Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Legacy Duathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 12th Edition 
205.5 miles raced, 400 yards swam and 32.4 miles biked in 2011
Race: Legacy Duathlon
Place: Salt Lake City, UT       
Miles from home: 12 miles
Weather: 40-50 degrees;

This past weekend marked the first time in 2011 I spent a full actual weekend in my bed. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful that is.  I was hardly rested and rejuvenated after a horrendous travel week (read my blog posting, Eff you, Jet Blue which is quickly becoming the most read blog I have ever posted) but I was home. Of course, being home did not mean that I was resting.  It just meant I would only have to make a 20 minute drive to my race this time.

While I knew there was no way I should feel like I could win this race, given I had been on my bike probably a grand total of 7 times, I nonetheless felt that way.  At the very least I wanted to win this race for my father.  I find it funny I just said “at the very least” there. For those who do not know, my father’s health has been deteriorating since around Thanksgiving.  The particular race just happened to take place on his birthday.  When I signed up for it I decided regardless of how tired or undertrained I was, I was going to do everything in my power to win it for him.  So I suited up in unfamiliar gear, jumped into an unfamiliar sport and decided to give it a go.

The duathlon was put on by a local racing affiliate, On Hill Events, which is quickly gaining popularity in the region. Their Layton Marathon is the only course in Utah to not only be certified as a Boston Qualifier but a World Record and Olympic Qualifier.  Given the recent events at the Boston Marathon, this holds even more weight than one would think.  I had been in communication with the owner of On Hill Events for quite some time now and I liked what he was doing with his scheduling of a variety of different racing course and events. As such, I decided to throw my weight behind this duathlon and be one of the sponsors of the race.

I had given the course a quick ride on the Thursday before the event to not only familiarize myself with the road but to see if there were any problem areas.  A couple of places had a little bit of standing water but given the winter which would not die was still holding Utah in a death grip, this was not at all surprising.  I was as ready as I was going to be for the race; which, of course means I went and did a swim workout and as sprint running workout on Friday. I have never claimed to have the most intelligence in the world. But I knew that regardless of my desire to win, this was still, for all intents and purposes, simply a workout. 

 Now if I could just remember that on race day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sam's Sub-3

Sam and I at the Pasadena Marathon in 2010.
A few years ago I became friends with a runner named Sam Felsenfeld.  We have seen each other at numerous races and had participated in some running forums together.  Sam had a story like many others in some ways and unlike few others in some other ways. I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you his story as he is not one who will toot his own horn.

Topping out at 261 lbs, Sam was far from healthy.  He decided to get into shape by walking. Giving up smoking he then upped the ante and took up running.  That is the not-so-uncommon part of the story.  Weight loss stories are a dime a dozen.

A few years and many pounds ago.
However, Sam also had broken his neck in a swimming pool accident when he was 16 and the use of his legs was questionable. This is where the uncommon part starts. 

Not only did Sam recover from that and then subsequently drop the weight (he is in the 190 lbs range, giver or take an In N Out Burger or two); he got fast.  However, his "fast" was agonizing too.  Why do I say that?  His first marathon was a 4:06. In a year in a half, in only 9 marathons, he got that down to 3:00:05.  If you know anything about running you can be both:

1. impressed by that fantastic drop in time and;
2. feel in completely agony that he didn't break three hours by 5 seconds.

And he tried a few more times to get that elusive sub-3, each time falling just a few minutes short. Then he put it all on hold to run 61 marathons or ultras last year for Operation Jack- benefiting Autism research, and hopefully his son Jack, the namesake of the whole sha-bang.

His next attempt at going 2:XX:XX?  Boston, last weekend. Sam always runs well at Boston, running a ridiculous 3:03 there last year, two days after another marathon in Virginia, smack dab in the middle of his 61. His training runs felt good and outwardly Sam was quite confident.  As I stood near the finishline last weekend watching records fall and amazing accomplishments all-around, I kept an eye on the clock and an eye out for Sam. I had no doubt he had the desire and training to go sub-3 but I also know that rarely does the marathon go the way we want it on the day we want it.

