Saturday, November 19, 2016

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 3

As I covered in previous posts, the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon was a big disappointment. Though I was in shape to run a new PR, a critical error and a mis-measured course took that chance away from me.

This leads me to a strange spot. I had planned on this race being my last shot at a PR, but without this race even being an official 26.2 miles, it's hard to settle on this being the last marathon I train for a PR. After thinking about it and talking with Laura, I think I'm going to try for another PR race. The question is, which one?

Part of me wants to get it over with and go for a spring marathon, but the other part of me knows it's easier to train for a fall race. Training for a winter race means more time on the treadmill and more runs in the dark--two things I don't look forward to. And, if the race is hot, it puts one at a big disadvantage after training in cold or cool weather.

A fall race means a lot of training in hot weather, which is a big bonus in getting ready for a race that may be warm. Running in hot weather also means increasing blood plasma level, an advantage similar to that of training at high elevation.

Despite the disadvantages of training for a spring marathon, I'm leaning toward doing one anyway. I was already thinking of running Grandma's Marathon in June, so that may be the race where I chase a new PR. After about a month of running easy, I can start some base building and move right into another training program. Carrying my fitness from this training cycle into the next one will be at least one advantage in training for a spring marathon.

I will admit that I also looked at marathons in December, but there are two reasons I don't think that will work out. First, there's nothing close by. Second, I'm not confident in my ability to recover and come back to run another PR pace marathon.

A big thanks to all the support from my readers. Though this race was mainly a huge disappointment, I've still received a lot of encouragement and sympathy. In the great scheme of things, a disappointing race is relatively minor.

Happy Running.

Part 1
Part 2

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 2

Though this race was a disappointment as far as the big error on the course (and having to cover over
29 miles because of that error), I have to be happy with how I ran the actual marathon distance.

I started out with the first mile being right about where I wanted--around a 6:35. I needed to run just a hair under 6:30 per mile if I wanted to PR, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out too fast.

After that first mile, I stayed consistent, running between 6:20 and 6:35 throughout the first half of the race. The halfway point on my Garmin had me right around 1:25--right where I needed to be to have a shot at breaking 2:50.

Around mile 17.5 was where the trouble took place. I had been running off and on with a pack of four other runners, and at the point I was feeling pretty good, so I ended up passing all but one. I was running with that runner when we missed the turnaround. I did see a small spray painted arrow on the course, but I thought for sure that such a critical turnaround would have a course marshal, or at the very least a large sign.

On the bright side, I saw some fans after running off the course. It was super cool seeing Laura and Calvin at what was supposed to be right before mile 20. Fortunately, Laura heard from other runners and volunteers about how the turnaround was not properly marked, so she knew I had run significantly off the course. Since she knew, she didn't have to worry at the finish line when I showed up about an hour and a half later than I was planned.

When I figured out I'd run much farther than I should have, I had a decision to make--I could dial back my pace and try to finish as fast as I could for the rest of the race, or I could keep my pace until I'd run an unofficial marathon distance. I opted on the later, and my unofficial marathon time (I estimated it at 26.46--about what my Garmin would say for a full marathon) according to my Garmin was 2:49:27--an unofficial new PR.

Besides the huge turnaround debacle, the course was pretty nice. It looped through Milwaukee, and it was cool running by Miller Park Stadium, the Miller Brewery, and finishing along Lake Michigan (though at that point I was walking, having already covered 29 miles).

The finish line area was decent. The food wasn't the greatest, but there were food trucks where food was available for purchase, and they gave out one free hard soda and one free beer to the marathon finishers. There were also some activities for spectators--a climbing wall and a bounce house, so that would be cool for spectators who brought their children.

This race has a lot of potential, but next time they definitely need to get their act together. Besides the turnaround error, the course was also mis-measured, and the race issued a statement saying the course was about 0.4 miles too long. Kudos to them for admitted their error (they're also working with the USATF to adjust runners' times accordingly). Though I applaud the race for taking responsibility for their errors, if they plan on making this a premier event, next year they need to be much more careful with their course measurements and markings.

Overall, this race leaves a very bittersweet feeling. I was in shape to run my first sub-2:50 marathon, and while I unofficially did, it would have been an amazing feeling had that time been official. In my next post I'll write about how I'm going to deal with this disappointment.

Happy Running.

Part 1
Part 3

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 1

Just before the turnaround
I've gotten away from race reports after having written so many, but this race was so unique I had to write up a report--a three part report, in fact. The first part will explain the disappointment of the race, the second part will be about how the race actually went, and the third part will be about what's next. The one word to describe this race: disappointing.

So what was disappointing? Around 18 miles into the race there was supposed to be a turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail. Unfortunately, I ran right past the turnaround. There was a spray painted arrow on the ground that I thought might be a turnaround, but I thought to myself, "there's no way there'd be a turnaround without a course marshal, or at the very least a large sign and some cones."

Turns out, it was in fact a turnaround. Unfortunately for me, I ran almost two miles past the turnaround before actually turning around. I asked one cyclist if she'd seen any runners, and she said she'd seen some coming from the opposite direction, so I thought I might still be OK. Around a mile later, I asked another cyclist and he had not seen anyone.

At that point I knew I had missed the turnaround. When I headed back, there was a course marshal running over to the spray painted arrow to place a cone and direct runners. I found out later that the volunteers who were supposed to be at that spot had not shown up, and some jerk had thrown cones off the course and into the woods.

Eventually I caught up to another runner who had also been affected, though he did not run quite as far past the turnaround as I did. We walked and jogged together until we reached an aid station about 1.5 miles from the finish line. There, we explained our situation to some volunteers. The told us they would get us a ride to the finish, but after waiting for thirty minutes, we decided to just walk to the end.

After the long walk (a mile and a half seems like a long way after covering over 28 miles), I got to see Laura, Calvin, our friend Joy and her son at the finish line. It was super nice of all of them to be waiting for me.

