Monday, December 31, 2012

Nevermind to New Year's Resolutions

Now is the time most make their New Year's Resolutions (for obvious reasons.) I say to forget it.

Actually, we shouldn't forget resolutions per se.  We just shouldn't make them on 01.01.XX because it is a neat starting point. Rather, first make them on the first of January. Then again on the third of January. If need be, do it again on the ninth. Or any day or time in between. My point being that every day should be a chance to start afresh.

I once read a quote that stated: “Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except for what you’re going to do right now and do it.”

The reason I like this so much is that it addresses all we really can do. We can only go for right now. We cannot lose five pounds right now. We cannot have all our transgressions and faults end immediately. We can only deal with the present. In running, especially long distance races, there are thousands of seconds to deal with. We sometimes try to think of the race as a single entity, but each one is broken into lots of little fragments. Feel good right now? Surge! Feeling not so great at this moment? Lay off the throttle.

On New Year’s Eve two years ago, in the midst of a lot of challenging things going on in my life, I ran a 6-hour race around a one-mile loop in San Francisco’s Crissy Field. I did not have the race I was hoping to but was fortunate to still post the highest total of miles run that day. However, during the race, both my mental energy and my physical energy ebbed and flowed. When some unexpected chafing occurred, I knew I could only deal with it at that moment. I could not think about whether it would get worse down the road (and oh my goodness, did it, in spite of my efforts to quell its growth.) I had to roll with the punches, so to speak. Randomly my mind would go blank, I would forget my woes and push forward. Other times, my mind would race, thinking about all the things that were currently going haywire and I would have a bad lap or two.

I see the New Year’s Resolutions which people set as being very bold and wonderful. Unfortunately, they are often so broad and far-reaching that they themselves up to fail. I suggest, instead, to set smaller goals and to set them daily. Each day brings its own triumphs and tribulations. Each day must be dealt with differently than the previous one. No one way of attacking life will work for every single day just like no way of attacking a race will work for every single race.

If you have a bad day this year, realize it will be done at midnight. Then you can simply work on making that next day the one that counts. 

Good luck on tackling all of your dreams, big and small, in the upcoming year. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Operation Jack Northwest Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 20th Edition 
403.6 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Operation Jack NW Run
Place: Memphis, TN
Miles from home: 15 miles
Weather: 40s; Intermittent sun and drizzle

I finished the St. Jude Half Marathon a few weeks ago and figured my racing for 2012 was over.  It has been a rough year and I was ready to take December in stride. Then I went to Los Angeles to run the course for the 13.1 Marathon there and stupidly ran into a fire hydrant.  This sounds comical if it wasn't so freaking painful.  Then again, it is still comical as nothing serious happened to me.  At the time I felt like I had been shot and I did leave a sizable contusion.  In fact, I did get one of the largest bruises I have ever had in my life.  Three days after that I got the flu and there was just no way i was going to do much else in 2012.

Of course, I remembered I had signed up for the Operation Jack Northwest Run to be held here in the greater Portland area on December 22nd.  Done mainly to help my friend Sam Felsenfeld with his cause of fighting autism, I thought I might go run a fast half marathon or so and call it a day.  The race format is one of a 6 hour run around a .95 mile loop.  You can run as far as you want in the time frame.  This is not the first time I have done something like this and these sort of races actually favor me. (I still hold the record of the furthest distance ever run at the Presque Isle Endurance Classic - a 12 hour event where I covered 84 miles.)  but this was not the day to run for six hour or to try and run fast for 13.1.  Instead I figured I would run a nice tempo run for 20 miles and call it a day.

Race Morning:  

I have been aching for a little wintery weather lately, as I do enjoy a run in some soft white stuff.  However, I have been bringing sunshine with me everywhere I go lately.  Even a trip home to visit my mother in NW PA brought upper 40 degree weather and not one hint of snow - very odd for this time of year. I was hoping for something like that on this run but the weather forecast for the race called for mixed drizzle. If you know the topography and weather patterns of Portland you know it could easily be raining in Portland proper but cross over the hills that separate it to the west and just a few miles away it is very different.

Arriving at Summerlake City Park just few minutes before the start, me and my good friend Shannon found a parking right where the race started, grabbed our bib numbers, got in line for a last minute potty break and got ready to go.  It was a little chilly but no signs of rain made us quite happy. We lined up while the director, Steve, gave us last minute instructions and ready for a fun day of running camaraderie.

Then we were off.


Race:

Before even a half of a lap was completed, a few runners separated themselves from the pack. With a race of this nature, you sometimes have no idea what person is doing what sort of distance.  So you really need to settle into your own pace and ignore everyone else. I saw one guy take off in a mustard color shirt (you can see him in the picture above) and I figured he was either here to crush the course record or was running a fast half. He was bother to me.  I wasn't going to do either of those. All I wanted to do was run nice even 7:30 miles or so, knock out 20 miles under 2.5 hours and go relax for the rest of the day.  I had to go watch the Nutcracker later that evening - I couldn't be too tired.

The course was open to the general public and more than a few people were out exercising or walking their dogs.  In fact, most did their absolute best to stay out of the way which was appreciated. After about 5 loops or so, I had passed the vast majority of runners but hadn't seen the mustard color-ed shirt guy yet. I assumed he would be passing me soon at the pace he was running.  Right after the 8th lap, sure enough, he came flying by.  We talked for a second but he was soon gone.  He looked vaguely familiar so I figured I would find out who he was later.

With a course of this nature, aid available every mile or so, you can actually forget to drink.  Since I had already had to stop on the 7th lap to use the bathroom I felt I was more than hydrated. However, around the 12th lap I realized I hadn't drank an ounce of fluid and decided to stop and guzzle a cup. I was already looking forward to doing the next 9 loops and calling it a day. Around here the decent weather became even better and the sun started to peak out and warm up the runners. This was a surprise indeed.

I was really beginning to get to know some runners' strides and even if they weren't wearing tell-tale colors would have been able to pick them out of a crowd.  I found it perplexing that a group of runners felt the need to run three abreast around the loop even though the paved section wasn't much wider than 6 feet. Seemingly seasoned runners, one would think they would know basic running etiquette. That's what one gets for assuming!

With just a few laps to go I saw I was catching mustard-colored shirt guy.  I felt for sure he would have passed me by now but he appeared to be slowing.  With just a little over a lap to go until my day was done, I drew up beside him. As we talked I realized who he was.  His name is Zach Gingerich and he is simply one of the best ultrarunners in the nation.  Having already won Badwater in 2010, he has a slew of other jaw-dropping performances. When I did the 50 mile race at Umstead in 2010, he blistered a 13:23 on the 100 mile course. Ridiculous. He had just moved to Oregon recently and apparently lived just down the road. He would go on to break the course record for this race later on but right now we were just two runners enjoying a brisk pace. We said we would get together for a run someday but I hope he wants to keep it under 40 miles.

