Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hitting the Pool

Well, that was humbling.

I have been trying in the past few years to integrate swimming back into my exercise regimen.  In 2008, I swam a little bit on my way to doing surprisingly well at the Deer Creek Tri in Utah.

Last year I ramped it up a little more and even though my swim leg was not what I wanted it to be at the US National Aquathlon Championship, It was nice to be cutting through the water again.

Then I got hit by a car. So with a messed up shoulder, I wasn't swimming much.  Then I got uber busy with running and swimming slipped further down the to-do list. 

However, with my legs needing a little break and me actually being home for more than 3 consecutive days for the first time since, yep, 2009, I decided to grab a monthly membership to the local pool and make some waves.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Umstead 100 mile recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 12th Edition
329.8 miles raced in 2010

Race: Umstead 100 mile
Place: Raleigh, NC
Miles from home: 2143 miles 
Weather: 30-50s; sunshine

The best laid plans...

The Umstead 100 mile race was one which was supposed to serve a two-fold purpose for me. First, I was going to get my first 100 mile finish, in hopefully a fast time. Second, it would be a training run for my 204 miler which is now just 26 days away. In hindsight, it could not be both, at least not at the speed I was hoping to run it.

It was, however, a good lesson in a few things. One can never discount the affect that the unknown will have on a body in a long-distance race. Even if you are unaware of what causes those affects, they are just as strong. Last month I got sick before the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile race. As such, I did not have the energy to continue after 33 miles. One week later, I crushed my personal best in a 50 mile race by over 100 minutes. I knew the sickness had weakened me for one race and hoped the next week would be a different story. It was and I did well. But oftentimes things happen and we have no explanation. We can look back and think of something which may have been the cause but we have no idea.

I was sent an email recently from a person asking a question about if I have ever been discouraged in a marathon.  After the laughter subsided in my head, I told her that yes, in the 114 marathons I have done, I have quite often faced down discouragement and moved forward.  I preach to others that failure helps us learn, even if the lesson is not cut and dry.  As I sat in a chair, done at 50 miles of the race yesterday (and yes, 50 miles is indeed a lot of mile but dear friends who offered encouragement to me, it was only half of the race I wanted to run that day), I hoped I could draw fruitful lessons from my experience.  Here is hoping you can from my recounting of my day.

The Umstead 100 mile race is a convenient 8-loop course (12.5 miles per) on extremely easy on the legs runnable dirt surfaces. As I wished to run 16 hours for this race, that means an average of 2 hours per lap was needed.  Allowing me to do the math for you, that is a 9:30 minute mile.  I felt it was doable.

The course is not easy but it is not hard, per se.  The back end miles of the loop are definitely a little challenging but I figured this would be where I would utilize some walk breaks on those 7th and 8th laps.

 From the Umstead 100 website, a fairly accurate representation of the course elevation profile.

But I am getting a little ahead of myself (and a mite bit optimistic as well.)

Lap 1: 1:50:33 (followed by 2:07 break)

Fortunately, ANY plans I had of wanting to win the race were more or less thrown out the window when I saw some of the runners there. Sure, anything can happen during a 100 miler, but when you are outclassed, you are just simply outclassed. The cream of the crop was 30 year old Zach Gingerich, who I stood right behind in the bathroom line a mere 5 minutes before the race started. Wearing what can only be described as racing flats, I looked at him and thought: "I am going to get crushed today." With too many fast times to list, I knew about Zach's pedigree. Also, no less than two other runners who were definitely just phenomenal runners were milling around.

This knowledge actually made it easier to run my own race at my own pace. Nothing to win here, folks, move along. When the race started I found myself near the front which is where I should be given the pace I wanted to run. In the darkness of the 6 AM start I soon was next to a rather tall runner. Taking a chance I asked if he was guy named Nathan. Sure enough my headlight illuminated the face of a runner who I had met at a race or two and who I had seen on the roster, Nathan Echols.  Nathan went out very fast, and after faltering a little bit in a few points ran a stellar 17:54:56.  Excellent work, Nathan!

During this first loop I was just trying to find a rhythm. Even though I was not running much faster than my goal of 9:30 per mile (and I knew I would have to run a little faster than that average at first as there was no way I was going to be running that fast at the end), nothing felt quite right.  Finally, after about 6 miles, I felt good. At the backside aid station, I could see on a straightaway, last year's women's winner Jill Perry who ran a 16:02. Since that was what I was hoping to run I knew keeping her in sight would be wise. But I also knew we were going a little faster than I wanted so "in sight" was fine. "Next to" or "right behind" was too quick.

