Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cowtown Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 8th Edition
240.5 miles raced in 2010

Race: Cowtown Marathon
Place: Fort Worth, TX
Miles from home: 1243 miles 
Weather: 30-60s; cool; sunny

I had a little trepidation going into this marathon. With the reappearance of an old injury, slightly feeling under the weather and having spent my 8th consecutive weekend on the road, I was definitely a little tired.  I had also planned to run an exact time of 3:21 for this marathon which put a little pressure on me to perform.  Also, with each passing weekend, my 204 mile race in April looms larger and larger.

But as I talked to so many runners at the expo where I was signing books, I had to concur with them that one never knows what the race will hold until they get out there, lace up the shoes and move forward.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Time to run a 3:21

The other day when I was looking over some stats and numbers of my marathons run, I noticed a few discrepancies.  In my own personal spreadsheet I had noticed that for some reason I had placed some marathons I had run on the wrong day of the week.  I then noticed some of my times had never been updated to reflect my actual (chip time) rather than the gun time I had been given first. This led to an intense hours-long reshuffling of marathons and times until I finally had everything in its right place.

 Actual spreadsheet. One of the less number-intensive ones.  Don't laugh.

While nothing major occurred (e.g. I did not all of a sudden find I had run a 2:19 and qualified for the Olympic Trials) a few interesting things did pop up.  First of all, I lowered my lifetime marathon average by 4 seconds.  Woo-hoo.  I also noticed that the Pikes Peak Marathon (6:41), The Dalian International Marathon (4:40, where I ran in China with the stomach flu) and the two runnings of the Leadville Marathon (5:17 and 4:45) so skewed my entire marathon average that removing just those 4 from the 113 marathon sample size, lowered my entire average by over FOUR MINUTES!  You know some slow times come from a race where 4 in 113 have that much weight. But there was another finding which will effect what I am running this weekend at the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Run

Last week when I finished my 50 Mile race I was visited by an old acquaintance.  I would like to say that it was a nice visit but the acquaintance was not welcome.  This acquaintance?  A pain in my left shin and calf muscle.  For two years I suffered from this tightness almost daily, a reoccurring malady from the Estes Park marathon and that entire weekend. 

Suddenly, one day it went away.  I went for a run and no longer noticed the pain.  It was actually quite shocking.  Sure, when I pushed a race really hard or had a massage done I could feel the tightness but it no longer bothered me.  Of course, not soon after that left leg pain was replaced with the right leg pain of a swollen Achilles tendon, which I have now had for the better portion of two years. 

Neither really got much worse than nagging pain but when you are bombarded constantly with people telling you that your chosen style of running is detrimental to your health (and if you don’t believe me, I can provide links to written stories specifically mentioning how what I was doing was not only bad for me but for “running” in general) you are prone to be a tad more injury aware. you may be even more desiring to prove people wrong.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pasadena Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 7th Edition
214.3 miles raced in 2010

Race: Pasadena Marathon
Place: Pasadena, CA
Miles from home: 680 miles 
Weather: 50-60s; cool; partly cloudy; some rain

Very few marathons are nondescript, even if you have plodded through hundreds of them. Almost every one of them will leave a marked impression on you, regardless of the course, the people or anything really having to do with the race itself.  For me, the Pasadena Marathon will always be remembered by me as the one where I had to pee. Often.

Prior to the race I was able to meet up with my high school friend, Christy, who taped my speech at the expo in front of the crowd to be used for a DVD.  I was also very fortunate to see many friends and acquaintances, some who volunteered to be interviewed for the DVD.  One of the most memorable was Ginger, the 67-year old woman I first met at the Long Beach Marathon who is just a sparkplug and a testament to how well the body can be preserved when taken care of properly.  (She ran a 4:44 at Long Beach!)

I also got to spend a great deal of time with my host for the weekend, Tracy, who herself is running a marathon every month this year.  As much as I always appreciate the support of all my friends nationwide, there is a big difference between virtual support and someone actually giving you a ride to the start and driving you from the finish, with a Dr. Pepper in hand to quench your thirst (and also make fun of your not-so-stellar eating habits.)

