Spring Fever (or how a runner survives winter)

Spring is slowly trying to return to Iowa. For some, it’s saying goodbye to all the snow and ice; to runners, it’s saying hello to outdoor runs. Oh how I missed my outdoor runs. So the other day, when I heard that the lunchtime high temperature would be around 30 degrees, I threw my compression pants, long-sleeved shirt, and hoodie in my gym bag with the hope of getting an outdoor run in at lunchtime.

As I walked into the company’s wellness center, I was greeted by the usual runners that I see almost daily. “Looks like you’re going to have to wait a bit, the treadmills are full” I was told as I started to open my gym bag. “That’s ok” I replied. “I won’t be needing one today”. I started to put on my compression pants.

You could see it in their eyes; the knowing that someone is running outdoors. “You’re going outdoors?” they asked. “Yep” was all I said with a smile. A couple of them looked at their running clothes, shorts and tank tops, like a child looks in his lunch bag and finds the worst sandwich imaginable. They wanted to go too, to get out and enjoy the fresh air, the feel of the ground, the sights, even the traffic. Yet they were going to plod along the treadmill one more time while I ventured outside.

I finished dressing and headed out the main lobby doors to street level. The wind was brisk, so I pulled up my hoodie, started my Garmin and took off. What a wonderful feeling! It’s not that you forget how good it feels to be off the treadmill or indoor track and be out in nature, but that first outside run of the season always feels like it’s the very first run I’ve ever done. The cold wind, the water on the street, the inclines, even the start and stop of street intersections made me smile.

I made my way towards Gray’s Lake, and heard people honking their horns and waving. Probably fellow runners I imagined, and knew that soon they would be out here as well. Some people run no matter the weather; snow, ice, rain, sleet . . . it doesn’t matter. They are true diehards and I admire them, but while I will run in the cold, the snow and ice are hazards I try to avoid. The Vibrams I wear don’t handle the snow and ice as well and with no way to strap on ice cleats, I tend to stay indoors during most of the winter. If the path around the lake is clear, I will run there but only if it’s pretty clear.

The run was a short one in distance, 5.7 miles, but it was large in boosting my excitement for the upcoming spring. I missed being outside, viewing nature and meeting fellow runners. This run helped me to see that the seasons were indeed changing, and that soon I would have the privilege of running outside any time I wanted to.

Before I knew it, I was back where I started. I went in, took a shower and went back to work. As I made my way to various floors, the runners from the gym stopped me and asked how the run went and how they planned to go outside tomorrow. Word must have travelled fast, because other runners would stop me, say they heard I ran outside, and then once they heard that I in fact did venture out for a run, started peppering me with questions. How was it? Was it cold? Are there ice patches, and where are they? These was the common thread of questions. It seemed everyone wanted off the treadmill as soon as possible.

This weekend’s weather is turning bad again, so tomorrow it’s back to the indoor track. But, spring is coming, I know it. I feel it. I’ve been outside, and it’s coming.

It’s going to be a wonderful running season!

Live happy, be healthy!


Looking To Be Humbled? Take Up Running!

Great story! Looking to be humbled? Try running.

Running On Healthy

IMG_5352 Someone I know recently told me that they would like to take up running.  They are athletic and can hold their own in just about any sport.  So when they told me this was something they would like to do they also had to shrug and admit that they were a bit uncertain of how they were going to handle it.

Running is way different than tennis or hockey or most other sports.  If you are new to running or even if you have been running for years but still struggle, it can be very humbling.  Heck, sometimes when I go to a new running group and try to keep up with runners who are pretty speedy, it is still very humbling.  Approaching running without much experience can be very daunting.

Some people may come to running with a resolution to lose weight or get back in shape.  It seems like a great idea and they see those lean runners sail by…

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100 Day Challenge – Day 50

Just a quick update: I’m on day 50 of the 100 Day Challenge. The challenge is to go 100 days where you run four days a week, never go more than three days without running, and never miss a Monday. Never missing a Monday is by far the hardest part of the challenge. So far I’ve racked up 115 miles, and most of that is while on a treadmill. I cannot wait for warmer weather and longer, outdoor runs.

Yesterday, I ran an 8 mile indoor track run with my dear friend Kara. We laughed and talked, and the eight miles flew by! But, it was while I was getting ready to leave that I realized on how truly blessed I am. It wasn’t that long ago that I had to fully concentrate on my running to get a quarter mile in. Now I chat and laugh and the miles fly by. I know training has a lot to do with it, but it’s a blessing to have dear friends, like-minded and determined, to help the miles speed by.

Today, it’s a spin class for charity, brunch, and then racquetball. Sounds to me like the start of a great Sunday!

Live happy, be healthy.


Live Healthy Challenge

Just a quick update. I’m still doing well on the 100 day challenge; haven’t missed a Monday, haven’t went more than three days without running, and I have run 4+ days a week! Closing in on the halfway point.

