Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro"). I will continue to add articles as I find them, polish them up and import them.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Friday, March 24, 2017

Event Report: Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon Series

Event: Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon Series
Goshen College (Goshen, IN)


Disclaimer: It’s taken me far too long to write this report. It’s been almost three weeks, and while I started a rough draft a little while ago, I’m afraid this report will be a little stale. With that fear in mind, I’m going to try a slightly different format. I hope you find this helpful and informative.

What did I do?
The Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon is an long distance running event that includes a full and a half marathon. It is run on an indoor track at the school’s fitness center. The full marathon is 204 laps! Surprisingly, the half is 102 laps (crazy, I know).

Registration options included Saturday, Sunday or both days. I chose to run both. That is 52.4 miles (408 laps) on an indoor track over a two day period.

Why did I do it?
I’m been training for the Indiana Trails 50 Mile race (April 2017), and my training goals are focused on that. Maple Leaf was something I chose to do to add a little variety to my training. I wanted something novel, different and fun. Basically, this was just a couple of training runs, but I could get a tech shirt and a couple of medals.

I wanted to run an indoor marathon earlier in the year, but registration for that specific event filled up before I could get in. Maple Leaf was plan B. When I went to register I saw it was $125 for both or $85 for one. I am a sucker for a good deal, so I took the plunge on the double.

So … I wanted something different to do, and I’m a sucker for a big discount.

Am I crazy?
Do I really need to answer this?

Did I run in the same direction the whole time?
Nope. The race director had us change direction every half hour. When we started, we ran counter-clockwise. Thirty minutes later, he placed a cone at the halfway point. When I got to the cone, I went around it, reversed course while moving to the outside lane until everyone else had also turned around. The cone is then removed from the track and we go back to the inside lanes. It’s not as confusing as it sounds.

What do I think about the people?
I was impressed with all of the people I met at the event. The staff was great. The race director was very personable (I’ve never ran another race where I had so much constant contact with the race director) and the timing coordinator was also very helpful.

The other runners formed a good group of nice folks. I knew some of them beforehand, and I made new friends as well. There were plenty of high fives, encouraging words and general helpfulness. Even the spectators were pretty cool.

Did I wear headphones?
I’ve never really been a headphones guy. Just not my thing. They did play music over the PA system, which was a mixed bag. Sometimes, you’re getting the Rolling Stones or Jethro Tull, but at other times, you’re getting a non-stop half hour of polka music. When you don’t control the playlist, every song was a surprise.

There was a moment when “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees was playing. My first thought was “why are they playing the CPR song? Is everyone okay?” Fortunately, everyone was fine.

What about the aid stations and post-race goodies?
Tables were placed in the four corners of the gym on the outside of the track. Water and Gatorade was available, but otherwise you were responsible for your own aid station fare (they might have had Gu too, but I’m not sure). This was well publicized before the event, so I was prepared and brought my usual in-race fuel. Occasionally, I’d ask a spectator to refill a water bottle for me, but as the crowd thinned out, I had to do that on my own. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re used to more, then this might be a rough adjustment.

Post-race food was fine, I guess. They provided pizza, pretzels, fruit and some other assorted snacks. The pizza was ordered long before I finished, and I’m not a fan of cold pizza. I opted not to eat much of what was available. I'm glad that I had brought my own post-race food.

How did I know how many laps I’d ran?
It’s chip-timed, so there’s no manual counting. There was a large screen monitor that I passed with each lap, so I usually had a good idea of my progress.

The post-race online results includes a “splits report” that shows each one of the 204 laps. It takes four pages to print out! I don’t think you’ll ever get a more detailed race report anywhere else.

What was the bling like?
The “bling” is interesting. The long sleeve tech shirt is nice. I was hoping for two shirts, but you only get one even if you register for two days. I understand this policy and am not complaining.

You do get a medal for each race you complete. The medals are locally crafted from clay instead of metal, so they’re unique While I appreciate something other than a run-of-the-mill medal, I doubt these medals will please those who pick races specifically for awesome medals (such as the Little Rock Marathon). I think this event is likely to leave you disappointed if you're all about the bling.

