Tag Archives: 13.1

Post Race Let Down – adventure run!

As marathon season, and the traditional running season in general, winds down many of the running magazines, e-zines, blogs and other media are putting together articles about the post race let down. I won’t re-hash what is said. But I will say it is real.

And for me, the only way to beat the blah is to get out and do something. The past few weeks, I did just that.

Now, to be perfectly clear, my running has dropped off after the marathon. I have kind of quit caring about the fast 5k. It’s nice to just run for the love of being out and running. And that’s where I decided to go and do some awesome things.

The first thing I did was run my mountain. Base to summit to base. I had no idea how long the trail was. I had only a rough idea how much elevation would be covered. I thought I knew where the steepest parts would be.

And armed with this lack of information, I went out for a run. It was an adventure.

I knew the trail crossed the road twice. At the upper crossing I stopped the car and stashed some water and food. I parked down by where the parasailers and hang gliders parked, and I slowly started the climb. I went off with the attitude of a guy who might be running a self-support 20 mile run. I took it easy. I looked at the scenery. I enjoyed the trail, the beautiful fall day, and the sound of my breathing and foot falls. Having ditched the ipod many weeks ago I have come to really appreciate the sound my feet on the ground. The crunch of the dirt on the trails is one of my favorite sounds while running. I am finally in shape enough that the sound of my own breathing doesn’t freak me out. (Now to just keep that…)

And the run was good. Shorter than expected. Easier than expected. And it was fun. Right up until I discovered someone had walked off with my cache of supplies. So, thankfully it was shorter and easier than expected. But who does that?

4.5 miles later (including the spur to Buffalo Bills Grave), I was standing at the top of the hill. There was nowhere to go but down. I took a moment to allow some mountain bikers to head down first (no need to force them to pass me). I stopped and looked around. I had been to this point numerous times. But this was the first time I started at the very, very bottom. And it felt good.

As I descended, the missing water and food melted from my mind. I had run the mountain. And I was still running. I’m not going to say that the sense of accomplishment was equal to the marathon finish line. But I had tackled something that had intimidated me in the past. And it felt good.

And that brings me to this morning. All summer I had watched people running one section of trail next to where my youngest girl goes to pre-school. Today, I ran it. From the road, this trail just looks like heaven. Gently rolling, fairly fast, knee high mountain grasses on both sides of the trail, and the light in the morning and evening hits everything just right and makes it look like one of those inspirational posters you see on facebook.

And today, I ran it. And it was every bit as good as I had expected. I can only imagine that the passing cars on that section saw me as I had seen the other runners all summer long – somewhat hazy images in the morning light enjoying a simple jaunt on the trail. Part of me hopes I was able to inspire someone to get out and do something. But mostly, I’m just glad I managed to make the time to run that spot.

Again, it was a bit of an adventure. I had a good idea where the trail went and what to expect, but I didn’t *KNOW* where I was going or what to expect. I knew I had time for about five miles. So before deciding, I settled on a 2.5 mile out and back. The middle quarter mile was a steep hill. My turn around point was in the middle of the hill. I can’t wait to get back there and and do a loop.

Hopefully as the summer race season winds down you are able to get out and just enjoy being there and doing your thing.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Twin Cities Race Report

First, I will summarize for those not too interested in all the gory details of running a long race, but please remember to scroll down to the thank you section.  It was a glorious disaster ending with a 4:02:38 finish.  That’s a mere 0:02:39 shy of my goal time.  But it’s still a PR by over 20 minutes and I’m only disappointed because I’m a numbers guy and know that 3:59:59 is less than 4:02:38. 

Most of this is written the day after the race, and then edited over the following week.  This is a long write-up.  As a friend said in her post-race blog, “It’s a marathon.  Pace yourself.”  In fact, her write up is better than mine and has pictures.  Check it out here: http://runforliving.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/race-report-twin-cities-marathon/

From a health perspective, I have two sore ankles, and one small blister on each foot.  The ankles are most likely due to either moving through the wheel ruts in the pavement, or the potholes.  I know one of the holes got me good.  But I went for a shakedown run the day after and felt pretty dang good all things considered.

