Saturday, December 25, 2010, Season!

"Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present".

To all my fellow runners and readers of RWA I pass this greeting along to you. Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/ secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. From deep within ME, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

I hope you all show up tomorrow morning with your new fancy gear, gizmos and gadgets. We'll carry these gifts for 13 miles (full marathoners) or 9 miles (Half Marathoners). Be sure to dress warm. Don't think we'll have rain or snow, but if the roads are icy, roll over and say Coach Al said don't be an idiot. Otherwise, put on your long johns and I'll see you all on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazing Feets

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have" - Scott Jurek, ultrarunner

You know, if you want to look thin, then you hang out with plump people. If you want to look tall, hang out with smaller folks. If you want to look like a fast runner, then you run with slower runners. If you already think you're a hot-shot endurance runner, read no further!

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia holds the world record for the marathon with an astonishing 2:03:59 time. Broken down, that is a 4 minute, 44 second per mile pace for 26.2 straight miles! OK, it's 105 consecutive laps around a track at 71 seconds per lap. If Haile ran 104 laps and I raced him on his last lap, he'd still beat me by almost a minute!

Yeah, but that's just a normal, ol' marathon. How 'bout Xu Zhenjun of China who not only ran an entire marathon in 3:43, but he ran it backwards! One of my giant pet peeves are people who (in my mind) make fun of the marathon with costumes, juggling, or, yes, running backwards. I don't know how old this cat is, but if he qualified for Boston running backwards, then I'm really going to be hacked.

Speaking of qualifying for Boston, I hear there is a now a small super sub-set of runners who try to qualify for Boston. No big deal you say, but how about trying to get your BQ in the marathon of an Ironman Triathlon after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles. I've qualified before, feeling like I'm at the end of an Ironman, but that's pretty impressive.

But, that's just one marathon...why not try the Quadzilla is Seattle. Four different marathons on four consecutive days in four different Seattle suburbs. That one has some appeal. Wait a, it doesn't.

That's all in one city in one state. Many runners (usually members of the Marathon Maniacs) want to run a marathon in every state. That takes a lot of planning, good vacation benefits from work, and mucho disposable income. A fellow named Larry Macon has done all fifty states...get this...each year for SIX straight years.

Ol' Larry doesn't stop there. He also holds the record for most certified marathons in ONE YEAR. Ready? 105!! The women's record is held by a woman named Yolanda Holder at 101. Holy Crow you say? Well, hold onto your Holy Crows for a minute. Here we go - Larry and Yolanda are going to BOTH run a marathon in Ocala, Florida this December 31st and by then, for both of them, it will be their 106th. THIS YEAR!! Now, all together, HOLY CROW!!

For the ultrarunners among us, one of the Feats of Glory has been a yearly event called the Grand Slam. It consists of four of the toughest 100 mile trail runs (Western States, Leadville, Wasatch, and Vermont) all done within about 8 weeks. Fourteen ultrarunners completed the GS this year, so not sooooo super-duper. Therefore, we handoff to Monica Scholz, who, this year, completed 25 races of 100 miles. I repeat...THIS YEAR! And on top of that, she usually will finish in the top three females. Now, we're getting into crazy super-duper.

Now, we get into the realm of the Twilight Zone of running. The longest certified road race in the world is the 3,100 mile Self-Transcendence Race in New York. The whole philosophy of self-transcendence is the idea that we are capable of more than we might believe. A couple of times, I ran 3000 miles in a year! Incredibly, these competitors run 5,649 laps of a half-mile course with a (I can't write this with a straight face) CUTOFF of 51 days. The course record is 42 days. That’s an average of 75 miles a day for six weeks! And Dean Karnazes made a big deal of 50 marathons in 50 days. How 'bout some self-transcendence Dean?

Continuing in the "I-can't-get-my-head-around-this" events, consider 4000 miles in 111 days - Running through 100 degree heat, intense wind and injuries. Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin took on the challenge of running through the Sahara Desert. They ran through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt along the way, and say that their journey was a life changing experience. Are you kidding me? You have to actually say it was a life changing experience? Now, that I can believe. A crew filmed the entire experience and released a documentary called Running The Sahara in 2007.

OK, one more. Running seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents is something I've often thought about doing...Yeah, right! Sir Randolph Fiennes and Dr. Michael Stroud managed the feat, traveling from Chile to the Falkland Islands, Sydney, Singapore, London, Cairo and New York City on their journey. Now, that's the travel agent I want...and their frequent flyer miles.

Well, for those of you in freezing, sleety, Birmingham, tomorrow we're back to training for our Amazing Race - The Mercedes Marathon. Only 8 weeks to go. In the morning, the full marathoners will do 17 miles and the halfers will do 9. So, apparently, there are many divergent paths we can take to satisfy our running fix, but whatever you choose, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.
Beca Lewis

First of all, I'd like to thank Valerie for opening up Boutwell Auditorium for our Sunday training run last week. We had a warm place to gather before and after our run on a cold morning, PLUS Val provided us Starbuck's coffee after the run!! Now, I can get used to that. Thanks Val. Tomorrow, we're back at Brownell for 15 miles for the full marathoners and 9 for the halfers.

Recently, I heard an interview with Arnold Palmer (the golfer). The interviewer wanted to know why, with all of Palmer's fame and fortune, he was still golfing semi-competitively at age 81. Palmer answered by saying "If you have to ask that question son, you don't understand sport". I wondered how many folks fully understood that answer, but I certainly did, and I loved it. Yeah, I guess it's something like an addiction, but it more defines the person you are. It's deep in your gut.

I'm often asked why I run, and I have yet to give an answer that satisfies me, never mind my inquisitor, and I don't expect to give one here. I've been running for more than three straight decades and have gone through many different phases. I've come a long way since lacing up my shoes in High School and racing around the oval track TWICE and thinking that was a long way. And once HS was finished, I pretty much gave up on running. It wasn't part of me, and the only time I wanted to be part of it was if I was playing some team sport that required me to get from here to there in the quickest way possible. As I got a little older, wider, and less athletic, running sneaked in the back door of my life and took a hold of me and hasn't let go yet.

We all run for some reason, though we may not know exactly what it is. If it's for some extrinsic reward as it's motivation, your running days are probably limited. Trophies, awards, pats on the back, and awed non-running neighbors reach their saturation point and just doesn't provide the kick-in-the-pants it once did. But, if you take the journey along the twists and turns that happen as you pursue the elusive answer, you realize the motivation to get out there when there is no pat-on-the-back is purely intrinsic. You do have it deep in your gut.

When I head out for a run by myself, I'm in charge of pace. I'm in charge of route. I'm in charge of distance. I can, or should I say "used to", run a hard training session so my lungs feel like they want to pop, or I can take a run that doesn't resemble much more than a mosey. I can run for just a little here-to-there, or I can decide that today is a good day for a 20 mile run. Sometimes that good day doesn't turn out to be a good day at all and I struggle home. And mistakes are tough, but because it's deep in my gut, I know how to fail forward. Baring catastrophe there will be many more runs. Many more successes. But each time I stumble there are only endless reinforcements in my mind of how that has never stopped me. Oh yeah, I'm a ton slower, and a mildly technical single track trail may as well be a Black Diamond ski run, but I'm in charge. Running has been a constant for half of my life. I've gone from being fairly competitive at long distances to a point where my racing pace is no different from my just-got-out-of-bed morning run pace. I forget recent events, but my memories of the good old days are etched forever in stone. Etched in my mind and deep in my gut. There are 500 reasons TO run - friends, eating, health, attempts to confuse the Reaper - but these are not reasons WHY I run.

So, when somebody asks me why I run, I guess I can just tell them because running in the rain is one of the most relaxing things I can do...because taking a header on a muddy trail somehow makes me feel good...because getting up at some ungodly hour on a holiday for a run before sunrise feels like the right thing...because running with the temperature well below the freezing point of my spit is completely contradictory to how much I hate cold, yet I'm bundled up and enjoying being out there...but, I think I'll just say I run because it's deep in my gut. I don't understand it completely myself, but as long as I can remember how to lace up my shoes, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, December 4, 2010


"It's not the beginning or the end of a race that counts, It's what
happens in between." - Unknown

Hi guys - Now we're getting into some serious high cotton with our training. Last week, our Sunday Mercedes Marathon group hit 17 miles for the first time. That's a huge accomplishment. You all are doing great and have to be thinking to yourselves "hey, I think I can do this". I know, it still seems like a long way and all I can tell you is that it always seems like a long way. I don't know if it makes you feel better or not, but I still get nervous when the training gets serious and I start asking the question "What the heck am I doing?".There has to be some fear built in to instill the desire to get out there day after day. I hate to hear some of you guys still saying "I'm not a real runner, but...". Then you go out and knock off two hours of running (speed has absolutely NOTHING to do with it!!). George Sheehan once said "The difference between a runner and a jogger is an entry blank". I'm not sure I agree with that, but I do agree when he said "We are all athletes. Some of us are in training and some are not". So, the point is when you absolutely, positively have made the commitment to run the race, then it's time to hunker down and train seriously. If you don't follow a schedule, or if you just don't have the spark to succeed, then the handwriting is on the road - the odds of achieving your goal are pretty slim, but if you're confident that you're putting in the effort, that your schedule is built to allow you to climb that mountain, and if you truly believe in yourself, well then, put it in drive and GO!