Wrapping up my day I slid in under 3.5 hours with a tidy 2:29:04 and not a moment too soon.  Almost immediately after I was done, the sky clouded over and the mist and drizzle began anew. Shannon mentioned she wanted to get in a few more laps before she too called it a day. Once she had, we packed it up and were on our way.  It was great to see so many people out not only exercising but raising money for Operation Jack. I heard a few people ran their first ever marathon and a few others were tackling their first distance run of any sort.  This is the type of news that warms the heart of someone who is trying their best to get as many people active as possible.



A short trip home, a warm shower and a nap and soon I was ready to see Tchaikovsky's masterpiece.  It was nice to put on some clothes that don't wick for a change.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter Running Tips

Running in some not-really-all-that-cold temperatures about a week ago, I had a non-runner ask me what I do for exercise during the winter. Realizing they thought that I simply quit running when it is cold, I told them I simply add a layer. Or some tights. However, I realized that it is not just non-runners who are curious about what to do when the temps drop. Even runners need to know what to do when the snowpocalypse of the century is threatening and the motivation gets low to run.

For all of you in California or Florida who occasionally have to deal with some inclement rainy weather and think this qualifies you for being allowed to complain about the winter- it doesn’t. Wait two days and it will be 65 and sunny again. However, for the rest of you, here are few tips to get through the months with the emphasis on the BRRRR at the end.

1.     Motivation is the key: Whether you are running with a partner or have the Boston Marathon just a few months away, having an actual tangible reason to run will help you get out the door. If Steve or Stephanie is out there in the cold waiting for you, there is no way you will leave them to run solo. And if that big dream goal race is just around the corner, you will realize that even a quick run puts you that much closer to setting a new PR.

2. Be safe: Because you are running with someone, do not assume that those driving and concerned about the slippery and icy conditions are any more likely to see you. Reflective gear, headlamps and flashing lights should be a staple of your wardrobe. And just in case, make sure you are wearing some identification like ROAD ID.

3. Treat your tootsies: Obviously you have to dress your body properly for cold weather but do not forget to pay special attention to your feet as well. Wicking and warm socks to keep your feet dry are important. However, you also need to keep care of the shoes themselves (unless you are blessed with dozens of pairs of running shoes). A product called Stuffitts will absorb wetness better than the old newspaper trick and also help eliminate that shoe odor making your shoes last longer.

4. Mix Up Your Racing: When the flakes hit the ground, this is the time to maybe take a small break from all your running and throw in some snowshoe running, cross country skiing or something involving the white fluffy stuff. Sign up for a winter triathlon, like the X-Trifecta.  Or take on a snowshoe race. You can guarantee an instant personal best for a race distance you have never done.  Plus, with nothing to compare your times to, no feelings of running "slow in the snow" will beat you down.

5. Traction is important: You also have to make sure you have proper footing in the icy conditions. Easy to install (and remove) without any damage to your shoes products like ICESPIKE will keep you from slipping and sliding. I recommend ICESPIKE as they can even be worn when you cross over to bare sidewalks, if you are lucky enough to find any.

6. Slow down: Unless you have clear roads and good footing, do not worry about how fast you are running. With uneven footing, more clothing on than usual, and more impediments abound, this is not the time to be setting PRs. This is the time to continue working on your base and simply keep the body moving.

All in all, the running doesn’t have to stop just because running water has. Bundle up and spring will be here soon!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

XTERRA Trail Run Worlds Controversy

I saw this as a headline:

"For the first time in the history of the prestigious event, there was a tie for first place. After 21 grueling kilometers at the majestic Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii, not even a photo finish – or video replay – could determine the winner."

I was hooked and reading.  From the picture they included on the website of the XTERRA page it looked like the guy in orange (Ben Bruce) was a clear winner.  Then I saw this video. Well, that changes things just a touch.

I see zero reason why Ben Bruce should not have been, at the very least, given second place, if not disqualified for trying to nudge Joe Gray out of the way at the very last second. Gray, as with any runner, cannot impede another runner from passing him. He does not, however, have any obligation to get out of the way of another runner trying to pass him.

 I tried figuring our why Gray drifted ever so slightly to the middle when staying where he was would have been easier for him to do and then it became clear: he was simply trying to go where the ridiculously little erector set of black bars set up after the finish line to direct runners where to go, pointed him. This photo shows Gray, post-nudge, hurdling the narrow entrance to that area that he was directly in line to run through.

This is not to vilify Ben Bruce (although the nudge was kinda bush league.)  People get hazy at the end of races. Watch this video where Joseph Machuka actually punched Haile Gebrselassie at the end of a race when he got passed (throwing exactly the kind of punch you would expect a 120 pound runner to throw.)  Or NYC Firefighter Matt Long, whose story is one to really get you where it counts, still was kind of a dick at the end of his own marathon back in 2009.

No, this is to point out that the sport I love so much needs to stop acting like it is a fourth world country.  If this is the WORLD championship, then for chrissakes get a camera that goes directly across the line.  Don't rely on spectators cameras (Ironman 70.3 in Boise actually used the shot from the guy standing next to me to help determine the winner in 2012) or speculation.  Heck, even the Olympic Track and Field Trials botched this with the tie, maybe we will have a run-off, maybe we won't back in June. 

In an era with high-tech camera, super-super-super slo motion replay and all that is available to us, ignoring the fact that Bruce illegally bumped Gray out of the way at the finish, the race itself should have had its own way to determine what was happening.

Or, make it full contact.  That will definitely increase television viewership. Hockey is still in a lockout, right?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

X-TriFecta Winter Triathlon and $10 Discount Code

As 2012 draws to a close, I am knee-deep in planning for 2013.  I am looking for new ways to challenge myself and trying to find events which will take me out of my comfort zone.

One event that I am especially looking forward to is the X-Trifecta Winter Triathlon.  This race, set to be run Saturday March 9th, 2013 at the Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, PA is a first-of-its-kind triathlon. Participants will chose to either snowboard or ski, then complete a 5-mile technical mountain bike course followed by a 5k trail run.

The way I see it, this race means an automatic personal best. I assuredly have never done an event like this so I have absolutely nothing to base my expectations or time upon.  However, I thoroughly expect to have an absolute blast. 

Here’s the good news for you: In speaking with the organizers, I was able to partner with ICESPIKE to work out a deal for all of my friends and fans by getting a code for $10 off the registration fee.  The race is capped at 500 participants and with both a solo race and a three-person relay, I fully expect that it will completely sell out.

So when you go to register make sure to use the code “SEEDANERUN” to get $10 off of the fee.

I look forward to seeing you shred, ped and tread the slopes this upcoming March with me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St Jude Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 19th Edition 
383.6 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: St. Jude Half Marathon
Place: Memphis, TN
Miles from home: 2301 miles
Weather: 60s; sunny and warm

My goal for this race was to get in the 1:25s. I felt that would be decently challenging enough but reachable. It would also be a good barometer for where I stood fitness-wise. Not a prefect barometer, mind you.  I know the vagaries of racing and with this being my 12th race in 14 weekends, everything was quite a crapshoot. Three marathons, two triathlons, and 7 half marathons, coupled with working expos and what not can leave an athlete a bit strung out.


