Sunday, March 25, 2012

#399: Life After 20 (Miles)

Yep, ran 23 miles Saturday morning.  I wanted to hit the Run the Bluegrass half-marathon course one more time before the race next week. I also had a long run on my training schedule. I managed to do both, and along the way, I went someplaceI've never been before.

I AM UP EARLY anticipating getting on the road just after dawn. 7:30 is a good time to start a run here in the Bluegrass. The sun is just high enough that you don't need to wear flashing lights and reflective gear. The night before, I laid out my clothes and spent some time learning how my new Garmin 405 works. I got a great price on Amazon, and this would be my first time on the road using it. I feed the dogs, scoop the cat boxes, tape the nips, and kiss Mrs P good bye.

Just before walking out the door, I make one last bathroom stop. Once I'm out of town, there is no place but the cedars to hide should nature call. I'd rather not take a chance on messing up my good shoes.

The air is cool: 50° and the sun is just starting to glow in the east. I've decided to use the first half-hour of my run as a warm up, and have my watch set to go off at 30 second intervals. I want to get the blood pumping without using up the fuel I'll need on the hills to come. The beauty of this rhythm is that it makes it almost impossible to go too fast. I feel so good that I don't realize I've missed the first turn on my planned course. I'm only a few blocks away, so it's easy to get back on track.

Photo by Nick Weller
PARKER'S MILL ROAD is a beautiful stretch past neat little suburban ranch houses, a couple of million dollar mansions, and acres of horse farms. It is very narrow in places, and I have to step off into the wet grass a couple of time to give room to oncoming cars. I can feel my socks getting damp, and make a note to carry an extra pair on long runs from now on. Wet feet mean blisters, and I don't have time to recover from them before the half next weekend. I decide to get up on the rumble strip at the edge of the blacktop and hold my ground. I give a wave to drivers as they make way for me and most of them wave back, country-style.

The gates of Keeneland

KEENELAND looks fantastic this morning. The early spring has brought out bluegrass and redbud trees. Even a couple of dogwoods are blooming. By this time, my intervals have changed to 1:00 run/1:00 walk. I feel strong as I begin the half-marathon course. A few runners are out, testing the hills. Some zip past me, some just chug. I let them go. I have a bigger agenda this morning. I get to the back gate and realize that THIS is where I took LaDonna on our first long turn back when we ran out here a few weeks back. She's been razzing me lovingly ever since, and I make a mental note to think up a way to make this her fault.

THE HILLS are everything I remember: long, steep, and relentless. They are also breathtakingly beautiful. A flock of Canada Geese honks over a pond in the middle of a farm in a hollow to the left. A hawk soars above, looking for breakfast. It's the biggest one I've ever seen; so big I wonder if it is really an eagle. Eventually, I cross the railroad tracks for the third time, and make my way to "The Chicken House." It's a pretty little farm house in a copse of honeysuckle with a fierce sounding dog and an even fiercer sounding rooster in the yard. Woe to any trespasser here. I hang a left, and resume climbing.

THE LOWEST PART OF THE COURSE is just past the 6 mile point. That's where I turn right onto Old Frankfort Pike, and while there's lots of steep up and down, I'll be climbing the rest of the way. In my mind, this is where the race really starts.

In any season, the Pike is breathtaking
OLD FRANKFORT is as Kentucky as a road gets. White fences. Rolling hills. Stone walls with ornate iron gates. These are the farms I've heard about when I watch triple crown races. Oaks, Black Walnuts, and Red Buds line the way and there is no shoulder at all, only ditches or steep upward embankments. It's no place for headphones, and it's no place to zone out. I listen for cars in both directions, and stay as far to the left as I can, walking if I have to when someone comes barreling toward me over the crest of a rise. It could actually get a little stressful if it wasn't one of the most beautiful places on earth. Some of the views are breathtaking. I shout out greetings to two men in white straw cowboy hats who are spreading mulch around the landscaping at one of the farm gates. I also pass a dead skunk which is strangely not as horrible as it sounds.