You know, Yogi Berra once said "Baseball is 50% physical and 90% mental". I think most goals are somewhere around that ratio. When I made the jump from marathons to ultramarathons, I was a nervous wreck, but I followed the training schedule religiously (praying a lot) and found the biggest hurdle to jump was realizing that I could do this. You change your focus. I think one of the truest aspects of endurance success or failure is the SELF-FULFILLED PROPHECY. There's a quote I like that says "Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can't, you are probably right". Most of the time the reason you run out of gas of a race at 6.2 miles or 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles, is because your mind knows THAT is the end. You're programmed to think that. Running a marathon, or 50 miles, or 100 miles is Yogi's "90%". When asked "How the heck do you run 50 miles?', I usually say "You know how you feel at 20 miles of a marathon? Well, that's how you feel at 35 miles of a 50 miler". The 26 mile point is no different from any other mile marker because the mind has set 50 miles as the finish. When that gun goes off, 99% of us are dueling against ourselves, not the other competitors. Running is not a team sport. You're out there on your own, so how do you sway the odds in your favor?

Well, mentally, you have to eliminate all negative thoughts and try not to be surrounded by folks that just complain all the time about how terrible their running is. Man, I wonder why some of these folks come out. Before they even begin, they've completely talked themselves out of any good effort. Your perception and thoughts lead to a change in feelings which then direct your actions. When your thoughts are negative, either before or during a run, you may become anxious or emotional and your performance starts a downward spiral that looks like one of those World War I bi-planes going down in one of those old war movies. In training, you need to work on your positive thoughts because it's less of a "pressure" situation - you're running with a group, the run is easy, and if your run goes down the toilet, there's always tomorrow. Talk to yourself in positive ways - in training, you can judge every situation that occurs, whether it be good or bad, in a conscious or subconscious way. I've told many of you that I believe your body learns something from EVERY run you do. Sometimes, it may learn NEVER to do a run like that again, but it learns something! So, if you go out too fast or eat a Big Mac before you run or try to do a 17 miler after being out all night, whatever - you take that situation and realize that it was a bad run because of something YOU had control over. Tell yourself "I'm trained to run a good run, I'm strong.". BECAUSE YOU ARE! Mentally, program yourself to believe you are ready to achieve your goal NOW. Think in the present, not in the future. You will improve physically every week, but you have to mentally believe that you are a trained long distance athlete. In the next couple of weeks, I'll talk about visualization and how the mind and body are so well connected that it sometimes can't distinguish what is real and what is imagined. If you keep saying "I CAN do this", and believing it, you've come a long way to shortening that distance to the finish line. Think like an athlete, act like an athlete, believe you are an athlete!!

OK, if you train on Sundays with us PAY ATTENTION - we will meet tomorrow downtown at Boutwell Auditorium (20th St & 8th Ave North). Valarie McLean is arranging to open the lobby so we'll have a warm start/finish. We are going to run one loop (13.1 miles) of the Mercedes course. Those of you training for the half will run to the 7 mile mark with us to Five Points and turn left on 20th street straight back to the start for 8.7 miles. You can view the map at

That's the show for this week guys. Hope all your training is going well, but remember, if it's not, send me an email and we'll figure it out (I'll read a book or something before answering). Meanwhile, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Love my GPS...kinda, sorta!

"Be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there" - Yogi Berra

As we steam through Thanksgiving, and prepare to slam head on into Christmas, I know many of you see me running with my Garmin watch and sigh and say "I want to be like Coach AL and know to the hundreths of a mile how far I've run every step". Well, first of all, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I wrote a piece a while ago about "Don't be like Mike" or anybody else, especially me! Second of all, although I am in love with my watch (my therapist says I'm showing some slow progress but would show more if I tried), it distressingly will show SLIGHTLY different distances over the same courses, so why the heck does this happen?

We've all seen it. You're at the finish of a long training run waiting for the rest of your group to come in. Here comes one of your buddies, flying into the parking lot, staring at his watch. Out of his mouth comes "Damn Garmin", and around the parking lot he goes for 0.17 more miles to get that FULL mileage in. The fact that we've run this same course a thousand times and call it XX miles does not phase our anal runner. OK, that anal runner is me, but that's beside the point. What has GPS technology done to us? Well, for one, it has us questioning every race director that his course is a smidge short or WAY long. Afterall, we've measured this course in our car and now have this fancy $300 watch to tell us EXACTLY how long the course is, and the RD is telling us something different?

Like every owner of a GPS watch, I have this picture of locking into a satellite (actually several) and that satellite has a laser locked on just my head and doesn't waver one iota to let me know to the inch how far I've traveled. So, how come when I run my same course on my morning runs, it might be a couple of hundreths of a mile different (I told you I was anal) with each run. I decided I was going to research this and here's what I found.

Surprising to me, there is no direct line laser beam shot from the satellite to the top of my head that will stick to me no matter where I go. Instead, the GPS on my wrist must recieve a radio signal from at least 3 satellites - the more the better. Now, this is cool - the satellites then "triangulate" me and the distance from my fancy watch is then calculated to EACH satellite. From here, my watch says "here you are". Then, a little time later (usually 1-5 seconds), a virtual Captain Midnight raygun shoots at me and lays a dot in the land. Now, me, being the principle component of this whole deal, literally keeps moving, dots are laid, and my Garmin, like a faithful puppy dog follows me along. and when the dots are connected, the distance is proudly displayed. Man, that is cool, BUT there are a few flies in the soup.

We all know about these Garmin rayguns not being strong enough to penetrate buildings, tunnels, or even a thick canopy of trees. If you plot out your course on the computer after running a downtown route, it might look like you've taken a jolly jog through the buildings instead of along the sidewalks. Like to run the trails? Well, Mister Garmin doesn't like that because he loses you once in a while. Now, when he does spot you down the trail here and there, he will fire another shot at you and connect that dot to the last dot he fired. The fact that you've run 1.2 miles zig-zagging along a single track means nothing to technology that sees the last two dots only 0.3 miles apart. It has done it's job finding you and laying those dots. Technology has improved significantly from those very first Garmin 101's that would lose the signal if the bill of your cap got inbetween the satellites and your brick-size watch, but it still can be frustrating for the aforementioned, trail-running Coach Anal.

Finally, when Garmin's satellite shoots it's raygun at you, it is only guaranteed to land within 3-10 (about 10-30 feet) meters from me, and that's if I'm running with no "blockages". Remember that faithful puppy dog analogy above? Well, sometimes Fido sees a squirell and takes off after it. Fido will return, but he's putting in a little different mileage that his master (you or me). A good test is to go to a 400 meter High School track, run on the inside white line for a mile, go home and plot the run on your computer. You'll see that tracing of your run weaving like a drunk sailor from the infield to the second lane.

One other problem I hear often is with running hills and "how can the mileage be accurate if I go up and down?". Well, even though Coach Anal doesn't like it, the fact is if you run up an 11% grade for a mile (roughly the grade of Pikes Peak), you will run only about 30 FEET longer than you would if you ran that mile on a completely level mile. Ah, the good ol' High School Pathagorean Theorem.

So, on a long run, add up all those extra dots, missed dots, and general "chasing squirrels", you can see that your incredibly accurate GPS has it's limits. BUT, and it is a big BUT, remember, this is a running watch... on your wrist...while you are running! It is not some part of the NATO Strategic Air Command. I still think it's pretty incredible and a very welcome training device compared to the old days when I would finish my run, jump in my car, and clock the distance with my always incredible car odometer.

Ok guys, that's about it from RWA Central this week. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. I got through the whole post and didn't even mention the Alabama/Auburn game. All I can say is WOW! It's going to be hard for UAB/Rice to top that. For any of my out-of-Alabama readers, just ignore the last sentence...this state is sort of manical about it's college football. Meanwhile, my son, daughter-in-law, and granson, Adam, are spending Thanksgiving with us, so I will be absent from our training run tomorrow. Had to choose between running 17 miles or making pumpkin pancakes. Decided to practice the carbo-loading! Surprise!! I will see you all on the acurately measured roads (by my GPS) next week - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

10th Week Training Thoughts

"Be yourself - everyone else is already taken" - Oscar Wilde

OK, it's back to the cold weather early morning runs. I feel like I'm boxing with the weather gods. First, I'm holding them back pretty good (the cold weather has not come), then they get in a few jabs and I begin to falter a little bit (a few mornings of pretty nippy runs), but I come back off the ropes and feel pretty good about myself (a few warmer days). Now I'm hit with a right, then a left and my legs are wobbly (a REAL cold snap). I'm still on my feet, but I know it's just a matter of time before I get hammered and I'm down for the count till March (Winter has arrived). The referee is asking if I'm OK, and all I can tell him is I have nothing left except whining. Brrrrr!

