Race Predictor

I’ve worn my new watch for a whopping total of two runs since I received it the other day and I found an interesting item under the menu of the computer that I am now wearing, a race predictor. Here’s the photo of what I am currently calling my “inherent ability”:

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I have a little more than a year to improve on those numbers with some concentrated and specific marathon training in my attempt to turn back the clock 15 years.

The fascinating thing to me about those numbers is that they were derived from my pace, heart rate, and running cadence, all of which the watch constantly measures. In the past I used to have to run time trials or races, competing with all the anxiety that those things bring with them (like a person who has test-taking anxiety). Then, after those time trials, I would come back to my computer and plug my numbers into a spreadsheet to come up with a predicted time at each distance. But I had to put in the work to justify running at those predicted paces.

I am under no illusion that I could run a 21-minute 5k right now. In fact I have a 5k race coming up next weekend (my first time trial) that I am not really ready for, and if anyone asks me what my expected time is I am going to say something like, “I hope to be done with this race before my lungs know what hit them.”

However, I do have a pretty good aerobic base built up over the past year since I finally conquered my chronic achilles tendonitis, so we shall see what we shall see. I have no anxiety about the race, but nonetheless I do want the best time I can achieve.

The Fancy Watch Community

I took my running watch off my arm last autumn. Then I received a FitBit for a present last December and my competitive spirits were reignited by way of “connecting” to my friends who also have(had) a FitBit.

I remembered this morning one of the reasons I took the old fancy Garmin GPS Heart Rate Monitor off my arm; the little copper connections that help the watch sync to the lovely web-based data collector were working when they wanted to instead of every time I connected the watch. I have cleaned them and done everything in my power to make them better again short of sending the thing back to Garmin for repair. So today I bought a new fancy running watch. Here is the snapshot:

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I’m looking forward to using this watch. My current Garmin, which is obsolete by today’s standards, is still sitting in my southern-exposure window trying to find the satellites, which is why I am typing this right now instead of being out on the road getting my miles in. The old watch does not have much in the way of battery life either.

The drama in this whole scenario is not that I am going back and forth between watches. It is that the new and old connections that I have made due to various devices all of my friends are wearing will cause confusion and inevitable questions. My sister left her FitBit and is now on Apple iWatch to log whatever she is doing; her FitBit status has shown as “inactive” since she got the iWatch. My old Garmin Connect buddies will think that I somehow rose from the ashes when the new watch arrives. My current FitBit pals, some of whom have already left because they upgraded to something else, will assume correctly that I have given up one watch for another.

When I show up at the next 5k or group social run (which is equally about beer as much as it is about running) a friend is certain to ask, “When did you get that?” as they point to the watch, or perhaps say something like, “I thought maybe you died. Your status shows as inactive.” Oh I’m active, baby, and very much alive, thank you very much.

In the end, I still “connect” with runners, walkers, and others the old-fashioned way, by enjoying runs, walks, or doing something else together instead of, or along with, the connection on the internet.

Happy trails.

FitBit 100,000

Jeff and Jack, beer in hand walking the later miles

Jeff and Jack, beer in hand, walking the later miles

I repeated this quote to myself several times during the 22.5 hours it took to accomplish the goal:

It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.
Emil Zatopek

FitBit100000 evidence . fitbit100kOlympianSandal

It was suitable to me to learn when we finished that the ultimate badge in the FitBit application is the “olympian sandal.” I had no idea going into this challenge that that would be the reward, if you can call it that, but it is fitting because I thought of Emil Zatopek a lot during my travels yesterday. He is far and away my favorite olympic athlete of all time, and I only wish I had lived in his day so that I could have seen him run. One more quote and then the story:

Men, today we die a little.
– Emil Zatopek, at the start of the Olympic Marathon, 1952

Zatopek had never run the marathon when he toed the line for that race, and he set an olympic record in route to winning. While I am very experienced in the art of sleep deprivation to pursue endurance challenges, I did not know what to expect with the effort to log 100,000 FitBit steps in a 24 hour period. Now I know.

The route to 100,000 FitBit steps. 50.89 miles!

The route to 100,000 FitBit steps. 50.89 miles!

The FitBit resets for a new day at midnight so that was our starting time. My friend Jeff and I each worked a full day on Friday. Without communicating our pre-race plans to each other, we found out when we met at Jeff’s house that we both tried to nap, unsuccessfully, in the evening leading up to midnight. Perhaps I got an hour and half worth of sleep, and then I showered at 10:30pm. I was at Jeff’s house sitting on the couch across from Jeff and his wife Charlene as we awaited the starting gun.

I knew going into this event that the toughest part of staying awake is the 02:00am to 04:00am hours. People who keep normal hours are in bed and there are very few cars on the road. In those early hours we endured the excitement and adrenaline rush from finally starting, a few swarms of mosquitos that came to life and attacked in the middle of the night, and the scare of trying to keep voluntary muscles from becoming involuntary as I desperately needed a bathroom at 04:00am. Once we got past those things, the boredom and monotony of the task started to set in.