Expo: 

To say I was moved by all the events which remind you what this marathon represents would be an understatement. It is often we here some variance on the phrase that if X person with Y malady can do something, than I can. It is often true, too.  But here it is so prevalent. There is just something extra horrific about children suffering. They haven't even gotten old enough to maybe deserve something bad to them.  They are innocent and without sin for the most part. When they are afflicted it really makes you question the universe.


My expo was filled with wonderful moments of meeting great people, as per usual but there was something about just sitting there, directly across the aisle from a wall where people were writing words of encouragement on that really made me reflect on a great many things.

Many of them are far too heady or philosophical to deal with in a random race recap but I was definitely lost in thought much of the time at the expo.

 
Race Morning:

My hotel was a mere .5 of a mile away from the start. This meant lots of sleeping in and little time need to get to the beginning of the race.  Can't tell you how much I enjoy that.  Given I was running 13.1 and not 26.2 I was even happier that the race started at 8 a.m.  The forecast called for a warm day and I was glad I would be probably done in 90 minutes or less.  I knew those running the marathon were in for a tough day.

The morning had a little anxiety leading up to it as I had forgotten a crucial part of my race gear.  More on that later.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Scouting 13.1 Los Angeles

Anytime you can go to Los Angeles in December is a good thing.  When you combine it with running the course for the Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Marathon® Series race in Los Angeles it gets even better.

In addition to me running the course and describing how to take it on (as I previously have done in both Atlanta and Dallas) the 13.1 people have put together a Thursday morning (12.06) 3-mile Run with Dane.

Beginning at the base Manhattan Beach Pier where it intersects The Strand at Manhattan Beach Blvd, we will jaunt southward past Hermosa Beach Pier along the Strand before turning around and heading back to where we began.

This is a "Get Fit" training run for runners of all abilities as they get in the swing for the 13.1 Los Angeles race held on January 13th. Promoting fitness, proper nutrition, and combating obesity will be the themes of the day and I hope to take as many people as possible on this trek. We will meet at 6:50 a.m. for a chat and a stretch before heading out!

Later on that morning, I will take my running shoes out again as I tackle the course itself, to get a feel for exactly what runners will be facing in just about a month. Traversing the whole course, I will start in Venice, skirt around Marina Del Ray, shoot past Dockweller beach State Park before turning around in El Segundo.

Make sure to tune back here in about a week when I present all the details gleaned from that run!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marathon Recount

I haven’t really focused on marathons this year. My usual obsession with numbers and stats has fallen by the wayside in 2012. When I ran the Mesquite Tri-State Marathon last week it got me thinking again about the numbers. I realized I hadn’t run as many marathons as I thought I had.  Let me explain.

In May I started the Green Bay Marathon.  As I wrote in my recap, the race was cancelled in the middle due to a combination of factors surrounding the heat of the day. I had a friend signed up for text messages and when I finished the race, she got an exact time for my finish.  No finishing times were actually given for anyone not in the top 5 and after walking the last three miles, I definitely wasn’t one of those top five.  But I finished and had a finishing time from my friend. That means I ran the marathon, right? Well, upon further review, I do not think so.

I have been a pretty big stickler for what I feel makes a marathon ever since I ran 52 consecutive ones in 2006. To me, if there weren’t other participants or the race was on a treadmill or something other than an actual footrace, I did not feel it was an actual race. When the Green Bay Marathon got its plug pulled, I wondered what I would call it in my own personal log books.  Then, I was in bike crash, a dream apartment opened up, I moved and the rest of the year has flown by.  Only recently did I begin to think about my marathon total again.

As such, upon further reflection, I have decided to strike the Green Bay Marathon from my list of races run. This affects virtually no one whatsoever and only means something to me. Then again, most things in life are like that. However, if I am going to hold myself up to a certain standard, then I have to hold myself up to a certain standard. No official result – no race in the log book.

So, as it stands, with the Mesquite Tri-State Marathon last weekend, my marathon total is 142. No bragging, just stating. I also don’t see that total changing drastically in the near future. My potential 150th will probably happen sometime in the fall of next year. But how I get there, to that 150th marathon, should be rather unique.

Might as well be doing something other than checking off another marathon finish, adding another medal to the pile and expecting accolades for doing so, right? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mesquite Tri-State Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 18th Edition 
372.5 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Mesquite Tri-State Marathon
Place: Mesquite, NV
Miles from home: 1101 miles
Weather: 50-60s; mostly cloudy; intermittent wind and sprinkles

Running the Mesquite Marathon was more or less a last minute decision.  To say I haven't exactly been feeling good about my running since my bike crash in May would be an understatement.  Taking on a marathon, especially one which has bitten me in the butt on two other occasions (26.2 in 2009 and 13.1 in 2010), wasn't exactly high on my list of to-dos. But sometimes you make decisions and not too long ago I said let's give the Mesquite Marathon another shot.

I had run this basic exact course before. Slight changes had made the final few miles different but left the overall big downhill and rolling hills nearly the same. However, time heals all wounds and makes runners forget all uphills.

My great friend Shannon joined me to run the course even though she was in the midst of moving hell (Oh yes, A-Team Movers out of Dallas, you are going to get your own blog. I am sure it will be as scathing as Eff You, Jet Blue) and was not in any way ready to run a fast marathon. So in other words, we were both in the same boat.

Having said that, with no job obligations, no expo speeches, no book signings and nothing to do but just enjoy a race was a feeling that is really hard to describe.  It was both unsettling and wildly invigorating. Nevertheless, I still found it relatively easy to go to bed. Needing to get up at 4:15 a.m. in order to get ready to catch the 5:30 a.m. shuttle to the start didn't hurt either.

Race morning:


The shuttle to the start did not leave promptly at 5:30 a.m. as was stated which was fine by me. Sitting in the warmth of the bus was much more desirable than sitting on the side of a road for 45 minutes. We finally got going around 5:50 a.m. and the bus meandered through the Mesquite for a bit before hitting the course we would soon be running on.  Through Arizona for 17 miles and then onto Utah where the race would begin, I missed most of the bus ride as I was sleeping soundly.

When we got to the start, we still had another 30 minutes before the race began so I figured I would sit on the bus for a bit, use the bathroom and then saunter out sometime about 20 seconds before the race.  This was when we were told that we not only had to get off the bus but could not use the comfortable bathroom on it because the bus would be used for something later that day and the driver did not want to have to clean it before then. Really?

So 133 of us get out of the two buses and cue up for three bathrooms. With 30 minutes to spare each person can't take more than a little over a minute to use the bathroom if we want to not be standing in the bathroom line when the race starts. Let's just say some people took their sweet damn time.