Well, as we begin our 10th training week for the Mercedes folks, we're almost halfway home to February and I'm not hearing much about anyone hurting, so from a coach's standpoint, that's a good thing. Either everyone is doing things right, or you are not running enough to get hurt. A runner asked me the other day about her legs being sore and tired all the time. I reminded her that since we began training, she's run the rough equivalent of a round trip between Birmingham and Atlanta! They should feel tired just about all the time. Not to the point of "ouch", but that athletic soreness that you should just get used to. Follow the schedule. Some other things that might help are to: 1) run on the asphalt road when you can - I know, in Mt Brook you're risking a ticket, but the fact of the matter is that running on the roads will place 2-3X your body weight on your legs, while running on concrete crashes down with 4X your body weight. If you figure each mile is 1000 steps per leg, then you can see how it piles up. 2) Make sure your shoes are properly fitted and maintained. I can't emphasize enough how important the support that shoes give you are - you barefooters can't change my mind. You know, we don't drive cars with solid rubber tires anymore!!! Why? Because technology showed us that air in the tires HELPS!! Anyway, problems with your shoes don't always show up as foot problems. They can manifest themselves as gremlins in your knees, hips, or back. AT LEAST go to Trak Shak for your first pair of shoes. That way you can find out what types of shoes you really need. Of course, you should be buying all your running goods at the TS. This isn't a one-way street guys, and the TS does sooooo much good for the running community. Fortunately, we have our run this Sunday beginning from the TS at 6:30AM, and the store will be open after the run just for us. Discounts and advice galore. If you've been running in the same shoes since we began training, then you have somewhere around 250 miles on them, and THAT time is coming up to think of new shoes. If you don't want to buy now, just see what the right shoe you need is and ask for it for Christmas - see how easy it is?

If you do have aches and pains, the general rule-of-thumb (rule-of-foot?) is that if you can run without limping, then it should be safe to run through it - unless of course you're one of those guys that can run with an arrow in your hamstring without limping. Use SOME common sense!! If you have to limp, back off of the runs that cause the pain (distance, hills, speed, etc). Start with the simplest cures because most injuries are going to be simple inflammations. Use rest, ice (the miracle drug), and anti-inflammatories. Remember, you don't HAVE to do ALL the miles of ALL the training runs. Training is putting a bunch of training runs together to teach your body what to do. Every season, I see runners working themselves into a worrisome frenzy because they missed a training run or two or three. Believe me, your event in February is not going to hinge on a run you were supposed to do in November. Now, you can't miss too many of these runs, or there will be holes galore in your training tapestry. If you have to take time off from running due to an injury, try to substitute another activity. One mile of running equals about 2.5 miles of brisk walking, 3 miles of cycling, or 1/4 mile of swimming. Basically, you want to mimic in time and intensity of your missed run with the related activity. Your body just wants to keep pouring coal into the engine to keep your aerobic system going. No smoke, no mirrors, just basic physiology. One of my favorite rehab quotes (you have to keep these categorized) is: DON'T PULL UP YOUR CARROTS TO SEE IF THEY'RE GROWING - COME BACK CAREFULLY!!!

I decided to plot out the courses for our runs Sunday on . I think I made them easy enough so nobody will be lost past, maybe, Tuesday. No, seriously, I made them simple with few turns.
The first course which both marathoners and half-marathoners will do is 8.6 miles long:

Then, the marathoners will do an additional 6.6 mile course to the Clock Tower and back:

Please, oh please, at least look at the maps. I'm hoping we'll all stay together, but I'm also hoping to get a call soon to be George Clooney's double in his next movie with Nicole Kidman!

Finally, the other morning, I was running and listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe to, and there on The Marathon Show was our own Mary Creel talking about running and nutrition. It was a great interview and you can download it at
OK guys, hope to see you tomorrow, but if not, somewhere, I'll see you on the roads -AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Everything in a Nutshell

"Victory or defeat is not determined at the moment of crisis, but rather in the long and unspectacular period of preparation" - UNKNOWN

Just finished a trail run at Oak Mountain on an absolutely beautiful morning. Last week, it looked like we were headed straight into the throws of winter, but this is the kind of weather that I wouldn't mind if it lasted forever. However, the weather is going to deteriorate from here till springtime (don't get me started), so you may as well get out there and get acclimated when it does turn awful ...I mean colder! I love when some new trainee tells me he (or she) cannot run in the cold weather because their lungs will freeze, so they just train on a treadmill. Well, the last I checked, those treadmill marathons are hard to find! OK, if you're having any trouble or questions getting out there, email me @ and I'll probably just tell you to call 1-800-GET-OVER-IT.

As much as I don't care for cold weather - OK, I absolutely hate it - I must admit that it does help your running. If the air temperature is cooler, your body doesn't have to work so hard to keep the engine heat down. People are always saying to me "I'll bet you can run a mile without even sweating!". The truth is that I can work up a sweat just THINKING of running hard. As you train your body, the sweating mechanism gets more efficient trying to cool you off, so with activity, you actually begin to sweat sooner than the untrained runner. When the ambient temperature is down, you can divert some of that precious energy to other running further, faster, easier! Running is not that difficult, though books, magazines, videos, coaches, etc will make it so hard to understand that Einstein would've given it up. First, you don't need much equipment. Sure, if you're like me, you get sucked into the techno age of watches and gizmos that don't help me run any faster, but give me a nice graph of how slow I actually am running. Shoes, shorts, socks, a couple of shirts and you're good to go. The local weather will dictate what else you might need, but then you can fall into the (other) techno age of waterproof, windproof, breathable, and sweat wicking, etc. It's all just hot fudge on the sundae.

OK, so now you have clothes. From here, it's fueling the body so it can go. Tomorrow, our marathon trainees go 13 miles and from here we enter 12 straight weeks of running a weekly half marathon or more until the Mercedes Marathon!! There are several in our group that had run one or two half marathons in their life and now got the itch to dive into the full. Essentially, I said "Ok, dive in. Saddle up. Hold onto your hat because here we go". We better learn how to get "coal" down the pipe becasue coal is burned and feeds the engine. Despite all the articles in all the running magazines in all the world, here is a pearl from Coach AL - PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING YOU EAT IS CONVERTED TO FUEL!!! Sure, some things are better energy producers than others, but the bottom line is that you have to get some kind of coal to the engine to be burned and it really doesn't matter what! If you eat too little, then amigo, you're on thin ice. Calories in, calories out. Got it? As complicated as some of these "fuels" are, I really believe that this is one of the areas that can benefit runners and endurance athletes as a whole as much as they want to be helped. You can burn carbohydrates really good, fats not so good, and protein is the pits for energy. But, there are different forms of carbos - some convert fast and some much slower, different forms of fats, and the protein you need for recovery. Some combinations are good to store for later use, some are better to get you down the road or trail right now, and some are good for right after you finish. Guys much smarter than me have developed drinks, gels, bars, jelly beans, and whole slew of products to fit your every need. Do you need all this stuff? Goodness no. You'd go broke faster than it takes you to do your run. My love is endurance. I want to go far, and lately, don't really give a flip how fast I get there. So, I look for what products will keep me from hitting the wall like a raw egg hits the floor. I know that and are great sites if you're interested in the physiology of this stuff. I love it and I really don't understand why everybody doesn't!

So, now you've got clothes and some kind of fuel. Next is the hardest thing to get, and the hardest thing to get is going. It's really pretty simple...right foot, left foot, and repeat a few thousand times. When new trainees want to know if I'll teach them to run, I usually tell them God taught them how to do that. I'll just teach them to run further. (If that doesn't work, Danny & Micki Haralson have an absolutely great program called COUCH TO 5K. You can check it out at .) Anyway, every week you add to previous training and pretty soon (well, relatively soon) you're doing distances you didn't think you could do. You're doing this because just like that efficient sweating mechanism that has me sweating just thinking about running, all the other systems are getting efficient at burning fuels, getting blood to the muscles, getting oxygen to the cells, strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and most of all you're building your confidence that "Yes, I can do 26.2".

So, in a nutshell, there it is. Train right and you will improve. I kind of bounced around this week violating any writer's creed to have a direct point you're trying to get across. My direct point is always the same...enjoy what you're doing, work as hard as YOU want, and above all, thank the heavens above you have the ability to have a BAD run.

Tomorrow, our Mercedes Marathon group lines up to do 13 miles as we enter Coach AL's 12-week-whirlpool-of-doom. For the next 3 months, we will do a half marathon or greater EVERY Sunday morning. So, hold on to your hats, kiss your family goodbye and tell them you'll see them on the other side. No, it won't be bad at all. Every week the body adapts to the stresses you put upon it, and getting out there week after week is the key to a successful long distance runner. Our half marathoners will be doing 7 miles. Remember, next week, we will meet at the Trak Shak in Homewood for our run, followed by our exclusive Sunday morning shoe and clothing sale. Thanks to Val, Jeff, and Scott for putting this on.
Have a great week guys, and I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where's that Extra Hour of Sleep?

