Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deseret News 10k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 25th Edition 
334.4 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Deseret News 10k
Place: Salt Lake City, UT     
Miles from home: 3 miles
Weather: 70+ degrees; cloudy; slightly humid

Take what you can get.

In this case what I could get was a solid showing and a new PR in the 10k.  It was not, however, anything close to what I was hoping for. But that is fine because it leaves even more room for improvement.

That was the short version so you can pretend your read this and talk to me at parties. Read on for the longer version.

Race Expo:

In a low key expo like this, I am usually afforded a great deal of time to have more one-on-one conversations with people. This always takes on an interesting aspect when it becomes clear to those there, either when they ask me what I at or anything else in those lines, that I am firm supporter of eating lean beef. More often than not the expressions are ones of happiness as you can see these fit people have had enough defending a perfectly healthy lifestyle to those who might feel otherwise.  Working with the Utah Beef Council here in Salt Lake at this race was enjoyable as well as family recipes for beef dishes and nutritional information on the power of protein were swooped up in droves by the many family-friendly runners that the area is known for.

But the interactions I really relish are those who may disagree with what I support.  In this instance, I had a lively discussion with a woman about "The China Study" - a book which concludes people who eat a vegan diet, which avoids animal proteins such as beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and milk, will minimize or reverse the development of chronic diseases. She was one who felt the book was correct whereas I obviously disagreed.

These discussions always intrigue me from a human interaction stand point, especially when "studies" by "they" are compared.  I have never understood why the first person to cite "studies" is surprised when another cites "studies" back to them.  In this case I mentioned that a large body of evidence exists that  a higher intake of lean animal protein reduces the risk for a variety of illness including but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, obesity and osteoporosis. A "consider the source"-esque comment was the rebuttal to which I said "I always do. Do you?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview with Leah Thorvilson

I first met Leah Thorvilson at the Mississippi Blues Marathon in 2009.  I didn’t see much of her that day as she is blazing fast. However, I realized we were kindred spirits when I learned she hated the heat and humidity as much as I did.  The MS Blues Marathon that year suffered an uncharacteristically muggy race day. (Ironically, in 2010 it was unbelievably cold to the tune of 18 degrees or so.  Happily, this year Mother Nature relaxed a little bit and we had picture perfect weather. But I digress.)

I finished in a time of 3:06 while Leah just missed going under three hours in a time of 3:00:52. She was so hit by the weather, she need some IV help.  That’s how fast she runs when it is her “off” day.
But more than her speed, she has an infectious happy attitude – one I wanted to dig into a little more and share with the rest of you.  So I sat down with her electronically and got this interview.

DR: You are an Olympic Trials Qualifier for the marathon.  When did you first do this?
LT: I ran times that would have qualified me for the A standard actually in 2009, but my first qualifier in the window was at the Fargo Marathon, May 21st, 2010. I ran a 2:41:52. (Dane note: Leah ran a 2:37:56 at the Green Bay Marathon which would have given her the “A" standard she speaks of if it has been within the allowable time period.)

DR: What are your plans between now and the trials?  Do you want to try and run a faster marathon time in between now and then or will it be about maintenance and training?
LT:  I plan to run Chicago this fall. That will be the only other competitive marathon. I may step into a few others just as training runs, but nothing big. I know I will also run some shorter races but I haven't officially lined out anything other than Chicago.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calories in; Calories Out

As runners we are often told “I am sure you can eat whatever you want, you run so much.”  To some extent, especially for younger runners with their high-burning engines, this is true.  Any calories into the body will not spend a second hiding abs or piling onto hips or butts.  However, this is not necessarily the case for adult runners, and it really underscores a problem of obesity in our country, even amongst runners.

Personally, I wish I ate a little better than I do.  Part of the nature of my present existence is travel and lots of it.  For example, I have spent about 4 full weekend at home in 2011.  I am usually gone for at least three, sometimes four, days a week.  It is extremely hard to eat healthy when you are eating food on the road (or at race expos, etc.)  Throw in the cravings after a marathon or an ultra, and it becomes even more difficult to eat properly. Even when you try to at least eat decent, you may not be doing even close to the best you could.