Though it was great to see friends and family, I was still very disappointed with the race. I will say that the race director responded to my e-mail promptly, and he did a nice job explaining the situation. Unfortunately, my time will not be changed. They will, however, refund my race entry.

So there it is--the disappointment that was the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon. Still, in the scheme of all that's happening in the world and all the real problems people face on a daily basis, this is pretty minor. It's important to keep perspective.

Happy Running.

Part 2
Part 3

Friday, November 4, 2016

PNC Bank Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon

I've shifted away from writing about running for a while, but I am still putting in the miles. On Sunday I'll be running the PNC Bank Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon. This weekend will mark my 15th try at the marathon and, after I finish, my 14th completed marathon (I dropped out of the 2015 Med City Marathon with calf issues). 

One nice bonus of this race is that it is the day after my birthday, so I'll get to do my birthday run during a marathon (on the weekend closest to my birthday I've been running a kilometer for every year old I am since 2011).

I've got high hopes for this weekend. First off, I'm aiming for a PR. It's going to be tough--I missed almost a week of training while in the hospital, but after a few days my workouts were going well again. 

I'm excited, but also nervous. The marathon is a tough race. I've run a positive split in every marathon I've raced, running the first halves 2-8 minutes faster than the second halves. This means I've either gone out too fast, or that I didn't have the mental toughness to push through those finals miles at race pace.

On with the goals:

A. Break 2:50 and set a new PR
B. Break 2:55
C. Break 3:00

I set a new best time at the half marathon this year, 1:16:09, and various running calculators say that based on that time I should be able to run a marathon somewhere between 2:40 - 2:45. I know that's nowhere near reasonable. I'd run almost as fast at a half marathon in 2012, and that year was the year I managed a 2:50. As far as racing goes, I'm much better at the 5k than the marathon.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. Not only do I get to race, we also get to see some friends and their kids. It'll be a good time.

Happy Running!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bipolar - Where I Am and Why

For a long time, I've hidden a major part of my life from most people. I have bipolar, also called manic depression. For a long time I didn't share this with anyone other than close friends and family. There's a stigma attached to bipolar, and I can totally understand it. Manic episodes can be especially scary and can include extremely irrational thoughts and actions. In some cases this can lead to things like substance abuse, risky behaviors, and even violence (though the vast majority of people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent acts than those without).

Depression, "mixed states," and "rapid cycling" between mania and depression are also dangerous. Studies have shown a 5 - 15% likelihood of suicide among those with bipolar--incredibly higher than the national average.

But, many are able to lead fairly normal lives with bipolar, and keeping quiet about my bipolar now seems to me to be a way that contributes to the stigma.

Bipolar is a chronic mental illness that can make life difficult at times--difficult on me and difficult for my family. Despite these difficulties, I have a pretty amazing life--a nine month old baby, a beautiful, kind, supportive wife, and wonderful friends, family, and faith community. I could go into great detail and name names, but suffice to say I'm blessed.

It's easy to forget all those blessings at times. It's easy to ask, "why do I have to have bipolar?" or, "where do thoughts and actions I choose end and where do the thoughts and actions from my disease begin?" It's easy to ruminate on these things which can lead to a spiral of depression, anxiety, and mania.

I hear from friends and family that I do a nice job managing my bipolar. While this is good to hear, it's really my friends, family, and faith communities that have brought me to where I'm at today. So any of my friends and family who are reading this, thank you in whatever way you've supported me over the years.

Thank you for kind words, listening ears, and encouragement; for thoughts and prayers; for noticing when I'm not doing well and asking about it. Thank you for bringing me to a doctor's appointment or to the hospital, or for visiting me in the hospital.

Especially, I thank God. At times that have seemed hopeless, I meditate on the person of God in Jesus--someone who although he was perfect chose a mortal life to face suffering and even death in the name of love. Not only that, but he defeated death--and when those thoughts of death and despair come, it's nice to know a God who's experienced those thoughts and emotions as well, and has overcome death.

I could go on with all the many ways I've been blessed, but for now it's enough to just be thankful. I can only imagine where I might be without such amazing people and an amazing God in my life. So many people with mental illness deal with so much--unemployment, homelessness, isolation--these are all things I could suffer as well, but because of the people in my life I do not.

Read more about mental health at Mental Health Myths and Facts.

Thank you, and live well.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Back at Life

I love fall. It's beautiful. I love walks through through parks and neighborhoods where birch, maples, ash, cottonwood, oak trees, and sumac color the paths with auburn, deep red, golden, and all shades in between burst from the changing trees on cloudless days.

The weather cools and gone are the days of hot, humid runs. Though I love the weather and the colors, the shorter days also pose a challenge.

It's no longer  a surprise--October's can be difficult for me. Seasonal changes and the rapid changing of daylight hours can really affect my mood--not the same as daily or hourly moods. Rather, anxiety levels, some depression, and some mood swings.

Looking back on some pictures from past Octobers, you'd never know it. At work and around friends I can usually fake it until I make it. The depression and anxiety really hit when I'm alone or lying in bed after waking in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep.

October in 2011 following the Twin Cities Marathon
My one year anniversary in the hospital came and went. Now, I have a new anniversary--October 9, 2016. Following several sleepless nights intermixed with over a week of poor sleep in general, I crashed hard. My condition and poor sleep do not mix well, and the hospital was the best option for me.

The last time I was in the hospital I didn't think I should have been there (though I should have), and tried to get out as soon as possible. This time, I knew I needed to be there, and it helped. While there, I learned that some things need to change in my life, especially in the way I think and deal with stress.

After leaving the hospital, I saw my doctor to talk about medications. Due to the seasonal nature of my condition, we had a good talk about how to adjust medications before my symptoms of heightened energy, anxiety, and depression hit. After looking at my patterns over the past few years, I'm optimistic that the medications will help.

