Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Northern Central Trail Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 42nd Edition 
643.8  miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Northern Central Trail Marathon
Place: Sparks, MD
Miles from home:  2089 miles
Weather: 30-40s; overcast

After being nervous for my marathon in Tulsa last weekend because it was my first after dealing with a wonky Achilles the month prior, I was surprised how serene and calm I was for this marathon less than a week later. Even a mid-week sickness (I get about one a year that knocks me on my arse) didn’t really make me more nervous. It made me wonder if I would be able to complete the race without hacking up a lung, but I wasn’t nervous.  I had some prescription medicine to nip a ridiculously sore throat in the bud (why exactly does a throat get sore from swallowing anyway? Off to the internet I go!) and as time rolled around for the beginning of the race, I felt at least plausibly ready to run 26.2 miles.

First 6 miles: 6:52, 7:19, 7:23, 6:29, 7:03, 6:53

I remembered from running this race as one of the 52 marathons I completed in 2006 that the first few mile markers were off.  I remember being told this by the race organization on the webpage and wondering why if they knew they were wrong why they did not fix them.  Now, it really doesn’t matter where the mile markers are per se as long as the full distance is fine but still it raised a curious point.  To be completely honest, with my sickness the week prior, traveling and everything else, I didn’t look up a single thing about this race. Barely know it started later than most at 9 AM until the night before.  I knew it more or less followed the exact same course I had ran previously and if it didn’t – well I wasn’t going to be first so I would just follow the leaders.

Speaking of which, this race always has a rather tough field with the runners from the area and beyond always coming to run the course.  For example, in my race last weekend with over ~1500 runners, there were 18 runners under 3:00.  In this race last year, with exactly 400 finishers, there were 16 runners under 3:00.  Top heavy indeed!

Within the first 100 meters or so after the race started, I could tell that today would be a combination of watching fast guys fly by and me trying not to cough up yucky stuff on my fellow runners. I was happy to be simply running but knew it would be simply wise to run 3:10ish pace and call it a win for the day.

By the time the fourth mile marker passed, some of the inconsistencies in placement of said markers appeared to be out of the way and I fell into a nice little groove.  I ran with a few different runners for the first 6 miles including another fellow swimmer who got into running because he wanted to balance out his triathlon skills. We were all just taking in what was a fantastic day for marathoning- overcast with hints of sunshine, cool temperatures and no wind. Hard to ask for much better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Route 66 Marathon recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 41st Edition 
617.6  miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Route 66 Marathon
Place: Tulsa, OK
Miles from home:  1212 miles
Weather: 30s; cloudy; windy

People don't believe me when I tell them I still get nervous for marathons. I do. Truly. As I have said often, it is 26.2 miles no matter how many times today you have run 26.2 miles in the past.  It may get "easier" but if you are pushing yourself, it never gets "easy". However, throw in the fact that the last time I toed the line for a 26.2 miler I wasn’t even sure I was going to get to the starting line because of an inflamed Achilles tendon, then you can imagine my trepidation at the start of the Route 66 Marathon. I had barely run anything but races in the time between these two races and was feeling anything but fantastic.  Fortunately, in one of what had to only be about three times this year, I was not working an expo the day before a marathon. For those of you who may scoff at the notion of how much added exhaustion this can put on your body prior to racing, give it a shot. Instead I got to wake up late, stroll around the expo (hang out with Arturo Barrios for a while), get my packet and head back to watch Penn State play Ohio State.

As a proud Penn State grad I had mentioned on facebook that I would be wearing my PSU hat and singlet to show my support for the university I know- the one which has graduated so many people that one in 700 people in America is a Penn Stater. I was not trying to overshadow what may have happened with Jerry Sandusky. I was not trying to put the face of my university over the children who may have been abused.  In a rush to state “No *I* really hate child abuse much more than you!” many had lost perspective.  If the allegations have occurred, there will be no one more ashamed than Penn State grads. I heard someone tell me that of all the friends they have from various universities all over the country, that she had never seen such fierce loyalty as she had amongst Penn Staters as well as the biggest sense of being completely aghast at what could have occurred on our beloved campus.  So my point of wearing the singlet was to show my pride in the ideals that I feel my school has. Not to support the football team and not to support Joe Paterno.  Penn State is much more than both (although we owe the world to Joe and you cannot begin to fathom how shocked any of will be if he knew there were untoward things going on and did nothing about it) and that was why I was donning the Blue and White. If some felt it was “too soon” and I was not being contrite enough, then that is their problem. I feel it is never too soon to show that what you believe in differs from what the masses may think you do.

Race Day:

I was fortunate enough to have a hotel just a few short blocks away from the start of the race. With a late start (8 a.m.) that meant I wouldn’t even need to get up until 6:45 a.m., leaving me plenty of time to get ready and saunter to the start.  It was a chill and blustery morning later called “prefect running weather” by some newspaper article (interestingly enough I have heard the same words to describe about 15 different weather patterns for races across the country.) However, it was indeed a great temperature. The wind, on the other hand, was going to be a problem.

