Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow and Ice, Ice, Baby

I hate to complain about the weather. OK, that's just not true. That's like Kanye saying he hates to complain about who gets a music award. Before a marathon, I love to worry and complain about the weather. But that's normal. Generally speaking, weather just isn't an issue for me when it comes to training.

Except for snow. Snow makes it harder to run (I can deal with that) and it's waay more dangerous. For example, the recent snowpocolypse left the roads so icy, icy, icy that the other morning I managed to fall flat on my back on Broadway Street (you know, "the-Asheville-Half-evil-hill-on-Broadway" Broadway Street?). Pride aside, I remembered thinking as I landed, "Hey! That really didn't even hurt!" But then I started sliding. On my back. Like some errant Ninja Turtle. Straight in to traffic. That freaked me the F out. I've been respecting the weather ever since.

Until yesterday.

What can I say? I want what I want when I want it, and yesterday I wanted to run on a trail. A nice leisurely 9 mile loop from Trace Ridge. Here's how that worked out for me:
I gave up completing the loop as planned as the snow became progressively deeper on the shaded part of the mountain. I ended up with an enjoyable 6-mile out and back, though.
I noticed also that my irrational fear of being eaten by wildlife while trail running is still alive and well. I know that statistically speaking, there's a much higher chance of me getting hurt/ killed while running on the roads than while trail running. But still, I never fail to have a moment during a trail run where I imagine a bear or a bobcat (OK, that one's left over from Santa Monica) or a wild boar hunting me down and eating me. Switches to Wild Safari of the Animal Kingdom/ William Shatner voice:"Her heart starts to pound, blood pumping to every limb in the ancient pursuit of fight or flight. She is wild with panic, nerve endings alive with the fight or flight impulse. She faces her predator, her last thought for the son she will leave behind to fend for himself."
Luckily, the wildlife du jur was a lone creepy possum who showed no fear whatsoever at my running right by him (hence the creepy part). Also lucky is the fact we don't get much snow here in Asheville. You probably won't hear another one of these stories for a long, long time. You can thank me later.
Happy New Year to all.
[ORN: Obligatory Running Note] 8 miles today. 2 miles warm up and cool down. 3 x 1 mile at Half Marathon pace with a steady 1/2 mile in between. This is the first "real" workout I've done since the marathon. I wasn't sure how I would feel. It wasn't until rep #3 that I felt like I knew what HM pace was. It's so weird how fast your body forgets race pace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Out With Some Old. In With Some New. Save The Good Stuff.

As 2009 wraps up, some of us are busy reflecting on all that 2009 brought, others are busy making New Year's resolutions, and all of us are bracing ourselves for the sudden influx of exercise newbies that are about to descend on our gyms, interrupting our well-established routines. (Don't worry. They will disappear again, just as suddenly and mysteriously as they arrived, leaving nothing more than a few humorous Gym Carny* posts in their wake).

But even if you're not the "Year-In-Review" or "New Year's Resolution" type, you have to admit that a new year is sort of a handy milestone. And 2010 isn't just any new year- it's the start of a whole new decade. So it seems as good a time as any to stop and reflect on our commitment to living healthy lives, to formulate and/or refine our goals, and to reacquaint ourselves with those basic truths that we may "know" but that we tend to forget.

In that spirit, for the last couple of weeks I've been focused on what did and didn't work well for me in my last training cycle, and making the appropriate adjustments for 2010.

Out With Some Old (Kind of)

24 Week Training Cycles
I firmly believe (a la Jack Daniels) that 24 weeks is the optimal length training cycle for any distance race (5K - Marathon). Having said that, I've learned first hand that the higher the level your fitness is coming into a training plan, the shorter the training cycle should be. This year, I plan on maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness and leg speed year-round, so that 12-16 weeks should be the maximum length of time I need to prepare for a marathon.

In With Some New (An Experiment of One)

Perhaps it's age, but I've found that towards the end of my marathon program, when the tempo and marathon pace runs get longer and longer, I just don't recover sufficiently. Intuition tells me that doing a Mixed Interval track workout, along with a long tempo run (9 miles) and a long MP run (13-14 miles) in the peak weeks of training leaves me with not enough recovery in between to maximize the results of each workout type. Obviously, each type of workout is valuable, but if I had to give one up, I'd say that tempo and MP runs win out over mixed intervals. For my next marathon, I'm adopting a (Brad Hudson) plan that focuses on 2 key workouts a week (2 types of long runs and tempo runs) instead of 3 and incorporates 10 x 100 meter strides after an easier run each week.

I've decided to enter the world of Ultra's this year.. by running my first 50K race.

Keep The Good Stuff (Duh!)