"The most valuable function performed by the Federal Government is entertainment" - Dave Barry

Hi guys - Before I forget, be sure to set your clocks back one hour tonight. If you forget, I'm not sure if you'll get to the run an hour early or an hour late, but I guess you'll be able to tell by the number of cars and runners in the Brownell parking lot. If the parking lot is packed and nobody's there, you're late - wait a little bit, the crowd is coming back to the parking lot. If you get there and there is not a soul to be seen and there are NO cars, you're early - once again, wait a little bit and on-time folks will be arriving. I THINK it'll be lighter in the morning, which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good things are that we'll get an extra hour's sleep, we'll get to start at a time when the cars on Lakeshore Drive can see us, and it'll warm up faster.

That last one is the bad thing - how the heck do you dress when the temperature is 30 something when you start and 50 something when you finish? The answer is NOT to overdress! When ol' Coach AL is out there before we start, complaining about the cold and threatening to cancel the training run, think about how you feel. If you're comfortable standing around listening to my whining, then you're overdressed. Dress like it's 10-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. I guarantee you'll warm up before we go a full mile. The best method is to dress in layers with the top one being one that you can take off and tie around your waist. Just be aware that if I see any guy out there with a jacket tied around his waist, he MAY be subject to some constructive coaching comments he may not want to subject himself to again! IN no case, wear a thick cotton top. Cotton can absorb up to 17X it's weight in sweat (or rain). You just don't know the joys of running until you're out there on a cold morning, completely soaked, and your butt is so freezing that you're close to crying. I think a good technical wicking shirt is one of the most important things you can invest in for running, especially for the cooler (or as I call it...COLD!!) weather. Others items at the top of the list would be shoes and windbriefs (Ok, jogbras for you girls). Yes, these come ahead of shorts - as a matter of fact, there have been some mornings where I would have rather forgotten my shoes than my windbriefs! If it's cold, you have to protect your head (toboggan hat) and hands (gloves). There are a couple of "Thermostats" I've learned along the way to try to control your body heat as it gets warmer during the run. The first two is that something like 60% of your body heat is given off by your hands and your head, so by removing your gloves and/or hat as you run will lower your over-heating. Also, wearing a tech shirt with a zipper works like an air-conditioner. Get hot, zip it down...getting cooler, zip it back up. How simple is that? Finally, these Mobean Sleeves are getting pretty popular. They instantly make a short sleeve shirt into long sleeves. When you warm up, pull 'em up or down. I really haven't figured it out yet. They're too bulky to stick in your shorts. Years ago, when I would run a cold marathon or Ultra, I would wear long tube socks on my arms and trash them when I would warm up, but these fancy sleeves are way too expensive to throw in the dumpster, so I'm still not sold on them. One of the few inventions that rank higher than the wheel are HotHands. For about a buck, you get two disposable chemically heated bags that slip into your gloves to keep you toasty. They last for about 8 hours, so after the run, you put them in your jacket pocket, and you're set for the rest of the day.

One other quick clothes item. I was asked about a good rain jacket. If you 've looked for one, I'm sure the prices made you gasp the same way the first time you saw gas for $3/gallon. But, about two years ago, I found a waterproof, breathable (essential for running) jacket at for $32!! It works great. It's actually a cycling jacket so it's cut a little tight, therefore order at least one size larger than you think you need. They have a few different styles so it's worth checking out! I think the price is about $35 now.

We have finalized our Trak Shak Shoe Clinic Run. It will be in two weeks on Nov 21st. On that Sunday, we will leave from the Trak Shak in Homewood instead of Brownell @ 6:30AM. We will put in our scheduled mileage and return to the TS and gobble up their shoe deals just in time for the Thanksgiving runs. A big thank you to Valarie, Jeff and the whole TS staff for opening up for us on a Sunday morning.

Ok guys, that's about it from RWA Central for this week. The NY City Marathon is tomorrow and I'd like to wish one of our Sunday trainees, Cathy P., a big GOOD LUCK and hopes she dresses warmly. You can see the marathon recap Sunday on NBC from 1-3 CST. Also, this weekend, Coach Prince Whatley is somewhere in the Alabama woods running the Pinhoti 100 Mile Run. I've done that distance several times, but it still flabbergasts me when somebody I know does it. I worked the 60 Mile aid station at that race once and was amazed to see ultrarunners from a different perspective. In reference to last week's blog, Prince said as much as he likes the sunrise too, he didn't want to be lapped by the sun and see TWO sunrises, so he's hoping for sub 24 hours!

OK, now I'm really gone - I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, October 30, 2010


"Trying to sneak a fastball past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.
Joe Adcock

Had to get a World Series quote in there before another baseball season sadly comes to an end. To me, football is just a bridge between baseball seasons. Not the general accepted contention here in the Southeast, but neither is my feeling that the real futbol is the round one the rest of the world calls soccer. Boy, I'll bet I woke up a lot of folks with that one!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a morning runner. Well, let me rephrase that...for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed morning running much more than any other time of day. When I began running in the late 70's, I worked in a hospital that had showers and so I developed the habit of running at noon. Didn't matter if it was January with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark, March with thunderstorms looming on the horizon, July with it's oppressive Alabama heat, or October with it's chilly fall winds. Noontime would come and out the door I would go. All during this time though, I had always cherished my early morning weekend runs. Now, my current job dictates that my weekday runs must mostly be done before work, which means a 4:40 alarm in order to give me enough time to run, shower, dress, and get to work before my patients show up. It really has come as a blessing because the early morning has a unique aire about it that most other times of day have no opportunity to match. It's a feeling from deep down that each day should start with a run that begins before the day's birth at sunrise and ends around the time the sun begins rising and marks another of the earth's revolution. Now, don't get me wrong - this doesn't mean that I happily spring out of bed like a male Mary Poppins, rarin' to go, but once I'm out there, it's like being surrounded by an old friend. Besides the obvious of no traffic, cooler temperatures, and muffled sounds, I have been blessed with memories that now I know will last a lifetime.

One morning while vacationing in Seattle, I got up before the sun to run along the Puget Sound. When I got to the Sound, I decided to turn right (East). After running a few miles, the sky was beginning to lighten in front of me , so I stopped like Forrest Gump and felt it was time to turn around. When I turned, there in front of me was the most unforgettable, majestic sight - Mt. Ranier (which, even at 60 miles away is a VERY formidable site) was golden with the morning sun rays shining on it's upper half. I had to stop dead in my tracks, because to continue running was to do this view a severe injustice.

Another vacation early morning run had me in Paris, France. One dark, Sunday morning, I ran from my hotel to the Louvre Museum - nobody was in the plaza at the time. It was all mine. I then ran through the Louvre Gardens, still probably much the same that Louis XVI would see had he been a morning runner. From Louis' garden, I headed up the middle of the Champs-Elysees...I mean slap dead middle of the road!! Even Lance Armstrong didn't have it more to himself when he won the Tour de France! This led to the Arc-de-Triumph. As I circumvented the Arc, dawn began to accompany me and I took a spoke off the rotary that sent me on direct line to the Eiffel Tower. Parisians are famously late sleepers, and because of that, I was ALONE at the Tower. It was surreal to be next to (and under) one of the most famous landmarks in the world, and not to have to share it with anyone or anything except the first rays of this glorious Sunday morning. I ran back to the hotel on a path along the Seine River, passing Notre Dame, picturing all the spirits of past starving artists that have tried in vane to capture this same sight I was embracing. When I got back, my wife said "let's go to Mass at Notre Dame" (the Cathedral, not the school). As I sat in the French spoken Mass, I looked at my watch and it was 9 o'clock. I thought about all I had done and seen on this morning - so unbelievable!

I've seen lunar eclipses, blood red moons, full moons so bright you didn't need any other light to see the road or trail , shooting stars, at least 6 of the other planets in our solar system, and of course, the first rays of a giant red, summer sun. I've been the first to run down a forest trail on a morning filled with dew, spiderwebs, and countless noises of critters unseen. I've run with friends and I've run with strangers, but most of the time alone, and each time, sunrise was my constant companion.

When you run is sometimes chosen out of necessity, sometimes out of choice. For me, I'll run whenever I can, but given the choice, let me begin my run during the last gasps of night so that I may greet the sun and a brand new, glorious day.

And so tomorrow morning, our Mercedes trainees will greet the sunrise with a 13 miler for the full marathoners and 6 miles for the half marathoners. I can't seem to get in touch with Valerie at the Trak Shak, so for now, our run from the TS next week is a no go. Stay tuned for further news. Have a Happy Halloween and don't forget...wait...forget to put your front light on so you won't get any little gremlins and you get to keep all the candy. Yeah, good plan. Hey, we're runners. We need the extra calories!! I love rationalization. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Registration Mania

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way.
Robert Kiyosaki

Holy Crow! Holy Mackerel! Sufferin' Succotash! Great Caesar's Ghost! Good Grief! I AM SO VERY GLAD I DIDN'T QUALIFY FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON! Now, don't get me wrong. Boston is one of the top two running events I have ever done, and I've done it 5 times, and would gladly do it EVERY year, but the running Gods have toyed with my anatomy and qualifying has become a distant memory. In years past, I would fire up the computer on the first day that I could happily send my money to the Boston Athletic Association, be one of the first to register and then would know for six months where I would be on the third Monday of April. The last time I ran Boston was 2007 and from the opening of registration until the day the race filled to capacity was exactly 183 days. Last year, it filled in two months, clearly reflecting the popularity of this most prestigious race. So, it was evident that if you had already run a qualifying time you better break the piggy bank a little sooner and get your entry in. Had I qualified this year, I would have circled October 18th on the calendar as the first day of registration, hustled home after work, got on the computer, dialed in the BAA site and seen the message "RACE ENTRIES CLOSED". I think initially I would have stared at the screen thinking I was looking at last year's site, but somewhere and sometime, reality would set in and I would have to accept the fact that Boston filled it's 26,000 slots in 8 hours!!! Never would you think this could happen. I mean, other than the Olympics, Boston is the only race that you have to meet a qualifying time in order to have the opportunity to enter. Now, about 2500 slots go to charities, but the rest are fast, honest qualifiers! I mean, saying you're going to Boston puts you in a select group - even folks that know absolutely nothing about running have heard of Boston. I honestly feel so deeply sorry for 1) all those folks that reflect my hypothetical scenario above, however, for them it was painfully real, and 2) all those that set sites on near marathons, like New York and Marine Corps or Huntsville, sure that they would qualify there and then register for Boston, and are now watching those plans go up in smoke.

