Running with Rage

Eric Rutin discusses running, life and other semi-important things

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13 things runners should avoid at all costs

January 19, 2014

Over the past 15 years I have learned many things that have benefited my running experience, but I have also discovered several things that are best avoided.  Avoid typically at all costs.  In an effort to give back to humanity I am graciously offering the following list of 13 things (I figured a historically unlucky number was appropriate) to save you from enduring the pain, discomfort or humiliation that I have gone through.

  1. hell_and_back_fullCounting your chickens before they hatched.  In the 2008 RNR AZ I had trained the best I ever had before and was having a great race.  At mile 16 I decided to stop holding back and increased my pace.  At mile 20 I happily skipped the wall.  Never in my previous six marathons had I felt so strong this late in a race.  I was about sixty yards short of the 24 mile marker when I started to have an inner dialogue.  “Maybe a marathon wasn’t tough enough any more.  Maybe I needed something more challenging.  I was going to PR by a bunch and was feeling great.  Maybe an ultra should be my next race.”  Then about twenty yards shy of that 24 mile marker I was rudely reminded what a marathon was and I hit the wall.  Hard.  It happened that fast.  The final 2.2 miles were absolute hell.  My speedy pace was replaced by a death crawl. Had there been a priest around I would gave converted to Christianity on the spot to get me to that finish line.  Or Buddhism if it happened to be a Buddhist priest. I ended up with my best time but I gave back 5 minutes in that final bit.  I learned that a marathon is 26.2 miles and not a yard less, so my advice to you is to not celebrate until you are across the finish line.
  2. Not choosing your running partner wisely. Jeff is my running buddy and we have run races of all distances, trained in every condition and generally supported each other for over a decade.  But my running buddy is also a ruthless bastard. Running Detroit in 2005 I was hurting around mile 16 and he got me past that.  Then around mile 20 he helped me again when I graciously accepted some Gummi Bears from a kid passing them out to runners and realized it was a bad idea with no water to wash them down.  I helped him when he was starting to fade down the final stretch.  We were doing what running buddies where supposed to do – we were supporting each other.  Back in 2005 you finished on the 50 yard line of Ford Field and when you entered the stadium just past mile 26 there was a four story steep drop to the field level.  At this point Jeff gave me a the arm restraint pushback usually reserved for mother’s holding their kids back as she slams the brakes in traffic.  Then he took off in a mad sprint leaving me a couple of yards behind chasing him.  We had run shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride for 26 miles and then he just dusted me without an ounce of regret beating me by a couple of seconds.  The lesson learned was friendship only lasts until you see the finish line, then it is every man or woman for themselves.Eric Rutin eats Milk Duds
  3. Throwing a handful of Milk Duds in your mouth as you head out the door.  This probably applies to anything you can buy at the movie theater and you would have thought I would had learned my lesson in Detroit, but Jeff forced me to take another lesson from that race.  Before heading out on a run the other day, I saw a box of Milk Duds sitting on the counter and I couldn’t resist.  I poured a reasonable amount into my hand, probably 15 or so, and then popped them into my mouth and out the door I went.  Something to know about Milk Duds is they first redirect all your saliva to allow you to swallow them. Then it returns in a constant flow of thick syrupy mud leaving you spitting again and again and again and again and again and again and again.  Not the end of the world, but certainly not pleasant either.
  4. Practicing peeing your pants. This wasn’t actually me, but rather one of my not-to-be-named Running with Ragers.  She or he (but it was a she) had missed qualifying for Boston in a previous marathon by a mere 2 seconds.  Determined not to let that happen again, she or he (but it was she) showed up at the final long run and announced her or his (but it was her) plan of practicing peeing while running.  The rest of the Ragers applauded her dedication to qualifying but assured her this was a game time only activity that required no practice.  So preparation is key to a good race, but exercise discretion.
  5. Starting a long training run horny.  Ok, this may be TMI, but this is good advice.  When you are out running for 3 plus hours it is often a good time to process things.  Spend that time trying to accomplish something mentally.  Think how you can be a better partner in your relationship or develop a new strategy for client you having problems with at work.  Plan your kid’s birthday party.  Heck figure out the last digit of Pi.  Just do something with resolution.   However if you start a run horny, it only gets worse and worse.  And worse.    No more discussion necessary.Eric Rutin is lost
  6. Not taking care of business before you head out.  Once I was in Denver and went out for a run before some meetings.  As most runners do, I have a pre-run routine that takes care of certain necessities, but when on the road routines often get messed up.  So off I went to run an easy six around downtown Denver at dawn.  I had a Garmin and my plan was to just wing it; run basically out for 3 miles then backtrack to keep from getting lost.  Well because there is a thing called Murphy’s Law, at roughly the farthest point from my hotel nature started calling.  I began looking for a coffee shop, hotel or restaurant anyplace that would have a bathroom.  Yet I seemed to find myself surrounded only by offices other closed businesses.  So I veered off my path only to discover a lovely old neighborhood.  While I am sure the residents were very nice people, I somehow doubt they would have appreciated a 6 AM knock on the door asking to use their bathroom.  Soon my causal search was replaced by a pretty focused one.  I was also well off my route by now and I was relying on my innate sense of direction at this point.  It wasn’t long before my focused search escalated to a panicked one.  Needless to say, I found a coffee shop that was open but of course I was not the only one needing the bathroom.  Murphy’s Law after all.  I discovered the meaning of “just in the nick of time” that morning. So if you are ever thinking you will just hold it until you are done with your run, don’t.  It is a bad idea.
