments for the year:

  • 10 more 60 mile weeks than I've run in my entire life.
  • My first 70 mile week, and 5 more 70+ mile weeks.
  • My first 80 mile week.
  • My first 2000+ mile year.
  • My first 300+ mile month.
  • Two 5k PRs under 21 minutes.
  • Sub 4 hour marathons in two new states.
  • A new marathon PR - 3:32:20.

Considering I took 8 weeks off for injury and scrapped 4 races in the spring as a result, I had a very good year.

Suspend doubt #twit2fit #running

Zig Ziglar reminded me of the "fake it 'til you make it" mentality.  Suspend doubt, and trust that the pieces will fall into place later, and that you have the ability to connect the dots. I found this mentality critical when trying to understand calculus.   No, I never had a real problem understanding calculus.  I did, however, have moments where my understanding lapsed.  I noticed some fellow students getting stuck at that understanding gap, yet I would instead accept things as they were stated and allow the gaps in understanding to fill themselves in.

My biggest challenges to date have been because of doubt and not lack of ability. Writer's block nearly prevented me from getting my master's degree.  I always had doubts that what I was looking at was worthwhile.  I had fits and starts with many research ideas because I couldn't believe in myself or the idea.  I finished my thesis, because time constraints forced me to suspend the doubts.

The same goes for my running.  Until age 29, I had a few moments where I attempted to become a runner.  I failed miserably.  I'd get about a week or so into my efforts and give up, because I did not see any progress.  Unfortunately, if you look for progress, it won't happen.

Then something happened.  3 months before my 30th birthday, I started walking 3-5 miles per day, every day.  Without realizing it, I was jogging a little more each time and walking a little less:

  • By June, I had managed to run my first consecutive mile in my entire life.
  • By my 30th birthday, I ran my first 5k (33:44 - 10:52/mile).
  • By that December, I ran my first half-marathon (2:08:23 - 9:49/mile).
  • By the follow November, I ran my first marathon (4:34:06 - 10:28/mile).
  • In six more months, I ran my fastest marathon in 3:39:45 - 8:24/mile.  I began this blog shortly before that race, and let other people know about it after the race.  I believe the only way I can continue to improve is get beyond goals that are reasonable in my mind, as I've already passed all of those goals, anyway.

View all races.

I believe the first thing that happens when doubt creeps in is that we lose focus, and the doubt gives us an "easy out".  Don't take it.  Maintain focus.  Dispel those doubts.

[I Will] Because I "can't"--qualifying for Boston #twit2fit

We all do things because we're supposed to be able to, because we were "born to do it."

I know a lot of runners who were accomplished cross-country runners in high school who have failed in their attempts to qualify for the Boston marathon. Some of them fell out of shape over the college and post-college years. Some of them never made the full commitment to train for a marathon versus shorter races. Some of them just hit upon misfortune during their attempts.

I am not such a runner. My high school fitness test "mile of running" was north of 13 minutes (a six hour marathon time limit is a 13'44" pace). In fact, I never *ran* a consecutive mile until 2006. That mile is still one of the hardest I've run in my life.

After training for my first 5k for 8 weeks, I ran my first 5k at 206 pounds in 33:44--a 10'52" pace. With that sort of 5k time, McMillan running predicts a 5:30 marathon.

Today, I'm at 168 pounds, and my fastest marathon time was 15 months ago in 3:39 and change. Since then, my speed has improved quite a bit, but my endurance has suffered through injuries resulting from trying to push too far, too fast. The race predictors put my current 20:59 5k time as capable of running a 3:20-3:30 marathon (with proper training.)

Until the day I turn 35, qualifying for Boston requires a finish time of 3:10:59 or faster. Up until 40, I still have to beat 3:15:59. My current training plan puts me at 3:17.

To put it simply, I'm not capable of qualifying for Boston. There it is. I'm not good enough.

That's why I'm training to qualify, by 40. It's because I wasn't born to do it. What good is life if you meet everyone's expectations all the time, anyway?