I don't know what should be done to make this right and fair, but just talking as a mid-pack, multiple Boston qualifier, I know the discipline that runners hit the road with once the Boston Bug infects you. Nobody should be subjected to working hard and believing they will get their chance only to see it evaporate because their fingers were not as fast as their legs. There are many probabilities of what the BAA will do in the future to help level the playing field for competitors: lowering the qualifying times, have some sort of lottery, have a rolling registration over several months where they fill a portion of the slots each month with a new registration. Who knows? Certainly not me.

This is not a new problem. It just happened on the largest stage in the fastest time imaginable. Most of the major Destination marathons, like Disney, Marine Corps, Chicago, etc. will fill their slots quickly. New York has a tough lottery - you enter and you pray! The Western States 100, the "Boston" of 100 mile Ultramarathons, has you run a qualifying 50 miler, then register for a lottery, then work so many hours doing volunteer work at another ultra before gaining entry! Locally, the Rocket City Marathon - a race that you could ALWAYS register at the expo the night before, sold out in a few weeks. Mountain Mist, a tough 50K TRAIL race that I've done 7 times, filled their 350 places in less than 3 days!!! I recently read about an Ultra Marathon in the midwest that every year had trouble getting even 150 entrants, so this year they advertised that entries would be capped at 250 - they filled it up in less than 2 weeks!

It's crazy to begin training for a race many months away that you're not sure you'll even get in to. It's crazier when you do everything right for Marathon's biggest stage; work your ever-living butt off for maybe a couple of years, finally qualify, and get shut out by technology. Maybe they should step back and take mail-in registration only (that's my freaky long-term memory saying "it was better in the old days"). I guess they'll go back to tougher standards. That seems to be the most logical. I think Boston is an experience far beyond any other marathon, and is one every serious runner should get to immerse themselves in at least once. But, let's be fair. Boston is not a meant to be an "everybody that can run gets a ribbon" race. It's a century-long tradition that has maybe lost site of it's exclusiveness in an effort to get more runners (hence, more bucks) in. Now, by lowering their qualifying times in a time when marathoning is at it's height of popularity, those that could qualify at faster standards are left stranded. Maybe it should be a case of quality over quantity. Having run it, it's easier for me to say that because I never would have qualified with tougher standards (once I qualified by 12 seconds!), but I never dreamed that one day I might meet their very special times and still get shut out. Nope, never would have dreamed it!

I feel a hurt for all my friends, near and far, that gave it all they had in races past and planned for qualifiers in races future, that have now seen their Boston dreams crushed. My buddy, Ken, got in because he registered on his iphone during a business meeting - kind of a "fight fire with fire" analogy - he fought technology with technology!

Well, dream on my friends. One saying I hate is "It is what it is", but I guess that's what it is!

Ok guys, that's it for this week from RWA Central. For those of you training tomorrow for the Mercedes (guaranteed not to close it's entries), we will doing 9 miles for the full and 7 miles for the half. We're planning a Shoe Clinic at the Trak Shak on Sunday, November 7th. We'll plan to have the Sunday group leave from there on that day. I'll have more info after talking to Val at the TS, so stay tuned. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, October 16, 2010 works

"It's the road signs, 'Beware of lions.'"
Kip Lagat, Kenyan distance runner, during the Sydney Olympics, explaining why his country produces so many great runners

Hi guys - OK, I broke out the long sleeve this morning. Orion is overhead. Halloween is around the corner. Guess I have to concede that winter is on the way. I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it. They say there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, so be sure you're stocked up. In the coming weeks, I'll write more specifically about materials and what you're going to need when it really gets cold (as opposed to this coolness that I call cold). Just be sure to stay away from cotton - it's the material from the devil! If you're running or walking short, well then, OK, but if you're doing a long training session, once you start to sweat, it's curtains! The sweat won't dry. It'll get cold. You'll be miserable, and even a hot shower and coffee won't warm you up! Once again, I plug the Trak Shak because that's where you'll get the best advice if you really don't know what to look for. Those guys are trained, they run, they want to help, and if you're with TNT or the Birmingham Track Club, you get a discount.

Well, tomorrow TNT's Nike Women's Marathoners and Half Marathoners hit the streets of San Francisco. I ran with several of the trainees last week, and I know they're nervous wrecks right now and it's almost impossible for any coach to calm them down - Good luck Prince! Some nervous energy is actually a good thing, but worrying yourself sick is definitely going to be throwing the pre-race balance towards the dark side. For you guys training for the Mercedes Marathon and Half, just remember that every time you lace on your shoes and pound the pavement, your body is going to learn something about endurance training - how to produce energy, how to strengthen ligaments and muscles, how to have the most efficient stride, how to "go" in the woods, how to spit know, everything! The point is that it does learn and adapt and there's no magic about it. As we get stronger, the long distances don't get shorter, but they do get easier. The muscles don't just get stronger, but they learn to fuel the muscles more efficiently so you're getting more coal in the engine.

Tomorrow, many of you training for Mercedes will be doing 11 miles for the first times in your lives. And this is only the fifth week of training. It sure makes a coach look good when you improve, but most of the time, my most important duty is to make sure you don't try to run too fast or do too many miles, or forget to drink. George Sheehan once said "We are all's just that some of us are in training and some us are not.". Well, now you're in training and the number one, most important element of training is consistency. We've got essentially 4-5 months of training weeks, and these weeks should consist of one long day and 4-5 other days that are shorter, easier days. Don't worry about speed. It literally takes years to build up the tensile strength in your ligaments and tendons to take the pounding of a HARD marathon. But we're not talking about HARD marathons. We're talking about learning to run a very long distance. When I first started coaching marathoners 26 years ago, generally, I was coaching runners who had run for a couple of years and had done 10k's and Half Marathons. But then, in 1995, I was asked to become Leukemia's TNT Coach. At first, I didn't have much faith in a program that was going to take folks that literally had never gone over 4-5 miles and whip them into shape to run a marathon in 4 -5 months. They didn't even offer half marathon events back then. So, it was a learning experience for me too, and what I learned was that if you slow down (always run at a conversational pace), run moderate, and not high, mileage, ice your aches and pains right away, pay attention to proper athletic nutrition, and stay in contact with your coaches so your schedule can be flexible, then it was amazing what you can accomplish. I'll bet the success rate of the TNT runners that Ken & I have coached has been at least 95%. But. coaches don't do the sweating - we just tell you the things that will make you sweat. After the months of training are over and you're standing at the starting line of some race in some town, just let your body take over. As far as it's concerned, this is just another in a long line of training runs that you've been doing for week after week. There's no magic, no voodoo, no secret supplement. Just good old fashioned hard work and grit.

Yes, there's a ton of hoopla going on around you, and you should be excited, but scared, no! If you're new to long distances and train with us at the Sunday training sessions, you'll be surrounded by runners who have done this many times, but are still learning. But you know what they like to do 2nd best (to running)? They like to talk to new runners about running. So, ask questions. I'm not saying all the answers are 100% accurate, but they are helpful. Once, we all took our first steps just like you and were scared witless. Now we're just witless. Show up, ask questions, eat your vegetables, don't run with scissors and most of all, pat yourselves on the back for getting that first foot out the door. When that San Francisco group crosses the finish line tomorrow, they'll wonder what all the fear was about. They'll be tired as all get out, swear they'll never run another marathon (that promise will last about 10 minutes), and be proud beyond words what they just accomplished. Until YOU cross that finish line, you'll just have to take my word.

