Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's race week!

As I write this from my PDA phone, I'm as 35,000 feet over the English Channel with about an hour left until we land in Munich. It's been a long (8 hours 30 minutes) flight but an uneventful one so far. It's hitting me that in one week and a couple hours I'll be rolling out of bed to get ready for The Big Day.

It's like waitng for Christmas, my birthday, and oral surgery all at the same time. You know it's going to leave you out of commission for a few days but you're also really looking forward to it.

I'll get a couple short runs in this week, just to burn off some energy...but I'm not pushing it. At this point I've done all I can do, and my mantra this week is "go to bed early, eat lots of carbs, don't drink alcohol..."

Friday (our annivsrsary) ended up being a great day. The Arboretum was really pretty, and we had a great dinner out. Doesn't sound like much, but it was just what we both needed.

Today, after landing, I'm headed into Munich for sightseeing. I'm sure there will be pictures and a trip report in the near future.

More later...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Anniversary, darlin'...

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary. I can't even begin to tell you what the past 16 years have been like, other than to say they've been filled with more joy, more pain, more good times, more bad times, more moments of tenderness, and more sheer frustration, than I thought any two people could ever experience in a lifetime. Fortunately the good has been WAAAAAY more than the not so good. There are times when I don't know what either of us would have done without the other--major surgeries, death of family members, times of self-doubt, job changes, etc. But through it all, we've always been there for each other.

I took today off--we're planning on heading over to the Morton Arboretum to check out the fall colors, enjoy nature, and of course take a few pictures. Tonight will be a nice fancy dinner out and a relaxing evening. It might sound bland to some folks, but I'm really looking forward to the day.

Of course, I have to say something about running...and let that just be that I'm really, really tapering. I'm supposed to get in an 8-miler this week...probably won't happen unless I go out early tomorrow morning. But tomorrow afternoon I have to get on a plane to head to Germany, so I don't fancy running all that way ahead of a 9-hr flight, but we'll see what happens.

I posted a question on Hal Higdon's forums about the trip, and any good advice people might have about ensuring I'm ready for race day. I got lots of good advice, all of which I plan to follow next week. A friend asked me this week..."Are you ready???" My response--"Yes, I am!" Now, just waiting for the 9 days or so to pass until The Big Day comes...

More later...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How many of me?

I was looking at the blog of an old friend from PLATINUM technology named Lenora. She's a travel writer, photographer, blogger, and a LinkedIn connection. Her blog is at One of her posts contained information from's a site you can use to find out how many people share your name. I figured "Oh there's probably a ton of Jim Jones' out there!" Amazingly, there aren't that many...
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Who knew?

More later...

A short mid-week run...

For the past few weeks, I've blown off some of my mid-week runs because of being tired, sore, and/or lazy after some of the longer runs (particularly after the 18- and 20-miler). With only a 11 days left until the Marathon, I decided to get some mid-week runs in this week just to sustain my current level.

Today was a 3-mile run. I did it at a little more than my 5K pace, but a lot less than my expected marathon pace. Bottom line, I just wanted to get out and run and blow the dust out of the pipes. It felt good--nice long stride, and a good pace with negative splits each mile. It was a little cool and overcast, but not bad at all.

These are the days when I feel like I could keep running forever. These are the days that make me remember why I fell in love with running in the first place. It also gives me a sense of real accomplishment without a huge time investment--from the time I stepped out the door this morning until I came back was only 30 minutes.

Tomorrow is looking like another 2-3 miles, then off Thursday. I'm doing my "long run" (although, at this point, I hesitate to call 8 miles 'long') on Friday, before taking off for Germany on Saturday.

Oh yeah, and Friday is our 16th wedding anniversary. Should be a fun day--we're talking about doing a few things here and there, and then we have a romantic dinner out planned. I'm looking forward to it.

More later...

Monday, September 24, 2007

The fall TV season is here!