At the end the first loop, my friend Dean Shuster (and jokingly race saboteur - he was at the Kentucky Derby Marathon last April which derailed 22 straight Boston Qualifying marathons for me. The weather did. Dean didn't.) was onhand to spread some joy.  Returning from an injury, Dean was here to crew more than a few runners from his Columbia, South Carolina home - namely Rick and Matt who I had joined for dinner the previous evening.  Rick would finish in 21:10 and Matt in 23:05, both getting a belt buckle in their first 100 miler!

Lap 2: 1:54:48 (followed by 3:31 break)

After a short break following the first loop, I started out again.  I was in much better spirits and felt just fine and dandy.  My mind had been playing with me a little bit but I was quelling doubts and realized this would be the lap were I began walk breaks on the uphill sections of the back half of the course as well as some steeper ones on the front half.

I had moved up conservatively and at the 7 mile aid station was in 15th place, exactly where I wanted to be. I was keeping ahead of those I passed and moving along efficiently. I began doing math in my head of what I could run even if I slowed exponentially, which on this loop I did not feel was necessary.

Nearing the end of the second loop, now I was beginning to see more and more runners. The nature of the course, wherein runners ran back and forth by each other for a 2 mile leg, allowed many greetings to be shared by all. Another one mile section later on did the same thing. And, of course if you got passed by someone, they could always say hello to you. Not that you want that to happen!

Heading out, I saw my friend Andy Kumeda was not far behind me at all.  I knew he was running well faster than he had ever run before and I was right.  Setting a personal best in the 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile distances all in the same day is one hell of a way to spend a Saturday (and 45 minutes of Sunday, technically!)  Awesome work, Andy!

Lap 3: 2:07:05 (followed by 35:10 break)

This third lap felt fine to start with but by 2 miles in, I was experiencing some problems. My leg had been hurting from the beginning.  However it had never hurt very bad and was definitely not hurting as bad as it could be here. No, for whatever reason, my energy was simply not there. At 28 miles, I could tell something was just not up. Near 30 miles, Andy passed me and kept motoring on.  A few other runners passed me as well and I fell in behind them.  For two more miles until the back end aid station, I stayed on their tails. Having just filled my water bottle at mile 5, I did not need to stop. When they did, I kept right on. Soon I saw Andy in front of me again and I was feeling pretty fine. I chalked this up to the highs and lows of running an ultra, even while my energy continued to ebb.

I walked much more than I really wanted to over the next few miles but knew this was an all day event.  When I rolled into the end of the third loop, I was still under 6 hours (and my desired pace for the day) but knew something was amiss. I could not understand what. Here at 37.5 miles, running 1:30 slower per mile than I had in my 50 mile race at Iron Horse, and taking in many more calories, I was spent.  I decided to sit down in the dreaded chair and try to take in real food.

Lap 4: 2:30:33

Sitting is never a good idea in an ultra unless you really need it, or so they say.  But I felt I really needed it.  As my Powerbar shipment had not arrived before I left for north Carolina, I was relying on Vanilla bean GU to get me through the race. GU is fine but I can only stomach so many of them. To this I think the greatest feat Lance Armstrong ever did was not surviving cancer or winning 7 straight Tour De Frances but rather taking in a reported 13 GUs during his first marathon ever.

Eating food and trying to get real calories in me, I could feel my left calf tightening a bit. Again, not as bad I thought it would be but still there. I could also tell that unless my energy level changed, then inevitably my stride would change and following that would be potentially injuring the leg further with a bad stride.  So I sat.  And I sat. And then I saw Zach come in having completed 50 miles.  In 6:18.  Are you freaking kidding me?! Only twice had 15 hours been broken at Umstead (course record was 14:38) and he did the first half in the low 6 hour mark?  I predicted to Dean that he was going to run 13:30.  I was wrong.  Zach ended up destroying the course record in 13:23.  Kneel before Zod!

Meanwhile, nothing was happening with my motor. Dean, to his credit was trying to get me moving.  I found that if you dropped to the 50 mile option, there was no DNF, just a 50 miler completed. Even as I goofed around with some crew members about how nice my butt was (which was why I was sitting on it) and then fake mooned them afterward, I know this option crept into my mind.

