Tag Archives: half marathon

Tic-Toc Goes the Clock

Running has been sporadic over the past week which is a little scary since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half marathon is fast approaching; just three weeks away! Every waking moment the little voice in the back of my head says, “Dude, it’s cold out and you’re getting thin up here. Put a hat on!” It also says, “You better get in those distance runs. Tic-toc goes the clock, big guy.”

all-capsThe first problem has been taken care of. My boys got me this ultra-cool Darth Vader beanie for Christmas. Now the wheezing and heavy breathing when I run sounds intentional. Carson, the ultimate Harry Potter fan, got all the essentials to become a Gryffindor barber pole. And Parker is modeling his beanie from the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Park, which also makes an ideal target in our Nerf gun wars.

The second problem is a motivation issue. Lately, it’s been, “It’s cold out.” Or, “I’ll run later.” Or the ever popular, “I just ate that dish of lasagna and wouldn’t want to puke in the neighbor’s lantana again.”

However, a hero has arisen! Now that Parker has joined the cross country team at school, it gives us a reason to get out and run together. Well, ok, it’s more like, “Come on, Parker, let’s go.”

“Oh, alright,”and the negotiations begin. “Can I ride my bike?”


“How far are we going?”

“You can run the first two miles with me then go in and I’ll continue the rest of my run.”


That’s how it starts, but the truth is that we both thoroughly enjoy it. I love it because it’s a private time with my boy when we talk about whatever he wants. He likes it because he can run circles around me.


If you haven’t seen The Incredibles, you should. It’s my favorite animated film. There’s a scene at the end where Dash, the superhero kid who is super fast, is in a track meet with other kids and is trying to dial in his speed so that he’s competitive but doesn’t blow everyone away. He speeds up, then slows down looking at his dad in the stands for guidance. That’s Parker.

His skinny legs slip through the air with no resistance as his canoe paddle feet slap the pavement like flippers. All the while, he has a look on his face like, Come on, man. I’ve got places to go and people to see.

“I know you’re used to running a lot faster than this,” I say, and then his face softens as he takes pity on me and a conversation begins. He may have me on speed, but I can still outlast him. The max they run is two miles.

This week, my goal is 24 miles including some intervals (which for me is more like the sputtering death throes of a Yugo near empty) and 9 miles next Saturday. Depending on whether or not it rains, I would like to do that on a trail to get in some inclines.

Since training has been lacking, I plan on doing the run-walk method. I’ve done it before and it was quite entertaining. The app Run-Walk – which you can set for whatever time intervals you want and gives one loud beep when it’s time to walk and one loud beep when it’s time to run – is apparently pretty popular. As my phone beeped, I began to walk. Then in a few seconds there was another beep, and another. I looked up to see various runners starting and stopping and looking around at each other. We sounded like a convoy of U-Haul trucks backing up. This year, I’ll carry earbuds for one ear.

On New Year’s Day, I’ll begin the I Love To Run challenge of 1,000 miles in a year which, by summertime, could become the I Hate Running What Was I Thinking passing fancy.

Run into the New Year with determination, my friends, and don’t look back. I wish you all a wonderful, positive and productive 2017!


50 Year Dash

baby-picHas it been 50 years already? It seems like just last week I had not a care in the world – kicking back with a drink in one hand, a rattle in the other, waiting for someone else to dress me. Those were the days. Now every time I move I sound like a rusted barn door.

However, as I ruminate on 50 years of life a smile emerges because those years hold many happy memories. No, I won’t bore you with my life story. I’ll save that for my days in the senior care center where I can spew endlessly to fellow residents without the strength to wheel themselves away.