First 10k(ish): 6:35, 6:58, 7:07, 6:44, 7:02, 6:32

My plan was to hit the first half right around 90 minutes and see what I had in the tank to potentially go sub-3. That, of course, goes completely against being nervous about even finishing the race but at times runners can be both extraordinarily wary and full of bravado. I do not tempt to explain it, but merely report on its presence.

 For the first few miles I found myself running next to two of the three founders of the group Marathon Maniacs. I laughed because there had been a post on the Maniac facebook page by some runner  that the “true spirit” of the Marathon maniacs was about simply completing the races and not about running fast. Yet here were 66% of the founders well under sub-3 hour pace. Guess the self-appointed spirit-assessor may have been a little off.

I hung with them for a while but then before the third mile I had to take a much-needed bathroom break.  For the next 10 miles or so I would be just a few hundred feet behind the tell-tale signs of their bright yellow singlets. I figured I could push to catch up to them or simply stay where I was.  As long as I didn’t lose any further ground I figured that where I was suited me just fine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Three more races

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for too many things to properly mention.  However, two of them have to do with racing.  First, I am so thankful that I am healthy and able enough to toe the line for three more races this year before I pack it up for 2011.  I am also very thankful that it is only three more. Dane is tired!

First up, this weekend I revisit the Northern Central TrailMarathon in the greater Baltimore area.  This race was one of the 52 marathon I did back in 2006 and I am looking forward to being back there again.  A very simple out and back with killer hill at the end, the crushed gravel rails to trails course is very quiet and serene.  Definitely not the race to be running if you need spectator support but one to run if you like beauty in the woods in the late fall.

Next weekend I will be a participant in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon.  Not only is it my first marathon in Tennessee (Tennessee is an anomaly to me.  At one point I had been in every state that touches Tennessee but never Tennessee.  Any idea how hard that is?) but it will be also to support a wonderful cause.  St. Jude is what I ran my first marathon for a cause for back at the MCM in 2004.  If I had only known then where I would be now in terms of running marathons I am fairly certain my eyebrows would have been raised.  However, with this race I will knock off my 46th state I have run a marathon in and be down to the final four.  I guess next up is provinces and European countries.    
Finally, my last race of the year is revisiting the Kiawah Island Marathon weekend.  I will run the half this year and if my legs cooperate, may just try to set a new half-marathon PR.  That would put quite the cap on a year of tons of personal bests. I will also be premiering the preview of my movie about my 202 miler.  All those attending the post-race dinner will get to see that and hear a little about how I was able to run 202 miles from Gettysburg, PA to Washington DC in 2010.

These three races will conclude a one year project I have been working on with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to inform people about how healthy eating lean beef is.  I have been met with resounding support from a silent majority of athletes out there who not only enjoy beef but are well-versed in how it fuels their bodies. Are their other ways to properly fuel yourself for races? Sure. Is their a tastier way? Probably not! 

All in all it has been a hugely successful jaunt to what will be 20 different races in 15 different states. We have been able to put together Team Beefs in plenty of states and jumpstart others.  In addition, and more importantly, we are teaching children about the perils of bad eating and no exercise.

In this time of thanks, I am extremely thankful to be at the front and part of a community of people who are for the most part always striving to improve themselves while also helping those around them. I am looking forward to these next three weeks of meeting even more of those people and being inspired by them.  See you on the roads and trails!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

13.1 Fort Lauderdale Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 40th Edition 
591.4 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: 13.1 Fort Lauderdale
Place: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Miles from home:  2512 miles
Weather: 70s; sunny; windy

As I continue to try to get back into even reasonable shape I can say with absolute honestly that the thought never once crossed my mind to drop from the full marathon to the 13.1 distance this past weekend in Fort Lauderdale.  Of course, the vast majority of that decision was based on the fact that the 13.1 series celebrates the “half” marathon and there is no 26.2 mile counterpart. Details, details.

I was excited to be competing in not only my 40th race of the year but my 50th lifetime half-marathon in Fort Lauderdale.  I have come to expect to not necessarily run well on races that mark milestones as milestones alone do not make up for a lack of training. Nor do they instantly heal soreness or partial injuries.  However, simply being here made me extremely happy.

This was my first trip to South Florida since this March and was one I was very much looking forward to. On top of the wonderful events which would be taking place I would also get to see my friend Stephanie for the first time since she had been in a horrific accident while riding her bicycle on a training ride. Undergoing numerous brain surgeries, there was great uncertainty as to whether she would ever be even close to the same person again when and if she recovered. Fortunately, while she is still recovering, it seems like she may be the same quick-witted, kind soul with the brain that put her in Stanford in the first place. Spending time seeing her first-hand was simply fantastic.