October of 2012 in Michigan
I know medication is not the only answer, Next week I'll be joining a dialectical behavior therapy group next week to learn some skills in order to better manage stress. I hope that it will be helpful and can change some thought patterns that I'm very much stuck in. When life is going well and fairly stress-free, I do well. When it's not, I have more problems coping than many people -- I'd like that to change.

Running has been a great tool for managing my stress, but when I'm training for a specific race or aiming for a specific goal, it can become compulsive. I'd like that to change as well.

Now is a good time. I'm wrapping up a marathon training program, my son is almost nine months old, and my family is safe and provided for. It's hard sometimes not to feel like it's selfish to spend time and money on therapy, hospital visits, and therapy. I can't, however, be there for my family, friends, and people in need if I'm not doing well. So, to take care of others, I have to make sure to take care of myself.

Be well.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Summer of Semi-Stay-at-Home Parenting - Issue #4

I started this post back in July and stopped working on it in the beginning of August. There are several reason for this, but suffice to say some personal issues turned a summer of stay at home parenting into a summer of part-time stay at home parenting.

Week of July 5
Calvin spent some time in daycare this week while his mommy worked at Children's Country Day and his daddy worked at the Running Room. The week went by quickly as his parents got ready for another family gathering, this time at a lake home near Remer, Minnesota.

Weekend of July 8
Things were packed up for the trip as much as we could on Friday evening--Calvin didn't really help. On Saturday morning, Calvin got to join his mommy for a baby shower where he got to enjoy the company of some other babies.

That afternoon, Calvin rode with his mommy and daddy up to the Lady Slipper Lodge. After a stop for dinner, we arrived and unpacked. After his things were set up and unpacked, Calvin hung out with his mommy, nana and grandpa while daddy worked on catching some breakfast for the next day.

Calvin enjoyed his new surroundings at the Lady Slipper Lodge. He got to lay on a blanket out on a deck, and enjoyed his sleeping space in a large closet (the door was open and he was in a Pack-n-Play, don't judge).

Calvin's closet in back right

Week of July 11
The days blurred together as Calvin spent an entire week at the cabin. He got to spend tons of quality time with mommy, and got to be held a lot by his aunt, uncle, cousin, nana, and grandpa.

He also got to go on his first pontoon ride (he was definitely not a fan of his life jacket, but he did enjoy the breeze and the movement on the water).

I can't imagine why he doesn't like the life jacket

Calvin also got to visit his first state park--Schoolcraft. It was a small park, and Calvin saw just about every foot of trail (there are only about two miles total) as he rode in his Baby Bjorn with his mommy.

His family got to do a lot of fishing, and Calvin watched as they enjoyed fish for breakfast one day and dinner on the last night. He also got to enjoy a visit from his Great Aunt and Uncle.

Week of July 21
It was back to reality for Calvin. He had a bit of a hard time adjusting to not being able to be held and played with all day every day, but by the end of the week he was starting to be able to play by himself a little more.

Calvin's rolling and "crawling" (really it's pushing his face across the floor with his feet) and rolling more than ever. He's also really into textures--he likes feeling and patting all kinds of things--tables, sofas, you name it.

At the Lady Slipper Lodge, Calvin got to try his first solid food--avocado and later, some organic baby food (pear) his aunt brought for him. He's also been eating homemade rice cereal and pureed sweet potato, as well as mashed banana. Finally, his babbling has increased quite a bit, and he's starting to make a "dada" sound, though Laura and I both agree his not actually trying to say "dada."

This month I went back to work more regularly, working some hours at Brightmont Academy and picking up more hours at The Running Room. I spent about a day a week with Calvin, and most days he was in daycare for six hours or less.

We got to see Laura's side of the family quite a bit this month

Calvin started to sit up for longer stretches this month, and his babbling continue to increase.

Calvin's first haircut!

 Calvin was pretty mellow during his haircut. There were lots of movies going and several kids crying, but Calvin pretty much sat in in his chair and took it all in.

Calvin also started army crawling, and could get where he wanted much quicker than before.

September is gone and although this October has been unseasonably warm, fall is officially here. A huge kudos to all the real stay at home parents. I couldn't cut it, and am impressed by those who do it full or part-time.

Monday, August 29, 2016


In my last post, I shared that I was celebrating being out of the hospital for one year as of August 17. Thanks to all of my readers for their kinds words, thoughts, and prayers. Since the first time I was hospitalized in 1998, I've been overwhelmed by love from friends, family, and strangers.

The times I was in the hospital, both Christian and non-Christian friends prayed, called, and visited me--some who didn't even know me.

I realize for some of my readers, Christianity carries a lot of baggage. I won't address that baggage in this post, but if you'll bear with me a moment, I'd like to share some of the joy I've found in my faith community.

Christians should be joyful and celebrating the love of God. The Creator blessed humanity with a perfect son, true God, and true human, to taste and defeat death. If that sounds confusing and superstitious, you're right. It is. And if I'm to be intellectually honest with myself, using ration, logic, and scientific thought to explain my Christian faith will always fall short.

I've spent years struggling off and on with how there could be a loving God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world, and I'm sure I'll struggle again. What I've found, however, is that disbelieving in God doesn't make pain and suffering go away. Instead, looking to Jesus' life and example on earth and praying that the Spirit of God be alive in me, I sometimes feel an inner strength from outside of myself.

More than that, I see that Spirit in others. I see people who live in impossibly difficult circumstances, and they throw up their hands and praise God.

So today, as I ran through a misty Minnesota morning, I praised God. I thanked Jesus for showing so much love to the world, and asked for strength to show that same kind of unconditional love to others: To pray for peace and happiness for those who seem most opposed to what I believe--murders, bigots, rapists--praying they receive love and turn their lives around.

For the skeptic, I'm doing nothing more than having an imaginary conversation in my head. It's entirely possible, but it doesn't change the things I've felt and the things I've seen. And though it's possible that my prayers aren't heard, they certainly change my heart.

