Monday, November 19, 2012


I've been off running for a few weeks with a hip/nerve/sciatica inflammation injury. I miss it but things are starting to work like normal so...forward!

It hit me this morning why I love to run. I was answering a friends post on FaceBook.  You spend hours thinking about why you run (usually while running)  and you can't quite pin it down. Now, in my 42nd year of running, it hit me while I was sitting and NOT thinking about it.

It's the transformation that takes place.
At the starting line I'm a chubby 10th grader in blue jean cutoffs and Chuck Taylor's. At the finish line, I'm Frank Shorter rounding that last turn in Munich.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Well, Sir..."

This is not an actual photo of my ass, although the wife says I sort of look like that from the back.

Running is the great equalizer, the great egalitarian sport. It can lift you up and smack you down. It brings people together and it drives some apart. It inspires hope and fear. It brings smiles to many and at times tears to many more.

I ran my 7th Marine Corps  Marathon on Sunday and was very ready for this. Stood at the start line healthy and happy inspired by a student, a dead Marine, whose picture I wore. 

Waiting at the start with Mary Lou we chat and wait.  Time comes and the howitzer goes off and we start to move...I kiss my babe and wave goodbye for a bit.

The time has come in my life when I never go into a race anymore with a finish time in my head. After 52 races of Marathon distance or longer I know that no matter how much you prepare, how much you're spot on, it can all go wrong. I revel in the good races and accept the bad as part of the landscape.

Within a few miles of the start, I feel my left leg is tight with some pain in the lower left hip. It feels like sciatica...something I had on the right side years ago and haven't seen since. Never on my left side. I laugh to myself and think "You're not supposed to try anything new on race day."

I have THE bag of tricks when it comes to running. Reaching in I try to find some way to help ease the increasing pain. 
Move across the road to where the camber is different.
Change my gait, then change back.
Pull out a little packet of Bio-Freeze and try that.
Loosen a shoe.
Shorten my stride. 
Lengthen my stride.
Nothing works.
Now, I have the pain threshold of a stone but by mile 16 it hurts and is only getting worse. At mile 17 on the Mall near the Natural History Museum, I hear my baby call my name (she walked over from the start) and she comes out to greet me...
It's bad I say and I'm falling apart...I think about a DNF and then touch the picture of Lance Corporal James pinned to my chest and burst into tears...I can't do it. I can't stop.

From then on it's a WOG. A cross between a walk and a jog. Walking is ok, running is quite painful But my attitude has spun around. At mile 19 I know I'll finish but I know it'll hurt. And the day is decided. My energy is good and I have no fatigue, the mechanics just aren't workin' right. While it would be nice to be under 4:30 I know that's all gone...

Good patches come and go. Rough patches come but never quite leave.

On the 14th street bridge I stop for a few minutes and squat, holding onto the Jersey wall hoping to stretch and get a little relief.
Up comes a young Marine in fatigues and boots and carrying a big ruck sack wearing a number...he's doing the race:
"Sir? Are you OK?"
"Yeah. I'm just a little fucked right now."
"Well, Sir...Un-fuck yourself! The only way to the finish is forward!"
It makes me laugh and he laughs and helps me up and off we go together for a bit, before I actually leave him behind with nod and a wink and a warm spot in my heart.

Through Crystal City I feel blah until I come past the local Hash House is amazing what pretzels and beer can do to raise one's mood and set the stomach right.

The last few miles to the finish aren't bad and I can actually run some.

Before long the Iwo hill arrives and I go up, head held high. 
The finish and I burst into tears. Marines shake my hand. One reaches out and touches James picture.

My 53'rd race of Marathon distance or longer and my slowest, and physically my most painful marathon ever.
I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why I have an IM tat.

 JUNE 16, 2009

Why I have an IM tat...Redux.

