Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Doubling Up

Who says there’s nothing new under the sun? On Sunday, July 21, a contingent of Fort Collins runners participated in the Double Road Race-Denver, the first of its kind in Colorado and only the third Double ever held in America.

So what’s a “double?” And maybe “so what?” Take it from some of us who made the trip to Denver’s City Park. It’s hard. It’s fun. We’d all like to do another one.

Here’s how it works: You run a 10k, pause for an intermission, then run a 5k. Simple enough—until you try it. Bob Anderson, founder of Runner’s World magazine, has done several doubles and says he learns something new every time. The concept of the double is his and he has the innovative spirit, organizational savvy and wherewithal to turn his idea into an event as popular as any 10k or half-marathon.

He describes the Double as “something like the triathlon only different.” It’s a two-stage race where competitors don’t switch from swimming to cycling to running, they just run. The second leg, the 5k, starts an hour and forty-five minutes after the 10k start which means that the faster you run, the more rest time you get.

During the recovery period you have all sorts of options: You can visit a chiropractor, massage therapist, roll around on a foam roller, drink, eat, walk or simply rest. Herein lies the trick. What is the best way to recover and prepare for segment two? Perhaps it’s different for everyone and the only way to find out is to practice during training. The founding organization has published the Runner’s Guide to the Double Road Race that lists training ideas and 25 strategies you can use in order to do your best in the Double.

Denver race director Tyler McCandless of Boulder, one of the nation’s finest long-distance runners, encouraged an elite field to participate in the inaugural Colorado race. McCandless has competed in Doubles in Pleasanton, California where he finished third in an aggregate time of 47:13 and in Overland Kansas where he set a men’s world record in 45:15:05.

The first Double held in America attracted more than 1,000 runners in Pleasanton, California and was won by Fernando Cabada of Boulder, Colorado and Tina Kefalas of Hillsborough, California. The fastest aggregate times for the Double are McCandless’s 45:15:05 and 53:13:04 posted by Molly Printz who trains in Boulder and won in Kansas. Winners of The Denver Double were Colleen DeRueck of Boulder with a time of 54:26 and Brandon Johnson of Denver, 48 flat.

McCandless didn’t compete in Denver, choosing instead to participate in the children’s one-mile event. “Halfway through the race, the young girl who won her division, took the time to tell me this was her first race,” Tyler said.

The Double is for everybody, from beginners to old-timers, with an unusual emphasis on runners over 40. There’s prize money three deep in 10-year age groups and acknowledgement of an age-graded scale to even the playing field for older runners.

The event will return to Colorado, probably Denver, in the summer of 2015.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Return to Boston

John Hagin, 70, of Fort Collins, nearly finished his twelfth Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. A police barricade forced him to stop shortly after the 25-mile mark and wind his way another weary three miles to his hotel near the finish line.

His wife, Woody, by now a veteran spectator, departed from her usual plan to shop for a while and then wait for John at the finish. This year she’d beat the crowds and make sure she had a prime viewing spot by walking a half-mile or so along the edge of the course to find a vacant spot next to the railing that separates runners from spectators. “It was the first time in 11 years that I wasn’t at the finish line,” she says. Her decision may have saved her life.

One of the lucky few able to reach his hotel after the race was stopped, a keyless John talked a sobbing maid into opening his room.  When he turned the TV on, he understood why. Grabbing his cell phone, he frantically called Woody, only to discover that he could not get through.

Thus began a seven-hour saga for the couple who were eventually reunited at their hotel after dark. By then John had showered and was resting on the bed. “Rotten guy,” was Woody’s first reaction. Exquisite relief was her second.

John ran the race, but it was Woody who experienced the full impact of the chaos caused by the explosion of two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.  She heard shattering booms, then saw police running toward the finish, ambulances, cops on bikes,  swat teams and crowds of frightened people who’d been told to “evacuate” but weren’t sure where to turn.  Rumors were rampant about the likelihood of more bombs. All the focus seemed to be on the safety of the runners.

When Woody tried to buy a charger for her dying cell phone, she discovered that a swat team member had purchased every charger in the store. For a very long time she walked the streets aimlessly wondering what to do. She hadn’t eaten all day. A lonely meal at the Cheesecake Factory seemed a far cry from the celebratory dinner she and John had planned. As daylight disappeared, she discovered a back way in to her hotel by sneaking through a small opening in yellow tape defining a crime scene.