In the bathroom line a runner introduced himself to me and we began chatting.  James was his name and he was prepared.  Both Shannon and I were a bit chilly standing in the windy nothingness of this pocket of Utah wearing very little to protect ourselves against the elements.  It wasn't that cold out, but we weren't expecting to be standing it it this long.  James gave us both one of those mylar blankets and became Coolest Guy Ever for at least the next half an hour.  He told me he would be shooting for a sub-3 and I gave him the low down of the course.  Technically, it should be an easier course than when I ran it in 2009 because of about 2 more miles of downhill to start. Plus, the weather looked like it would be cooler and cloudier for the vast majority of the next three hours.  In exchange for the mylar blanket, I tried to give James as much advice about the course as I could.  I wish I was in better shape to run with him but well, I was not.

As the seconds ticked down to the start of the race, I assumed that with just about ten people or so left in line, the race organizers might just hold the start for a minute or two so we could all use the bathroom.  I was wrong. The race started and I was still standing in line. Unfortunately, it was not the quick restroom break guys can do in the wild, so standing I remained. Finally, I was able to get in, used it as quickly as possible and headed toward the starting line. My quick potty skills allowed me to cross over the timing mat (it was chip timed which is why I wasn't completely angry) just 69 seconds late.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Santa Barbara International Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 17th Edition 
346.3 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Santa Barbara International Half Marathon
Place: Santa Barbara, CA
Miles from home: 943 miles
Weather: 50-60s; bright sunshine; intermittent wind

My goal for this race was to run right around a 1:30. I ran a 1:29:34. Saying I hit the goal is quite true but I definitely did not do so in a standard way for me. I was all over the place with my pacing and only a late surge and use of a generous downhill (only after a series of ups, mind you) allowed for this to occur. However, this race recap is less about me and my effort (this truly was a hard training run where I received a medal and people can find my exact time) and more about the race, friends and people I met along the journey this weekend.

As always, I wish I could remember every name and every story and had infinite amount of time to write about them all (and you an infinite amount of desire to read them) but that is not the case. So below are just a few that really stand out to me and I hope they catch your attention.


* The course - I give this course two solid thumbs up. Even though it is relatively challenging, with three hills to contend with (around mile 6, 8 and 10) it is forgiving in between those hills and ends with a steady 2 miles of downhill. And what downhill it is. After cresting the hill at Cliff Drive, doing two quick turns through a neighborhood, runners are gifted with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean, sparkling and shimmering in the rising sun. A downhill that just continues to give back what the much shorter in length uphill took away is only made more special by the visage on the runner's right. Having run the race 3 out of the 4 times it has been run, I am still taken aback by the beauty of this finish.

* Fast chicks - I had two good friends running this race hoping to set new personal bests. Ironically, I met both of them at races put on by Destination Races in previous years; Sarah at the Oregon Wine Country Half and Jessica at the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half. Sarah was one of the NYC Marathon orphans trying to extend her training and preparation for one more week. Jessica had taken time off for an injury, as well as school, and was just getting back into shape. Fortunately, I did not have to root for one over the other as Sarah was running the marathon and Jessica the half.

Sarah ended up not only breaking her PR, by four minutes if memory serves me right, but broke the course record, taking second to Paige Higgins who herself has run a marathon in he low 2:30s (if not faster.) This course was even more challenging than NYC where she was hoping to PR so while I am impressed, I am not surprised.  Sarah is one hard working runner and I couldn't be happier for her effort.  As a Spira-sponsored athlete I am guessing owner Andy Krafsur is glad I made the introduction some time back! Fantastic work, Sarah.


Jessica and I ran the first mile of the half together before I realized that she was in much better shape than I was (5:53 for the first mile) and I had to let her quickly fade into the distance.  While she didn't keep that blistering pace for the whole race, she ended up with a two minute PR, good enough for 6th place overall for the women. Winning the half was another uber-fast woman, Alvina Begay a 32:58 10k runner (!)  There were some serious wheels on the ladies in the race and I am glad to have known a few of them.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Indianapolis Monumental Half Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 16th Edition 
333.2 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Miles from home: 2237 miles
Weather: 40-50s; variable between cloudy and chilly and snowyish 


I have now run the Indianapolis Monumental marathon or half for three consecutive years. For some reason I come into the race forgetting how well run it is and how easy it is to have a good race here. I am making a promise to myself to never make that mistake again.

First and foremost, hats off to the organizers for putting together a truly fantastic weekend.  I ran the 13.1 distance and had an absolutely splendid race in picture-perfect weather. Well, picture-perfect for a runner who likes to run in cloudy cool weather.  Those running the full or taking a bit longer had to deal with some inclement weather, including variable degrees of rain or sleet for small portions.  However, anyone finishing their race in under two hours could not have asked for much better.  On a weekend where the NYC Marathon was canceled, the Indy organizers opened their arms and streets to those who wanted to run a marathon in a fine city. Hundreds of personal bests were set and great times were had by all.

Expo:

I arrived a little late to the first shorter day of the expo and had just enough time to get everything set up at my table before the smaller crowd which comes on Thursday rolled in. The next day promised to be a long one (with the expo going until 9 PM) and with my 2100 mile road trip the previous week moving one of my best friends, I knew I was going to be a tired puppy.

Most of the talk during the second day surrounded NYC's decision to cancel the marathon.  It made for a lively discussion and further clarified for me how, as a whole, thoughtful and intelligent runners are with regard to topics ranging all over the board. By the time the day was done, I got a late dinner and was back to my lodging I was, as predicted, exhausted.

Race Morning:

I was able to find parking downtown just a few short blocks from the race without too much trouble.  This was the first time I had driven to the start of the race (previously having stayed at one the many hotels near the start/finish area) and was curious how bad this would be.  Color me pleasantly surprised. The morning called for few cool temperatures but somehow it just seemed a little more than chilly.  Feeling the briskness in the air, I was disappointed I was not in better shape. This was definitely PR weather.

My lateness in arriving to the starting line (by design- I simply do not like to mill around prior to a race) made me miss the National Anthem.  I did, however, find my friend Mike who I met three years prior at this race. Mike got his first Boston Qualifying time ever that morning - in his first marathon ever! He was going to be running around the pace I wanted to run for the half for his marathon, so we decided to run together for a bit until the courses split.

First 3 miles: 6:36, 6:29, 6:21

My desire was to run right around 6:40 for the first five or so miles and then play the rest of the race by ear. I was very much unsure of what I had in my legs and four hours of sleep had me quite weary. Hitting the first mile right about where I wanted to, we were treated to a glorious sunrise just peaking out over the horizon.  I took a quick picture which doesn't even capture how beautiful it was.  Mike told me to enjoy it as bad weather was predicted.  I had missed this memo completely and could not have been happier to be running 13.1 instead of 26.2.

Soon thereafter, Mike, who was pacing a friend in his first marathon picked up the pace a bit.  I told him I was none too surprised when the next mile ran a little hot. Approaching the 3rd mile, I told them this was a pace I could not keep up and even falling back ran way faster than I was hoping to do. The pace they were keeping was one for a very fast marathon time but I knew I didn't have that in me today.  I bid them adieu and fell back into my groove.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NYC Marathon Canceled

I struggled mightily with this one.  Lots of thought went into it.  But I finally had to make a decision and am sticking with it:

"Canceled" only has one "L".  Hate me if you want but that is how I was raised.