How did I prepare for a double marathon?
Because this was not a “goal” race, but a couple of training runs, I didn’t really prepare for it. If this were a goal race, I would have done a proper taper. I did have a nice fallback week afterwards, but I didn’t do much of anything differently. I do have a pretty solid distance running base, so this was within my ability and level of conditioning.

What was the hardest part?
I went into day one with a specific plan for my pace (9:00/mi was my goal). I kept an eye on my Garmin, and felt really good about how I was running. As the race progressed, I noticed a creeping discrepancy between my Garmin and the lap counter, and it was not in my favor. When my Garmin said I was at 13.1 miles (at just under 2:00), the lap counter said I hadn’t yet got to mile 12! I expected some small discrepancy, but not that much. This revelation sucked the running mojo right out of me. My pace was way off and there was no way to make up the time. The mind games were strong, and I was clearly in a funk. I eventually said to myself, “you’ve got another one to run tomorrow. Just finish and come back tomorrow and give it another go.” Once I got in this frame of mind, I was less anxious and took it easier over the last half of day one. I even walked quite a bit, and I am fine with that.

For day two, my goal was to finish with a better time than day one. I knew what pace I would have to maintain, and  chose the Galloway method with a 9:1 interval. I did improve by 59 seconds! I learned from the hardships and unexpected disappointments of day one, made some adjustments, and wound up much happier with my day two performance.

How far did I actually run?
While I am aware that my Garmin didn’t sync well with the official lap counter, I think it’s still possible to get a decent estimate of my actual distance.

On a standard marathon course, you “run the tangents” because it’s the shortest possible distance. When you pass people, or take a wide turn, then you add to your overall distance. I’ve finished road marathons with distances ranging from 26.4 to 26.7 miles. This is not unusual.

The indoor course distance is measured using the innermost lane. Unfortunately, you can’t run the whole race from that lane for several reasons: there is a lot of passing, getting water/fuel, checking the lap monitor, navigating the turnaround every thirty minutes, etc. After I finished on day one, I was chatting with a nine-time Maple Leaf finisher, and he estimated my finish time was about 30 minutes slower than it would have been outdoors. This was not initially intuitive, but when you consider these factors, it makes sense.

My best guess (based on the increased lengths of the outside lanes, my Garmin data and estimates from other runners) is that the final distance is closer to 28 miles (not a typo). I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain it was closer to 28.0 than it was to 26.2.

How did I do?
Day one = 4:56:00, Day two = 4:55:01.

Would I do it again?
It wasn’t what I would call fun, but it was rewarding. I felt pretty beastly having completed such a difficult challenge. It actually allowed me to meet the criteria for the “Iridium Level” of the Marathon Maniacs (www.marathonmaniacs.com/maniac-criteria), which is something I really wanted to do.

Now that I’ve done it, the prospect of doing it again has lost much of its luster. It would no longer be new, interesting or novel. I could see perhaps doing another single indoor event, but I doubt I’d sign up again for a double… now, if they offer a triple next year, and the multi-event discount is steep, who knows what I’ll do?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Event Report: RRCA Convention

Event: RRCA Convention (Road Runners Clubs of America)
Detroit, MI

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 59th Annual RRCA Convention in Detroit, and it was awesome!

In the interest of full disclosure, please know that I have long loved the city of Detroit. I’ve been a hardcore Lions fan since 1980 (run, Billy, run!), and I have lived in Michigan for many years. I would have enjoyed this weekend in Detroit if it were a knitting convention, but when you combine Detroit with running, well … let’s just say that I was excited for this weekend long before I ever left my house.

I went to the convention with Jonathan Gottshalk, a fellow board member of the Fort Wayne Running Club (which is a member club of the RRCA). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Jon and confirmed my initial impression of him: he is indeed a cool guy.