Fifty years have gone by in a flash and as my birthday approaches (December 29th, size 13, 4E shoes, XXL shirt, favorite color: coppery-red) I find myself torn. On one hand, I feel I should mark the occasion. What do guys typically do for a mid-life crisis? I pondered. A new sports car? Well, unless Vespa has recently made it onto the cover of Hot Rod magazine, that was not in the budget. A tattoo? No, I already have that birthmark that resembles spilled kool-aid. On the other hand, I don’t really care. It is just a number and I don’t want to build it up into some geriatric rite of passage.

ragnar-finishSo since I’m a runner, I decided to do a race that was on my bucket list. (My wife hates that term, by the way. She thinks it tempts fate and has declared that she’ll kill me if I die before the kids move out.) The Ragnar Trail Relay was last month and I thoroughly enjoyed it. See previous post. Now, however, another running siren song seduces me from the realm of pop-ups. Damn you, Facebook!

pricy-blingThey caught my eye with some shiny bling and I was bewitched. Until I saw the price tag. Really? Forty-four dollars for a medal? And yet, 1,000 miles in a year intrigued me. Could I do that? I quickly did the math: less than 20 miles a week. I can do that. And as I type this my knees crack in protest. “That was my chair!” I say aloud to oblivious coworkers.

The only problem would be summer when the tempts reach “molten hot lava” levels and me with no treadmill. The gyms that claim $10 a month don’t mention the sign-up fee and the documentation fee and the rate guarantee fee and the treadmill heavy-fella fee etc. I’ll have to work something out.

The good news is that I don’t have to buy the medal to participate. So I signed up.

A few friends “Liked” the link, thinking it was pretty cool. When I asked if they wanted to join me: “Are you nuts?!” “Doug’s on the Crazy Train again.”  “I’ve got a root canal that year.”


Mileage markers aside, I love running so I can do more with my kids. I can’t count the hikes, soccer games, football games, baseball, tag, Nerf wars and more that we’ve played. I especially love the races we’ve run together in recent years.

I’ll never forget the first organized 4k race that I ran with Parker. Two blocks out of the gate, “Come on dad, I wanna win!” he said with a look like I had betrayed him. We’ve run that race four years now and still haven’t won. Although, he’s joined the cross country team at school now so my retirement dreams are pinned on his Olympic track and field success in 2024. Come on kid!

This last picture was taken on a tour of Shamrock Farms. I asked Carson to sit on the cow so I could take his picture. He struck a pose with a balloon sword that I just had to have fun with.

The next race in line is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half in January. A fairly level course until mile nine where a two mile incline begins, affectionately known as “death row”. More on that in upcoming posts.

Cool runnings my friends!

The IMS Arizona Half

Here in the Valley of the Sun, our race season goes from about October to April. We avoid those hot months that will melt the rubber on your shoes and in which you need an oven mitt to steer your car.

As a young man, it didn’t bother me as much. I would mow, trim and do other yard work in 100 plus degree temps. Now that I am more “mature”, I can see the effects of overexposure. For example, all those years in the sun have burned away some of the hair on top of my head.

Last weekend was my final half of the season. The IMS Arizona half marathon. The race is only eight years old and I have enjoyed watching it grow and change. It’s still fairly small though and I had to chuckle at the runner info packet which read:  The start line will be on Sweetwater Ave. at light post #521879.

Steve, Doug, Doug, Tammy
Steve, me, Doug, Tammy

My friends Steve, Doug and one of Steve’s friends, Tammy, ran it. Tammy was sweet. We were talking about how slow our paces were and she said, “I’ll run with you for a while, Doug.” I think her definition of “slow” and my definition are quite different. I was telling her how I like to chat with other runners, but I found myself unable to carry on a conversation because I was out of breath trying to keep up with her. She probably thought I was lying. What a dud! So, I made up some excuse about an old football injury and told her I would see her at the finish.

Several years ago, I ran it for the first time with my friend, Doug (aka The Jackrabbit). The start was in a suburb of Phoenix. It was a super cold morning and all the runners, about 800 of us, were freezing. We dressed light because once the sun came up, it warmed up fast. I shivered away all the carbs I loaded up on the night before. Somebody got a key to an office and several of us piled in. Fifty of us, shoulder to shoulder, kept each other warm with body heat and by breathing on each other. Since then, they moved the start to a clubhouse with seating and outdoor heaters. Nice!