I have been touting to many people that while running long distance is a wonderful way for many people who are overweight to lose unwanted pounds initially, it is not necessarily the best way to keep losing weight, unless you pay attention to calories in and calories out. Studies have shown that we greatly overestimate how many calories we burn in exercise and grossly underestimate how many calories we eat.

Perfect example: in my most recent marathon in Vermont, I burned approximately 3,500 calories (I am a 175 lb male who did a 3:10 - for those wishing to check my math.) Afterward, rushing to the airport, I grabbed a footlong sub at Subway. Even as I ate it I recalled a link I saw to the Worst Lunch Sandwiches in America.  Lo and behold, my standard sub was on the list.  I knew it wasn’t the healthiest choice in America, but I never thought it contained – get ready - 1160 calories, 43 g of fat and 3320mg of sodium! A little under 1/3 of all the calories I burned in a marathon were consumed by this one sandwich.  Let’s not even add the chips or drink I had, or the other three meals I consumed while flying home all day and munching.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

St. Jude Memphis Marathon

It seems like a lifetime ago but back in 2004 I moved to Washington DC.  The impetus for this move was to be closer to the place I was going through a continual interview process with: the CIA. (No joke.) Wanting to stay in shape, I signed up for my third,and what I thought at the time would be my last, marathon - Marine Corps. Being so late to the game in signing up, one of the only ways to legitimately garner a spot in this race was to raise money for one of the affiliated charities. For a variety of reasons I chose to do so for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

To say the race did not go as planned is an understatement.  After a long summer of hot training, thinking I was more than prepared to go under 3 hours, I barely crossed the finish line a dehydrated mess. Perhaps it had to do with the heat.  Maybe it had to do with the humidity. More than likely it had something to do with me wearing both cycling pants underneath long non-breathable basketball shorts. At least I had a cool, wicking St. Jude singlet on to counterbalance my ignorance in running apparel. (I probably had wool socks on too - I don't recall.)

Somehow I survived and moved forward in my marathon career.  Now, finally, far too many years too late, I am happy to be working with the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis this December as not only a participant but also one of their guest speakers.

As my first marathon ever in Tennessee, I look forward to wonderful memories and a great time. I already know so many people who will be there and to bring my racing full circle like this is very warming to my heart.  If you too would like to be a St. Jude's Hero, please click HERE.  As their website says: "The St. Jude Half Marathon may be sold out, but you can still participate. Spots are being reserved in the half marathon for runners willing to commit to raising a minimum of $500 for St. Jude."

Please come join me in Memphis in December, run a great race and support a wonderful cause.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 24th Edition 
328.2 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon
Place: Napa and Sonoma, CA     
Miles from home: 714 miles
Weather: 50-60 degrees; cloudy; low humid

I had been intending to run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon with Dick Beardsley, who is gearing up for the 30th Anniversary of his epic Duel in the Sun with Alberto Salazar. However, about a week prior to the race, Dick suffered a setback with an injury to his quad tendon and would not be able to race. First and foremost, continued good vibes are sent to Dick, the one man who probably deserves nothing but good in this world but keeps getting handed a solid ration of poop.  Somehow he always comes out smiling on the other end.

Nevertheless, this left me with a sudden change in plans myself as I was unsure what exactly what I was going to do on the race course. continual aches in my left foot have troubled me a bit so I knew that in spite of the fact that the weather looked as if it may be absolutely perfect for racing, I was well aware I should not "race".

When a friend, Anthony, mentioned he was hoping to set a new PR, I asked him if he would like some help in doing so.  when he said yes, I now had my plan for race day.

Race Expo:

Both days of the expo were a treat as I got to meet lots of people whose paths I had crossed from previous races and also many new friends.  Working with the California Beef Council it was a treat to be in this area of the country which is, how do you say it, not exactly "beef-friendly".  this allowed me to keep sharp in discussing not only the healthy benefits of eating lean beef but also squash long-held, and incorrect, negative thoughts on production, shipping and the care of the animals which provide the food we eat. On one particular occasion, while someone was rather rudely espousing a (false) opinion on the subject, I patiently waiting until they were done talking to give my response. However, before I could, someone who had been standing by silently spoke up.

"You're wrong."