The Fundamentals
This falls into the category of "basic truths we know but tend to forget". As I tweak my training to meet my next goal, every change I make will be evaluated against the "fundamentals" standard.

I still believe that overall training volume is the best predictor of performance. More important than the length of the longest run you do or even the amount of high intensity training you do is the total amount of time you spend training week in and week out. Towards that end, I will continue to push my peak weekly mileage number upwards.

Racing Weight
Even though endurance training promotes leanness, the modern lifestyle (inactivity and diet)works against it. Since my best performance will come when I am both my fittest and leanest, I will continue to work towards bringing my overall lifestyle into alignment with my training goals. More precisely, I will become a lean, mean racing machine.

Recovery Runs
Recovery runs must be the best thing I learned about and implemented this year. I will spare you the details (for now) but recovery runs are the runner's best kept secret.

Running Specific Strength Training
This is a must-do, if you want to stay injury free. With increased mileage comes increased risk of injury, so working to correct muscle imbalances and improving the stability of your joints is kind of like injury insurance. Only better.

* = Gym carnies is an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people sRod's gym.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

FRIDAY FUNNY: Hilarious Marathon Video

We bring you FRIDAY FUNNY 2 whole days early this week!

I dare you to watch this and not laugh out loud!

C'mon, view it.

I dare you.

Monday, December 21, 2009


In the spirit of expanding the Runner's Vocabulary (Nitsmos did it*. Vanilla did it*. So did sROD*. Now it's my turn!) I put forth the following: When you go running with someone 10 years old or younger, you should not refer to that activity as running, but as... "funning".

Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of the Age and Height Challenged. No need to call CPS (unless you were the one witnessing my son and I yesterday running up that icy mountain road, waaay too close to the edge!). And I'm certainly not saying these youngsters aren't serious about running (because everyone knows that several of my Boys On The Run boys could seriously whoop my a** in a 5K!).
What I'm talking about is how FUN running is for kids at this age, and how when you tag along, it miraculously becomes FUN for you too, thereby changing what is at worst a chore and at best a (insert here) into some whole new kind of activity (dare I say sport?) best described as, well...funning.

Of course, there's a lot of overlap between running and funning. Like, uh,... running. (O.K. , FINE. So I didn't really think the whole "new sport" thing through). Maybe funning isn't so much a new sport, as much as it's simply a description of what happens when you let a KID be the alpha runner (Alpha Runner. I like it!). You get the same kind of right-brain stream of conciousness stuff, only it's waaay more out there, and often starts with, "You know what would be really wrong?". You also get what I like to call "Insta-Game Invention". Anything within arm or leg's reach can miraculously be transformed into a fun game. I mean ANYTHING. Rock on the ground? Instant soccer game! Gnarly looking tree? See if you can throw the rock and make it into the knot-hole!

So, to all of you out there that are finding running a little too boring ot perhaps a bit too tedious, or maybe you just need a Perspective Check, my advice to you is to go grab a kid and follow him on a run. Just make sure it's a kid that you know, and that you have its parent's permission. I mean really. It's so sad that I even have to say that.

ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Ran 6 mile loop from the YWCA. 22 degrees and lots of snow on the ground. I do believe I am feeling the post-marathon fitness boost. I feel really strong.

* = Nitmos over at Feet Meet Street invented the "limbo running".
* = Vanilla thinks he invented "chicked".
* = sROD invented my personal favorite, the "unearned downhill".

These guys are gonna be so happy when I learn how to insert a link to their site!.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Post Thunder Road Thoughts

Check out this video of Thunder Road I received from the race director, Tim Rhodes, today. Pretty cool. It's too bad you miss all this kind of stuff when you're actually running in the race...

So, I didn't run the time I thought I was capable of this last Saturday, but I'm hard pressed to feel disappointed. I came away with a much better understanding of what is needed in my training to improve my times. (Need I say it? More TEMPO and MP miles).

What really strikes me is how different this effort was compared to Buffalo.

With Buffalo, I felt great up until Mile 21. The last 6 miles were really dreadful, but far more tough mentally than physically tough. I felt really emotional about the inability to keep pushing at a decent pace, and I recall that once I saw the finish line in Buffalo, I pretty much was able to sprint it in.

In Charlotte, I endured far more pain than I did in Buffalo. It's what I'm most proud of. In this race, I never felt "great". I felt normal in the early miles, with fatigue setting in more and more as the miles clipped by. I felt more fatigued than I thought I should have been at Mile 14, and I was very fatigued at Mile 16. The final 8 miles were all about coping through increasing discomfort and pain. In hindsight, I think this is how it should feel, if you are running close to what you can do. The trick is to train so that your fuel will last through to the end.

