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

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

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" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Friday, March 24, 2017

Event Report: 2017 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: 2017 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!