Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back to School

I spend a fair amount of my life on the road traveling to events all over the country. It's become a part of who I am and it's a very comfortable place for me to be. It doesn't matter to me whether it's a 6,000 plus people at a Team in Training pasta party or 10 people in a running specialty store. I like being out there and talking to, and with, other runners and walkers.

This week, though, I am going to Lima, Ohio to talk to a group of elementary students - and I am scared to death. OK, not to death, but I am much more nervous about speaking in front of a bunch of kids than adults. Kids, you know, won't let you get away with anything. If you're not "getting it done" they will let you know in a hurry.

It's an interesting group, though. The school has a "positive addiction" program in which the students train for a 5K. Guess that's why they think bringing in a running guy makes sense. So, at least I'll be able to relate to their experiences getting ready for the race.

I've been trying to find a way to package the "penguin" message into something that works for a 5th grader and it's not that easy! I don't think many of the kids at that age will have struggled with cigarettes and booze! At least I hope not.

But, I think, one of the essential elements of being a "penguin" is learning to define yourself FOR yourself. Many of us - and I suspect so many of them - have been defined by the people around us that we have no idea who or what we truly are. And if we start buying into other's expectations as children it's nearly impossible to break free of those expectations as adults.

So that's my plan; to help them learn to be strong in themselves and what they want to be. Wish me luck.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Days of Wine and Roses

Now I know how the other half lives.

I traveled with Jenny and her Chicago Endurance Sports training group to the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. Because of a special "package" deal we stayed at the Four Seasons - Biltmore. Oh MY! It's an beautiful hotel, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with gorgeous grounds. No way I could afford to stay there if we hadn't gotten a HUGE break on the price. But, it was nice to pretend to be rich for a weekend.

Somehow, I keep forgetting that just because it's California that doesn't mean it's going to be hot. Maybe because here in the midwest we imagine that there's nothing but fun and sun out there, but it WASN'T there this weekend. I own - without exaggeration - 20 fleece jackets or vest and DID NOT take one of them with me. So, I had to by a hooded sweatshirt just to survive the weekend.

The event itself was a bit of a mixed bag. Because I'm at so often a BIG races I'm always a little surprised at what "real world" events look like. They're often pretty low key affairs where the fun seems to come mostly from the social aspects of the experience. Most of the folks there were from the local running community and it was a chance for them to get together for a fun time.

The big difference at THIS race was the opportunity to do some wine tasting after you finished. I'm sure that provided MORE than enough motivation for the participants to keep moving. The course itself was very scenic and the only glitch I saw was that - somehow - they forgot to put out the mile markers! Other than that, though, it was a nice event.

This is a short week at home. I off to Ohio on Thursday.

Waddle on,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Road Warriors

It's late Tuesday night and I'm just getting around to this week's Blog. I'm getting better at getting to the keyboard at LEAST once a week. My goal is still to get something out every Tuesday and Friday.

I'm late getting back because my son, Terry, and I spent 6 hours on the road - each way - traveling to Randleman, NC to visit with the folks at the Victory Junction Gang Camp about the Run to Victory on December 7. . December may be a long way away, but planning a event is a year-round job.

We're excited about the potential of raising over $200,000 this year. Click Here to find out more about the camp, the race, and how you can help.

Oh, by the way, that's NOT my truck. The truck was donated to the camp by young Country Music sensation Taylor Swift.

For those of you who have been following the "statin saga", I'm happy to report that - for now - the Lipitor seems to be working without any major side affects. I haven't been able to do as much running as I'd like so I'll wait to make a final call, but I am optimistic.

More later.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Birthday and Country Music

What a week. It started with the Twins' 3rd birthday and ended 9 hours into the Country Music marathon. In between there were lots of smiles, happy kids, taxi rides, waiting in airports, standing in the expo and announcing. Oh, and driving home. It worked like this: Jenny and I flew to Virginia for the Birthday. Jenny flew back to Chicago, then drove to Nashville. I flew to Nashville then drove home. Got it?

I'd like to thank everyone who has emailed me about running and statins. I've got another appointment tomorrow to talk to a cardiologist about it. Seems like it's a bigger issue than I imagined. I hope that my experience will help others.

My running, while still not back to where I want it to be, shows hints of returning to normal. After an entire year of NOT being able to run as far or as fast as I want to [and trust me, that's NOT very fast] there are moments when I feel like I'm really running again. It may sound stubborn, but I'm going too keep experimenting with statins until I find the one that allows me to be an athlete AND lowers my numbers.

And, not to complain [but I will] it's RAINY and COLD again today. Jenny and I ran together and got in 4 miles, but I was grumpy the whole way.

Waddle on.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Birthdays and the Trials

This was a weekend off, and I made the most of it. Friday was Jenny's birthday, and we celebrated by going car shopping. That may not sound like much of a birthday, but when your life is as hectic as ours is, being able to take a day to just go out and drive cars is a treat.

