Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Head over Handlebars

The other day I wrote an article entitled "Why I Run".  The simple answer really is "Because I can".  That is no more prevalent then when I can't.

Last week I took a tumble over my handlebars of my tribike. I was desperately trying to get some bike miles in as I prepare to be part of the Idaho Team Beef squad at the Boise 70.3.  Fortunately I did not end up with a Grade III AC separation like I did three years ago on my bike but there is still some separation and some bruised ribs.  Any time you walk away from a bike wreck you are happy.  But then you have a right to be pissed.

If not only for the discomfort and pain of being injured, simply not being able to exercise puts me in a deeper funk. Fortunately I am healing quickly and I have a faint glimmer of hope of competing the weekend after next. I got on my bike today on a trainer and pedaled for an hour.  My ribs are sore and I could hardly get into aero position but I was able to do a quick 20 miles in an hour.

Then it hit me. Three broken collarbones, a dislocated elbow, torn tendons in my elbow, ripped bicep,separated shoulders, fractured jaw, stables in my scalp and not one single injury to my legs.  Never have I had a bum knee or a broken toe or a knee that "no longer has any cartilage in it". Every one of those injuries above was an accidental or fluke injury happening in a contact sport or when I was playing around. 140 marathons, ultras, thousands of miles in training and not one single injury to my legs.  Have I had aches and pains? Obviously! But I always hear about how running is bad for your knees but here I am never having had to miss a single day of running because of running itself.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Active At Altitude Camp Recap

This has been a year of firsts for me.  Completing my first 100 mile race.  Running the entire coast of Oregon in one week.  And now, helping to conduct my first running camp with Terry Chilpin at Active at Altitude.  All have been learning experiences and this last one was no different.
As I stated in an earlier blog, I have been planning this camp with Terry Chiplin for many months now. What makes Terry and I perfect complements to each other are out differing philosophies. Terry is a vegetarian; I am the first spokesrunner for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Terry is very in touch with the metaphysical side of running; I am more of a “just go and run” thinker. This camp allowed the two of us to work with the seven wonderful campers involved here in unique and different ways harnessing methods from our varying viewpoints.

Which brings us to the campers themselves.  Terry’s gorgeous home in Estes Park has, theoretically, room for twelve campers. While I can imagine having two more than that we had, I was not quite ready for an entire full house. Hailing from Oregon, Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Colorado and Virginia the campers brought different skill sets and different philosophies of their own. Some were recovering from torn tendons, some were former Olympic Trials qualifiers, some had recently undergone surgery and all had their own demons and battles to fight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Green Bay Marathon Recap - Sort of

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 7th Edition 
195.5 miles raced in 2012
Race: Green Bay Marathon
Place: Green Bay, WI
Miles from home: 1493 miles
Weather: 80s, humid; awful

Will it or won’t it? As I begin this recap, the question remains whether the Green Bay Marathon will count as an official marathon in my own personal standings.
Lookie here. Yowsers.

As you may have heard, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon was given black-flag death sentence status a mere two hours and 25 minutes after it started. Unprecedented heat and soaring humidity closed down the course before any marathoner officially completed the course. As of right now, only 5 male and five female finishers have been given official times and those coincide with the prize money being offered for those places.

To begin, I agree with the decision by the race to shut down the race, ostensibly, for the reasons of safety. It is no big surprise that many of those who run a marathon today are doing so to cross it off a list, to simply complete it, and in many cases, more or less shuffling along. Lest there be confusion, I pass no judgment on those people. I merely state a fact. As such, when weather conditions present themselves in such a way that even when planned for, an emergency response team, paramedics, firemen, hospital staff etc, are being taxed and not a single marathoner has finished, a decision must be made to protect the health and well-being of not just the back-of-the-packers but those in the front of the pack as well.
Runners gladly adding mileage to get cool.

You see, even though, starting around mile 19, I was told by race officials, volunteers and police officers that the race was either canceled, I would get an official time but was warned not to go on. or they would be closing down the clock and I was advised to get on one of the shuttle buses to take me back to the finish, I pushed forward. I did this because I had already thrown in the towel for this race as early as mile ten. Continuing on was simply me plodding forward at a much slower pace, with tons of walking thrown in. As I was no longer running, I was barely putting myself in any more danger than I have in any other hot run. In fact, I was in pretty good hands

