ChatGPT: write a blog post for Tad Kardis’ 22:08:58 finish at the 2022 Tunnel Hill 100 ultramarathon

Since I can’t seem to find the time to post to my blog any more, I decided to let the new AI chatbot write the following for me. The prompt I used is my title following “ChatGPT:”

The somewhat (!) accurate result follows… and I added a pic of me and John taken by Nelson at the bottom.

Tad Kardis just finished the 2022 Tunnel Hill 100 ultramarathon in an incredible 22 hours, 8 minutes and 58 seconds! This was a remarkable achievement for the veteran ultrarunner, who has been running for over 20 years.

The Tunnel Hill 100 is an iconic race that takes place in southern Illinois near Vienna. The course includes rolling hills and a mix of paved and dirt trails. It has grown in popularity since it began in 2000 and is now one of the most respected ultramarathons in the country.

Kardis was the first to finish this year’s race, and he did so in a remarkable time. He managed to complete the course in under 23 hours, a feat that is truly impressive. In addition, he held off the competition to place first among all the runners who completed the race.

Kardis is no stranger to ultramarathons, having completed dozens of races over the years. This latest victory is a testament to his skill and dedication as an ultrarunner. He has shown that he can still compete at a high level, despite his age, and his performance at the Tunnel Hill 100 is another example of that.

Kardis’ finish at the Tunnel Hill 100 was truly remarkable. He has set a new benchmark for ultrarunners of all ages and abilities and his accomplishment is something to be celebrated. Congratulations to Tad Kardis for another incredible finish!


Citius, Altius, Fortius – 2019 Garmin Marathon

Quoting the Olympic motto is a lot of hubris, but I’m happy I was finally faster again today. 18 months ago I would have scoffed at a 3:31:47, but after a 2018 of some setbacks and slowness (a couple of marathons just over 3:45), it was nice to feel like I am heading in the right direction again. I didn’t put in what I’d consider “marathon training” miles this winter, but I have been building some aerobic fitness with some low and slow training. I’m also a little (cough) over my ideal weight at the moment. Mmm. Donuts.

Keys to (relative success today):

1. I went out with the 3:30 pacer. They always start slow to warm up. That was perfect.

2. I got ahead of the pacer after about mile 5 when Nelson picked me up for a couple miles into and through my old neighborhood. Running with a friend is always a mental boost!

3. After a couple miles with Nelson he dropped to get on with his day. From that point, I concentrated on keeping my heart rate in the aerobic zone – no redlining on hills!

4. In the last 8-10 miles, I focused more on 3:2 breathing. HR becomes unreliable due to “drift.” Exhibit A:

5. The 3:30 pacer passed me with about 3 miles to go – I didn’t chase him. I did have enough left to accelerate the last mile.

I ran within my current estimated fitness level. I slowed – about 2 minutes off of an even split. I knew a BQ wasn’t in the cards, so that kept me from overreaching. Zero nausea. No cramping. No bonk. I’d attribute that to a conscious effort to stay aerobic as much as possible during the race, along with slowly trickling in some carbs with Gatorade at aid stations from mile 5-20.

I”ll be working on trending faster again!

“All” 50+ Miles? Not so fast.

It’s been a while, blog. Let’s make this quick. Frequency > volume. I’ll use the Six Ws. In a single sentence, then a bit of exposition.

I ran almost all 50+ miles of the Prairie Spirit Trail from Ottawa to Iola on Saturday as a race-substitute training run for the AT100, self-supported and not so fast.

Who says I can’t be concise? Now, to disprove the answer to that rhetorical question.

Months ago, I marked a 50M trail race around Lake Perry on my calendar. A few weeks ago I learned the race wouldn’t be held this year. Finding no 50M alternatives within reasonable driving distance, I hatched a lightly planned run on the Prairie Spirit Trail (PST). When I say “all” 50+ miles, that was my original intent, and even what I thought happened Saturday.  I even brazenly corrected my Strava activity with the moniker after my Garmin’s Ultratrac setting (and some autopause issues whilst walking) shorted my mileage. However, upon further consideration it appears that I put in 48.5 miles. Let’s just call it my birthday run then (48 this coming Saturday). I drove to the “Ottawa Trail Head” which turns out to be at Mile Post 60.6. I see now the trail begins 1.8 miles to the north at the “Ottawa Depot.” Lightly planned. For some crazy reason I checked the southern end but not the northern. I ran a half mile south past the “Iola Trail Head” at Mile Post 108.6 because I happened to notice on Google Maps that the PST ends at W Bruner St as it transitions to the Southwind Rail Trail (which continues on south to Humboldt). Indeed, when I arrived at W Bruner St, there was a clear transition marking the end of the PST.