The final 3 miles of Charlotte were worse than anything I experienced in Buffalo. I could not make my body go faster than a slow, slow jog at the end, even with my family, the crowds and the clock right in front of me.

The recoveries from these races are completely different as well. With Buffalo, I remember I walked the 2 miles back to my hotel. I was sore for the next 7-10 days, and was not able to think about running or racing for the next 3-4 weeks. When I did start back running, I noticed that any effort too hard or long pushed me past my reserves fairly quickly. This time, I was in excruciating pain upon finishing. My hip flexors locked up, and it was pure torture to walk the 1 measley block back to my hotel. However, about an hour later, I was getting around pretty well. Although my quads were beat, I felt pretty normal. The biggest difference is that mentally, I think I was ready to try again pretty much upon finishing Charlotte.

It's 6 days later. I'm back to running normally, doing a 2-week reverse taper. More importantly, I feel as inspired as ever to train and race. I look forward to the next 2 weeks, where I'll make some modifications to my training based on what I've learned recently, and start the 12-week countdown to the Wimberly-BQ Smack Down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 In Pictures

With no other races scheduled for 2009, it's time to wrap up the year's running in pictures Because seriously, who can't get enough of race pictures?


Half Marathon Time Trial (1:58:02)


Buffalo Marathon (4:19:15)
43 Minute PR


Kiwanis Firecracker 5K (23:55)
1st Place AG

...and still lovin' me some PINK shorts! I refuse to get rid of the beloved shorts even though the elastic is all stretched out (not to mention the fact they don't even look good on me).

Folkmoot 5k & Kids Fun Run (24:00)
1st Place AG


Leopold in 2nd Place - Kids Run
Check out that FORM!!

Bele Chere 5K (24:12)

Look at that grimace! And it's still 2 weeks before I figure out the race was only chip timed at the finish, robbing me of who knows how many seconds.

No...that grimace is brought to you by Overstriders of America! I'm a full member,baby!


Autism 5K (23:42)
2nd Place AG
GREAT Race Schwag!!
This may be the only race of 2009 where I
actualy raced! I was chasing down that blonde from Wisconsin like my life depended on it!

OCTOBER - Wimberly-Townsend 10K (49:13)
Otherwise known as the race where only me and the Knoxville Track Club showed up.
Race highlight: bunny ears on a stranger!


Rutledge Half Marathon (1:54:06)
I'd rather forget this race.


Boys On The Run Focus Race: Jingle Bell 5K

Jonathan and Dylan tie!

THUNDER Road Marathon (4:12:11)
7:04 PR

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thunder Road Marathon Race Report

A word of warning: This is a long post. It will be a lot more fun for you if you take a drink every time you read the word "Garmin".

The day started with me waking before my alaram went off at 4:00. Early for me even! I tossed and turned for a while but just got up anyway. As I sequestered myself in the bathroom (so as not to wake Phil and Leopold who seemed to be sleeping soundly) I was pleasantly surprised to find this waiting for me:

Awesome sign! But not as AWESOME as the sign Leopold made for me:

Leopold's sign at Mile 18 is a great memory. Later, Phil told me that a lot of people commented on the sign and seemed to really enjoy it. (The next day it occurred to Leopold that perhaps the faster runners had a different take away: Maybe they were so fast that all they had time to read was, "Runners Faster Than 7:00 Will Be Shot" ?)

If this happened to you, speedy front-runners, we're sorry!!

OK, back to my story. I promise to say "Garmin" soon, so you can start drinking.

So after drinking plenty of coffee, next came my favorite part of the pre-marathon morning ritual -the application of the temporary tattoos! As I put them on, I remembered thinking that the 3:50 PaceTat would probably end up being worthless (except for how cool it looks), and that sometime during the race, I would at least think about the tattoo that reminded me to honor my training. Little did I know then that the exact opposite would be true. I would end up relying on my PaceTat and watch to indirectly calculate mile splits after Garmin(pNbtn)* died, and that honoring my training would be a total non issue on this day.

After getting dressed, and having more coffee (and water), and I put everything I might need in to my race bag, and headed down to the lobby for breakfast. I made sure to get a pic of the elevator sign that had cracked Leopold and I up so hard the night before. ("Indoor Poo". BWAAAH HA HA HAAA HA!!!"). We're so mature.

Down at the Lobby, I had a big breakfast and walked outside to guage the temperature. It seemed warmer at 6:00 am than it had the night before when it was 28 degrees. Just to be sure that it didn't seem that way because I was close to the buildings, I walked down the block to the Finish Line that was being set up. I was surprised to feel an unexpected wave of emotion hit me. Jesus, am I going to cry? I felt like Renee Zelweger's older sister in Jerry McGuire as I thought, "Don't cry before the race, cry after the race."