The race may have been over/canceled/black flagged but the volunteers were still out in force. The cones were still on the street.  The signs telling runners where to go were still up for us to know the route. The citizens of Green Bay and its environs, who were asked to support runners by turning on hose and sprinklers and the like were all out there doing just this for us runners. The impeccable planning that went into the race was still in place. The community showed up to make sure we didn’t go down.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with Dave McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon, on numerous occasions.  Once I ran the Boston Marathon with him, long after the race had started, as he does every year for the past 40 years.  I inquired why he felt he could run while the race was still running. I mean, this is Boston – doesn’t he have to be all hands on deck until the last runner crosses the finish? Dave’s answer, in a paraphrasing way, was that come race day he has done all he can do. If he has done his job, all things will go right even when all things that can go wrong, do. I am not implying he is not reachable on race day or is still not involved.  But his point was that get the right people around you doing the right jobs and once the gun fires, most of what you can do is done.
Sean in white hat behind Dave in red.

It is no coincidence that Sean Ryan, the RD of the Green Bay Marathon is a friend of Dave McGillivray. Undoubtedly, Dave’s own planning have been a good influence on Sean and what he does with his races. As such, as I began to run then jog then walk along the course of Green Bay’s marathon I had no reason to be surprised that even with everything going wrong, everything was still going right. In fact, while I appreciated the passion of one man on a bike, who I saw numerous times throughout the course, berating a volunteer for the fact that “These people are out here busting their asses.  How dare you cancel the race!” his ire was misplaced. I took it upon myself to thank him and tell him so.  The volunteer was simply following orders of a well-planned plan. And, for the most part, us idiots who were still running when it was approaching 90 degrees were being too stubborn for our own good.

It is quite coincidental that I wrote an article about DNFing just a few weeks ago.  Believe me, I had plenty of time to think about this article from mile 21 on when the vast majority of my walking began. I wondered if I was pushing the boundaries and would “do nothing foolish.” But realizing that a 15 minute per mile pace would get me under four hours for the marathon and that sitting on a shuttle heading back to the start might even be hotter and causing of more cramps than moving forward on my own, I chose the latter.

Earlier in the race, right around mile seven, I had been running with a Canadian friend of mine named Kevin. We were clipping along at a 3:10 marathon pace. We passed a guy who was just absolutely dripping in sweat.  He looked like he was hoping this was a 12k race and not a 42k one. I slid up to him and asked him what his goal was and he answered “To PR and hopefully go under 3:10.” I told him “Not to be Pat Pessimist here but there’s little chance of that happening.  Can I unsolicitedly suggest that you call today a long-ass training run and find another marathon a few weeks from now?”  When we left each other a few yards later I think he decided that might be a good idea. I did not do this to cast doubt in his mind about his performance but rather call upon 139 previous marathons’ (and numerous other races’) experience.  I wanted this guy to do nothing foolish.
Team Beef rocks.

When I realized this day was toast (almost literally) at mile ten I bid Kevin goodbye.  He asked if I was all right and I told him it was a pre-emptive strike.  I kept him in sight for the next 6 miles until we crossed the Fox River and started heading north upon what is usually a gorgeous bike path. Partially shaded by bushes and trees, with views of lovely homes to your immediate right, I bet this is a great training area. It is probably even more lovely on race day- ya know, when it is 40 degrees cooler. As late as mile 20 I was still on a 3:24 pace but that was mostly because I was on a 3:15 pace 5 miles before. I had seen the 3:15 pace group leader tear off his pacing singlet and give it to a friend/family member at one point. He was done for the day. Many others began to follow suit.

My own real concern began around mile 23 when, in spite of constant and vigorous hydration, my urine indicated I was severely dehydrated. Even more disheartening was now my belly was rebelling. Fortunately, I had eaten a delicious steak dinner the night before which had quickly nourished me and passed through my system.  I had taken in nothing the morning of the race foodwise so there was nothing to come up. The ab workout I received from this dry retching, however, was something I could have done without.

With less than a mile to go, and Lambeau Field in sight (oh, how I was wishing for its “frozen tundra”) I simply began to wonder whether this marathon would count.  Which leads back to my original thought. I do not envy the decision which needs to be made by the RD and staff of the Green Bay Marathon. I know the clock was stopped but I also know that I received split times for my race all the way up to the finish. I do have an official time after all. Chances are I will support the decision of the RD either way. Having a small asterisk by my Green bay Marathon, if declared a non-race, will just make for good story telling.  To be honest, the fact that it had not happened in 139 previous marathons is quite remarkable, especially given the conditions I have previously ran in. If it does count, my time of 3:47:33 will be 132nd slowest marathon ever.  Only two Leadvilles, Pikes Peak, a marathon I ran in China with food poisoning, my first marathon ever, a similarly hot and humid marathon in Maui, a trail marathon (where my time of 4:04 made me 6th overall!) and the first marathon of 52 in 2006 where I ran a half the day before are slower. That ought to put it in perspective for you.
Angie on the right. Punk.