Now onto something far less controversial: the NYC Marathon getting its plug pulled.

I was signing books at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon expo when someone asked me what I thought about the NYC Marathon’s decision with regard to its race.  I said that it was going to be interesting to watch it all play out but at least they were sticking to their guns. That was when this person told me that seconds earlier, the announcement had been made saying it was a no-go.

“Well, how about that,” I recall saying verbatim.  Throughout the rest of the day I was asked my thoughts on it and I had to keep deferring.  By the time the day was done columns had been written and everyone seemed to have an opinion.  I simply wanted more facts. With a few more days of reflection (people feeling they need to be the first to write about a story, often needing to retract opinions, is one of the most annoying parts of this instant-information world we now live in) I think NYC made the right decision.  But they did it at the wrong time for the wrong reasons and in a bumbling idiotic manner.

First and foremost, regardless of how bad the damage would end up being, if the organizers had ended the weekend's events immediately when the storm hit NYC, the decision would have been much better handled by most.  Not all, but most. The Myrtle Beach Marathon comes to mind and how a few years ago a bad snowstorm led to the race being canceled.  Well, the snow storm ended up being far worse than predicted.  A few whiny people still cannot get over it, stating how hardy of runners they are and how they will run in everything - missing the actual point. It was not whether Steve and Mary have the balls to be so krraaaaazy to survive cold temperatures but whether Steve and Mary and 700 other people can do it safely.

Now change that to 40,000 people and if the decision was made a week prior to the running, most people could understand and accommodate.  They could cancel flights, hotel reservations, look for other races, etc. Instead, canceling on a Friday afternoon after saying the show would and must go on, left a lot of pissed off people and rightfully so.  Now runners felt, rationally or not, as if the city only wanted to get them into town to spend money on food, hotels and the like purposely making the decision so late in order to assure that. (This probably is not true at all.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ending World Hunger - Not Quite Yet

Back in July I posted an article dealing with a graphic which talked about how much water goes into raising animals in America.  If you don't have the time to read the article I will boil it down for you - many infographics are completely full of crap. That is not news at all. I don't even have time to begin to debunk all the ridiculous graphics I see all the time.  However, one made its way to me more than a few times so I felt I had to address it.  Here it is:


"The feed needed to produce an 8 oz steak could fill 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains." Wait.  What? I tried to roll this around for a while before realizing that it flat out didn't make any sense at all. However, it has just enough words in there to stick with someone who wants to say that raising beef is causing the world to starve. That's the mission. Place enough "factoids" in the head of people who don't have the time to actually look up whatever it is they want to agree with and blammo - disinformation has been disseminated.

But I didn't want to trust just my powers of research and rationale so I went to a few sources, one being my good friend Daren Williams who is the Executive Director, Communications at National Cattlemen's Beef Association.  Here were some of the points our conversation boiled down to:

1. We have no idea what this is even talking about. Cooked cereal grains? The feed grain corn which is raised for cattle is technically a "cereal grain" but you would never cook and eat it. It could possibly be used to make corn starch, corn oil, etc. that could eventually be used in human food, but would have to be processed to make it edible for humans.

2. You can take wheat, which is sometimes fed to cattle as part of the ration, and cook it to eat. It puffs up considerably, so it would not take much to fill 50 bowls. Filling a bowl is not really that difficult. I can fill a room with cotton but it doesn't mean much, does it?

3.  Nearly 85% of the land cattle graze in the U.S. is not suitable for cereal grain production. So a good part of that steak comes from cows eating grass that we cannot consume. Furthermore, if we tried to farm that land with grain crops it would be an environmental disaster (for a multitude of reasons I needn't get into right now.)

4.  Most importantly, let's ignore 1-3, shall we? Even if we go with the best case scenario of what this message is trying to say, cereal does not come close to providing the same nutrients as beef. We might be able to fill people’s stomachs with a bunch of grain but we would all suffer severe nutrient deficiency from the loss of zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins from our diet. Yes, you can get those from certain plant foods but grains would not provide sufficient amounts. Moreover you can’t grow spinach and kale in say, Nebraska! In other words, even if all land could be used in whatever way we would want to, the end product would still be lacking if it was "cooked cereal grains."

It is unfortunate so much misinformation is out there. We'd like to believe that if it is on a poster that it has been vetted for truthfulness, even if the opinion involved may be skewed. This is definitely not the case, especially when anyone can throw together a poster with some words and a graphic and send it out into the world free-of-charge. (And yes, the idiots who blindly follow people like the Food Babe show I am 100% correct here.)

So, as always, question what you read and here. Even this article. I want you to do the research yourself and if I am wrong, let me know. It's bound to happen someday.  :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cattle Business Weekly - Top 10 Industry Leaders

Recently, I was selected as one of the Top 10 Industry Leaders by The Cattle Business Weekly.  If you have been following me at all for the past two-plus years you will know that I am an enormous supporter of fueling my body properly with an emphasis on doing so with lean beef.

Last year I worked hand-in-hoof (ha!) with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on a 20-race project to help not only dispel myths and rumors about eating lean beef but to spread the good word about how healthful eating lean beef can be for all endurance athletes.

It has been an ongoing battle to try and show many that the things they thought they knew were wrong and how so many athletes, word-class on down, make lean beef an integral part of their diet.

To receive this recognition for my hard work was extremely flattering and humbling. I know that many have worked for countless hours to get the message out to not only consumers but athletes about how the low-calorie high-protein lean beef diet, packed with zinc, iron and oodles of other vitamins is one those who put their body through the wringer need.  To be included amongst those who have given so much of their time and energy to the cattle business is a massive honor.


I look forward to continuing to spread the word about the power of protein! If you are interested yourself, just contact your state's Beef Council and ask them to join their Team Beef.  If it is in its infancy, help get it started so you too can be part of the solution for those who are looking for the right diet to fuel their body for the finish.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Des Moines Half Marathon Recap



A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 15th Edition 
320.1 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Des Moines Half Marathon
Place: Des Moines, IA
Miles from home: 1785 miles
Weather: 40-50s; sunny


The Des Moines Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart.