Live well.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


I'm coming up on 300 posts for this blog, and I'm starting to feel like I need a change. I like writing about running, but writing about my own running isn't as interesting to me anymore. Race reports, training plans, and other thoughts and commentary on running are fine, but it's time I shifted most of that to my other blog,

I'd like to start writing more about my life in general, and describe some of the things I ponder as I run. As I'm writing this blog (August 17, 2016), I'm celebrating a full year of the end of an inpatient hospitalization. I won't go into any details in a public forum, but suffice to say, the last time I'd been hospitalized for similar health issues was in 2007, so at that point I had been hospital-free for over eight years.

Now, one year later, I'm hoping to manage an even longer hospital-free streak. On Monday, my doctor said she's seen people with my condition stay out of the hospital for 30+ years, but I'm not going to think ahead that far.

So, as I continue this blog, I'd like to share some health resources that have helped keep me out of the hospital and remain a (mostly) functioning member of society in my roles as a teacher, husband, friend, family member, father, and church-goer.

I'll frame many of my posts in the context of running, but not all of them.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer of Stay-at-Home Parenting - Issue #3

July was a busy month for the Leckbands--a family reunion in the twin cities with Nate's mom's side of the family, a trip with the Laura's parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece to a "cabin" near Remer Minnesota, and the new normal of chores and tending to our five month old baby.

Week of  June 26
Calvin did some part-time daycare this week while his daddy took care of some household chores and errands that have been waiting to get done for too long. At home, Calvin got a new exersaucer. He loves manipulating the rolling wheels, stuffed sun on some sort of spring-thing, and a panel of buttons that play animal noises.

His mommy also recently put out a baby piano. He's pretty much terrible at it so far, but it only has a few notes, so I shouldn't expect too much.

On Wednesday afternoon his grandma visited, then Thursday his Uncle Craig, Aunt Sarah, Aunt Choo Choo, and three cousins from Nebraska came over. He got lots of attention--his youngest cousin was especially excited to hold baby Calvin again, and his oldest cousin did a great job helping take care of Calvin--I think she's better at changing diapers than I am.

This week also marked Calvin's record baby blowout. His grandma and I were sitting at the table, and all of a sudden I could tell he needed to be changed--and boy did he. He didn't seem to mind though. While I was using a record amount of baby wipes and trying to keep him from getting his baby hands into his mess, he was giggling, kicking his legs and squealing.

After finally getting him mostly cleaned up, our ordeal ended with the first baby bath I gave him by myself (mommy usually takes care of that).

Long Weekend of July 1
The Hill family reunion commenced on Friday, though several members had already been trickling in to the great state of Minnesota. We kicked off the festivities at Minnehaha Park. Calvin got to be held by his Aunt Choo Choo while I played with his cousin on the playground.

When lunch rolled around, his oldest first cousin fed him a bottle warmed from hot water I brought in a coffee carafe while the rest of Calvin's family ate picnic food. We then went to see the falls, though Calvin didn't seem to appreciate the aesthetic quality of the rushing waters as much as the adults.

Calvin with his Great Aunt and cousins
Calvin got to see all his great aunties on the Hill side, and he enjoyed being held and passed around at dinner that evening. I was a little nervous after his experience at Paideia (see issue #1), but the boisterous Hill family wasn't too much for him. He alternated between mellow, content, and happy as he was passed around from cousin to aunt to mommy and back.

Calvin and his Great Aunts and Uncle
There was lots of other fun for the rest of the long weekend. Calvin enjoyed a pool party where he was once again passed among family members. He seems to tolerate water so far--he's not super-excited about it, but it doesn't seem to bother him either.

The evening of July 4, Calvin got to say his goodbyes to the Hill side of the family. He very much enjoyed all the attention. On the ride home from the house in Minneapolis, we drove by several fireworks displays, but Calvin pretty much slept on the way home.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Running Poem: Muskie


I run on a drizzly May morning--
Image credit
the paved path around Lake Calhoun
is nearly empty.

Other days were spent
people watching--dodging walkers
three and four abreast.

But today, mostly alone on a mid-morning run,
the paved trail is clear--
no dodging runners or taking
the necessity-made dirt path.

By the yet-opened boat-rentals and marina,
a man standing by shore points--

In the clear late-spring water,
a slender, muscular fish--three feet at least--
swims in the shallow water near shore.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Running Poem

"Morning Run on a Golf Course"

On a Minnesota morning run
drops of dew shimmer
off blades of golf course grass
as the sun illuminates
the fairway from
its eastern home.

Absorbed through shoes,
into socks--
leaving ankles cool and

Pushed into the soil,
first by one foot,
then the other.

As the sun rises higher,
returned to the air
ready to bring
a humid afternoon. 

More poems

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer of Stay-at-Home Parenting - Issue #2

Time for another addition of "Summer of Stay at Home Parenting." The running is mixed in with the baby stuff. Sorry. This is the last one I'll post to Facebook. If you're interested in other issues, you can subscribe by e-mail (Left hand side of the page). Unfortunately, many of you will have to delete running posts.

Weekend of June 17
We got to spend this weekend with Nana and Grandpa at the Gustafson residence in Rochester. Saturday morning I got to pace the Zumbrota Covered Bridge Half Marathon. It was an awesome event--flat course, lots of shade, and, most importantly for a pacer, perfectly placed mile markers.

Calvin also got to hang out with his cousin Sophia, and spent lots of time being held and played with by his Auntie Sarah, his Nana Sherry, and Grandpa Jeff. Calvin thinks Grandpa Jeff is pretty funny--except when Jeff came in from mowing the yard. Jeff was wearing his sunglasses, and Calvin, fresh off a nap and diaper change, thought Grandpa Jeff looked pretty scary.