I looked at the person with an eyebrow raised as if to say "Please continue."  The speaker then identified herself as a cattle producer and shot down virtually every point the previous person had said, and did so from someone who could give an inside view.  They also did it in a calm demeanor as if this was not the first time they had to correct someone's incorrect view on how the entire industry is portrayed.  When they were done, the original party looked at me where I simply smiled and replied "What she just said."

The rest of the expo was spent meeting more than a few people from all over the country, who were more than happy to be supporters of beef.  In fact, Anthony, who I would be pacing the next day said he was so much stronger and healthier now that he was once again eating beef, haven given it up for some time a few years back. I told him he would need it if we were going to break his PR!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Downhill Personal Records

In a week I will be attempting to set a new PR in the 10k distance.  As the course definitely has some downhill in it, I thought it was a good time to bring back an article I wrote on Downhill PRs.

Recently a discussion on a few internet forums surfaced about the use of a personal best which was achieved on a course with either a moderate or large amount of downhill.  With the rapid filling of the Boston Marathon this past fall, many were lamenting that too many runners had “snuck in the back door” by using a personal best from a race which made it easier for them to meet their qualifying time.
Let me get something out of the way off the bat: without a doubt, especially over a short distance, a race which has a net downhill will most assuredly make it easier for a runner to go faster than they normally would on a flat course. However, as that distance increases, the advantage gained from downhill running will usually be leveled by the beating the legs take.

Some ludicrously compared downhill running to cheating the way baseball players using steroids did or runners who blood dope with EPO.  This is, of course, ridiculous. There will always be advantages gained from certain races which take place in the outdoors, be it from the course, or wind or the ability to master the way a course is set up (e.g., some runners being able to mentally deal with an out back or looped course better than others.) However, until every race, from 100 meters to 100 milers, is run in a climate controlled dome on a 400 meter track, there are always going to variables to factor into the finish times.

This variance is what gives running, off the track and out into the world, its distinct flavor.  Basketball courts never change.  Football, baseball and other sports played in stadiums must deal with weather but never have to add in a variance for elevation change or terrain.  With running, we know that some days are going to be hot or cold, rainy or dry or run at elevation or with a certain amount of up or downhill.  The only thing that matters to the 99.9% of us who will never vie for a victory in a race is whether the distance covered on that particular day was ever covered in a faster time by us.  It is, after all, a “personal record”.  It only matters to us, maybe our spouse and potentially the dog (and only because if we are happier maybe he will get an extra treat that Sunday night.) 

 For that remaining .1% who must deal with governing bodies of our sport, I feel for them.   If nothing else, look at the fact that the Boston marathon itself has been concluded to contain too much downhill to count as a world-record course.  The race which has attracted the world’s best, year in and year out, has not seen a world record set on its course in close to 30 years somehow is “too aided”. (Dane note: Until this year, that is.)

I guess those winners will have to settle for world-wide accolades, a laurel wreath…and a massive check.  I can only hope these things will make the winners feel better that some random internet person thinks their time is unworthy of being a “real” PR.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boilermaker 15k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 23rd Edition 
315.1 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Boilermaker 15k
Place: Utica, NY     
Miles from home: 2108 miles
Weather: 60-70 degrees; bright sunshine; slightly humid

For some reason I like the 15k distance. This is an odd declaration as until 366 days ago I had only run the distance twice in my life. However, as one of the turning points in my life was the 2005 PT Cruiser Challenge (a race consisting of a 5k, 15k and a marathon run in 24 hours) it is not difficult to see why my fondness for it prevails regardless of the number of times I have run it.

Last year I ran the famed Boilermaker 15k in Utica, a race I had wanted to run for quite some time.  I did so in a less than stellar time. In fact, of the three 15ks I had run my 1:01:26 was the slowest ever. I was determined to change that this year.

As I was in July of 2010, at the Boilermaker this year I was the guest of New York Beef Industry Council. Doing what I have done in numerous places with various state beef councils, I continued to spread the word of how healthy a diet of lean beef is for all athletes, especially runners of all distances.  Also like last year, the people and places in rustic Utica reminded me of my own hometown in not-so-far away Titusville, PA. It felt nice to be “home.”