Ok, so for you Mercedes guys, tomorrow is 11 miles for the full and 7 miles for the half. Check out the 11 mile map at Now, remember, when I reference a map, this is the map AFTER the 7 miles we do every week, so this map will be a 4 mile map to add onto that initial 7. I hate to keep repeating that, but it saves me answering a few predictable emails.
Hope to see a crowd out there. Dress warm and I'll see you on the road - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

(Don't) Be Like Mike

"If you believe that if you tie a clove of garlic around your neck that it will help you, then it will help you" - One of my Grandma's "grandmaisms"

Throughout the many years that I have been training runners to do marathons, I have been always asked, "What kind of shoes do you wear?", "What do you eat before running?", "What kind of vitamins do you take?", "What's your favorite shape pasta?". And that's just the tip of the inquisitive iceberg. We all believe that if we just do what successful folks do, then we will be successful (not that I was all that successful). Doesn't matter if it's athletics, business, or watching Emeril do the cooking (I think it actually helps my cooking if I yell "BAM"). Do it somebody else's way and Whammo, we can do it too! BE LIKE MIKE! If Mike ties that clove of garlic around his neck, then I'll do it and I can slam dunk too! If my running partner runs 90 miles a week, and recently ran a 2:58 marathon, then if I double my mileage up from 45 miles/week, I'm bound to improve my 4:40 marathon time! My Grandmother also used to say about that clove of garlic that if you wear it around your neck, you wouldn't get a cold - it's true, but I think it's because nobody will get close to you!

I have always tried (though also not always successfully) to keep things as simple as possible when coaching runners. After all, what is there to running...right foot, left foot, and repeat a few thousand times, and there you are a few miles down the road. There are many more ways to mess somebody up then there are to help them. God taught you how to run when you were just a wee one, so don't let a coach drill into you that you have to change too much. I think the main purpose of a coach is to keep you from doing the wrong things that will send you down the road to ruin and hope that you figure out what most of the right things are. But, I think a lot of the problem happens when you hang around with some runners who have been out there doing their thing for a long time and, wanting to do "their thing" too. You follow their program, eat like them, wear their shoes, and feel like this has got to be the right answer to get the results you want in the fastest time possible.

"What's the best shoes?" is the question I'm asked the most. I don't have any idea what the best brand is. I do think that if you stay with a known brand name, you'll pretty much do ok. In my three decades of running, I've probably worn every brand shoe, and honestly, I couldn't tell you much difference. Now, I'm in Nike Air Pegusus's (Pegusi?). But, through the years, I've sworn by (and at) Saucony and New Balance mostly. At their specific time, they were THE answer. Now, I know, the brand is not as important as what YOU require for your specific needs. Don't worry about what I wear, or what your coach wears, or the latest fastest Kenyan wears. Don't go barefoot because it's the latest nut-case craze fueled by a book about some peyote stoned Indian wanna-be. Find what works for you. George Sheehan, the late, great philosopher of running said we are all an "experiment of one".

As I said in a previous blog, learn the basics...I mean really learn them for yourself. When I was in Therapy School, I used to try to come up with some nifty rhyme, or acronym, or something to help me remember all those strange nerves and muscles. One day, one of my Professors, who was also a friend, asked me "Why don't you just learn it?". Hmmm, novel idea and good advice. So, why don't you just learn what's good for you? Don't mirror somebody else. Don't go against things that are right for you. Learn how to be a good runner from those that made mistakes before you, but gain experience by learning about what works for you. A successful athlete, salesperson, carpenter, whatever, learned how to do their thing by finding what worked best for them. Sure, ask for advice, learn by observation, read some books and magazines, but don't do things blindly like Mike just because you want to "Be like Mike". Learn to be you and you might just wind up being better than Mike!

By the way, my favorite shape pasta is Orzo, but it's followed closely by Rigatoni.

That's about it for this week from the Batcave. Hope to see a bunch of you Birmingham folks out there tomorrow with our Mercedes training group. I understand there was a pretty big crowd out there last week while I was in Boston. Nine miles for the full and 6 miles for the half. I'll see you all down the road - AL

For those of you that may have a tiny bit of interest, and as a follow up to last week's blog, the day after we left Boston, ADAM TOOK THE FIRST INDEPENDENT STEPS OF HIS LIFE!! As Confucius said "Every journey begins with a single step". See you down the road Adam - Grandpa

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cross Training at Grandpa Bootcamp

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
- Walt Disney (1901-1966)

Ok, so while my son and daughter-in-law are vacationing, they asked my wife and I if we would babysit our nearly one-year-old Grandson, Adam for one week. So, as they used to say in the old Dragnet TV show: This is the City: Boston Massachusetts. I work here...I am a Grandpa.The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent...Well, actually none of the names have been changed, but it's a great beginning to a TV show!

Holy Crow! I thought this would be snap. I trained for over 30 years for this (actually 63 years, but many of those were, shall we say, less aerobic) and Adam has been training for less that a year. I've got a ton of experience, know how to complete long endurance events, and everything he does is something new - therefore, he is breaking one of the cardinal rules of endurance sports...NEVER DO ANYTHING NEW! I try to pace myself and he is full-bore-ahead every waking minute. I thought squats were good, but I guess several hundred a day, plus many of those combined with lifting a 22# weight has been doing a number on these trail and road worn legs. But, it's got to be beneficial to my long distance training, right? So, we're up early and Adam gets some early pre-event nourishment (I, on the other hand, am too involved with his breakfast to see after my needs, and so I hit the first training session in carbo debt). We then dive right into some fairly light work of moving all around the house at a leisurely pace, but ever so imperceptibly, the pace picks up and the next thing you know, we're headed for places not allowed at a brisk pace, with Grandpa in hot pursuit. At times, it's easy to lift up this sack of hay, but other times, when he's not so willing to leave what he's doing, it's like picking up an egg yolk! No kicking and screaming, just not willingly helping in any way at all. Then, Adam, who is not too adept at this walking thing (actually hasn't taken an independent step in his whole life!), wants to test out his bipedal motion, so Grandpa acts like his pacer and walks alongside, hunchback style, grasping his hand for balance (his and mine). This goes on room-to-room, with periodic stops to see if this drawer opens, or this cabinet is child-proofed yet, or this pile of books needs pushing over. Finally, after the initial two hour salvo, he hits the first rest break and a truce is called for an hour or so while he naps. I try to pick up the debris left behind, try to take a short (very non-productive) run, shower, and am ready for the second leg of this day's stage. He begins with getting his legs loose by darting around at short intervals interspersed with periods of checking his gear (toys). He then has a balanced lunch and we head for the great outdoors (no time for my nourishment, thus again breaking a cardinal rule of my own - keep those calories coming in!). So, I lift the stroller from the back of the car, swearing this thing is built so there is no way to lift it with one arm while holding the squirming aforementioned egg yolk in the other, slowly cramping arm. Now, we hit the park for a couple of hours of playing on the swing, pushing his wagon, picking up acorns (lots of bending), and sitting in the sand pit trying to build sandcastles faster than Adam can destroy them. Falling in the mud is also great fun for both of us as I picture a definite affinity to trail running in his future. Of course, all of these changes of venue involves Grandpa to again and again lift the growing trail runner. Starting to feel my energy levels recede like low tide, but all this is great practice for my mental "push-through-the-wall" encounters in my runs.

And so home we head for another well deserved rest (nap). I am pooped and put my feet up hoping the blood realizes that it has to circulate around a few times to replenish the energy used - oh wait, maybe I better eat something quick - good, I find some pretzels! After about an hour and a half mental recharging (me) and physical recharging (Adam), we are at it for the final joust of the day. It's like the final hill of the marathon - it's best to just take a deep breath and pace yourself up it 'cause it ain't gonna go away. Adam has some secret white energy drink that is made from a powder that says "formula". Ah-ha, now I know what I need on those long trail runs, but that's another blog. So, we tear into another couple of hours of swinging and lifting and playing on the floor and climbing under furniture, until finally, it's supper time. I think I'm finding his secret - the doggone kid eats super-healthy!! I mean he has this formula thing 5 times a day, then carrots and sweet potatoes and spinach and broccoli, not to mention bunches of bananas, mangos, and blueberries. The secret weapon must be beets, because there is nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, compared to poopy diapers after a full serving of beets - Holy looks like he swallowed purple dye! Beets in...Beets out!! It takes special internal fortitude for a Grandpa to say "Good Job" when you're changing this diaper, believe me! "Holy Crap" is more like it, I just have my doubts how holy it is!

I didn't realize I had signed on for a duathlon, but here comes the swim portion of the competition, otherwise known as Bath-time! I thought the egg-yolk was hard to pick up. Well, let's just lather up that yolk with soap and see how hard it is to pick up while on your knees and the yolk is happily splashing away. Now, he's in the tub, but I swear, he's not much wetter than I am! Finally, dry and in clean PJ's, we begin to settle down. The whole chaos of the day, the constant pinball-like atmosphere, the mental push of "did-I-do-everything", comes to this moment. Adam is in my arms, drinking his last bottle of the day. We are in his dimly lit room and while I rock him, I am reading him a bedtime story that by week's end I will have memorized and can recite with my eyes closed. He is drifting off and I am softly singing him the A-B-C song (it's the only thing close to a lullaby that I know). As I kiss him on the forehead and place him in his crib, I thank God for so many things... And I can't wait till he wakes in the morning and we go at it again.

And so my friends, tomorrow we wing our way back home to Birmingham while you Mercedes trainees do 9 miles (full) or 4 miles (half). Be kind to Coach Ken without me there. I hope you all have had a good week running and training in the (finally) cooler weather and next week I will see all of you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world."