Week of June 20
View of Gun Club Lake from my bike ride
Laura's mother was kind enough to spend a few days with us this week. Calvin loved the extra attention from his nana.

This week my streak of running for 43 consecutive days came to an end on Tuesday. Instead, I road my bike to The Sparrow Cafe, kitty corner from Fleet Feet Marathon Sports. There, I got to have coffee with Olympic hopeful Abbabiya Simbassa to interview him for some blog posts and a story in Run Minnesota.

Calvin also got to meet his new friend Cullen and Cullen's mother, Michelle. Michelle and her husband Craig are "camp friends." Michelle is also a running coach, stay-at-home mom, blogger, and works at a Skinny Raven Sports in Alaska. We had a nice time catching up and talking about running.

Laura took Friday off of work, so we all got an extra day to hang out together. Calvin loves his mommy's days off of work because he gets so much of her undivided attention.

Weekend of June 24
Friday evening we had the church group we belong to over to Laura's school for a cookout. We didn't take any pictures, but you can imagine how cute it was to have a bunch of toddlers and babies around, playing on the playground and such.

On Saturday morning Calvin woke up his usual smiley self. He definitely takes after his mother as far as mornings go--he almost always wakes up smiling and giggling. While Laura played with Calvin I drove over to meet another Olympic hopeful, Heather Kampf, and her husband, Ben. I interviewed Heather and Ben while we ran, also for some blog posts and a story in Run Minnesota.

That evening, Calvin's Great Aunt Carmen and Great Uncle David came to visit. Calvin was getting a little tired, and by 7:30 he was sleeping in Laura's arms.

This morning (Sunday) I woke up early and worked on this blog post while David, Carmen, Laura, and Calvin were sleeping--I've been under a lot of pressure to put this thing out--baby stories and pictures are way more popular than running. I guess everyone's been a baby at some point, but not everybody's been a runner.


Nothing major for this issue. Calvin laughs a lot and his happy baby squeals and squawks are louder. He's also getting more curious--he enjoys looking at bright colors and contrasting patterns, feeling different textures, and putting things in his mouth. He also enjoys blowing spit bubbles.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer of Stay-at-Home Parenting - Issue #1

I know I have several readers or potential readers who have zero interest in running, so for their sakes there will be nothing about running until the second half of this post. You're welcome.

Calvin in his activity mat

As a teacher, I have summers "off," though this has never been completely true for me. I've worked a bit, including summer school, Barnes and Noble, and also took a graduate school class.

Calvin and his mommy
After my summer of grad school and Barnes and Noble book selling, I taught at a year-round school. I still got around 6 weeks off for those three summers. I did work a little at The Running Room, but I basically had the summer off.

This summer, I have the pleasure of staying home with baby Calvin. Currently almost five months old, Calvin's hobbies including babbling baby talk, putting toys and other things in his mouth, laughing, smiling, drinking milk, sleeping, spitting up (though not very often), and dirtying his diaper. My beautiful wife, Laura, will be working this summer and of course will be jealous that I get to be with Calvin.

Since Calvin naps 2-4 times a day, I've been keeping a to-do list of household chores, projects, writing, and some fun stuff. Calvin also sometimes plays by himself on his Activity Learning Center (it's actually called an "activity mat," but the name Laura and I came up with is way better) or in his Rock 'n Play, so I can get things done then.

I know some other stay at home parents as well, and have teacher friends who are off for the summer, so maybe I'll do some hanging out with friends as well.

I decided that besides a couple of other writing projects I've got going, I'd write some highlights of my summer of stay-at-home parenting. I haven't set any sort of schedule and won't--I'll publish posts approximately whenever I feel like it. Here of some highlights thus far:

Friday, June 10
This day barely counted as being a stay at home parent. I did all the regular stuff like feeding and diapering, and putting Calvin down for a nap in the morning. He played most of the time he wasn't sleeping, and really worked on his reaching and grabbing things while playing on his activity learning center.

At 1:30 p.m. I left to visit my old school, Paideia Academy, on its last day of school (ever). After Calvin gave a bunch of smiles to some teachers, I was mobbed by middle schoolers eager for me to autograph their yearbooks.

I was a little surprised since I didn't teach at Paideia this school year. Susan, a teacher I shared a classroom with in 2014, got to hold Calvin for the longest, then he headed into the office to visit my old administrators. Eventually being passed around and having too many people around made Calvin sad. Erin, a teacher who allowed me into her classroom to teach special education in 2013, brought Calvin back to me. He was wailing. Tears, snot, the whole nine yards.

It was the first time he'd done this, but then again he hadn't been around so many people who wanted to hold him since his baptism in March, and he was a little less aware that people other than his parents were holding him back then. After I rocked him and wiped off his face, he calmed down enough to take a walk around the school.

As I carried him around the school saying "hi" to old teacher friends and students, Calvin brought out a big bottom lip and got a look that said, "I'm about to cry," whenever someone got too close for too long. When his lower lip quivered and his eyes squinted, starting to water, I'd have to turn him away from whoever was holding his hand or touching his hair. I think he needed to be reassured that no one else was going to take him from his daddy.

Following my time at Paideia, I drove across Apple Valley to attend a graduation for one of my students at my new school, Brightmont Academy. Calvin was relaxed by then, and he was quiet for the whole ceremony. Afterwards, he had his diaper changed, drank half a bottle, and watched me eat a cupcake.

Our school tours completed, I dropped Calvin off at Children's Country Day with my beautiful wife Laura. Then, it was back to Apple Valley to attend an Adios Paideia event at the bar across the parking lot from the school. Laughs and sorrows were shared by all until the wee hours of the morning, but I was only there for a couple of hours so I could get home in time to help Laura put Calvin to bed.

Weekend of June 10
Calvin's Aunt Sarah came by for a visit in the afternoon, then later in the day his grandpa and nana came. He was all smiles! Laura and I got to hang out a good amount, spend some time relaxing, and played with Calvin. It was hot, so we mostly did things indoors.