JUST WHEN I FEEL LIKE I'VE CONQUERED THE WORST OF THE HILLS, there is a right turn off of Frankfort Pike and I'm heading some of the toughest terrain on the course. I climb about 100 feet in the last half of mile 9, up an S-curve that teases me 4 times with the impression that I'm almost to the top, only to reveal more slope. I pant out "YES" as I finally reach the true crest, and recognize the barn where LaDonna and I took our pictures the day we were lost. I finally know where we were! There is a merciful half-mile decent after "the curve" that leads to the last turn on the course. A creek. Shade trees. Twisting blacktop and farms, farms, farms. The hills continue, and I really feel them since I've now progressed to intervals of 3:00 run/1:00 walk. Galloway recommends 1/1 for the pace I want to run, and am seriously considering that he is right again. Then, between miles 11 and 12, I have a lucky accident.

With a check for an article and Mrs P's permission...
THE GARMIN 405 can do amazing things. It's tracking my heart rate. It's recording my course and elevation. It's beeping out my intervals. It's telling me how far ahead or behind my target pace I'm running. It even has a function that will tell me if I'm on course or not. You push a button and a little compass arrow points you toward the road you should take at any crossing. I get a little worried at a fork in the road and decide to push the button. I discover that I've made the right choice. Then I discover that I've stopped the workout I had designed. Now there's no way to know how far I've run since I started, and there's no way to get back to the intervals I was running. I have to start all over again. I'm back to running 30 seconds, then walking 30 seconds. And I'm feeling just what I'm supposed to feel. My legs are recovering. I'm getting stronger. My pace, which had been growing more and more slow with each run, is soon back on target. When I reach the finish line of the course, I'm feeling strong and confident. I've gone almost 18 miles, well past the point where I crashed on my last long run.

THIS WEATHER IS PERFECT for a run. It's probably in the high 50's by now, just cool enough. The sun is beaming as noon approaches, but there is a nice breeze to balance it's warmth. I notice a familiar pain on my chest and look down to see a growing spot of blood on my chest. The tape has come off and my left nip is bleeding. I am perversely proud of this development. It's as much a part of a real runner's life as black or missing toenails. I make a note to put a trial-size stick of Body Glide in the pouch with my dry socks when I run long again.

IT'S A HAPPY COINCIDENCE that I hit 19 miles at the same intersection where I had to stop and call for Mrs P to come pick me up two weeks ago. She happens to call to check on me as I approach the spot, and I tell her I feel fantastic. I really do.

AT 20 MILES, I smile. It doesn't matter what happens from here. I've gone farther than ever before in my life. Every stride is pushing the wall back another yard. I imagine I'm an offensive lineman, pushing my defender into the secondary. I don't have to bust the wall, I just have to push it back to 26.3 miles. For the first time, I really believe that I will be able to run a marathon. The last 3 miles are like a celebration. I'm approaching home, and remembering how big these mole-hills seemed to be a year ago. People are mowing, walking their dogs. I keep smiling and saying good morning, which is funny since it's almost 1:00 in the afternoon. I hope they can see my bloody shirt and know what it means. I take the last turn, and coast down hill to the stop sign where my run ends. There's no doubt in my mind that I could do another 3 miles if I had to. In about 5 weeks, theres gonna be a 26.2 sticker on the back of the Honda.

A STRETCH, A SMOOTHIE, AND A NAP are in order. I make my log entries, brag a little on Facebook, and post a tweet for LIVING STRONG AT THE YMCA:
23.39 miles today. What's it gonna take to get you to join my fundraiser for at the ?
A couple of friends give me a RT, (and later, another $25 comes in from a fellow survivor.) Late in the afternoon, Mrs P and I go out for some dinner at Ramsey's. I order the blackened catfish which seems wholesome enough. We indulge by sharing a piece of Key Lime Pie.Then it's home and early to bed.

Adding this movie to my "must see" list
LAST WEEK I TWEETED, "Make your goals outrageous!" I'm doing my best to follow my own advice. The Spirit of the Marathon is a jealous gal. She doesn't give those last miles up easily. She's there at every hill, waiting for you, testing you. You can't steal her kiss, you have to earn it. It is outrageous to think that a man like me could ever taste those lips, but that's just what I intend to do.