This is a post for 2006 when the topic came up on the Trifuel website.
I've added a few things and adjusted some of the writing. Maybe it's better, but really I don't GARA if it is or not:

After I did my first Ironman in 2003, I got an Ironman logo tattoo. The one you see here.
It was just a few days after the race and I fell asleep in the chair. Some folks thought I was bragging, self-focused and big headed to have that thing on my calf. "Oh! Look at me! I'm an IRONMAN!

They don't know me.
Getting the tat had NOTHING to do with finishing Ironman. It did have everything to do with getting to the start line in one piece and with some sanity. The previous ten years of my life had been tragic and I mean that in the classic sense.

Tragedy: Noun Dealing with a serious theme, typically that of a noble person whose character is flawed by a weakness which causes him to break moral precept and which inevitably leads to his downfall or destruction.

My Dad died and for awhile I lost my moral compass. My marriage shattered, I ended up in a relationship I should never have been in, lost everything including my self respect and almost didn't make it. There were days I wanted to jump off of something really high.
Little by little, I started to come back.
I started to train for Ironman Lake Placid in 2002, but my Mom became ill and died. My sisters and I cared for her. It was ugly. With the help of family and a good therapist I was able to leave a horrible relationship, get myself righted and see my situation for what it really was.
"Re-called to life" if you read Dickens.
I signed up for IMLP 2003 and, despite some brief mis-steps in my personal life, was able to get back what I had lost.
My dignity, self respect, and the goodness inside that had been lost too long under an bad influence.
Training was hard...there were days I didn't want to get out of bed, but did, because Ironman was the path back to myself.
Standing there on the shore on Mirror Lake the morning of Ironman I knew...the kid was alright.
The Tat was a symbol of all that, of being back among the living, of being whole again, of being better than the darker angels we all carry inside of us.
Things have come together, now, and as I prepare for Ironman Lake Placid on July 26th of this July, my fourth. I am back to who I always was.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Now what was I thinking...?

Ya just forget stuff sometimes. Well, at least I do. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's just that I've never been one of those tightly wrapped, detail type people.
Forget to drink enough on a summer 12 mile trail run and it will bite you.
Forget to drink enough BEFORE a summer trail run at it will bite you.
Forget that if you go run in the jungle without a shirt those big biting horse flies will nail you.
Forget that if you go out to fast things will really suck later in the run.
Forget that wearing newish shoes can beat your legs up on a long run if you haven't worn them much.
Forget to take enough snacks.
Forget to make sure your electrolytes are up on a day when it's 85 degrees and 80% humidity.
Forget to pick up your feet.

Things like that make you remember, even though folks say that "Running is supposed to be fun!", sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's just dirty and nasty and sweaty and it hurts.

THAT'S running! You need days like that to remind you not to make those mistakes again...or until you forget.

Went over to Mt. Airy Bicycles on Thursday to watch the Race Across America riders come through the time station. Ended up helping out. Great folks and a great bike shop. Inspiring riders, both group and solos who left California 8 days earlier. Powerful to watch them cruise by. Even more powerful to see a solo rider take a moment and stop and chat and thank us for being there. I always wanted to do RAAM but life went off in a different direction. Back in the Michael Shermer, John Howard, Lon Haldeman days I was a fan. Still am.
Wonder if it's too late? Maybe it always was. I'm not a detail type people.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Snack Time

Holy Jumpin' Pete you can spend a lot of money on Gels and bars and liquid electrolyte replacement and all the other engineered foods designed to keep you going for the time it takes you to get through an event...I've done it. Usually for things up to the Marathon I'm good on gels and water. Over that, and I need to eat food. Real food. Food like your momma made ya.
A few folks were curious about what I ate at a recent event where I went 130 miles in 60 hours. (A 72 hour event, I bailed early)
12 gels ( I usually eat 8 in a Marathon)
6 Honey Stinger Waffles (The movable treat!)