Back in 2006 when I ran 52 consecutive weekly marathons, the Des Moines Marathon was the 41st marathon. I was riding a high of marathons at the time I rolled into town. In my 36th marathon of the year I had run my first Boston Qualifying time of the year – something I didn’t think I had a chance to do given my task. In the 39th marathon, I had done one better by not only running another BQ but bettering my personal best by two minutes to 3:05. The weekend after that I had taken 3rd place overall in a marathon, placing for only the second time in my life at that point. Hitting Des Moines I had a touch of a swagger going on. This was before the word “swagger” got so annoying I almost hesitated typing it out.
2006

At the Des Moines Marathon in 2006, I had an idea pop in my head that I would have laughed off just two months prior – to run a sub-3 hour marathon. However, at the race, I was approached by the pace group coordinator about potentially filling a hole in their pacers slot at 3:10. I now take pacing very seriously and it bothers me greatly when I see people who pace groups who obviously have no idea how to actually pace someone. Even then, having only paced a 3:20 group at the Frederick Marathon I still knew that those needing the help of a pace group leader do not need you to go crashing out of the gate too fast.  Therefore, I said I would pace the 3:10 group with the caveat that they tell those running with me what I was doing that year and I would do my best to keep them going as long as I could. 
While I had gone under 3:10 only 7 times in my marathon career, most of them had been done with rather precision pacing. If you read my first book, See Dane Run, you will see that I was fortunate enough to hit my goal as a pacer in Des Moines. I ended up hitting my time almost perfectly (3:10:12), slowing down at the very end to give the sole runner who was with me his moment in the sun alone. It’s not the pacer’s job to celebrate like a buffoon when they do what they were supposed to do. The attention is not meant for them.
2008

I came back to Des Moines in 2008 and this time paced the 1:30 half marathon group.  An odd day that had virtually all the runners either start sprinting at the last mile, or fall way behind, I finished nearly alone in a time of 1:29:32. I did end up catching one runner who was failing (not unlike what I had done in the marathon in 2006) and was able to push him on. I got a little carried away which is why I finished a full 28 seconds fast.

When I got to Des Moines this weekend to work with the Iowa Beef Council, I couldn’t believe it had been four years since I had been in the DSM. This time I would again be running the half marathon but for the first time would simply be running for myself. 

Super nice guy, Bill.
Speaking at the expo and various engagements around the city about the power of protein, I found I was hardly alone in using lean beef as the fuel for my engine. I would not say that the word is getting out as much as the word has been out and more people are becoming vocal about it.

I could spend the next paragraphs simply listing all of the friends who were running at this race and would still invariably miss a few. Suffice it to say, being back in Des Moines was a reunion of sorts with many who would be chasing major goals. Me, I was simply trying to continue firing some life back into my legs. Des Moines is without a doubt the right half marathon course to do just that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prairie Fire Wichita Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 15th Edition 
307 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Prairie Fire Wichita Half Marathon
Place: Wichita, KS
Miles from home: 1762 miles
Weather: 50- 60s; windy and sunny

 I had the great fortune of being in Wichita two years ago when the old and dusty Wichita Marathon got a facelift. Becoming the Prairie Fire Marathon, it had new management, a new course and a whole new attitude.  To say it has been a success in revamping its old image would be an understatement. While I was not able to make it back last year, returning this year was a must.

As the speaker at the event the first year, I also had the opportunity to speaker to a group of middle school cross-country runners.  This year my schedule allowed me to talk at Wichita East where the Blue Aces only can count as one of their alumni one of the most famous of all high school runners ever, Jim Ryun.

After the speech, the Aces took me out for a run and presented me with the coveted 400 Mile Ace t-shirt.  Given to runners who run 400 miles over the summer, they said I had more than earned it.  I was beyond flattered.

When I ran the Prairie Fire Marathon in 2010 it was my first marathon ever in Kansas and my 119th marathon overall. This year, as I am trying to experience as many different races in my life as possible, even when I go to the same city more than once, I chose to take on the 13.1 distance. While my half marathons have out-numbered my marathons since the start of 2010 (41-34) I am still way behind in the total number of halfs run (142-56 coming into the race.)  As such, although this may seem a bit difficult to believe, I am still learning how to run the half-distance. My body is conditioned to run in the green zone for long periods of time.  It is not used to run very hard for short distances.  Part of what I am trying to do is condition myself to say it is OK to hurt.

So many of my friends are graduating to ultramarathons and cross-country runs where I am trying to do the opposite. I still have the occasional challenge planned over the next few years but as I mentioned in this posting on my blog, I want to try and put some fire into these legs. That plan was put on hold with a bike crash in May and some setbacks that followed but it appears I am finally beginning to get back some spark. I was not expecting a super fast time in Wichita but was hoping to continue the quickening trend of late, in spite of all my travel and work obligations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Dallas Preview


You may have read my course preview for the Allstate Life Insurance13.1 Marathon® Series race in Atlanta a few weeks ago.  Continuing to work as ambassador for this series, I headed south again from my home in Portland to Dallas to run another course in its entirety to give runners an idea of what to expect beyond just a mere course map and elevation profile.

WRRC doing some track workouts.
While my schedule in Atlanta allowed me the opportunity to drive the course prior to running it, this week in Dallas was too hectic for a preview in the car. My handler for the week, Teresa, had me promoting the race at various Luke’s Locker locations in the Dallas area as well as taking part in a great track workout (my first in who knows how long) with the White RockRunning Co-Op. In addition, it was an absolute honor to present a short speech to the members of all three chapters of the Dallas-area Back On My Feet organization. For more information on this fantastic organization, please click here.

BOMF inspiring me.
However, I would not be running the course completely blind or without help.  My run with Luke’s Locker (at the awful hour of 6 a.m. – seriously, how do runners run this early?) allowed me to traverse bits and pieces of the course as well as meet those who had run it the year before.  It was very helpful to get their insight and perspective before I even set foot on the course.  In addition, Teresa and her husband provided me with turn-by-turn directions while following me on bikes during the run and also gave me a deep history of the sections I ran through while doing them. Since I would be traversing the course during normal business hours this meant that the downtown portions of the run would be done by abiding to all traffic lights and pedestrian traffic. However, with two cyclists flanking me and with Teresa’s husband conducting a business call with earpiece in, I looked like an important figure with security detail.  We grabbed more than a few looks that day. I couldn’t decide if we should tell people I was Paul Ryan or Novak Djokovic. (Go ahead. Do a google image search of both. The resemblance is a little odd.)

Course Preview:

First off, like the Atlanta 13.1, the Dallas 13.1 begins and ends at the same place. For logistical purposes, I cannot tell you how much I love when a race does that sort of looping.  Even the laziest of your spectating friends is guaranteed to see you twice simply by showing up! Starting in the shadow of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, runners quickly skedaddle out of this area heading for McKinney Ave.  Before even a half -mile has passed you are treated to the warmth of Uptown Dallas. For the next two miles, running on streets wide enough to hold numerous runners but cozy enough to allow revelers to watch from the nearby establishments, the course ever so slightly trends upward in elevation. Don’t worry though as the entirety of this slope equals about thirty feet. You would be hard pressed to even notice the change. Runners have to be just a little careful with their footing here as there is both exposed brick and trolley tracks. I say this just to make a small note even though I have seen many runners, including myself, trip over absolutely nothing. Sometimes it just happens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trepidation

The following is an article I posted about a year and a half ago.  It was entitled "Trepidation" and I felt, having just received a message from an online friend about their nerves in taking on their first marathon at the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita Kansas, that this was a good time to re-run it.

