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Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Yearly Comfort

Posted by jbharp on November 10, 2008

This week I have returned to one of my favorite running trails. It takes me just minutes to get there from my house. The trail is a perfect size loop to run one, two, or three laps depending on my mood. And best of all I can take my dogs without putting them on the leash. Although this is nearly the perfect trail, I don’t get to run on it all of the time. It’s my winter trail.

I’m not sure how I first stumbled across it a few winters ago, but I quickly grew fond of it for so many reasons. The hills are great! Usually suiting up between 8 and 11pm, I load up the dogs and we head off for a run in the winter night with the weather anywhere from a stiff chill to a crippling freeze.

The temperatures slowly lessened their brutality as spring approached. With the warmer weather the trail grew crowded. Not due to other people or dogs but dut to the semi-lush Colorado greenery. Tall weeds, deadly branches, and flesh eating shrubs consumed the path. They reached out for my legs, arms, or any part of me they could grab as I weaved my way across the vanishing trail.

Over the last few years, I reluctantly and sadly stop running on this trail around March. I seek out other familiar trails for the spring and summer running season. But I’ve come to realize the benefits of having only a short window to enjoy this trail. The winter months challenge to a runner to keep a consistent running schedule. Knowing this trail is only provided to me for just over four months, I’m more likely to go there on the bitter cold nights.

I can’t help but think that my enjoyment on this trail would not be as great if I were able to run it year round. The delight that comes this time of year is worth, and most likely enhanced, by the time I must spend away from this favorite path of mine. I wonder if the dogs feel the same way. Although Charlie may have other not so fond memories of this loop. Hopefully she won’t find another porcupine this year.


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Trail Running

Posted by jbharp on May 27, 2008

I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon a few weeks ago. Now that I have taken some time off for recovery, I’m moving on to the summer running season. I’ve been holding steady to some pretty light and easy running since OKC. The experts recommend one day of rest and recovery for every mile in a race. I endured about 20 days of minimal running and what little I did was at a jogging pace. But last week I jumped back into a routine. Even better though, I’m transitioning to trail running for the summer season.

I’ll be participating in the Pikes Peak Marathon for the third time on August 17. It’s my goal this year to place in my age group. It’ll be tough but I’m thrilled to be spending hours of my weeks on the trails, instead of on flat roads. Last week I climbed the Manitou Incline with a new record: 28 minutes and 56 seconds (that’s 26 seconds better than my previous record).

I’ve added a new page on my blog site (still working on it). It’s more for my use and benefit, but feel free to tab over and check it out. It’s a running page to show some of my biggest races and best times. Certainly nothing in the elite field. However, I’ve been breaking the top ten percent of the field in the last few races.

My most recent race was at a relaxed pace to enjoy the bands, beer and cupcakes along the course. I ran the Bolder Boulder yesterday with a fellow Stick Horse, Suz [here’s her story and more pics]. The Bolder Boulder is a race that should be ran purly for entertainment, that’s why we sported our own Horse Headbands. But now my running summer schedule is off to the races, which means I won’t be carrying a stick horse with me.

Here’s me and Suz with our horse headbands waiting for the official start. I carried a stick horse and rode him as I came into Folsom Stadium. I was on the big screen as I crossed the finish line.

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Oklahoma City Marathon

Posted by jbharp on May 5, 2008


Flat land, strong wind, and Christian hospitality describes my memories from the 8th running of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon last weekend (4/27/08).

Obviously OKC is a flat area. The elevation varied through only a 140′ range. In Colorado, I can’t get something that mild unless it’s on a treadmill. So I enjoyed a nice steady pace throughout, no need to power up anything. But I did have to power against the wind, another attribute of OK. It was a power to reckon with, until reaching the turn around point.

What I enjoyed most about the marathon was the tasty pancakes and sausage I ate about 20 minutes before the race even began. Downtown OKC is the start and finish points for race and is also the location of a Methodist Church. The start line is just to the east of the church’s front doors. But thousands of runners and spectators filling the streets can be a hindrance to a church’s normal Sunday operations. So the kind people at the Methodist Church open their doors from 5:30 to 11:00 am and serve. I think these pancakes were a special touch to give me the boost for the race.