  7. Wearing a CamelBak shirtless on a hot summer day. A few years ago I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon which requires long runs in the Phoenix summer.  When the lows are in the 90s you do pretty much anything and everything to be as cool as possible.  This includes starting long runs at 3:30 AM, to strapping on a CamelBak with 32 ounces of Gatorade to pretty much anything else you can think of to stay cool.  One morning I decided I was going to skip the shirt and just wear my CamelBak.  I discovered that sweat crystalizes on your body as you run and when there is no shirt to buffer the coarse material of a CamelBak you then discover what sandpaper feels like rubbing against naked skin.  If you have not had this wonderful experience it makes chafing a desirable alternative.Eric Rutin thinks tights are never a good idea for a guy
  8. Running tights. if you have a Y chromosome.  I bought running tights when I first started running and quickly realized why they are called tights.  They are tight.  Guys simply shouldn’t wear something that tight.  Girls look fantastic in them, guys don’t.  No guy, no time, no way.  I soon found relaxed fit tights and they rock.  If you have junk, don’t wear tights.  Nothing else needs to be said.
  9. Thinking you are bad ass.   A long time ago when I was much younger and thought I was pretty cool and a good runner, I came up with the notion of shaving my hair into a mohawk for a marathon.  I was sure I was going to PR and I thought I would look like a bad ass running with a mohawk akin to one of my heroes, Joe Strummer.  The only problem is you have to respect the marathon and I am not Joe Strummer.  I ran a solid half before my hip started bothering me.  By the time I hit 16 there was a distinct popping noise emitting from my hip socket. By 20 the resulting compensation in my gait had me running with an awkward skip-like stride.  The final six miles were brutal and I was in survival mode.  I gimped over the finish line and immediately my body went limp.  I started stumbling back towards the race course and the medical staff came out and had to assist me. I was a wet noodle in their hands and anything but a bad ass.  So if you are not a certified bad ass, don’t try being a bad ass.  Odds are you will just be an ass.Eric Rutin looks like Fonzie
  10. Being ill-prepared for the course photographer.  When I first started running I had a habit of running with my fingers clenched and thumbs sticking straight up.  I had no idea I was doing it until I saw my race pictures and my friends started calling me Fonzie.  So I started tucking my thumb under my fingers and when I got my pictures I now looked like a constipated race walker that just lost his dog.  Then I developed yet another ill advised strategy – when I saw photographers I would fist pump or purposely give a big thumbs up only to discover I looked like a complete idiot.  It was even worse when I looked like that with a mohawk.  Finally I adopted my current philosophy, no matter what shape I am in, I break into the best possible fundamentally perfect stride and try to look as much like an actual athlete as I can even if I collapse two steps past the photographer.  Even though I stopped buying pictures a long time ago, I still want to look at least pathetic as possible.  You never know if I will become this guy. Eric Rutin looks like this
  11. Trying and cheer a stranger up after they have hit the wall.  In my last marathon I wasn’t in great shape and Jeff was having a miserable race so I stuck with him at a pedestrian pace.  Around mile 20 we came upon a girl that was having an even more miserable race than Jeff.  Because I was taking it easy I had a lot of energy.  Too much energy apparently.  I started talking to the girl oblivious to the obvious.  She clearly was in no mood to chat but missing all the signals I went into pep talk mode which for anyone that has been in that state knows a pep talk is that last thing you want.  Soon after I told her she would finish she just had to believe in her training she broke into tears.  Not a little weeping, but full out bawling including some oddly seal-like bellows.  I awkwardly sped off relieving her of my cheering up.  I now know better.  When someone you don’t know is struggling give them at most a quick “keep at it”.  Anything else you might as well be that horrible spectator that yells “you are almost there” when you pass 23 miles.
  12. Thinking you are faster than a kid.  There was this family that ran a lot of local events. I know they were a family because their shirts, or should I say uniforms, had their family’s name across the shoulder with their first name below.  The worst of this lot was the 12 year old daughter.  I ran into her it seemed at every event.  Not literally in case you are concerned.  Well sadly she had a nasty habit of always finishing just ahead of me.  When checking the results she wouldn’t always have a faster time – sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t – but the point is she was always crossing the finish line ahead of me.  So I did as any middle aged guy would do and I dedicated myself to beating this pre-teen.  Sadly it typically ended up with me chasing her down and her beating me anyhow.  Had she not worn that annoying shirt I would have had no idea but she did, so I did.  Efforts are better spent trying to beat your running buddy in the final meters.
  13. Making a New Year’s resolution to run every day for a year. Unfortunately this is inconvenient and allows for little flexibility. It hasn’t been 3 weeks yet and I have already had to scramble to get my runs in on occasion.   Making such rash decisions leads you to doing like running in argyle socks when you realize you forgot to run and have to sneak a run in to keep the streak alive.  Do something sensible like pledging to lose 20 pounds or save more money or solve world hunger.

