Indoor marathon training: Week 6

The Chilly Chili Run was an awesome venue for a recovery run after Friday’s 20-miler. Conditions were perfect — sunny and cold but hardly any wind, with crispy mud and just a bit of ice on the trails at Ouabache State Park. And since it was an untimed just-for-fun event, I could just go out and unkink my muscles without feeling mortified about my time.

Not that there wasn’t a bit of awkwardness involved. I’d arranged to interview a runner who’s somewhat of a local legend afterward, and it was rather humiliating to admit to a 2:33 marathoner that it took me four hours to run my 20 the previous day.

Here’s the surprising thing, though. As good as Doug Sundling was at his peak — winning a boatload of area races ranging from 5Ks to marathons and every distance in between over a  period of more than 20 years — it turns out he wasn’t much good in high school.

“I couldn’t crack the varsity, not even as a senior,” he told me Saturday. “I was a late bloomer. I didn’t break 10 minutes in the 2-mile until I was 30 years old.”


Doug Sundling and his dog Ginger at the Chilly Chili Run. 

That doesn’t give me any cause to hope I’m going to suddenly get faster at age 51. But I think it’s a cool thing about the sport itself, that there’s so much room for improvement, so much payoff for being smart and dedicated. And, judging from Sundling’s case, so much reason to keep at it, even after you’ve stopped training to win.

I’ll run more from this series of interviews after I’ve pulled the article together. In the meantime, here’s how the rest of this week’s training went, with two weeks left until the Maple Leaf Marathon at Goshen College:

Monday — Fired up from the Scott Jurek Fun Run the day before, I went out to run a 6-miler on the Greenway and … struggled. So it goes, as my favorite Hoosier novelist would say.

Tuesday — Felt sick. Gave myself permission to take a day off, figuring I’d rest up and then do a grueling Yasso 800s workout the next day. But then I got a text from my sister wanting to run on Wednesday, and since we hadn’t run together in a while I said I would. Which meant I needed to do my speed workout Tuesday night.  

Yasso 800s are supposed to be a series of ten 800-meter intervals with a quarter-mile recovery jog in between. If you want to run a 3-hour marathon, you aim for 3:00 800s. For 4 hours, your target is 4-minute 800s.

I dream of someday running a 4:30 marathon. Even though I know it’s not going to happen two weeks from now, I figured I might as well get started on “someday” now, especially since I did not feel like doing another timed-run workout this week.

The Runner’s World writer said he usually starts with four 800s at his goal pace, and then builds up to the point where he can do 10. I decided to do four 800s at 4:37 (6.5 mph), then force myself to do six more of a shorter duration but at the same pace. (It seems like it might be easier for me to add a few seconds to each pre-existing interval rather than adding extra intervals in future workouts.)

So here’s what I did:

4 x 800 at 4:37 with a quarter-mile recovery walk at 4 mph.

4 x 3 minutes at the same pace (6.5 mph), with a 3-minute recovery walk at 4 mph

2 x 2 minutes at same pace with a 2-minute 4 mph recovery walk.

(Yes, I also need to build up to jogging the recovery period. Duly noted.) Total: 6 miles

Wednesday: I figured Traci would want to go for an easy 4-mile jog. But no. Naturally she wanted to do intervals instead. We did 3 mile’s worth on the half-mile loop at the Ouabache State Park campground before my left hip began to tighten up, so we called it a day. (In terms of running, that is. Colleen and I also went to yoga that night, followed by a cross-fit style workout with Traci that I could barely do, my arms and shoulders were so spent from yoga.)

Thursday: Rest day before long run; did a kettlebell workout and took Loki for a walk.

This was our one-month scale check for Wells Weighs In. I was disappointed to have only lost 3.5 pounds — I’d been hoping for twice that amount — but at least it was better than nothing. (My sister, for example, lost a mere two-tenths of a pound thanks to too much lasagna the night before. Which led me to congratulate my brother Brent for his 2.2-pound loss, “Way to go — you lost more than 10 times as much as Traci!”) ) For the record, my dad lost 9 pounds, Colleen lost 3.5 pounds, Rowan lost 10 pounds and Ben lost 8.5 pounds. (His four-person team, the NHS Weight Lifters, lost a total of 37 pounds, which may be enough to put them in first place with three months to go and a $1,200 prize at stake.)

Friday: 160-lap 20-miler at the Jorgensen YMCA. This time I started out running two laps, then walking one, after noting that’s what one marathoner who beat me two years ago did. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to hurt my time any.

As I came up on the 1-hour mark I happened to notice I was 40 laps in, which put me at 5 miles per hour or a 12-minute pace. If I could sustain this it would lop some time over my previous marathon, so from that point on I made sure I got in 40 laps every hour. And that led to making sure I got in 20 laps every half hour, and then 10 laps every 15 minutes.