My work started a Live Healthy Challenge where you earn health savings account dollars by getting a physical (easy), completing a health assessment (even easier), and joining a team and logging an average of two hours of working out a week for ten weeks. So many people are complaining about the 2 hour workouts. I tried to explain that it doesn’t have to be exactly 2 hours each week; three one week and one the next is fine. It has to average two hours a week. A week and a half into the program someone asked me, “So how are you doing with the workouts?” I said, “I’m done.” The person asked, “You mean with this week, right?” I said, “No, with the whole program.” I had 20.5 hours at that time. I do a lot of walking at work, and work out at least once a day. I’ll continue the ten weeks for my team, but it’s a great feeling that while everybody else was complaining, I was asking “Where is the challenge?”

My friends and I are ramping up our indoor running in preparation for spring. We ran a 10k on the track today, and really could have went further. We should be good to go when the half marathons start coming up.

Live healthy, be happy.


A Time For Reflection

2013 is almost over, and while I’m already planning for events in 2014, I would like to take a moment to look back at what has transpired in 2013. It was an amazing year!

1. Des Moines running clubs quickly put together a solidarity 10k to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. I wanted to show my support, and in doing so I met someone who has become a dear friend and running partner. Kara didn’t have to talk to me that morning, but she did, and in doing so she has helped me become a better runner, a healthier eater, and a better person.

My friend and mentor Stephanie, who never ceases to amaze me, became more inspiring than ever! She got me into a running group that I initially did not get accepted to, she showed me how to stay positive no matter the circumstances, and how to use a foam roller! She took the time to train, encourage, teach, inspire, and more than anything else she made me believe in myself.

Truthfully though, if these two amazing people were not in my life, I doubt that the rest of my list would even exist. I say thank you, but words cannot express the gratitude and esteem that I have for both of you. I can only hope that I can pass along some of the love that you showed me on to others.

2. First half-marathon: I could not believe that six months after I told a friend that I could never run 13 miles, I ran my first half-marathon. I was training for my first Dam to Dam, but could not resist the chance to finish on the Drake University famed “Blue Oval.” I set a goal that if I finished under 2:30, I would start training for the IMT Des Moines Marathon. I finished in 2:15. More on that later.

3. Dam to Dam: This was my first 20k, and what a race to run! The fans cheering you on were everywhere, the bands playing alongside the road, the food and music afterward . . . it all was amazing! If you have never ran this one before, I recommend that you do! I could not believe the number of people out to cheer us on!

4. IMT Des Moines Marathon: I did it! Thanks to my friends Stephanie, Kara, Stacie, the iCan running group, and to everyone else who helped me along the way. It was a life changing experience to cross that finish line after 26.2 miles. It showed me that the only barriers I have are the one’s I set in my own mind. I did what I thought was impossible! Now we are looking at doing more. There is no stopping us now!

5. ICan Running Group: Thanks to the kindness of coach Loren, I was able to join along with this group to train for their first marathon. Coach only accepts a dozen people each year, and unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. But my friend Stephanie knew that I was running alone or with Kara to train for the race (Kara was training for the half) and asked coach Loren if we could run along. This one thing could be considered the “make or break” moment for my marathon run, because of the training I received on nutrition, stretching, running, recovery, and even tapering (I hate tapering, but I obliged, and I’m glad I did). I hope that I can help next year with the new runners while training for my second (or third…who knows what next year will bring).

The list is really so long that it could go on forever. The 75 mile bike rides, the 2 hour spin classes, the sprint triathlon, the 5 and 10k’s, the swimming . . . it has been a blast and a blur. 15 running events (including the sprint Tri) and countless hours with friends old and new. I have met and made friends with some of the most positive, helpful, kind, and happy people who could ever want to meet. It’s hard to be down when so many wonderful people are there encouraging and inspiring you. You know who you are, and I thank each and every one of you.

Somewhere in the midst of all these events and training sessions, I turned 50. For the first time, I looked forward to my birthday because I planned and ran a half marathon that day, and I became the youngest in my age division. I like looking at it that way. My wife, upon coming home from work on my birthday, asked what I did. I said “I ran a half marathon for a half century.” She said “I can’t wait to see what you do when you turn one-hundred.” A century run??

Remember, anything’s possible.

Happy New Year!

Live healthy, be happy.


The Kindness of Strangers

Just a quick update. I went on a 22.5 mile bike ride today, and was involved in a wreck in the first three miles. Other than a scarred elbow and shoulder, and damage to the bike (more like battle scars) I’m ok. My wife has some scratches and some pretty sore ribs. While it was a little scary and a little embarrassing, it was the kindness of strangers that made the entire trip worthwhile.

Immediately after we crashed, we had a couple of bicyclists that stopped and offered assistance. They helped us find everything that flew around during the crash, and even offered the use of their cell phones to call for help. After we assured them that we were ok, they wished us luck and rode off with a smile.

We started again, and I discovered that my bike wasn’t shifting properly. I stopped again to see what was the problem when another bicyclist approached us. He jokingly said “It’s never a good sign when a bike is upside down.” He then assisted me in adjusting the gear cables, and I was good to go.