Eric Rutin looks stylish

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Running reduces the risk of breast cancer

December 12, 2013

Eric Rutin supports Rave for the CureThose who know me know I am a fanatic about running for a myriad of reasons.  Talk to me for 10 minutes and I guarantee running will somehow come up in the conversation.  If you are a runner, I will talk all night long if you don’t abandon me which, despite my wonderful personality, actually happens.  Some of you may also know that my mom died from breast cancer over 15 years ago.  This has been why I have always been a huge supporter of the Race for the Cure; it allows me to combine two passions that are part of my core.  Though I must admit I wish that I, nor I imagine anyone else for that matter, never had to even concern myself with breast cancer.  It would be a much better planet if the cure was simply discovered and breast cancer was eradicated.  But until then it is about education and preventive behavior to help at least reduce the risks.

That very notion brings me to the point of today’s blog.  While checking out my timeline on Facebook  I saw a post from Runner’s World sharing an article on how running has been linked to reducing the risk for women getting breast cancer.  41% less of a chance to be be exact.  The amazing thing is it doesn’t even take that much effort to reap these benefits, just under 5 miles a week.  This is not the kind of commitment that requires a woman to drastically adjust her lifestyle to accommodate ultra marathon training training milage or anything.

Eric Rutin is a stick figureI know most of you that read my blog are runners already and 5 miles of weekly running can be knocked on Monday morning before heading to work.  If that is the case, on Tuesday you will be reducing your risk of heart disease, Wednesday you will be lowering your blood pressure, Thursday you will adding around 3 years to your life, Friday will put you in a better mood (a recent study showed that running can have comparable results to antidepressants), Saturday you will be preventing  losing your mind. literally (exercise reduces age-related mental decline) and on Sunday you will be letting youself splurge on cheese sticks and wings as you watch football (preferably the Lions or Steelers).  If you look at it collectively, that is a pretty solid week of accomplishment.

Since most of you are already runners, let us look at this as an opportunity to encourage those around us to run as well.  My daughter Emma (her middle name is Jane after my mom) did her first Race for the Cure when she was still in her mom’s womb.  Her next in a Baby Bjorn, then baby jogger, then walking before eventually running on her own.  She was an excellent runner through 5th grade when the brilliance of Arizona cross country with their August through October season and afternoon meets in 108 degrees soured her on the joy of running and instead converted running to a slow-roasted toaster torture for her.  I have been trying to get her off the couch and away from Netflix ever since without much success.  In PE she is always one of the top milers, she has to do running as ocnditioning for badminton and softball, but running for the joy of running has long since went dormant in her being.   So I was excited when she texted me a picture of some cute Nikes she wanted to start running again.  While I am probably not going to run to Runner’s Den or iRun and buy the $135 pair she wants before she demonstrates her commitment to running at least a couple of times a week, I am going to get her a cool pair to get going and encouraging her to knock out at least 4.75 miles a week.  I have even offered to run with her on Saturday morning though oddly she doesn’t seem as keen on the idea as me.   In addition to a  fierce independent spirit, I want the only similarity that Emma ever shares with her grandmother to be her name.Eric Rutin daughter Emma

So during this holiday season I encourage everyone to look around and see which of your loved ones you can get out the door and run a little.  Lets take it upon each of us to help reduce breast cancer (and many other health issues) in any way we can and to make our loved ones healthier.  Besides, runners are just cooler people.

Eric Rutin Takes on the WSJ

November 15, 2013

So runners seem to be up in arms about a recent article written in the Wall Street Journal by Chad Stafko.  Having read it I have to say I really don’t understand his stance.  I am not sure who Chad Stafko is, but he seems to be someone that is simply annoyed at healthy people or people trying to better themselves.  His logic is along the lines of being annoyed that someone with high cholesterol decided to skip the Slim Jims or Roald Amundsen dared to trek to the South Pole (and the North Pole for what it is worth).  While we are at it, that Jonas Salk was a no-good show-off sharing his polio vaccination with everyone.  Couldn’t he have the common decency to simply be modest and keep his accomplishments to himself?

Eric Ruitn circa 1987

Eric Rutin circa 1987

Before I proceed, I have to say that I am acutely aware that making such claims are akin to Howard Stern shock jock tactics in just saying outrageously outlandish things to evoke reaction without any actual conviction or believe in what you spew.

But since Mr. Stafko decided to voice his opinion on the matter than runners need to get over it, revert to a sedentary state and I am a sucker for a good argument here we go.

I am sure there are runners out there that are in it for the social acknowledgement, but lets break that down just a little before we condemn these superficial folks.   To slap on a 26.2 sticker on your bumper, even if you are just showing off, you still have to train for several months and then run 26.2 frickin’ miles.  I don’t care how superficial you are, that is not a fun or easy experience.  The commitment to a 16-26 week training program that drags your ass out of bed at stupid hours of the morning, regardless of how cold or hot it is outside (and it is always one or the other at some point in your training) isn’t for the meek.  While all your friends are heading out for a late dinner and drinks on a Friday night, you bid them adieu and head to bed by 8:30, knowing you will be pounding pavement in a couple of hours.  Running for three plus hours on a Saturday morning covered in sweat, grime and God only knows what other bodily fluid is not quite as pleasant at sitting in a Starbucks with your Mac penning animosity. Then when it comes to race day, everyone, and I mean everyone comes to that point when every bit of their rational self tells them they can not venture one single step farther, yet somehow, someway their internal will propels the left foot in front of the right one only to repeat again and again and again.  He seemingly boasts why run 10 miles when you have a perfectly good car to drive it as if it is as crazy as bathing in beef bullion and challenging a pack of rabid wolves to a wrestling match.  How about not wanting to be a fat ass with high blood pressure and 350 cholesterol?  So, if someone wants a little superficial acknowledgement, so be it. They ran 26.2 frickin miles afterall.  They have done something that .5% of the US population has accomplished.

Now lets chat a little more about just want to be seen running around.  Well as I previously mentioned, typically I am out the door before anyone wakes up.  Training in the summer here in the comfortable Arizona summer when the lows are often in the mid 90s, I often run 20 miles in the dark, am showered and back in bed before the kids even wake up much less the neighbors.  The only other people I see are fellow runners, so I am really not getting all that much attention.  Then lets think more about wanting to be seen?  My Running with Rage pals have all had incidents involving pee, poop, vomit and pretty much every other human disgustingness you can imagine.  Not really show off moments.   Lastly my favorite long run is from Central Phoenix down to South Mountain along Central.  The reason I like this so much, it is a nice, long, lonely run where it is just me and my run.  I rarely even listen to music on these runs as I don’t want to be disturbed by the outside world.