That's it for the "athlete" stuff

Cold Pickles
Wheat Crackers
Long grain white rice (Great carbs, low residue)
Boiled Potatoes
Cup o' Noodles
 Killer pancakes on Saturday morning
Anything that you could walk with and keep moving...since it's all about moving forward.

Coke or what I brought, Whole Foods Cola (Made with sugar, no HFCS)
Ginger ale (yum!)
For Electrolytes: Succeed! Caps, 1 per hour, two per hour when it got hot and my sweat rate went up.

As for my time: The vent started at 9am on a Thursday. Every 4 hours I took twenty minute breaks, re- greased my feet, changed socks, dealt with blisters and relaxed. Kept that up for 26 hours. Went down for a few naps after that, especially when it got hot. and about 5 hours of sleep Saturday morning early. I guess-temate about 130 miles in about 48 hours of moving. The course was on the road, a loop of just less than one mile. Chip timed.
Had no crew and used this an an experiment as this was my first time at this distance. A good crew is good for another 6 or 7 miles in 24 hours since they take care of a lot of things for you. All you have to do is move. ie: "Cut the toes out of my second pair of shoes, please. I'll get them on the next lap." It would have been really great to have someone to recharge my iPod! (I never run with music, but having it here was brilliant!)
The experiment was a complete success and I learned tons to apply next year.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What a difference two years makes...

Two years ago this week, this is what my ankle looked like:

Broken Talus and three torn ligaments. It has been a long road to come back.

Below are my results from the 3 Days at the Fair...just this past week end:

16 Anton Struntz 152 130.39 60:20:57

Yes, that's 130 miles in 60 hours. I was one of the light weights.

I guess the ankle's good!
Thanks to all the support at home form Mary Lou and to Dr. Skippy who did the rebuild...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


The question I always ask folks who say" I used to run..." is: Did you play ball sports?
The guy who rebuilt my ankle (rolled it running in a minimal shoe btw) and another Orthopod I run with from time to time both agree that pure runners aren't a problem. It's folks who played ball sports who are all trashed up as well as folks who simply aren't built to run long distances but insist on it. After 42 years of running and cycling and only running and biking I had some trauma to my left knee last year. ( was pushed down at a marathon and landed on the knee) My Dr. friend did the scope and came out and said I have the knees of a 15 year old and thought It was due to two factors. 1) I never played ball sports, 2) I have the genetics that have allowed me to go this long with no wear and tear on my meniscus which remains quite thick.
The question is: If Minimal shoes had been all there ever were, like my first real running Onitsuka Tigers and Nike Boston 73, would my knees still be as good? Did Cushioned shoes allow me to run this many years with little to no damage. ( I am a mid foot striker at speed and heel striker while noodling around)
Now I get minimal. I started in minimal (1970) and remember my first pair of cushioned shoes (Etonic Street Fighters). I have been playing with minimal drop (Montrail Bajada, PureFlow) and zero drop (Altras) both are nice and feel ok to run in. As I sit here I'm wearing a pair of Hoka Bondi B. 4 mm of drop and a huge cushion. My legs simply don't feel any shock in them, and I can come in from a run with no muscle soreness later on.
I've been running Mary's and Ultras lately. At Disney I see tons of folks in VFF. Running the road. After the races they walk around with big bags of Ice taped to their knees. At three recent Ultras I've seen plenty of minimal but only ONE pair of VFFs at each race. At a recent Ultra festival Hokas were everywhere and being worn by very experienced UR's. Folks who obsess about shoes as much as I do and probably have a closet full of minimal and low drop.
I think zero to minimal drop shoes that are well cushioned are coming down the pike.
It will be interesting to see what washes out and what lasts 5 years from now.
Like a hard core bike friend of mine says: "If Jan Ulrich had won 7 Tours we'd all be grinding out big gears at slow RPM. But he didn't. Lance did, so we spin at a high RPM."
There is a reason VFF can be had for 50% off at a lot of the stores I frequent.
A lot of it has to do with what's frosty.
A lot of this is fashion.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I coined a new word today:
When someones behavior goes right up to the line of being obnoxious, but doesn't cross it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Every once in awhile a write about time.
There are two truths to time.
It is all we have. Time with loved ones. Time to work. Time to workout. Time to relax. Time to live.
The other truth is this. We have no time. There is no promise of tomorrow. If you wake in the morning on this side of the dirt it's a gift. There is no guarantee of time with family or for work or workouts or time to live.
I feel my time.
It presses on me. Will I have time for this or that?  Do I have time to reach my goals? Will I have enough time with my Mary Lou? Is there enough time or will the road run out before I'm ready?