Calvin's Aunt Sarah came to visit

Monday, June 13
Calvin had a nice morning eating and playing with his mommy. After mommy left for work, we spent some time playing, then took a walk to Sky Hill Park. When we got home, Calvin sat in his stroller and watched me clean the garage for a while.

Looking at a tree in Central Park
I began writing this post while Calvin was sleeping in the afternoon. I sat on the recliner while he dozed in his Rock 'n Play. When he woke up, he was not happy. Sometimes he wakes up peacefully, and plays in his crib or Rock 'n Play for awhile, but sometimes he wakes up crying and ready to be held, have his diaper changes, and/or be fed.

It was about 3:30 p.m. when he woke up, and he was not letting me put him down. Also, he wouldn't take a bottle, but I knew he was hungry because he was sucking on my arm and hand while I held him. I finally caved and called his mom around 4:30, and she came home and fed him.

Tuesday, June 14
This morning mommy dropped us off at Central Park. Calvin watched me do some core exercises until he got fussy, then fell asleep on the stroller ride home. He awoke in the garage while I was organizing fishing stuff.

The rest of the day he played on and off, let me do a little writing, and took a couple naps. He also rode in the Baby Bjorn while I did some vacuuming.

Wednesday, June 15

Calvin's good at helping with groceries
Calvin and I dropped Laura off at work today while her car was getting its oil changed. Then, Calvin helped me do some grocery shopping and vacuum my car--though as far as the car goes, he mostly just watched.

Later, while I was carrying Calvin around the yard watering our plants, I noticed the smell of sour milk emanating from my shirt. It got me wondering, what is the parent etiquette for changing out of a shirt that smells like baby puke? I mean, it's just going to get puked on again, right?

I decided it would be best to change out of it before I picked up Laura from work. She got to leave early today and we got to meet up with some friends from Louisiana. They just had a new little one, so we got to get together and talk about baby stuff.

Thursday, June 16
For most of the day, Calvin made it way too easy on me. In the morning he started to get fussy, so we went on a walk. He fell asleep when when we got to Sky Hill Park, so I decided to keep going toward Blackhawk Lake Park.

I figured I could feed him at the park, but after getting within about half a mile, I decided to head back. He woke up a couple minutes later, about a mile from home. He was content in his stroller, looking around at the trees and cloudy sky until we were about ten minutes from home.

He wasn't very good at folding clothes
He cried a little after that, but once I got some milk in him, he was a happy guy and played in his room, listened to me play the guitar, and did lots of giggling.

Then, at what has become his normal nap time, 11 a.m., he slept for over two and a half hours--the longest since I've been at home. That gave me time to eat lunch, water plants, and do more writing then I've done since my stay-at-home adventure started. Afterward, he helped do laundry.

Watching TV seems liked  his forte
Once laundry was finished, I taught him how to watch TV downstairs. He really seemed to like the original "X-Files" series. His mother came home at 5 p.m., and we all enjoyed some pizza and "Parks and Rec" on Netflix.

Some Milestones
Calvin rolled halfway across the living room. Unfortunately I didn't get to see it, and he was quiet the whole time he rolled. I was cleaning or cooking or some such thing in the kitchen, and when I looked around the corner to check on him, there he was, stuck against the recliner (apparently he only rolls one direction).

The Super Baby rolled from his ALC to the recliner

Calvin's also doing a lot of laughing. The sides of hi neck are very ticklish, and sometimes his feet--especially when I tickle them with my beard.

If you have no interest in running related content, this concludes issue one of the "Summer of Stay-at-Home Parenting." Stay tuned for another issue approximately whenever I feel like it.

Running and Working Out
My running's been go better than it has since March of last year, and possibly since 2012. Social scientists may explain my increase in running mileage and intensity as well as additional strength training as compensation for the natural loss of testosterone that occurs during a spouse's pregnancy and immediately after the birth of a child. "The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy" says that this hormonal change helps a father be more nurturing. Intense athletic activity can help bring those testosterone levels back up.

I get my runs in before Laura leaves for work or after she comes home. While I was still working, occasionally I'd run before or after I picked up Calvin from daycare, but now it's all on Laura and my schedule. This being the first week of my summer of stay at home parenting, we'll see if I can continue putting in 60+ miles a week.

Core and strength workouts have also been going well. I don't want to get injured this year, so I'm trying to make sure to do exercises for my glutes, core, and stabilizing muscles 2-4 times per week. Sometimes I can grab a quick ab routine while Calvin plays on the floor next to me. Otherwise I try to make time to do at least one full body routine on the weekend when Laura's around.

I've paced a few half marathons this spring and early summer--Valley Fair, Fargo, Lake Minnetonka, and Lake Waconia, and I'll be pacing several more including a new one this weekend, the Zumbrota Covered Bridge Half Marathon.

I've changed my racing plans a bit. In order to see some friend in Milwaukee, I'll be doing the PNC Bank Running Festival Marathon in November. It's a moderately hilly course, but if I can stay healthy I hope to set a new personal best. My official training plan starts the second week of July. I'll also be racing a 5k in July and a half marathon in September. I might add one other race, possibly a 10k, in October.

I've been working (very) part time at The Running Room in Eagan. The manager there is pretty cool, and it's always fun talking running and helping people out with running shoes and gear. It also gives me a bit of extra income and a discount on running shoes and apparel.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mudball 4 Mile: Race Report

I didn't set any goals for this one for a couple reasons. First off, I've never run it before, so I had no idea what the hills or running surface was like. Without that information, guessing my pace would be difficult. Secondly, I hadn't planned my race well due to an error in timing. I had written the wrong date in the planner and had been planning to do the race on Saturday and a longish run on Sunday. Instead, the race was on Sunday, so I ended up doing my long run on Saturday and racing on Sunday.