And then, I'm gonna take a very long nap. (Typical male...)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

#398: A Hero on the Road

I met a hero today. He noticed the shirts we were wearing for our Keeping the Dream Alive fundraiser, and stopped to talk. He told us his name was Chester, and that he had done a lot of work at Actors' Guild. He had an easy smile and a contagious laugh as he tried to remember what his last show had been. My teammates and I didn't recognize him, but we nodded politely. Turns out he was one of the "old timers:" the people who had helped to build the company years ago. I pricked up my ears. I enjoy the stories of restaurant basements and old gymnasiums that fill the company's early history. I thought he might have some great dish on one of the people I have met over the years. He had a much better story than that.

"They'd never tried anything this radical, but
they figured, why not? I was dead anyway."
Do you know what you are looking at here? This is a man's left knee and lower leg. You know how that happens? An unlicensed, uninsured, drunk driver plows through a red light and over your motorcycle as you are legally driving through a busy downtown intersection. He runs you down, trapping you and your bike under his pickup truck. He panics, and tries to run. Can't move. So he backs up, trying to dislodge whatever is hanging to his vehicle. Tries to pull away again. No dice. Tries a third time. Eventually, the driver stops trying to escape, and pieces of you are left under a truck and a motorcycle to wait for the coroner to arrive. 

"When they found me, my brains were on North Broadway, my guts were on North Broadway, and my leg was mostly torn off." Did it hurt? Nah. He was in a coma for the next four weeks. He says he died. They gave his mom 600 reasons why he should be dead. When he came to, after a month of morphine, they told him he should expect some mental retardation. Mom asked, "How would you know the difference?" Every survivor needs a wise-ass who loves him. Chester has a good one.

They had to tuck his brains back in to his head and stuff his guts back into his belly. They rebuilt his leg from scratch, drilling steel inside the soft tissue that remained. He told me he works out every day. The docs said his physical fitness was the only thing that saved him. "When I run, I look like Joe Cocker, drunk!" he jokes, but he by-God runs. He finished this morning's race just 5 minutes after I did. Just about the same time I ran the race a year ago. And I had both my own legs.

On his Facebook page, he says he harbors no negativity toward the man who almost killed him 600 ways. "All it does is eat you up and does nothing positive at all, as fear or worry, or jealousy; they are all negative emotions with no discernible value except to take you down, and not forward." Chester is a man who is moving forward.

I don't know this guy. But I really want to know him better. We "friended" today on Facebook. He is a genuine hero to me and an inspiration. It's going to be really hard to give up on my next long run when I remember a man who is training for a 10K after having himself spilled out all over a city street.

Running brings out some amazing things in people. And sometimes, amazing people come out to run. If you're lucky, you get to meet one. 

I was lucky today.


#397: 2012 Shamrock Shuffle 3K

2011 Shamrock Shuffle
First race since treatment.
No short sleeves last year.
There are so many reasons to love this little race. 2373 people ran 1.8 miles in the cool early morning light through the streets of downtown Lexington. People wore kilts, green tights, and I even passed a guy in shamrock boxers and sock garters. The weather, which is usually much more Irish-like for this event, was perfect for racing. 60° and a little overcast. The Shamrock Shuffle always feels like opening day to me. A couple thousand people get together to celebrate the fact that we can run. What's not to love?

I saw so many friends. Krissie and Nathan from the Striders were there. Amber, a friend I met when we were both in a very bad way was running with her two beautiful daughters. Jennifer, whom I've known since we were both in college, running her first organized race and finishing like a champ. Tim, Mylissa, Hayley, and Natalie; the gang from Keeping the Dream Alive who raised over $700 for Actors' Guild of Lexington. Folks from the Y. Even a few people who knew my name that I didn't recognize. What a wonderful time we had.