This is my hundred mile Spring. I've done some 24 hour events and gotten close to running 100 miles. This year I decided to tackle the distance several times... then spend some time at the altar of long distance. Spend many hours at the Altar of Time. Is my training good enough to see me through the distance?  Since most long races have time cut offs (you have 24 or 30 or 36 hours to finish) will I have time? Fun things to think about for an old hippie who far from time obsessed. I often don't wear a watch when I race but just go with the flow of the good feelings all around. I'm looking for a good analog watch with a luminous dial.

In my youth my Appalachian Trail name was "The Master of Space and Time" I could cover great distances without much problem. Slow but steady.  In the Mountains, Spanky and I would hike 20 miles, do a long climb and hike out the 20 without much rest and no sleep...and no drugs. I never thought much of time then. It didn't press me.
Now, I crack and grind when I run. After what promised to be a career ending ankle break two years ago I am happy every time I slip on some running shoes or climb on a bike.
Looking forward to the challenge this Spring. Have been turning 60 mile + weeks of running with some bike time too. More time on the road and trails is in the offing. I'm tired at times but not worried about it.
I have all the Time I need...or maybe not.

This Blue Dog clock, by Georges Rodrigue, hangs on the office wall.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


On yet another training run getting ready for my spring Ultra runs I rolled out of the house and onto the Seneca Creek Greenway trail system. Goal for the day was thirty miles. on my way down to the Potomac River I ran into Ed, the RD for the Greenway 50k in March, which I'm doing. Ed let me know that the race course for this year has changed from the North to the South side of the Seneca Creek. So on the return trip I got off the Greenway and onto the Seneca Creek trail. While the North side is flat. the South side is...lumpy! Most of the work on the trail was done by MORE, the local Mountain Bike folks and they have done just a stellar job. as trails go it is just a work of art. As a trail volunteer for the system I've seen a lot of trail work. (and done a lot too!) This is brilliant. Can't wait to run down the puppy on race day. Got my 30 miles in.

Monday, January 2, 2012


We're having some work done at the house and this week I've had a chance to watch a damn good mason do his work. A wall built that provides strength and is almost perfect. It reminded me of stone walls I've seen on three continents...castles, fortresses, battlements.
Monday, January 2nd and in two days, ML and I will head off to see The Mouse...our annual pilgrimage to all things Disney. Especially the Disney races. Half Marathon on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. ML does the half and I roll up for both.
So as some of you know the few weeks before a race are usually taper time. Decrease your workouts but not your intensity so that on race day you're rested and ready with lots of snap in your legs.
I'm chomping at the bit. Leading up to Disney I've been putting in sixty mile weeks of running with some time on the bike and pushing metal around. Now, just sort of sitting here waiting to run can make you a bit stir crazy. I'm obsessing over shoes and what running togs to take and what snacks to carry and all the stones in the wall of distance running. Not the fabled wall that people say they hit in a race (I only have once or twice, but the truth is if you "hit the wall" you're doing something wrong) but a wall of strength that you run along the top of. A strong battlement to keep the dark side of endurance sports away. A wall that lifts you up.

Just the niggling aches and pains to deal with, last minute what nots and then leaving. This week and the race weekend will actually be the first week of a new training cycle, running along the top of the wall.

More later from the House of the Mouse.