I headed over to the Convention Center at 7:00. As race time drew near, I couldn't help thinking if anyone would be adversely affected by the change in the Start Time. 7:50 is a weird time for a race to start...

With five minutes to go I moved outside and began looking for a place between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace groups. It was 32 degrees with no wind which was better than we had expected so I shed a layer or two and went with single layer shirt, pants, and Dollar store gloves. Then it was time for the National Anthem which is a great touch at the start of the race.

All of a sudden we were off. 24 weeks of dedicated training and it came down to this, no turning back now. I'd run more than 1,350 miles preparing for this race, including three back to back 75 plus mile weeks, long runs of 22 and 24 miles (with the 22 miler run at 3:59 marathon pace) and a 'marathon pace' 13 mile run that I had blown out of the water. I thought I was in at least sub 4:00 shape and if I had a perfect day, sub 3:55! The plan was to hold back as much as possible on the tougher first half, go through in around 1:56-1:57 and negative split the back half. The pace per mile plan was roughly as follows:

  1. Mile 1-2 @ 9:06 pace
  2. Mile 3-9 @ 8:56 pace
  3. Miles 10-17 @ 8:48 (average pace)
  4. Miles 18-26.2 @ 8:38
Of course, nothing worked out like that.

Not even close.

Here's how it actually unfolded:

Mile 1 - 9:06
Mile 2 - 9:33

Average Pace: 9:19

Mile 1 is downhill. . Mile 2 is uphill, but even so, I was shocked to see that an "even effort" yielded a 9:33 2nd mile. I also noticed that monitoring Garmin's (pNbtn)* "current pace" window was going to be useless. I was running as slow as 10:25 pace on the uphills, and as fast as 7:30 pace on the downhills. So at this point, I decided to only monitor Garmin's (pNbtn) the "average pace" window for the rest of the race.

Mile 3 - 8:45
Mile 4 - 9:02
Mile 5 - 9:25
Mile 6 - 8:24
10K - 55:56

Average Pace: 9:00

This is where I notice the hills from the 2008 race are STILL THERE in 2009. For some reason, I had repressed the memory of these hills and convinced myself that this was a relatively flat course. I know.... stupid, but true. I had also forgotten how a hill has the uncanny ability to sneak up on you EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN SEE IT COMING.

Mile 5 is a long climb up to Providence Road that completely screws up your running mojo and (unbeknownst to you) robs you of the PR that you SOOOOO deserved. However, you are rewarded with a sweet downhill before entering into the Foxcroft neighborhood.

First Gu at Mile 6. At this point, I was exactly on pace for the first 1oK. I was doing a great job of staying focused and breathing correctly and keeping my form in check.

Mile 7 - 8:44
Mile 8 - 8:31
Mile 9- 8:41

Average Pace 8:50

I honestly don't remember much about Miles 7,8,9. I hope they were flat, because it looks like I was hauling ass.

Mile 10 - 8:45 (1:28:56)
Mile 11 - 9:02
Mile 12 - 9:19
Mile 13 - 9:24
Half Marathon: 1:57:50

This is the section where I'm passed by Costumed Runners (three guys in red long underwear and Santa Hats). I realize that if I were running the half I'd be done by now. I do the math and realize I am a negative split away from a 3:55 marathon

Mile 14 - 9:12

We interrupt this race report for the following IMPORTANT BULLETIN from GARMIN:




This is the point where I find myself thinking that the half marathoners might have been the smart ones and f#ck that whole negative split thing. Sub 4:30 here I come! This section is pretty desolate and that, combined with the lack of crowd support, really made it a tough section EVEN THOUGH IT IS FLAT.

Garmin .
Garmin .

You're welcome.

I spotted a guy ahead of me who seemed to be running my pace and was doing a phenomenal job of running easy and relaxed. I tucked in behind him as we went underneath the overpass next to Panthers stadium where a steel drum band is cranking out an amazing racket!

A slight boost of energy later, we roll through mile 16, then mile 17.

At Mile 18 I am completely over the slight boost of energy. At this point I realize that running 8 more miles is really going to suck and I wish I had contracted the Swine Flu on Friday so I could have gotten out of running for public safety reasons.

Mile 18 is never going to end. We head up Trade Street, and this hill is a lot tougher than I remembered. I'm now conscious that I'm having to work hard not to give in to walking. I bet this was my slowest mile so far.

Miles 19 and 20 are the "I'd be just fine with ANY PR today" and "what the f#ck happened to my pace" miles. Seriously, I was kicking butt not 20-minutes ago and now I'm pushing to run 10-minute miles. Oh, and the really smooth runner guy helping me with my pace? I think he just dropped out with leg cramps. I have officially entered the BITE ME miles.