Our objective was to learn as much as we could and bring that knowledge back to the Fort Wayne Running Club (FWRC). While I can’t tell you what Jonathan learned, I can share my own thoughts and experiences.

We left Thursday afternoon and got to Detroit that evening. There was a short “meet and greet” reception and we got to chat with several vendors. Unfortunately, we registered too late to stay at the convention hotel, so we had to stay at a less-than-posh place about a half mile away. We had to make the back/forth trek several times each day. It was often chilly, but not unbearably so.

The real festivities began Friday morning with a group run at 6:30 am. Over 100 convention attendees ran along the Detroit Riverwalk for a nice four mile out-and-back. Whatever you’ve heard about downtown Detroit is most likely outdated. They’re working hard to revitalize that part of town, and it shows. Detroit is making a strong comeback!

The first Friday session was about insurance. A few years ago it would have been way over my head, but now that I work for an insurance company, I understood almost everything they said. I knew what the meant by “D&O* coverage, aggregate limits, etc. There were several fascinating stories about unusual claims and how to avoid those problems. Surprisingly, volunteers getting hurt account for a large percentage of claims, so we spent a lot of time discussing how to keep them safe. This was an informative session.

Next, I went to a session called “Managing the Complexities of the Detroit Free Press Marathon.” The Race Director discussed how to coordinate with various local entities such as law enforcement, border agents, sponsors, etc. This is the only marathon in the world that features two international border crossings (into Canada over the Ambassador Bridge and back into America through the Windsor Tunnel). You must have a valid passport to register for this race! Organizers have to do a lot of unique work that is not necessary for most events. I was fascinated to see how much work a Race Director has to do. I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of being a Race Director, but this is something I just might consider in the future.

A highlight of the day was not only meeting Barb Bennage (Executive Race Director), but I also got to meet Ed Kozloff. He ran in the first Detroit Marathon in 1963 and has been a race director for hundreds of races since then. Through these races, he has raised over $40 million for charity! It was a real treat to chat with Detroit running royalty. I took a pic with them and shared it to Facebook using the #RRCAconvention hashtag. When I got home, I discovered their social media team found my photo and shared it on the official event FB page. I guess that makes me a minor celebrity!

Sidebar: One neat thing about the city of Detroit … about a hundred years ago there was a cool guy who had been a mayor, governor and then a Supreme Court justice. His name? Frank Murphy. One of the well-known landmarks in Detroit is a courthouse named after him, the Frank Murphy  Hall of Justice (FMHOJ). I am frequently asked by Detroiters if I am related to him. To my knowledge, I am not, but I don’t mind sharing a name with this highly respected person.

I jokingly told Barb (we’re friends now, so I can call her Barb) I was waiting to run the Detroit Marathon until they changed the route to go by the FMHOJ because I wanted a race pic of me in front of that building. She told me this was my lucky year because the starting line was being moved right next to the building. Guess who is now really wanting to run Detroit this year?

Over lunch, the keynote speaker was Doug Kurtis. He holds the record for most marathons completed under 2:20. He qualified to run in the Olympic Marathon Trials from 1980 to 1996, and is still very active in the Detroit running community (directing races, representing the RRCA, etc).  He had a ton of interesting stories about his experiences, and he was as humorous as he was encouraging. I’ll mention Doug again a little later…

My next breakout session was with the Hanson Brothers. You might be thinking of the musical group (“MMMbop!”) or the hockey goons (Slap Shot), but they’re neither. Luke Humphrey, one of their star athletes, was also on hand. They have developed an advanced marathon training method used by many elite runners as part of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. My primary reason for selecting this session was to see if they would be suitable speakers for the FWRC Banquet. They were knowledgeable, warm and engaging. They made an excellent presentation; however, I’m not sure how many of our members would be interested in the Hanson method. That’s not a criticism, but an observation. They are quite candid about the fact that their method is not for everyone.

