Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Music of Running 50

Thank you to everyone who has donated to support my 50th State Marathon (read more here and here). We're still matching donations given this week of my birthday. Click the JustGive logo on the right or just tap here.


The triumphant march of Indiana Jones. The mystery of the Force. The strumming guitar of James Bond. The jazzy strains of Mission: Impossible.

Those are some of the sounds of music that accompanied me on my 50th State Marathon two weeks ago in Hawaii. Runners and non-runners often enquire about if I listen to music on my runs and if so, what tunes? Yet until now, I have never written much about that aspect of my running.

When I began my quest - not for the 50 states but just to reach the of my block, then the end of the street and then to do a full loop to the Palisades bluffs (about 1 mile) - I used the excuse of working out to buy a new iPod. In 2006, I think I acquired an iPod nano. Or maybe the gum stick sized white Shuffle. In any case, I figured I could use my new found cardio workouts to justify technology. Of course, I'll face the music and admit that the weakest of justifications (taking out the trash, walking the dog or even a freshening breeze) might be enough for me.

For the first few years of running, but not including my first marathon, I usually ran with some sort of audio. Typically, this has been film music, but my tastes have become more varied although still somewhat eclectic. I've listened to my fair share of Wagner and Verdi operas, numerous pop culture and music related podcasts, some audiobooks, radio plays, Neil Diamond concerts (and lots of U2 ones too). I have even listened to Dodger baseball games and radio broadcast of Arsenal soccer matches.

On long runs, I'll often combine many of these and just change as I go. Since I always run with my iPhone, I have no shortage of music. I may be listening to a podcast about an artist (The Answered Question is a great one about music events in Boston), and they'll refer to a composition I've never heard. I'll switch over to Spotify and find the music and then return to the podcast after hearing it. Other favorite podcasts are Rebel Force Radio, Coffee with Kenobi, Jedi Journals, Flash TV Talk, The Arsecast, Supergirl TV Talk and Met Opera Guild podcasts. Of course, I also love the ones I record for - The IndyCast and BondCast.

(I'm co-hosting music episodes of each, out today, July 11: check them out here (Indy) and here (Bond).)

Audible is a great source of audiobooks with full cast recordings (such as The Lord of the Rings from the BBC or the Star Wars radio plays) being particularly enjoyable. I'm currently listening to a complete recording of all of Sherlock Holmes narrated by the amazing Stephen Fry, and he is awesome enough to make all of the voices distinct. Jim Dale is wonderful on the Harry Potter series in the US (Stephen Fry is great in the UK ones).

I love my new Apple AirPods which you can see in my ears
However, for races, I tend to playlists. I have a number of Star Wars ones, and a great Indiana Jones 5k. Or I'll string together a bunch of albums. My first marathon did not have audio on my journey because in the mid-2000's, there was a general movement for race directors to ban listening devices. There were fears that runners would crash into each other or not hear crucial race instructions. Even today, anyone running a big race and looking to have a competitive finish is unlikely to be allowed to use an audio device. For them, the concern is some sort of remote coaching. Today, any prohibitions of normal runners like me are rare. My 50 mile run in Maryland did have this (and 10 hours is a long time without anything to listen to!), but that was because the Park Service banned the devices as part of the license to the race operators.

For my 50th State Marathon, I decided to make a new playlist. Partly, this was to address the issue of my expected slow time. My Star Wars Marathon list is just over 4 hours. I also wanted to have a mix of film music to accompany me.

I thought it was appropriate to start with the Hawaii 5-O theme. And why just one? I sequenced the recent show's modern version followed by the classic 60's version. Morton Stevens is the composer. This was a great way to get me moving and reflect the locale and my age.




Next, I put in the entire Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom score. I happen to have the complete score, and I knew I wanted Indy with me. Temple of Doom is my favorite of the 4 Indy movie soundtracks, and it was very hot out. The Temple of Doom felt right in more than one way.

Another score that is a good background for me is the 5th Mission: Impossible film (Rogue Nation). (The 3rd and 4th movie scores are good too.) I like the mix of action film interpolating the Lalo Schifrin theme from the TV show. Joe Kraemer may be the least well known of the movie composers (Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino), but I like his take the most. He worked with Tom Cruise on Jack Reacher, but I have not heard that score. And of course Mission: Impossible was how this felt after a week of trying to get my banged up left hip to work. (Read about that here and here).

Glen Nelson and High Adventure are a band out of the east coast, and they do a lot of songs related to fandom. My absolutely favorite of them is The Ballad of Indiana about Indiana Jones. When this song came on at about mile 16, it gave me chills. It was such a pick me up. It's just such a fun song by people who clearly love Indiana Jones. How could you go wrong with a song that starts with something that sounds like a didgeridoo, ends with bagpipes and has these lyrics?

"I'm a one man show who is used to flying solo. Ask me how, but I don't know. I'm making this up as I go." That was exactly how I felt! So, I played it twice!



Then I was immersed in the world of James Bond. I chose Skyfall by Thomas Newman for this run which may not be the most obvious choice, but it has some great tracks to listen to. The opening Grand Bazaar chase music is a kick.  However, as I was ahead of schedule on the race, I actually skipped forward by about half the album to reach a handful of tracks from Star Trek by James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith.

We then hit my Star Wars suite starting with the 1977 A New Hope through the Force Awakens and Rogue One. I actually skipped the prequel tracks during my listen - for time and not distaste as I love the music in all 8 theatrical films.



Overall, I was really happy with my choices!

What's right for you? Some people suggest running with music can throw off your pace, but I've never had that bother me. In fact, if anything, I zone out a bit to the music. And I always take out my earphones when I finish the race so I can enjoy the applause!





Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quest Complete! 50 Marathons in 50 States before I am 50!