At Mile 20 I'm busy planning my lawsuit against the Race Director for not coming clean about the rolling hills. I figure I have enough people to make it a civil lawsuit (did I mention the effin' rolling hills???).

Mile 21 is the start of the "you're almost there" crowd. Seriously. Just 200 yards into Mile 21 and a guy yells, "Just 4 miles left! It's all down hill from here!" Learn to count, buddy! 26 minus 21 is NOT 4!!! I mentally abuse him for the next 2 miles. I re-direct my lawsuit towards him and imagine getting a million dollars in punitive damages. I imagine stopping, and saying, "Well, since we're so close to the finish, why don't you just put that sign down and pace me? No? That's what I thought." For the record, if you can't see the finish line YOU'RE NOT ALMOST DONE.

At 23 I had nothing left. I don't know if I hit the wall or what but I do know that my legs were tired and vetoing my request to pick-up the pace. I finished in 4:12:11, with a solid PR (over 7 minutes better than my previous) and I learned a lot about racing. That's all I know for now.

P.S. If you took my advice, you're 11 drinks in and think I'm pretty funny.

* = (pNbtn) = Praise NOT Be Thy Name!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

FUNNY FRIDAY: Google Suggest

Part illuminating, part entertaining and part terrifying, Google Suggest is a window into the collective search psyche of our fellow humans. And based on the contents of this list — be afraid. Be very afraid.

Disturbing as they may be, they are at least anonymous. Anonymous, that is, until Google "suggests" a search to a federal agent that makes him wonder, "Who the hell asked that?" Until that inevitable day, have fun.

Tattoos & Infections. It's Not What You Think

ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Went to the track for the last time last night for Mixed Intervals w/ 90-second rest. Here's what they looked like:
  • 1 mile warm up
  • 2K @ 8:16 pace
  • 1 Mile @ 7:53
  • 1K @ 7:20 pace
  • 1 Mile cool down

I felt great and all, but this sinus infection/ cold is a drain on my energy. It was noticeable. It's got me worried, but there's nothing I can do about it, so I'm trying my best to ignore it. (Denial works for me).

The race is in 1 day, 21 hours... I've been checking the weather forecast, and it's totally confusing. A few days ago, the forecast said 30% chance of rain. The next day it called for a "wintry mix". No explanation. This morning, there's a picture of a cloud, rain, and snow overlaid with a question mark. What's up with that? Why even bother forecasting the weather if you're just gonna throw a big ol' question mark in there? I mean, really.

In other news- I definitely have a cold and a sinus infection. Again. Geez, how bad does that suck? I have no idea what kind of impact it will have on the race, but what can you do? I've just made sure I have some sinus/ congestion medicine on hand, and I'm drinking extra water. My attitude towards this new development tells me I am ready to race.

A few days ago, this new development would've been cause enough for a major freak out. Today, not so much. Hey! Who's handing out the meds around here, anyways?

And finally, here's my "Temporary Tattoo" selection for race day. I'm going with a PaceTat for the first time. Cool idea, but I have no idea if it will be useful. (I'm sure you'll hear from me about it either way). I've got the racing flags in honor of the race's theme, and on a more personal note, the Chinese characters for "Honor".*

* But you'd know what that was all about if you read my blog. (Yes, you, Leopold!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Born To Run

BtR is about the world of running, ultramarathons, the shoe industry, and the Tarahumara (pronounced Tara-oo-mara) Indians, a secluded group of "super athletes" known for their running endurance and speed. I dare you to read it and not be inspired to run, to be healthy, to be, well, just, better.

The story begins with the author's seemingly innocent (unless you're a runner) question, "How come my foot hurts?"and ends with a race between a few elite ultra runners (including Scott Jurek) and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

In between are a number of answers, questions, and challenges.

I could not put Born to Run down. This book is both thrilling and informative. I love how it recaptured the excitement of past ulta distance races like the 1995 Leadville 100 while telling the backstories of BtR’s protagonists — Ann Trason, Ken Chlouber, Caballo Blanco (or “Micah True"),"Barefoot Ted" McDonald, Scott Jurek, Jenn “Mookie” Shelton and Billy “Bonehead” Barnett.

On another front, it serves as an indictment of the running shoe industry, specifically Nike, while also laying out a compelling case that human beings evolved to be runners—chasing prey down, out-enduring them via the persistence hunt.

Perhaps one of the most inspirational paragraphs from Born to Run contains the book’s title:

Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires"—it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always

With Born to Run, McDougal captures an authentic human experience and conveys it directly to the reader. You are awed by superhuman athletes while still seeing their core humanity. And therein is one of McDougall’s primary takeaways: every human being was born to run, the design being coded within our DNA.

