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.


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.


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!