When the horn went off (No gun?) I went out too fast.  Because that’s what I do.  I managed to get it reigned in after the first potty stop at 0.75 miles.  Yes.  You read that right.  Overall, the first 5k was only a touch faster than it should have been.  When I passed the Team In Training cheering section at mile 4.5 I was right at the pace I needed to be and managed to hold that until mile 8 or so.

Somewhere around mile 8 the 3:45:00 pace group caught me.  They started in the wave behind me.  This was a tight, aggressive knot of people.  And they hit me right where the road narrowed to one lane.  And I got stuck in the group.  I couldn’t get out.  So I ran with them for the next 10 miles or so.  I felt good.  I felt comfortable.  My heart rate was right where it needed to be.  But the pace was quicker than I had intended. There was a fair bit of stress running in that tight knot.  There were elbows everywhere.  Every step could have been the back of someone’s shoe.  Every time I lifted a foot, someone may have been standing on the back of my shoe.  If I tripped on a pothole I couldn’t see through the throng of people I would surely be stepped on- more than once.  I was only able to separate from the group when the road opened up, stopped turning, and became a good two lane straight where people could spread out.

Hydration and nutrition went better than planned.  Salt tabs every half hour.  Gel every hour.  Twizzler from some kids at mile 6 (There was no crying when I took it.  I assume he was holding it out for me.  Oh no.  Did I take candy from a baby?).  Half banana from the kids at mile 14.  I was going through about ½ bottle of water every 2 miles and filled at the water stops about that time.  I managed to avoid all of the things offered from the crowd as we ran through the St. Thomas campus.  Call me paranoid, but I still remember enough about college to know better.  Next time I will try harder to find something to eat in the last half.  More banana maybe.  That was really good.

There were a few people along the course who knew me.  I had a cousin who told me where she was going to be.  I had some friends from college who told me where they were going to be.  There were several dedicated Team In Training cheering spots.  While I appreciated all of those (especially the fresh socks!) it was an unexpected visitor that stuck with me.  My roommate from college showed up.  He wasn’t sure he would make it.  But there he was.  It was a familiar voice calling my name at an unexpected spot.  I think it was about mile 15.  I actually circled back to give him a high five.  And the joy of that unexpected shout carried me until about mile 20 or so.

Mile 19 I stopped to change socks.  At mile 15 I was going to skip the sock change, but then I started to hear my socks squishing as I ran.  And the fresh socks felt sooooo nice for the next 3 miles.  As I stopped for socks, I noticed some clouds building and could feel the temperature dropping. 

The Hill between miles 20 and 23 was every bit as big as I had feared. (About 500 feet over three miles.)  I managed.  I was slow.  I’m not ashamed to say I walked.  My training runs had me walking for a couple minutes every half hour.  For the race I managed to avoid walking for the first three hours.  Even walking I managed to pass someone who was making an effort to not walk.  I know this because one of the spectators commented on it loudly enough to make me look.  Mile 22 it started to rain.  And it was not warm.  So much for the fresh socks.

Mile 24 the wheels fell off.  I cramped.  Everywhere.  One foot, both calves, both hamstrings, both quads, both glutes, one hip flexor, something in my upper back, my stomach and my right forearm.  The forearm was the one that hurt the worst because it was so unexpected and rather sudden.  The rest just sort of crept in on me.  This slowed me down.  I fully stopped for a moment to see what the stomach cramp was going to do.  Vomiting may have been a good idea, but I couldn’t do it.  I stood there staring at a blue garbage can. 

Before I left, A seasoned marathoner from work reminded me that at some point the race was going to suck.  And I should embrace the suck.  So I gave it a big, sweaty hug.  And I stared at that trash can and I laughed.  The spectators nearby started looking at me funny.  Clearly I had lost it.  I had fully embraced the suck.

And

I

Pushed

Onward. 

Mostly flat with a touch up hill.  Compared to my runs around home, it was a breeze.  But I was hurting and moving slowly.  But moving.  Relentless forward progress.  At this point I don’t know where the strength came from, but I’m glad it was there.  Maybe it was from running hills in the snow, running hills in the blazing summer heat, early morning track workouts… It didn’t matter.  The strength was there.