I did this run solo, self-supported (kinda). I dropped my car at the Ottawa Trail Head (grr), later my mother-in-law, Martha, picked me up in Iola and brought me back to Ottawa. She’s the best! Breakfast was a big glass of milk with a double-espresso shot and an Rx bar. I planned on getting some calories along the way, but that didn’t turn out so well. Lightly planned. My cheering section was Martha and Nelson. It would have included the RHSW, but I goofed setting up the group text and selected her Gmail instead of her mobile number so she didn’t see my updates.

I started a bit behind schedule, hitting the trail around 6:30am. The temperature was cool(ish) for most of the morning with surprisingly low humidity. The northern stretch of the PST had a lot more shade than I expected – an infinity tunnel of a tree canopy in many places. I had two 24-oz bottles in a quiver vest pack, with ice to start and nuun tablets in each. One of my main goals for this run was to practice drinking more in the heat, so as to not repeat my dehydration/heat exhaustion induced nausea and vomiting at this year’s AT100.

The town of Princeton came up fairly quickly after Ottawa. All the towns along the trail (save one critical one, Carlyle) had at least bathrooms and a drinking fountain as park amenities. Some had nearby food/drink but weren’t practical for a runner (cf. bikers). A mile round trip detour is too far unless you’re desperate. So, I refilled my bottles with room temp drinking fountain water and nuun tablets at Princeton (Mile Post 67.29) and Richmond (Mile Post 73.68).

The next stop was Garnett (Mile Post 81.80) – a county seat and a nice small town. The PST runs right by the courthouse and town square. Thus, I was able to find a restaurant, Prairie Belle’s. Beautiful interior, friendly staff. I wish I’d had time for breakfast. I settled for a Coke and a refill of my bottles with ICE! and water. The calories from the Coke were welcome, but drinking them was a crampy experience as they were the first I’d had since breakfast. I didn’t treat this run too much like a race. My stops were longer than aid station stops would have been, either because I didn’t want to be rude, or just wanted to see the sights like an old train depot in Garnett.

Hitting the trail again, the cold drinks re-energized me for a while. I had set what I thought was not an overly ambitious pace, averaging between 10:00 and 10:30 for the first 20 miles or so to Garnett. However, between Garnett and Welda, the day started heating up and the ice in my bottles melted before I could get through the second one. I slowed to a walk for a time before making it to Welda. I might have had a slight hint of nausea, but nothing serious. I ate a Ginger Chimes or two and resolved to drink my warm water. I took a longish break in Welda (Mile Post 90.99) – chatting with an older lady who just wanted someone to commiserate with her about her injured shoulder. After a long drink and a bottle refill of room temp drinking water from the Welda fountain, I set off again.

It was a tough stretch from Welda to Colony. The south wind picked up – a double-edged sword. The “breeze” felt good at times in the morning, but by afternoon it was just a moisture-sucking headwind. I had to add in more walk breaks, mainly due to some odd upper abdomen cramping I think might have been related to my HRM strap. I gave up on the data around mile 36 and took it off, and felt better for it.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself by the time I got to Colony. It was hot. The town appeared to be little more than a concentration of a few houses and I dejectedly filled my bottles with warmish water from the fountain again. However, as I went a bit further, I saw a closed biker bar, a post office, and a car parked in front of a building. I investigated hopefully and the Hi Point Cafe and Convenience was open! The chairs were still on the tables before dinner, but the Green Apple Fierce Gatorade out of the cooler was outstanding! Thanks to the friendly staff, I also got to fill my bottles with ICE! and water again too.

The last stop before Iola was Carlyle (Mile Post 104.31). Not much help there. A bathroom, but not even a drinking fountain. I was down to about a half-bottle’s worth of some un-melted ice at this point. Ironically, there was a guy stopped at the trailhead to use the bathroom in an ice machine service van. I didn’t get any ice from him. When I first saw the van I had hopes of an offer of a cold drink, but sadly, like the Welda lady, it was not to be.