Saturday happened to be pretty warm, so my long run took a little more out of me than normal. As a result, my legs weren't exactly fresh for the Mudball 4 Mill on Sunday.

As a bonus, Laura and baby Calvin came along to watch. We also ran into a couple of running friends and they got to meet Calvin.The race itself actually went decent. My legs felt pretty heavy during my warmup, but once we got started they didn't feel bad at all.I started out with the leaders and managed to stay with the first place dude for the first couple miles. Then, my long run started to catch up with me and the hills started to drain me. The leader pulled away halfway through the second mile, but the second place guy had dropped off sometime during the first mile.

I thought maybe the first place guy would slow up, and he did, but not as much as me. I ended up finishing in 25:21, a little over 30 seconds behind the winner.

It was cool having Calvin and Laura at the race. For a race the day after a long run, it went pretty decent.

Happy Running!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Race Report: Ron Daws 25k

Ron Daws was a famous (as famous as a runner can be) Minnesota athlete who ran in the 1968 Olympic Marathon. The race of his namesake, the Ron Daws 25k, is a hilly route through Hopkins, Minn., one of Daws's favorites.

Start of the Ron Daws 25k <photo credit>
 I did this race once before, back in 2011, when I used it as a training run for the 2011 Boston Marathon. I was in a little better shape back then, and as that was my only 25k, it's stood as my PR since then.

My top goal for the race was a new PR, but about halfway to the race I noticed my naked wrist--I'd forgotten my Garmin 210. No GPS watch meant never having any idea how long I'd been running and having only a general idea of how fast I was running.

At the race, I ran into my friends Don and Jared. They were both in the midst of marathon training for Boston and Fargo respectively. Don was kind enough to offer me his watch, but I declined. I'd do my best to run by feel.

The toughest part of the race this year wasn't the hills--those were hard--but rather, the wind. I was pretty much constant at 15 - 20 mph, and there were frequent 40 mph gusts. The hills were also tough, but in the second part of the race there was a section that started downhill and the wind was so strong it felt as if I were running in place.

No watch didn't end up being a huge problem. I ran with another runner who was training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon, and he was nice enough to give me splits for the five miles I ran with him.

After that, I caught up to another runner. He had forgotten to start his watch, so no splits for him. The Ron Daws is also a pretty bare bones race (it does cost $5), so there were no volunteers giving splits at the mile markers either.

Still, running by feel worked out well enough. Had I known how close I was to a PR, the watch may have helped push me a little, but I doubt it. I finished with a time of 1:42:45, less than 30 seconds short of a PR. Two seconds a mile faster and I would have had it. I did, however, manage to reach my "B" goal for the second time this year.

I met up with Jared and Don after the race and we headed over to Pizza Luce for some brunch, beer, and talking about running. Though the race was cold, windy, and hilly, it was still fun.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Race Report: Lake Johanna 4 Mile

It was a nice, warm day on Saturday, March 12. With the race starting at 11:00 a.m., the temperature had already crept above 60. There wasn't much wind, the ice on Lake Johanna was sparkling, and the sky was clear--similar conditions to the 2015 edition.

I got to the race about a half an hour early--there was no line to speak of to register. The Lake Johanna 4 Mile is one of three races that's included with the MDRA membership, so I thought there might be more people registering the day of since there are no real benefits to mailing a registration in (I don't remember if there was much of a line to register last year's race).

Since I finished registering so quickly, I had time to chat with a couple of runners before I did a warm up jog and a couple of striders. I saw Peter, a runner Laura and I often see at the YMCA, and Angie Voight, a doctor who treated my broken leg in 2012 and also a frequent expert on C Tolle Run.

Right before the start, I ran into the Burnsville High School cross country coach and a couple Burnsville High athletes. I have the privilege of helping out a little with cross country this past fall, so it was cool to get to race with one of their better high school athletes.

The race itself went OK. I definitely came out a little fast with a 5:51, which would turn out to be my fastest mile of the race.

It was a hilly race, and hills in the middle of mile three and the beginning of mile four took their toll on me. I haven't been running a ton of tough hills, and definitely haven't been running fast on any hills.

I finished 5th overall--the same place I finished last year, in a time of 24:08. I'm happy enough with my time, which was under my B goal, but it's hard not to think about the fact that the pace I ran is still slower than my PR half marathon pace. I suppose that just means I have a ways to go if I'm going to race well this fall.

My 5th place finish also meant that the top finishing times this year were a fair amount slower than last year's times. Had I run the time I ran last year (22:05), I could have competed for the win.

Happy Running!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ron Daws 25k: It's Goal Time

I haven't raced a 25k in several years--my last one was in 2011, also the Ron Daws 25k. In that race, I ran 1:42:18. At that time I was mainly using it as a training run for Boston, but it still remains my fastest 25k.

This year I'd like to change that. Based on my time at the Lake Johanna 4 Mile, it's a pretty lofty goal and likely out of my range, but what the heck? I'll try it anyway. So, here are my ABC goals:

A. Set a PR (faster than 1:42:18)
B. Run under 1:45 (under a 6:46 pace)
C. Run under 1:48

I'll have to pay close attention to how I'm feeling. If the PR is truly out of my range, running that fast for more than a mile could tank my other two goals. We'll see how it goes!

Happy Running!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lake Johanna Four Mile: It's Goal Time!

Time for a quick last minute post. In about two hours I'll be running the MDRA 4 Mile for the second year in a row. There's really no chance of a PR today--I'm not in near the shape I was in last year. As per usual, I'll  be doing some A B C goals.

2015 MDRA 4 Mile

A. Last year I ran 22:05. This year I'll be happy with 24:00 or faster.

B. Break 24:30

C. Break 25:00

This will be a good early season test to see how my training is going and how far I have to go. I have no big plans for spring races--I've got my sights set on the fall this year along with avoiding the summer injuries that killed my fall training last year.