Not that we're anywhere close to buying a car. Far from it. But, there are some interesting new models that have caught Jenny's imagination and I NEVER need to be asked twice to go look at cool, new, cars.

Sunday the twins [two of my three grandchildren for you new folks] turned three. My, how they have grown. Siena is chatting up a storm and - what's scary - is that I understand what she's talking about. She's "large and in charge" most of the time to the alternating joy and frustration of her twin brother Hunter and her "little" brother, Ray. It was a large gathering which included, for the first time, some of "their" friends from "school'. They're way past the baby stage now. They have friends.

Sunday was also the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston. No shock that Deena Kastor won, in what ended up being a pretty good race. But, the sentimental favorite was 50 year-old Joan Benoit running her last marathon and trying to break 2:50. And she did. 2:49 and change. Joanie, as she is universally referred to, is a wonderful, gracious, and kind person who deserves all of the accolades that the sport can heap upon her.

A few days with the twins and then it's off to Nashville and the Country Music Marathon. I lived near Nashville for 8 years and so this race is always a homecoming for me. I'm sure I'll bump into some old friends. It's a good feeing.

Waddle on, friends.


Monday, April 14, 2008

The Last Three-Layer Run

This past weekend was our 5th Capital City Half Marathon and Commit to be Fit 5K in Columbus, Ohio. It's a great race, that has really taken hold with the runners and walkers in and around central Ohio. We were told that we couldn't register more than 5,000 people - BUT WE CHEATED - and registered nearly 5,200. It's one of the best "hometown" races in the country.

Today's run was - I hope - the last "three-layer" run of the season. You know? A base layer, a half-zip mid layer, and a running jacket. 3 layers! IN MID APRIL. The temperatures are suppose to go up beginning tomorrow so I have my fingers crossed that I'm done with bundling up like it's December. It's just time. Time to leave tights in the closet. Time to put the jackets away. Time to worry more about BodyGlide and less about frostbite!

Spring, of course, means in addition to running I'll be able to get out the BMW and ride. Someone asked about the KIND of bike, and it's a - for those of you interested - a BMW R1150R. It's not fancy, but it's reliable. And that's more important to me than anything else because I tend to keep bikes for a LONG time. My R75/6 I kept for 18 years. My K75S I kept for 10. I might have kept it longer but the running and traveling made riding almost impossible and I couldn't stand to see a wonderful bike like that sit in the garage.

Which reminds me, I'm working on a column for next January that I'm calling "Use it or Lose it". And yes, the publication deadlines are that far ahead that I'm thinking about a January 2009 column in March of 2008. The point is that our bodies, like any machine, needs to be used. It took me a long time to understand that.

Time to move.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Spring Training


This has been the longest, most gloomy, winter I can ever remember. I love Chicago in the winter. I'm a seasonal guy. I love the cold and snow and bitterness of winter. It makes me appreciate spring. But this year has been over the top. Enough is enough.

This weekend was the first decent weekend that I can remember. I'm sure there was one, probably back in October! Saturday Jenny and I dug the motorcycles out of the garage, fired them up, and rode for the first time since November.

Sunday, we were able to run at Waterfall Glenn, a park just outside the city, in SHORTS. I honestly can't remember the last time I ran in shorts at home.

Big week this week. THE U.S. Army Band [including my son, Terry] is doing a 3-day tour of central Illinois, including a performance Thursday at Millikin University in Decatur. Jenny and I will make the drive down and hear the performance and then head right for Columbus, Ohio.

The Capital City Half Marathon is this Saturday and I couldn't be more excited. This will be the largest field we've ever had. The event has grown into an anchor for the central Ohio running community and we're beginning to see folks coming in from all over the region. It will be a good time.

Later this month is off to the Country Music marathon, but I'll tell you more about that later.

See you on the streets.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring Forward

NOT TO WORRY! We're back. We're safe. And life has taken off again.

That's Bobo sitting between Jenny and me. We took Bobo with us to Antarctica to give the grandkids something fun to see. My guess is that we had more fun taking the photos than the kids will have seeing them.

This was my fifth trip to Antarctica and all I can tell you is that it gets better and better. I think the first time you go you're so excited and eager to see everything that you run around trying to take everything in. I understand. But eventually you discover that you can't take it ALL in and become content to just be there.

We got home from Antarctica early on Wednesday, March 12 and took off early on Friday, March 14 for Tucson and the Valley of Gold Half Marathon. It's a great little race.

Right now the focus is on Columbus and the Cap City Half Marathon on April 12. It's hard to believe that this will be the 5th time that we've done the event. Time really does fly.