OK, technically, the fall TV season kicked off with a few early premieres last week. But it gets into full gear this week--man, I'm going to be burning up the DVR with all the stuff I want to record! I have to confess that I am a total TV junkie. It started when I was a kid--I had a lot of allergies and spent most of my time in the house. I've outgrown most of my allergies, but never lost my taste for TV. It was said once that "Television is called a 'medium' because it is neither rare nor well-done." I respectfully disagree. Is TV high art? In some cases yes but in most, no. Having said that, it definitely has its place, and does most of the time (Jerry Springer aside) deliver content that entertains, enlightens, and makes you think.

Now, with that, what are the new shows/returning series I'm looking forward to? In no particular order:

I love watching recorded shows vs. live TV, as it makes it a lot easier to skip over the commercials. In one way, I feel sorry for the advertisers but in another, I don't--the commercials fly by so fast that it's almost a form of subliminal advertising, and they stick with us longer!

Hope you're enjoying the fall season also.

More later...

Friday, September 21, 2007

A week off in review

It was a good week. I had some business travel this week, plus I was still a little tired/sore from my long run Sunday, so I didn't run at all. I needed the break...

Work travel was for a strategy meeting with my boss--it's a long story, and a long trip for a half-day meeting, but it was worth it. I was gone Tuesday and Wednesday, and just didn't feel like trying to cram runs into the trip.

This week we solved one customer escalation crisis, wrapped up a sale of a special support program for one customer, and got 90% done with the sale of a special support program to another customer. Those 3 things made it a very good week from the work perspective, also.

To cap off the week, we attended a surprise 50th birthday party for my brother Tom. Actually, the fact that he was turning 50 wasn't a surprise to him--the party was the surprise. My sister and bro-in-law, my mom, and both my nephews were there...and a good time was had by all. One of my nephews lives in L.A. (and if you're reading this, Ryan, what's up hambone???) and we flew him in for a surprise visit. Needless to say his dad was thrilled to see him.

I'm also working on posting pictures from the birthday party to share with one and all.

More later...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The tapering blues...

Now that I'm in the tapering phase, I find myself in a bit of a funk. Monday I felt like I was getting a cold--sneezing, runny nose, hot, etc. I took some zinc tablets and got some rest...I'm starting to feel better, but not 100%. Got on a plane yesterday headed for San Francisco, and I'm headed back home again tonight. I'm going to try dialing back the mid-week runs...I think the past few weeks I may just have been over-training, which has led to general tiredness, lack of zip, etc. But I'm sure with some good rest, and some good food, and a few long-ish runs (but not too long) I'll be back to normal soon.

To top it off, my beloved White Sox lost to the Kansas City Royals last night. It's not bad enough that they lost, but this now puts them in the dreaded LAST PLACE spot in the AL Central. Oh God please, anything but a last place finish! I've been following the Sox religiously since around the time Lisa and I started dating--so probably 17-18 years total--and this is the absolute WORST season I can ever recall. So disappointing. I remember one of my first posts on this blog talking about spring baseball, and how I "couldn't hardly wait" for the season to start. Now, sadly, I can't hardly wait for it to be over.

Oh well, there's always next year--and the fact that we were the 2005 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS--to make me feel better...

More later...

Monday, September 17, 2007

My 20 miler report

Yesterday was a cool, crisp, clear day--beautiful, with just a few clouds. I woke up at 5AM, drank some water, ate a Kashi bar, and generally got my blood going. I was out the door at 6AM and ran two out and backs from the house--the first one was 6 miles to our church and back, and the second was 4 on a running/walking trail behind the house. I hit 10 miles at 2 hours (12 min/mi pace...EXCELLENT!) and picked up my friend Mark. We did another quick out and back of 3 miles, then ran laps around the walking/running trail in our neighborhood until I hit the magic number of TWENTY MILES...and my Garmin proves it. I think doing the laps helped--it was "OK, 6 more miles..." "5 more miles..." "a 5K + a warmup run...". Being able to breal this down into digestible chunks helped a lot.