Happy Running!

Friday, March 4, 2016


This past weekend we got an early dose of spring weather. We were staying down in Rochester, Minnesota, and on my morning run the temperature hit 50 degrees.

Spring running in Minnesota is a welcome change. Actually running in the cold is OK--in fact, if it's not super windy it's actually more enjoyable than running when it's super hot. The hard thing for me, however, is getting out for a run. Some days after work when the cold hurts my face walking to and from my car, there's nothing I want to do more than relax inside where it's nice and warm. Bundling up and going back out into the cold for forty five minutes to an hour--not so much.

It has helped that I've started running in the morning before work again. It's easier to bundle up and head out into the unknown cold knowing I'll have to go outside eventually anyway.

As the weather gets warmer, heading out for a run gets easier and easier--no more deciding how many layers, which hat, which gloves, and which direction to run so I can finish with the wind at my back. Soon, I'll be able to throw on shorts and a tee shirt and head right out the door.

It's still been pretty chilly the past few days. On Tuesday morning it was an icy 15 degrees with a windchill of 6. At times the gusts of wind made me feel like I was running in place.

Still, I'm looking forward to some warmer spring temperatures. Starting on Saturday it's supposed to be at least 50 for the next week. Bring on spring.

Happy Running.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Back at It

So for the first part of this year, my running had really been going in fits and starts--10 miles one week, 30 miles another. I have been riding my indoor bike trainer as well, so even on the short weeks it's not like I've been doing nothing, but the running just hasn't been consistent.

Last week I hit 40 miles and this week I'll get 35. I'm trying to make my running more routine and my mileage a little more regular. It'd be great to do a reverse of what I did last year and have the second half of my year be the better half for running. In order for that to happen, I have to get at least reasonably decent mileage run between now and June, so I'm shooting for between 35 - 45 a week until then.

On a different note, is anyone else anxious about these new Facebook "like" buttons? Which one do I hit? Do I "like" a status, or do I "heart icon" a status? And how much funnier does a status have to be to move itself from the "like" to the "laugh icon?" Worse yet, what if I mean to hit the sad button when someone posts about losing a job or some such thing, and I accidentally hit the "laugh icon?"

Stressful, right? I'm thankful that I've been spending more time running lately to ponder these philosophical questions.

If you haven't heard, Laura and I also welcomed another addition to the family. Calvin has been a pretty fun baby, though at this point he doesn't do much. I was hoping to get a bike trailer for my trainer in the basement so he could go on stationary rides with me, but since that wasn't in the budget he's had to settle for sitting next to the bike in his rock and play.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2015 Year in Review - Part 2

This is quite a bit belated--I started writing it in January, but just couldn't seem to get it finished. I've been preferring to spend time with my new baby boy rather than writing blog posts.

For the past few years I've reviewed the results of my goals for the year, and in this year's "Year in Review" post, I did not, thus part 2. Here are the goals and the results:

1. Run 2,200 miles. My mileage has gone down every year since 2011, so it's time to change that up and get back closer to my 2011 total of 2,400 miles.

I missed this one.  I was just over 300 miles short, but I did beat my total from last year by around 400 miles.

2. Bike to work at least 30 times.

Not quite. I changed jobs in August, and also did some substitute teaching, which made biking to work a little more difficult.

3. Write 40 or more blog posts.

Counting my other blog, I wrote 54 posts. Win!

4. Publish at least one article.

Got it! I published an article in Run Minnesota.
5. Break 17 minutes in the 5k--not a PR, but it would still be my second best time in the 5k.

I raced the 5k three times, and my best was 17:02--painfully close.

7. Set a 1/2 marathon PR.

I didn't really race one of these.

8. Set a marathon PR.

Didn't race one of these either.

There were a lot of life changes this year as well as so nagging injuries. It is frustrating to miss so many goals, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Happy Running!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 Year in Review

It's been quite a long time since I wrote a blog post. This past September I finished a longer writing project, and since then I've been having a bit of a writing drought. Perhaps the coming new year will be the start of some more productive writing.

These posts are fun to write for me. It's nice to look back at the year and reminisce on all the fun things I got to do--trips, races, life changes--and this year was a big one.

The winter of 2015--from January to March--was probably my best winter of training to date. I had some lofty running goals, so I wanted to start the year off with a solid base. March and April brought some solid race results including four mile, seven mile, and ten mile races.

I ran my first four mile race in March, setting a new PR by default. At the MDRA 7 mile, I took a wrong turn and ended up running over a half mile farther than seven miles, but my unofficial seven mile split was a PR. In April, I ran a 58:32 at the Fred Kurz 10 mile, missing a PR by 13 seconds.

In May, I finally broke five minutes in the road mile, running a 4:55--only three seconds slower than my indoor mile PR. It was in May, however, that I first started feeling those nagging injuries.

In retrospect, I overdid it in the winter. I peaked early, and then nagging injuries kept me from running well for the rest of the year.

I had a terrible race at the Med City 5k later that month, and failed to finish while pacing the Med City Marathon the next day. My calves and right Achilles tendon were killing me, and they would continue to bother me until almost October.

Still, in July I ran a decent race at the Afton 50k, setting a PR (though it was only my second 50k and the course was definitely easier).

Without consistent training, I decided not to race a fall marathon or half marathon. The only half I "raced" was in July where summer head cold combined with hot and humid weather kept me from running well.

Though it wasn't the year I'd hoped it'd be, I did get to pace a few new (to me) races. I had a ton of fun pacing the Fargo Marathon, the Valley Fair Run and Ride Half Marathon, and the Urban Wildland Half Marathon.

Though I had some nice races in 2015, running was only a small part of a big year of changes. The year brought a new job, and, the big one, an upcoming baby, due January 28.

Life will be interesting next year, and running will definitely have to take a bit of a backseat to parenthood. I'm hoping 2016 will be the best yet!

Happy Running!