First, thank you to all those who have donated to the 2017 RunLairdRun Charity drive already. Your personal email thank you is forthcoming as I catch up from vacation mode back into the real world!  Here's the donation link for those that are looking for it: https://www.justgive.org/laird50

50 States Complete!
On one of the various Facebook threads that sprung up around my 50th state, one of my coworkers asked a question about my last blog post. I wrote, at some length, about "attempting" this race. And just a few days prior to the event, I did not know if I could do it. Yet, by the time I posted the blog, Volga wanted to know if I had really any fear of finishing? Had I ever actually failed a race I started?

I did not find any offense in the question. In fact, I likened it to the Kobayashi Maru test in Star Trek. Briefly, Captain Kirk, as a cadet, cheated his way through a "no win" scenario test; he had never  experienced the feelings of losing or death from these impossible situations. So, to apply this to myself, could I honestly convey a sense of drama about my race if I knew I would make it? 

(Oh, and yes, I did finish my 50th State in the 50th state before I turned 50! Just under 5 hours, family cheering me on, smile on my face. More on some of the neat things that happened just after the race below - such as being written up in the local paper! We'll get to that in due course.)

Back to the question of drama: Against me is a very obvious point. I did not post my pre-race marathon and fundraiser post until the night before the marathon. I certainly gave thoughts to posting an ongoing commentary from the time of being injured (June 17) up to and through the race (on June 25). Then my rumination on if I could attempt the race or not would have been more in doubt in the lead up. However, I felt it unfair to ask people to donate on my behalf if I could not actually start the race. Sure, you all would have understood what happened, but part of RunLairdRun is in the name. I'm supposed to run! In addition, I needed to direct my energy into getting well (or well enough) rather than writing blog updates. I rarely write short ones, and they take time. A few of you pinged me before the race to ask how I was doing (as you knew about the race date), and I was able to share with you that things were not great with my leg. Looking back, I can think of a range of ways to reveal the drama better! Ah, hindsight and a clear mind.

As with everything in running for me, I like to think about my experiences and how they apply to life. This week is no different, and Volga's question stirred something in my mind about confidence and how it develops.

Let us start with the question as raised. At the time I posted about the Kona race, did I have fear of not completing the attempt? The short answer is yes, but that doubt was small. 

In fact, in every marathon I have done, there is always some doubt that starts at the planning. when you have run 77 marathons in on 7 continents in 11 countries and in 7 states in the USA, there is a lot of planning that takes place. I may look forward 6 months and pick a marathon only to have some work or family obligation require me to skip it. Sure, I have voluntarily decided to not run the race, but that means that in every race I plan, I have some measure of fear of not completing it.

As the date approaches, and calendars remain clear, I start to plan flights. (I usually book hotels at the time of booking a race since most are cancellable very close to the actual stays.) Still, something might happen - a missed connection, bad weather across the US, even a cancelled race (as happened to me at the Walt Disney World half marathon this year).

On the running-front, I am continuing with my daily and weekly goals. If I am running just one marathon in a month, I put in some long runs and see how I do. I might do a shorter race to work on pace or a weekend of races to test my endurance and recovery. All of these give me information on how I am feeling and what I can do or not do.

I ran with Jc (right) at Mad River VT on my 48th Birthday

Case-in-point: In March, I planned and was schedule to run with my friend Jc during his 250th marathon in Pennsylvania. This was going to be a weekend of two races with him two full ones and me doing one half and one full. The week after, I was scheduled to run my 49th state in North Carolina. (This Pennsylvania race would be my 2nd in the state; the first was state 26 in August 2014.) Then I got the flu or at least a bad cold two weeks beforehand. I actually took sick days. Still, I had over a week to go. In the end, I just did not feel well enough to make it back east and do the race. My confidence was low that I could do that running weekend and then safely make it to North Carolina for the more needed new state marathon. I had already done 3 back-to-back weekends in the past 9 months with no issues, but this spring did not feel right.

In the normal case where I do run the races I sign up for, knowing I will finish the race is not a switch between 0 and 1. I rarely start at 0, but I equally rarely start at 1. In fact, not until the race has started and I am on my way do I start to get really confident. Then as the race progresses, and more mileage is under my belt do I approach confidence. There is a point in every marathon where I know I will finish even if I walk (usually around mile 16). Ironically, in the one marathon I should have likely dropped out of - the 2008 New York City Marathon - where I got injured, the injury manifested itself at mile 16. I went numb in my foot, but as it did not hurt to run, I just slowed down a bunch and actually enjoyed not worrying too much about my time. I then was off running for 4 weeks while my calf healed. I started swimming and cycling.

In the specific case of this past Sunday, I did go from nearly 0 confidence to completing the race. I thought a brief timeline would be illustrative:

June 9 - 20 mile run in London. Felt fine. 85% confidence in Kona Marathon - 5% was pure logistical in nature; 10% given I knew Kona would be hot and humid

June 15 - arrived in Hawaii feeling stiff from the flight. Bit of a limp. 

June 17 run had nice scenery but a less than nice post run
June 16 - 10 mile run in Honolulu. A good run. No real issues, and in fact I had added 3 miles as I decided to find an ATM Machine and get some cash. Heat and humidity were apparent but I was feeling ok in it. Slower than normal. 90% confidence but only minimal concerns.

June 17 - 7 mile run with a big uphill section. GPS went wonky! Immediately had trouble walking post running. Confidence drops to 50% throughout the day as the pain and limp were getting worse, not better.

June 18 - Took the day off of running for the first time since Dec 30. A massage made me feel a bit better, but still pain in every step. The thought of running on my hip is almost nauseating. Confidence drops to 20%. 