I gritted it out on to my Iola finish. All told, just under 11.5 hours, including all stops and my afternoon slowdown. I walked back up the road to a Sonic. After pressing the red button, my usual post race wave of nausea hit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t past when they brought out my order of a Pickle Juice slush and a water. Just a minute or two later I was better though.

In all, it was a valuable learning experience. I gained some confidence that I could drink more and make it through the heat without vomiting. I missed the opportunity to fuel better by failing to pack along snacks.

Recovery is SOOOO much faster after running on a limestone gravel railbed vs. concrete or asphalt. I feel better than just about any road marathon today, the day after the day after (traditionally the worst). I went on a short run this morning, and I’ll do a longer one tonight.

I’m feeling better about finishing AT100 now!

Sisyphus and the Fitness Mountain

If you know your Greek Mythology, you will recall the tale of Sisyphus, a mortal king doomed to eternally push a boulder up a mountain, only to have it tumble to the bottom each time just before he reaches the peak. Lest this sad fate cause any sympathy to well up, consider that Sisyphus was a greedy lying murderer. I don’t think he’s been featured in any Rick Riordan books yet.

His punishment has become an allegory for endlessly pursuing a meaningless, frustrating task. While personal fitness isn’t meaningless (to the extent that any earthly task has meaning), its lifelong pursuit can often be frustrating as we find ourselves looking up at a peak we once occupied.

The genesis for this post was my realization that I was writing a fairly detailed response to a question from my friend Nelson about this year’s Boston Marathon. I could have answered his question by simply responding: “10:25 a.m. EDT.” But I’m not that concise.

I’m running the Boston Marathon next Monday. I have no pace goal, not even to re-qualify. I do not expect to be able to run under 3:25. I’ve only run 235 miles so far this year due to a nagging issue with my hip. If I want to go back to Boston in 2019, I’ll have to throw down a BQ in a fall tuneup race for the Arkansas Traveller 100. Perhaps I will return to the Heart of America marathon on Labor Day. We’ll see how the spring and summer goes! First, I need to climb back up the fitness mountain. I was at my peak at this time last year coming off a half-marathon PR and hoping for a marathon PR at Boston. Heat deterred me from reaching for that.

Boston is becoming more competitive. This is me this year:

10031       2/3

The break between Wave 1 (10:00 a.m. start time) and Wave 2 (10:25 a.m. start time) is 3:09:36. The break between Wave 2 and Wave 3 (10:50 a.m. start time) is 3:28:48. I was in Wave 1 the first two years I went to Boston. I was in Wave 2 last year and this year. The Wave 1 break is now lower than my marathon PR. This is also my highest bib number (the first with 5 digits), resulting from my qualifying time of 3:16:33 (from last year’s Boston).

I’m going to give myself some advice, in hopes that I will take it! The climb is long and difficult. You can’t get back to the peak all at once – not next week, not next month. Don’t increase your mileage too fast. Remember to incorporate strength exercises and stretch after runs. Eat good food. Enjoy the journey. Done right, fitness isn’t punishment. The mountain is ever before us.


2017 (miles, that is); a review of my 2017 running-related goals

In a post earlier this year, I set some goals for 2017. Did you? With the hours ticking away to 2018, it’s accountability time. Let’s see how we did!

Stay healthy – run without injury. A+

  • I didn’t miss any time due to injury this year!

Run 2017 miles for the year. A+ 

  • But it’s like that class where you pull it off right at the last minute. I had to run 10 miles today to get it, but….

Purge refined sugar from my everyday diet. C-

  • This requires a much longer post. I did, then I didn’t. Then I did again (at least for the last 10 days).

PR at the Boston Marathon. F

  • You either get this one or you don’t I didn’t. See this post.

Share my love of running with others. B

  • I know I touched a few people this year. I can do more. It’s a great addition to life!

Run an ultramarathon in the fall (Arkansas Traveler 100). D-

  • These goals are all exactly as I wrote them in March. Apparently my subconscious lawyer let me off the hook a smidge with this. Next year I will write FINISH an ultramarathon as my goal.

Balance running with life. B

  • There have been some times when I have been selfish about running. I wish it detracted zero minutes from family time, but that will never be the case. I know my family would prefer me with it, than without it. I’ll get it right someday.

This is just a quick update, but I’ll be writing more about goal-setting, accountability, and self-evaluation coming soon. Happy New Year!