Conclusion: BtR is a fantastic read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it. I believe this is a book that will spawn the next generation of runners, and I’m optimistic that it will take barefooting (or at least minimalist footwear) mainstream. Born to Run helps us to take another step towards understanding what it means and what is required to be human.

Thank you to Christopher McDougall for telling this tale: it needed to be told!

Pre Race Thoughts

ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Ran 6.2 miles in 1:00 last night. Even the cold, wind, rain, and occasional snotsicle could not kep my enthusiasm down. Oh, I may have looked stoic on the outside, but on the inside I was all like, "Now throw yo hands in the air and wave ‘em like you just don’t care! Move yo feet to pound the street. Everybody say Oh Yeah!"

Ever notice that it's impossible to get your race number pinned on straight the first time you do it? You always put it on your shirt in the exact spot you want it, attach it with the safety pins and suddenly it looks like one side is way under your arm and the other is lined up with your belly button. Safety pins must be sneaky long. I don't need to worry about crap like my number being jacked up on race morning. I don't need to worry about anything other than focusing on the race. I plan on doing as many of the little things as I can to take the stress out of race morning. The big de-stressors are getting your race packet the day before, waking up early enough, setting out all versions of race clothes the night before, along with shoes and socks, gloves, and Gu's.

This time around, I'll make a special effort to turn on Garmin (pbtn) when I first get to Charlotte. I remember how panicked* I was just minutes before the start of the Buffalo Marathon when Garmin could not locate the satelite. Panic in the form of adrenaline coursed through my veins as Garmin (pbtn) asked, "Are you indoors now?" (NO! NO! Noooo..! I am NOT indoors!! Why are you asking that?!??). Then, "Have you recently travelled hundreds of miles?"(OMG! I HAVE travelled hundreds of miles!!! What does that mean?!?!).*

How nice it's been to just re-live that moment.


This post is supposed to be about pre-race thoughts, so here they are:

I'm not worried about finishing the distance. I am worried about finishing in Boston qualifying time. For me that means starting smart, and working the middle of the race smart. There are a many reasons that starting intelligently is so difficult. Fresh legs want to run fast. Roar of the crowd. Adrenaline. Nervous Energy. I've got to have patience and confidence that I will run faster miles late in the race.

Miles 1-2
Once the race starts these are the things I'll try to remember. Slow miles at the start of the race are always faster than slow miles at the end. I've got 26.2 miles to cover. Don't waste any energy. Settle into a nice efficient rhythm as soon as possible. Hold the dogs back.

Miles 3-9
This is the second part of the first section. Focus on pace and form. Don't waste energy by being inefficent. Run Quiet. Make sure my feet are landing quietly, my breathing isn't too labored, my arms are going back and forth and that I'm holding them low. Imagine my elbows are knocking straight backwards.

Miles 10-17
Work in to goal pace during this section. Believe. I can do it. Don't give in to fears and insecurities that say, "Use it or lose it". Trust my training and plan enough not to panic and change change it midway through the race. Not that the result is a given, but trusting the plan frees me up to "work it". And if it doesn't work, at least I will learn something useful.

Miles 18 - 26.2
Focus on how I want to remember this race, and hopefully enjoy the ride. Assess how I feel. Speed up slightly and see what happens. If good at Mile 22, go for it.

Good Luck to everyone running Saturday! Thanks to everyone cheering, you guys are a tremedous help!

* In case the suspense is killing you, Garmin (pbtn) finally became operational at the 5K mark.
* Is it just me, or is does it seem weird that the word "panic" gets a "k" added to it in the past-tense?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sneaky Fast

ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Rest day today.

Yesterday I ran my last run of any significant distance - 15 miles at base pace (9:10- 10:10).

Here's the stats:

  1. 10:12
  2. 10:40
  3. 11:06
  4. 09:51
  5. 10:30
  6. 10:21
  7. 10:22
  8. 09:17
  9. 09:12
  10. 09:58
  11. 09:46
  12. 10:26
  13. 09:33
  14. 11:05
  15. 09:25

Average pace: 10:07.

Looks pretty normal, huh? I mean, besides all that uneven pacing going on. Yeah, well, here's what mile splits don't tell you: From the very start of my run, I could not keep the speed demons down! Every time I glanced at Garmin (pbtn) to check my pace, I would see 8:44, or 8:16, or 7:48 (or 6:52!!) ..or some other crazy-fast number, and have to slow my fast self down.

So, in actuality, the run was more like sections of running waay to fast interspersed with sections of slowing waaay down. Something like this:

Run way too fast.
Check Garmin (pbtn).
Slow way the hell down.
Repeat 40 to 50 times.