We made our way south through neighborhoods along the coast of Old Clearwater Bay, and then we stumbled into the Clearwater Marina to see the fishing fleet come to life in preparation for their day. It was after having some coffee and breakfast at a diner in the marina that we felt rejuvenated and ready to keep going. We were approximately 22 miles into our journey as we made our way further south along the beach communities with the heat of the day beginning to bear down on us.

As we were making our way over the Bellair Beach Causeway we stopped to watch a pod of dolphins chasing smaller fish just north of the bridge. We took our time at this break in our action to take in the scenery. Our eyes panned down to see a kayaker fishing just about 30 yards away from the dolphins and directly underneath us at our position on the bridge. Then Jeff says, just as I noticed what he was about to ask, “Is that guy naked?” I responded as I threw my head back up and down the road that we still had to travel, “Okay, I’ve seen enough. Let’s walk.”

The next part of the day was the worst from a combined standpoint of heat, feeling like the 100k mark was not possible at this time of year, and feet problems beginning to set in, and it was only 10:00am. The next few roads offered no shade so we started traveling underneath the awnings of strip malls instead of staying on the sidewalk. I changed my socks and felt good again, and then we made our way to a gas station to look for our first beer at 10:30am.

Beer? Are you crazy? Perhaps, but we needed a laugh and we could not pass up the deal. The station had a special of 2-for-1 25oz cans of Miller Lite, Rolling Rock and a few other brands, for the price of $2.50. If you’re keeping score, that’s 50 ounces of beer for $2.50. What a deal. We emptied the remaining water from our water pouches to make room for the beer and our mood instantly improved after the first few sips from the nipple of the water pouch.

Jeff and I started guessing the ages of people who would pass us as we walked back north on the Pinellas Trail. We were about to cross a street when I noticed a very old man turning onto the trail from that street. We stopped him and chatted for a few minutes. His name is Charlie Lasley and he is going to be 95 in December. I told him that I want to live to be greater than 100 years old and he had some simple advice that he said I needed to follow in order to get there. “Five things,” he said, “1) No red meat, or at least confine it to having a burger once a month, but no cheese, 2) Eat fresh, raw vegetables, 3) Keep moving, i.e. – walk or run often 4) Stay lean and flexible, perhaps Yoga, and 5) Enjoy sex as often as you like.” Charlie told me that he was a retired cardiologist, so it’s “Dr. Charlie” and I think I should follow his advice. Dr. Charlie was walking 6 miles on this day, following his own advice as he is a mere five and half years away from the century mark.

Dr. Charlie Pasley (retired) and Jack on the Pinellas Trail.

Dr. Charlie Lasley (retired) and Jack on the Pinellas Trail.

As we got closer to town we started communicating with the support staff, our friends, who knew what we were up against and planned to spend their evening walking with us for the later miles. Charlene picked us up off the trail and took us to lunch, then dropped us back onto the trail after lunch (where we left) and we were right back at it. More friends joined us when we arrived into our usual stomping grounds, Dunedin, FL, and we enjoyed the benefit of Charlene running back and forth to convenience stores and burger joints (Sorry, Dr. Charlie) to keep us nourished as we kept moving toward the 100,000 step goal.

Jeff, Jack & Charlene mug for the camera as shadows get long

Jeff, Jack & Charlene on the road as shadows get long

We had a few challenges as the day drew to a close. Though I considered it a mistake to go back to the barn (Jeff & Charlene’s house) while we still had an unfinished goal, it worked out for the best as Jeff needed to puncture four blisters on his feet and we soaked our legs in their pool before logging the last 15,000 steps. We both developed a rash near our ankles that Charlene said looked like some capillaries had burst, though as I write this mine has subsided and so has the itching that accompanied the rash. We crossed the 100k milestone at approximately 10:30pm and celebrated with, you guessed it, a beer and a soak in the pool.

I consumed 3,755 calories on the day, 1,152 of which was beer.
101,490 steps taken.
50.89 miles walked, with some running occasionally to loosen up the legs.

Lessons:
1) It helps to do something outrageous like this with someone else. You can talk yourself out of a lot of things, especially when the shit hits the fan (blisters), but when you have someone else relying on you or supporting you, the sense of obligation is one of the keys to keeping you moving.
2) Never, ever, ever go back to the barn until the job is done. Even when someone is with you, getting that horse back out of the barn (even if that horse is you) is very hard to do.
3) As my buddy Brian says, “Proclaim it and then do it.” Telling people what you are going to do, no matter how outrageous the adventure, gives you another sense of obligation that you can draw on to keep you moving. I imagined having to tell my friends, “Well, it didn’t go so well. We had to bail out and fell short of the goal.” I did not want to have that conversation.
4) Have awesome friends like we have, perhaps in addition to a willing spouse or partner. Jeff’s wife, Charlene, was very encouraging and never once mentioned what a pain in the ass this must have been for her, even when I woke her up crashing into her bathroom at 04:00am. Our other friends, Bill, Susan and Laura made us feel like heroes for something as meaningless as walking for 22.5 hours. We all laughed and enjoyed ourselves afterward.

Next up for me and everyone involved in yesterday’s craziness is to prepare for our next marathon. More good times, more goals to accomplish, and more laughs with friends.