A wonderfully busy week led up to the Pasadena Marathon and when the weather appeared to finally be in favor of the race for a change, I was ready to give it a run.  However, I had no idea what I wanted to run this race in a time of.  Should I push hard, should I take it very slow or what exactly?  My mileage has been a little down from what I was hoping it would be given my adding of an unexpected 50 miler in Florida last weekend.  As such, while I was thinking a nice 3:20ish pace would be good, I decided to make up for my lack of miles lately with a slightly harder pace.  Either way, somehow I missed a milestone with my last marathon and I was determined to make this, my 101st marathon since the start of 2006 (and 75th Sunday Marathon), one that if not at least memorable, would be at beneficial.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pasadena Marathon is next

After taking a "break" from running marathons for two weeks with a 33 mile DNF at Rocky Raccoon 50 miler and a win and course record at the Iron Horse 50, I head to sunny Southern California to run the Pasadena Marathon this weekend.

My travels this year have taken me to many places that should have been warm (Florida, San Diego, Mississippi, etc) but have left me a little on the chilly side.  Fine for running but not so much for anything else.  Fortunately, Pasadena looks great this weekend for race weather and I am excited to be speaking and signing books there as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - Online Training Log

When I first started this blog, 411 posts ago, I started it all off with the thought of "Do I need another blog?"  At the time I was posting on Myspace (wow, has that become a digital graveyard), on various running forums and sundry other places.  Since that time I have more or less narrowed it down to here: my one stop shop for running and exercise thoughts.

In that time I have found out that people do enjoy reading what I wrote about - or at the very least they enjoy coming here to look at pictures and click on links, as I can tell how many hits I get each day.  One of the most often received requests I get is for me to share my daily workouts and thoughts.  As I never wanted this blog to be a daily calendar of simple numbers of X distance run in Y amount of time, I held back.  Plus, like when I wondered if it mattered if I had another blog, I wondered if people really cared what my workouts were each day.

As I have learned in the past year of signing books and giving speeches, yes they really do. So, I began to put forth effort to find that site which really seems to meet the criteria I wanted to have in order to properly, efficiently and informatively share my workouts on a daily basis.

I think I have found it on

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Iron Horse 50 Mile Endurance Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 6th Edition
188.1 miles raced in 2010

Race: Iron Horse 50 Mile Endurance Run
Place: Florahome, FL
Miles from home: 2229 miles 
Weather: 30-40s; cool; partly cloudy

The weather for this Iron Horse 50 Mile race, while unusual and definitely not ideal for much else in Florida, was quite perfect for me to run in.  Partly cloudy skies, cool temperatures and low humidity- just how I like it. This weather was not too much unlike last weekend in Huntsville which made my DNF at Rocky Raccoon all the worse. Rarely does training, weather and course all come together like this.  For it to happen twice in two weeks was actually a little nerve-wracking. In my mind, I HAD to do well here.

I was able to start off my trip to Jacksonville with a book signing at the Jacksonville Running Company the Friday before the race. While the unrelenting rain kept many patrons away on a normally busy day, those in attendance were delightful and fun to speak with. Many were gearing up for the Run with Donna Marathon the next weekend and were quite excited to swap stories and the like.

Friday night before the race called for a race briefing by race director Chris Rodatz, who provided humor and directions to the runners in attendance. We all got to learn a little bit more about the course and had our interest piqued in a few areas.  The one thing which grabbed my attention were the old railroad trestles on this Rails to Trails course.  Rotting and ancient, Chris had himself nailed down 2x4s side-to-side to create a plank for runners to traverse the trestles.  However, he painted a picture which was not unlike the various rope bridges we have seen in Indiana Jones movies. You can imagine we were all quite curious what we had in store for us!

I had attended this meeting, and later dinner, with my friend Kelly Luckett and her husband.  You may recall I wrote about Kelly, an amputee runner, here. Kelly was attempting her first 50 mile race which would make her one of the first amputee runners ever to do so.  Her pluck and determination were both inspiring and admirable. When we parted ways for the night, I had visions of both of us conquering this 50 mile beast.

Unfortunately, I could not fall asleep.  Nerves, typical restlessness of myself at night (I am the consummate night owl) or whatever else kept me up until 1:30 AM.  With a wake-up call at 4:30 to accompany Kelly and her husband (who would run with Kelly for the entirety of the race - a mentally and physically exhausting feat in and of itself for him given his 3:40 Marathon PR and their projected pace of much slower than that) on the 40 minute drive from our hotels in Orange Park to the race start in Florahome, these three hours of sleep were not nearly the amount I was hoping to get. However, it could be much worse (and it was indeed for some, which I will get to later.)

The race course consisted of a short out and back to the west for a total of three miles before heading east for 10.5 miles.  Runners would then turn around to complete one 25 mile loop at the starting line before heading out again for the second loop.  Weather conditions were a tad cool to start things off but would get a little warmer as the day went on.  Footing, in spite of a torrential rain the day before, was all but exquisite and just a few seconds after 7 AM, we were on our way.

