Monday, August 29, 2011

Listen to Your Body

At a recent speaking engagement I was asked a few things dealing with monitoring my system via a variety of different means and devices. 

“What is your resting heart rate?” one of those in attendance pondered.

“I don’t know.  Low.” I replied.  I wasn’t going for a joke.  I honestly have very little idea of what my heart rate happened to be.  I got it measured at an expo back in July after two days of book signings and speaking and at the time it was 40.  Who knows what it is when I am resting. 


The follow-up questions revolved around training with heart-rate monitors and measuring pace by various devices such as GPS and the like.  I am sure they are all wonderful ways to keep track of data (and I really like data) but to this point they are not something I have delved into.  I spoke to a good friend recently whose husband did an Ironman a few months ago.  During the swim his watch was kicked off of his wrist.  For the rest of the 2.4 mils of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running he had no watch whatsoever.  If he had been a slave to his watch he might have very well panicked.  Fortunately, he trusted his training and relied on what he had become used to in his own body and mind to get him through the race.

I have been the same way for quite some time. To me, whether I feel good means a quite deal more than if my watch tells me I am running well.  Once in Kansas City I was running a marathon and my usual first six miles of slight misery were compounded more than usual.  I felt sluggish and slow.  My watch told me I should be speeding up a little bit to keep with the pace I wanted to run.  However, I knew pushing the pace there might be disastrous.  So I listened to my body, stuck with the pace I was at and about halfway through finally shook out of the funk.  I ended up negative splitting the rather challenging course and running a solid time for me.

If I had paid too much attention to what my devices were telling me, I may have ended up on the ground far from the finish.  Instead, the most important thing – how I felt- dictated my race pace.  I finished smiling and happy completing my 120th lifetime marathon.

Use the data given to use by your watch, mps player, and GPS devices for the purposes of information.  But rely on your body for what matters most. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Drake Well Marathon and Pikermi Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 29th Edition 
398.8 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Drake Well Marathon and Pikermi
Place: Titusville, PA   
Miles from home:  1851 miles
Weather: 60 degrees; some rain

This is definitely not a recap concerning my effort in the Pikermi (otherwise know as half-marathon.)  Because it was the first official "Pikermi" (if you are confused, read more here) I simply had to take part in the race as a participant. As soon as I finished the race, I planned to jump right back into my duties of assisting the Titusville Leisure Services in directing the race I helped create a few years ago.  By running the Pikermi I could see first-hand any potential problems which may crop up.  So, I did finish second overall in 1:29:36 to a stellar 1:21:01 running by Ben English but this race, and the marathon, belonged to so many others.  I am going to try to touch on more than a few of them here.

All photos are courtesy of http://www.marynicholsonphotography.com/
* Hats off to Justin Gilette, Lori Nuzzo and Ben English.  Respectively, they beat the male and female marathon and male Pikermi records. That's quite a showing for one race! Just utterly smashed the marathon record, running a 2:34:28 and taking the previous record of 2:45 and burying it.  This will be one of the hardest marathon course records to beat, given the course and the often humid weather.  Way to go, Justin!

  
27 states down for Shannon!
* Every year we have had someone accomplishing an amazing feat. This year Shannon Hays, who is attempting to be the youngest female ever to run a marathon in every state under 4 hours, ran a 3:50 and knocked state 27 off her list. She mentioned that this was probably her first negative split of a marathon ever which she was able to achieve by respecting the "gushers" (mentioned below) and going way slower than she usually does in the first half of the race. She should finish her quest by the end of 2012. Awesome stuff, Shannon! (Check out her blog HERE)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mountain Tropic Tri Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 28th Edition 
385.7 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Mountain Tropic Tri
Place: Garden City, UT   
Miles from home:  127 miles
Weather: 60 degrees; sunny; 

At 6,000 feet there is only 81% of the oxygen available at sea level. That certainly will not help you get to a finish line faster. With about a mile left in a half Ironman, missing a reasonably well-marked turn and having to back track adding an extra .75 of a mile or so will also be detrimental to breaking any PRs that day.  Add in a plethora of other factors and my desire to get a faster time than ever at the Mountain Tropic Long Course Triathlon looked bleak.

Fortunately, I prefer to let the race play itself out before worrying too much.

Having said that, completing the Spartan Beast in Vermont the week prior to this 70.3 mile adventure left me so exhausted and sore that even on the Wednesday prior to the race I was still contemplating dropping down to the much shorter Olympic or Sprint distances.  But as this was my last triathlon of the year (I think) I figured I might as well go out with a bang.