June 19 - Chiropractor appointment. Some improvement but still not right. Given I have no had a treatment, my confidence drops further despite feeling better. I don't feel well enough yet to run after seeing someone. I cannot even imagine walking the race yet. I admit that I may not be able to do this. I consider flying to Los Angeles and back for treatment and even book flights but worry that the travel would undue any benefit. 5%.

June 20 - Rebecca does some muscle testing on me and thinks my pelvis is out. She then proceeds to adjust it by sitting on my side. I hope to never feel something so painful again. However, I do seem to have more power in my leg even if the pain still exists. I have some laser and ultrasound work done which helps. Confidence at 15%.

June 21 - Another day off running, but I get in 20 mins on a stationary bike without pain. Still limping and in pain walking. 20%.

Hotel bike. 1 speed. That was good for me.
June 22 - 45 mins bike ride around the resort. Then, I have a Rolf massage session (think aggressive massage) and then another chiropractor appointment immediately after. That feels better! I think now that I can at least walk the race in about 8 hours, but that is a long time to be in the heat and sun! 33%

June 23 - First run in 5 days. Nearly 8 miles, and it's not great, but I chose to run a mile and then walk 30 seconds before running the next. This seems to work and keep the discomfort and tightness in check for all 100 minutes I was out there. 50% confidence as I think I can probably run at least half and then walk the rest. I am also not limping too much worse than before the practice run. I also run with compression shorts and a band around my waist to keep everything in place.

June 24 - Just a 3 mile run before the race. It's enough to know I am ok to try the race. Confidence is now at 67% or so. I've done a bunch of exercise in the heat and sun and not fared too badly. The original pain is now gone, but I am very constricted in my stride. Slow and steady is about the best I am going to manage. Like the turtle in this video we shot.


June 25 - I get up without issue at 3:30 AM. Marathon prep goes well and I am at the start of the race. Lots of lovely messages from all of you about wishing me luck and that I have this. 80%.

Start line - I end up next to Steve and Paula, the organizers of the 50 State Marathon club! The give me great encouragement. Still 80% though!
A fellow runner as the sun peaks over the horizon
Mile 1 - so far so good. I am actually running in my 50th state. 81%
Mile 5 - feeling about as I did when I started. The sun is up. 85%
Mile 9 - Post on Facebook I am past the 1/3 through. 90%.
Mile 16 - 10 miles to go. 95%
Mile 18 - The family is there for an amazing pitstop - more fluids, another bluetooth headset, more sunscreen and lots of encouragement and love. Text messages are coming in checking in on me from around the country. 99% - really by this point I knew I would make it even if I crawled the very end
Mile 26.2 - Done! 100%!


While the numbers are different when I am not feeling poorly, I actually go through a similar brain exercise in every marathon. There is always some doubt which is probably helpful as overconfidence is dangerous in an endurance sport. 

In fact, when I think about any major project - one that has lots of planning and execution risks, such as shipping the consumer Oculus Rift or various Call of Duty games - my confidence goes through similar roller coasters. I remember when I was assigned the PC game Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2000. The developer was fighting with the IP owner, and I was asked to get everyone speaking and sort it all out. I promised we would ship by Thanksgiving the following year. The marketing lead did not believe this could be done. He had been on the project the entire time, and his confidence was shaken. I cannot say that I had any basis in my belief other than experience and 12 months of time to work with. My feelings about our ship date definitely went up and down during those 365 days. Just as in the marathon recap above, there were times when my confidence was near zero. And as we approached the code release date and then our ship date, that went up towards 100%. Even at the end, we had a problem with our German manual that delayed the shipment in that country a week. The good news is that we did make Thanksgiving, and then we won PC Game of the Year and Multiplayer Game of the Year with glorious reviews. So, for me in any case, running is like making a game or shipping a product in terms of going through an analog curve of feelings and fears and emotional highs. Achieving a plan of any sort is an amazing feeling.

In following posts, I will write more about the race itself - so much fun and so different for me than others. I changed my iPhone playlist a bit too for this one, and that was a good decision. So, I'll write that up too.

I'll close though to talk about some of the really special aspects of the experience. This started when my lil sis Jen showed me the shirts she had designed a made. Red with big letters spelling Run Laird Run! on the front and a map of the US on the back with each marathon name and date listed by year. The family all wore these on Sunday. I ran in my traditional Marathon Maniacs white (more grey now) shirt. After the race, I did a costume change and put on my earned red shirt. 

Riley, during the 5k, wearing RunLairdRun red
Bright red stands out, and one great benefit of that was seeing all 5 Kenlines during their 5k. The Kona races all overlap and share portions of the course. Thanks in part to my slower than normal pace, I was running part of the out and back as the 5k started and was running to me. I saw Daniel sprinting his way to a 4th place finish in his age group, then my goddaughter Riley and her dad Paul. And a few moments later, Jen and Max were there and we were all hugging to propel us all to our various finish distances.

Then at the pitstop referenced above, I easily found the entire family crew in attendance - 8 red shirts really do pop visually!

At the end of the race, I was called up to the podium to receive a special plaque acknowledging my 50 state achievement. This was unexpected and lovely. 


The final kicker was that a reporter approached me after this. JR writes for the West Hawaii Today paper, and he had seen all the red shirts with the white lettering and had googled to find the blog. Intrigued, he asked me about RunLairdRun and the experience running in Kona. Here are a few images of the paper I found the next morning and the link to the article online that also shows Jen and Max as they finished the 5k. People working in our hotel stopped to congratulate me as they had read the article!

As my cousin Julie asked, wasn't it more fitting to have felt such low confidence on this journey and to succeed at the end. And indeed, she is right, particularly in retrospective. This was the best personal worst time ever! Still, I would have loved to have felt physically better before, during and after the race! Maybe next year I will run again in better form.

(To be clear: I have no intention of running all the 50 states a second time! Once is awesome enough.)