Another wonderful addition to this trip was how I partnered with Dave Scott, the RD of not only this race but the Miami Marathon on a trip to a variety of middle schools.  As part of the Run For Something Better program, Dave, his crew and I went to 4 schools where we spoke to over 1700 students about making the right choices in education, exercise and healthy eating habits.  The questions I received after I gave my talk were stupendous.  Some wanted to know where I got my Julbo sunglasses, others were curious if I preferred grain-fed or grass-fed (actually grass-finished) beef and some were curious simply what was the worst weather I have ever run in. Regardless of their questions, I came away from these school speeches with a great idea that I plan to implementing as soon as possible to get to the grass roots of making our nation more fit.

Working with the Florida Beef Council for this event I was able, as I have all year meet people with varying opinions (some extremely ill-informed) on nutrition.  Also ran into a nice couple who I had previously met at a few previous races who were curious why I was on the “beef bandwagon”.  I asked why the negative connotation and as I have found in so many ways and in so many places, people often do not think of the connotations of what may happen if the person who they might have a problem with is not a shrinking violet.  I never have been and never will be politically correct and I assuredly have no problem questioning people when they question me.  When I was told that they had enjoyed reading my blog until I became the Spokes Runner for Beef and now no longer read me, I said that is unfortunate as I an informative and funny as hell. They laughed at this but I wonder if they will read again. If they don’t well, that is their own loss. Simply ignoring the other side of an issue most assuredly does not make you more informed, nor does it kill the truth that lies in the other side.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 39th Edition 
580.3 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon 
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Miles from home:  1520 miles
Weather: 30s; sunny

2009's running.
Two years ago I had the distinct pleasure to take part in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Just like I find it hard to believe that it is already the beginning of November, I find it hard to believe that race was two years ago. However, I was glad to be back in town. As logic and the lack of a working DeLorean time machine would reveal, if you run one race on a day, that makes it impossible to run another somewhere else on that day.  As such, given the vast amount of races in the nation, I try hard not to repeat too many races as it keeps me from experiencing the rest of the races out there.  So while I was back in Indy for this race on this weekend, I was changing it up a little by running the 13.1 mile distance instead of the 26.2.

I had made the decision to do this even prior to having recently experienced some trouble with both an achy left foot and an equally whiny right Achilles tendon. Therefore, I felt no pangs of remorse about needing to shuffle my plans around race-wise. Instead, I got to enjoy the weekend as I worked with the Indiana Beef Council to talk about healthy living through eating lean beef.

In a recent post on Facebook, someone who espoused themselves as vegan took offense to a rather innocuous and obvious tongue-in-cheek statement I made about the tragedy of thousands of vegetables die every day. Later on, with niceties off (I find it takes about two similarly innocuous comments to make most people drop their false pretenses of wishing to have an intelligent discussion about any topic) I was told when I speak about eating beef publicly on Facebook or twitter or anyone that chances are I am offending some of my readers. My response was that with 3500 Facebook friends, if I worried too much about writing anything that may offend someone, I wouldn’t write anything at all. However, what I found quite telling was that I was in no way try to push any beef “agenda” on anyone. In fact, I was simply stating that like many things, eating preferences are a personal choice and my choice, based on science, health-care professionals and my own personal experiences, has led me to find that eating lean beef works very well for me. What I have been finding is that the same holds true for many other very fit, very competitive, very compassionate athletes. I add the last adjectives because the implication that those who eat meat do not care about the well-being of animals is false, misleading and in my specific case, without any evidence whatsoever.
Have enjoyed a steak with Bill on many occasions.

It is quite obvious that in order to eat an animal it must die. What I find smirk-worthy is how so many people who refuse to eat beef based on animal rights beliefs have zero problem eating fish. Really?  Is it perfectly acceptable to catch fish by the thousands, let them drown in air on the deck of the ship, flopping around in a net with their gills desperately hoping to pass water through them while decrying the cattle industry? This is ridiculous hypocrisy. I have seen with my own two eyes the humane way in which cattle are raised, cared for and the eventually, yes killed, in order to become part of my meal. I honestly think it is far more humane than anything the fishing industry does and, to be clear, I am not putting down the fishing industry.

So, if it is off-putting to you to read that I am the first official SpokesRunner for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, I am afraid you will be off-put. I am not deliberately trying to upset anyone but it is something I am proud of.  I honestly believe that beef is one of the reasons why I have been able to do what I have done in the past, continue to do in the present and will be doing in the future- pushing my own limits.