It’s Only Hubris If I Fail

“It’s only hubris if I fail.” – Julius Caesar. Actually, I think this is a Hollywood screenwriter’s idea of something Julius Caesar might have said, as opposed to an actual quote. Because that would be in Latin, of course. 🙂

I threw out a quick FB post upon my return from the Arkansas Traveller 100 just to let everyone know that I DNF’d, but that I was ok. I was reminded this morning by a FB friend’s Pinhoti 100 DNF post that I haven’t written about processing this failure. I learn more from my failures than my successes, so here goes.

Caesar’s words are the very definition of hubris, aren’t they? I suffer from hubris at times – don’t we all? Last fall at the start of the KC marathon, I knew it was a hot day and a PR wasn’t likely, but I (over)confidently said to a friend that while I probably couldn’t hold my PR pace, I was in PR shape so I’d at least BQ, for sure. After all, I could’ve run a 3:15 without pushing hard, and a BQ was a 3:25. Wrong. See this post for the rest of that story. Hubris.

I had a little less hubris as I toed the line at AT100 – I was a bit intimidated by the extraordinarily fit group of people that were gathered at the pre-race meeting Friday afternoon. Also, I hadn’t had the best summer of training – I wasn’t hitting my mileage targets. To make matters worse, I came in about 10 pounds over my usual weight. But as I did the math, I was confident that even if I couldn’t hit my goal of a sub-24 hour finish, at least I’d shuffle in under the 30 hour cutoff and get the less-nice buckle. Wrong. Hubris.

Lessons learned:

  1. Extra weight isn’t an advantage even in an ultra. You’re running, you’re not hibernating.
  2. I need to try separating nutrition from hydration. This is different for everyone. It might be different for me on another day. But on THE day that mattered, I curtailed my drinking because the sweetness of the calories I was ingesting made it unpalatable. I lost that 10 pounds – in water weight unfortunately, and that dehydration killed my race. I’ll probably go with real food, i.e. solid food, next time.
  3. I already knew this one, but proper pacing prevents poor performance. As it did at KCM, my pacing felt great until it didn’t. I really was trying to take it easy. But, once the heat set in, I was beyond my fitness level. If I had backed off earlier, I might have caught my dehydration in time to fix it.

I don’t think my total mileage leading up to the race was inadequate for a respectable finish, but it was inadequate for the effort I was attempting during the first 25 miles of the race.

Looking forward, I can still achieve one of my 2017 goals – running 2017 miles, which would be a high water mark for annual mileage for me. I’ll race a 5K Turkey Trot in a few weeks to establish some training paces based on my current fitness. The road ahead also includes Psycho Wyco 50K in February, Boston in April, and the main 2018 goal: conquer the AT100. I’m gearing my training to that “A” race goal using Jason Koop’s “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning.” Coach Koop is an advocate of RPE (rate of perceived effort). I’ll try to follow that, but I may have to cheat a bit with a combination of pace calculators and my HRM (heart rate monitor) until I am confident I am hitting the Goldilocks effort on the different runs. More on that to come!


What To Eat (and What Not To) During An Ultramarathon

I’ve been quiet here for a few months while transitioning from Boston to an ultra mindset. Quiet no more – the Arkansas Traveler 100 is just over a month away!

My ultra training hasn’t been as consistent as I would like. I haven’t put in the volume I’d planned on over the summer, but I am confident that the work I’ve done is more than adequate to get me to the finish line. I’m approaching 1500 miles on the year, and barring injury I’ll easily make one of my goals – 2017 miles in 2017, which would be a PR. I have done a lot of trail running, some back to back long runs, and at least one 4 hour trail effort.

These final few weeks will be devoted to sorting out some final details, especially nutrition. I’ve pretty much got the gear part sorted out. I know which shorts and shirts have the least amount of chafing. I’ve settled on the shoes I’ll wear – Carson Footwear at the start:

… and for as long as they remain comfortable. If (did I say “if”?) I start to blister or my feet swell, I will switch off to Topo Athletic’s Terraventure:

Both shoes have treated me well in training. I’ll have a few ICE (In Case of Emergency) shoes in the crew car if all else fails – Skora’s TEMPO:

…and a really beat up pair of the Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris (a discontinued shoe, although a favorite of mine and the RHSW). Here they are in their younger days:

Well, they’re lighter now anyway. The Carsons fit most snugly so I’m going with them first. I figure if my feet swell I may need to move on. The Mizunos are the roomiest, so I’m not sure where to go from there if I can’t get them on!