Friday’s dinner was an informal hangout at the Detroit Historical Museum. It was a cool place I’d never visited; however, I left disappointed. I wanted to find an exhibit stating that “Frank Murphy was a great man” or something to that effect. No Frank Murphy exhibit = No Frank Murphy happy face.

Saturday morning, there was another large group run. This time the route went through the heart of Detroit. We passed numerous landmarks, and it was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in a long time. I got to run a little while with the aforementioned Doug Kurtis, and that was an amazing experience. We chatted a little and I asked if he’d ever run an indoor marathon (which I had done the previous weekend). He said that sounded crazy, but also he seemed impressed. It wasn’t even 7:00 am, and my day had already been made! To get a compliment by someone of his stature was supremely flattering.

Sidebar:Two of the convention sponsors (Leslie Jordan Apparel and Ashworth Awards) rewarded those who did the morning group runs. Each day, you got a piece of apparel (a tech shirt or a running jacket) and a nice medal. They’re hoping that those race directors doing the group run would be impressed with the products. I certainly was impressed. Everything was high quality and prominently featured Detroit. I will proudly show off my new Detroit-themed goodies.

Two of my Saturday breakout sessions were about developing new programs within a running club, such as Youth teams, Masters teams, or a Speed Walking team.. I was fascinated by the material, but I don’t think these teams fit well within the FWRC. The investment of time, effort and money would be substantial, and I don’t think there’s enough interest to be successful. At least I now know many of the factors that must be considered when adding new programs.

For each meal, I dined with a different group of people. I wanted to meet as many different people as possible, and got to visit with folks from Virginia, Texas, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, Colorado, and even Alaska. During the Saturday lunch, I met someone from New England, so I told him that I would be in his area in the fall for a work-related conference. I also told him that I was planning on running a race in Rhode Island. He asked which race, and when I told him, he replied that he was the race director! He also mentioned there were only six slots left (he’d just checked earlier that morning), so I signed up on my phone right then. I would have been disappointed to miss out on the Anchor Down Ultra simply because I didn’t apply in time. It is considered one of the most beautiful courses in the county … no matter where you are, you’ve got a nice view of the ocean … sounds cool, eh?

The keynote speaker over lunch was Craig Virgin. He’s an accomplished distance runner with an Olympic resume. To be candid, he was my least favorite speaker. Every other speaker gave me something that encouraged, inspired or equipped me. Craig’s message seemed to be about his accomplishments and I just didn’t get much “take home” with him. Perhaps it’s just me, but he struck me as arrogant, and I wasn’t that impressed.

I went to a session on how to be a race director for trail/ultra events. Loads of information in a checklist format! It was very informative. I’m still not sure if I’m ever going to be a race director. At least I realize there’s a lot to it, and this is the kind of stuff I would need to know in order to do it right. Even if I never direct a race, I’m now better equipped to help those who do.

My final breakout session was “22 Ways To Calculate Results for Your Race.” As FWRC Points Coordinator this couldn’t have been more relevant to my specific duties. Quite informative and interesting. I doubt we’ll make radical changes to our procedures, but it was cool to learn how others are doing what I do.

Saturday night featured the National Running Awards Banquet. The main speaker was Desiree Linden. She is currently one of the top female marathoners in the world having competed in several world majors and multiple Olympic games. She will be running Boston in a few weeks. She was a great speaker and I appreciated her humility and candor. I would love for her to speak at the FWRC banquet. Her story has a little something for everyone, and I think our members would love her like crazy. It was a privilege to shake her hand and get a quick pic after the banquet.

Another great speaker at the banquet was Dave McGillivray, the race director for the Boston Marathon. He was being inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame. Not only has he ran the Boston Marathon 40+ times,but he’s also completed several triathlons and ultras. Furthermore, he has ran across the continental USA like Forrest Gump. In his speech, he was quick to deflect praise onto others and his words were truly inspiring. He is another person I’d love to invite to the FWRC banquet.

The rest of the banquet featured awards being given to people that I didn’t know who had done things that I was unaware of (categories like “best article in a local club newsletter”). I’m glad they acknowledge these hard working folks, but it gets tedious sitting through these types of awards.