Loop One: 

Hopeful time between aid stations (actual time)

27:18 (26:47)
31:12 (32:10)
40:33 (42:13)
23:24 (20:30)
40:33 (42:53)
31:12 (32:28)

There were five points on this course that I designated as places to break the race down into smaller parts in order to make it more manageable in my mind.  These points consisted with the aid stations set up by the race itself and allowed for runners to not think about the entire race all at once.

A few yards into the race and already two runners were ahead of me.  Upon speaking with them both, I found they were running the 100k (there was also a 100 mile option going on this day as well) so their pace and effort meant nothing to me.  When they began to pull away, I definitely was intrigued to see if they would keep the pace but knew this race was only about completing the course in a competitive time and getting last week's monkey off my back.

Are we completed the first turn-around (marked with signs that said "T/R"  - which I learned is southern for "Turn 'Round") I could see I had a slight lead on just about every other runner out there. Another man had slipped past me in this first little bit but he too was running the 100k. I wondered if these guys were all new to the distance as they were setting blistering paces.

Hitting the starting point again, I shed my outer layer and now was into a groove with just a singlet and a t-shirt underneath.  Still feeling a little chilly and waking up, I was ready to see what the course had in store for me.  We had already crossed one of the aforementioned railroad trestles and while they did not provide the best footing available, they were not the death traps some of us had feared. We now settled into running on what would be the remainder of the course - hard packed dirt and pine needles with large-stoned gravel intermittently dispersed underfoot.
For the most part this footing was adequate, but the stones were indeed large enough to twist an ankle or provide enough rolling to give one some sore ankles afterward.  Poor Kelly twice hit the dirt when her prosthetic running foot caught the gravel.  But even with a bloodied knee she soldiered on.

I hit a porta-potty at the second aid station on the course and upon emerging finally felt both awake and good, as if I might actually do well today. The next stretch was spent simply looking at one of the 100k runners in front of me, never getting any further away but never getting any closer either. I wondered if I was too slow, he too fast, or a combination of both.

Nearing the turn-around at the end I was shocked to see that the two lead 100k guys had not slowed and in fact seemed to be picking up speed. I was able to catch the third 100k runner in front of me after the turn around when I ran across the longest of the trestles and he walked.  However, as he did not stop at the aid station and I did, he again put some ground between us.

I was happy to have made up a little time on this short out and back as my time was a little off the 6:29:59 I was hoping to hit prior to that.  However, I soon lost a little more on the longest stretch of the course between aid stations (5 plus miles.) It was nice however to see all the runners heading towards us and pleasantries were being exchanged amongst all of us. It was hard to believe that we were already 18 plus miles into this race with many more miles to go.

Hitting the last aid station before completing the first loop and I could see I was getting back on track but know that the time was not nearly as important as the completion.  But when you are leading a race, it is hard to shake that thought process. 

As we neared the end of the first loop, I noticed the temperatures had not picked up very much, the sky was still cloudy, the air was still cool and low in humidity and I was hoping I had run properly in order to negative split. My time of 3:17:04 put me close to pace.

Loop Two:

27:18 (25:30)
31:12 (33:48)
40:33 (47:10)
23:24 (20:53)
40:33 (47:53)
31:12 (40:06)

Having passed the third 100k runner when he stopped to walk at mile 20, I was now in no man's land.  As far as I could see in front of me there were no runners to chase. And believe me, you could see forever.  The blue tents marking the aid stations would appear on the horizon and then 10 minutes later you still would not have reached them. They were like mirages in the desert which you could never get to. As such, I did my best to just use the 100k runners in front of me to pace myself.  After a stellar beginning 3-mile loop to kick off the second 25 mile section, I knew I was closing in on them. The gap between them coming back and me going out was shrinking exponentially.

However, I may have pushed the loop a little too hard as almost immediately afterward I felt a slowing in my legs. I tried to tell myself I just had an approximate 30 minute run, followed by a 40 minute run, which then led into a 20 minute run before I then only had a 40 minute run and I could end with a 30 minute run.  Somehow this seemed comforting! Yet, when I got to the aid station two-plus minutes behind my goal, I was a little bummed. I had caught one of the 100km runners in front of me which, while I was sad to see him on the sideline with his hands-on-knees and not looking good, still gave me a competitive boost.  I found out he later pulled out due to cramps.  Thomas was his name and if my memory serves me right we will meet again at the Umstead 100 next month.

