Thursday, October 29, 2015


Today I turned 59 ½.  For those of us who have been putting money aside in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401Ks, this is the magic age where we can start taking the money out without penalty! 

Just because I can doesn’t necessarily mean I should.  Or maybe it does.  The encouragement to put money into these tax-deferred accounts is all over the news and on the tips of the tongues of every financial adviser.  As I’ve followed financial news and read the doom-and-gloom predictions that so many of us baby-boomers won’t have enough to retire, I keep hearing “keep working and don’t take money out of these accounts.”

What is conspicuously missing in the financial planning realm is a plan to take the money out of IRAs.  I guess there hasn’t been enough demand for detailed planning on how we take tax-deferred money out, pay the taxes, and do something with the money.  I guess this is supposed to be the easy part. 

The IRS has thought it through.  We get 11 years – from ages 59 ½ to 70 ½ - to take the money out on our own schedules and on our own terms.  After that, we are forced to take Required Minimum Distributions from our IRAs/401Ks.  I don’t know about you, but I want to have a choice of when I take my money and when I pay taxes on it.  The clock is ticking…

We were also told when we started putting money in tax-deferred retirement accounts was that we’d likely be in a lower tax bracket by the time we start taking the money out.  This may be true for some, but for others – probably lots of others – it’s not true at all.  We’re not in a lower tax bracket.  Why would we even want to be in a lower tax bracket?  That means less money.  I think most of us, if we are really honest with ourselves, would prefer to stay in the same tax bracket as before we retired. 

So here’s the deal.  I want to start taking money out of my IRA/401K on an annual basis.  I don’t want to take out enough to put us in a higher tax bracket, and I don’t really need to use the money right now. 

For me, the solution lies in the deal the government gave us in 1997 – the Roth IRA.  Named after Senator William Roth, Jr. from Delaware and part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, the Roth IRA allows you to contribute after-tax money into an account where it grows tax-free.  There are limits on new money contributions, but anyone can convert traditional IRA money into Roth IRA money.  All we have to do is pay the taxes on it.  Oh, and report it to the IRS correctly.

I’ll be finding out how to do this in the next couple of days.  Keep tuned.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Lake Powell Half-Marathon

The name of every registeredrunner is on this poster.  Pretty cool.
The Lake Powell Half Marathon is in the books!  I took third place in my age division in what was by far the most beautiful race I’ve ever run. 

I was actually surprised that I placed, considering I set a new personal record – my slowest half-marathon ever.  That said, I felt better than I thought I would.  Between the KT Tape and the preemptive ibuprofen, my back felt OK and I ran at a pretty good clip for the first half of the race.  I got tired toward the end, though, and ended up walking a couple of tenths-of-miles at around mile 10.  I guess that was the 3 to 4 percent of fitness that I lost by taking a couple weeks off running while my back tried to heal.

The Lake Powell Half is part of the Vacation Races series, which hosts eight different courses at or near national parks.  In addition to Lake Powell, Vacation Races hosts half-marathons at Zion, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yosemite. 

One of the coolest things about Vacation Races is their commitment to the environment.  While the course had ample aid stations along the way, there was not a paper cup to be found.  The company actually provided reusable hydra pouches to the racers.  These are lightweight, easy to fill and use, and easy to store on your race belt.  I didn’t take mine with me because I had my Camelbak vest, but I wish I had.  It would have been nice to get an electrolyte drink at the finish line and there were no cups there, either.  There were plenty of trash cans at the aid stations and at the finish line.  Their goal is no trash on the course – ever – and according to their web site they come very close to meeting it on every race.

I was also impressed by the Lucid Images, the official race photographers. 
I’ve been in many races where the photo packages were quite expensive.   Lucid offered a deal where if you paid $20 up front you could get all your photos, no questions asked and no extra charge.  They took 16 photos of me, and while a couple caught me blinking, most of them turned out great.  And I get to keep them.  All of them!

Sue and I had a great time running and enjoying the beautiful scenery, and had an even better time after the race.  After our traditional post-race mimosas, we took our race bibs and medals down to the beach for a photo op in the lake.  We also went to the Carl Hayden Visitors Center in the hope of taking a tour of Glen Canyon Dam, but apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea because the tours were all full.  So we did our own tour, slowly walking across the bridge that we had run between miles 6 and 7 and taking lots of photos.

By the way, Sue took first place in her age group, came in well ahead of everyone in the age group ahead of her, and beat me by a good six minutes.  You go, girl!

Next year we’re doing the Yellowstone Half.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rants of an Injured Runner

I hate it when I get hurt and it interferes with my running!

While injuries to runners are not inevitable, it seems everyone I know who runs has been sidelined once or twice to recover from an injury.  According to an article in Runner’s World dated 2/3/2011, the top seven injuries to runners all involve the legs and feet, and about 40% of running injuries are knee injuries.

Never having been part of the in crowd, I tend to injure my back, specifically, my middle back.  Huh?  How does that happen?  I’m not really sure how it happens, but I’m sure that when it does happen I can really feel the pounding of running.  And it hurts.  And I hate it.

This time I felt it after my dress rehearsal for the Lake Powell Half Marathon.  When I tried running five days later it hadn’t gotten better.  So I stopped running.  For twelve days.  Ouch.  I followed my friend Sue’s advice and went to see the chiropractor.  He directed me to stop running entirely during treatment.  About a week later he gave me the green light to try running again, but encouraged me to start slowly and not to run too many miles.  I was still somewhat weak, he noted.

Every article I’ve read about returning to training after an injury concurs with the doctor’s advice.  Take it easy.  Build back gradually.  Don’t try to get right back into the schedule and/or mileage you were doing before you were injured.  