As the course slowly crested the hill I saw a giant American flag hanging from two cranes over the course. The flag emerged from the road slowly.  Every step revealed a bit more of the red white and blue.  I let gravity pull me downward focusing only on my posture, not over striding, not tripping on a pot hole, cadence, cadence, cadence…  I was moving quickly (well, quick for having gone 20-some miles) when I hit the flag.  And that’s when I looked down the road and noticed the flag was NOT the finish line.  Someone hung the flag at mile 26. This might have been good to know beforehand.  I had another .2 miles to go.  And I was fried.  But it was almost all downhill.  So I kept on keeping on.  This hill was steeper.  My quads were screaming.  I gained more speed.  I kept going.  I wasn’t running.  I was falling down the hill and just managed to get my feet down in time to avoid taking a tumble.  The last few yards flattened out.  Without the aid of gravity I slowed.  I kept my stride “proper” and consistent and focused on cadence and not falling.  I crossed the line with no real sense of glory, just thankful that I didn’t have to keep running.  There is a finish line video.  The video shows I maintain a good, quick pace and cadence across the line.  As I cross I raise my arms slightly higher than shoulder level.  If this wasn’t on video, I would have never known any of it.

And the weather hit me.  Reality hit me.  The fact that I just ran 26.2 miles hit me.  It was cold.  It was windy.  I was wet.  The cramping started to creep in.  Feet first. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in.  I felt a rumble deep inside.  And it grew with every staggering step.  The rumble grew and escaped as a whoop of victory. 

I made sure to stop at all the post-finish line spots.  I devoured the fruit cup and chocolate milk immediately.  The stomach cramps worked in tighter.  I knew I needed to get things into my body, but I didn’t know if my body was going let them stay there.  There were very few trash cans around.  Those that were near were overflowing.  That fact made me nervous.  My stomach got tighter and tighter until I hit the warm soup station.  The warm soup almost makes up for the flag at mile 26.  Almost.  I’m very thankful it wasn’t too hot to drink. Feeling the warmth unlock my stomach was the best feeling I had since the potty stop at the beginning.   I worked over to the bag check and had to make the decision:  Do I change clothes first, or get in line for a massage to ease the ever increasing pressure?  I decided standing in the line for the massage while wearing wet clothes sounded hellish.

The changing tent had no benches or chairs.  But it was warm.  And smelly.  But it was warm!  I managed to not fall. Being surrounded by naked strangers, this is a pretty big victory.  And I almost sold my towel to someone wishing they had one.  Things were looking up.  There were jokes.  The warmth was unlocking things.  But I was finally dressed, and it just isn’t cool to hang out in the changing tent longer than needed.  So I ventured out into the cold, moist October day and got in line for the massages.  The line was moving fast, and volunteers were handing out more soup and power aid.

The massage was good.  Nowhere near as aggressive as I was used to or expected, but good enough.  I’m convinced that five minutes on the table is why I was able to function so well the day after and even run a bit.  And the massage tent was warm.  Nowhere near as smelly as the changing tent.  I don’t remember seeing a heater in there, but there must have been one.  I really didn’t want to leave.

The finishing area was a blur to me.  I was shutting down.  I really don’t remember much of the detail.  I do remember making a choice to fend off a feeling of panic.  I never panic.  The fact that feeling was there is a really bad sign.  I managed to meet my friends despite the best efforts of the cell network to shut everything down.  If my goal was anything more complicated than “Find the purple Team In Training Tent” I probably wouldn’t have made it.  The unilateral decision was to get me back to the hotel, and warm as soon as possible.  Believe it or not, that decision was a tough one for me to accept.

I showed up to run with a team.  If there’s anything I have learned over the years it is how to support a team.  That support is ingrained in the fibers of my being.  And in this case, the right thing to do was to abandon my team and take care of myself.  The decision hurt.  But it was right.

“I do not run for the medals, tee shirts, for accolades from friends, or because I’m addicted to competition. I run marathons because of what is forged in the crucible of those last painful miles of the marathon: when I fear that there is nothing left, there is more.”

From http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/10/07/there-is-more/

Running with Team in Training

This was my first event run with an organization known as Team in Training.  This is a fundraising arm for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.   I hope this is not my last experience with that organization.