Many of you have written to me about my challenges with cholesterol medication. Thanks. It's been VERY helpful. My doctor switched me to Simvastatin but, the muscle aches were just as bad as with Vytorin. It's a real struggle. I get the desire to lower my LDL number, but it's not worth it if I'm so tired and sore that I can't run!

If anyone has any experience with running and statins, please feel free to jump in and let me know what your experience has been.

AND, I PROMISE to get back to blogging AT LEAST once a week.

Waddle on,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Last Continent

Well, this is it. In an hour or so I'll be on my way to the airport on my way to Buenos Aires, and then on the King George Island and the Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon. This is my fifth time down, and I can tell you it gets better and better.

We're going on a different ship this year, the Sarpik. It's a bit smaller and a bit slower than the other ships that I've been on. What was a 44 hour crossing of the Drake Passage last year will take at least 58 hours this year. That's a LOT longer to be out there on the high seas.

The big lesson that I've learned from these Antarctica trips, and a column that you'll see later in the year, is that it's all about preparation. Preparation. Not planning. In Antarctica you can't have a plan. The island makes the decisions, not you. No matter what your plan is, the continent doesn't care.

I've tried to apply that lesson to the rest of my life. I'm focusing more on being prepared and less and less on having a plan. Whatever life plan I had when I was younger, it certainly hasn't turned out the way I planned. Even the more recent years of my life haven't gone as planned.

So, the next two weeks are the planet's chance to give me a graduate course in how little I really matter in the giant scheme of things. I will be in the presence of a power much greater than me. It will humble me and inspire me.

What could be better than that??

Waddle on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Packing the Bags

OK, some of you may think that this is obsessive. And, you might be right. After all, how many people actually set up the start/finish line for a race in their living room? But this is not just any race. This is the Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon. Making sure that everything is right BEFORE we get to the island is not just important, it's essential. There's no place to go for help once we're there.

So, I've packed and repacked twice, so far, and will probably unpack and pack one more time. I've checked and rechecked what I'm bringing for equipment and clothes, I've laid out, chosen, and discarded, hats, gloves, fleece, tops, bottoms, and shoes. Jenny and I are spending two nights on the island, the second night alone, so there's more pressure to get it right than in other years.

We don't leave until NEXT Tuesday, but time is just flying now.

Health update: I went back to the doctor and we're going to try to figure out what medication will lower my LDL without making me feel like a mud ball. I've also scheduled a treadmill "stress test". Those tests aren't very effective for runners and walkers, but at least we'll have some baseline data.

Finally, I wanted to share this video of the twins. Jenny found out about a video camera called "the Flip". You take the video and then just plug it into your USB port. AMAZING. The voice you hear is my daughter-in-law Holly.

OK, it's back to obsessing.

Waddle on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In Sickness and in Health

I've got a short break before we take off for Antarctica, and I'm spending some of it visiting my son and his family, including the grandchildren. Unfortunately, as it turns out, my visit coincides with all three kids being sick.

It's been a long time since I had to deal with a 3 year-old with the stomach flu. YIKES. And, I've NEVER had to deal with 2 three year-olds with the flu. DOUBLE yikes.

But, on the bright side, it's meant some quiet time, sitting and watching the new adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Yesterday was an all-day sucker. I left my son's house at 3:45 AM and drove the 6 hours to Randleman, NC to meet with the staff of the Victory Junction Gang Camp. This year's Run to Victory is December 7, so mark your calendars now. Two hours of meetings, a couple of pieces of "Sir Pizza" pizza and it was back on the road for another 6 hours.

The overwhelming thought, right now, is getting ready for Antarctica It's so hard to describe the combination of excitement, fear, anticipation, and nervousness that I feel. This being my 5th trip people think that it's no big deal. Truth is, it's a BIGGER deal because I know that I don't know what to expect.

And, Jenny and I are responsible for most of the gear this year, so there's an added element of concern about having everything we need and getting it there safe and sound. It's not like we can run to the Home Depot on King George Island!

So, in the middle of all of this I'm trying to maintain some kind of running routine. I have NOT been very successful. Life gets in the way, sometimes, and there's nothing you can do.

Waddle on,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Grinding in out

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. If that's true, then my soul is going to feel very good when I hit the "publish" button on this blog.

2007 was, without question, the worst year I've ever experienced as a runner since I started running. I attributed most of it to the fall on the boat and the slow recovery that resulted. But, there was more.

I also starting taking Vytorin last spring. My cholestrol was high, or sort of high, and the doctor thought is was time to take action. That, as it turns out, was the beginning of the trouble.

Since nearly the first pill I felt achy and tired. I had a hard time running. I had a hard time WALKING. And trying to train? Forget about it. As I said, 2007 was the first year since 1993 that I didn't run a marathon. SAD!

Believe it or not, that's had something to do with my unwillingness to blog. It was very hard for me to write about the joy of running while scuffling my way through every run or walk and feeling like I couldn't possibly get out of bed the next day. IT SUCKED.