You'll note that I finished in 4:03 and change...that gave me an average pace of 12:10, and I'd been shooting for a 12:00 pace, so I feel really good about that! If I can stick with this pace, I'll have a pretty good marathon--12:30 would give me a 5:27, which I'd be estatic with!

Friday night I finished reading Hal Higdon's book "Marathon" (which he signed for me at last year's expo before the Chicago Marathon). One thing really stuck with me--he talked about training plans and long runs, and essentially said that after your 20-mile run, your training is over until the marathon. The rest between now and then is just your taper.

So I approached this run with an attitude of "if I can get through this, I've got the marathon in the bag!" I didn't crash like I did in my 18-mile run--I had a big bowl of pasta Saturday for lunch, plus I consumed about 5 Clif Shot packages on the way. I think the Clif Shots really helped keep my energy and my glycogen levels up. As you can see I was tired and sweaty, but apart from some soreness (and difficulty walking up the stairs afterwards!) I was really no worse for the wear.

I've got to give a big shout-out to my pit crew (a.k.a. my wife) who was kind enough to put water and Gatorade bottles out on the front stoop for me, keep me loaded up with Clif Shots, and generally give me words of encouragement. That helped a lot, too. I've also got to say "thanks" to my running partner Mark. He's had some nagging injuries but really pushed himself to do the last 10 with me yesterday--having him there really helped a lot.

Now, I just taper and wait. But I've got a good feeling going into the Marathon, and I made a few tweaks and tunes (especially with the Clif Shots) that I'll definitely carry into the race. To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, "90% of running is half mental." But a great run yesterday really helped alleviate a lot of butterflies and now I'm really looking forward to Race Day.

More later...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My first photo contest

One of my non-running interests is photography. I picked it up in high school and I've come back to it now and again. Just before our vacation this year, I got a Nikon D40x camera and I've been really happy with it. I've also got some good friends who are teaching me a thing or two about composition, digital post-processing using Photoshop, etc.

A couple months ago I was flying home on a United flight and picked up their Hemispheres magazine...the August issue announced their annual travel photography contest. So I thought "What the heck?" and decided to enter. I'm submitting my pictures today (here and here). Who knows what will happen? But the good news is I can say "Yes, I've been in a photo contest."

It's like doesn't matter to me if I'm first place or last, just being a part of it and being in the same event as some of the "greats" in the field (be it running, business, photography, whatever) is encouraging. I learn something from every contest I enter--how to do something better, and usually a thing or two about my limits and capabilities also.

Anyway...I'm off to the mailbox to drop off my entries. Wish me luck. (C;

More later...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hurrah for the weekend!

It's my favorite time of the week--the downside of Friday afternoon! I can't wait to bust out of here and get home for a nap. I've been really tired this week--first, because of lack of sleep, and second because I haven't been getting my mid-week runs in (tsk tsk!). My workday yesterday started at 5AM and ended at 6:30PM. I worked from home, but still...

Today was only slightly better. I was up at 4:30AM (couldn't sleep any more and was restless), and ended up getting into work at 6:30AM. Granted I had a 7:30AM call with a customer, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. So, come 3PM Central time, I'm gonna yabba-dabba-doooo my way outta here for the weekend.

So this weekend, other than the 20 miler, it's the Naperville Wine Festival. I've been learning more about various kinds of wines over the past year or so, and I'm looking forward to trying some new stuff. Now, this will be a bit of a high-wire act as we're going to the Festival Saturday afternoon, probably 12 hours or so before Sunday's run. So let's hope I'm not too hung over and/or dehydrated.

The plan Sunday is to do 5 miles out, 5 back, and then just run a 1-mile lap in the neighborhood (stop me if I've said this before, and I have a feeling I have done so...). That way I can keep hydrated easier, etc.

Assuming I'm not too boozed up and/or busy, I should have an update tomorrow--if not then, then definitely something Sunday.