One more plug for the fundraiser - please donate if inclined and you have a chance: https://www.justgive.org/laird50

Daniel and Laird show off their medals

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hawaii 5-0! And The 2017 RunLairdRun Fundraiser


Aloha from the 50th state where I am about to run (sort of, see further in) my 50th state marathon just as a I turn 50 in less than 3 weeks. 50-50-50! This culminates one of challenges I set for myself 5 years ago after competing my 7th state and will cap slightly more than 10 years of marathon running (from March 2007 to June 2017). What a week it has been here in the Aloha state with a number of days when I thought I would not be able to participate in the Kona Marathon; I could barely walk! (as I noted, see further in.) But first...

Just 1 more state to go...

As I do every year to celebrate my birthday and running, I ask you to support some amazing charities focused on kids. I do the running (this year, sort of; again, see further down the post), you donate a bit of money and send good wishes and cheer, and then we double what you give 1:1. We all win. So, here's the link to the giving page:


If you prefer to donate directly to these charities and skip the aggravator site (which does charge a fee), feel free. Just send me an email to "run at lairdmalamed.com" with your receipt, and I'll make sure to do the match at the end. Although the race is Sunday, June 25, the fundraiser goes until July 12 - my 50th birthday. 

Two of our charities return from last year where we raised $50k together. Thank you!


The California Science Center houses Endeavour, one of our remaining space shuttle orbiters. The museum is a free facility, home to so many great science exhibits, from the space vehicle to a living rain forest to traveling exhibits to displays on computers and everything else science. I used to go with my grandfather to the museum when I was little. I am a trustee member since last year, and I have enjoyed being on the board with so many great people and staff. All of your donations will go to support scholarships to our science camp programs to bring kids to the museum from all over Southern California. 



Children International has been on our donation list since the very first fundraiser in 2008. Rebecca and I have sponsored a number of girls in poverty-struck areas in the Philippines. CI focuses on education and health programs around the developing world. I visited their amazing site in Chile in 2011 after I finished my seven continent marathon quest. Last year, our donations created the RunLairdRun recreation and sports room in their Delhi, India facility. I am hoping to visit that in the fall. This year, our donations will go towards HOPE Scholarships. HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) scholarships help pay for extra education when a family can’t afford it such as vocational training and post-secondary school (including tuition, books and transportation).  The HOPE scholarship program is a competitive scholarship program where youth are required to apply for the scholarships and must meet certain requirements in order to maintain the scholarship, such as minimum grades, completion of the academic year and volunteer service hours.  Scholarships range from $150-$500. So, even small donations to the RunLairdRun fundraiser can add quickly add to impact a child.


New to my donation list this year is the non-profit iCivics. I was appointed to the Governing Board this past February and have attended two meetings thus far. iCivics was started by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The non-partisan approach to teaching civic education through games and teacher curricula is the heart of what we do. Both in class and at home apps and web experiences bring the topics to our students. Justice O'Connor has said “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens." This is what iCivics is. The programs are great and have received numerous awards. Your donations will go to help develop more teacher guides, update our website for better discovery and help bring new and updated games to middle and high schoolers.



Our total goal is to raise together a total of $50,000 given how nicely that ties to my birthday year. Whether you can donate $10 or $50 or $500 (or any amount), you will have my appreciation as well as those of the charities. Everything is tax deductible, and you'll get the appropriate paperwork for your taxes as applicable.

Here's the link again. https://www.justgive.org/laird50

Now, what's going on with my leg? And why am I posting this just hours before the actual marathon? (June 25 5:30 AM HST start - 8:30 on the west coast, 11:30 back east and 5:30 pm in Europe.)

Here's a nice photo from my 7-mile run last Saturday in Honolulu. Rainbows are good luck, right? Double ones, double the luck?


Well, apparently not. Following that run, I tightened up and could barely walk, even with a pronounced limp was painful. Blah! I had not hurt at all while running. I just came up lame.

This week in paradise has been filled with going to the chiropractor three times, a deep massage "Rolfer" experience, a normal massage, trying a whole bunch of different shorts options (the issue is in my left hip), Epsom salt baths, magnesium rubbed into my hip and anything else we can think of. I took a bunch of days off running (4 days - longest break in I don't know how long), did some bike work, have walked waist deep in the ocean and lots and lots of stretches. Super healthy diet - no gluten, eggs, dairy, nightshades (mostly). Lots of fish, fruit and veggies with some rice at times. 

Happily, I really have not dwelled too much on what happened to cause this. Over use? Maybe? Stress, probably? Bad diet (way too much gluten for sure), likely? The plane flight from Seattle, almost 100% that pushed me over whatever edge I was perched upon. It's probably a combination of factors. I managed to clip our couch about 3 weeks ago and really bruised my right small toe. It hurt like the dickens, and I am sure that twisted me up with the impact and sudden stop. I then probably severely favored it when walking and running.

It's important to have some sense of the why, but I am more focused on the how - how to keep my date with completing state 50 before I am 50. (There is a marathon in Oahu on July 22, but that's after my birthday.) And I need to do this without seriously injuring myself. 

Aloha means more than hello and goodbye. The sense of aloha combines a relaxed attitude with a friendliness and warmth. I can imagine a week somewhere else before some other marathon when every other thought would be a remonstration of myself for whatever caused this mess so close to my big 5-0 goal. The irony is that I have been cautious this year. I've only run 2 marathons in 6 months (compared to 8 in the previous 6). While May was my biggest running month ever, I did a lot of it on crushed gravel. June has been a much easier month in terms of mileage and pace with only one super long run (20 miles in London two weeks ago). With aloha in mind, I've been much more calm and collected. 