2009 with my friends Christy and Justin.
 It was a very cold, wet race .
Thanks to the traffic slowing them down, I was able to keep up with my faster friends and never ran alone the entire race. The last half mile, Hayley and I picked up the pace far beyond what I thought I was capable of. She kept me moving to the finish line and when the smoke had cleared, I had just run my fastest mile ever (9:12) And she was sweet enough to slow down and let me finish a second ahead of her. Oh, nothing warms an old man's heart like a young woman who lets him pretend now and then.

I wanted to get some training miles in around the race, so I ran from home in the dark, then ran back home after. All together it was just shy of 11 miles, which is what I wanted to do on this light weekend between long runs. I'm no fan of getting up in the morning, but it was kind of nice to have my workout done by 9:30. And as I approached the house, there was Mrs P on the front walk, smiling in the morning sunshine. She kissed my sweaty cheek, and told me she was proud of me. With love like that in my life, I can run forever.

2012 Shamrock Shuffle 3K Results
Bib_NumberDivision Age Sex Time Overall Sex_Pl Div_Pl
1107 50-54 51 M 19.59_(PR) 1150/2373 549/837 29/52

To be honest, there are almost never times that I don't like running, and usually I love it, even when it hurts. But days like this, when so many good things and people come together in one place to make the world feel perfect... these times are rare and precious. I'm so grateful to be here.

Sometimes, the road really does rise up to meet you.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

#396: "Don't Let a Number Define You"

I don't know where that came from, but it's what I said when one of my survivors told me, "Oh, that's too much. I could never lift that." turns out she was a lot tougher than she thought. The weight I gave her was heavy, but she knocked out her three sets, and I felt like a genius. I wasn't, of course. I was just passing along a lesson I've learned about numbers. They describe you, but don't let numbers define you.

Numbers on a scale.
The size of your pants.
Your time in the 5K.
The tally of your birthdays.

There are numbers that tell you where you are.

Your first love.
Your third marriage.
Your second childhood.
Your fifteen minutes of fame.

There are numbers that tell you what you've done.

12 marathons.
7 no-hitters.
1000% return on investment.
$400K a year.

And numbers that tell you what you can't do.

One chance in a million
50% prognosis
16th seed in the tournament.

A lot of people worry about their weight. They're trying to eat right. They're coming to the gym. They're lifting more pounds, running more miles, swimming more laps, playing longer, laughing harder, and sweating more than they ever have before.

And they feel like they're failing.

Because of a number on a scale.

My friend played Pickleball for an hour with me the other day. Afterwards, she complained that her weight isn't coming down the way she'd like.

She had just spent an hour running around a court with a wooden paddle, whacking a ball across a net at me and laughing her head off. When I first met her last fall, walking from the car to the gym was a painful chore for her.

Where is the scale that measures that? How do you weigh loving your life? 

You don't measure joy.

You live it.



Please visit and contribute to my fundraiser, Living Strong at the Y. We can do so much together.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

#395: Pennsy Meets The Wall

It was not a particularly glorious finish. Standing glassy-eyed by the side of the road while drivers slowed down to ask if I was all right. 19 miles into a 21 mile run, my longest ever, I had found it. The crash. The bonk. The WALL. The wall is legendary in Marathoner Lore. He's a boogie man who lives out there around mile 20 and asks each runner a simple question: "Can you run through me?" I had never met him before. I was not ready to battle him. Not yet.
Long Slow Run - 40° to start. 19.1 miles/04:24:54 @ 8:34 AM. Green Pegasus. Old Frankfort/Pisgah/Parkers Mill. Started at 3:00 run/0:30 walk, but slowed it down to 1/1 at the end.
Splits 13:07, 12:08, 12:16, 12:42, 12:23, (Mile 1-5 / 01:02:36, avg 12:31) 
12:53, 12:53, 12:37, 13:15, 13:33, (Mile 6-10 / 01:05:11, avg 13:02)
13:29, 13:40, 13,35, 14,18, 13:10, (Mile 11-15 / 01:08:02, avg 13:10)
14:53, 15:51, 17:52, 16:47, (Mile 16 - 19 / 1:05:23, avg 16:20)
Started too fast.Felt strong through the first 15.
I started out at what felt like a conservative pace. My goal this morning was to hit the 11 mile mark feeling strong and fresh. At Pittsburgh, the stretch from 11-16 miles is all uphill. It's a 220 ft climb that starts with a 164 foot ascent from the Monongahela river to Oakland in just 1.2 miles. There's nothing like that around Lexington, not that I know about. All I can do is run enough small hills, and hope I'm ready for the big one.