When I left the aid station I knew once again I would be running completely solo.  The 100km runner leading his race was simply not in sight and with runners who were way behind me coming at me in the opposite direction it was hard to gauge my speed. Closing in on the aid station before the turn-around, however, solidified that the slowing process was continuing. Arriving 5 minutes slower than I had on the previous loop, I could tell this section had taken much more out of me than I wanted to give.

Seeing the lead runner not so far ahead at least helped my ego a bit.  I was quite amazed at the pace he was holding and was extremely pleased he was running the 100k.  Then I recalled runners had the option of dropping down from one distance to another and my previous laissez-faire attitude was lost. I had to make up ground on him! And make up ground I did on the next little section but at too much of a cost.  With 9 miles left in my race, I knew I was most definitely paying for my quickened pace. If he dropped down to the 50 mile distance, then so be it.

The sun had finally come out and when it flitted in between the branches it was a welcome feeling. I was not generating the same amount of heat as previously and was definitely cooling.  I had taken off all of my shirts except one.  I was now more than ready to be finished and put on something warm and comfortable.  I hit the last aid station and found the 100k runner was just a few minutes in front of me.

My energy was definitely fading and with both a sub 6:30 and sub 6:40 time out of reach, I would walk a few steps here and there. The gravel had definitely gotten the better of me a few times and my ankles (more specifically my right one - perhaps from the slight camber of the road) were aching. When I saw Kelly up ahead nearing the completion of his first loop, I welcomed the opportunity to walk with her a bit on one of her breaks.

She was in good spirits for sure, even if she was more tired and slightly further behind than she had hoped to be. We walked together and spoke and she told me how she had fallen and how hard it was for her to find any consistency with running before of the footing. I minded not one bit the break here as I knew I was miles ahead of the next competitor. But after a while, my legs, wanting to be done, finally spurred me forward.I wished her good luck and took off!

As I pushed on and hit the final hundred yards, I realized how tense and nervous I had been all day.  Now here I was, not only completing the course but leading it from wire-to-wire.  I had no one to run with, no one to pace with and virtually no one to chase. The nagging feeling of tiredness which crept in, inevitably and understandably on the second loop, would not normally have given me pause.  But after the DNF of last weekend, it was hard to establish if it was normal tired or soon-to-be-stopping-with-no-energy tired. However, a few minutes later, I was crossing the finish line, taking first place and breaking the course record by 50 minutes. (Two years later they would pave a few miles of this course, making it invariably easier and therefore solidifying I would retain the course record forever.)

It was a good day indeed.

Unfortunately, Kelly finally succumbed to both exhaustion and the rapidly-dipping temperatures and had to pull out at mile 46.  She simply could not keep her core temperature up in the chill of the night and wisely stopped before anything permanent was done to her system. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with her effort. While the course was mostly flat and mostly runnable, I would not call it easy.  First of all the constant flat nature really wore on the legs.  The footing was a tad off in places and coupled with a prosthetic leg, I cannot imagine how tiring that must have been for Kelly. So while falling 4 miles short of her goal, Kelly was still quite happy with what she accomplished - as she should be indeed.  I have no doubt she will come back to this distance and capture that 50 mile crown.

I also made a new friend with a runner who had been socked in by storms in Atlanta, drove the 6 hours from the airport in Atlanta to Jacksonville rather than wait for a plane, arrived 40 minutes late, ran 50 miles, gave me a ride back to my hotel and then decided to go back and do the remaining 50 miles.  On no sleep.  Amazing.  When I posted this I do not yet have his finishing time but will update this for sure when I do.

This was, all in all, a very nice race. The aid stations were well-manned, the course was 100% free of any traffic and with the out and back nature, runners could see every one else along the course.  This provided for lots of camaraderie amongst runners in all three races with more "Looking Good!"s than you could shake a stick at.

My final time of 6:52:50 was pleasing to me and allowed me to set my sights on the next two big races on the calendar: my 100 mile "training run" at Umstead next month and the ridiculous 204 miles in 48 hours at the American Odyssey Relay in April. This race provided me with all that I needed, both physically and mentally, and was worth every penny spent on such late notice.
Sometimes, things work out just fantastically.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Sometimes life doesn't go your way.  Actually, many times it doesn't go your way.  But, the measure of a man is not the ability to transform yourself from a silly-looking but good singing guy into a slightly-less silly-looking but good signing guy (sorry, Clay Aiken.)  Rather, it is what you do when life gives you that kick to the nether regions.