This year I was fortunate enough to take part in a Runner’s Forum with storied runners Bill Rodgers, Roger Robinson and last, but certainly not least, Kathrine Switzer. My luck has put me in a position where I can call all three "friends" and it was wonderful to share the dais with them, learn from them, and hopefully add a modicum of knowledge from my own experiences. (Amongst many other things we had in common, it was fun to know that Roger shares my complete disdain for stretching. Got an extra 5 minutes? Jog slowly.)
Last year’s race had been punctuated by exceedingly high temperatures and humidity. This year looked to be much better which boded well for my attempt to break a time set by Ed Whitlock (read more here.) What did not bode so well was running three half marathons seven days prior.  But life is short and when presented with opportunities, one must grab them. So I may be going into the race with less than rested legs, but if we waited for the day when we felt, perfect we would never ace at all.

Race Day:

The Boilermaker has grown exponentially the last few years, echoing the trend with races across the nation. The course is not an easy one. There are not necessarily that many things to see along the course to please the eyes. So why is it selling out and bring 13,000 runners to a 60,000 person town.  Well, mostly because of those 60,000 people. The rule in Utica appears to be that if you aren’t running the race, your better be on the side of the streets cheering on everyone else who is. Not an inch of this course is devoid of spectators, sometimes six deep, screaming and cheering on people they know well and others they have never seen before. There is a pride in the race which is rarely seen outside of small towns anymore. It is nestled deep in the notion that something large is owned by all.  To let down the race lets down the town.  And the town is not a large entity which is unknown and distant.  It is the guy you see at church. The woman who makes the pies at the local bakery. It is your neighbors and friends.  And for one second Sunday in July, 13,000 more of become neighbors and friends.

That is the Boilermaker.

The Uphill: 6:17, 6:31, 6:37, 6:48

I knew my goal for the day would be tough. Very tough. I wanted to run around 6:05-6:10 for the first three miles, all which are on a slow steady incline. Then on the biggest, but not necessarily the hardest, hill of the day cresting at mile 4, I was hoping to run right around 6:30. This would leave me with a deficit of about a minute to make up in the second half which is, for all but one mile, downhill or flat. A negative split is what needs to be run on this course if you have any intention on running fast. Take out the first few miles recklessly and you will pay for it. So when the gigantic cannon fired starting the race precisely at 8 AM, I wanted to run solid and fast but keep it in check.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stuffitts - a Product Review

There are few products in my apartment that I enjoy lugging into my suitcase with me everywhere I go than Stuffits.  Why do I enjoy them? ell let me explain.

I was fortunate enough to run into the CEO/Owner of Stuffitts, Michael Huebner at the Atlanta Marathon expo almost two years ago.  He was kind enough to present me with a gift of his product to give it a test run, if you will. I am always up for supporting smaller businesses and therefore was happy to give them a shot. I mean, Nike was started out of the back of someone's car so just because a product is not world-wide doesn't mean it isn't good, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Interview with Justin Gillette

I recently interviewed Justin Gillette -  a runner with both speed and resilience.  Justin rarely runs a marathon over 2:35, even though he races dozens of times per year. Currently third on the all-time American win-list in the marathon distance, his victories are all the more impressive because of the level of competition he runs against.

He is currently the assistant cross country and track coach at Goshen College, his alma mater, giving back to the place which gave him his wife (more on that later). In addition, he does online coaching counting amongst his charges none other than one of the co-founders of - Cindy Lynch.

DR: How long have you been running?

JG: I started running on 2/14/1996 to get into shape for the 7th grade PE mile as part of the Presidential Physical fitness program. My goal was to beat a fellow classmate whom I did not like. I ended up achieving that.

DR: What is your earliest racing memory?

JG: The first race I ran was in 8th grade cross country season. Our school hosted the first meet of the year. The race was 3k, which I took 2nd to another runner from Potosi Middle School. I remember this very well. Early into the race Wayne cut the first turn pretty bad. After seeing this I broke into a sprint to catch him to inform him of his cheating, it was to no avail. Throughout middle cross country he beat me every race and I took 2nd or 3rd in nearly every meet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Freedom Half Marathon (x2) Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 21st Edition 
305.8 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Freedom Half Marathon
Place: Gresham, OR     
Miles from home: 760 miles
Weather: 60-70 degrees; overcast; slightly humid