So, yes, I tried to set a very easy pace for the first 11 miles. And I was successful at that. When I turned the corner onto Pisgah Pike, (which is the most beautiful road in the Bluegrass, by the way,) I felt pretty amazing, and my splits show it. I was slowing down, but still around my target pace of 13:30/mile. By the time I finished mile 16, though, I was pretty well shot. I tried adjusting my walk breaks, eventually setting my timer at 1:00 intervals, but at 19 miles, the gas just ran out. I found a grassy spot and called for Mrs P.

I got a couple of good lessons from this run: about myself, and about The Wall. I learned that it is extremely motivating if you tell everyone you know that you are running a marathon and doing it to raise money for people you know and love. That's a lot of hearts to carry with you. Also a lot of scrutiny if you decide to wimp out. I don't think I could have have done those last four miles without you.

I also learned that The Wall is real and will shut you down in a skinny minute if you are not prepared for him. I thought I did everything right. Drank water. Took nutrition. Stuck to my Run/Walk/Run schedule. Ran Happy. I did my best. But I need to make my best better. 

This was my longest run ever. There will be a few even longer. I need to pay more attention to my pacing in the first part of a long run. I didn't slow down to my target pace until mile 10. I sure could have used some of that energy when I got to mile 17. 

Hey, I have a lot to celebrate. I ran 19 miles, for crying out loud. But 19 isn't 26.2. I did my best, but my best just isn't good enough to take on The Wall yet. 

But soon...


LIVING STRONG AT THE Y, Pennsy's fundraiser to support LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is up and running. Please learn how you can contribute by clicking this link. Click. Give. Share. Together, we can do so much.

Friday, March 9, 2012

394:Living Strong at the YMCA

This is a fundraising appeal I have sent out to just about everyone I know. I hope you will read it, contribute, and share it with your friends online. Thanks, Pennsy.

You and I have done some remarkable things together over the years. We've raised thousands of dollars for some marvelous causes, but this project, called Living Strong at the Y is very special.

On May 6th,2012, almost exactly 2 years after the doctors told me I had cancer, I am returning to the city where I was born to run 26.2 miles in the Pittsburgh Marathon. That’s something I would never have dreamed of doing before I had was sick. Now, I can’t imagine not doing it.

Will you help to sponsor my run by making a contribution to Living Strong at the Y? All funds will support LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a life changing program that helps cancer survivors like me to reclaim our lives. A group of 8-10 participants gets free, 12 week family memberships to the Y, then works with a team of trainers, instructors, and nutritionists to learn how fitness and exercise can help them recover from cancer and cancer treatment. It isn't make-believe, "dumbed-down" exercise class for victims to occupy their time. This is serious training for people who have faced cancer and chosen to fight for their lives.

It’s going to cost around $13,000 to run the program at the North Lexington Y this year. The YMCA doesn't charge survivors a penny to be in the program. The LIVESTRONG Foundation pays many of the initial instructor training costs, but after the first year, each YMCA is responsible for its own funding.

You can donate online at or if you prefer, you can mail a check made out to “YMCA” directly to me at:

Robert Parks Johnson
North Lexington Family YMCA
381 West Louden Ave
Lexington KY 40508

Just write “Living Strong” on the memo line.

The next generation of cancer warriors needs our support. You can be there beside them, by making a tax deductible contribution. I’ll be in the gym working as a trainer, making sure that your money goes where it’s supposed to go: helping to turn patients into survivors, and survivors into fighters.

Keep Living Strong!