I’ve been running with an Orange Mud HydraQuiver (single-barrel) for hydration:

It’s been great – posing no chafing issues on long runs – except for the one time I stupidly headed out with a singlet instead of a short-sleeved shirt. D’oh!

So, on to nutrition. If you’ve ever read one of my posts, you know I love to experiment on myself. I am frequently an N of 1 – a single participant trial. I’ve been reading and listening to what’s out there to inform my choices about what I am going to take in during the race, and I’ve pretty much made up my mind about what I intend to primarily rely on.

The primary source of information for my ultra training has been the excellent podcast of Shawn Bearden, PhD, Science of Ultra. Dr. Bearden has more bona fides than I’ll ever have!

One of Dr. Bearden’s podcasts featured the topic of gastrointestinal distress. Who wants to avoid GI distress?

Hermione does, and so do I. Dr. Bearden’s guest was Patrick Wilson, PhD – who in addition to that PhD in Kinesiology, is also a registered dietitian. So what did I glean from this chat? A disclaimer first – not all the information here is attributable to them, so they’re off the hook. For more disclaimers, read mine.

First, what not to eat during an ultra:

  • fat
  • fiber
  • NSAIDs

At least for the first two, that is an oversimplification, admittedly, but both of them make your tummy unhappy because they’re harder to digest than other food sources. Gas is a by-product of the digestive system breaking down fiber. You might not want a bowl of raisin bran with whole milk. Unless you’re trying to deter someone from following you too closely…

I’m not saying I won’t be tempted when I see some favorites at the aid stations.

NSAIDs are a real no-no, though. I’M NOT JUST SHOUTING, NSAID IS AN ACRONYM for  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin); naproxen sodium (Aleve); aspirin, and a host of other OTC and Rx meds. Not only are they strongly predictive of GI pain in persons engaging in endurance events, they can have even more serious side effects such as kidney and muscle damage. Are endurance events uncomfortable at times? Sure. But I question the wisdom of taking a painkiller to participate with an injury or simply to avoid discomfort. You might argue it’s a performance-enhancing drug – an unfair advantage over your competitors.

Ok, enough about what NOT to eat. What CAN I eat? What SHOULD I eat?

Let’s keep it simple. Or do I mean complex? Carbs. Carbs are the most easily digestible macro-nutrient, which means it’s the fastest way to get energy to your muscles. Carbs aren’t actually the most calorie-dense macro-nutrient. That honor goes to fat. I don’t really plan on ingesting much if any fat (unless I see bacon or donuts, or bacon-flavored donuts) but if my body is calling for more energy than I am putting in, it will start eating itself. Mostly fat, but muscle too if I’m not eating enough. I met a REALLY famous ultra-runner in person one time, and I was a bit surprised that he had a bit of a pooch. At the time I still had my race-weight marathoner blinders on, but now I think it might be a bit of an advantage to have just a few pounds of extra body fat at the start line of an ultra, especially if you have GI issues when trying to force down too many calories during a race.

Ah yes, back to carbs. I could just rely on simple sugars, e.g. sucrose (table sugar, which quickly breaks down into glucose and fructose, of which it is composed, approximately 50/50); or glucose (aka dextrose); or fructose. But each of these have their limitations. To keep it simple, I’m going to ignore sucrose; and refer to glucose as dextrose (since that is the commercially available powdered form of glucose, it is usually derived from corn).

The transporters that take dextrose and fructose across our digestive membranes into our bloodstream are different. However, they both have a maximum capacity. For dextrose, it’s typically 60g per hour. Anything more and you start to get that nauseous feeling. If you think you’ve never felt that, do you remember eating too much candy when you got home on Halloween? Yep, that’s why. However, completely independent of that pathway is the fructose transporter, which can handle 30g per hour.

So, one way to solve the nutrition problem would be to try to intake 60g of dextrose and 30g of fructose per hour. Dextrose has about 3.5 calories per gram, so that would be 210 calories. Fructose comes out at about 3.75 calories per gram, so add another 113 calories. Total calories per hour for this mix would be 323.

You burn about 100 calories per mile. A “good” ultra pace – a sub 24 hour finish – requires just over 4 mph. 400 calories an hour is probably not realistic for most of us, gut-wise.