Obviously, all this rest is doing me good. It appears to be true that tapering (uh hm. I mean peaking) results in a sudden increase of fast twitch fibers. I felt GREAT. And FAST. And CONFIDENT. And unable to start a sentence without a conjunction.

But after awhile, the inability to control my pace became the worry du jur:

Please, please, oh gods of running, let me be able to control myself better than this on Saturday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


For the first time ever I'm putting together a playlist for a race. I haven't bought new music in a while so all my current music feels a little played out, but I'm doing my best. It's kind of fun, actually. Here's what I have so far. Let's call it:

Thunder Road Play List Part I:
  • Crazy Train; Ozzy Osbourne (yup, to kick off the race)
  • Fly; Sugar Ray
  • I Got A Feelin'; Black Eyed Peas
  • Sweet Dreams Are Made of This (Hot Mix); Eurythmics
  • I Don't Wanna Stop; Ozzy Osbourne
  • Black or White; Michael Jackson
  • Let's Get It Started (Spike Mix); Black Eyed Peas
  • Gives You Hell; All American Rejects
  • Dead and Gone (featuring Justin Timberlake); T.I.
  • All These Things I've Done; The Killers
  • Little Bird; Annie Lennox
  • Boston; Augustana
  • I Run; Slim Thug
  • Lose Yourself; Eminem
  • Run This Town; Jay-Z
  • Just Walk On By; Joss Stone
  • Low; Yung Bundle
  • The Chokin' Kind; Joss Stone
  • Stronger; Kanye
  • Top Back; T.I
  • Happy; Leona Lewis
  • Man In The Mirroe; Michael Jackson
  • Mama, I'm Comin' Home; Ozzy Osbourne
  • Till I Collapse; Eminem
  • Use Somebody; Kings of Leon
  • If You Want It, You've Got To Earn It; Run To Cadence U.S. Special Forces
  • Left, Right Your Left; Run To Cadence U.S. Special Forces
  • 1,2,3,4; Run To Cadence U.S. Special Forces
  • Losing Touch; The Killers
  • Razor Blade; The Strokes
  • Freedom 90; George Michael
  • Move Along; The All-American Rejects

Stay tuned...

FRIDAY FUNNY: Costumed Runners

Think running a marathon is hard? Try running it in a costume.

You've seen 'em. Those few runners who choose to run in costume, making a daunting task such as a marathon even more formidable.

Why do they do it? Do they have all their marbles? Does the extra attention they get give them a mental push? Do they simply enjoy putting a smile on others' faces? Whatever the reason, our spirits are lifted when we see these costumed runners (unless we are being passed by a by said costumed runner, in which case we are too busy being humbled by the experience).

Let's take a look at some of these kooky runners in costume...

Thank you to all of you crazy runners who inspire us with fun costumes. If you can run 26.2 in an uncomfortable get-up, we can run it in our moisture wicking running clothes!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Charlotte Marathon Race Planning: Part II

It came out of nowhere, and it was totally unexpected - I had a great run last night. It was just your average 9 mile base pace run, but the mental and emotional place I ended up on the other side of that run is more important to me than all my key workout performances of this training cycle combined.

As I set out last night, I expected to feel some residual fatigue. Although my mileage was reduced from 80 to 55 last week, the quality of each run seemed to increase, wiping out my ability to feel the "rest" effect. Instead of fatigue, however, I felt something else as I began to run - a stabbing pain in my butt (piriformis?) on the left side, and a very tight/ sore left quadricep (hip flexor?). Instant alarm bells! Down the mental road of injury I went, full speed ahead, exploring every avenue of disaster this new information brought.

A mental eternity later (equivalent to about 2-3 seconds in real time), I decided to just relax and let the soreness work itself out. I made a special effort to set all thought aside (yeah, good luck with that! my brain screamed) and just run. About a half mile later, I realized that although I was sore, and there were definitely some issues going on that needed my attention, I felt really strong. Not the first couple miles of a run strong, and not the fake, caffeine-induced kind of strength, but something far more substantial and personal. Like I was tapping into a deep, limitless even, reservoir of strength. It felt as if my body had absorbed all the recent hard training, become stronger for it, and was giving me a preview of what it had done for me. Look, it said, you are ready to go.

The ironic thing is that earlier yesterday I had gone through the steps to determine if I was ready to attempt to BQ at Charlotte, and wisely (I thought) had decided I was in fact not ready. I came to this conclusion based not on what my workouts were saying, because they say I'm ready to run at 8:48 pace, but on the "other factors" that go into running an ideal race. Experience, confidence, the course, the weather, etc. I concluded that it would be smarter, and I'd feel less pressure, if I kept the "sub-4 hour" goal and the "BQ" goal for different races. Don't get me wrong, I still think this is a "smart" move, but it feels theoretical, and so just like with all things that seem "good in theory", some part of me will continue to doubt it until it's proven.