The final day of the weekend Jonathan and I ran the Corktown Races, which are part of an Irish-themed festival complete with a parade, food trucks, etc. Between 8,000 - 10,000 people complete one of the run/walk events, so there’s a huge turnout. We signed up for the 1 mile and the 5k events.

I took a little warm-up jog and when I got back to the start area, I heard the announcer say there was just one minute until the start. I didn’t realize I had so little time, but I managed to get into the starting corral just as the horn sounded. I took off and was moving along pretty well. After about 50 yards I realized that I was a lot taller than everyone around me. I was surrounded by kids that were mostly 3-5 years old. That’s when I realized that I had inadvertently jumped into the Kids Run (a quarter mile event for little kids). I was too embarrassed to slip off the course, so I went ahead and finished the run. I was hoping they would assume I was a parent (several parents were out there with their kids). If I hadn’t pulled up a little, I think I could have won the Kids Run. Fortunately, I made it back to the starting line in time for the events that I had actually intended to race, and I was quite satisfied with how I ran.

Overall, the entire weekend was a ton of fun. I got to meet several running celebrities. I ran with runners from around the country. I hung out with Jon. I got a lot of neat swag. I got a taste of the renaissance in downtown Detroit. I felt like an eight year old kid on Christmas morning.

I learned a lot too. Interestingly, very little of the content was about making me a better runner … the material was not focused like that. It was intended to equip me to help others become a better runner. For example, I learned a lot about the inner workings of directing races and working behind the scenes in a local running club. I’m extremely thankful I had the opportunity to do this!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

I Like Being Pushed

In my Ultimate league, we almost always play man-to-man. Double teaming is not allowed, and you just don’t see zone defenses very often at this level of play. So, games are usually a series of one-on-one matchups the entire time.

In one game, I just happened to line up against folks that were significantly less experienced than I was and I scored seven times (that’s a lot). In another game, I was matched up against someone who was younger by twenty years, faster, taller, able to jump higher, etc. He forced me into half a dozen turnovers and I scored only once. Guess which of those two games was more satisfying to me? The second one. By far.

This kind of attitude shows up in my running too. For example, I’ve been doing speedwork on an indoor track at a local gym. When I started doing these workouts, I had the gym to myself, but a few weeks ago, the University of Saint Francis track team has been there when I was. They’re an impressive group of young people and clearly on a much higher level than I am. I’ve noticed that when we’re sharing the track, the intensity of my workout goes waaaaay up. While I’m not directly competing against any of them, there’s something about being next to amazing talent that inspires me to train harder. When I show up for a speed session, and see those college kids warming up, I know that I’m going to be working hard.

Within the last month, I was selected as an irun4ultra ambassador and as a member of the Three Rivers Running Company Ultra Racing Team. In both cases, the other athletes on these teams are far more accomplished than I am. One of my ultra teammates set a world record by running 73.3 miles on a treadmill in twelve hours! I am clearly surrounded by superior ability, experience and talent. I’ve ran trails with some of these folks before, and they make it look so effortless while I’m pushing hard just to keep them in sight.

I want to point out that I applied to these teams … I really wanted to be a part of these teams! I wasn’t motivated to apply because I thought I was great and they’d be lucky to have me … I wanted to a part of these teams because I knew that it would help me to become better. I enjoy a challenge most when the ability of those around me is higher than my own. They push me. They inspire me. They sharpen me.

Don’t get me wrong … I don’t want to always be the least capable athlete on the court or trail. I really enjoy introducing people to Ultimate and running. This is a topic for another day, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s important to intentionally invest in others and to help them improve. 

When you break it down to principle, both of these attitudes are variations on the theme of accountability. I want to be pushed and I want to be the one pushing. My personal improvement is a function of the people I choose to be around. I will succeed because I am not alone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Willpower and Knowledge

Here's a quote from an article by Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert). While I often disagree with what he says, I found this one statement to be quite insightful:

"... replace willpower with knowledge."