Friday, September 24, 2010


"In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few" - Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Last Sunday, we started a new training group for the Mercedes Marathon. The new runner is always naive to the process of developing this new skill as is any newcomer in any arena of life. They tread very tentively onto unfamiliar ground - "will it be solid, or will I sink like a rock in quicksand?".

It's hard to believe, but for the past 25 years, I have been running with new marathon trainees at least once a week with my various training groups, spanning the Vulcan Marathon, the Mercedes Marathon and my many years with TNT. Their inquisitiveness never fails to fuel my desire to lead them through the thickets and briars of running long distance events. And it also feeds my flame for training, not much different from when I was a Physical Therapy Clinical Instructor with UAB. I always felt that the student's enthusiasm and sponge-like desire to improve kept my professional fires burning.These new runners reflect their enthusiasm that spreads to all levels of runners, no matter what our level of experience. It's a joy to partake in this symbiotic relationship where we all feed off, and benefit, of one another.

I want to say how proud I am of all of you TNT guys that are currently raising money for the Leukemia Society this year. Some of you triathletes complete your event this weekend doing a 70.3 in Georgia (Good Luck Bob), and you runners have San Francisco and Chicago coming up very shortly (YIKES - Chicago is in 2 weeks). Recently, TNT has been having recruitment meetings for the Winter marathon season, and after sitting in those meetings for many years, watching the "let's pump you up" video, I realize how easy it is to lose sight of your real purpose for being out there. The marathon is simply the vehicle you choose to raise money so that you can help to wipe leukemia out. Every 5 minutes, someone else is diagnosed with leukemia, and that's AFTER TNT has raised over a billion dollars for research in the past 20 or so years! The survival rate has increased from 4% to 80% in some forms of blood-borne cancers, but that's not nearly good enough. Heck, 99% is not good enough. You are all bricks in a giant wall. Each one of you is so important to this crusade. Whether you run a 3 hour marathon, or struggle to the finish line just before the sun goes down, that's trivial compared to the good you are doing just by willing to put yourselves on the line. I was with TNT for 15 years, and was always astounded by the continued enthusiasm that the groups showed year after year. Although I only follow TNT peripherally now, I will continue to help you all I can to achieve your physical goals and honor the hard work you have done to reach your fund raising goals. I salute any athlete raising money for ANY charity and I'm sure the same sentiments can reflect on all those charities. I love running and if it can be used to kill the Devil, well then, keep running! Keep running like somebody's life depends on it!!

I know sometimes you wonder how your individual fund raising can really make much of difference. Believe me, it does. The following is one of my favorite stories:

An old man was picking up objects off the beach and tossing them out into the sea. A young man approached him and saw that the objects were starfish. "Why in the world are you throwing starfish into the water?"
"If the starfish are still on the beach when the tide goes out and the sun rises high in the sky, they will die", replied the old man.
"That is ridiculous. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. You can't really believe that what you're doing could possibly make a difference!"
The wise old man picked up another starfish, paused thoughtfully, and remarked as he tossed it out into the waves, "it makes a difference to this one."

You are all making a difference guys - we are all starfish throwers!!

OK guys, that's it from Planet Al this week. I'm back up in Boston this week for a week of baby sitting Adam. He's one week short of a year old, and we're going to see if both Adam & I can survive a weeklong edition of Grandpa Bootcamp. This is going to be a ball!! Have a great week guys, and I'll soon see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Friday, September 17, 2010

...And Now It Begins

"The distance is nothing; it's only the first step that is difficult."
Marquise du Deffand

Hi guys - Beautiful, pre-dawn run with Ken this morning was one of those mornings you wish you could bottle...good company, warm with tolerable humidity, rolling terrain. Except for a not-so-graceful fall on some road trash, it was great. The fall would have been a typical trip on the trail, but to fall on pavement is a little bit of a downer (ha! Downer! Get it?).

Tomorrow (Sunday) we begin our Annual Trak Shak Mercedes Training and Wow! I've been getting a lot of emails about training with us for both the Mercedes Full and Half marathons which will be February 13, 2011. We begin our training at the Brownell Building in Homewood/Mt Brook . If you're using GPS to find us, use 813 Shades Crest Pkwy, Mt Brook as the address. For some crazy reason, Lakeshore Pkwy changes names for about one block before becoming Mt Brook Pkwy!?! Anyway, the answer to the question I get the most is NO, there is no cost to training with us and it's well worth the price. Basically, we provide a place for runners and run/walkers to meet 1x/week and magically transform you into a long distance machine. Well, it doesn't happen quite that easily, but training with a group sure does help a heap. You can find the training schedule at

I have placed the training maps on the right side of my web Blog site ( If you receive this by email or a reader, you will have to go to my site to view the links to display the maps. All groups will always begin together running towards Green Springs.

1)We leave the parking lot at 6:30AM sharp.
2)I'll usually make a few comments about distance, etc, but nobody listens.
3)I run about a 10:30-11 min/mile pace and encourage most runners to surround me and ask questions. If we can talk while we're running, then it is a good pace.
4)Ken does his run/walk at a slower pace and usually does 7 minutes of running and then one minute of walking.
5)We put coolers of Powerade or water out about every 2-3 miles, and if you really want to become an endurance athlete, learn to drink at EVERY water stop!
6)We have many runners training for different marathons, some coming up soon, some many months away - BUT we're all in the same boat. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're one of the TNT guys training on Sunday instead of Saturday, you are more than welcome, but make sure I know the schedule YOUR coach gave you, just so we're on the same page, but just know that there's a ton of experience out there.
7)Any money you find during the Sunday run MUST BE GIVEN TO ME!

We take a very laid back approach and focus the training mostly towards the first timer. As I continue to write this blog weekly, I will put tips along the way, but I'll hide them discreetly so you have to read the whole daggum thing. I do not want RWA to turn into some boring training manual. I want it to remain a boring reflection of my weekly ramblings and whims! OK, so everyone just calm down. As P. Diddy said after completing the New York Marathon - "It ain't no publicity stunt". Except for a little better grammar, I couldn't have said it better myself. The training program we put in front of you is pretty trimmed down to get you to the finish line in good shape, but you still have to burn the coal in the engine. None of you will win the marathon in terms of finishing ahead of everyone else, but you will win in that you'll finish ahead of a lot of other folks who don't train correctly or just have no specific training plan. So here's the deal - follow the training schedule. If you have any questions, talk to one of your coaches (TNT) or email me. There's no magic secret to doing this long distance thing, just train smart and be consistent.

Ok guys, you're ready to enter this journey that will take you along a few hundred miles of Birmingham pavement and end at a finish line downtown in February. Welcome aboard and I'll definitely see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The ups and downs - take them in stride

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once"- Unknown

You know, sometimes you can train and things are just going great, then wham! out of the blue, you lose the zip on your fastball and your legs just don't want to produce like you expect them to. I have been slowly nurturing my gimpy ankles along and gradually adding mileage, but nothing to write to Grandma about. This past Saturday, it was a beautiful pre-dawn morning, and I set out from home. Surprisingly, ankles felt good, breathing was smooth, and I wound up doing a hilly 14 miler. No big deal for most of you guys, but for me, other than a 15 miler I did in February, it was my longest run in 11 months!! I still view myself as a long distance runner, but my running has been a long, long way from being able to put the rubber to the road for long distances as I self-rehab my wheels. Other than being stiff and slightly achy, I was feeling pretty full of myself on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, another beautiful morning, I wound up doing another 11 miles with my usual Sunday running group. A little stiffer than Saturday, but "Hey, I'm coming back!!". Monday was Labor Day - for my out-of-the-country readers, Labor Day is a USA holiday where we celebrate our Work Force by NOT working!!! Anyway, I took the day off from running and actually slept till almost 8:00 (practically midday for me). Tuesday, I got up at 4:30 to run before work, and from the first step, it was cement-in-the-legs city. Holy Crow! I mean, never mind being as slow as mollasses, I could have been passed by mollasses, cold mollasses at that! Now, with over thirty years of long distance running behind me, I've been down this rocky road many times before, and I know it's no big deal. I knew what the problem was - ME!! I just went over the edge with a little too much exuberance. And I should know better. I'm a Physical Therapist. I'm a marathon coach. My area of interest is Exercise Physiology. BUT, above all, I'm a runner. My friend Danny had knee surgery this week and he said "I love to run, but more than that, I love to run pain free". Well, I think most of us turn it around much of the time..."I love to run pain-free, but more than that, I love to run". So, if we're not limping TOO much, off we go. Stupid? Yes. Changable behavior? Possible, at best!

There are several reasons that you can have a not so stellar run, but when you have a run like I had, you don't need to spend a whole lot of time to think about it. If you're coming back from a hard race, a lingering injury, or an overloaded training program, I think when you do these hard runs or activities back-to-back is when you start to teeter on the fence. Now, that other side of the fence can range from just "no gas in the tank", which is what I'm hoping I suffer from, to falling back onto the injury wagon. Physiologically, there is a two-day rule: the 2nd day after a hard session will be more stressful on your legs than the day after. Glycogen hasn't replenished, injured muscle fibers are beginning to heal and thus you're pulling on semi-hardened glue, and inflammation is causing tissues to swell and be irritated. None of these will help you feel better.