When I meet athletes at an event, many times I am meeting first timers. I ask how they are feeling and fairly frequently the words “nervous” or “anxious” pop out of their mouths. I can relate, obviously. But I tell them these are good feelings to have. These feelings usually keep them from doing something stupid in the last few days before a big race. I also think they are extremely important for races of a longer nature. For example, with the marathon, it doesn’t matter how many races you run, if you do not respect the distance, chances are high it will not respect you either. You will be left to shuffle along, praying for the finish line, only to collapse in a heap at the end if you are lucky enough to make it.

This past weekend was my 130th lifetime marathon. Running for the Vermont Beef Council I realized on the starting line that I had not run a marathon in 50 days. I had only gone that long between marathons 14 times previously. I can usually keep fears and thoughts of under-preparedness away by simply toeing the line for the marathon on a fairly frequent basis. Granted in those 50 days I had done two triathlons, a duathlon, a half marathon and a 10k (personal best, mind you) but my mileage was way down. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for a marathon, or at least as ready as I would like. I felt a little lump in my throat. Nerves. They were striking me.

But I knew I was on familiar ground. If I used my head, I could harness the nervousness and use the energy to my advantage. The trepidation I felt was not something to be feared. It told me I knew what was in front of me was going to make me tired, sore and probably quite thirsty. These were all things I had experienced and knew were on their way. Suddenly, I felt relaxed. Acquiescing to the fact that my next three hours were going to include about every emotion one can have suddenly made everything so much easier to swallow.

A nice warm glow came over me. My miles for 2011 might be at the lowest for any year since I have been keeping track, but this just meant that my legs were fresher than ever (Yeah, right). My goal was to run a sub-3 hour marathon so I could tick Vermont off the states I needed to do that for. I had eaten a hearty steak for my usual pre-race meal so my nutrition was set. My mind was where I needed to be. All I had to do was go run.

But I learned a long time ago that the marathon does not care about your own personal milestones. As chance would have it, the weather for this race was right in the sweet spot of what decimates me: namely heat and humidity. But having been down this road before many times, I was able to change my race plans on the fly and have a successful day. And by “successful” I mean crossing the finish line upright and officially, even if it was with a ton of chafing.

Instead of using the nervous energy to propel me forward, I instead used it to hold myself back and then kick where and when I could. Undoubtedly these are things one can only learn in time or by following the advice of others. However, knowing that nerves and anxiety are often your friends, and not your foes, is a key lesson for beginners to learn.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kerrville Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 14th Edition 
293.9miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Kerrville Triathlon
Place: Kerrville, TX
Miles from home: 2022 miles
Weather: 50- 60s; windy and cloudy

Comparing running races of middle distance or higher (half-marathons on up, for the sake of this sentence) can be difficult unless you know all the variables involved. Terrain, elevation and the like can sway times so much in one way or another. With a 5K or 10K, the distance is so short that the changes are not nearly as likely to affect your times in a way that cannot be easily understood. Comparing triathlons in general, however, I have come to learn, is mostly a futile approach. Sprint distance triathlons can vary in damn near every distance of all three disciplines. Olympic and their ilk (like the Quarter Triathlon I did this weekend) can have vastly different bike courses which skew times. The 70.3 and 140.6 distances can vary so much by weather and terrain that even trying to compare the same race from year to year can be hard to do.  The only thing you can really do is compare what you did in that race on that day against the people you raced. But even who you raced is up to interpretation.

One of the things which has always bothered me about many of the triathlons I have done are the wave starts. In many of the tris I have participated in (and the sample size is not that great!) many of the racers are doing what I consider a time trial.  Unless you are an elite or pro, in which case you will be racing against those who are most likely to beat you, the triathlete is in the unenviable position of guessing where he/she might be overall.  I haven't "lost" a triathlon because of this yet or anything, but I have had a few where I might have pulled off a top three finish if I knew who I was actually racing.

With the Kerrville Quarter Distance Triathlon, I did not think this would be a problem. I have not swum one stroke or pedaled one revolution since the Vikingman Triathlon five weeks ago.  I knew I was in no shape to "compete.”  This race just happened to fall on a weekend when I was traveling all over Texas and given the chance to compete on Texas' Team Beef is always an opportunity I will jump at. In addition, looking at a shorter swim (1000 meters), longer bike (29 miles) and shorter run (6.4 miles) than would not suit my strengths, I knew I was here just to have a hard training day.


Race Morning: 

The day before had produced weather of vastly changing types. Sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, cold, warm, hot, etc alternating extremely rapidly.  However, on the day of the Quarter and 70.3 tri, the weather was fairly calm. There was definitely some wind to contend with but the outlook called for cool temperatures and cloudy skies.  I will take that!

After having to check in all of my gear and everything the night before, and then re-check in other gear the morning of the race, I was reminded how much more involved participating in a triathlon is over running. In addition, I misplaced my chip and had to scavenger around to remedy that situation.  he hurry was pretty much without need as not only did the entire 70.3 field start their swim before the Quarter Distance, but every wave started before my age group. This is what my earlier rant was about. I knew I would be swimming through oodles of arms and legs and then later biking and running around people whom I had to guess what race they were participating in that day. Again, no major biggie - just not ideal.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Omaha Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 13th Edition 
287.5 miles run; 1 mile swam; 30 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Omaha Marathon
Place: Omaha, NE
Miles from home: 1651 miles
Weather: 40s-50s; sunny

I have been waiting to run this marathon in Omaha for four years and I was not disappointed when I finally was able to get to the Cornhusker State.  First and foremost, I love geographic anomalies. After landing in Omaha after a long day of flying, I was ready to get to my hotel. Less than a mile out of the Omaha airport, however, I saw a “Welcome to Iowa!” sign. Wait a minute.  Did I take a wrong turn? I hadn’t crossed over the Missouri. What gives?  As soon as I got to my hotel, I fired up the internet and figured out that what I had passed through was the town of Carter Lake.  You can read more about it here, but basically, the Missouri River shifted back in the 1800s and what used to be Iowa found itself smack dab in the middle of Nebraska.  This small sliver of land maintained its Iowa passport and remains part of the Hawkeye State to this day.

Moreover, I realized that this marathon course ran within mere feet of the border. (I would have loved if it ran into Carter Lake itself but I am sure doing so would have required talking to yet another municipality, another set of rules and another bureaucracy to deal with so it probably was not worth it.  Maybe in future years this can be part of the race.)  The next day, prior to the expo, I went for a run to check out this area.  I didn’t even realize that part of my run followed part of the marathon course but later this would help me.  Familiarity is a wonderful thing.

The expo itself flew by in a blink. The Omaha Marathon has grown every year for the past decade and continually needs to change venues to host its expo. At one point, I got to see firsthand what I already knew existed – people thinking that because they are the “customer” that they can be entitled to the sky and everything in it. As the race director calmly tried to handle some poor chap who was losing his mind over the fact that his t-shirt might be delayed and would have to be mailed to him, I was reminded why after a short stint as a race director, I have no desire to do it anymore.  I am pretty sure that when the guy left the area he realized what an ass he had been but in the moment, it was more than clear he just wanted to bitch and wasn’t expecting to hear any pushback.  (N.B. the pushback did not come from the R.D., who was a saint, but rather from me when I told him he was being an idiot and needed to stop.  In case you are curious, fella, every vendor and person around thought you were a dipwad.  Hope it was worth it.)