A few miles into this fourth loop and I knew the day was done.  I was finding it harder and harder to run on the flats and downhill portions, let alone contemplating doing so on an uphill. There may be nothing more difficult than completing a portion of a course that you know is going to have you finishing before you wished to. When it happened to me at Rocky Raccoon, I at least tried to enjoy the day and sat on a park bench and looked at nature. But here, today, there was no enjoyment. I wasn't getting a DNF but I wasn't getting what I wanted either.  That is, however, how life can be.

Final time: 9:03:49

While lingering doubts remain about how much this is going to help me for the 204 miler in less than a month, I know I made the right decision. I could have fairly easily ran four more loops at the same pace as I had done this last one (mostly because I wasn't running much and was simply walking every uphill)  I would have finished in the 20-21 hour rage, give or take and would have my belt buckle.  But this is not what I came to do and the risk of injury was too great. So, I got a hard 50 miler in, ran 22 miles after I realized I was probably done for the day and wisely stepped off the trail. I did get to meet many running friends in person for the very first time which was a special treat. I also got to close a chapter on a part of my life that needed to be closed. And one of my best friends in the world, Christine, got engaged while out on a run back in DC! So, all and all, in a day that was indeed filled with unfulfilled promise, lessons were learned and progress was made.

Now begins the all hands on deck preparing for the American Odyssey 204 mile Relay which I will be running solo. I am continuing to look to fill a full crew with backups to go with those I already have, so if you are looking for an adventure and wanted to spend two days (or less - your call) in an RV traveling from Gettysburg to DC while cheering me on as I run 204 miles, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.  Should be a blast out there making history!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Umstead 100 looms

I recently mentioned on my Facebook page that I was anxious about the Umstead 100 mile race this Saturday.

Some offered words of encouragement and others stated I needn't worry because of past accomplishments. All kind words but I guess what I was really meaning to say was how I was anxious about how my leg is going to perform this weekend.  I have been resting it an unprecedented amount of time (for me at least) recently, in hopes of healing it as quickly as possible. Then I thought about it more and I guess I was worrying a little about more than just my leg. 

Any race you enter, you want to do well.  If you have put in the effort and time and know you have a little bit of talent, you also hope you can win.  But before I even cared about how high I placed, my thoughts would go back to one of only two DNFs in my life, one being the Old Dominion 100 Mile race nearly three years ago.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Powerbar - Team Elite

Last week, I found out I had been accepted to be a member of PowerBar's Team Elite™.  To quote from PowerBar's own website, the Team Elite™  program is "our grassroots athletic ambassador program that supports athletes, coaches and other athletic influencers."

I remember back when I got my braces during the middle of my 52 Marathons in 52 weeks, one of my biggest laments was that I could no longer eat my pre-race PowerBar (found that out the morning of the Delaware Marathon when my tender teeth almost made me cry when I mistakenly try to tear away at the Powerbar yumminess.)  So now to be able to not only enjoy a product I found wonderful to start my races off with, but to be included as one of the "influencers" out there on the racing circuit is indeed a combination of many good things.

In fact, it was my eating of PowerBar Gel Blasts energy chews (the strawberry banana ones) which helped me power on to my course-record setting performance at the Iron Horse 50 miler.

As such, it goes without saying (but I am saying it nonetheless!) this is both an honor and a privilege and I am extremely happy to be amongst other athletes like Josh Cox, Lauren Fleshman, and the unbelievably inspirational Brian Boyle.

Just like these superb athletes, I look forward to continuing to do all I can to making a difference in people's lives by being a positive, athletic role model.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Georgia Half-Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 11th Edition
279.8 miles raced in 2010

Race: Georgia Half-Marathon
Place: Atlanta, GA
Miles from home: 1882 miles 
Weather: 50s; overcast with slight rain

This past week was all about healing.  With my third consecutive half marathon approaching, I had originally planned to be doing tons of miles of running during the week as I did not have to endure marathons on the weekends.  However, lingering pains in my calf had all but sidelined me.  But look at it this way - it made me forget about the lingering pains in my Achilles tendon (and with the pains on different legs, I can now wobble evenly! I am all about positive spin.)