Two massages the week prior to the race got my legs back into semi-decent shape and I figured I would just power through the race as best I could. The much higher elevation had me slightly worried as, contrary to popular belief, having your mailing address at 4,200 feet doesn’t really help you much unless you are actually around the mailbox to take in that thin air.

Race Day:

Having found a motel just a few short miles from the start of the race, I was able to enjoy the beautiful little town of Garden City, UT. Quite obviously known for its raspberries, the town was hopping with tons of seeming tourist sampling the raspberry ice cream and sundry other times. I figured after the race I would be happy to take all of those items in so I eschewed them all prior to running.

A 5:30 AM wake up call to contend with for a 7 AM race is what I started my race day with.  When I showed up around 6:40 AM, the RD of the race, who obviously knows me very well, asked why I was there so early. Ha, ha. It did allow me to grab a quick picture before the race started so at least I have that going for me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Running Improves Everything

Running makes you more fit.

Everyone, all together now: “Duh.”

However, it is amazing to think all of the other things which running seems to improve as well.  First and foremost, this is not a scientific study.  In fact, I thought about doing some research for this but in five minutes found studies which more or less came to the conclusion that what people think is more important may actually have more of an effect on them that what actually is important. As such, these are simply my opinions based on my own experiences. Which are probably more varied than most.

1. Running Makes You a Better Driver 


Having been running for a few years, I now do all the things in a car I should have been doing already.  When making a right hand turn from a stop-sign, I don’t roll through the intersection only looking left. I make more than one look to the right as well, in case someone is running (or walking) from that direction. My eyes are more open for cyclists or children who may dart out in front of me.  Keep a keen eye for those who dart into your path while you are running helps stop a brush with some tires or an elbow. Making sure you don't do it when you are driving helps stop a catastrophe.  I now notice so many others just sliding through intersections and the like without even a peripheral glance to their right. An informal surveys amongst my friends showed those that are active out in the streets are also much more aware of their surroundings when they drive.  If you are afraid some jackass will plug you with their fender because they are texting while driving, chances are you will do less of that yourself when you are behind the wheel.

2. Running Makes You Nicer
 
All the endorphins that running releases not only naturally block pain signals produced by the nervous system, but are also believed to enhance the immune system, relieve pain, reduce stress, and postpone the aging process.  And what about any of those will not make you more pleasant to be around?

However, there is something else about running, more than any other exercise I had done, which seems to center a person, allow them to be more humble and brings out the best of their character traits. Is every runner a saint?  No. But I have met more people who are nice who are runners than I have any other subset of the population. Some people can run more all they want and will remain slack-jawed and idiotic. Unfortunately, only lobotomies will help those people. But they are still probably more pleasant to be around because they run.

3. Running Makes You a Better Lover

Even if I had done research on this one, I am not sharing it here. But for all the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, it is not hard to imagine that healthier, happier person would not make for a better significant other.  But to be more scientific, while running, blood flow is increased to certain “areas.” This increases your libido and makes sex more enjoyable!

I know you are lacing up your shoes right now but I have one final point.

4. Running Helps the Economy

Not just in the putting money back into the coffers of local races but because running helps fight depression, teaches you discipline, and helps those who may be stuck in a nowhere position find the tenacity and resolve to create a new life for themselves.  It has already been proven that road races are more or less recession-proof but one of the reasons behind that is that runners do not let little things like crippling economic depressions stop them from what they love to do most.

So, don’t do it for you.  Do it for the economy, for pedestrians, and for all the future babies out there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Racing Against the Boys of Summer

UPDATE:

Good news, bad news. Good news: The Salt Lake Bees are so excited to have my treadmill run done that they wish to make it large extravaganza. The Bad News: In order to do so, the event will have to be postponed. Stay tuned!


Baseball games have, for many years, been criticized for being too long. I have always been a defender of the length of the game simply because baseball is the exact opposite of running.  There is absolutely no clock in baseball. It is a quintessentially American game meant to be enjoyed for as long as the boys of summer keep the score tied. I mean, who wants to rush summer, right?  Well,  I can only hope the Salt Lake Bees and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox keep up that leisurely pace on August 31st.  Why?

Because I am going to be racing them.

On Wednesday August 31st at 6:35 PM, as soon as the first pitch is thrown, I will begin running on a treadmill in Spring Mobile Ballpark. I hope to cover a marathon distance of 26.2 miles before the final out of the game.  With game times ranging from 2:17 minutes to 3:47 minutes just in the month of August alone, it is indeed going to be a challenge for me.  Throw in the fact that I will have just finished the Mesa Falls Marathon three days prior in Idaho and I have my work cut out.