So when I finally saw Sam pass me, with about 3 minutes to go until the clock broke three hours and about one minute of running left, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Probably not nearly as huge as Sam did but nevertheless, I did. Finally, three and a half years after being so close it is sickening (honestly, I an think of no marathon running time worse than being so close to 2:XX:XX and not breaking it), Sam got his:

He finally got it.  Now, Sam and I will be racing each other at the San Francisco Marathon, both as Charity Chasers. Starting dead last (or at least tied for it) we will try to pass as many people as possible to raise money for our respective charities on Crowdrise. (Donate HERE).  Regardless of who raises the most money, for the first time ever, we will be running the same marathon both as sub-3 hour finishers.

Kudos to you Sam!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Relentless Forward Progress - A Book Review

Relentless Forward Progress is, “a guide to running ultramarathons.” In addition it is also what Bryon Powell has done with his own life. Eschewing a corporate lifestyle to tackle a life in the running industry, Powell has gathered countless hours of real-time experience, not only from some of the top names in ultrarunning but from the trails and roads his own legs has traversed. All this accumulated knowledge shows in this book.

Coincidentally, I had just finished reading this book when a new friend asked if I knew of a guide for a first-time ultrarunner wannabe. I thought about how Powell disperses advice in his book with very little technical jargon and even less condescension. There is also a tone to each chapter that seems to soothe you with a “Hey, don’t worry. We have all been down this road and we all have to learn how to do this.”

Powell utilizes his connection made over thousands of miles logged with experts in the field as well as his own website, to bring in a variety of specialist.  From a point-counterpoint between two of America’s ultrarunners on the necessity of speedwork to lighthearted banter from one of the up and coming young stars in the world, very few stones are left unturned.

The training section of the book also fits comfortably into the little-bear’s porridge model of just right. It is not asking the reader to start crushing 120 miles but it states how getting into an ultra is not going to be the same as running your first marathon for the local charity fundraiser. With the varying difficulty level of not only distance but terrain and weather present in most ultras, the commitment level is much higher than a road marathon. The chapter on training makes no bones about this but does its best to not scare the bejesus out of the runner either.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eff You, Jet Blue

Air travel sucks.  This is nothing new.  It is getting more and more atrocious each and every day.  Draconian search methods, ridiculous pricing on everything, long lines, delays, rude customer service etc. etc. As much as I travel I have indeed seen it all.  I have experienced it all.  For the most part, I do my best to roll with the punches. I make fun of the odd situations on facebook, take pictures of the crazy people in the airport and usually make the best of a bad situation.  However, this last traveling excursion was my final straw and I almost snapped. (Which is why my title above is an homage to the movie Major League and I am paraphrasing the great Cerrano when he was quite displeased with his prayer idol, Jobu.)

Let's begin last Friday.  I am taking the redeye flight from SLC to NYC then on to Boston on Jet Blue to do a book signing at the Boston Marathon. The weather in SLC is perfect.  The weather in Boston is perfect.  The weather from the place where the plane is coming from to land in SLC is perfect.  So what happens?  The plane is delayed and lands an hour late.  No explanation is given, not even the completely inane "Thank you for your patience.  I have said this once and I will say it a million times:  You simply cannot thank me for something I am not giving you.  You are FORCING me to do something.  I have no other choice.  The last thing I am is patient.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Moab Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 11th Edition 
199.3 miles raced, 400 yards swam and 10 miles biked in 2011
Race: Moab Marathon
Place: Moab, UT       
Miles from home: 233 miles
Weather: 50 degrees; RELENTLESS wind


I am going to get the (very) few negatives out of the way here, first-off. The website for this race is atrocious.  It is confusing, written with horrendous head-scratching wording and out-dated. There.  That is said.  And if this was 1997 that would be acceptable.  But it is 2011 and it is not.  Why is it not acceptable?  Because the race course is fantastic and the race director obviously cares so freaking much about this race. It is a course that should be among the top races not only in Utah but in the United States; it has that much potential. So the fact it has a website which probably turns away hundreds of runners is unforgivable and I hope beyond hope that it gets fixed.