I ran a new personal record – 3:24:32. It was my goal to qualify for Boston (needed a 3:10), but I’m still pleased with the race. I felt good nearly the entire race. In fact I had enough energy after the race to walk around downtown with my brother and his family. I even gave Hayden a ride around on my shoulders.

So now I’m up to three completed flatland marathons (St Louis, NYC, and OKC). And I’m changing gears toward my third marathon on Pikes Peak in August. No chance of qualifying for Boston on that run…I’ll shoot for it again later this fall.

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Pace Setter

Posted by jbharp on April 22, 2008

I met a friend yesterday evening for a slow paced easy run. I’ve given her on a plan for a 10k run on Memorial Day, so I met her in the middle of my weekly long run to offer some running companionship and keep her at a beneficial pace. She’s into the second week and has experienced all three types of training runs: long, tempo and speed. We were discussing the first week of runs when she confessed that inside of her existed a ‘sprinter that wants to come out on every run.’ But when running a 10k (not to mention a marathon), sprinting isn’t the best strategy. It makes sense to distribute your energy evenly throughout the entire race and settle in for the long haul.

Fortunately, I don’t suffer from the sprinter syndrome. I prefer setting aside most of a summer Saturday morning and spending a few hours hitting the trails. A methodical, rhythmic crunching of gravel and dirt under my shoes for hours gives me delight. I realize that others have to fight the urge to truck through a slow, steady pace. But there are other urges within me that I have to fight.

There are times when nearing the end of a run, I get the urge to keep on running past my determined distance. And some days when I don’t even plan on running, I’ll crave to lace up my shoes. On the contrary, and a more frequent occurrence, I’ll be tempted to cut a run short or cut out a run completely. Although I sometimes give in, I do my best to adhere to the plan I have in place.

After we parted ways and I continued on the second half of my run, I was reminded of a line in the Jewish Passover Seder (since it was fresh on my mind from the night before – more on this later). It says ‘The key to freedom is to anticipate the future and make it real. The definition of maturity is the ability to trade a lower pleasure now for a higher pleasure later.’

This applies for all areas of life not just running. Freedom is often displayed in the ability to say ‘no.’ Freedom does not mean we can indulge in anything and everything we want, as our culure would sometimes lead us to believe. But it proves to be challenging (at least for me) to keep our lives on a daily course we have planned.

At times I try to go through life alone. I think I can do it better or I don’t want to bother anyone with my choppy pace and heavy breathing (sticking to the running metaphore). When I help someone out with their running (the few requests I’ve had) I am thrilled and not burdened in any way. Without a doubt, I have greatly benefited from people who run along with me in life to keep me at an appropriate pace. Afterall, life is a marathon and includes various types of training runs.

Posted in Religion, Running | 5 Comments »

New York City Marathon

Posted by jbharp on November 20, 2007

Earlier this year I put my name on a list along with 100,000 other people from across the country and around the world. Two of my coworkers put themselves on the list as well. It was the registration list to run the New York City Marathon. With nearly 40,000 participants selected to run the 26.2 miles, this is the largest marathon in the world.

The second week of June, I received a congratulatory email confirming my spot. A lottery system selects which of the registrants will run and which will have to wait another year for their shot (this was the case with my two coworkers). Fortunately my number was pulled.

Over the next few months after many miles, a few pairs of shows, a handful of other races, I journeyed off to the Big Apple. With an extra hour of sleep due to the end of daylight savings, I woke up at 6 am on November 4 and began my nearly three hour travel from my hostel to the beginning of the race. I rode the subway, a bus and a ferry to finally arrive at Staten Island.

The course crossed five bridges and traveled through all five boroughs of NYC: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan. I was happy with my finishing time (3.50.17), although it was a bit slower than I was expecting. The streets were packed during every part of the race and the sidewalks overflowing with spectators cheering on the runners.