The confession? I stopped taking the mediation about 3 weeks ago. I've got 90 days - $450 worth - of pills that I am NOT putting into my body. If I've got to feel THAT bad to lower my cholesterol, it's not worth it. AND, if I read the research right, that particular medication doesn't prevent heart attacks anyway.

GUESS WHAT. In the past week or so I've had some of the BEST runs I've had in nearly a year. NEARLY A YEAR. I felt 20 years younger. My legs had strength. My step had spring. I didn't want to stop running.

That's how it used to be.

So, now what? I don't know. I'm going to talk to my doctor. Dr. Lewis Maharam, the "RockDoc" has suggested a different medication. I may try that.

Or, I may just become a cholesterol fanatic. Truth is, I don't know.

But running is fun again. And THAT I am NOT willing to give up.

Waddle on,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lookin' out my back door

Well, OK, not looking out MY back door, looking out a friend's back door here in Oro Valley, Arizona. That's the Santa Catalina mountains in the background. Somewhere up there is the exact location where Jenny and I got engaged a few years ago.

This past weekend was the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon. The event has become Elite Racing's premier event, as far as I can tell. 25,000 or so in the half. 10,000 or so in the full, and 3,000 kids for the Children's Race on Saturday. I was doing the finish line announcing for the full marathon and had a ball watching everyone come in.

The marathon was also a qualifier for the U.S. women's Olympic Trials. The "A" standard is 2:47 and, I think, about 8 women made it out of about 160 or so that tried. It was a pretty emotional moment as, one by one, they came across the line. Clearly they had all be working together during the race and the cooperation paid off.

I had to make my way from Phoenix to Oro Valley [just northwest of Tucson] to speak at the Northwest Medical Center's "Commit to be Fit" information session. This is all tied in to the Arizona Distance Classic on March 16 which includes the 5K AND the Valley of Gold Half Marathon. []

The most interesting aspect was that I was, at 59, one of the YOUNGEST people in the room. I guess there's a market out there, at least in this part of the country, for folks that might seem a little beyond the traditional running demographic. I enjoyed the show, and they seemed to as well. It just wasn't the crowd that I was expecting.

The past few days have been Chamber of Commerce perfect here in Arizona. There's no question why people decide to leave the snow and cold behind. As soon as I'm finished with this I'm headed out for a run in the cool morning air and BRIGHT sunshine. Later today I'll fly home where the temperature is in the mid 20's. AAARRRGGGHHH!

This is a short turn-around week. Jenny and I are off to Cabo San Lucas on Thursday with a group from her Chicago Endurance Sports program to run a half marathon there. The "high" in Chicago on Sunday is supposed to be 5 degrees BELOW zero. I'll try to feel sorry for everyone as I'm sipping an iced tea by the pool.

I won't be able to enjoy it for long because I'm back on a plane headed to Lethbridge, Canada [just below Calgary] the next week.

If I get internet access I'll try to post a little something from Mexico.

See you on the streets.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Year in Review

Happy New Year, a week or so late. 

As I said in the January Penguin Times newsletter [subscribe] I am just not ready for the new year to begin. Also, as I said, I think it's because I was actually able to get some time away at the end of the year and I'm not quite back into the full-on, work mode.

To be fair, when you work for yourself it's not like you ever REALLY take time off. There were emails to answer, phone calls to take, and meetings to attend, but I was either at home or with family during most of the holidays and haven't been on an airplane in almost a month. THAT'S a holiday for me.

That's the grandkids on Christmas morning. Well, it was Christmas afternoon before they got to the present opening. The twins went to Christmas morning services at the National Cathedral where their father was performing, and we had the whole "extended" family gathered for Christmas dinner. It was a very special day.

For the first time in YEARS I actually stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve. I am, honest, about the most boring person you can imagine. This year Jenny and I enjoyed the company and cooking of some good friends and found ourselves making our way home at 3 AM. Of course, then it took me days to recover.

2007 was one of the most difficult years I've had since I started running. I've struggled with being banged up a little, struggled with motivation, and struggled with a schedule that really made training difficult. It was also the first calendar year since 1993 that I didn't run a marathon.

But, the GOOD news is that I've never enjoyed running more. I've mentioned this before, but because I'm not training for anything in particular I've been able to run more often then when I'm training. Some weeks I'll run or walk every day. Most weeks it's more like 5 or 6 days. 

And, I've found, that I'm using walking as a legitimate form of cross-training. This time of year most of my training - when I'm home - is on the treadmill. I've been doing some incline workouts based on heart-rate that seem to be paying off.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to be better about blogging. I'm going to try for twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. So far, I've only missed one week!

Please check out for all the fun things going on this year. I'll be at a bunch of events, we've got our JBR races, and Jenny and I will be out and around here in Chicago. 

Now, let's get this year started!