When the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile was aborted at mile 33 for me because of lingering issues from the stomach flu I had earlier in that week, I immediately went into planning mode.  I had one weekend open to fit in a 50 mile race to keep with my schedule as I build up to my 204 mile solo running of the American Odyssey Relay. After a great deal of planning and shifting around of schedules, I registered for the Iron Horse Endurance Runs in Florahome, FL.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2/3 of a Rocky Raccoon 50 mile recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 5th Edition
138.1 miles raced in 2010

Race: Rocky Raccoon
Place: Huntsville, TX
Miles from home: 1439 miles 
Weather: 40-50s; sunny; slight humidity

Well, damn.

I thought I could power through the sickness from Wednesday and while for all intents and purposes the illness had abated, the after effects had not.  I did not know this, however, until the race began.
The night before the marathon I began plotting some strategy for how to attack the race.  As the 50 miler was three loops of a 16.67 mile loop, I was quite pleased.  I like looped courses a great deal and felt this would be right up my alley.

My goal for this race was to run a 2 hour personal best.  With my only other 50 mile race having been run in 8:32, I want a 6:29:59.  That works out to a 7:48 minute mile.  I knew the aid stations on this course were set at random intervals so I worked out what a 7:48 mile pace would be for each one of them and committed it to memory.  As with any race of long-distance (heck or even a mile on the track) it is much better to break down what you have in front of you into smaller goals.  My goals for his race consisted of a race broken into three laps of five races of 3.1, 3.09, 2.68, 3.41 and 4.39 miles in distance (the distances between each one of the aid stations.)

I was hoping that getting through one or hopefully two laps at this pace I could then maybe back off and survive a potential slowing from being sick earlier in the week.  With nearly perfect weather (a tad too sunny and warm for me personally) and a decent course, I was ready to give it a shot.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sickness be GONE - Rocky Raccoon 50 mile looms

So, I took it easy at the Miami Marathon. It was a hot and humid day and although I wanted to go faster, I used my head.  I ate well after the race at a wonderful dinner with my friend Coach GP and was making sure to take it easy this week.

Then I woke up Wednesday morning, looking forward to a nice easy 9 miler and realized I wasn't doing 9 feet.  A stomach virus laid me out for the entirety of Wednesday.  And by entirety I mean I woke briefly at 9 AM, 1 PM and 7 PM to try and get a little something done in preparation for leaving Thursday afternoon, but spent the rest of the time either in the bathroom or sleeping.  Completely bereft of energy was I.  It is nice to get reminders like this that even the best laid plans can go awry.

But here on Thursday morning, I am feeling "better".  Not great but better.  Better as in I am still going to the race and going to compete.  Yesterday I had no idea whether that would happen.  But today, the Rocky Raccoon 50 calls and I am answering.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fire in the Gut - Product Review

If you read my Miami Marathon report you noticed that I had to deal with one of my all-time nemesisesses (nemesisi?) in my trip to South Florida: humidity.

Humidity wrecks me.  As much as I am happy that I have the genetics to allow me to recover quickly from long runs and races I bemoan the fact that those same genetics turn me into a quivering mess whenever humidity strikes.  Sure, I have gotten better at dealing with the warm sticky weather over the years but with the amount I sweat, I am often left facing the reality that I am going to be a disgusting mess on days with weather with high humidity.

So, I usually have two options when it comes to such weather: run shirtless or find clothing that does what it can to help remove that slick layer of yuck from my body. Sometimes, due to logistics or common courtesy to those around me who have no desire to see me topless, no-shirt is not an option.  So one must find the right apparel. I was lucky enough to happen across such the stuff at the Carlsbad Marathon when I positioned across the aisle from Fire in the Gut.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Miami Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 4th Edition
104.8 miles raced in 2010

Race: Miami Marathon
Place: Miami, FL
Miles from home: 2532 miles 
Weather: 70s; humid

Sometimes marathons just don't give you the most memorable results.  When you have hit 112 of them that can happen.  However, this  marathon here in Miami lacking any particular memorable exciting finish was mostly my fault as:
1. I was treating this race as a training run for the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile race in 6 days;
2. I picked the right parents to allow me to run great with very little recovery but those same parents also did not allow me to be able to run in heat or humidity very well.

And Miami was warm and humid for the Miami marathon race day.

Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine Article: How long is THIS Marathon?

My latest installment of "Running Maters" is now up and ready for reading on Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine's website.