Eric Rutin Pittsburgh Marathon

Finishing Pittsburgh

Do runners like to talk about running?  Hell yes we do.  Just like golfers like to talk about golf.  Just like cancer researchers like talking about proton therapy.  Just like Republicans like to talk about the Second Amendment (the First they can take it or leave it).  Just like writers like to talk about  about literature and being published.  People like to discuss their passion.  Typically runners like to talk to other runners about running.  I was recently at the Inc. 5000 Conference and on the opening night I attended the kick-off party. I didn’t really know anyone, but I met this cool woman, Jennifer, that was also runner.  She has run races around the world.  We compared experiences and had an instant bond that made it then easier to also discuss our respective businesses.  I believe the term they use is rapport. It is a social skill.  I then met the president of Inc. Bob LaPointe, a famous motorcycle enthusiast, and you know what we talked about?  Not running.  I recalled my memories of riding my motorcycle along the foothills of the Catalinas in Tucson at sunset.  There really isn’t anything wrong with talking about your passions and being proud of your accomplishments.  I am sure even Chad might have mentioned being published in WSJ with a little sense of pride once or twice.

But the biggest reason runners are the coolest people on the planet is running is all about community.  Sure we run alone, but we belong to a bigger group.  We are a group that, despite all of our diversities, are united by our commitment to this most primal activity. There are worse people out there than a group who can set audacious goals whether it be running a 5K when you get winded walking to the mailbox or signing up for a marathon or even longer distance race.  And then accomplish them!  The famous Mount Everest explorer Sir Edmund Hillary once said, “People do not decide to become extraordinary, they decide to accomplish extraordinary things”.  That is how runners view each it.  I used to golf and there was a competition between golfers usually leading them to exaggerate their abilities and accomplishments.  I can’t count the number of single digit handicappers I have known that were incapable of breaking 80.  Runners are different. We don’t compete against each other.  Surely we try and beat each other in a race, and I have to admit I thoroughly enjoy that, while Jeff has me beat on every other distance, I hold the marathon PR over him.  But when it comes down to it, I am cheering him on to be his absolute best and he does the same for me.  When one of us is down, the other picks him up.  Runners enjoy each others accomplishments almost as much as we enjoy our own.

I remember being at Scotty’s wedding, standing in the kitchen talking with him and Shelly, my counterpart in the wedding party.  Scotty is rather fast and I was a little faster than Shelly but the interesting thing was, as we shared our experiences, I realized despite our different times arriving at the finish line, they were all basically the same.  This was reinforced later when after the Detroit Marathon Jeff, Scotty and I were eating our post run meal, talking about the day’s race.  I mentioned that it took every bit of my will power to run past the 13.1 turn-off and to continue on with the marathon (in a big part due to Jeff running with me step for step, encouraging me despite not having the best race to that point).  I was amazed when Scotty then said there wasn’t a marathon he has run that he didn’t have the same exact thought at some point.  This was a guy that just ran a 2:35 marathon and came in 11th place overall!  Jeff and I also ended up with a PR that day.  While I was struggling in the mid miles, I was able to return the favor when Jeff had his own struggles later.

Whenever I talk to Scotty I am always reminded how great and inclusive the running community is.  He runs at a whole other level than anyone else I know (other than Mark Cosmos that runs 10o miles races, but that is another story) and has every right to feel elite  yet he is impressed by everyone else.  He has told me he thinks the accomplishment of the 5 hour marathoner is more impressive than his.  This is a guy that runs sub 6:00 miles for a marathon.  He said if he had to run for that long of a time period, he couldn’t do it.  This wasn’t said in a arrogant manner, but rather genuine admiration that someone is so dedicated to their goal, they are going to accomplish it no matter how long it takes.  When I see someone that is obese running at a pace that most would consider walking, I think how frickin awesome it is they they are out there trying to make themselves better.  This is a point that our dear old Mr. Stafko just can’t comprehend. It is easier to shun or mock people for doing things we can’t or won’t than to truly admire them.  To a runner, any person that is willing to lace up the shoes and head out the door is to be applauded, regardless of any results after that.

Boston Eric Rutin

Eric Rutin 24 hours before at Bomb #1 site

Lastly, the running community is all about supporting the spirit and will of the human race.  This extends  beyond just the actual runners, Chad Stafko excluded.  As I mentioned, it doesn’t matter if you are an obese person running 100 yards, or Wilson Kipsing setting the marathon world record in Berlin or a mid-pack running like most of my peers.  Go to any race and you will see people of every ability lining up at the race, but you also see hundreds eor ven thousands of volunteers working at a race, giving there own personal time.  Then look on the streets and you see people cheering on complete strangers, encouraging them through their struggles as if there were BFFs, passing out gummy bears at mile 18 in Indian Village.  Everyone, runners, volunteers and supporters are unified in their appreciation of effort.  That is all anyone in the running community ever asks.  Give effort, and you are rewarded.  That is why the events at Boston earlier this year messed with me so much.  Of course I had my issues with being so close to the bombs and the what ifs that I couldn’t quiet in my head, but what traumatized me the most was how the Tsarnaev brothers attacked an event that celebrated  greatness in humankind.  Thousand and thousands of people with no agenda other than striving and cheering for greatness we assaulted.  Runners had trained for years to compete in the most prestigious contest of human endurance.  While I can not say I understand the motive behind such acts, I can attest for the effectiveness of terrorism in doing as the name suggests creating a constant state of terror and unsettledness in a community.  What I can not understand is the choice of targets, attacking churches, schools, and even The Boston Marathon, outside if the Olympics, they greatest testament to human will and perseverance.  They attempted to erode the will of the community and yet all they did was strengthen it, in a large part due to the will to overcome adversity of the running community.