For the last couple of years, the course has run through Luke Air Force Base, which is pretty cool once you get past the soldiers with automatic weapons at the entrance. I can only imagine the hoops race organizers had to jump through to make that happen – thousands of strangers running a mile through a military base. But the troops inside were terrific cheerleaders. About every 50 yards someone was blasting a boom box and yelling at us like a drill sergeant, “Move it you maggots! I haven’t got all day!” It was great! They also had various vehicles lining the course. I asked one guy attending a large armored vehicle if I could take it for a test drive. He didn’t respond. Just stared at me, assessing my threat potential.

After that, we headed across some farm fields and scattered housing. The view was open and if the wind blows the smog just right, you can see the Cardinals Stadium where we finish. “Holy Cow! I’ve got a ways to go!” The manure and farm animal smells hit you like a board to the face and some people stumble there, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. This part of the race is actually the most enjoyable for me as I love being out in the open where I can look around. I imagine that I am actually not moving and the earth is my treadmill, spinning beneath me. Then I got smacked in the face again.

I didn’t remember the water treatment plant from last year. Probably blocked it out. That was not enjoyable and it was too far to hold my breath. Some of my fellows ran past pinching their noses. However, we all came out the other side, feeling a little dirtier maybe, but free.

Throughout the whole race, people parked on the side of the road and cheered us on. I laughed out loud at mile ten when I saw two young girls sitting on the ground wrapped in blankets holding a sign:  YOU THINK YOU’RE TIRED? MY ARM IS KILLING ME.

Even though I had left my refueling chews in my bag (that I checked), I was feeling good. Steve had given me one of his chew packets. Thanks, buddy! On top of that, temps were 15 degrees above normal. But so far, it was going well. 

This is a pretty cool race, I thought. It’s not too big, around 1,500 runners, the shirts are cool and this year’s medals spin! I can’t wait to play with it. 

It was around mile 11 when my right knee started to hurt. (The price I paid for not training adequately.) So, I ended up walking the last two miles. It only set me back about five minutes from my expected finish time so I wasn’t too disappointed.

At the finish, I joined my well-rested friends for a beer then headed home so my knee could swell up properly. My awesome kids cheered and congratulated me with hugs. My loving wife, St. Gwen, brought some Ibuprofen and water. She may have been about to rub my feet, but got no further than taking my shoes off and making a face. Another half in the books!

Next up is a 4k with my boys at the Kiss Me I’m Irish race. The only kiss I ever get there is a chocolate one at the finish, though. Maybe I need to wear a kilt…

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon


The Expo was quick for me. I had to get home for a dinner reservation Friday night after work, so I spent a curse-laden half hour navigating the one-way streets downtown until I found the secret parking garage entrance. Then I ran in and grabbed my shirt, bib and swag bag complete with coupons, dried peas, pickle flavored peanuts and some kind of ointment for sweaty areas, then left to curse at rush hour traffic some more.

The night before the race, I laid out all my gear. Pinned the bib to my shirt, put the tag on my shoe, picked out my shorts, socks, the four dollar throwaway sweatshirt from Goodwill; and stuffed my bag with all the other little necessities for a good race. You might think the reason I did this was to revel in the anticipation of the big event, or to drool over my new goodies like the shirt, “Irby’s Derby” personalized bib, the peanuts etc. I did it so I could sleep in.


The alarm went off at 5:15am on race day. I hit snooze a couple of times and rolled out of bed at 5:30 thinking I could have slept another 15 minutes if I had slept in my clothes (next time), chewed on some rubbery instant oatmeal and slammed a yogurt and orange juice. No coffee for me. I learned a valuable lesson years ago about drinking a diuretic before a race.

My running buddy, Steve, drove and his family came along to do a short hike and drive us home. It was 42 degrees when his lovely wife dropped us off then went to a warm McDonald’s to enjoy a hot breakfast and a steaming cup of coffee.

Now, to some of you, 42 might sound like a balmy spring day. But to us Arizonans who are used to days on end of 110+ degree temps during the summer, anything below 80 is sweater weather. With about a half hour to kill, we went potty, checked our gear bags and picked a corral. I’m slow and steady and was assigned corral 17. Steve, who is faster and had mismarked his estimated finish time by an hour, was assigned corral 2 where the stick people hang out. So we met somewhere in the middle.