Having said that, let me say this: Wow. This was my first trip to Moab and in three years of living in Utah I was slightly disappointed it took me this long to get to this National Forest.  Most of my delay was that I was too busy seeing every other corner of the United States that I was unable to carve out the time to drive the 4 plus hours from SLC to Moab.  But now I have seen virtually every corner of the Beehive State and I am glad I saved this area for last.  Simply breath-taking and stunning.  I unfortunately deleted some pictures I took of the Arches National Forest so I am unable to post them. Luckily, however, my girl Shannon took some pictures as well and you can see how spectacular it is down here. Pictures never do sights like this justice, though, so I implore you to make your way down to this part of the state someday soon.


I had no intention to run a marathon in the month of April.  This was a month to continue to work on triathlons and other multi-sport events.  However, when Shannon came to visit, I looked around to see if there was a race we could run. Lo and behold the Moab Marathon appeared.  Run by the same gentleman who puts on a variety of races in Utah (all from the same website-grrr!) I knew what to expect: low-key, no-frills racing.

At the packet pickup, we saw there were probably going to be around 60 some racers in the marathon.  That is not a typo. This was going to be a small event; no timing chips; no spectators; nary a single band on the course playing Beautiful Day by U2. This was 100% fine by me. I looked over the roster of runners and recognized more than a few names I knew.  It was going to be like a little reunion! The race director was on hand and asked us as we came in if we would like a chocolate.  He had a batch of mini candy-bars next to him.  We were then given our finishers’ medals.  Wait.  I have a finisher’s medal before I even start?  Just another thing that makes this race different.  Even better was the fact that these wooden finishers’ medals had are names already engraved in the wood on them.  Now, that was special.  Reminded me of when we did a similar thing for the Drake Well Marathon back in 2006.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon

The more often I do races of the 13.1 mile distance, the more I love them. Of the 36 half-marathon or "Pikermi" distance races that I have done in my life, 21 of them have been in the past 13 months. Do not get me wrong - I still love a marathon or an ultra, but a half-marathon presents something different. Unlike the 5k or a 10k, where, even if I am running at my hardest, I feel like I still need to go for a run afterward simply to get a workout, running 13.1 miles is an event.

Everything about it fits perfectly into an early Sunday morning.  Sometimes, like in the Oakland Half marathon I ran two weeks ago, you actually get to sleep in for a race time of 9 AM.  You can still run very hard, be sore afte rthe race but quickly bounce back for a workout the next day.  The training, if you are strapped for time, is much more manageable.  The recovery; a snap.

So when the opportunity to add not just another half but one in the race series I have already run two of already arose, I jumped at the chance.  As such, I will be doing the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon this May 7th which was just named Runner's Worlds Race of the Month!. Part of the Destination Races series, the race will mark the third of five races I have run of this series including the Napa to Sonoma Half and the Oregon Wine Country Half.

While this race will come after my first Olympic Tri and I will not be "racing" it per se, I fully intend to enjoy every single mile.  I may have to take my FlipCam with me and record some of the glorious scenery along the way.  while this race is sold out (as are the next two in the series) registration is still open for the aforementioned Oregon race as well as one in Healdsburg on Halloween Weekend.  If you value my opinion, you will trust me when I say you should sign up quickly for both!