First, my local Colorado team is full of good people.  It was awesome training with them and getting to know them.

Second, my fundraising showed me just how pervasive cancer is in our world.  Everyone had a connection to the cause.  Everyone who donated gave more than I thought they were going to.  Some gave a LOT more than I expected.  Even people I was sure I would never hear back from gave to the cause.

Then there was running the race wearing the Team in Training jersey…  That was an experience I will not soon forget.  The experience started to dawn on me while climbing the small hill at mile 2.  A perfect stranger and fellow runner sped up his pace dramatically to get a few minutes by my side.  (Those who have run with me know I devour small hills when I’m fresh, and as you’ll recall, I was still moving too quickly.)  This gentleman confirmed I was with TnT, extended his hand and said “Thank you.  I am a survivor.”  From that point on, excluding the expected TnT  cheering sections, about every other mile someone seeming at random would give out a “Go Team!” or a “come on purple!”  These people had no visible connection to the team, no TnT logo showing, no purple, but seemed to know what the team stood for.

Last, but not least, the Minnesota crew of TnT was great.  They welcomed me to the team dinner and into the team running atmosphere without hesitation, and with a friendly smile.  I’m still bummed I wasn’t able to help cheer them across the finish.  It was great running a bit with Ed.  I probably should have stuck closer to him.  It may have lead to a stronger finish.

Running in Minneapolis and St. Paul

These people know how to throw a marathon.  There isn’t really a better way to put it.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  On a simple spectator per linear foot of course basis, I think there were more people cheering on this race than the Bolder Boulder.  I’m trying to remember the quiet sections of the course.  Only two come to mind.  And they were short lived.  Much of the course had people not only shoulder to shoulder, but jostling for position.

There were signs, cowbells, horns, marching bands, drum lines, unofficial aid stations with useful offerings to distance runners.  The Bolder Boulder will offer beer, bacon, and  jell-o shots, but not much useful.  When I ran the Denver half I don’t remember the spectators offering any aid whatsoever.   I’ll forgive the American Discovery Trail marathon for being quiet.  It was a trail.  There were many miles where access to the route was simply difficult.  That one is designed to be quiet.

All of this commotion builds on the race day excitement.  It is nearly impossible to slow, walk, or stop in front of all these enthusiastic people.

Dedications & Thanks

I feel the need to dedicate part of my race to the honor of my father in law Ernie Whitehouse for beating Leukemia, and to the memory of Becky Conner, the sister-in-law of a close friend.  To these two (all the survivors, those who didn’t make it, and their families, really) I dedicate mile 24.  I do not dedicate this mile because it was the easiest, fastest, or felt the best.  I dedicate it because it sucked.  It was the worst mile I’ve run in a long, long time, and yet it was nothing compared to what they have endured.

And I owe thanks.  Thanks to my coaches.  Thanks to my acupuncture and massage guy.  Thanks to my Chiropractor.  A deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who sent money to sponsor my run, as well as those who could only send their best wishes.  A thank you to my friends in MN who acted as my local support staff and brought me socks.  Thank you to my coworkers for being flexible with meeting times so I could work in a run.

I must thank McKesson for matching funds.  A large part of my financial contribution to the cause is from this source.

A special thank you to my cousin DeNae for guilting me into signing up for the race, and then being all knocked up and not running it with me.  And to Kristen for being an awesome virtual running buddy.  The day didn’t quite finish as planned.  Next time we’ll get some time together.

And most of all, a thank you to my family.  You put up with my shit for many months while I spent many hours training, planning, injured, stressed, tired, traveling and just generally bitchy.  But you know I want to do it again, right?

Until next time:  Don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Back from the dead (long)

This blog has been silent for way too long. And to the few followers I have, I apologize.

As you will soon see, I was busy.

I think my last post called out that I was looking for the fastest 5k of my life. Well, the year isn’t out. I have been training. Boy, have I been training.

Not long after that post, I let myself get talked into signing up for a marathon. (I admit, it didn’t take much coaxing.) So I’ve been running. My typical 30-70 minute workouts turned into multi-hour events. And that takes a lot of time out of your life.