It just seemed counter-intuitive.  Just like Chad Stafko’s article.

Garmin or an App?

September 22, 2013

Recently Jen Lebo, a good friend of mine, posed a question to her Facebook friends asking their opinion of which was better – a Garmin or one of the many running apps around.  This is actually a subject I have developed a strong view based on a pretty extensive history using both.

Eric Rutin's Garmin 310

Eric Rutin’s Garmin 310

I have a Garmin 205 that I have had forever that Carolyn has basically assumed control of since her old 201 otherwise known as The Brick finally gave out. I also have a hand-me-down 310XT from my running buddy Jeff that I typically use these days.  Garmins are awesome since you can configure the data fields to display the fields you want to see, rather than custom fields someone else though important.  I like to have current pace, overall time, distance and and average pace.  There are many other data fields that others may find more relevant to their training such as cadence, elevation, speed, calories and a host of others.  You can even set up ranges to keep you training at the levels you wish or even a virtual race buddy.

Another great thing about Garmins are their spot-on accuracy.  I have driven routes just to check the mileage and they always match up with at most a .1 overall discrepency.  When I run a race, I get that familiar buzz right at the mile markers (provided the race directors are accurate).  With occasional except of the battery running down, I have never had a glitch in any of my Garmins’ performance.

The only complaints I can say I have are sometimes it seems like it takes an eternity and a half to find a satellite (though never had an issue with the 310)  and they are rather expensive.

Now a little about apps.  I was excited when I first got my iPhone and figured it was a great solution for music, GPS and in case I needed a phone for an emergency.  OK, I admit it, during the Rock and Roll Marathon a couple of years ago I was also using Siri to text Carolyn’s sister on her Boston qualifying effort.  As I previously mentioned, I have used several different apps, both paid and free, to find the perfect app.  I soon gave up on my quest for perfection and resigned to settle simply for being accurate.

During the same RNR,  I discovered that RunKeeper was about .1 miles short as the miles were clicking farther and father from the mile markers until eventually I couldn’t even see them on the horizon.  This may not seem like a lot, but over 26.2 miles it adds up to over two and a half miles of inaccuracies (see I am good at math).  I then realized that all of my previous training was off as well – my twenty mile runs were actually closer to 18.  It explains why I was training REALLY well.  I later drove some of routes and I discovered the app was off about 75% of the time and sometimes as much as .2 miles per mile.

Nike+ Running App

Nike+ Running App

While using MapMyRun I had the whole thing crashed mid-race and  when I relaunched it, it proved pointless.  I had similar accuracy and reliability issues with all the apps I tried.  I later discovered on a couple of message boards it comes down to cell phone company’s GPS accuracy and Verizon was generally viewed as the worst.  So if this is true I guess it really isn’t far to blame the apps as much as the technology they are bound to (leave my dangling preposition alone).  While I am not a huge fan of Nike running shoes, I will say that the Nike+ app was probably the most dependable.

So if you want to give my opinion on this matter any credence, which you really should, then I would say if you are debating between investing in a Garmin or downloading an app it comes down to your purpose.  If you are training for an event, a have performance goals, or are just serious about running  there is no question you should get a Garmin.  However, if you are just running for recreation or allow the occasional doughnut indulgence, then an app is probably perfectly fine.  You will be able to get general feedback and track your progress.

There you go.  you know are armed with incredibly credible objective facts to make a smart decision.

Eric Rutin seen running?

September 19, 2013

Eric Rutin MissingIt was reported this morning that Eric Rutin was seen running on the Bridal Path.  Could it be?  Could the man that once lead a nation through example to run on hot days, rainy days, cold days and pretty much any day that ended in a Y but has not been seen in a dozen fortnights really have been seen running up Central Avenue?  His disappearance from running had many wondering if Eric Rutin was this generations J.D. Salinger. Or at least John Parr.  Who?  You know, you just won’t admit it.

Well it is true. I finally hit the path and ran a walloping two miles.  The past five months has been odd for me.  It started with the bombing at Boston.  It really messed with my head.  Other than the obvious paranoia that goes with experiencing an actual terrorist attack, it really affected my motivation to run.  I was annoyed that I allowed those horrible brothers to zap my desire to run, but they did.  I kept vowing to start again: on the 30 day anniversary, then 60, and 90….

I did get out and run a couple of times, even made it a full week once.   However the few times my mind was willing,  my body was not quite as cooperative.  In the past five months I have had a calf injury, ankle mishap, and an Achilles issue.  In the 13 previous years I was sidelined once when I cracked my ribs.Eric Rutin runnning feet

Well I miss running.  I miss running long distances.  I miss running for a couple of hours.  I miss running with my friends.  So this morning I dropped Emma off at her badminton tournament and parked at the big church and set off on my modest run of two miles.  It was interesting timing as I departed at the same time as what appeared to be a gay running club started.  Despite my labored snail pace, I managed to stay ahead of them as I think it was more of a social running group.  I finished in a time that was 20 seconds faster than my 5K PR, but I finished.  I am out of shape but I know that can change.  The key is my desire to run has returned.

And tomorrow I will run again.

2013 Boston Marathon – A week later

April 21, 2013

It has almost been a week since the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I have to admit it has been a week I never thought I would personally experience.  A week that has changed me forever.  And a week that I hope has not changed me forever.