Sounds maddening, I know, and in past long runs I’ve fumed over my tendency to pay attention to the clock rather than just letting a long slow run happen without any time pressures. The thing is, though, this proved to be a really effective way of staying in the “now” — playing a micro game within the larger game — which was something ultramarathoner Scott Jurek had talked about last weekend at the FWTC banquet. I was so into these mini games, in fact, that I never got around to listening to a book my husband had just downloaded for me that morning. Complete radio silence for four hours, other than the ambient gym noise going on around me.

Afterward I texted my dad that it had occurred to me that I was so dialed in it might’ve been nice to just go ahead and run the marathon and get it out of the way. “You must’ve felt pretty good,” he texted back.

That wasn’t it, though. It’s not that I was feeling so great; there were some nagging physical issues to overcome. But I was definitely in “let’s do this” mode, and you can’t always predict when your mind is going to work the way you want it to.

One other small success from this run: I was able to shift gears on my run/walk pattern without getting tripped up, moving from 2 laps/1 to 3 laps/1 as needed and then jogging several laps in a row at one point to make sure I got my hour lap quota.

Saturday: As noted above, did the 3-mile loop of the Chilly Chili Run as a recovery run. (Also: 4 x 15 kettlebell swings)

Sunday:  4-mile jog around the neighborhood + another crossfit-style workout with Colleen and Traci during halftime of the Super Bowl.  

Total: 42 miles  

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Indoor marathon training Week 5

OK, I’m starting to panic a little bit.

On the one hand, based on last week’s 18-miler, I do feel like I ought to be able to finish the Maple Leaf Marathon on Feb. 20. But I hate the way I’m fretting over how long these long runs are taking. I thought switching to a run/walk pattern would help me cut some time over my first attempt at this race (5:35), but I now think that’s unlikely.  For one thing, I can’t seem to find a pattern that I’m entirely comfortable with. But I also need to realize I’m just not in as good of shape as I was two years ago. I started out about 10 pounds heavier, and though I’ve gotten rid of a couple of those it’s been an extremely slow, tough process. (The increase in my calorie burn has a hard time keeping pace with my increase in appetite!)

I do like the way that running 4 laps, then walking one helps me mentally leapfrog through the laps as if I were counting by fives. But I think it might be faster to try another method. So do I keep experimenting with not much time left to make changes, or go with the method that most seems to help my sanity?

I think I’m going to have to make peace with just finishing this marathon in whatever time I get and then try to do better next fall, when the marathon distance returns to Fort Wayne with the Fort4Fitness Race expansion in October.

Here’s how last week’s training went:

Monday — This was my second time doing a timed-run workout. Bumped my speed up from 6 mph to 6.3 mph on the first set of timed runs of 9 minutes, 8 minutes and 7 minutes, and cut my recovery break walks down to 1 minute each throughout. Though I stuck with the same speed as before on the 6-5-4 minute runs (6.5 mph) and the 3-2-1 minute runs (6.7 mph), this workout was MUCH harder due to the shorter breaks. Cutting out all that walking cut 17 minutes off the workout, but I also went 1 mile less — 6 miles instead of 7, including a warmup and cooldown.

Also went to my evening yoga class.

Tuesday — Jogged seven miles (56 laps) on indoor track at Jorgensen YMCA, basically getting in as long a run as I could while my son did a weights workout. Felt good to get in the flow of simply running without worrying about run/walk patterns.

Wednesday — Seven-mile treadmill run using a pattern of 6.0 mph for 4 minutes followed by 4 mph walk for 1 minute. (Started out trying a 6.3 mph pace, but didn’t feel I could sustain it for the whole run.) This doesn’t seem like it should’ve been hard, but it was — possibly because I did this in the morning just 12 hours after the previous night’s 7 miler.

Thursday — 3 x 12 kettlebell swings and 3 x 12 goblet squats.

Friday — 18-mile, 144-lap long run on indoor track at the Jorgensen YMCA. (See above).

Saturday — Rowan and I took her husky Loki on a 2-mile hike on a private trail belonging to a local runner, Doug Sundling, who runs and bikes with his dog Ginger. Ginger was all laid back because Doug had taken her out on a 16-mile run while he biked that morning. But Loki was an overexcited, untrained nutbar. Both dogs had fun on this hike, but we wound up not letting them socialize much. Otherwise, I was pretty busy with writing projects — so much so that I forgot all about the strength workout I’d planned.

Sunday — 4-mile fun run with Scott Jurek and the Fort Wayne Track Club (now the Fort Wayne Running Club) on the campus of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. I was all distracted because I was worrying about getting pictures of Jurek for my newspaper column, but I couldn’t resist jumping in and going on this run. Jurek told the crowd of maybe 75 runners that he’d start out at the front of the pack and then work his way back. In reality how this worked out, at least for me, is that he came out to greet me 20-30 feet from the finish and ran with me from there. Every time he’d escort someone or a group of people to the finish, then he’d jog back til he got to the next runner. It probably would’ve been better, in retrospect, if I’d left a bigger gap between myself and the runner ahead of me. But it was still cool to run even a few feet with such an amazing athlete and a genuinely nice guy.