Compared to all of the elevation I run out here in the Rockies, the course seemed to be completely flat. I passed the 16 mile marker thinking to myself, “wait a minute, there was supposed to be a hill at mile 15.” In addition to a flat run, I faced another unfamiliar element: concrete. My feet aren’t used to running on such an unforgiving surface. I’ll be trying some shoes with more cushion next time.

It was a thrilling experience to say the least. I will most certainly register for New York next year. I hope my number will be pulled once again.

nyc1.jpg    nyc2.jpg

Posted in Running | 5 Comments »

More on America’s Challenge

Posted by jbharp on August 22, 2007

Here are a few slideshows of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon from this past weekend. This first one shows the day in a life of a volunteer. Thank you volunteers – grapes, M&M’s, and watered down Gatorade taste best coming from you.

Aid Station

This slideshow captures the greatness of this challenge. The musical accompaniment doesn’t hurt though. Honestly, with this music I could make eating a carrot look spectacular.

America’s Challenge

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Posted by jbharp on August 20, 2007

Yesterday was the 52nd annual Pikes Peak marathon. I’ve ran it the previous two years but decided to sit out this time around. And up until yesterday I’m glad I did. But seeing the runners on the finishing stretch along Ruxton Ave, I had envious thoughts.

Last year one of my training partners didn’t run it but instead volunteered at an aid station. It was great having her support as I ran passed the station she attended. After the race she mentioned how much she wished she was running instead of handing out water. Now I know what she was talking about. In fact I went to cheer her on as she neared the finish line. As I cheered and encouraged each runner that passed, I wished that it was me – salt buildup around the edges of my face, feet that are so hot they are just aching for fresh air, what feels like acid pumping through my quads and calves, and (if I were lucky enough to fall on the decent) blood and dirt mixed together on my knees, palms and a shoulder.

It’s a bit of a crazy thing to do, but the feeling of accomplishment is well worth the effort. I’m going to do a few “flat land” marathons this year (marathons that don’t have an 8000′ elevation climb). I hope to get a challenge and a rush of excitement crossing those finish lines. Whether it’s as glorious as the Peak or not, I can tell you exactly where I’ll be next year on the third weekend in August.

Posted in Running | 3 Comments »

PR on the Incline

Posted by jbharp on April 19, 2007


I just finished a spinach salad with a variety of toppings, and I am currently enjoying a cold beer and a home made pizza topped with chicken, prunes, and green peppers (no joke) with a full glass of milk and a stack of Oreo’s waiting for me before I go to bed. Maybe you’re asking why I’m treating myself to such a delicious meal. Truthfully, this isn’t abnormal from any other day. But there is something special for me tonight.

Today after work, I went with a coworker to the Manitou Incline. The incline is over a mile of an old railway section on Mount Manitou. The average grade is said to be 41% with the steepest section at a grade of 68%. It can be see from nearly any point in Colorado Springs because of it’s vertical stretch up the foothills of Pikes Peak.

I visit the Incline an average of twice a week during the summer months and probably about twice a month during winter. In fact I’ll be going back tomorrow morning around 5:30. That’s the time I like to take the dogs so we don’t have so many other dogs and people to stop and smell. The challenge of the Incline keeps bringing me back. Not to mention that it’s only 15 minutes from my house and it provides an escape to overlook the entire Pikes Peak region.

Today’s trip was significant though, not only because I set a personal record but because I finished under 30 minutes – 29:21.9 to be exact, and I do like to be exact.

I had a few things that I think helped along the way. First, I usually carry a small pack with water for me and the dogs, but this time I didn’t carry anything. Second, I was trying to catchup with my coworker. Starting more than 10 minutes behind her, I caught up at the half way point. Third, I was fortunate to have a pace-setter within a random guy who started just seconds before me. At first I considered passing him, but I refrained because he was going just fast enough that it would have sapped my energy. But then I soon realized he was holding to a perfect, steady pace for me. I could tell I was moving at a decent speed, but I still felt my energy reserves intact for the latter, steeper portion. I eventually passed by him, giving him numerous thanks for the help, which I repeated once we both reached the top.