More over, the perspective should be that it is simply a race. There will be another one. As serious as I understand many, including myself, take their times, there will indeed be another race. We run to be healthy, to challenge ourselves, to push beyond our boundaries and to clear our minds. None of that can be done if we do something so foolish to keep us from running again. To all of you who made it through the Green Bay Sufferfest of 2012, congratulations. You will have a story to tell which will be far more interesting to anyone than if you had set a PR there.

Although I will admit, that my one friend, Angie Zinkus, who ran a 3:05 AND set a PR, might have us all beat in the story-telling department.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why I Run

A running friend of mine asked me if I was ever going to “just concentrate on trying to run one fast marathon” instead of racing all the time like I presently do. This is a question I have heard on numerous occasions, and I have many ready-made answers for it. What struck me as ironic in this instance is how this friend, a pretty fast runner in their own right, tends to run the vast majority of their races on trail. If you are unfamiliar with trail racing, you know that for the most part, you can throw away the clock when trying to compare one trail 50K to another. I felt like pointing out the inconsistency when the question was asked, as given their own personal running preference, there is obviously no way that they ever just concentrated on running one fast race either. Instead, I told them the various reasons why I currently run and race how I do. (If you ever wish to sit down and listen to those reasons someday, I would be happy to tell you what they are.)

However, what it all boils down to is running for yourself.

This sounds selfish but my meaning here is to run for reasons that are personal. Running is such a personalized sport, rarely done with any teammates to speak of and almost always practiced alone. Your goals and reasons for running and racing should be just as personalized. Those reasons could be because you wish to raise money for charity. They could be because you are hoping to lose weight. Perhaps you like running because of the good feeling it gives you when you complete a run. Maybe the reason you lace up your shoes is because it is far better of an addiction than one you previously had.

The main thing is that you have your own reasons. Do not run for anyone else. This is why if I meet a non-runner who makes it a point to tell me, often unsolicited, that they don't like running, I rarely waste a breath attempting to convince them otherwise. If they do not want to go for a run, I most assuredly have not been put on this planet to convince them otherwise with words. I would much rather talk to those who already share my passion or those who are curious about joining our ranks.

When you run for reasons all your own, you have a stake in your running. You do not need to prove any one wrong, you do not need to justify your passions and your grip on your happiness becomes that much stronger. When asked if I enjoy showing those who feel certain things cannot be done are actually achievable I can say with almost 100-percent accuracy that I could not care less if a naysayer now thinks twice about doubting me.

My running is, to me, a means to explore my own limits, done on my timetable, in the method I wish to achieve it. Besides a small and select group of people, approval is something I rarely seek from others.

I have found that my harshest critic, and the one who will also be most pleased with why I run in the first place is me, and tailoring my running to make me happy is the most important thing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Off to Camp!

This weekend starts my first ever running camp as I partner with Terry Chiplin and his Active at Altitude series of camps. Hard to state how excited I am about this opportunity and the wonderful group of runners we will have joining us in Estes Park, CO.

Runners will be treated to not only some excellent running (a light winter has made trails normally unacceptable easy to run on!) but wonderful seminars.  With running phenoms both Anita Ortiz and Melody Fairchild dispensing advice and stories, there will be no shortage of inspiration at this camp. Both women have achieved much success but have done so in rather unconventional ways. Their experiences will give so much to the runners (and myself  as well!) and we could not be more happy to have them joining us.

With five days at altitude, running in gorgeous places and learning from athletes of all different ability levels, this camp is going to be fantastic. After testing out some of the trails and getting more intimately aware with the trail system in Estes Park this past February, I can attest that I am probably more excited to take these campers on this upcoming weekend then they are to be there!

Definitely want to thank SPIbelt, Oxygen4Energy, LinSocks, Julbo, ROAD ID and Stuffitts for their wonderful contributions to the camp. The swag bag these campers are getting will put to shame any other gift bags they have ever received!

Stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Jersey Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 6th Edition 
169.3 miles raced in 2012
Race: New Jersey Marathon
Place: Long Branch, NJ
Miles from home: 2194 miles
Weather: 50s, cloudy; humid

I posed the question “Are you recovered?” in my Kentucky Derby MiniMarathon recap last week in reference to how many times I had been asked it since I finished my 350 mile along the Oregon Coast. As this week at the New Jersey Marathon answered “Nope.”