BostonBibCarolyn and I having been both been too close for comfort but fortunately far enough away from the two explosions got to witness the panic of most of the runners and spectators, and the immediate call to action of the police and other first responders.  When the first explosion went off I was confused.  I thought that maybe the grandstand collapsed or the inflatable finish line had popped.  I wasn’t nervous and thought the people running at me screaming surely had to be overreacting.  Then moments later, I heard the second explosion and while I never had heard a bomb explode before, I knew exactly what it was.  I was overtaking by people running for safety.  Knowing Carolyn and Anne had just crossed the finish line a few minutes before, I panicked myself and took off running for the finishers corral area.  I called my friend Jeff who had been watching online and giving me race updates throughout the day and asked him what happened.  He couldn’t help,  he said the image became pixelated and there was just a lot of smoke.  I hung up and told him to start looking online to see what news reports were saying.  The to my relief Carolyn called.  She had just gotten her gear bag and let me know they were OK to meet them on Arlington.   We had to walk to the car which was parked a mile or so away at the convention center but we got to it and were safe.

We got home and spent the rest of the day watching the news trying to find out what happened. It was then that I learned the second explosion was a few yards from where I was watching the runners make their way to the finish line.  We started going over all the what if’s and realized how fortunate and lucky we were.  What if I hadn’t decided 30 second before to check the run tracker app and saw they finished to see Carolyn and Anne had finished and I missed them.  What if I had went with my initial plan to walk down Boylston Street to keep watching runners which would have placed me right at the site of the first explosion instead of safely at the intersection of Newbury Street and Exeter.  What if Carolyn hadn’t run the first half faster than we had planned.  What if she had walked more in the Newton Hills when she was trying to protect her injured hamstring.  The more we learned on the news the less we knew and the more what if’s circled our heads.130418_boston_bombing_lg

We flew back to Phoenix the next day but could not escape obsessing about everything that occurred the previous day.  And the next day and the next day.  Then Thursday  the FBI released suspect #1 and suspect #2 pictures and video.  It was creepy in seeing how they looked so normal and even creepier that the video shows them walking right behind me.  Everyone has asked me if I saw them but I was doing the same thing the thousands of other spectators were doing, watching the runners.  I was exhausted and feel asleep really early but woke up with the TV on and reports of the police closing in on the suspects in Watertown.  I spent the rest of night switching between CNN and MSNBC hoping one of them could be accurate.  It was frustrating as hell they they both spent more time speculating than reporting.  Friday was spent checking online when I could for any new news and Anne sending me text after text saying nothing was happening.  Finally at my daughter’s softball game that evening the report came through that suspect #2 had been captured and the ordeal had finally ended.

But it hasn’t. Despite being a block from the explosions and fortunately not seeing any of the horrific causalities, I have been completely emotionally raw.  The news reporting has been bordering on negligence I think on each outlet trying to be the first rather than focusing on being right.  Little things that never before would even be contemplated now get stuck in my head.  I passed a garbage can the other day at a ball and as I tossed my gum in it, I had a quick flash of what if.  Upon my return to work as I was walking up the stairs our building tested the fire alarm.  The loud wail of the alarm in the past would have just been an afterthought but this time I had a moment of sheer panic.  I had to turn around and leave the building to alleviate the anxiety.  I ran Pat’s Run and had too many moments of what if’s as I looked around the starting corrals and the spectators.  Having experienced an experience I never though I actually would, I know can not shake it.  I trust in time these thoughts will wane and  I will return to my pre April 15, 2013 ignorant bliss.  I am sure had I stayed on Boylston and seen the carnage rather than merely felt it, this would have been an impossible goal.  I hope the little seemingly inconsequential decisions that I made that day that  ultimately turned out to be life altering will once again be natural without constant second guessing.

Carlos Arredondo

Carlos Arredondo

But the one part of this tragedy that I will not be so eager to shed is the resilience that has been demonstrated.  The images of first responders tearing through the barricades without regard showed valor beyond description.  Cowboy hat wearing Carlos Arredondo pinching the artery of a victim that had his legs blown off acting exactly how everyone hopes they would in the same circumstances.  There is a quote that has been circulating around and I will paraphrase, “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to fuck with”.  Yea, I made it a little more dramatic, but it is true.  The very drive that allows us runners to accomplish feats that seem impossible to most of the population is what is going to make running stronger than ever.  I expect the 2014 Boston Marathon is going to have more people trying to qualify than ever and more spectators attend than ever, the exact opposite consequences the Tsarnaev brothers had hoped.  The city of Boston and the BAA have both shown a empathy without weakness.  Cities, sports teams, citizens and runners and running groups have circled the wagons and honored the victims of the tragedy.  I will be running in a 3 mile Run for Boston event to raise money for OneFundBoston.

In one week running has shown me the lowest depths of humanity followed by the highest summit of humankind.  And the great thing, the summit is a whole hell of a lot more crowded.

#BostonStrongonefund

2013 B.A.A. 5K

April, 14 2013

finishFirst things first, I am too slow to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Carolyn has taken care of that, so while here in Boston, I signed up for the Boston Athletic Association’s 5K, the first race of the B.A.A.’s Distance Medley series.