The Fourth Bag of Stuff

When I moved to Florida from Ohio in 1990 I rented an apartment from a landlord who was a raging alcoholic. He would start drinking vodka when he woke up each day and not stop until he passed out sometime each evening, and I could hear him through my jalousie windows screaming at whatever classified for news that day coming at him from CNN; that was the raging part. He lived in one of the four units in the building and lived off the rent from the other three. His name was Richard. I say was because I am pretty certain he is dead now, but I think of a line that some other famous drunk said so many years ago:

If I knew I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.

Richard used to say that we are all carrying around four bags of stuff with us everywhere we go. Not literally, of course, but in the sense that when we let go of one thing in our lives we have to pick up something else to take its place, like a hobby, for instance.

My main hobby is running. I have other interests like baseball, photography, writing, brewing my own beer…

…and suddenly I realize that perhaps I am carrying a little more than my allotted four things.

I like to test the limits of my body to see what I can make it deliver in the way of athletic pursuits. I shared in these pages recently the outrageous goal of getting past 250,000 steps in one week with my FitBit. I have another FitBit challenge coming up next month with a friend of mine. We’re going to see how many steps we can take during the 24-hour day, midnight to midnight. I will share the results in these pages.

After that, I will start preparing for my tenth marathon. The last time I ran a marathon I finished with my personal best time of 3:07:59. It was 14 years ago and I am that much older and that much weaker, though still moving better than most my age. Heck, I still move better than most at any age. I have not run another marathon in that span of time because of the various bags of stuff that I have been carrying.

I have decided that it is time to tackle the marathon again, and I have chosen the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio; the place of one of my greatest failures at the distance (the Inaugural Flying Pig in 1999) and the place of my greatest accomplishment at the distance (2002). I am going back in 2017, and because I am older now I think the preparation should and will take that long.

I will keep you posted as I carry this particular fourth bag for an entire year.

A FitBit for the Ultra-Competitive

Instead of saying that I am ultra-competitive, perhaps the better description of what I am about to show you is an endurance athlete with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I recently took off my running watch, something I wrote about back in October. I was running and walking as free as the breeze through the trees without a care in the world for how far I went or how fast I traveled. That all changed on December 26th when, by strapping on the FitBit, I went back to my old ways of caring… competitively caring.

I connected to my running buddies through the app and immediately starting comparing myself to them to see how I was doing. I was faring pretty well, moving more than most through my athletic endeavors and social run clubs and basically enjoying myself. Then one day I grew tired of one particular friend holding the lead each week, “Jethro” in this picture:

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So I sought out to catch him. I had completed more than 77,000 steps in three days in the process of trying to catch Jethro. I caught up to Jethro’s rolling 7-day total on the third day. Then I presented myself with a new challenge, to see how many steps I could do in the next 7-day period. That’s right, I bought myself a part-time job as a walker for no pay. I won my self-induced challenge with no prize for winning.

Next up was to see how many steps I could complete in one day. Here is the screenshot:

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I have since taken the FitBit off my arm so that I can have peace of mind once again, and to be the care-free runner and walker I vowed to be back in October. However, Jethro and I are planning to break personal records sometime this summer.

Sunday Morning Run

I just got back from my run. I decided to go without my running watch, the fancy one that I have been wearing for more than 15 years that shows me time, heart rate, gps of the route, etc. I gave it up. I decided that I will no longer wear a watch while running. It felt great.

About a mile into my run I was about to cross paths with a heavy set woman running the other way. I held out my left hand for a high-five and I said, “We’re moving the body and they’re not.” She slapped on my hand as we passed each other and then she said, “Damn right!”

I said the same thing to three other runners this morning and received similar responses. It was a good morning, and I hope that I made those runners’ Sunday just a little brighter.

The Showerhead

Originally written May 1998:

The heat and humidity were intense and there were large black storm clouds chasing me home. Thunderstorms were rolling off the ocean toward the Fort Lauderdale shoreline, keeping with their summer schedule of afternoon appearances. I was trying to convince myself the pain from this run would be over shortly. I was very uncomfortable on this hot day.

I was almost home when I saw a man watering his lawn with what looked like a shower head mounted on the end of a garden hose. I asked if he wouldn’t mind giving an overheated runner some relief. He obliged so I bent over hoping only to get a good dousing to my head. He started with my feet and quickly worked upward, and I was soaked from head to toe before I could redirect his efforts. I backed away from the spray but it was too late. I felt as if I had just been hit by the thunderstorm that was following me.

Relieved, I thanked him and waved as I ran away. He was beaming with pride that he could be of service with that massive shower head. My shoes had that squeak-squeak that reminds you of being a child squishing down a quiet hallway into school after getting caught in the rain. Water was splashing off me as I ran. I was so soaked I was leaving a trail of water.

Half mile up the road, a couple were leaving their house for what I guessed to be the daily ritual of walking off dinner. I had seen them before while coming home from previous workouts. As I squeak-squeaked by I could hear her say, “Wait a minute honey; those clouds must be getting closer. Look at that runner.” I smiled, and kept on splashing.