That may be simplifying the answer but we are in the 140 character Twitterverse these days. Perhaps I listened to too many friends who are too eager to tout recovery skills which I possess but may have been exaggerated. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to push a sub-3 hour marathon pace just yet and as I preach to all who listen, I should not have started that fast.  All I know is that regardless of how the energy ebbed from my legs in the final 10k of this marathon, I know it is one that should be on the list of all runners.

So much goes into putting together the simplest 5k and many runners are simply unaware of what that is.  In a recent article in Running Times, the crux of writing was how to get more runners involved in the sport as fans. The problem is that running, because of its egalitarian nature, is far more a participant sport these days than it is a spectator sport.  This is a shame for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is runners do not appreciate so many of the nuances that make a race a good one.

In a different time, I was interviewing to be in the CIA. Basically, if I did the job I was supposed to do, you would never know I did it. I found it akin to offensive lineman in NFL.  Toiling in anonymity is what they want best. This also holds true for races. If things go smoothly, and let’s get this straight – this almost never happens, you aren’t aware how wonderfully planned they were.

In my newest book, 138,336 Feet to Pure Bliss I lament that so many of today’s runners do not know our past in this sport.  As such, the sense of entitlement for what they expect on race day is unbelievably high. In the past few races I have run, I heard one runner complaining about the skimpiness of a goodie bag and another talk about how some, but not every one of their emails inquiring about things which were evident on the website, were answered. When I hear things like this, I almost resort to the twitter vocab and want to verbally “hashtag” someone with a SMH (shaking my head.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kentucky Derby Minimarathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 5th Edition 
143.1 miles raced in 2012
Race: Kentucky Derby Minimarathon
Place: Louisville, KY
Miles from home: 1595 miles
Weather: 50s, cloudy; cool

Are you recovered?

That has been the number one question I have received from well-meaning friends, family and fans since I ran the length of the coast of Oregon starting one month ago today. As with all questions I receive about my running I always try to answer thoroughly, anticipating not only the next question but why the question is asked in the first place. The short answer to every one of these questions, and countless similar ones is "It depends".

It depends on what your definition of recovered it. Am I limping? Nope. Am I able to cycle and swim? Yep. Is there any lingering soreness in my legs? Absolutely. Can I run a 13.1 mile race? Shouldn't be a problem. But how how fast I run it is where we get into the gray area of answering that initial question.

The real answer is "There is no way in the name of all that is sugary and good am I recovered. For 7 days I ran 50 miles a day over terrain and through wind and rain, stopping to talk to kids all along the way. I am exhausted.  Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. Bereft of energy I am. I expect to be in a general malaise for a few months as my schedule leaves little time to rest or recoup. But will I toe the line at the Derby Mini and find out where I am on my recovery? Let's just say that's a pretty sure bet."

I hadn't the foggiest idea what to expect for this race.  Realistically I thought I could make a 1:35 but I would have to make it hurt.  Closer to 1:40 seemed more realistic. An even 1:45 appeared to be even more probable. My recovery had been relatively fast, even though I had not gotten my usual number of massages. I had, however, eaten a ton of lean beef and working with the Kentucky Beef Council, I had no problem telling people I think that is one major reason why things not only worked out in Oregon but why I was even standing today.

Prior to the race I had the honor to speak to a fantastic bunch of kids at the Farmer's Elementary School in Louisville. Rarely, if ever, have I had the opportunity to speak to such a well-behaved group of children who were at the same time so intent on asking thought-provoking questions. (Especially the kid who asked me which horse I was going to be riding. I think he was a little bit confused.) It actually got to the point, with dozens of hands still up in the air, where the principal had to final end the Q&A.

I got to meet so many great kids but one who would be actually running the 13.1 distance was EIGHT year old, Blake. This kid was so cool and nonchalant about the entire endeavor that he put me at ease.  When I saw him at the end of the race, where his mother actually had to hold him back to run with her, he looked like he hadn't even ran.  To Blake and all the other awesome kids at Farmer's, thank you for making my day! The future is definitely bright with kids like you leading the way.

At the expo itself I met a plethora of fantastically motivating people, including those recovering from Stage Four Cancer, those who were dealing with the grief of loved ones lost, or soon to be lost, and others who were simply out there pushing past their own boundaries and trying to do as I always say, ignore the impossible.  I was flattered to be asked to sign not just my book, but bib numbers, programs and even some of the One More Mile shirts that carried some of my slogans!