The good news, is that after all of this focus on getting better, I am actually better. I put in nearly 8 miles on Friday. To be candid, it was painful. However, I know I could complete 26 miles over probably 5-6 hours. Happily, today's smaller 3 mile run was pain-free! I was just tight and unable to get a lot of left leg extension. My pace was a tad quicker (30 seconds). 

Even with a bunch of my family here (and 5 of them doing the 5k on Sunday), I am content to let things happen as they do. If I cannot run or I start running and feel like I have to stop, then that's life. I'll still complete the 50 states at some point. 

If I can run this one to completion, it will be super slow. My current aim is a 12-13 minute pace (my normal is 8-9) with a 30-second walk break each mile. This is the run-walk method espoused by Jeff Galloway, and his books were the first that I read when I started running. Since then, I've shared moments with Jeff and his wife in corrals at RunDisney events. He's genuine and friendly, and I love the circularity that my 50th state will be attempted with the same strategy, albeit a lot slower, of my 1st state.

These wild goats, seen on a training run, are going to be a lot faster than I will be!
Ironically, I wrote about goals and their potential dangers just this past month! You can read it here. Time to read what I wrote.

My lil sis Jen has started a Facebook group with lots of people cheering me on and running with me virtually. Take a peek and join if you want. 

And if you run/bike/swim/hike/walk/whatever, take a photo and hashtag it #RunLairdRun!

This journey has been shared with so many people. The Kenlines (who are running the 5k together), my parents and Rebecca are all here to cheer me on, and I know you will too wherever your are. 

Thanks everyone for all the support over the years. Here's the donation link one more time.


Updates to follow post race



Friday, May 5, 2017

Amerithon Challenge Completed! And some thoughts on goals.



Today, May 5, I completed my biggest target yet in terms of mileage. Run The Edge has been offering up the Amerithon Challenge - 3,521 virtual miles from San Francisco to Washington DC. While taking on their 2,016 miles in 2016 challenge last year, I received word to this additional quest and signed up. The Amerithon Challenge includes all forms of movement, so I counted runs, bike rides, swims and hikes (the latter two accounting for very few of the total miles). 

It works by running, riding, etc wherever you are in the world. You then go onto the update page and tap in your results for the day. This is an honor system. I chose to not link to my Garmin or Strava accounts due to bugs with the system early on. Instead, I have a spreadsheet that pulls that data and gives me lots of stats and info.

With 10 miles today (8 riding, 2 running), I passed 3,521 and virtually sped to the foot of the obelisk honoring our first president. The challenge commenced on July 4, 2016, so 10 months and 1 day elapsed before I finished.

I started this crazy tracking of miles with 5 coworkers from Oculus. As a team, we hit the goal back in late November. While I counted for 40% of those miles, this was really a team effort and we daily pushed each other along. I decided to continue on my own to keep that momentum going.

Some stats on this run/cycle craziness:

Total miles: 3,521
Elapsed days: 306
Total workouts: 405
Running: 2262 miles
Riding: 1247 miles
Other: 12 miles (mostly swimming)
Miles/wk: 81
Miles/day: 11.5
Avg workout: 66 mins
Avg pace: 7:35 mins/mile = 7.9 miles/hour
Total time: 445 hours, 22 mins


This leads me to write a bit about running/exercising goals. As a very goal oriented person - I think dopamine fires off in my brain whenever I complete any task - these make total sense. If you look back at my posts last July (herehereherehere and here), I set out a number goals for my 49th birthday, 2016 overall and part of 2017. I'll update those below.

The good part of goals is that they motivate you. Those achy or rainy days cannot keep you inside. Every run, ride, swim, whatever counts to some outcome or another. There are almost no "bad" days when you wish you had just binge watched Netflix instead of pounding the pavement. Every life coach and motivational guru will tell you when you have goals, life gets better. Many of these people attribute this to a study done on the 1953 graduating Yale University class. Some 3% of these seniors had written down life goals. When they were queried later in life, those 3% had significantly out earned their goalless classmates. Goal setters 1, undecideds 0.

All good. Everyone reading this go write down some life goals!

But wait...

No evidence has found that this purported survey and study ever occurred. None. Zero. Zippo. No Eli graduate admits to being asked anything about goals at the time. In fact, some "sources" attribute this study to the Harvard '53ers. Yale even has a page on their library website given how often pings land on their desk asking for the raw data. (http://ask.library.yale.edu/faq/175224). The verdict: The "goal study" belongs with other urban myths. 

But who cares if the study happened or not. We all know goals are good for us. Right?

Not so fast.

There is a real downside to setting goals. While studying people and their goals, LA King and CM Burton argue for a narrow use of goals. "The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract; that do not conflict with each other, and that concern the accomplishment of something other than financial gain." (American Psychological Association, 2003.)

Why is this the case? Shouldn't we have big dreams and big targets? Max Bazerman, Harvard professor and author of "Goals Gone Wild," found a number of negative side effects. These include:


  1. Goals force people to narrow their focus. The goal takes over everything else.
  2. Short term thinking reduces long term strategy and the ability to react to changes.
  3. People who are missing goals are more likely to make unethical decisions and even lie about completion (Enron, Wells Fargo and other companies provide numerous case studies of this).
  4. In organizations, competition can be overemphasized despite often needing to favor collaborative behavior for real success.
Even worse, missing goals can have terrible ramifications on people's brains. Disappointment can lead to a lack of confidence and a lack of motivation for future choices. This can create a downward spiral of retrograde motion so that the end point is actually backwards from the starting state at the time of picking goals. Why do so many people set New Years resolutions but rarely expect them to last beyond February?

In a running or exercising scenario, goals could lead to working out when you are physically unable or pushing too hard leading to blowing out a knee or some other part of the body. I certainly have been guilty, but fortunately not seriously punished, for pushing too hard. I remember deciding at the last minute to get just one more marathon done and then sitting sick for a week. Running mentors always advise against "junk miles" when you add just more mileage to a hard workout instead of stopping and resting. The extra miles are usually performed in worse form, another reason for injury. 