In addition, I have never once more than 10 miles on a treadmill in my life and I am pretty sure that might be an overestimation as well.

So there are going to be plenty of variables as I take to the treadmill in less than three weeks. The rest of the plans are being worked out with regards to what will happen if I am able to beat the game and how fans can get involved.  We hope to have a web-feed with a live streaming camera so people can follow the action but if you are in the greater SLC area, please come down and cheer me on.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spartan Beast Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 27th Edition 
372.6 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Spartan Beast
Place: Killington, VT    
Miles from home:  2280 miles
Weather: 80 degrees; sunny; humid

I did not have fun at this race.


For those of you new to the way I speak and write, I am very specific. Just because I did not have fun at the race does not mean that I am not happy I did this race.  In fact, at the ripe old age of 35 I set both 10k and 15k personal bests last month. At neither race did I actually have fun. After the race, happy with my accomplishments, I had fun.  But during the race, struggling against new time goals, running hard and pushing my limits, fun is not exactly the name of the game. So while I did not have fun during the Spartan Beast, I am definitely glad I did it. Even though it almost did me.

To explain, the Spartan Beast is an obstacles course race over a distance of 10-12 miles. If it was just that simple, and you thought like I did that it was, this recap would tend to lean to the boring side a bit. However, it is far from that simple and to underestimate the race, like I did, would be a big mistake.

To my defense, one can underestimate the race somewhat because the actual race is kept a secret until, well, you are on it.  Only when you are running the race (and running is a term one can use quite loosely for a good portion of this event) do you fully grasp what you have in store for you. The description on the website of "...for the most part this is going to be a big 10-12 mile loop around the resort complete with a steep and long bushwhack, a short swim in shallow water, plenty of obstacles, and the usual fire jump and gladiator pit" doesn't come close to doing it justice.

I will get basically my only complaint with the race out of the way at the front - the aid stations needed some sort of electrolyte drink. I know fully that the race website stated that they would not have any such drinks but for a race of this difficulty, they should be provided.  With a temperature in the 80s and the humidity being quite high (both far from comfortable for me but also far from as bad as they could be) the necessity for replenishment was also high, in my opinion. Given the unknown obstacles on the course, the knowledge of whether you could bring your own refreshment and have adequate access to it was not full. However, in spite of all the difficulties of completing this race, the hydration issue remains my only complaint.

Unfortunately, it was the one thing which affected me the most.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How Far is this Marathon?

It matters not whether you are talking about a 5k, 15k, 50k or fill-in-the-blank- K, when mentioning an upcoming race, you will run into someone who feels any sort of long-distance running is “crazy” and they only run “if someone is chasing me!” HA HA. Ha.

Dealing with comments from non-runners is part of the task of being a runner. I will say, however, at least today we today no longer need to cope with complete ignorance to our sport, cars swerving to hit us “lunatics” out on the road  (not too often, at least) and sundry other horrific things those who ran before us had to deal with just a few decades ago.  However, with the proliferation of the way we share information, social networking sites and the internet in general, we have to deal with a greater expanse of low-level running ignorance on a daily basis.

As such, here is a list of phrases that if you ever hear someone mutter, I am giving you full permission to roll your eyes and shake your head.  Better yet, just use one of these handy retorts.

•    Any and ALL references to Forrest Gump.  – Yes, we get it. A fictional character ran a whole bunch. How about you learn the name of an actual runner and call me that? Even mockingly!


•    Running is bad for your kneesActually, no it is not.  But that creamed filled donut most assuredly is bad for your health. Worst case scenario for me? I limp. You? Death from a massive coronary.

•    There simply isn’t enough time in the day for me to run. – Yes, fortunately, I live on that alternate planet which has more hours in its day than yours.


•    I’ve never seen a runner smiling, so it can’t be fun. – Do you smile during sex?


•    I don’t even want to drive that far. – Neither do I.  That is why I run it instead.


•    My husband ran a 5k Marathon last weekend.  – No.  No, he did not.


•    That’s just crazy.  – Sitting at home, wasting away, creating a society of overweight adults and subsequently overweight children, making our medical bills skyrocket and health insurance impossible to afford for many as a result, while at the same time using more and more of the precious resources this planet has on it to continue to feed overindulgent eating and drinking habits, which in turn contribute to a weakening economy, pollution, climate change and decimating our own immune systems is, in my humble opinion, “crazy.” Going for a jog seems pretty damn sane.

•    What are you running from? – You.

Then again, be thankful for the non-runners.