Monday, March 5, 2012

#393: Anticipating the Big One

What better terrain for your first 26.2?
Marathon. I spend a lot of the minutes before I sleep anticipating the preparations and the race itself. Two months from today, I'll be at Mum's house, laying out my clothes for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I wonder what it's going to feel like to line up with thousands of people in my hometown, or to cross that finish line at Heinz Field (sometime before dark, I hope.) I pray it isn't rainy, snowy, blazing, blowing, (any of which are possible in early May in Pennsyltucky.) I went to this morning and laid out a couple of 20+ mile training routes around Lexington. There's no way I can duplicate those hills around here, but at least I can stretch my long runs out past that 26.2 mile barrier. That's how Jeff Galloway says you beat "the wall": break through it before the race. He hasn't failed me yet, so I'm trusting him on this one, too.

My fundraiser, Living Strong at the Y is off to a slow start, but I haven't really done much promotion yet. I have a very ambitious goal, and want my first marathon to make a difference. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is such a valuable program. Every day at the gym, I see cancer fighters' lives being transformed on treadmills, in the pool, and in the exercise studios. When you find yourself Zumba-ing next to a friend whose hair has just grown back after chemo, it's a pretty special feeling. It is amazing to look at photos of my grop from last summer, and then look at us now. We're like different people. And now that I'm a trainer with the program, it's especially rewarding, too.

Not flashy, but then neither is Pennsy
I went to John's Run/Walk Shop's end of winter clearance and picked up a pair of new shoes for the race. I'll start breaking them in this week. I get a little antsy trying out a new pair of socks, so new shoes could be down-right traumatic for me. They are Nike+ Pegasus 28s, the latest model of the shoes that have always been my favorites. I'm hoping they fit as well as their predecessors.

All you need is shoes and a T-shirt, honey!
Speaking of Nike+, my little Sportsband is really starting to work my nerves. It is becoming less and less reliable, failing to connect when I plug it in to upload a run, losing its calibration settings, just mildly stressing me for no good reason. I'm contemplating an upgrade to a Garmin GPS gizmo, but they are not cheap, and Mrs P always squints a little when I mention it. I nearly got on on Saturday from a guy advertising on CraigsList, but another bargain hunter beat me to the door. I took it as a sign from the universe. Besides, spending that much money on myself on Mrs P's birthday was just planting seeds for disaster.

So there's a lot to look forward to. And there are some real-life things that will need some attention. Taxes. Spring cleaning. That kind of stuff. It's going to be a busy spring.

Guess I'd better get to work.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

#392: One More Hill!

Photo by LaDonna
On the long drive from Pittsburgh to Gramma's house in the country, we would pester Dad. "How much farther?" "Three more hills," he would answer, and we would count them down as we rolled through the Pennsyltucky night. We measured our trip in hills.

I measure my runs like that now, only I'm not asking how many are left, I'm just asking for the next hill. I whisper it like a prayer. "C'mon, God. Give me one more hill. Let me climb another one. Let me see the world from the top of that next hill. Just one more hill."

Used to be, the top was my favorite part of the hill. Once the climb is over, you can slow your cadence a little, lengthen your stride a little, lift your eyes and enjoy the horizon. Today, my favorite part is the bottom. When LaDonna took this picture, we both said, "Oh my God!" Looking at the photo, you probably think the slope of the road is an optical illusion. It isn't. The hills are really that long and steep. And I love them. I love the feeling of bearing down as I start to climb. Checking my posture. Lowering my gaze to the road right in front of me. Scaling mountains one stride at a time. The word "endurance" never means more than it does when you're half-way up a hill. At first, you tell yourself, "I can do this." Then you realize, "Hey! I'm doing this!"

Some hills kind of roll to the top: the slope gradually softening to a plateau. The best ones stay steep all the way up. As you approach the end of the climb, all you can see is sky. It doesn't matter what's on the other side. Could be a long descent. Could be another, bigger hill. Doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're still running, still climbing, and you can't help thinking that if you could only climb fast enough, you could hit the crest of that hill like a springboard and just keep going right on up into the clouds while acres of Bluegrass pasture rolled out below you in all directions.

God, but I love running in Kentucky.