Without the help of these three people, my ride would have been cut extremely short. I do not know who these people are, but I owe them a huge thank you for stopping what they were doing and helping me. It seems that bicyclists are that way: they help one another and make sure that their fellow bicyclists are ok. I hope that someday if the time comes, I will be able to help someone else in need.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived this way all the time? That we would always help one another, no matter what? I think that’s the goal we should all be aiming for.

So, at the end of the day, I ran 8 miles and rode 22.5 miles. I also felt the kindness of strangers and the unity of friends. All told, even with the skin loss, it was a positive day.

Live healthy, be happy.


Running With Friends

Happy Labor Day! I got to start off this holiday just the way I wanted to, with a run. Actually, after posting it on Facebook, a few friends posted that they wanted to run as well. So we met up at Greenbelt Park at 7am and hit the trail. We got an 8 mile run in, and I was surprised that even though the pace was a little slower than when I run alone, I enjoyed this run more and the time flew by.

There are several reasons that I’m starting to enjoy group runs. I mostly train on my own, whether it’s biking or running or spinning. I usually listen to music or trainers and tune the world out for awhile. But I am starting to appreciate more and more the camaraderie and bonds that you build while running with friends. There is a uniqueness there that is hard to explain, but you know that it’s there and you learn to enjoy having it with you as you run.

Today, I was joined by three friends; Shelli, Stacie, and Kara. We have all ran together at events, and Kara and I have ran together in a group run once before. So after warming up and making a plan, we were off. We laughed about a lot of things, and I noticed I didn’t need my music to get me up the hill or to the finish. We talked about fitness, about life, and how we all enjoy it more since we started working out. We helped each other when it was needed and cheered each other on as we finished. Stacie was even kind enough to almost knock me off the trail when a deer suddenly jumped up and ran away. She will say it was because the deer scared her; I think she was protecting me because I knew the trail and she was lost. 😉

I find that I have an amazing group of friends, and that by the connection of one shared interest, we have formed wonderful friendships. Runners, and people who work out regularly, are generally happier people. They seem more at peace with themselves and with the world. The trail was full of hellos and good mornings as we crossed paths with other runners, walkers, bikers, and even one person who was cross country skiing on rollerblades!

Now that the run is over, it’s time to air up the tires and get the bike out for a ride. I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day holiday. Please make the most of it, get out if you can and enjoy life. It’s far too precious to let it slip away.

Live healthy, be happy!


Distance Running and Lessons Learned

Today (Saturday August 31) I got out early and went for a run. I have been working late at work this week and so my weekly runs were reduced to the one run on the treadmill. Since I want to go to the Hy Vee Triathlon this Sunday, it pushed my long run to today! So I ran along my usual trail for 13.1 miles in 2:18:36. Not too bad, since I stopped for a quick restroom break and bought water at the farmer’s market. Then I walked the remaining 4.5 miles back home.

It was a great morning! Beautiful scenery and sunshine made for a wonderful run. It’s the very reason I hate the treadmill so much, you miss the beauty that’s out there if you only run in one spot. I was hoping that I would get 17 miles of running in, but that’s the total with the walking and it taught me a few things that I hope to carry with me from now on.

First, get the short runs in. Had I got my three 8-10 mile runs in, I would have been able to push through for a couple more miles. I guess I need to figure out how to get them in when duty calls and I have to work late.

Second, my Garmin 210 GPS watch is awesome. While it’s true that it doesn’t speak to you at each mile, it does show mileage, time, pace, and you can look at it any time. It saves my iPhone for music and phone calls, and that makes me feel a little more comfortable since I’m journeying out further and further.

Third, I realize the importance of food and fuel. I ate a little something before I started and remembered to bring along some Stinger Gels with me. It was good to have a quick source of fuel right with me.

Fourth, I realize how blessed I am. I am able to go out, run a half marathon, walk for miles in the beauty of God’s nature, have wonderful friends that are upbeat and supporting and even want to run with me! It doesn’t get much better than that!!

Well, I have used my foam roller, took a cold shower, and now I’m ready for some food. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend!

Be happy, Be healthy.


The Treadmill

Since it is so hot outside, I decided to go to the gym and confront my old nemesis; the treadmill.  I know some people love the treadmill, but I am not one of them.  I love the feel of the road under my feet, the sights, the sounds, the adventure, the changing of the pace either by training, or that the Black Eyed Peas came on my iPad. The treadmill gives you none of that, just a constant pace, the same scenery, the same, the same, the same.  To me, the treadmill is a necessary evil, waiting there for you to show some weakness and climb aboard.  I can almost hear it laughing on raining days.

Well I swallowed my pride and ran for an hour on the treadmill (I couldn’t take any more) and got 5.45 miles in.  Hopefully this heat wave breaks so I can go outside and run again.  I need to do an 8-10 mile run, but not on a treadmill.  I think that the treadmill is mentioned in the 6th level of hell in Dante’s Inferno. But if I have to, I have to.

I did get the results from the Sherman Hill “One Hill of a Run” 5k race.  I finished 21st overall out of 80+ people, was 2nd in my age division, and had a time of 26:41.  Not bad, but I need more hill training . . .  they were tough!

Be happy, be healthy