A lot of people try to take control over their health and fitness by using good ol' fashioned willpower (such as making a new year resolution to go to the gym every day). While you need to be determined and a resolution can be helpful, you've got to address the underlying problem.

From my limited experience, I believe one of the biggest problems is ignorance. People want to make changes, but they're not sure what those changes should be, so they kind of flail around a bit trying what they think will work, and while they're looking for their footing, their willpower dwindles until nothing is left.

Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner (FWSW) was a great way for me to lose weight and reclaim my health. I want to make sure you understand why it worked so well for me. My success was not due to physically demanding workouts. More important than the exercise was the excellent nutrition course that was designed to eradicate my nutritional ignorance. FWSW taught me to change the way I think about fuel (See what I did there? I called it "fuel" instead of "food.").

I would like to amend Scott's statement to "... focus willpower with knowledge." FWSW equipped me with the knowledge I needed to make good choices, and that magnified my willpower. As I became more informed, I became exponentially more capable.

If you live in the Fort Wayne area, have considered applying to this upcoming season of FWSW, but are still "on the fence" about applying, ask yourself why you haven't applied yet. If your indecisiveness is tied to being afraid of the workouts, trust me when I say that you can absolutely do the workouts. FWSW meets each contestant right where they are at and you'll be fine. Don't worry about the workouts. They're not easy, but they're not overwhelmingly difficult either.

Instead of focusing on exercise, remember that the battle is fought in the kitchen and not in the gym. Because of my significant success in the kitchen, I am capable of pushing myself to attempt intense physical challenges.

Note: a rough draft of this blog entry was posted to my Facebook wall on 2/1/2016.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Old Guy

A short while ago I participated in a “community-wide open” indoor track meet hosted by a local university. I’d never done anything like this before (not even in school … believe it or not, I was not much of an athlete as a kid), and this seemed like a great opportunity to try something new.

I got there early because I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were many events with multiple heats in each: 200m, 400m relay, pole vault, etc. Registration procedures were not intuitive. Much of the terminology was foreign to me. There were a lot of people, and they were doing exotic warm-up exercises I’d never seen before. To my eye, it looked like everyone knew what they were doing. Me? Not so much.

Fortunately, I recognized a few friendly faces, asked a bunch of questions, and eventually started to feel less overwhelmed. I had entered the 1600m and 3200m races (the two longest events available). The events were far enough apart on the schedule that I spent most of my day at the meet. While waiting for my two events I walked around the facility, and my activity tracker recorded fourteen “bonus” walking miles that day!

My 1600m time was 6:21.10. My previous one mile PR was 6:32, so this was a new standard for me. It felt awesome, and I probably looked a little silly wearing such a big, dopey grin on my face. My 3200m time was 14:14.75, which was also a PR by virtue of having never before raced that distance.

Incidentally, I was near the bottom of the leaderboard in both events. Most of the athletes were teenagers (or younger), and those kids were fast! I didn’t see any other runner near my age (47 years old), which just broadened that dopey grin.

A few days after the meet, I was talking with someone who’s daughter had competed at this meet too. She said, “Dad, I think one of your running friends was there.. He was an old, bald guy, and was kinda fast for his age.” 

On a slightly different note, I also play in an Ultimate Frisbee league, and for the past few seasons, I’ve been the oldest guy in the league. I’m certainly not the most complete player out there, but I play hard and try to contribute. It’s a lot fun and a great cross training workout!

I don’t mind being known as the old guy who is really active. Actually, I really like being known as the old guy who is really active. I’ve played an Ultimate league game in the evening after having ran a full marathon that morning. Who does that? The old guy who is really active.

I do feel a little silly when I think about how I wasted so many years. I didn’t embrace an active lifestyle until I was 43 years old. I could have been doing cool stuff like this all along!

I’ve decided that I’m not going to let how I lived the first portion of my adult life dictate how I live the rest of it.  So … yeah, I’m the old guy … and I’m cool with that.