Total miles: 42

Hiking miles: 2


Ultramarathoning legend Scott Jurek jokes with the crowd during a group photo before the fun run. Here’s one thing we have in common: We’re both about 10 pounds over where we’d like to be. But Jurek, who’s writing a book about setting an Appalachian Trail speed record last summer, told us he’s taking a break from serious training right now.

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Running with ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek


Ultramarathoning superstar Scott Jurek was the keynote speaker Sunday for the Fort Wayne Track Club’s annual banquet, and while he was in town he led an untimed fun run at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

Talk about a nice guy. Jurek ran at least a few steps with as many runners as he could, grinning his goofball smile and offering encouragement the whole time. Before and afterward he spoke with everyone who approached him.


Meeting Scott Jurek at Sunday’s fun run at IPFW. 

At the banquet he spoke about breaking the speed record on the Appalachian Trail last summer and the biggest challenges he’s had to overcome during nearly two decades of amazing feats of endurance. Probably the most amazing: Lining up for the Hardrock Hundred with an air cast on a nasty swollen purple ankle he’d rolled just two days before. As I wrote in today’s newspaper column, he adjusted his stride and his mind and not only managed to win the race, but set a course record.

His feats would be impressive enough on their own, but Jurek just has a way of making everybody around him feel good. He breathes in bad news and exhales positivity.

So it’s not surprising that when he was hurting on the Appalachian Trail, going without sleep over the final days after injuries put him behind schedule, fans offered support via social media as well as dropping off vegan pizza, fresh fruit and other goodies at the checkpoints.

Last night some people drove from out of state to hear Jurek’s message. Afterward the line for the book signing of his bestseller, “Eat and Run,” stretched around the banquet hall, but he promised to stay until 2 a.m. if necessary to take care of everybody.

What a runner. What an inspiration. What a nice guy.

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The ‘stutter-step bite’ plays huge role in avoiding run-on meals

In the Hoosier hay-loft hoops world I grew up in, the “stutter step” wasn’t a flashy playground move but a reference to the short, quick adjustment step that helps set up a powerful foot plant  for launching a lay-up.


This is not a picture from my parents’ old barn, but it  sure brings back memories. (Our goals originally hung in the old Bluffton junior high school, so they were pretty nice for a hay mow court.) 

For all the hours spent shooting hoops in my parents’ barn — which has since been dismantled and reassembled on an Amish farm — these days I spend at least as much time working on perfecting my eating skills.

Lately I’ve been focusing on setting up the final bite of a meal or snack in a way that helps me recognize I’m done eating.

Maybe there are some “naturally gifted eaters” out there who can pull this off effortlessly, but for me, learning to nail this bite has been almost as laborious as learning the footwork on a lay-up.

Turns out it’s a multistep process. You’ve got to deliver a couple of strategically placed nibbles to set up that final mouthful of satisfaction.

I’m not a nibbler. My impulse is to approach every bite with gusto — and way too much speed. For most of my life I’ve raced toward the end of a meal like a kid dribbling toward the hoop in an out-of-control flurry of steps, with no idea how things are going to end up.

I’d mindlessly devour French fries or M&Ms, only to reach in at some point and discover I’d emptied the bag before I’d managed to disengage from munch mode. With no warning that the end was near, I had trouble shifting gears. All too often, I simply moved on to something else.

Five years of monitoring my eating habits, learning to track every bite, gave me much more control. But I’m still prone to eating too fast. At times I find myself shoveling in salad as if it were a homogenous glop of pudding, oblivious to the variety of textures, the possibility of discovery.

Once I forced myself to slow down and focus on those last few bites, it was much easier to perceive the importance of that final mouthful in establishing a sense of completion.

Now that I realize how disappointing it is to end a really satisfying meal or snack with a crumb-sized morsel, I find that I’m much more willing to make that second-to-last bite as tiny and precise as needed to set up that final glorious mouthful.

I’m going to call it the “stutter-step bite.” And I’m adding it to my ever evolving list of key rules that govern my postfat life.

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Indoor marathon training Week 4: a new workout

I tried a new pacing workout this week that I read about in the newspaper, of all places. This marathoner in a Washington Post wire piece described a timed run workout in which he runs 9 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, then 8 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, all the way down to 1 minute. The first three “hard” runs are at marathon pace, the next three are at half marathon pace, and the last there are what he calls a “sprint.”


I’ve watched this movie a ridiculous amount of times in the past 25 years.

Not really knowing what my marathon pace should be but hoping to someday aspire to a 10-minutes-per-mile pace at that distance, I popped in “Terminator 2” and set the treadmill to 6 mph for the first 9-minute run.