LaDonna and Pennsy before the 2011 Midsummer Night's Run
I ran with my friend LaDonna, today. We met two years ago in our head and neck cancer support group. She was an emotional wreck. I was a month into treatment and closer to death than I've ever been. I was standing at the finish line when she ran her first 5K. I was behind her two months ago, when she finished her first 5 mile run. Today, we did 12.5 side-by-side through the cold, snowy morning. We were taking the course for the Run the Bluegrass Half-Marathon which is at the end of this month. She trusted me to know the way. That was a mistake. I got us so lost that I still don't know for sure where we were. Most people would have been furious with me. LaDonna just shined it on. "I'm just glad to be running!" she said. We both laughed. Two cancer fighters, lost in the hills, running and laughing like idiots.

After we found our bearings, as we approached the barn at Keeneland where we had parked, I told her, "Only one more hill, I promise." When we got to the top, and I saw our cars through the trees, I confess I was a little disappointed.

I wouldn't have minded climbing just one more.


Friday, March 2, 2012

#391: Walk Before You Run Before You Walk, etc.

Living Strong at the Y
I launched a fundraiser yesterday, to coincide with my preparations for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. I hope to raise $11,000 for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. It's a program that helps cancer patients, survivors, and fighters like me to take control of our lives and wellness through exercise, nutrition, and education. This program has meant so much to me over the past year, and I want to help make sure it is available for many more cancer fighters after me. I'll be bombarding everybody who will listen with pleas for money over the next two months, so keep an open mind... and an open check book!

Training Week
It's been a pretty good training week, now that the great Groin Fest is over. I took a couple days off,. and the rest did me good. Not many miles, but I felt very strong and faster than I have been in a while. Looking for some Long Slow Miles this weekend when I hit the Run the Bluegrass course with the Striders. My cross-training included a great Zumba class on Sunday before work, and some quality laps in the pool. My stroke is getting stronger, but my endurance still leaves a lot to be desired. I'm doing my workouts 50m at a time, which is fine until the 9 year-olds come in and start swimming 500's.

In Praise of Walk Breaks
I have two friends at the YMCA who are training for upcoming races, one is a 3K, and one a half-marathon. At one time or another they have both expressed anxiety and frustration to me because they still can't "run the whole way." They really don't want to have to stop running and walk. And I have to ask myself, "Why?" Here's my tale of two Fat Men Running.

Before I bought into the Jeff Galloway Run/Walk/Run schtick, I logged fewer miles, I ran them more slowly, and they hurt more. The idea of completing a 10K was beyond my imagination. I didn't have many serious injuries, but I was sore a lot. I still took walk breaks... I just waited until I was too tired to run before I would take them. I didn't walk to recover, I walked to surrender.

Today, before I start a run, I set my watch to beep out the intervals I want to run/walk. If I feel like superman, I might take a break every 10 minutes. Once, when I felt especially bad, I set it to go off every 30 seconds. And I have to tell you, both felt like really good runs. When I know I'm going to be running for 3 or 4 hours, that first break after 4 minutes can seem a little goofy, but I know I'm saving gas for the end of the workout when the minutes are longer and the hills steeper. I'm not afraid to press my pace a little, because I know there's a walk break coming in just a few seconds. I can maintain good form after several miles, so I don't get as sore and tired in my upper body as I used to.

The bottom line for me is, I can run as often as I want to run, and I can enjoy every single step. I'm not going to be an elite runner. I will probably never win my age group, no matter how old I get. But I will be able to keep running and feeling great about it. I don't mind taking walk breaks at 51, if it means I can still be running when I'm 91, and that's my plan.

The secret to exercise success is finding something you love to do. Until you do that, you won't feel drawn to a workout, you'll have to push yourself toward it. But once you find that thing that makes you want to pack the bag, pull on the fins, or lace up the shoes and go, then by all means find a way to do it that doesn't turn your love into an obligation. I would never run if it were a chore. No sane person would do something that hurt every time they did it.

Take it from someone who lives at the back of the pack. The scenery is still beautiful, the cheers at the finish line are still sweet, and that medal still  feels great around your neck, even if you don't have to crawl to the stand to receive it.


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