All around us people were running and stretching. My warm-up routine consisted of jogging in place and shivering. My buddy tried to fasten his timer tag to his shoe, “My fingers are numb. I can’t work this thing.”

“You did it wrong,” I said. He shrugged.

Finally, an angelic-voiced girl sang the National Anthem as Marines held up our beautiful American Flag and a Southwest commercial airliner did a flyby. The airhorn sounded… and we waited. Wave one… wave two… About 30 minutes later, our corral was released and we were off! Clothes flew left and right and my sweatshirt was among them.

“I don’t see any news trucks,” I said. “This is a huge race.”

“They’re probably up ahead somewhere.”

I ran a finger under my nose to be sure no snot had frozen to my ‘stash. Clear. But there were no news trucks.

As usual, he took off and was soon lost in the crowd ahead of me and I thought, Dang it! I have to pee.

It was quite disappointing because I do everything I can to avoid having to go during a race, but the shivering must have knocked something loose. I trotted along, trying not to “shake things up” too much and knew from experience that the first port-a-john would be overwhelmed. It was. Why do they only have one john? I can make it to mile two.

The mile two john had a line 12 deep. I can make it to mile three.

The third mile aid station had five port-a-johns and about 20 people waiting. Ok, I thought. There are more people here but it should go fast. I waited. People went in but they didn’t come out. Did they fall asleep? Are they all going number two? Eventually, a lady came out and said, “There’s no toilet paper!” Someone else came out of another one and said the same thing.

The lady behind me was on the verge of exploding. “Who cares! That’s the risk you take at these things! The people behind you still have to go!”

“I can’t wait for this,” I said to her, watching hundreds of runners pass by. “I’m going to take my chances down the road.” And I bailed after ten minutes of waiting.

Folks, I didn’t see a john without a huge line until mile 8 at a medical tent. Sweet Relief! After that, I smiled as I ran.

Occasionally, I would pass a red timer tag on the ground and think, I wonder if that’s Steve’s.

hilltopMile 9 is the only tough part of the race. It includes a long out-and-back up a hill. At the top was a cool group of people from a school or club banging on large drums. I felt like they were banging for me. “Ooga chaka ooga ooga, Ooga chaka ooga ooga. I can’t fight this feeling, deep inside of me…”

I ran-walked 30 second intervals to the top singing “Hooked On A Feeling”and felt great.  (Well, sang it in my head because I was breathing too hard to make a sound.) The rest of the race was quite enjoyable.

As the last few miles came up, more people were there to cheer us on. Some memorable signs:

“Hurry up. We’re freezing!”
“$95 for a half marathon. Only $15 to go.”
“Run faster. I just farted.”
“If I see you collapse, I’ll pause your Garmin.”

The last two miles of the race are where the half and full marathon courses converge and you can see the two sides eyeing each other competitively. Come on! Let’s see what you’ve got. Well, I didn’t have much because I had to take a walk break, but the last stretch was fun because I had just enough gas left to finish strong. As I approached the finish line, I heard the announcer say, “And he’s got a brick!” Huh? What? I looked around and saw a man, medium build, carrying a large cinder block on his shoulder. You’ve got to be kidding me! I’m going to look at my finish line photos because he’s probably in them. There was another guy who dribbled a basketball the whole way, but that’s normal. A cinder block? Really? And more importantly, why? Maybe he lost a bet.

RNR MedalSo, I crossed the finish line, got my puzzle piece medal (the second of four), walked by the guy yelling “Repent sinners!” and grabbed a bottle of water. Then joined my buddy and his fam at an Irish pub for lunch.

“How did you do?” I asked.

“Well, my tag popped open and the finish time didn’t register but according to my watch it was about 2:25. How about you?”

I don’t have a watch and all I had on my wrist was the RoadID bracelet so they know where to send my body if anything happens. But my wife tracked me at home and texted my time: 3:09. “If it hadn’t been for that potty break I would have been under 3! Man, I’ve got to pee.”

Now I have about a month before my next half – the IMS half marathon. They also have a cool new medal that spins and they are keeping the second side of it a secret along with the new shirt design. Looking forward to running it with two buddies.

Cheers friends!