So, now that I have argued the dangers, how do I reconcile this information with my own various goals:

  • 50 states by 50: 49 complete. Hawaii, the 50th state, is June 25, 2017. 17 days before my 50th birthday
  • 2017 running miles in 9 months of 2017: On track to finish by late September
  • 2620 running miles in 2017: On track to finish in mid-December
  • 1380 riding miles in 2017: On track to finish in late December
  • 49 races while 49: On track. 42 races completed, 3 more planned, 4 to schedule and do before July 12 (my 50th birthday)
Just 1 State to Go

One of the keys is to make and complete goals is to focus on process rather than on results.

For example, in my 50 state goal, the action for that goal was to run 10-12 marathons per year. What's the difference? First, there are smaller wins possible (annual goals). Goal experts recommend this type of approach. Smaller wins are more rewarding and lock in success along the way rather than needing to get all the way to the finish line.

Second, there is an implied consistency to this way of approaching goals. Goals that are based on process are far safer than goals based on outcomes. For instance, the goal "I want to get fit" is not helpful. It's too vague and subject to definition slips. Even, "I want to lose 10 lbs" is not wonderful. You can lose 10 lbs by skipping a bunch of meals. In fact, that's even more risky since losing weight too fast is bad for the body and unlikely to be kept off the waist. The best goal is something similar to: "I want to eat healthy at least 6 days a week and to work out 3 days per week." Short term success and long term behavior improvements lead to true results. (Examples adapted and expanded from iwillteachyoutoberich.com.) For me, I kept myself from running a marathon every weekend even if it had led to finishing my 50 state goal sooner than now. More than likely I would have gotten serious injured if I had pushed harder. Part of the reason I have a run and a cycle goal is to keep me cross-training.

More specifically, I have some big mileage goals, but really behind the scenes, I have consistency goals. I want to actually hit my goals on schedule - not massively ahead of them. This keeps me from just going nuts with tons of 10 mile+ days. I also set monthly goals. For example, during this month of May 2017, I want to average 8 running miles per day and climb 3500 meters over the 31 days. However, I have no speed goal. I'm fine to do this slowly or quickly depending on how I feel. Since this will give me 20-30 miles extra to my overall 2017 year goal, I plan to keep December to closer to 6.5 miles per day. I'm pushing myself in May with its good weather and long days as a trade against a chilly dark December.

And for me, the goal is really to just stay healthy and have fun. Sure, I have a target time when I run a marathon, and even a back-up time. But behind that is a simple one: Just finish and be healthy. 

What's right for you? Maybe it's just getting a walk no matter the distance? Maybe it's completing the Amerithon Challenge like I did? Or maybe it's some combination of behavior changes like eating well, getting great sleep and healthy doses of exercise. Whichever the answer, I wish you success in adopting new behaviors that lead to your intelligently chosen goals.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

I was on TV! State Marathon 47 in Mississippi!


State 47 is in the bag with the Magnolia Marathon in Meridian Mississippi! A great 3:29:16 in hilly, windy and chilly conditions, and my 2nd Boston Qualifying time in 4 weeks after the Grand Rapids Marathon 3:23:17.

One thing I love about these small marathons (I came in 3rd out 33 and won my age group) is that you get to talk to people. I chatted with the winner Melanie and 2nd place finisher Jack before the race at the start line. We were all too timid to actually start in front but ultimately we were the first 3 to bolt out and first three to finish. The race directors were great (Marathon Maniacs), and while the course was pretty empty and challenging, everything went well.

Melanie, me and Jack bolt out in front

Down a bit, up a bit. Repeat.
My goal for the day was 3:30, so I hit it perfectly. This took a lot of effort because of the up and down nature of the race. Shorten the step up the steep bits; don't let the heart rate go crazy. And use the downhills to pick back up the pace, but do not go crazy either since your quads will hate you.

The temperature was nice - in the 40s to start and in the 50s at the end. But we had about 10 miles/hr headwinds for a good part of the course. Not fun! Happily, those were tailwinds for the last quarter, but you never get an equal payback for the pain. After the first half, the course was deserted for anyone cheering except at the aid stations. I was glad to have my Star Wars marathon playlist.

Did I mention I was on TV?

I wanted to share this link of me on TV for the local news station. Alas, my hat's visor shadows my eyes! Oh well. And they spelled my first name wrong. Oh well again! But I was on TV!




3 States to go! (Tennessee, North Carolina and Hawaii)




Sunday, July 24, 2016

King Salmon (Marathon) Caught Hook, Line and Sinker! 3:39 in Cordova Alaska for State 41!



Birthday 49 challenge updates (2 pm, July 25 update):
Marathons Complete! Read below about Alaska. Utah coming soon.  Fundraiser going strong - just over $23,500 at https://www.justgive.org/lairdo49 and with personal checks being sent in. (The justgive site only shows the total through them.) We match ever $, so that’s $47K - less than $2K away from the $49K goal. Only $1000 more since we double it!

3 complete which was the July goal. Need 3 more in August!

Alaska was 41. Smashed Utah today in 3:41:04 time - state 42 done!

Still going strong! Currently at 1,279. After today's running. I am 25 days ahead of schedule.

The team is nearing 550 miles complete - over 15% and on track for a November 22 finish, 6 weeks ahead of our schedule!

Onward to the post itself…

Looking out of Anchorage into the Bay
After sparkling blue skies in Anchorage, Saturday, July 16 dawned with a light rain and overcast conditions. Little of the natural beauty of the Cordova area showed itself as I walked from my basement apartment rental to the gathering point for the King Salmon Marathon. Prepared for the possibility of moisture, I had with me a rain cover I could run in - Cordova is in a rain forest area - and rather than be disappointed, I was excited what cool temperatures and a lack of direct sun could offer.