Without them, our faster friends would have no choice but to make fun of us instead.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Complete then Compete

Pre article note:

This article caused quite a stir when I first printed it. As with every thing one reads, it is best to read the entire piece before jumping to conclusions.  And if you need clarification - ask! That said, I still stand by the main point that I personally feel that, for the most part, if you are in an actual race, you should be racing. That is my opinion. It is not law;it is not the absolute rule; and there are obviously exceptions to this statement.


Enjoy.

A friend of mine recently said “Today, I signed up for a marathon that will be run next January. I've probably got a while before I need to get serious about my training.”  I thought about it for a second and told him, well, that depends. How long is a while?  What does he mean by serious?

This nation of runners has become marathon-crazy.  This is both good and bad. One of the bad things I see is how many runners just seem to be clamoring for ways to pad their stats, especially when it comes to the simple number of marathons they have completed. Never mind the time those marathons were run in as these runners are just looking to complete the race.


Believe me, simply completing a marathon is a big deal.  (Read that again.) But then, as a runner, the desire to move on, to go faster, to challenge one’s self should be burning deep inside you. It is not necessarily about how fast you wish to, or can, run but rather the desire to run faster in and of itself which is the crux of the issue.


Often claims are made that those who feel certain standards for entrance into some marathons are elitist. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to racing, everyone wants to get faster. Denying this is just an outright lie.  If someone does not wish to get faster and only runs “for fun” then that is wonderful.  But why sign up for a “race”?  The free road is open 24/7/365. Hit it up!


I truly love that more and more people are pushing themselves to take on marathons and halfs and all sorts of running adventures. But in the case of my friend above, six months to get serious about training for a marathon is not all that long of a time.  Granted, he is a relatively fast runner to begin with and is shooting for a sub-3 hour time.  He has a base and he has fitness.  Six months may be a little too long of a training cycle for him specifically to get ready for this next race.  But not by much.  Not if he wishes to get, as he says, “serious” about training.


I can honestly say I have not trained the “proper” way for many marathons.  In fact, I can count on one hand the few I have even remotely done something that I would tell others to follow.  However, this year, at the St. George Marathon, I will be attempting to set a new personal best for the first time in nearly two years. (N.B. A blow-up Achilles problem caused that not to happen.)  The race lines up with my work and race schedule, allowing me to take a relatively brief respite from racing (only doing 13.1 mile races the month prior) and I have finally recovered from my 202 miler last year. Will life probably intervene and throw roadblocks in my way on the way to this new personal best? Of course!  That is what life does.

But the time is far since over for me to simply complete in marathons. I want to compete.  With others, with myself, with the clock. And I will beat the clock (in the sense of setting a new personal best) unless something goes completely awry. But the fact remains, even if everything does go wrong, I set out that day to push myself, to strain and struggle for more.  Not just to collect a shiny medal and the accolades of others. Competition is a wonderful thing which should be embraced.


Go give it a hug.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

San Francisco Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 26th Edition 
360.6 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: San Francisco Marathon
Place: San Francisco, CA     
Miles from home:  739 miles
Weather: 50 degrees; cloudy; slightly humid

For the San Francisco Marathon, I was returning to not only much tromped upon ground (marathon in 2006, first half in 2009, second half in 2010) but I was also once again taking on the role of Charity Chaser - something I did not invent but something I have definitely made my own.

The basic premise of the Charity Chaser is I would start dead last and for each person I would pass, a certain dollar amount would be donated to the charity of my choice. How that money is raised varies with each individual race and the charities have always been different. To me, this is a way to reach out to as many different deserving charities as possible and do as much good as one can as often as one can. My greatest success story would be where I passed all but 161 of almost 10,000 total runners in the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Joining me as fellow Chaser was my good buddy Sam Felsenfeld who would be "chasing" for the first time. I told Sam that chasing is much more than simply passing people.  It involves lots of strategic running and the obstacles which come into play are ones a usual 3-hour marathoner never experiences. Read more about whom we were both raising money for HERE.

I knew this particular chasing event would be the hardest I had ever done for a few reasons.  First and foremost, the wave start of the SF Marathon would crease bottleneck problems I had never experienced. Usually, by about the 4th or 5th mile, I have been able to clear that vast majority of runners and the rest of the time is simply spent running down as many of the fast stragglers as possible. But as each wave here would start about 5 minutes apart, I knew we would hit bottleneck after bottleneck making progress difficult if not damn near impossible at times.

Second, as runners do an out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge, 4-plus miles of running would be like traffic in Hong Kong at rush hour- chaotic, ever-present with lots of pushing and shoving. I knew merely running a 3:10 would be a major accomplishment.

Oh yeah, San Francisco also has a few hills.