At the race expo (I realized I usually call it the "marathon expo" even though I am fully aware there are races of varying distances and therefore have to stop being so narrow-sighted) I realized that there was wireless internet to be had by all. So on the second day I decided to use this internet connection to document as many of the people who I encountered as I could without neglecting actually speaking to the rest.  I setup my Twitter account and chatted away, noting both the nice people and the jackasses.  (Someone mentioned I might have lost a potential book sale because I refused to play along with one of the latter and to be honest, it may make my marketing director cringe, but I don't give one hoot about losing one book sale if it means I have to be the me I always am.  Like me or hate me, at least I know you are doing so based on who I really am.)

It was a fun experiment and really allowed me to share with whomever decided to read some of the wonderful people I meet who cannot always make it into my recaps.  And I also get to meet crazy-haired little blondies who are just so friggin cute that they must be documented.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 6 and counting...

With a 100 miler in one week, a 204 miler in one month and an aching left calf muscle, I have decided that right now is the time not to run. 

Yep, I am now on my 6th consecutive day of not running.  I haven't gone that long without putting on running shoes for a run since I was hit by a car while cycling in August and had a forced lay-off. However, after winning the iron Horse 50 Mile Race a month ago, I have been experiencing a trigger point in my calf muscle that has just left me quite unhappy. 

I downgraded to the half-marathon this weekend at the ING GA Marathon ((which was probably a good idea anyway with the 100 next week).  I have massaged the heck out of my calf.  I have basically lived in my Zensah compression socks and sleeves.  But I am going nucking futs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drake Well Marathon 2010- Date Announced!

I have been fielding questions with regard to the Drake Well Marathon and when it will be run in 2010 since, well, just about the ending of the Drake Well Marathon in 2009!  

As such, I am happy to announce that the Drake Well Marathon and Half-Marathon will take place on Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 at 7 AM. While I will not be acting as the Race Director this year, I will be an Official Race Ambassador and will be present at the race to help with all of the festivities (and may even run one of the races!)


Monday, March 15, 2010

Continued Inspiration

Traveling every weekend to race and speak can be quite tiring indeed.  I often mention all the inspiring stories I hear and wonderful people I meet but it would take me hours to recount them all.  However, their kind words and thoughts make all the exhausting work well worth it.  In fact, I received this email the other day and wanted to share it because it warmed my heart.
Dane – Here are some pictures from the Cowtown Marathon in Ft. Worth .  I am so proud of my family and have to give you much of the credit for getting us out there.  My husband and I met you at the Long Beach Marathon last fall where we were both doing our first half marathon.  We bought your book, read it, loved it, sent it to one of our sons – he read it, loved it and talked us into doing the Cowtown Marathon!  

Of course, he was going to do the full marathon but due to a training injury was only able to do the half.  My husband and I did the full…our first!!  We were so inspired by what you have accomplished that we decided to try to inspire our family as well – and it worked!!  All in all we ended up with two of us finishing the full marathon, two of our sons did the half marathon, four participants in the 10k, three in the 5k and all four of our grandchildren did the kids 5k (the youngest is only 4).  

We all had a terrific weekend and everybody wants to do it again next year!  We already have several more family members and friends who want to join in for the next one.  So we thank you for what you do, and for being an inspiration to us all!

-Jeannie & Paul Bier

And to Jeannie, Paul and their family, I say no.  Thank you for being so wonderful.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sarasota Half-Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 10th Edition
266.7 miles raced in 2010

Race: Sarasota Half-Marathon
Place: Sarasota, FL
Miles from home: 2387 miles 
Weather: 60s; sunny and slightly muggy

We often mention how we never know what the outcome of a race will be until we show up and do it.  Obviously this is a microcosm of life.  Life is mostly about showing up.  It surprises us with the rest.

At the Sarasota Half Marathon, I was able to get in touch with some old Penn State rugby teammates, one who just happened to be running the race.  I haven't seen anyone from this team in 12 years but it is amazing how small the world can be.

I spent the first portion of this week in Miami working on a few things before a quick flight took me over to the Tampa area where I was able to see my brother and my niece and nephews.   It had been far too long since I had made it down here so I enjoyed my time with them as much as possible.  With all three children having birthdays in quick succession, Uncle Dane got a chance to bring some presents to town.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One week from today - North Face Presentation

I will be heading back to the greater Atlanta area a week from today to take part in the ING Marathon and Half Marathon weekend.  I have lowered my race distance for the weekend from the marathon to the half for a few reasons.