The weekend started with the race packet pick-up of course.  The marathon packet pick-up was a well oiled machine, a combination of assembly line and Homeland Security, while the 5K was off in a distant lonely room with a couple of friendly volunteers biding their time until they get promoted to the big show.  Walking into the tiny room I realized I left my wallet at home when I saw all the massive signs plastered everywhere saying ID  required for packet pick-up.  I sheepishly walked up to the check-in person and started telling her the whole back story of how I left my wallet at home and didn’t have ID.  Halfway through, she cut me off and informed me it was no problem and asked for my name.  As she handed me my packet, she asked “Oh yea,  can you sign your registration card, I keep forgetting to get people to sign it”.  Over at the marathon side, they were asking Carolyn for blood sample and mother’s maiden name. Eric Rutin and the jester

Today was race morning and cold.  I abandoned my University of Arizona short sleeve shirt and opted for long sleeves.  We gave ourselves an hour to drive, park and get to the starting area.  It took a little over 20 minutes and the bitter cold dissipated.  Damn, I should have worn my U of A shirt.  The race started in Copley Square.  6,500 runners were crammed into the narrow streets to meandered around the Back Bay.  I started in the 8:00 pace corral but if I had any intention of actually running for time, i should have worked my way up to the front.  Instead I was back in the pack next to a guy dressed like a jester.  I also met a guy from Hermosa Beach wearing a Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K shirt.  I told him how I ran this race in 1993 and he showed me pictures of his buddies and him dressed as salmon running the course backwards in 20 years later.  Turns out his house is a block from my old place there.  The people you meet in a starting corral.

Eric Rutin runningThe race was a series of turn after turn which lead to incessant traffic jams. It was really cool running in Boston but I thought how damn cool it will be tomorrow for Carolyn running from Hopkinton to Copley Square.  Looking at my Garmin, I saw my pace fluctuating from 7:35 to over 11:00 but I didn’t care.  I was just enjoying being part of a B.A.A event.  At mile 2 I saw the jester and while I wasn’t too concerned with my time, I was not going to let a joker beat me and accelerated by him.  I weaved my way past him and settled in behind a group five wide that was planning their dinner party for tonight.  It was just after that I was passed by a stocky, grey haired New Englander that had no qualms bulldozing through the human barriers  I tucked in behind him until the final stretch down Boylston Avenue then sprinted to the finish, the same one the that the 27,000 marathoners will cross tomorrow.

The race was fun and allowed me to check Massachusetts off my 50 Bib in 50s States quest.  It also probably is going to be my only opportunity to cross the fabled finish line.

Boston-Marathon-2012-009-1024x768

4 techniques to run faster and stay injury free

March 10, 2013

Recently I ran a 5K and Carolyn took a picture of me as I neared the finish line. I was horrified.  Well maybe horrified is a little strong, but mildly concerned just lacks the drama I want. My form sucked.   I was over-striding.  Not much, but enough that it caused a heel strike. I felt that the Apocalypse was upon me.

So I signed up for Runners Den’s form clinic taught by Ron French.  I know Ron a little and have tremendous respect for his opinions so I was an eager student.  There were nine other people that signed up on my day.  He video taped each of us which upon review confirmed I was over-striding.  Like I thought, it was not too much, but it was clear I needed to improve.

Eric Rutin Overstrides

Video doesn’t lie

Ron promotes a mid-foot versus a heel strike and that spurs much debate, especially when it comes to marathon running.  One thing though that is pretty much agreed upon, there is no such thing as a bad mid-foot strike, but there is certainly bad heel striking.  But the counter is a mid-foot strike does not hold up for longer distances.  Even the great Haile Gebrselassie, altered his foot strike from mid-foot to a heel strike when he made the transition from 10,000 meters to the longer distances.  All he did was set world records in both the half marathon and marathon as a heel striker.  So what to do?  Well the one thing that seems universal, try landing with you foot as flat as possible and 90 degrees to your shin. This will maximize efficiency and reduce the braking effect, regardless of mid-foot or heel strike.  To see if you are  over-striding look at yourself on video or a picture and see if you have too much toe pointing up and your leg straightens ahead of your body as you land.  If so, you need to focus on your foot landing under you not in front of you.

So the first key is to not lose sleep over if you are a heel striker or a mid-foot, but to keep from over-striding. Have your foot land beneath you with your knee slightly flexed. Simple.

The second thing Ron had us focus on was to run centered.  Essentially most people, especially novice runners, tend to lean forward and some even backwards.  The key is to have your hips, shoulders and head all aligned over your natural center. To locate your natural center stand straight up, hands above your head with knees slightly flexed (slightly means slightly, not like you are ready to squat or play shortstop).  Lean a little forward from the ankles.  The point right before you start stumbling forward like a drunk is where you want to be. If you look at your profile you will see your weight is centered above the balls of your feet.  Once again simple.

The third technique to focus on is staying level.  A lot of over-striding will result in you bouncing or dipping with each step.  All this excess motion up and down inevitably will result in fatigue as you go along.  The longer the run or race the greater importance this efficiency is.  You take approximately 33,000 steps in a marathon and a dip of just two inches per stride results in over a mile of wasted motion.  Run in your natural center and keep those toes down and most of this excess motion will disappear.  I would say this is simple as well.

The last thing Ron talked about was cadence.  Some call it turnover but the definition is the same – the number of steps per minute.  It seems that runners are all different heights, speeds and abilities and therefore cadence would be a highly personalized thing.  But regardless of all of our individuality, we should all be running at a the same cadence of 180 steps per minute.  I can’t figure out how that is possible, but people a whole lot smarter than me have done studies and graphs that prove it.  Who am I to argue?  To find out your cadence set the timer on your watch to a minute and count your steps. For me it was easier to count just my right foot and multiply by two.  Sure enough I was running  less than 180 and that is the easiest explanation of why I was over-striding.  I tried running faster  but that wasn’t increasing my turnover, it was just making me tired.  So I took Ron’s suggestion and downloaded a metronome on my iPhone. I set it at 180 beats per minute and set out.  It seemed far too rapid but the brain is an amazing thing.  I just focused on the incessant beep and my stride automatically adapted.  I ran three miles at a 180 pace without any incremental effort.  To test it out on my run the next night i timed my cadence 5 times and every single time I was exactly 180.  I even tried running faster and slower and each time it was 180.  So, adjusting your cadence is not so simple on your own, but download a metronome and it is beyond simple.  The hardest part is listening to that constant beeping without going nuts. My plan is to every now and then time my cadence confirming my change is permanent.  If not, I will bust out the metronome and simple.