If you are OK with Lance Armstrong touting Michelob Ultra, given the end result of what consuming alcohol can do, then you should be more than OK with me enjoying a nice t-bone. If you are not, well, that is unfortunate for you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Be a Better Traveler

When 2011 comes to a close, I will have flown over 100,000 miles, all entirely in the United States (meaning no long flights to overseas lands which would pad my mileage stats.) As such, it is quite easy to say I have spent a great deal of time in airports, airplanes and the whole shebang. Throw in the fact that, by nature, I am an observer of human behavior and often make note of how humans behave in large groups and I feel I am quite suited to embark on this missive of how you can avoid being an excruciatingly horrible traveler.

For the most part, this entire article could contain three words: “Use Common Courtesy”. However, there is an adjective in there which is about as misplaced as it possibly could be. So rare is courtesy in large groups of people that the short and simple directive above would be completely useless by itself as, for the most part, it would be ignored.  No, further we must delve and with all do succinctness must that plunge be in order to avoid hitting the rocky cliffs of rudeness. (I like this overwrought description.  Deal with it). Do not fret, however, if you find you are guilty of any of the following, as chances are we all have done one if not all of them. Just realize that the time is not too late to not do it again. Without further ado, onward we go.

1.    Don’t stand on the escalator/moving sidewalk.  

Or if you must, move to the right taking your bag with you. There are still plenty of people in this world who do not see the escalator as a free amusement park ride provided by the airlines.  It is understandable that you may be weary, heavily-laden with luggage, or possibly frail. Obviously I am not so callous as to suggest the less than spry need to hustle up the moving steps. But,without a doubt, realize others may be in a hurry and you are squarely in the way.

2.    Do not dry hump the luggage carousel.

I understand that you want to get your bag and go home. We all do. But when you straddle the metal bag giver, you make it infinitely more difficult for everyone else to see their luggage.  Even worse, when and if they do, they not only have to go through you to grab it, they then have to go through you again to swing it onto the floor. If everyone simply stood three feet back, when the luggage popped out magically of the gaping maw of the carousel, you could step forward, grab it, swing it onto the floor and retreat to whence you came without a care in the world. When that siren blares and the red light starts flashing, the stampede of people ambling forward pavlovingly until their toes touch the metal circle always reminds me how much more like sheep we are then we realize.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Run Town Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 38th Edition 
567 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Run Town Half Marathon 
Place: Greenville, SC
Miles from home:  1971 miles
Weather: 50s; cloudy

I had no idea what to expect for this race. With virtually two weeks off from running with really just one nice tempo run on the Wednesday before the race (with some super speedy new friends in Charlotte) I was out of shape and very worried. My achilles is not injured per se but it is definitely telling me it was getting close. Hence the forced rest.

The course for the Run Town Half Marathon, part of the Spinx Run Fest in Greenville, SC, looked to be, while not super challenging, definitely hilly. Normally hills are where I make my hay but I knew that would definitely not be the case on this day.

However, the previous day I had spent some time talking with Jeff Galloway, who has either mastered the art of faking being one of the genuinely nice people all-around or really is a self-effacing, humble and giving person. I vote for the latter. At the expo, with our book signings right next to each other I was able to ask for some advice on how to solve achilles pain. Given the expo was outside in the gorgeous Fluor Field concourse of the minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, we did not expect that we would have much time to talk. But when a ridiculously cold wind blew in on the day of the exp, the previous day's 85 degree high turned into a bitter cold low 40s during the next day. As such, most people blew right pass both of us in an attempt to get their packet and get back to their car. As such, I was able to talk more with Jeff than I normally would.  Hearing I was doing most of what he suggest already, I was enthused about the next day's run.

I spent the expo speaking at length with the South Carolina Cattlemen's Association and enjoyed sharing grilling stories with many of residents of the Palmetto State who were not quite ready to give up grilling season.

Before long we could see the crowds had thinned and we both knew it was time to grab some dinner.  Even though I had a delicious burger for lunch, I knew it was off to the steak house for me for my pre-race dinner.

Afterward, because of a super-slow connection at my hotel, I was up way too late doing work. Part of that is because I am night owl and part of it was because with this being a half-marathon and me not exactly racing it, I did not feel the pressure to go to sleep. The third part was because I was looking at the clock on my computer which was still on mountain time. When I finally wised up it was 2 AM. That 6:30 AM wake-up call was, as always, going to be unpleasant. In fact, I am sure I could sleep for ten hours and as 6:30 AM wake up call would make me grumble.

What was enjoyable about this half was that it started 30 minutes after the full. This allowed me to get just a little more sleep, still get downtown and watch the marathoners take off.  Marathons have not gotten boring for me but I will readily admit there is something wonderful about doing the 13.1 distance, especially when your physical fitness has taken a hit.

After being asked to share a few words with the crowd, I gave the mic back to running legend Jeff Galloway and joined the rest of the riff-raff ready to take on the half-marathon.  I was eager and nervous, not knowing exactly how my legs were going to handle the race. But the only way to find out was by going and running.  When Ed Hughes, the RD, gave the command, we were off.