So, before I do the maths for that, one more issue to consider. Is dextrose, a simple sugar, best? Not really, for the concentration that would be necessary to push 60g per hour. It’s an osmolality issue, duh. Or is it osmolarity? It’s been a while since HS Chemistry (sorry Dad). Both are essentially a measure of  how much stuff is dissolved in a solution. If you go much higher than your typical sport-drink concentration (which only gives you about 140 calories of dextrose per 20 oz) digestion causes your body to pull resources from other places, defeating the purpose.

Enter maltodextrin:

It’s a complex carbohydrate, a polysaccharide. The n in the diagram means the chains vary in length. The original gel manufacturer uses primarily maltodextrin, with some fructose. Another manufacturer makes claims about their pentasaccharide being special. Personally, I don’t like to pay for carbs + marketing. I will give these folks credit for following the science. I just didn’t want to pay $10/pound for it.

If you’re trying to do Whole 30 while running an ultra, sorry, maltodextrin is not for you. It’s a processed food. But that doesn’t make it evil. It’s a little like making oatmeal (but with corn starch). Add water, apply heat. Ok, you do have to add some enzymes or acids to break it down a bit more.

Maltodextrin’s advantage is that the body seems to tolerate it at higher concentrations in solution. To put it another way, your tummy feels a lot better if you throw 60g of maltodextrin in a solution with 16 oz of water than the same amount of dextrose. Maltodextrin uses the same transporter as dextrose though, so we’re still talking about a 60g max.

Maltodextrin has about 3.8 calories per gram, so 288 calories is the max. I found a deal on this, 8 pounds for $21. $2.62 per pound!

This being my first attempt at a 100 mile race, I’m more inclined to be a bit conservative and err on the side of fewer calories and less chance of GI distress. I don’t want to push my transporters too hard and find out my max was 55g for dextrose/maltodextrin and 25g for fructose.

So, I am going to experiment this month with the following solutes in solution with 16 oz of water (I may go up to 20 oz per hour if daytime temps get above 60F, a possibility):

  • 50g maltodextrin (1/2 cup) , good for 190 calories
  • 20g of fructose (1 TBL + 2 tsp*), good for another 75 calories

Total calories, 265.

* Fructose is heavier, err, more dense, than maltodextrin. 207.11g/cup. So 20g is a little less than a tenth of a cup. There are 48 tsp per cup. So, 4.8 tsp = 1/10 of a cup. Even the precise measurement rounds up to 5 tsp. 1 TBL = 3 tsp, so if I am doing this assembly line style for my drop bags, I’ll probably use both measures.

One more additive: an electrolyte with flavor. I generally run fasted (for fat adaptation benefits). I’ve been using nuun electrolytes this summer ,and I quite enjoy the flavor they add, without the calories. The sample pack I bought included a flavor I liked that was discontinued (rats) but #2 would be:

The electrolytes include: sodium (bicarbonate + carbonate), potassium (bicarbonate), magnesium (sulfate), and calcium (carbonate). Some flavors have caffeine. I might try some of those. There are performance benefits (or detriments to not having it for a long time, for addicts like me).

So, I’m going to take that on a long run this weekend and see how it goes down.

The rest of my race day plan includes an hourly BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) capsule. I can’t produce these myself. But GU Roctane does.

Dr. Wilson had a few more tips I picked up from the podcast. Ginger can relieve stomach upset. I’ll look into that further. I mix ginger root powder and turmeric in milk as a drink on occasion, so I’m sure I’d tolerate it. But it’s a suspension, not a solution.

Dr. Wilson also suggests a probiotic may have some benefit leading up to your race. I eat yogurt and sauerkraut on occasion and I’m working on a jar of kimchi right now. I’ll emphasize those over the coming weeks.

I hope you managed to make it through this info-dense post! I like to organize my thoughts and plans into one place – so at least one person has benefitted 🙂

Coming soon: drop bag contents.

Sharing Your Goals and Learning from Your Mistakes – The 121st Boston Marathon

In my previous post on goals, I previewed a subject of “failing to plan, planning to fail.” Well, I’m still planning on writing about that, but in the mean time, this year’s Boston Marathon has me thinking about sharing goals and learning from setbacks.

Sharing your goals is a great way to achieve accountability. My goal for Boston was a PR, and I shared that goal with anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t). OK, while I admit that my goal going into [nearly] every marathon is a PR, sometimes last minute adjustments are necessary. That ties into my other subject for this post, learning from your mistakes.