For the first three segments I took 4 mph (15 minute pace) walk breaks during the 1 “easy” minute. For the next three segments (6 minutes, 5, then 4) I bumped the pace up to 6.5 mph (9:14 pace), but gave myself 2 minutes to recover between each. (Every time I try something new, I try to be generous in negotiating with myself, because I don’t want to make it so hard that I resist doing it again in the future.)

For the last three segments (3 minutes, then 2, then 1) I dialed up the speed but not too much, again being pretty conservative at 6.7 mph (9-minute mile pace). On this last part I gave myself walk breaks equivalent to the run segment.

I was dripping with sweat by this point, and pleased to see that 6 miles had gone by. I did a 1-mile cooldown at 5 mph (12-minute mile pace) and called it a day, even though the fate of the world was still very much uncertain in the movie.

Setting the bar fairly low the first time through this workout made me eager to try it again to begin tinkering with bumping up the speed here, cutting down a recovery break there. I’m actually looking forward to trying it again this week.

Here’s how the rest of the week went:

Monday — yoga class

Tuesday — Timed run workout as described above (7 miles)

Wednesday — Untimed 7 mile run at comfortable pace on the basic neighborhood route past the Murray Cemetery to the Norwell School Road and back. Encountered a new dog who came out and barked at me very ferociously from about 2 feet away but did not try to bite. This is not a cool development. But I really like this route otherwise, so I will probably try to work on making friends with this dog.

Thursday — Home yoga session + 3 sets of 10 kettlebell swings

Friday — 16 miles (128 laps) at the Jorgensen YMCA. Tried a 4 laps run/1 lap walk pattern, which basically translated to walking 200 meters every half mile. Still felt decent by the end, which makes me wonder if I’m not going fast enough on the run segments. (The stopwatch on my phone apparently turned off at some point, but I think it took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes.) The good news is, I feel much more confident about completing the distance using this run/walk format. But lately I don’t feel like I’m getting the time boost I was hoping for. Going to need to tinker with the pacing.

Saturday —  3 mile easy recovery run on treadmill watching “Dr. Who.”

+ 3 sets of 10 kettlebell swings

Sunday — Half-mile jog with Loki + 6 miles on fitness bike

Total: 33.5 miles

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Half marathon insights from a rock star’s dad

Watching that running scene in the classic Baby Boomer college reunion film “The Big Chill” recently brought to mind a couple of old friends — half-marathoners with vastly different running philosophies.

Mark started out fast and has worked with a coach to get faster, while McCoy is more of a California free spirit. Though he’s accumulated enough finishes to be one of those race-collectors out to conquer the world, he refuses to use a training program.

I caught up with McCoy recently — his first name’s Brian, though nobody ever called him that back in the day at IU — to congratulate him on his son Kerry’s group being named Spin Magazine’s 2015 band of the year. (Deafheaven plays at the Egyptian Ballroom in Indy on Jan. 29.)

Naturally, I couldn’t resist asking about his unorthodox approach to running the half, along with the oddity of having your son grow up to be a budding rock star. What follows is pretty close to the “uncut” version of an interview conducted over a few days via Facebook. (For a shorter version, see today’s “Adventures in Food and Fitness” column in The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.)


Brian McCoy, an old college newspaper pal, and his son Kerry McCoy, co-founder of Deafheaven, Spin Magazine’s 2015 band of the year.

Q. So how did you get into running? I don’t remember you doing that when we were back at IU.

A. I got into running about 15 years ago when Leslie, the boys and I were visiting my parents and my brother Kevin’s family in Greeley, Colo. The gym my folks frequented required guest passes and, having already worked through our allotment, Les suggested one afternoon we go for a run.

She was not new to it, having run such events as Bay to Breakers, but I had zero interest despite my parents’ long involvement. They became runners in the 1970s, first in Livingston, N.J. (my brothers and I played in the same Little League with Chris Christie) and continued to do so after moves to Munster, Ind., and the Bay Area. I was careful to avoid all such exertions, however, and my mom to this day ribs me about how they’d be heading out for a late ‘70s 10K in Dyer or Michigan City and their teen children would scarcely acknowledge their departure.

But I digress… So that afternoon in Colorado, I accompanied Leslie on her run, which entailed plenty of walking on my part. Something, however, must have clicked because within a week or so of returning to California I was hooked and remain so to this day.

Q. How many half marathons have you run at this point? Do you have some goal you’re working toward, or do you just like the distance?

A. have completed 23 half marathons, most of them in the past five years and all of them in California, though I definitely want to tackle some out of state (Bloomington tops that list). Certain runs have emerged as staples – Modesto, for example, has fall and spring half marathons that I run each year.

A favorite destination is the Central Coast, that region of California stretching from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. This fall, for example, I did City to the Sea, which runs from San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach, in October and followed that with the Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, a November run whose course takes in Cannery Row, the Aquarium and plenty of pounding Pacific.