But here it is the night before the race when I’m supposed to be sleeping, but no one really expects me to sleep.

So let me recap some training and major events.

1) Decision time.
I committed to the training early. I came off the winter feeling strong and in shape. And it’s just gotten better.

2) Commitment to a cause.
Running a marathon (Well, training for a marathon anyway) can be considered a selfish act. Not long after committing to the training I learned that a friend was running for a charity – fund raising and all. So I found one signed on. (No, I’m not going to solicit funds here. That’s not what this is about.)

3) Training.
There were miles. And miles. And hills. Track work outs. And natural disasters. And more miles and more hills. And a personal record.

4) Injury.
Not many people can put in the miles needed for a marathon and remain 100% healthy. About seven weeks ago I contacted a local acupuncture/massage/chiropractic office that specializes in endurance athletes. My initial contact was with the intent of just getting a little help staying healthy through the peak training weeks. Within hours of making that call, I concluded that “weird pain” in my ankle was an actual problem. I came to this conclusion hopping along the side of the road on one leg. This was one of those pains that an MD would treat by taking lots of pictures and telling me not to run so much. So I think I made the right call. Best of off, these folks were able to get me on track and feeling really good.

5) Coaching from an unlikely source.
That chiropractor I mentioned? Turns out he’s a certified running coach. We talked a bit about form and philosophy. This lead to part of the identification of why I had been hopping around on the side of the road on one foot. It also taught me how to do a couple things better. That lead to a personal record performance on a 5 mile loop that I had been working every Thursday. It was quick. And it felt great. I now run differently. There’s a lesson for you there. We can all learn do it better. We just need someone to show us a few pointers.

6) Weight loss.
A week before the race I was 10 pounds lighter than I was six weeks earlier. And faster. There’s no secret here. Do five weeks where you run between 40 and 55 miles each week and see what happens. Even if you eat junk you should drop a fair bit of weight.

7) Staying flexible.
I mentioned natural disasters. No kidding, there was a biblical flood. Most the trails I usually ran were well under water. And I had a 20 mile jaunt ahead of me. I was able to find something with only one water crossing (a bridge) that was just re-opened. And I ran it solo and self supported. The long runs in the past were supported by the charity organization I had found. They had someone go out and stash water. I went and did the same. Since I was stashing just for me I used individual 16oz bottles, and added in a gel pack and salt tabs. One stop even had a banana. While the group running was certainly more fun, self supporting meant I could carry less and have a few extras along the way. I will keep that in mind for future outings. One of the other training members lived in an area more impacted by the flood. She ran 18 miles just going around the block. I guess it beats a treadmill.

So that’s the quick-quick recap of my summer of running. The marathon is tomorrow. I will take most of the next week off from running. Then I use the volume, strength and weight loss I have put together over the last six months to tackle my 5k goal. After the PR on the 5 mile training run, it should be workable. It won’t be easy. It won’t be casual. But I can do it.

But what about the race at hand?

Well, I’ve been pondering race strategy between obsessing about the weather. Here it is, 11 hours until the starting gun, and I still don’t know what to do or what to expect. My last marathon was kind of a mess. At least the last six miles were. The first six were far too fast because I was running to the toilet. (TMI? Dude. Ask a distance runner. They’ve all done it.) My problem is, I’m suddenly down 10 pounds (which makes me faster), it’s almost cold out (which makes me faster), I run with a new form and cadence (which makes me faster), and I’m running 6000 some-odd vertical feet lower than home, 7500 vertical feet lower than my usual mountain route, and about 4700 feet lower than my typical long runs. All of that makes me faster. What that means is I have no earthly idea what I should expect. I don’t know what is too fast.

But I have a goal. And I’ve done the math to know what that goal looks like. So I’m going to start at pace for that goal. I will hold that for the first 10-13 miles. Then I will pick it up and hold that for the next 10-13 miles. Then, if I feel I can still push it, I will. And I will hold that as long as I can.

So in big picture terms, I guess we have a race plan.

Plan B? Go out too fast, hold it too long, keep holding it, and get carried off on a stretcher.

And with that, it is time to turn things off and pretend to sleep for the next six hours or so.

Until next time. Don’t let the fat man catch you.

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