But even this tirade could not derail a wonderful expo and an even more enthusiastic and involved crowd who gathered for the pre-race dinner. As I had just a few weeks ago in Pocatello, I was gifted with a standing room only group of runners who were eager to laugh, break bread and shake out the sillies the night before a big race. I also participated in an auction that helped benefit charity and modeled some shirts to be sold to the highest bidder. I met Marines running their first marathon, guys who had run some of the same 40-person races I had in far-flung corners of the world, girls who would go on to set twenty minute personal bests, and loads of people in between.

I was ready to get my marathon on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Proteins over Carbs

I have been working with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for over two years in some capacity or another as a spokesrunner. This title was coined by Daren Williams, Executive Director, Communications at NCBA to illustrate how I have taken it upon myself to educate people about the healthful benefits of eating lean beef as well as dispel myths, rumors, half-truths and just oodles of stupidity and ignorance about the beef industry.

So when one of the biggest proponents of the carb-loading phase comes out and says “Whoops, maybe add some protein in there as well” it is nice that people are taking notice. Tim Noakes, who wrote the book Lore of Running, has said you can go ahead and tear out the chapter in that book about nutrition as he has done an about-face. Read more here.

The 29 cuts of lean beef, which each contain over 51% of the protein a person needs in their diet daily, in just 3 small ounces netting barely 150 calories, fall smack dab in the middle of that protein-rich diet Noakes is now promoting. This goes right in line with what I have been saying for years. Why was I able to run 350 miles in 7 days up the Oregon Coast this past spring? Well, hard work, dedication and training definitely helped. So has a lifelong diet of lean beef.

So do I eschew carbs and the traditional runner’s diet of pasta?  Of course not! I love pasta. Always have. But I like my pasta to have protein in it. I also have always been against the "carb-bloating" diet that so many runners fall prey to. In fact, I touch on the carb-eating frenzy in Chapter 19 of my new book and why so many get it wrong. 

My point is not to deplete anything. Eating a healthful balance of carbs, fats AND protein is the key. But more over, get that protein from a delicious source that also has the right balance of calories and nutrients (zinc and iron on top of all that protein, just to name a few!)

In other words, go get yourself a nice juicy streak. I’ll join you. I am guessing Noakes will as well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fox Valley Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 12th Edition 
261.3 miles run; 1 mile swam; 30 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Fox Valley Half Marathon
Place: St. Charles, IL
Miles from home:  2085 miles
Weather: 50s-70s; sunny

To say this was an odd race for me would be an understatement.

Having originally planned to run the Final Fall 20 mile race, I made the decision instead to take on the Fox Valley Half Marathon to continue my recovery from the bike accident in May.  The decision was made easier when I learned that my friend and last year’s women’s marathon winner, Shannon Bixler, would also be doing the half. I asked her if she wanted someone to help pace her and she said that would be lovely.  We had run together for a portion of the course last year until my course for the 20 miler peeled off and she went her own way. Unfortunately for me she wanted to run a 6:30 pace for the half this year, something which normally would not be a problem.  However, given the fact that I was just getting back into shape this might be a stretch.  I told her I could give it my best shot and only hope to hang on.

The expo was a reunion of sorts, seeing so many of the warm and friendly people who put on the Fox Valley Weekend who I had spent time with the previous year.  The race itself had grown leaps and bounds and was beginning to burst at the seams with runners.  The secret of how well-run the race was and how nice of a course it was apparently no longer well-kept.

Of all the people I spent time with at the expo, the son of a friend named Zachary might have been my favorite. Zachary was born with Down syndrome and has some mental frailties.  But he was strong enough to teach me the sign language for “running” which I then signed to about 100 other people the rest of the day! Even though he has some significant mental and physical difficulties ahead of him, Zachary appears to be ready to meet them with a smile.

The talk of many was the weather for the race. The forecast for the day called for a relatively cool morning and then a warming throughout the race. Bright sunshine and a cloudless sky were also on the menu. This of course would have people who apparently have never run a long-distance race calling it a perfect day for running, seemingly having no clue what exposure to sun for 3,4,5 or 6 hours does to a person pushing their limits. Fortunately, the course provided shade for approximately 90% of the course and running right next to the Fox River gave ample coolness from the waters flowing by.

I was at the expo representing the Illinois Beef Association (“IBA”) and to say people were looking forward to the grilled bites of steak at the end of the race, as they had been provided the previous year, would be an understatement. Obviously this morsel is not everyone’s choice of post-race sustenance but I do know the IBA went home with empty coolers last year.  I assumed the same would be the case in 2012.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Faster is Better

A little long ago, I jumped into a Facebook discussion about running. Here’s the thing about me -  I get enough conversation on my own Facebook page that I try my best to limit going anywhere else and joining any other topic. The main reason is I am blunt, direct and literal. I figure if you comment on my page then you know my style and won’t get your panties in a bind by my replies. Going elsewhere negates that home-field advantage and someone with all the sensitivity of an 8 year- old girl watching a show about puppies and Justin Bieber is going to get their nose bent out of shape. Sometimes I forget my rule and stray.


In this discussion, someone said something akin to how no runner is better than another. An obvious pandering attempt by the poster to get everyone to say “Yeah! You are so right! Everyone is the bestest winner of all times!” it annoyed me. I replied “Of course some runners are better than others. Especially if by better you mean ‘faster’.” It seemed most people got what I was saying. Of course, one person didn’t and in an effort to try and explain my point, but stick to it at the same time, it ended up as most conversations on the internet do – badly. So I decided to clarify again here.

A faster runner is a better one, at least in terms of speed. The faster runner may be an ass, but they are better than the slower nicer one. That is a fact. There is no room for debate. No “well, it depends on your definition of ‘better’”. I am exhausted with trying to be politically correct when it comes to discussions that involve the masses. I am not, and will never, run for political office. As such, I don’t care too much about pissing off people if it is by saying what I truly feel. The thing that attracts me to running so much, after playing team sports for most of my life, is the accountability of it all. That is why I loved swimming so much growing up as well. You versus everyone else.


For you see, if you are prepared to race, and run a certain time, and another person runs faster than you, they are a better runner than you on that day and that race. If they have a better PR than you, they are a better runner than you overall. This seems so completely intuitive that I am shocked I even need to write it.  But apparently that is a must.

So again, in the world where virtually anyone who is not trying to be difficult for the sake of being difficult, realizes “better” means “faster”, some runners sure as heck are better than others. And hopefully, if you are the slower runner presently, you will be able to get better, challenge yourself and the person you are chasing, and in the end, nip them at the line.

Be better.