We (he and his wife, Leslie) hook up at least twice a year to run with a like-minded couple, friends of Leslie’s from Cal Poly, who live in Monrovia near Pasadena. The four of us meet in some picturesque California locale to banter, enjoy fine food and drink and, yes, get up Sunday morning and run.

Q. What’s your training program like?

A. I take a holistic approach to training — that is, if I take one at all. By that I mean I do not follow a specific regimen in the weeks/months leading up to a half marathon. I don’t even taper, per se, but merely skip the road work the week before the event.

I see these highly regimented training schedules in publications like Runner’s World but they have never worked for me. I certainly had to work up to running distances in advance of my first half but the process was purely catch-as-catch-can – “Today, I’ll add a couple of blocks,” “Hmm, let’s try the park for a change.”

The core of my training, such as it is, is long outdoor runs. Ideally, I complete two per week – one on the weekend and one midweek – although work and weather impact that schedule and send me scurrying to the treadmill. I have a route that takes me from my home through a number of beautiful older neighborhoods to downtown Modesto, where I run past a variety of favorite landmarks (farmers market, State Theatre, restaurants and watering holes) before heading back via either College Avenue or the Virginia Corridor, the local Rails-to-Trails project. The route is particularly lovely in late fall, when the leaves finally start turning here in the Central Valley.

This is my basic run and it covers approximately 9 miles and 85 minutes. I am not putting any extraordinary “effort” into it. I am not “pushing” myself, there is no “sacrifice” involved. I have this route, I find running it immensely fulfilling and thus it is no great feat. I understand I am exerting myself and doing good things for my health and there certainly are challenges involved in running the additional 4 miles of the half over less familiar terrain. The bottom line, however, is that I run because it is fun and vastly fulfilling. Otherwise, believe me, I wouldn’t be doing it.

Q. Any other running during the week, or just those two long runs?

A. I am running at least three days per week.

Q. So why not just go ahead and do a full marathon?

A. I have had conversations – with runners and non-runners alike – regarding a full marathon. You’re halfway there, they say, give yourself a couple of months and you can make it happen. They are correct, of course, and perhaps someday I will run one.

But here’s the thing – that actually would require following one of those aforementioned schedules, pushing myself, carving significant amounts of additional time out of my week, tapping into some hitherto undetected pool of mental toughness … in short, training. At present, I have no desire to do that and really don’t see myself ginning any up in the future.

Q. Any advice you’d give someone who was preparing to tackle their first “half”?

A. I run because I enjoy it and I feel no need to push myself beyond that. Running is personal; I am not in competition with anyone else or any larger expectations. In a sense, that is my advice to all runners, including those preparing to tackle their first half. Don’t feel you necessarily need to follow some strict training regimen to build up your endurance; do it in whatever way feels natural to you.


McCoy claims that there are no good photos in existence of him running, but this one shows him finishing in under 2 hours, which sounds pretty swell to me.

Likewise, during the half: Relax, take in your surroundings, revel in the communal nature of an organized run and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Running, like writing, is a Zen experience – the joy and exhilaration reside in the process, not the product. I may bitch for a moment if I’m dissatisfied with my time but those numbers are smoke, wisps of human measurement that soon fade while the sensations of the experience itself continue to resonate.

I reiterate: for me, running is fun and fulfilling and try as I might I see no reason for it to occupy any other role in my life. This perhaps sets me apart from most runners; if so, that’s fine. I am content to sit in my own corner of the running universe, sipping a beer in the California sun, running my half marathons.

Q. You’ve commented in the past that you often wind up on the treadmill during the hot summer months. Any tips for staying sane while running indoors?

A. I believe runners everywhere can agree that treadmills are an expedient at best and the bane of their existence at worst. That includes my region of California – the Central Valley’s triple-digit summers (although it is a dry heat) mean lots of treadmill between June and September, although even in those months my schedule and the elements occasionally align so as to enable an outdoors run. I am willing to run outside if it’s in the low to mid-80s but no warmer. Winter poses its own challenges – cold, blustery storms like this week’s and early sunsets. (Bear in mind, my last actual winter was Bloomington 1985-86. Thirty years later, I see some of the fall-winter conditions you and your family run in and shake my head in awe and admiration.)

The only way I can function in the gym is distraction. On Stairmaster, that means reading material; on treadmill, it’s television. My overall strategy, then, is to make sure I am focused on anything but the exercise. Out of sight, out of mind.

When I arrive at the gym, I pick up a small towel at the desk, head for the treadmills and stretch for a few minutes. When I am ready to start, I pull a bottle of water and a Gatorade out of my bag so I can sip both as needed during the run. I put in my headphones and then punch all the buttons to start. I then use the towel to cover all the readouts – seeing them would only serve to remind me I am running on this machine. I lift the towel on occasion to adjust the speed and wipe my face.