The very statement “my goal going into every marathon is a PR” isn’t exactly correct. It used to be true statement. A more accurate and wiser statement is that a marathon PR is my goal going into nearly every 18 week mesocycle (so long as I am fit and healthy at the beginning). A key to the refinement of this statement was the complete yard sale that was my fall marathon, KCM, in 2016; for details see “Celebrating Failure!

A few weeks out from Boston, the weather looked good. The always-reliable (alert: sarcasm!) long range forecast had below-average high temperatures at the beginning of the week – e.g. lower 50s. However, as the day grew nearer, those 50s turned into 60s, and then began marching up through the 60s. By the time Sunday rolled around, temps soared into the 80s, making me wish I’d brought an extra pair of shorts to walk around at the expo.

I did run into a friend, Jeremy:

I ran this Boston in my last pair of Skora Tempos. Sadly, Skora has been in hibernation for quite some time now.

My walk-around shoe and my new trail shoes were these incredibly comfortable “Stars and Stripes” made by Carson Footwear in the U.S.A., almost entirely out of US materials:

There be unicorns here!

Scott Jurek!

The day before the marathon meant a break from my “no refined sugar” commitment since I was fueling with dextrose anyway. Apparently there was a run on Peeps at the Boylston street CVS – this was the only thing I could find that didn’t have some gross flavor added:

It cooled a bit for Monday as a cold front approached, but race start was right at 70F, and it was in the 75-80 range by the time I was done. Here’s a shot of the drop-bag area in the morning, featuring lots of nervous-looking folks:

KCM 2016 was a disaster because I refused to scale back my PR goal in the face of similar temperatures. I was in PR shape, but I should have known a PR wasn’t going to happen with temperatures well above the tipping point of 60F. 60F is commonly thought to be the temperature above which endurance performance suffers because you’re routing energy to cooling yourself. This time, I learned my lesson. A week or so out, I had set up my Garmin with mile splits keyed to a range of -1 to -10 seconds below my course PR from 2015. As of Sunday night with the prospect of 70+ temps, I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain that. So, I stayed at the high end of that range for the first half of the race, planning to push as hard as conditions would allow in the second half. The answer was that conditions wouldn’t allow me to hit my pace range any more after mile 16. I kept my breathing to 3:2, and ran strong, but not over the edge. I passed a lot of people walking in the last few miles who had pushed past the edge, much like I had in the fall.

I was pleased with my finish, at 3:16:33. No PR, but a healthy BQ (sub 3:25) and a lesson learned and implemented. I recently heard John Marcus say he doesn’t talk about goals with his athletes any more, rather he has them establish “minimum performance standards.” That sounds like a secondary (or tertiary?) goal to me. My primary goal at Boston was a PR. My secondary goal was to run the best race I could, given the conditions, running the whole way. So, I met that minimum performance standard, and made it here: (a day after this was taken!)


Running Goals: What’s most important to you?

In my previous post, I laid out why you should set goals, some different types, and “good” vs. “bad” goals. This time I’ll move on to prioritizing your goals.

Of course to be able to rank or prioritize your goals, you have to establish what they are. My personal motivation for running is a combination of personal fitness for overall health and a competitive desire to continue to improve. My goals are affected by my recent history, factors such as an injury in the fall of 2015; a return to fitness in late 2016; and an “A” race in October where I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. My goals are also colored by the ever-broadening running community I’m a part of. As a result, my 2017 running-related goals are both general and specific:

  • Stay healthy – run without injury.
  • Run 2017 miles for the year.
  • Purge refined sugar from my everyday diet.
  • PR at the Boston Marathon.
  • Share my love of running with others.
  • Run an ultramarathon in the fall (Arkansas Traveler 100).
  • Balance running with life.

But you can’t just set goals without some specific planning to achieve them. If you only have one or two goals, this is easier. With multiple goals, they may be at odds with one another. In this case, prioritizing your goals is the solution.

The simplest way to prioritize your goals is to ask the question for each one, “if I fail to achieve this goal, what is the impact on my other goals?” So, you might find that your big picture, less specific goals are actually more important than anything else. Here’s my earlier list, reordered with that in mind:

  1. Balance running with life.
  2. Stay healthy – run without injury.
  3. PR at the Boston Marathon.
  4. Share my love of running with others.
  5. Run an ultramarathon in the fall (Arkansas Traveler 100).
  6. Run 2017 miles for the year.
  7. Purge refined sugar from my everyday diet.