Blue and white skies from the plane
A bus ride and less than 5 hours later, I found out. My best time in nearly 3.5 years and in 30 marathons: 3:39:17 and state 41 completed and in the books. I also found the charm of this small town running event and the people it attracted to the mouth of the Copper River.

At the end of this post, I’ll go into the combination of factors why I feel I did so well. In short, the conditions were perfect (weather, course), I was well trained and once I decided to aim for 3:39, I ran the plan perfectly. Let’s focus on the people - all 18 of us in the marathon - instead of the statistics. 

Cordova (left), Eyak Lake (middle) and the Copper River Delta (right)
Cordova sits in Prince Henry Sound about 200 miles SE of Anchorage. Plane and boat (a 5 hour ferry ride from Whittier, itself a 1.5 hr drive from Anchorage) provide the only scheduled access; there are no roads to area. In fact, one of the key people involved in building Alaska Airlines, “Mudhole” Smith, was from Cordova and his small carrier became part of the group that formed the state named airlines. He ran the combined company for many years. His name adorns the large shack that serves as the gateway to Cordova.
Merle "Mudhole" Smith
The area is famous for the Copper River which provides exceptional salmon to around the world. Spanning nearly 20 miles at its widest, the Copper River Delta sits a few miles from the town center of Cordova. Cordova itself is a harbor and town built up a slope of a steep hill. That hill and another form the edges of Eyak Lake, a Y or T shaped body of water between Cordova and the Delta.

Roll Call
Runners were asked to gather at the local hospital on the banks of the lake. Kristin Carpenter, the race director for the last 10 years, took attendance. To my delight, I found that I was not the only person celebrating a birthday. Michelle, originally from Kansas, but now living in LA, turned 30 on the race day, Jennifer, from Arkansas, turned 39 the same day I notched 49 on July 12. The other 15 runners were silent as to their birth anniversaries, so I think 17% of the field was enough above expected averages.

For some reason, I through we would have about 40 people in the race based on previous years, but actually when I looked at past results, I am not sure where I found that assumption. In any case, the 18 of us plus 4 half-marathons who were starting early so they could walk their 13 miles, boarded a school bus for a 45 min ride to the start.
Jennifer (left) and Michelle, fellow birthday celebrants

The Marathon route begins 15 miles past the airport at the far end of the Delta. Almost entirely run on Alaska 10 (Copper River Way), the nearly straight and flat gravel road becomes paved near the airport and then rises slowly to get over Eyak River as it exits the lake. The last few miles curve slightly around the lake edge before the one 90 degree turn of the race turns into the finish area at the local hospital.  

Expecting the Star Spangled Banner and a big balloon arch for a race start? Not here. How about a small orange cone with the word “Start” on it? Need a port-a-potty. Try one of the myriad of bushes. Easier for men than women but equal all the same. Pomp and circumstance were reduced to a handful of instructions and then a “Go.”

And here we are with our "start cone" on the left 

And we were off. Despite the cloud conditions, the scenery was great. Splashes of water from the river coursing through the marshland. Views of distant peaks and the Childs Glacier. At one point, I ran over one of the dozen bridges and felt a blast of 10 degree cooler air that could only be blowing off the ice. The water was so blue too. Birthday girl Michelle confirmed she felt and saw the same, so we were even equally hallucinating or the experience was real.

Turquoise blue water from the glacier
Later, when talking to my landlord for the weekend, Bill, I learned that Cordova has gone three winters without much snow. The 4th year back had 30 feet of snow. From eastern Washington, Bill had chased adventure up to Alaska 38 years ago, and he has not looked back. He now splits his time running a very successful boat salvage and rescue business and serving as mechanic on ships and vehicles. He likes anything big and bigger! His wife Shelly works on road construction projects as a flagger - she is one of those people flagging traffic along. They actually end up spending a lot of summers apart because she goes off to these projects, and he gets called to weeks long rescues or salvage operations. He told me about a 6 week project were they raised a boat out of the water, got it on a beach and then camped amongst bears and wolves while they dismantled the boat for a 10 mile sledge to the only nearby airstrip. A WWII era DC-3 was used to fly loads away. Bill was never far from his shotgun in case of animal attack. Bill told me all this without any desire for the experience to be different. Growing up in LA and living in big areas like London, San Francisco and Boston, these stories sound like modern adventure tales.

Click to read!
With only 18 people in the race, it’s easy to include here the full finisher list. 5 of the 18 were from Alaska and only 1 from Cordova. I spoke to John, the winner, and his wife after the race. No one disappeared quickly from the finish area so in fact I pretty much spoke to everyone! John and I will be running the Desert News Classic in Utah tomorrow as I type this. John blasted the sub 3 hour mark. Even with the straight road, I never really saw him. His wife, also a runner, had decided to only do the 1 mile race (more of a kids affair), and John joined her after his finish. Another runner, Rick Wood finished his 49th state. He’s running his 50th in Hawaii next June in the same race I am planning. Jim Moore from Illinois finished his 50th in Alaska. Jessica Glass, who I ran with for about a mile, finished her first marathon in style by beating 4 hours and winning the woman’s side. (I was 4th for the men as well as overall.) Vincent Ma, another Marathon Maniac, and I chatted on the flight from Anchorage and on the bus. He and I have run at least one other race toughener but neither of us could remember which. I spoke with everyone in this paragraph and others as well on the bus, during the race and at the airport the next day! It was as if a small community had formed.
Wild flowers along the road
As we ran back in from the start (the drizzle had stopped so we could strip down to basic running shirt and shorts), we occasionally saw the bus bringing out people for the shorter distances all of which started on the same route but at closer in points. The half marathon bus was pretty full and a second smaller shuttle followed. There were multiple buses for the 10k and 5k. They all cheered us as we passed them driving out. Around mile 19, I caught up with the four people walking the half who had ridden with us and then been driven back 13 miles to that start point. I chatted with them for about a minute. We commented how much we were enjoying the natural scenery.