During last night's run, I realized my true race strategy: I have to honor my training. I can't ignore the months of work I have put specifically into this race. I can't ignore the wisdom I've gained, both mentally and physically, from the training process. My body is trained. It knows how to do this. I have to honor that. My brain is just along for the ride--and quite frankly if I could leave it home on race day, I would.

This means that I am not running this race for a sub- 4:00 finish time. It means I am running the race that my body is prepared to run, and I have tried my best to prepare it to finish in 3:50. But I won't force that finishing time upon myself. if I try to force my body into running the race my mind wants to run it will backfire (see: Rutledge Half Marathon Race Report). I have to trust that my body knows what it's doing and understand that the finishing time is an output of that trust.

So my race day strategy will be to start off somewhere between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace groups.
The first couple of miles will be slowest, at about 9:06. Then I plan to ease into 8:56's, and hit my target pace of 8:48 for miles 10-17. The last six miles will be whatever I've got left. If I can run the final 10K in just under 54 minutes, I should come home in 3:50 and change.

While out there my biggest challenge (I hope) will be sticking to the pace plan through 18 miles. It will feel too slow in the early going....but it isn't. Any faster and I'll pay a big price later in the race. I know that no matter how many times I hear that and think I understand it, it's still very easy to be seduced into starting out faster than I should on race morning. It's so easy to run the first half of a marathon 10-20 seconds/mile....or more....faster than you should and die in the last 6 miles. That's definitely what happened to me at Buffalo, specifically from mile 13-18.

So that is my game plan: honor what I have trained myself to do by letting me do it. It's simple really, but it takes lots of discipline to execute. Game on.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Marathon Fever

ORN [Obligatory Running Note]: Ran 8 miles at base pace. Hilly loop from YWCA that includes Sunset. Felt a bit lethargic after a day off.

Normally, I start getting hyper aware of the Marathon around the two-weeks-to-go mark. This time around, it's no different. Case in point: I bought milk last night, and noticed the expiration date was December 13. One day past my marathon (do you even read my blog??).

Time to check the race website on a daily basis trolling for new information, or to look up my registration just to make sure it's still there. Time to check the weather forecasts religiously, create my play list, and start planning out Race Day down to the second.

...It's a magical time that only comes once or twice a year--kinda like daylight savings.

It's Marathon Fever Time.

Charlotte Marathon Race Planning: Part I

Wherein I ask myself if I am ready to do what it takes to BQ.

If you've been following my blog*, you know my ultimate goal for the marathon is to qualify for Boston, which will take a 3:50:59 effort or better. That's 26 miles at an average pace of 8:48.

Here I am, 10-11 days out from my goal race, feeling confident I can run 8:48 pace, but less confident about some of the other factors that determine a good race, and wondering if Charlotte's Thunder Road course is even the right course in which to try to BQ. I'm thinking that to qualify for Boston, you need to run an ideal race on an ideal course under ideal conditions. And that's a lot of ideals.

So, what's an "ideal" marathon and what does it take to run one?

Most people agree that the perfect, or ideal, marathon is one that is run with an even pace and even effort, allows for course, terrain and weather variations throughout the race, and leaves you with an empty tank at the finish. It requires that three things be done correctly:

  1. An honest and accurate pre-race assessment of your level of conditioning and preparation.

  2. Establish a realistic goal and race plan, including consideration of race terrain and weather, that reflect the assessment of (1) above.

  3. Disciplined execution of the race plan, especially running the first half neither too fast nor too slow.

Am I ready to run an ideal marathon?

In all honesty, no. While I'm probably on target about my conditioning and preparation, I'm most likely being too aggressive in my race planning. I'm terrible at keeping an even pace under stress and/or on hills. My last marathon was back in May, and I did a terrible job following my race plan. Discipline gave way to insecurity. All in all, I've run just 3 marathons, and just one with a time goal, so I certainly lack the experience it takes to run the "ideal" marathon.

Well that was easy. So, what should my goal be?

I am fairly well trained, I think, for trying to run a sub-4:00 marathon in Charlotte. I feel confident I can do it if I race smart, eat right, don't go too hard too early, and nothing out of the ordinary happens (and that's a lot of ifs).

So, the BQ effort is off the table for now. I think it's far wiser to realize that my ultimate marathon potential is a long term project, and I won't get there with one training cycle. It takes a series of several, each moving to a higher level. If I try to jump too far, too fast I know what's likely to happen. And it ain't pretty.

* Nancy. Possibly Leopold.