Heading into this race, I had already but about 1300 miles of driving throughout the Washington and Oregon. The previous day in Sunriver, OR I had run the Pacific Crest Half Marathon course one week after the actual race was run. One of my 52 Marathons back in 2006, the Pacific Crest Marathon and sundry other races which go on that weekend remain a relatively hidden secret. This is a shame as the double loop surrounding the Sunriver Resort in Oregon is both challenging and beautiful. When I found myself the guest of the Sunriver Resort I knew I would be remiss if I did not at least run part of the course. Then I decided that there was no reason to only run part of the course – I should run it all. (Of course, while the legs would feel the 13.1 miles I would never count this as one of my half-marathons run – that would just be ridiculous.  No one needs to pad their stats that bad. Well, maybe some do. I am not one.)

The run was invigorating. I took it relatively easy knowing I would be racing the next day in Portland. Part of three-race –in-three-days series called the Firecracker Triple, my race was smack dab in the middle. I had zero intention of racing per se, for a variety of reasons, so the day held little to no race anxiety for myself.  However, as my girlfriend was attempting to do her second sub-3:50 marathon in one week, I was a nervous wreck for her. I do not do well rooting for others if only because I have so little control over their performance.  Unlike a week ago where I had paced Shannon for parts of the race before joining her for the final 10k, the logistics of this race would not really allow me to help her out much.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spartan Beast

I love me my marathons.  They have gotten me to where I am today.  But it is no secret I like to try all different kinds of races and course and disciplines (hence my foray into triathlons this year.) I have been itching for quite some time to throw my hat into the ring of the newest rage of races out there where obstacles courses, dirt and unknowns are standard. But where to start?

After spending my birthday weekend in Vermont and just loving the scenery, people and culture, I knew it was meant to be that the next week I ran into one of the organizers of the Spartan Race who told me about their Spartan Beast- the biggest race they offer- in Vermont! As such, in just one month I will be traveling back to Vermont (Killington, to be exact) to take part in the "10-12 mile Obstacle Race from Hell."

While the planner in me wants to know every inch of the course, it is, for the most part, unknown.  I do know that "Those who can climb well will be rewarded." and as I have not climbed in lord knows how long (and never had much upper body strength to begin with) I know I am in for a challenge.  I like challenges.

Registration fees go up after today so make sure you hop on in and take on fire jumps, watery dives, gladiator pits and lots of fun. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Run (and my refuting of each one of them)

1. I'm too out-of-shape.

If you can move, you aren't. Start slow - REALLY slow if you have to. Want to know what you are NOT too out-of-shape to do? Die. And die fat.

2. Running causes injuries.

Besides the fact that studies show how running builds UP your muscles and joints, you know what else caused injuries? Bathing. And walking to the store. And driving to the store. And breathing. Studies show that 99.9% of injuries happen while we are breathing. Should we stop that, too?

3. It'll ruin my knees (joints, body, etc.)

Bologna. The knee is an unbelievable marvel. It can handle just about anything your reasonably do to it. And if it can't, it is not because running did it to it. I ran 52 Marathons in 358 days in 2006. My knees are just fine.

4. I don't have enough time.

No one does not have enough time for a little exercise. You MAKE time. Even 15 minutes a day is better than nothing.

5. I've never been good at running.

Are you ever good at something immediately? Rarely. If you are - kudos. God forbid you have to work at something. Running is like everything else; if you run and take it slow, eventually you'll get better at it.

6. The shoes cost too much.

Liposuction, angioplasty, doctor's visits and funerals are costly too.

7. I'm tired.

Exercise releases endorphins (making you feel happy) and it can help wake you up. I always feel more invigorated after a run. Want to know why it is harder to get out of bed after a LONG sleep? Because your body gets used to the rest. Run. Your body will get used to the exercise.

8. Running is hard work.

It can be. Suck it up. Life is hard. Get a helmet. But if you run then you can race and then you have something to talk about other than Glee.

9. It's too hot (or too cold.)

Then find the perfect air-conditioned temperature for yourself and run on a treadmill. Or wear more clothes outside. Or less clothes. Either way – go run!

10. It's boring.

No more than trying to explain how much exercise and running can save your life. And if being in the fresh air, enjoying nature while reaping extra benefits of both a pleasant mind and healthy body are boring then I am surprised you got to number 10 on this list.