What?!?  I have a race in less than a week!  On Monday I ran two miles.  I still had some residual soreness but it was manageable.  So I checked the first aid aisles of my local grocery store to see if I could find some sort of brace or patch or something that would help minimize the soreness. 

I found KT Tape.  I read the instructions and watched the videos for proper use.  FYI – the videos are really well done and quite informative.

On Wednesday I ran 3.75 miles with the tape placed as directed for mid-back pain.  (It was supposed to be 3.1 but we got off course.  Oh, well.)  Again, I felt it but it was manageable.  I noted that I was feeling pain in an area I hadn’t taped.  Note to self:  need a piece of tape stretched across the bottom of the bra strap.  I tried it for a short run the next day.  It helped a little.  2nd note to self:  One more piece of tape right above the pain area – taping for rib pain as directed in the KT Tape video.   At this point I’m going on faith that it will help.  Argghhh!

According to, “Even if you need to stop running for ten to fourteen days, the amount of fitness you lose is insignificant – as little as 3-4%.”  This is encouraging.  The downside of course, is that you do lose that 3-4%. 

Thankfully, I had already made the decision not to go for a new PR at the Lake Powell Half Marathon so I could enjoy the run and the scenery.  It may be more than 3-4% slower, but I’ll finish the race.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dress Rehearsal

The Lake Powell Half Marathon is now less than a month away.  Running coaches everywhere admonish us, “nothing new on race day,” so it was time to practice.  My dress rehearsal run – 13 miles – was Friday, September 25.  I put on the shoes (Altra Torins), socks (Feetures), and skirt (Pearl Izumi) I plan to wear for the race.  And I put on my Camelbak vest – fully loaded.

I ate peanut butter and jelly on a single slice of bread 1 hour and 15 minutes before I took off.  Most running coaches say to eat no sooner than 2 hours before the race, but for this race I won’t have two hours.  The race starts at 6:30 AM, and there’s no way I’m getting up at 3:30 AM just to make the two-hour mark.  If it doesn’t work I’ll have to rethink the decision.  That’s why we practice, right?

At about mile 3 I started to feel a bit of a twinge in my mid-back, left side.  I made a conscious effort to keep my posture straight and to keep the vest tight (the lower clip kept slipping) but by the end of the run my back hurt.  While I wanted to blame the vest, I’d run 11 miles with the vest fully-loaded with no problem.  Fully loaded, the vest weighs only 2 ½ pounds.  And in reality, I need the vest fully loaded.  Thirteen miles is a long way, especially in a desert climate.

At about mile 4 I started to feel a little bit of rumbling in my lower abdomen.  Thankfully it stopped within a few minutes.  The same thing happened at about mile 7.5 – after I’d eaten a Gu at mile 7.  Again it stopped quickly. 

At mile 9.35 the music stopped.  My running playlist had ended.  Yes, I still use an old-fashioned I-Pod Nano in an old-fashioned armband.  Why don’t I use my smart phone?  My smart phone is huge and my arm is tiny.  Besides, I want to keep my phone available for more important tasks – like taking pictures of the beautiful scenery at Lake Powell.

Two hours and 15 minutes later I pulled in.  I’d used most of the water in the vest.  My back hurt, but otherwise I was fine.  Here’s what I learned:
1.  It is safe to eat an hour and 15 minutes before the race, and one Gu midway through the race worked well.
2.  I can’t let my back get any worse.  Time to visit the chiropractor! 
3.  I need to add more music to my running playlist.
4.  Mentally I’m ready for this race.   Hoping the training I’ve done all summer will carry me through a couple of weeks of rehab.  Lake Powell, here I come!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cool Running Gear

 Now that I can officially call myself a serious runner, I’m always looking for serious gear.  My three “now that I have them I will never be without them” new running gear items, in alphabetical order are:

1.  Altra running shoes.  I had seen them advertised in running magazines.  The advertisement features words to the effect of “large toe box” and “designed for runners’ feet.”  The words spoke to me.  I’ve always had trouble with finding shoes that don’t hurt after about seven miles.  I’m pretty sure my friend Sue diagnosed my problem.  I strike forefoot, so after pounding the pavement for a while my feet start to swell.  If there’s no place for them to expand, they hurt. 

Altras are designed for the way I run.  The instruction card in the box even says so.  I’ve run in my 
Altra Torin 2.0s most of the summer and have had no foot pain.  All I can say is “Wow.”  Wish I had discovered them sooner.

2.  Camelbak hydration vest.  My decision to purchase the Camelbak Circuit hydration vest was actually driven by two separate events, one of which was not related to running.  When I ran the Las Vegas Half Marathon last year, I felt great and had the lower altitude working in my favor, yet still finished two minutes slower than my PR.  I attributed the lost time to having to slow way down and maneuver in and out of traffic at the water stops.  Next time, I thought, I’m carrying water.

I already owned a water belt with a pouch and space for four small bottles, of which I usually carried two.  When I upgraded my cell phone, the new phone wouldn’t fit in the pouch.  I looked for a replacement pouch.  They don’t make them.  I looked at belts with large enough pouches to fit my cell phone.  The water bottles interfered with my arm swing. 

The vest is an ideal solution.  The Camelbak Circuit is the smallest of the Camelbak vests.  It holds 1.5 liters of water and has pouches for chapstick, tissues, Gus and Sport Beans, and yes, that huge cell phone.

3.  My final “must have” running item is one I hope to never have to use.  It’s called a Road ID, and its purpose is to speak for me if I can’t speak for myself.  It’s a lightweight bracelet that gives my name, the year of my birth, and phone numbers for people to call if I’m found collapsed on the side of the road.  Again, I hope to never have to use it, but the fact that I have it gives me a sense of security, especially when I’m running alone.

Oh, and if you happen to find me collapsed on the side of the road, please pause my Garmin.