John has been a runner since the early ‘70s when he weighed 200 pounds and a doctor told him to change his ways or die. He stopped counting marathons when he’d completed more than 100. He’s done every event possible in Leadville from the 100 mile trail run to the 10k. He’s run almost every day since he began except for three weeks off  to heal a broken leg. These days he puts in 35 to 40 miles a week and insists he “doesn’t train. I just run.” He gave Woody an entry into the Hawaii marathon, her first, which she ran on her 50th birthday.

The Hagins have a room reserved in Boston for the 2014 marathon. They know it will be a huge crowd, and they don’t care. They have to be there.

PS John Hagin completed the 2014 Boston Marathon in 4:10.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The impact of a running club

A couple of Cache La Poudre Elementary School teachers in LaPorte, Colorado,
met three times a week summer before last to run together. When school started they wanted to continue and they wanted to share their joy of running with their students.

They invited students to join them for an after school run on Tuesday afternoons. They chose a secluded trail behind their school with a bridge that spanned the nearby Cache La Poudre River.

Leslie Glenn and Payton Schneider had no idea how much their running club would grow. They conduct two sessions during the school year, one in the fall until the weather makes them quit, and another in the spring. At the most recent registration, 50 kids showed up. That spring thirty-five of them, along with Schneider and Glenn, participated in the local “Hunger Pains” 5k  organized by Poudre High School junior Lindsey Derringer to benefit the Larimer County Food Bank.

Now an established after school activity, the running club costs nothing and welcomes all grades. Parents of kindergarteners through second grade run with their children. “It’s become a social time for parents,” Schneider says.

Sessions begin with stretches in the gym before everyone heads out the door to what has turned out to be an ideal running course along the river. There’s no pressure. Walking is encouraged as needed.  Faster runners often go beyond the Poudre River Bridge and gauge their turnaround time so that everyone is back at school by 4:30.

“We’d like to do this twice a week,” Glenn says. Both she and Schneider are parents of small children and have limited free time.  They would welcome helpers to expand the program.

On a warm May afternoon I joined 40-plus kids, four teachers and several parents to run. Most had running shoes, but an occasional kid trucked along in flip-flops or Crocs, unconcerned about their footwear. The feeling was festive. School’s out. It’s warm, and we’re here enjoying the outdoors.

A note I received after that run describes the impact of the running club better than I ever could.

Hi Libby,

I’m Ryan’s mom. Thank you for running with the club yesterday and talking to the kids about running. I want to tell you how much the club has impacted our family.  It has made Ryan a runner. Mrs. Schneider and Mr. Strutz noticed his talent and suggested he start racing. Last year’s Hunger Pains was his first-ever 5k. He beat the teachers and he loved the race.
Ryan ran several more races over the summer. He had pneumonia when he was young and then developed sports-induced asthma. Luckily he has outgrown the asthma, but it still amazes me that he does 5ks.

Running has given Ryan power over being small for his age. He’s been picked on and has always hated any reference to “short.” Now he shocks runners as he passes them. He’s heard them call out, “Way to go Little Dude.”  These days he wears the  Little Dude title proudly and takes any name calling in stride.

I am so thankful for the CLP Running Club and the teachers who give their time to share the experience of running with kids.

Deb Lippert

Ryan Lippert  was a fifth grader when he ran the Hunger Pains 5k in 21 minutes that year. He has been steadily improving his times as a middle schooler.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reaching outside your comfort zone

April 12: early afternoon

On a Friday afternoon off from her job as head of the Citizen Information Center in Larimer County Courthouse, Gael Cookman headed out the door to run 11 miles. In three weeks she’ll crank it up to 13.1 when she completes the Colorado Half Marathon down Poudre Canyon, her first-ever race at that distance.

Cookman, a single mother of three, sole supporter of her family, and veteran of 23 years of military service, is no stranger to challenge or to managing her time. In addition to her full-time job for Larimer County, she’s regional vice president and an independent consultant for Arbonne, a cosmetics firm. A couple of times a week she teaches spinning classes at  a local Health Club.

This energetic lady makes it a point to do something “for the first time” every year. Firsts have included the Bolder Boulder 10k, snowboarding, and learning to play golf. “I tell people in my spinning classes how important it is to reach outside your comfort zone,” Cookman said.  In this, the year she turned 50, she chose to do a half-marathon and hopes to finish in under two hours.