I specifically chose the gym I run in because each treadmill has a TV screen with about a dozen channels. The goal is to find two engaging programs that you can toggle between for the next hour or so. Sports are a natural (the other night I ran 6 miles while watching the IU-Wisconsin game on ESPN) or a favorite movie (“Hey, it’s ‘A Few Good Men’”). News channels with compelling, breaking stories (Boston, San Bernadino) will do and I am not averse to a little HGTV (“Flip or Flop”). The goal throughout is to divert attention from the tedium of running in place and keep at hand the fluid you need to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible in the process.

Q. Are you surprised by Deafheaven’s success? Rolling Stone has called Kerry a budding guitar hero who’s “redefining black metal” (not that I have any idea what that is.) Where does he get his musical ability?

A. Yes, Kerry is doing quite well these days with Deafheaven, with the critical acclaim, bigger tours and the like (they are back at Coachella this spring). Most importantly as a dad, after his dicey adolescence, I have a great relationship with Kerry and Tim, his younger brother with whom I have run two half marathons.

Suffice it to say, there has been a learning curve involved for me getting to the bottom of this genre of music … and I devoted 25 years to arts reporting. I always supported Kerry’s efforts but was very realistic about it with him — the odds are long, you are unlikely to be one of those who actually makes it, pursue it but get your education. Well, it turns out he never finished high school but he is making a comfortable living nonetheless doing something he loves. Also seeing the world! So that gives you some idea about how brilliant my insights might be regarding anyone’s future.

The musical talent comes from his mom, if it comes from anywhere. Marti (McCoy’s first wife and a fellow Indiana Daily Student staff member) was quite an accomplished flutist growing up and did much while we were at IU to introduce me to classical. That said, Kerry grew up in a household where much of what his dad did was review concerts and I more often than not took the boys along. He and his brother saw dozens of shows with me and would often accompany me to the newsroom afterward and hang out while I wrote my reviews.

Q. But haven’t I seen you on Facebook, jamming on the guitar?

A.. Yes, but I just (know) the basic chords and play Beatles tunes.


On a return trip to Bloomington a year or two ago, McCoy was pleased to discover that not only is vinyl alive and well after all these years, but they had plenty of copies of Deafheaven’s landmark LP, “Sunbather,” in stock. That record, Rolling Stone’s 2013 No. 1 metal record of the year, was followed up this year by “New Bermuda,” Spin Magazine’s top metal album of the year.



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Indoor marathon training: Week 3

“So, if I could keep my anxiety and curiosity from eating the heart out of me for forty-eight hours, I should then find out for certain whether this boy was telling me the truth or not. Wherefore, being a practical Connecticut man, I now shoved this whole problem clear out of my mind till its appointed day and hour should come, in order that I might turn all my attention to the circumstances of the present moment… “


From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


When I got to that quote around Lap 20-something of Saturday’s 112-lap, 14-mile indoor run, I was nearly overcome with the impulse to run downstairs and make an announcement over the YMCA microphone: “Listen to this, people! Here is a guy who really speared the anxiety problem back before your great-grandparents were born! If this strategy worked for a guy facing imminent execution, don’t you think it ought to help you get through all that mundane bullshit that’s constantly lighting up your central nervous system?”

twainyankeeBut I didn’t, of course, because that would’ve destroyed my fellow runners’ right to get absorbed in their own little world, listening to whatever helps them get through the process. Besides, the person whose attention I most wanted to get here was myself. So I silently maintained my run/walk pattern — three laps run, one lap walk — and kept listening as Twain’s time traveler calmly outwitted Merlin and became the power behind the throne.

Eventually I got through all 112 laps without too much of a struggle, except for the one occasion on which I got clogged up behind a throng of walkers and was gently yet firmly “scooted over” by a much faster runner at least six and a half feet tall.

I think I’ve found my rhythm. That pattern of 3 on, 1 off feels like leapfrogging through the laps, counting by fours. The only problem was that I started out way too slow. I actually felt better midway through when I began to run faster, partly because it woke up my legs but also because the laps started to melt away much more quickly. So next time — especially if my sister isn’t running with me, since she’s a natural speed inducer — I need to remember to pick up the pace from the beginning.

Here’s how the rest of this week’s training went:

Monday – The most grueling yoga session ever. This class has gotten huge since the “New Year Resolutioners” (as my son calls them) came on board, which makes it more of a challenge for  the instructor to keep the session running according to schedule. This past week we were flying through some of the series in an attempt to fit everything in. I was a puddle of goo on the floor afterward.

Tuesday – 7 miles on the home treadmill, interrupted every so often by one of the kids, who were home due to snow but attempting the school system’s first-ever “e-learning” day. Strapped my laptop to the treadmill so I could watch one of my all-time favorite movies, the Coen Brothers’  “O Brother Where Art Thou.”