More later...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

23 days left

According to the countdown clock I have on my laptop, we're now 23 days and about 17 hours away from the start of the Chicago Marathon. The closer it gets the more my excitement, and my anxiety, build. I'm not worried about a finish time--I haven't set a time goal for myself, which goes against my nature--but I worry about just finishing. I'm sure I'll feel better after my 20 miler this weekend (hey, did I mention I have one of those coming up? "Yes, Jim, only about a thousand times..."), but the fear is always there...what happens if I collide with someone, or if I have an asthma attack, or if I get dehydrated, or...

This is normal for me--I've had the same type of fear for every new distance. I got comfortable with 5Ks after running one or two, but facing my first 8K was terrifying. So was my first 10K, 10 miler, get the idea. I'll just have to keep reminding myself that I've trained, that I'm ready, and that I'll finish just fine.

I most likely won't get my shorter run in today--too much work stuff to do--but that's OK, as it's really the long runs that count in my book. I could use the stress relief, but no worries...I'll just do some stretching and deep breathing or something.

More later...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Take a moment...

In the very brief time since I've started blogging again, it's almost all been about my running/training schedule. However, today is different. Unless you've lived in a cave for the past 6 years, you're well aware that today is the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on 9/11/01.

Words to describe that day escape me. I could tell you about my thoughts and emotions, but I'm sure you have your own powerful recollections. So instead of just trading escalating stories of terror, fear, and loss, I'd like to encourage you to just take a moment. Take a moment to:

  • Remember those whose lives were lost--those in the WTC, at the Pentagon, on the planes, and on the ground.
  • Remember those who serve in the US Armed Forces and keep our country safe. Regardless of your views on the war in Iraq, those in our military deserve our respect and our prayers.
  • Remember your friends and family. Life is so precious, and so short. Tell people how you feel about them while you have the opportunity.
  • Let go of a grudge, a hurt, or a bad memory you've been nursing. It's been said that nursing a grudge is like eating rat poison and hoping that the rats will die. Again, life is too precious, and too short, to be wasted on negative thoughts or emotions.
  • Do something kind for someone--give them a word of encouragement, say a prayer for them, call someone who might need a lift, etc. If you search your heart, you'll know what to do.
That's all I can ask of you, and of myself. Tomorrow I'm sure everyone's lives will be back to the normal hustle and bustle, and we'll have put our memories of 9/11 back on the shelf for another year. But for the rest of today--I challenge you to look forward in hope, joy, and love, rather than look back in fear, despair, and pain.

More later...

Monday, September 10, 2007

One tenth of one percent...

Yesterday was a step-back long run--14 miles. It was a good run--I've been giving myself "water breaks" every mile after the first two on my long runs, but yesterday I went 3, and then took a water break every 2 miles instead. This gets me more aligned with the stops at the Chicago Marathon--for the first 17 miles, the aid stations are approximately 2 miles apart each (details here, and the full course map is here if you're interested).

During the run, I was listening to an older Phedippidations podcast about first-time marathoners. One statistic jumped out at me and has stayed in my mind...only one-tenth of one percent of the US population has ever run a marathon. Wikipedia quotes the US population estimate for 2007 at 312,403,000. That means, on average, well under half a million Americans (312,403) have ever run a marathon. That makes me special--or will, on the afternoon of October 7th.

I know a few marathoners in person, and many more by reputation (blogs, podcasts, etc.). Whether they've completed a marathon in 2 hours or in 2 days doesn't really matter to me--it's an elite group that I am proud, excited, and humbled to become a part of.

This week--a few shorter runs, then 20 on Sunday (have I said that enough yet???). We'll see how that goes--I'm planning on a 10-mile out and back loop, and then laps around a roughly 1-mile path around our house. I figure if anything goes wrong, at that point I'm no more than half a mile from home. But there's a lot of miles between now and then.

More later...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A darned good day...

Today was..well, a darned good day. I was able to sleep late (amazingly, the spastic new kitten didn't wake us up at 6:00AM as usual). We lazed around the house for a while, then headed into the city to meet a good friend for lunch in Greektown and then headed to the White Sox game. They beat the Minnesota Twins 8-7 in a real back-and-forth game. Very exciting.