 Years ago she competed in shorter races, and while stationed in Germany in the service, she trained for the Berlin Marathon. But duty called her away and she was unable to participate.

Cookman is thriving on a training program which pushes her to increase her mileage and includes a weekly long run. She’s doing intervals, adding a few carbohydrates to an already healthy diet, and working hard to stay injury-free. She limits sweets and is convinced of the benefits of an occasional glass of red wine. Most challenging is finding time to train and dealing with unpredictable weather. Fortunately, there’s a shower in the courthouse which allows Cookman to train during her lunch hour.

A people person, Cookman maintains a wide circle of friends, but she chooses to run alone. “It’s my time to unwind, meditate and regenerate,” she says.  She’s enjoying the challenge of meeting weekly mileage goals, though she says the long runs are tiring. The hint of a stress fracture has cleared up, much to her relief.

May 5: early afternoon

 “Perfect timing,” Cookman says as she answers her phone. “I just woke up from a nap. The race was amazing. Hard. Freezing at the start.  Thank goodness for a trash bag for warmth. Right now, I’m not sure I’d do it again, but I loved it.”

Cold muscles, from standing around at the start for an hour, soon loosened up only to be replaced by a funny twinge in her right knee at mile five that also disappeared before the race was over. Even though they train solo, Cookman and her friend, Melissa Dasakis, raced together for 12 miles . “She’s done lots of races, including marathons, and was a great help to me,” Cookman said. Near the end, they split, each zeroing in on giving it all they had left. Dasakis finished less than a minute ahead of Cookman whose time of 1:58:29 accomplished her goal with time to spare, and was good enough for fifth in her age group. She looks forward to a well-earned glass of red wine when evening approaches.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beware of hypokinesis

I'd like to thank you for checking in with this chit-chat about my favorite sport. This week I'm excited because a small story I've written for third to eighth graders, and maybe also for older folks who like to run, has come to life. It's about the journey of a woman and her grandson who grow together as they train together and it's called Running Mates.  You can find it on Amazon, in a few local outlets, and at my house.

I’ve been told that I do everything the hard way. Probably true. In much of my life, I’m not all that efficient. I don’t know the short cuts—the easy way to do lots of things. But that’s okay with me.  In fact, I’m beginning to think I just may like it that way.

It could be related to why I’ve run for a long time, and why I’m still at it. There’s no arguing the point that running gets harder as the years go by. More and more often I say to myself, especially while nearing the end of a race when my body is protesting: “This is hard. Why am I doing this?
It has to do, I think, with “keep on keeping on” thinking. I don’t much like the alternative. I like the satisfied feeling that comes with doing a thing as well as it can be done.

John Jerome, the author of Elements of Effort, one of my favorite books about running, says: “Aging is a disease of hypokinesis—the failure to move enough.” As we age, we are sometimes tempted to look for convenience—for the easy way out. We may avoid a flight of stairs in favor of the elevator, or decide to rearrange things so they are within easier reach. Maybe we decide to let someone else cut our grass, clean our house, or wash our windows.
If hypokinesis causes aging, then perhaps we should reconsider taking it easy. Now I’m not suggesting that those who are aging—and isn’t that all of us? go out and exhaust or injure ourselves on the ski slope, steep mountain trail, or running track. Instead I like to imagine a challenge: Finding some form of body movement that tickles our fancy, that for whatever reason, we love to do so much that we will do it faithfully. It doesn’t have to be easy, but it does have to be fun.
Doing a thing because we should, because it’s good for our cardiovascular system, or our mental outlook, or to maintain our weight, just won’t cut it over the long haul. We human beings seem to respond best to that which brings us joy.
The fun comes, not because what we do is easy and pain free, but, as John Jerome suggests, “Most of us, most of the time, have to have something to push against…” Those of us who run, and I suspect anyone involved with some form of physical activity, needs an adversary. Luckily for us runners, there are plenty. Depending on the season and terrain, we struggle with heat or cold, wind or rain, darkness and distance, hill ascents and step downhill grades. And if none of them were there, we wouldn’t like it at all.
And then there’s the aftermath—a long hot shower or a soak in the tub—a big fat pile of blueberry pancakes—stretching out near a warm fire or in the sun for a read or a nap that has been earned.
It takes courage to commit to an on-going “spectator status” in this life. It’s hard to live with knowledge that hypokinesis could catch up with us at any moment.