Wednesday – 4 miles on the treadmill due to icy roads and cold temps. Jogged first two miles, then did 20-minute ladder workout, then jogged a cooldown.

Thursday – 7-mile outdoor run around the neighborhood. Started out getting blasted by a cold wind, but the weather warmed up and the sun came out over the course of the run. After all this run-walk training on longer distances, it was a relief to know I can still run at least 7 miles without a walk break. Was going to weigh in at the YMCA, but since the weekly weigh-ins are optional and I wound up overdoing it calorie-wise, decided against it.

Friday – Rest day.

Saturday – 14 miles, as described above.

Sunday –  Half a mile attempt at jogging with Loki in a bitter cold wind. It is so much harder to run with him now when footing is slick and iffy! But I’ve got to keep at it or he’ll never calm down. Also rode 5 easy miles on a spin bike at the Y to help my legs unwind from yesterday’s long run.

Total : 32.5 miles running, 5 miles of biking.

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Indoor marathon training: Week 2

Who is the canine cop who takes his dog “running” at the 4-H Park while he sits in his SUV, leash in one hand with the other (presumably) on the steering wheel?

My sister and I have done our last two long runs at the park, both on a Friday, and this happened both times. Now, to be fair, it was raining on the most recent occasion. But just as we’re trying to make Friday long runs a habit, it appears that this canine-cop duo might be forming a habit of their own…


Our most memorable rainy run, a 2-hour slogback in 2011

I must admit, it is harder to get going in the rain. But we’ve done it before — most memorably during  Day Six of our “90 miles in 9 days” project in 2011– and during this run we laughed several times recalling how much more miserable we were then, exhausted before we even took our first step, trudging along in uncharacteristic silence.

It was daunting, at first, to see that two large sections of the drive were washed out, forcing us to cut through the soggy grass. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Part of the appeal of this park loop is that ¾ of it is unpaved, which means less pounding on Traci’s achy joints. Adding the grass segments meant even less time running on pavement, and Traci thought she felt better at the end of this 12-miler (done with a 4:1 run/walk pattern) than after last week’s 10. So as it turns out, we’ll probably stick with this course correction on future runs.

Here’s how this week’s training went:

Monday — yoga

Tuesday — 4-mile Greenway run in freezing wind with Traci.

Wednesday — 48-lap, 6-mile speed workout on 200-meter indoor track that’s fairly similar to the one at Goshen College, where the race takes place. Details on that here.

Thursday — Rest day. Registered for Wells Weighs In as extra incentive to drop a few pounds before the race. On a team with my sister, my dad and one of my sister’s co-workers. Rowan and Colleen formed a team with my brother Brent and sister-in-law Darcy (who lost quite a bit of weight last year and is just toning up after the holidays). Ben formed a team with some weight-lifting buddies.

Friday — 12 mile run/walk with Traci (see above). Eighteen laps around local 4-H park in intermittent rain. Once again, we finished faster (under a 12-minute pace) using a 4:1 run/walk ratio than we would have if we’d jogged the whole thing. The only bummer was that my Darn Tough running socks – which come with a lifetime guarantee and I’ve had less than three months – developed a hole in the toe. Funny thing is, I was just gushing about how much I love these socks earlier in the run. Hope I hung onto that receipt…

Saturday — 2-mile recovery run on YMCA treadmill, followed by Colleen putting me through an abridged crossfit-style workout she’s learned from going to conditioning sessions with the high school softball team. Not surprisingly, The seventh-grade drill sergeant was disgusted by my wimpiness.

Sunday — 6 miles on the treadmill, watching a documentary on “Forest Man,” a guy in India who’s planted a forest larger than NYC’s Central Park since 1979. The Brahmaputra River is gobbling up the island on which he and 100,000+ other people live, but his forest — now home to elephants, rhinos and tigers — offers one small shred of hope of saving it.  Filled out the rest of the time watching snippets of “The Big Chill” and mentally assigning old college classmates to appropriate roles.

Total: 30 miles

Regrets: That I didn’t get in any runs with Loki this week. Luckily Rowan’s taught her hyper husky to play soccer in the rec room, so he’s getting in some exercise even on days when nobody runs with him. (Thus far we haven’t stooped to running the dog while driving the car…)



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A 48-lap speed workout

Wednesday I made my first trip back to the indoor track where I did most of my training for my first indoor marathon. I was scheduled for a 6-mile speed workout, which is 48 laps.


This baseball pitch counter cost $9.99 at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I use it to keep track of laps.

My plan was to jog the first and last mile (8 laps each) as a warmup/cooldown. In between, my primary pattern plan was to run a fast lap (200 meters), walk a lap, jog a lap, then repeat. I brought my lap counter and clicked off each lap at the same spot each time so I wouldn’t get off track.