Haile Gebrselassie, altered his foot strike from midfoot to heel when he failed to transition from 10,000 meters to the marathon with the same degree of success

Ron says i am ready to run with better form.

I have been focusing on these four techniques the past two weeks and I have to say, there has been a difference.  I am running about :15 faster and more importantly, there has been a noticeable reduction in stress on my body.  Usually I am tired during the final stretch and trying to hold on to my pace, but lately my final mile has been my best mile.  It is easy now but we will see how it holds up when I train for my next marathon and am doing some long runs.

So want to run faster and more efficiently?  Focus on these four tips and you will improve.

  1. Don’t over-stride
  2. Run centered
  3. Stay level
  4. 180 steps a minute

Simple

My new speed workout

Feb. 17 2013

Eric Rutin races Carolyn

Years ago I was introduced to speedwork in my marathon training to get faster. It didn’t seem to make sense how these relatively short bursts would help in an endurance event, but it did.  At first it consisted of the usual tempo runs, Fartleks, even some track work.

Then I came across Yasso 800’s developed by the legendary Bart Yasso.  These are supposed to be a predictor of your marathon performance. The basic premise is you run ten 800 meter repeats and the time you run them in translates to your marathon time.  So you run your ten Yasso’s in 3 minutes 30 seconds each, then you should be able to run your marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes.  While I think this is a great workout I have yet to find anyone that it has worked as an exact predictor and this ranges from a 2:36 marathoner to the 5 hour crowd.  If it worked, I would have run a couple of Boston’s by now.  Regardless, I still do them as a final test of my preparedness for marathons as I think it is an excellent predictor of if you are ready for your marathon.

One thing most speedwork workouts have in common is they are redundant and not fun (Fartleks excluded).  They consist of running hard to the point of exhaustion, draining every ounce of strength from my legs strength.  Recently I created a new workout by accident.  It is requires two runners and is great if one runner is faster and you normally don’t get to run together.  Here is how it goes:

I leave before Carolyn if we are running the same distance.  We both run the same route and she tries catching up to me and I try go stay not let that happen.  Then after she catches up with me as she always does, I need to keep up with her for the rest of the way home.   If she is running farther than me, I leave after her and my route intersects hers towards the end.  We time it so the final mile should be her on my heels or me struggling to keep up with her.

I run this as on days I am doing my speedwork and Carolyn is doing an moderate run.  It is great because it pushes me to run faster when she is chasing me because I want to run as little as possible at her pace.  Plus there is the whole ego thing.  On days I am chasing her I also have to run fast so I am able to catch her, otherwise I am running hard with no reward.

So if your running partner is like mine in that your joint runs consist of starting out together and then reconvening at the finish this is a great way to run together.  Even when she isn’t with me, she is with me.  I am consumed with thoughts of avoiding her or of catching her and it keeps my focus on running hard after a goal – a real tangible goal, not simply running against the clock.  I am sure down the road this workout is going also be great training for finishing races, not allowing other runners to pass me when I am tired down the stretch.

It does rain in Phoenix

January 26, 2013

IMG_1268Yea it gets hot, really hot, in Phoenix in the summer.  And sure it gets a little chilly during the winter months early in the morning.

But we usually can’t say it is wet too often.  It started raining sometime last night and hasn’t stopped yet.  Because we don’t get a lot of rain here, about 8 inches a year, our civic engineers really didn’t worry too much about drainage when laying out our streets. That means when it sprinkles we flood, so when we have 12 plus hours of constant rain you can imagine for yourself what the intersections look like.

One of the advantages of not really training for anything is I am not running very far.  That means when I headed out the door I only had to endure about a half our of being drenched.  And drenched I got.  Carolyn, on the other hand, because of her bad luck in qualifying for Boston had to do a nice sixteen miles around a fog-cloaked Mummy Mountain in the rain.

Running down the streets, I felt as if I was on an obstacle course as I certainly wasn’t doing the old point A to point B straight line thing, avoiding what some may consider puddles, but I viewed them more as brooks or perhaps lagoons.  There was some hopping, skipping, a little triple jump action and some general sloshing. I tried running down the middle of the street where the road was crowned but traffic wasn’t too supportive of my endeavor.  When I tried the shoulder or sidewalk the cars rewarded me with a nice rooster tail of spray.

During the run I ran in to a gaggle of walkers with bibs wrapped in plastic or covered with umbrellas.  A couple had the unfortunate pleasure of no protection from the rain.  Turns out there was the Urban Challenge, a city wide scavenger hunt taking place today.  I chatted with them for a little bit and they had good spirits.  I gladly suggested the best route to their next checkpoint.  I really hope I was right.

Needless to say It was a fun change and there is something wonderful about running in the rain. Oddly the run just feels more pure, kinda like when you run at sunrise or isolated trail run.  I am not sure I would feel the same way if I lived in Portland, but here in Phoenix it was great.  My shoes are stuffed with paper towels in hope they dry out by tomorrow and I had a general sogginess feeling that a shower was no cure, but for the occasional run, it couldn’t have been better weather.

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