OK, so now I have to sit down and figure this out. Our Mercedes Marathon Training group begins in a week, so that will take care of Sundays. My initial thoughts are to NOT go over 20 miles for two days combined, so if the MM group is doing 13 on a Sunday, I'll limit my Saturday run to no more than 7. Yeah, that's the ticket. I have been improving over the past many months, but one good run throws me into that "cake and eat it too" mode. I want to train smart AND I want to get back to long mileage. That ain't gonna work! Back about 10 months ago, I made a deal with God that all I was asking was to be able to run...I didn't care about distance or speed. Guess she's calling me on that one. Ok, I'll try to be good

Training for a marathon is a long road (literally) that has 4-6 months of goal-oriented runs attached to it, so that's well over 100 training runs and your body will learn something from EVERY run you do, some of it good, some not so good, but it will learn. So, when I do something not so smart and my body says "hey Al, let's review who's boss here", it would pay to listen. Three decades and I haven't completely learned that lesson yet, but I'm working on it. By the way, I went out Thursday morning, ran the same course, and it was 100% better! This morning I hit the trails, and I do love running in the woods. Man, I wish I could figure this out and bottle it...maybe in another 30 years! Yep, the highs are usually never as high as you think and the lows are usually never as low as you think. Have a good week and I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good to the Last Drop

"Everybody should believe in something. I believe I'll have another coffee." ~Author Unknown

First of all, I want to send my best wishes and vibes to my buddies running the Tupelo Marathon tomorrow morning. Never made that one. Any run that has a Flaming Skull as their logo, and "Trample the weak, hurdle the dead" as their motto, just hints that you might want to sidestep around this one. Usually this race is run in terrible humidity and a high morning temperature, but it looks like we can't use that excuse this years fellas. Fifty-four degrees!! Holy Crow! I must say, this morning's long run in 60% humidity was great. If it would just stay like this instead of that doggone freezing crap that's looming on the hoirizon! I complain about hot weather, but I absolutely, beyond any concievable doubt, HATE cold weather!!

The other day, a runner told me she couldn't use any gel that had caffeine in it because it made her jittery. I thought to myself "C'mon, it only has 25-50 mg of caffeine while a cup of joe has 100-125". The bigger question I asked myself was if it only has the equivalent of a half a cup of coffee, what good could it possibly do? This subject has been a pendulum that has been swinging back and forth for many years, but now there actually seems to be some good studies that sheds light on caffeine's effects. I'm not going to go into the deep pharmacology of how caffeine works, but generally, it's a stimulant because it actually blocks a calming chemical and it raises your heart rate, blood pressure and your brain activity, but seeing that you're running a marathon in the first place, we won't talk about the level of that brain activity.

Now, I'm going to skip all the dry results of the studies, but time and time again, those that ingested 1-2 cups of coffee before exercise had better bike time trials than those that didn't. It's much easier to test cyclists than runners, I guess, 'cause that's what most studies are done on. Anyway, if you figure that a cup of coffee typically has about 100-125 mg of caffeine, you figure that one of those little Powergels or Gu's aren't going to do a whole heck of lot (@25mg a packet - some have 50mg). But, some studies seem to indicate that caffeine helps speed the rate at which ingested carbohydrates (100mg in Powergel) are absorbed during an endurance event. That's a good thing. The faster you can get these carbos to change into blood glucose, the faster they can be zipped to your muscles as fuel and spare what little stored energy we have. So, in this case, the caffeine acts as a kick in the butt to get the energy fires burning. But, it seems the more direct effect is that it releases some amino acids (fat energy) into the blood stream that the muscles can use most redily and also spare some of that precious, limited glycogen (stored carbohydrates). So, what this means is that a cup of coffee before you run may get those little fat molecules cruising in your bloodstream and get you down the road a piece before you dip deep into your muscle energy supplies. Then, the small amount of caffeine in those gels can give you a reboot to your blood and again delay the glycogen debt that's always on the edge of a marathoner or ultramarathoner. Once the stored glycogen starts to push the "E" on your fuel guage, suddenly, words like "wall" and "bonk" start to creep into your mind, as do a few other four letter words. But, I have to admit, I still don't think those gels will make you "jittery".

You can develop a caffeine dependence if you drink a whole pot of coffee each day at work, but it seems that you don't build a tolerance to how effective the caffeine will help your running, so drink up. If you are that 10 cup-a-day drinker, then whatever you do, DON'T give up the habit cold turkey the week before a marathon. You're going to be bouncing off the walls enough without going through withdrawal on top of it. Another misconception about caffeine is that it makes you head for the bushes more during your run. Well, it's true, it will make you urinate, but only to the same level that water does. So, stay hydrated, find those bushes, and get back running.

So, all of this says that it is safe for you to intake caffeine before and during an endurance event ( I don't think a carbonated Coke is too good an idea), and it may actually help your performance. In case some of you speedballs are wondering about testing positive for caffeine in a post-race drug test, at the present time, caffeine is NOT banned by the International Olympic Committee, and in order to test positive for the NCAA, you would have to ingest the equivalent of 7-8 cups of coffee AT ONCE - in other words, you really have to be trying super extra hard to use caffeine to give you that extra buzz. At this time, I don't think many Mom & Pop 5k's are testing for caffeine. As with EVERYTHING, try it first in training. If you don't drink coffee, don't dare say on race morning "I'll bet a cup of Java will calm me down!!".

OK guys that's about it from near-earth orbit this week. I hope you all have a safe Labor Day, and take advantage of this cooler weather. For my readers up in the Northeast, thank goodness Earl exited Stage Right and only got you a little wet. Running in rain is most of the time a blast...running in a Hurricane is stupid! I'm a runner - I know what some of you would have done!! Oh, yes you would...I'm Al, I'm one of you! I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tear down, build up, adapt

"Exercise sweat has no odor. Only nervous sweat has odor...there must be a lot of nervous runners" - George Sheehan

During the early spring, due to rotten ankle anatomy, I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with my TNT groups - "I am their leader...which way did they go?". So, after 15 years, I decided to turn over all of the Run portion of TNT to Coach Prince Whatley. Up until then, I had been writing a weekly email to my trainees for over 11 years that pretty much centered around coaching them along their travels. Now that I don't have a "group", I went the Blog route to sort of diversify my writings and allow my thoughts to wander where they will concerning my running journeys past, present and future. However, as I write RWA, I still find myself periodically slipping into the coaching persona, and will base these pearls of wisdom on marathons and ultras that I know folks here in the Birmingham area are running. So, I'm probably writing this prelude more for me than for you because I just don't know exactly what will come out of my typing fingers each week. As like a trail run with poor markings, there's a lot of different ways I can go.

So, here in Birmingham, our signature event is the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon in February. When we begin our new Mercedes Marathon groups (Sept 19th, in case you forgot), I will be going over some of the fundamentals of beginning a training program. Review is ALWAYS a good thing, so although you might say "I've seen this before", hang in there, it's worth hearing over and over again. Heck, Runner's World has been getting away with this for 40 years. But, running long distances is not Rocket Surgery! It's really pretty simple as long as some well meaning blogger doesn't muck it up, so I'll do my best.

Believe it or not, I think our summer groups (San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and a few other fall marathons) are emerging from the depths of summer training. I know it's still hot out there, but September is next week, so it's got to be cooling off soon, then things will get easier. We finally broke our streak of consectutive days over 90 degrees at 50 days in a row!! Even the little humidity break we've had this week has made moving forward a whole lot more tolerable. All of you that have been putting in consistent training are going to reap big dividends soon. And consistent training doesn't mean getting out EVERY day and running hard, or far. It means being consistent with regular running, or cross training, enough to produce some stress to your aerobic system, so that it adapts to producing energy upon demand. Stress + rest = adaptation. Tear down, build up, adapt. Call it what you want, but it is this combination of workout stress and rest that results in improvement. But, most athletes positively fear resting. Rest days, rest weeks, resting before fear it all!! And I'm with you on this one. And I've been doing this for three DECADES!! Believe me, you won't suddenly lose all your hard earned training in a day or two. Studies have shown that there is NO LOSS in performance or conditioning for up to two months if training is cut 50%! Studies also show that a 60-70% reduction in training over a two week period will result in a 3.5-3.7% improvement in performance. Can you say TAPER? That can be an 8 minute improvement in a four hour marathon! OK, so where does this fit in to your training? Well, it's 7 weeks until San Francisco and 6 weeks till Chicago. Next week, Coach Prince's schedule has 17 miles, then it's down to 13 the following week. Ease back a little after the 17 miler during the 2 weeks prior to your 20 miler (Sept 18th). The weather will be getting cooler, your midweek mileage is lower, your body has adapted to the hell you put it through this summer, and you'll cruise into the 20 miler fit, strong, and ready. THEN, it's on to the taper with a positive "Hey, I CAN do this!" attitude. Like they used to say on the "A-Team" - I love when a plan comes together!!

OK guys, time to get Saturday moving two hours, write RWA, watch a little English soccer while drinking my coffee. It's 10:30 already. Where does the day go? Think I'll have another cup of coffee and think about it. Have a good week and I'll see you on the gradually cooler roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"