Normally in a race, you see mile markers telling you how far you have run. Here, the markers were counting down how many clicks were left. This made sense for all the race distances. No matter which you were commencing, the distance to the finish would always be correct since the races shared the same end point. Initially finding this odd, I actually enjoyed the set up.

A mobile water stop
The only “hill” in the race came as we neared Eyak Lake. Interestingly the humidity was noticeably higher by that large body of water, and I had to push air in and out of my lungs with more effort. But I talked myself through the brain telling me to slow down and take it easy. Then I turned onto Chase St and into the parking lot of the hospital finishing ground. The person tracking times showed me what she had written down to confirm my ok. (I did so as the total amounted to within seconds of my Garmin GPS watch.)

Despite the fast time, I did not feel too badly. I was tired but was quickly revived by post race food. Later that day, I took a short 2 mile hike up above Eyak River into a meadow in the hills. With little wind, it was so quiet I could hear my heart beating. The sun was making some appearances finally revealing more of the natural beauty.
The trail through the woods, high above Eyak River
The next day, I did a final 10k run along another side of Eyak amongst crystal clear skies glad to have those conditions on the shorter day than during the marathon.
Sunny Sunday Run along Eyak Lake
I am often asked which is my favorite marathon. I’ve just about enjoyed almost all of the 67 to date. My fastest, the Lost Dutchman in Arizona and the one in Antarctica rank at the top. New York, Boston and London were amazing. But Cordova is one I would do again. I have run smaller races - but only in and around LA with local run organizers. This area and the state of Alaska gave me a sense of the adventure Bill had sought when he moved there. Certainly the race provided plenty of excitement for me due to the great time, but I think what turned effectively a solo run into a strong memory was the sense of people involved and getting to know more about each of them.

41 Complete! 9 to go!

Why did I run so well?

My PR (personal record) happened on my 3rd race - the 2008 Lost Dutchman in Arizona. That 3:19 time qualified me to run my one and only Boston Marathon in 2009. I have said for years that conditions that day were just right. My next fastest time was my 4th race, this one in Japan, at 3:25. Then it’s 2010 Adelaide Australia one at 3:31. Cordova’s 3:39 was my fastest since a 3:37 in New Orleans in February 2013 - 30 marathons ago.

So what worked? Was it my birthday inspired 2649 bib? Probably not as any marathon race goes well due to any number of factors. Here is a list of the perfect combination from last week, some of which cannot be controlled.
Shirt and medal

1. Perfect Weather
While not great for the photographs, the cool 50 degree Fahrenheit weather with no wind and no sun is just about perfect running weather. The body is very comfortable at that level. It does not expend extra energy to stay warm (the run does that enough) and does not have to overly sweat as it does with the weather going into the 60s and beyond.

2. Straight, flat course, over half off pavement
Again, not a course people look at and go “neat!” The effectively straight line though means I did not lose distance (and hence time) to turns which are difficult to take perfectly to keep to the 26.2 miles. My total count that day was 26.25 miles. I have run marathons with over .5 miles extra on my watch. Each .1 mile takes about 1 min to cover. So, I only lost 30 seconds to the measured distance in Cordova. While a gravel road is not as nice as a dirt road, it still is softer than concrete or asphalt saving wear and tear on the body.

3. First marathon in 10 weeks
Because of my work and race schedule, I had not run a marathon since May 1 in Ohio. For me, that is an entirety! But the body likes the time off!

4. Great tune up races and training
I ran a number of tune up races since May 1 starting with a 10k and half in Disneyland, followed by a few other 10ks and a hilly half marathon. I also had been working on hills and longer distances a lot on my training runs. Hills are great for endurance because you can gain a lot of cardio without running as far. The work comes from the elevation gain. And finally, I've seen my training pace drifting down to 8:05-8:10. I'm not sure why, but if I don't think about my speed, I find myself running in that range.

5. Lots of sleep and decent food and the right supplements
I made sure to average 7 hours per night the week of the race. This was despite traveling to Alaska and getting up early a number of days to run and bike. 8 is the official goal, but I don’t seem to find much difference between 7 or 8 per night. I also took off July 13 and avoided email that day for a real day off as I flew to Alaska and explored a bit of Anchorage. Separately, I’ve been working with a chiropractor to keep the body set right and taking in the right vitamins etc.

6. I made a plan and went for it
My goal in any marathon is between 3:45 and 4:00. To get to the lower number, I know I need an 8:30 min/mile pace. So, with the conditions in great shape, I went out at 8:30 for the first half. I stuck to this plan and in fact hit the first half in almost exactly 1:52 - just under a 3:45 time. This is where I turned it up a notch. To beat 3:40 (as I was now wondering if I could), I ran from 13 miles to 19.2 miles - a 10K - in a sub 8:00 min pace. Basically a 49 min 10K (6.2 miles) in the middle of a marathon. I knew from my recent races that I could do a 45 min 10K (separate from a marathon), so this longer goal seemed doable and was. Once I hit 19.2 miles (and took that 1 min walk break with the half-marathon early crowd mentioned above), I then aimed for about 8:20 to close out. I had to push through miles 22-24 dealing with the heavier air, but I stayed with it. In short, 67 marathons will give you a lot of experience to know what you can and cannot do. I went for it.

7. Buoyed by your goodwill and wishes
Being my birthday week, I received an abundance of good wishes and cheer from all over the world - I think I got messages from five continents! Plus the fundraiser has been going well. In short, all of your put me in a great mood! Thank you!