* First, I am nursing a very sore calf and shin and am trying to find out the cause of the problem.  Whatever the cause may be, a little less running is assured to help it in some way.

* Second, I have a 100 mile race one week later and I think I can allow myself a little downtime here and there.

However, there will be no downtime from speeches and book signings as I am happy to announce I will be giving both a presentation and a book signing at The North Face in Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta on March 18th from 6 PM-8 PM.

This will be a great kick off to my weekend in Atlanta where I will be presenting at the ING Runner's Nation booth and also have my own booth to meet and greet as many runners as possible. 

Hope to see you at one of these many events!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Raven Run and lululemon

Back in January, when I was in Miami for the ING Marathon I had hoped to take part in the iconic Raven Run in Miami Beach.  However, the marathon taking a little too much out of me, and logistics kept me from from getting to the beach for a jaunt with Robert Kraft, aka the Raven.

Fortunately, my trip allowed me to run this time as his route was on my way to the lululemon store in Aventura, Florida to lead a fun run and do a book signing .

Sunday, March 7, 2010

13.1 Miami Beach Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 9th Edition
253.6 miles raced in 2010

Race: 13.1 Miami Beach
Place: Miami Beach, FL
Miles from home: 2535 miles 
Weather: 50-60s; cool; sunny

I forgot how fun these are!

When I spoke to many people about running a half marathon in the past few days, they almost had an unanimous statement: "Oh, that is nothing for you."  Sure, 13.1 miles is decidedly on the low side of mileage when you compare it to my planned 204 miler in April, my 100 miler in a few weeks or even my 50 mile win at Iron Horse last month.  but the thing about running a shorter distance is that, well, you should run it faster.  And when you haven't been training to run "fast", it has the potential to hurt. Fortunately, it won't hurt as long though!

Another statement I hear from friends alike when they hear of all the exotic places I get to travel is how they are jealous.  I try to tell them that from the inside of an expo booth in a convention center, Honolulu in December might as well be Milwaukee.  Well, for once, I will admit they can be jealous as the 13.1 Miami Beach had me doing a book signing, outside, in Lummus Park on Miami Beach.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A run through Matheson Hammock Park

In my travels, I usually happen across a unique or unusual place to run.  Like Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater, MN.  Or Antelope island in the Great Salt Lake. Or South Mountain in Phoenix, just to name a few.

Lately with my schedule of speaking and doing book signings at expos, I rarely have time to venture out of whatever convention center I am at and if I do, I don't go too far as I have either just finished, or am about to run, another marathon or ultra.  It doesn't matter how many marathons you run, 26.2 miles is never "easy" (at least to me.)

However, as I am venturing on some short distances half-marathons the next few weeks, I can be a little more adventurous with my running.  And as luck would have it, I happened across a wonderful little run today here in South Miami.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Half is Not Less

For quite some time I have spoken to scores of runners at races.  I often ask which race they will be taking part of and far more than I would like to hear, I get the response: "Oh, just the half."  I ask them to do me a favor and strike the word "just" from their vocabulary.  Unfortunately, the half-marathon exists solely as a race that is part of the granddaddy of all races - the marathon.  It doesn't even have its own name but merely "half" of something else. Never mind that the race is 2.1 times larger than the 10k or 1.4 times the length of a 15k.  It has been relegated to "half" status.

Fortunately, there is a new race series out there which is trying to rid this wonderful distance of that stigma.  It is called the 13.1 Series.  With 8 races, this inaugural series of themed half marathons "will be serving some of America's top running communities with a stand-alone half marathon for locals to embrace and visitors to experience."

 Obviously, there is little doubt that I love marathons.  I have run 114 of the suckers, after all.  However, while I have run far, far less of the race with "only" 13.1 miles to its credit, it has always been a race I have admired for its ability to still test one's endurance while also allowing you to not walk like this the next day. (Stick around for the nipples.)

Which is why I am honored and fortunate to have been asked to be the featured speaker at the 13.1 Miami Beach race this weekend in sunny Florida.  With a course that starts on beautiful Miami Beach, gives runners a little taste of a hill to use different leg muscles, doubles back on itself so runners of all speeds will get to exchange greetings and then ends on the beachway promenade, I am having a difficult time finding a flaw!

There are still spots available for either the 13.1 one race or the new 5k.  Click on the logo below to register. 

Also, stay tuned here for even more information with my participation at this series as the races continue to grow!