To illustrate, I’ve never run 2000 miles in a year before. But I surely won’t be able to do that if I’m not mentally and physically healthy (see #1 and #2!). And, if we’re just talking artificial numbers, I’ll take the PR over the 2017, thank you very much!

I approached the 1750 mile mark in 2014, 2015 and 2016. That number was inconceivable just a few years before that. When I started tracking mileage in 2011 I was putting in 900 or so but never breaking 1000. It’s not that I set out to track mileage at that point. I am pretty anal retentive, but I never logged miles in a training log – probably because I wasn’t ever training for anything before. Garmin streamlined that for me – my first Forerunner allowed me to indulge my numbers geek inclinations in an efficient way. So why do I think running 2017 miles is a good goal? Increasing your mileage volume from year to year should eventually pay off in faster times. 2017 miles is only marginally more miles than I have been running, and it’s a number I think would have been achievable in either 2015 or 2016 had my acute impact injury not truncated those two years. Typically, I haven’t suffered from overuse/chronic injuries, which I attribute to the shift in running form I made 6 years ago. Nevertheless, I do have a specific plan for achieving the opposed goals of staying injury free while increasing mileage. I’ve resolved, so far successfully, to consistently incorporate strength training into my plans. To a certain extent, I am always doing this – I warm up with a 5-10 minute routine of lunges, squats, and leg swings before every run. On the other hand, I go through phases where I emphasize or slack off on core and balance work. I’m trying to make sure I keep that up this year!


2017 miles is a journey of millions of steps. I can’t run them all in six months. The higher mileage training plan I’ve put myself on had me at new monthly mileage PRs in December and again in February. I ran 246 miles in February despite only 28 days. I’ll be checking in on it, but 2017 miles is pretty far down on my goal priority list. If anything, it will be a byproduct of my plan to achieve my more important goals – but that’s the subject of my next post!

Effective Goal Setting for 2017 and Beyond

A new year is a great time to set new goals or reinvigorate old ones. The “New Year’s resolution” wouldn’t be such a cliché if there wasn’t something useful in it, right? Well, as it turns out, the majority of people aren’t always right.

In this first of a series of posts, I’ll discuss my thoughts on why we make New Year’s resolutions, types of goals, and good vs. bad goals.


The calendar is a cultural construct of sorts. There is no astronomical significance to the end/beginning of the year; no line crossed, no cosmic “ding” when the earth completes another turn around the sun. On the other hand, at least in the northern hemisphere, we are crossing into the winter months just days before the old year expires. There’s probably a numerology aspect in play here here too – humans love big round numbers. Nobody says “hey, 0.8743 of the year has passed – it’s time to make some changes!”


The combination of the turn of the page, the approaching months of cold and relative isolation indoors, and the recent memory of the various excesses of the holiday season makes the New Year a perfect time to re-prioritize and rededicate. Better to do it right away than after the period of hibernation ends!

Types of Goals

Your goals may be centered on work, family, personal relationships, spiritual development, or fitness.There are many types of goals, even if you narrow the field to running. Psychologically, your goals derive from various directions – what motivates you to run, your prior experience both good and bad, and peer interaction. Categories that seem touchy-feely at first blush may still have both objective and subjective measures. In any event, specific goals are more likely to produce the desired result (e.g. lose 10 pounds vs. lose weight). Goals with both short and long time horizons can be valuable – and while long range planning is important, it’s more effective when a long range goal is broken up into shorter goals that can be reached sooner.

“Good” vs. “Bad” Goals

This is value neutral – I’m not judging the goal itself. I’m talking about setting goals that have a better chance to succeed, not goals that have less or no chance of success. For example, don’t set unrealistic goals. For instance, if I set the goal of winning the Boston Marathon, that would be an unrealistic goal. My PR is a 3:09. These days you have to run around 2:10 or faster to win it. However, a realistic short term goal for me would be to PR at Boston. A realistic long range goal would be to run a sub 3:00 marathon. My motto, “Reach for what you cannot,” seems to run counter to this advice, but not really. I am always reaching just beyond what I’ve already achieved – that’s my take on that credo. Your goals should be difficult, but not impossibly difficult. Goals should be positive, e.g. “run under 3:10”  – not negative – “don’t run over 3:30.”

Next time I’ll cover planning to achieve your goals and prioritizing.