I paid no attention to the time on this workout. My main goal was to focus on the lap I was on without fretting about how many remained. My still emerging yoga mindset proved to be a huge asset here that I didn’t have last time.

In yoga, sometimes the only way to cope with a strenuous pose is to just focus on your breath — don’t think about anything else but the breath you’re on. This used to be really hard for me. I’m such a naturally impatient person that I literally couldn’t even take one single deep breath in a relaxed, focused state. Getting over that hump has literally been a transformative experience that has helped in other aspects of my life. Everything else, learning a new pose or getting better at one I can already do, is just a bonus.

That doesn’t mean I can instantly shut down my monkey mind. On Wednesday it was howling about halfway through each fast lap. “Just breathe,” I’d tell myself in a calm voice that was more pleasant to listen to than the monkey howl. “Before you know it you’ll be on a recovery lap.”

After I got in eight hard intervals, on laps 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27 and 30, I rewarded myself by switching to an easier pattern: fast lap, walk 2, jog 1. At that point I knew it wasn’t too long until I started my cooldown on lap 41, so the difficulty had passed.

Because I was paying attention to the rhythm of the workout, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the memory palace this time around. I didn’t start on a certain year associated with the first lap and work my way up. But I did give some thought to what new material might be fun to add — little bits of history or memory that I’ve accumulated in the two years since I last trained for a mega-lap race.

I’ll probably mine several year associations from The Brothers Vonnegut, an awesome double biography of the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and his brother Bernard, one of the top scientists at the General Electric Research Lab who was working on weather control after World War II. Kurt worked in the company’s PR department, and GE provided much of the material for his early science fiction stories and novels. Now I can’t think of 1945 without remembering that’s when Kurt was one of the few to survive the Dresden fire-bombing horror as a POW captured at the Battle of the Bulge.

I’ll probably also come up with some lap-year associations from the time-travel game Chrononauts, which we learned to play over Christmas break. One of the key years in the starter version of that game is 1936 — flipping the Berlin Olympics to an alternate fate in which Hitler was assassinated changes the game’s timeline rather dramatically, as you might imagine.

The other thing that might be fun is a future-based time palace, built on key dates from various sci-fi books and movies. See, this is stuff I would never think about if I wasn’t training for a mega-lap race. But now I’m actually looking forward to these little lap-counting mental projects. It’s kind of fun, in a twisted sort of way.

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Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon training: Week 1

There’s nothing like knowing you’ve got a marathon coming up in seven weeks to help you lock down your willpower on a weekend with not one but two huge family holiday gatherings full of goodies.

Last time I ran this race, in 2014, I assumed that I’d melt off a few pounds during training. Instead, the opposite happened – I actually gained a bit because I was always hungry with all that extra mileage.  This time around, I want to train smart and eat smart.

The biggest difference is that I’m planning to run/walk my long runs and the race itself, using a 4:1 ratio. This is partly to make the relatively short training timeframe feel less daunting (I’m not starting out in the best of shape), but also because I’m curious if it’s possible to lower my time.

Week One (Dec. 28-Jan. 3)


Bike and Soul is a bike/yoga shop on the downtown circle in Angola.

Monday – Last day of a three-day weekend birthday trip to Pokagon State Park. Got in a 20-minute ladder workout on the treadmill at our hotel before stopping at the breakfast bar for a peanut butter banana and a bagel, followed by a quick shower and an 8 a.m. yoga class at Bike and Soul in Angola. An ice storm was underway, and there was only one other participant besides the instructor, who had us start in cross-legged position. My hips are so ridiculously tight I can’t really sit in this position for any length of time at all. I asked to extend my legs instead, but even so I couldn’t get comfortable and spent most of the “relaxing warmup” in various states of agony. Still, loved getting a look at this bike/yoga shop — an interesting combination.

Tuesday – 6 miles on the treadmill at home using a 4 minute run to 1-minute walk ratio, finishing in 69:40.  Also did 1 set of 15 kettlebell swings.

Wednesday – Ran at our local state park. Had to adjust my course in various places due to flooding. Wound up with about 3 miles.

Thursday – My body was asking for a rest day, but seeing as it was the last day of the holiday run streak, I felt like I had to do something. So I walked a mile on the treadmill in 14:25, which was mostly at 4.2 mph and a short burst at 4.5. (Still need to tally up run streak mileage; probably get to that later this week.)

Friday – Met my sister Traci for our first run together in over a month. The River Greenway was flooded, so we started out on an alternate route through town that got altered again as we tried to avoid an icy wind. About 4 miles.

Saturday – 10-mile run/walk with my sister and 17-year-old niece, Madison. Fifteen laps around the main loop at the local 4-H Park, with two (and eventually three) short walk breaks per .66 mile lap. We finished in 1:55, which worked out to just under 12 minutes a mile.

Sunday – Took Loki out for a run that got cut to 2 miles because I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to have my arms pulled off.

Total mileage: 27.5 miles.


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