Hope to see you out on the roads!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sand Hollow Aquatic Center Spring Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 10th Edition 
173.1 miles raced, 400 yards swam and 10 miles biked in 2011
Race: Sand Hollow Aquatic Center Spring Triathlon
Place: St. George, UT       
Miles from home: 300 miles
Weather: 60 degrees; Dry

This race was added very last minute when plans for another race fell through unexpectedly. With the highly competitive St. Anthony's Tri coming up on May 1st and then the Ironman 70.3 in Boise on June 11th, I knew I needed to see where I stood in the tri world. Not only did I need to check out my fitness and get a grasp of where that all was hashing out, I had to essentially do my first tri ever with real transitions. Unfortunately, I did not get everything I was hoping for.

Signing in on the night prior to the race, I found out that there was little rhyme or reason to how swimmers would enter the pool to swim two abreast before exiting to do the other two legs. More accurately, there was a reason - it was just odd. Swimmers would not line up by projected time but rather alphabetically. This meant that I would be swimming near those have their names spelled close to mine, not those whose projected speed was the same as mine. This made me realize that unless I just so happened to be swimming next to fast people named Raines and Ravi, I would have no idea whom I was actually competing against in the other two legs.

Learning this info bummed me out a little as I have zero idea what a race pace for a sprint tri feels like. If I was at least around others with like speed I could gauge myself.  I then realized this would simply be a time trial and I would be on my own. Go as hard as I can and hopefully I will be rewarded and not nipped in the bud at the finish.

Race Morning:

Too early once again for exercising.
We were told we would be able to enter the bike transition area starting at 6:15 AM. I arrived at 6:18 AM and virtually every spot was already filled on the bike racks. So much for following orders. I guess, like telling runners packet pickup starts at 10 AM and they show up at 8:30 AM demanding a packet, that triathletes do whatever the hell they want to as well. After finding a spot, I simply stood in place, bidding my time until the start.  When a woman next to me began asking questions because "you look like you know what you are doing" I simply smiled and answered them the best I could.  Then I also threw in some one-liners to lighten the mood for this, her first tri as well. "Did you get a timing chip for your bike too?  These aren't water-proof, you know?" I only let her dangle for a few seconds before telling her I was kidding.

Soon it was time to line up and wait for an open lane to share with another swimmer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Legacy Duathlon

With my most recent foray into a relatively new line of racing last weekend at the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center Sprint tri (recap posted later this week) I found that besides the obvious needing to get into shape for three different disciplines, that I also really need to work on the transitions between those disciplines. Really badly.

My racing schedule fills up quickly.  I found myself today thinking about how much it stinks that, for the most part, there are not races on Wednesday, or Tuesday or any other day that isn’t a weekend.  I want more opportunities to race.  But there are only 52 of those a year and I have to make do. 

Having said that, I realize there is balance and I do try my very best to have a life outside of those 52 weekends of potential racing.  I do like to possibly keep a weekend to myself, down the line, reserved just for moi.. However, with an Olympic distance triathlon coming up at the extremely competitive St. Anthony’s tri in St. Petersburg in less than a month, I knew I needed a race in between to work on those transitions mentioned above. With my first open weekend of the entire year the weekend prior, I knew I needed to take advantage of this small window.  As such, I am not only competing in but will also be one of the sponsors of the 2ndAnnual Legacy Duathlon right here in Salt Lake City on April 23rd.

A duathlon consisting of a 5k run, 36k bike and another 5k run, the Legacy Duathlon is just one of a whole series of races put on by OnHill events, a Bountiful, UT-based organization specializing in putting on great events in the greater SLC area.  I have the great misfortune of being unable to attend many of them because of prior commitments this year but am 100% excited to be taking on the Legacy Duathlon. This race  kicks off the On Hill events racing schedule for 2011 and will be my first duathlon ever.

The Legacy Duathlon could not be run, like all races, without the help of volunteers.  As such, if you are looking for a great opportunity to see the inner workings of a duathlon (and get a free t-shirt!) please go to the link HERE and volunteer.  At the very least you will be able to point and laugh at me as my feet get caught in clipped-on shoes as I try to make my transitions just a wee bit better.

See you there!