And now, I'm wrapping up a few things, filling up my water bottles, and getting my gear ready for my run tomorrow. 14 miles which, in comparison to other runs I've done recently, should be relatively easy. But, we'll see what the morning holds...could be easy, could be torture. Who knows? I'll probably end up posting some sort of run report tomorrow.

Then next week, the dreaded 20 miler...UGH. But I'm sure it won't be as bad as I'm fearing. After that, the ramp-down period starts as I head into the marathon.

More later...

Friday, September 7, 2007

One month left...

As of today there's one month left until the Chicago Marathon. Or to be more precise, 29 days, 35 minutes (as I write this now). I downloaded a freeware application called TimeLeft (click here to get it from that gives me a countdown timer on my laptop--it really helps keep me focused on mentally and physically preparing for the marathon.

After my long run last week (18 miles) I'm starting to realize that the mental side of this will be much harder than the physical side. I got a cramp in my foot about 14.5 miles in and started walking at 15 miles. I walked almost all of the last 3 miles--very discouraging. I took an extra day off just to recoup, and got back in the saddle with a 4 miler earlier this week. This Sunday is a drop-back week of 14 miles. Next Sunday is the pinnacle of my training--my 20 mile run. That's the longest I'll do until I run the marathon, and I'm hoping it's a good run which will give me a nice upper before going into the marathon.

I'm hoping to get out today for a few miles, but it's been raining--HARD--off and on this morning. We'll see what the afternoon holds. If nothing else, it'll be the treadmill and a podcast or two...

More later.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The joys of podcasts

As I told a friend in email yesterday...with as much of a techno-geek as I am, I'm surprised that I haven't gotten into podcasts before. That oversight was officially corrected yesterday.

I went on iTunes to look for podcasts related to (what else, right now...) running and specifically marathoning. I found a great series from Runners World that discusses the history and running of the Boston Marathon...preparing for it, what to expect, etc. It's pretty specific to Boston but has some good general tips on distance running also.

I also found another series called Phedippidations which is about marathoning and long distance running in general. The name is a play on Pheidippides, who (according to legend) ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Spartans at the Battle of Marathon.

Phiedippides, therefore, is the guy who got this marathoning madness started in the first place--and he's the guy I curse when I start cramping after lots of miles. I keep thinking "Why couldn't he have just walked???"

But I digress. Podcasting, as I have found, is a great distraction, very educational, and very inspirational. And, with iTunes and the iPod nano, it's about as easy as falling off a log.

More later...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What I did on my 6-month vacation...

OK, so it wasn't really a 6-month vacation, it's just that it's been that long (or almost) since I've written. I've decided to get back in the saddle yet again...nothing big, but just getting restarted. It's been a long, but a good, 6 months. Some highlights (in no particular order):

  • Set a 5K PR of 26:39 (8:34/mile pace) in the Nike+ Rock 'n Run--that put me in the top half of my age/sex division, and almost top half of all finishers (first time!)
  • Set a 4-mile PR of 37:17 (9:19/mile pace) at the 3rd annual 4 on the 4th race
  • Started training for the Chicago Marathon (again...), this time taking it much easier than last year.
  • Took a 12-day cruise to 5 countries bordering the Baltic Sea (see sidebar for links to my pictures!).
  • Traveled, traveled, and traveled some more for work.
  • Adopted a beautiful 2-month old kitten named Bella.
  • Read a lot, hung out a lot, cooked out on the grill a lot, hung out with friends a lot.
It doesn't sound like much but believe me, it's been a lot and it was all fun. Well, most of it anyway. But I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

So, now I'm in the last few weeks of my marathon training program...this past weekend was an 18-mile run. I crashed pretty hard at about 15 miles and had to walk almost all the rest, but this coming Sunday is another opportunity to do better. This week is 16 miles, and then the week after that (September 15th) is my longest run of the program--20 miles.

More (hopefully) to come between now and the 20 miler...