However, I think the most notable factor in my achievement today had nothing at all to do with today. Often when I talk to people about running or hiking a common phrase appears – It’s about the journey. Many trips to the Incline have played a significant role for me in breaking the 30 minute barrier; the hundreds of predawn starts; seeing the sunrise over the flat plains waking up my city; the handful of random midnight trips; numerous debates about the actually start location; even the time I lost my keys. If I had ascend the Incline in under 20 minutes on the very first attempt back in 2003, it would mean almost nothing compared to the goal I reached today.

There certainly is more meaning in the goals we achieve in which we expent the most effort towards. And for me to expect reaching a goal in a short amount of time can be foolish.

Well, if you are ever visiting Colorado Springs, or currently reside here, I’ll be happy to take you to the Incline. Don’t be worried that I’ll leave you stranded on teh Incline alone. I would much prefer going with you along the journey.

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Monitoring my Body

Posted by jbharp on April 4, 2007

  In continuation of my previous post…
I’ve ran nearly watchless for almost an entire year. I only had a vague idea of what my average time might be for any distance. But nearly a month ago, my running life experienced the genesis of an extraordinary training device: my Polar RS200 Heart Rate Monitor.

This thing is amazing!!! Without question, it has been motivating me to run more. It keeps a record of my heart rate, calories burned, and tons of other useful features that I don’t even know about yet. Before I bought it, I talked to a salesperson at Colorado Running Company for more than 20 minutes about all the cool stuff this watch can do.

So, I’ll be trying a new approach to my running this summer and fall. I’ll keep track of my times, heartrate and more. Along with the new technical approach, I will certainly still listen to my body. But now, I can actually use much more of the information and advice in Runner’s World magazine.

Running is a thrill. As I sit here now, nearly at the midnight hour, the thought of a quick run in the neighborhood has entered my mind several times. Well, what more do I need to say.

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Listening to my Body

Posted by jbharp on April 1, 2007

I have been subscribing to Runner’s World magazine for more than two years now and have three more years of the monthly magazine ahead. Every once in a while I succumb to promotional tactics. It really is cheaper to by in three year increments.

The magazine has been a great motivator for me and full of useful information. As I read the pages, I often find myself with an immediate desire to lace up and hit the trails or streets running . I’ll admit that near the beginning of each month I regularly let out a verbal cheer when I open my mailbox to see the magazine.

There are plenty of articles and tips on improving your running. Although many of them have a general proviso that everyone’s body is different and should each person should do what works best for them. So before I ran the St Louis Marathon last April, the thought crossed my mind to try an experiment with my running.

Since the magazine continually suggested that each runner needs to know what fits them best, I decided to let myself, that is my body, decide the best running for me. After I had finished the marathon, my vow was to run a year without a watch. The purpose was to listen to my body. Sure, this really sounds hokey, but at the time it sounded like a great concept. I even had a conversation with my CLI mentor about how this might compare to running the spiritual race without a watch and how we are to rely on God’s Spirit.

Only a hand full of times over the last year could I be caught with a watch during a run. Not even when on the Pikes Peak Marathon did I keep time, even though I could have been comparing my previous year’s efforts. It turns out that I did run both the ascent and round-trip faster (it was largely due to actually running the downhill portion this year instead of walking. I just had to push through the pain. Oh yeah).

I’ll admit that my running has been enjoyable. When I felt tired, I slowed down. When I had extra energy, I sped up. If I wanted to cut a run short or extend it, then I made the adjustment. The meticulous tracking and recording of all my runs that I had done for the St. Louis Marathon-the intervals, the mileage, the tempo, the times-they were not a burden anymore. I just needed my shoes and shorts to make any occasion into a running occasion.

I am young in my running career and there is only so much learning you can do with long distance running. So recently I have begun a new experiment. More on that to come…

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