Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vikingman Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 9th Edition 
208.7 miles run; 1 mile swam; 30 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Vikingman Triathlon
Place: Burley/Heyburn, ID
Miles from home: 584 miles
Weather: 40s-70s; crisp; sunny

Back when I originally was put in touch with the folks at the Vikingman Triathlon, their 70.3 was going to be my “A” race of the 2012 triathlon season. I saw the race would be four months after I completed the Pacific Coast 350, I would have two months off prior to it to train, and the course suited me. There was no reason not to plan to crush my PR, win the race, and ride triumphantly off into the sunset.

Then life intervened.

First, a bike crash and messed up shoulder –to put it lightly, followed by problems with my legs that went quite unexplained. After trying to will myself into shape and not being successful (it apparently takes actual exercise) I finally realized, literally hours before the race, that this race could in no way be my “A” triathlon race for the season.  In addition, even attempting to do the 70.3 would probably set me back in my recovery, something I finally seemed to be turning the corner on. As I long ago lost the need to feel like I had to complete a race just for the sake of completing it (as if I needed to prove something to anyone) I decided that I would change races and run the Olympic distance triathlon instead. Instantly I was happy with my choice.

I believe the Olympic Distance tri is the distance that best suits my skills. With a 1500 meter swim and a decently long-run distance of 10K, the just-a-hair-under 25 miles of biking is palatable. I simply am not a strong cyclist and have not given myself enough of an opportunity to improve on that.  Unfortunately, given the logistics of the multi-loop course to accommodate the 70.3 distance, the bike portion of this triathlon ran a little long. The nearly 30 miles of biking would be what we Olympic distance athletes would undertake. This meant there was 5 more miles for the lesser talented swimmers to kick my butt on the bike. *sigh*

The night before the race, I was given the immense pleasure of speaking to a large assembly of triathletes, supporters, and volunteers at a beautiful amphitheater in Riverside Park. I was able to share my stories of success and failure and how to overcome the latter and not get too caught up in the former. After a Q&A where some young kids in front led the way ,which I absolutely loved, I was able to spend time talking with new friends and old friends I had met in the past four years of traveling.

When Bert from Ogden, Utah, who I last met at the St. Louis Marathon in 2010, not only told me the awesome story about sharing a mega long-distance bike ride with his son, but that my story inspired him to continue to challenge himself, I was incredibly moved. People are very happy to tell you when they are not happy.  Rarely, for whatever reason, do they do the opposite and share the good things in their life. It is almost as if sharing would be bragging.  But Bert made it a point to specifically tell me this which was extremely touching.  I thanked him sincerely and let him know how much I appreciated it.

Alice and I post-race
Meeting people like Alice from nearby Rupert, who like me has conquered the Sawtooth Relay as a solo runner, was just heart-warming. She had a wonderfully positive attitude and a contagious smile. Asking if it would be OK for her to take a picture with me was almost laughable.  Why wouldn’t it?! Finally, last but not least, Kim Grooms Walton, undeterred by being in a wheelchair, did an awesome backstroke for the entire swim portion of the race and demonstrated that there are real no limitations in life. In between these people there were a plethora of other competitors, all with stories so fulfilling that it reminds me why I continue to do what I do , spending countless hours traveling and racing just to meet and be moved by them.

After a delicious cheeseburger cooked not five feet away from where I was doing a book signing, I skipped over to the host hotel which the race graciously provided for me and was actually in bed before 11:00 p.m.  I think the last time I did that was when I was 7 years old.  However, a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call in order to assure I had all my gear where it needed to be waited, and I wanted to be as rested as possible.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Running With Raven Project

Two years ago, I wrote about running with the “Raven,” a South Beach legend who has run eight miles on the beach every day for the last 37 years.  As I begin preparations for another trip to the greater Miami area in the next few months, my thoughts went back to Raven. I assumed he was keeping his streak alive, regardless of what was thrown his way.

Then serendipitously yesterday I received an email from a runner in Miami who answered that question.  She had actually heard about me from Raven himself, a.k.a Robert Kraft.  In the email she mentioned a project being put together to record the Raven’s story through the writing of a book. In addition, she’s teamed up with another Raven Runner (what those of us in his "flock" can call ourselves after one run with Mr. Kraft) hoping to film a documentary.

While I have mentioned I am not a fan of streaking for the sake of streaking, I am very intrigued by Raven and why it is he feels so compelled to do what he does every single day. The girls have posted a video and information about the initiative on a fundraising website called Kickstarter. Given my personal connection to Raven, albeit far less than those who run with him hundreds of times per year, and my desire to learn more about him, I decided to share the link for those who wish to help the cause.

The thing that sets Raven apart goes far beyond running eight miles every day for the last 37 years (?!) He has his detractors but he seems to have really built a community together all in the name of exercise.  Obviously, anyone who is trying to get people to exercise is doing good work in my opinion. As such, I wanted to get the word out.

The two artists behind the project, writer Laura Lee Huttenbach and photographer Mary Beth Koeth, seem like passionate and talented young individuals. They are also picking a subject matter which is rich in both depth and breadth.

If you want to learn more about their project, you can visit  They have less than two weeks left to reach their fundraising goal and make this project happen.  Here's hoping they get what they need.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Atlanta Preview

As an ambassador for the US Road Sports-owned Allstate Life InsuranceSM 13.1 Marathon® Series, I was recently asked to come and run the 13.1 Atlanta course to give runners more than just the usual course description and elevation profile. Even though I made my name initially in the marathoning world, I have always loved the half-marathon distance. It was a 13.1 mile race which got me into running in the first place, back in law school.  Granted, I was sort of tricked into running it, but that is another story!

I arrived in Atlanta in August and was dreading the weather. Fortunately, there was a break in the East Coast SwelterFest of 2012 and the heat and humidity were mild in comparison to what they had been for weeks. I met with my wrangler for the mid-week excursion, Jennie, at the airport and we went over the trip’s logistics and itinerary. On top of a circumnavigation of the course in a vehicle to make sure all the twists and turns were where they should be, I would also run the course to get a feel of what it would be like for runners to take on the Atlanta hills on October 7th.

During the drive it felt like the hills were going to be just brutal.  Normally, back when I would drive a course prior to running it (a practice I have since eschewed as it rarely gives you an accurate feel for the course on foot) I found a course usually seemed easy in comparison. As we crested and fell, I thought if this seemed hard in the passenger seat of a car, how would it feel when I ran it? The answer: pretty darn good.

First and foremost, let me dispel some thoughts you may have, since I am sure I had some of the same ones. The course does have some hills. This is Atlanta, after all. But those hills do not even come close to being as ferocious as they may first appear. In fact, many are downright pleasant, with a nice long sloping downhill often following a short uptick. For whatever reason, the car ride has exaggerated the hills and running them showed me how they may still be challenging, but definitely lacked the teeth I felt they originally brandished.

Second, while the race no longer starts/ends at Oglethorpe University, the course does run right past its outside perimeter.  As such, the course will still allow runners to take in the splendor and beauty of this liberal arts school and all of its stony architecture. Town Brookhaven will serve as the starting point as well as the terminus of this race as it did last year. This area may not be as historic as Oglethorpe, but will allow for much less congestion and ease for runners both arriving and leaving after the race.

Third, seriously, the hills aren’t that bad. In the entire Allstate Life InsuranceSM 13.1 Marathon® Series, including races in pancake-flat Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the fastest 13.1 finishing time is held here on this course. Read that again. Now stop whining about hills.

Having said all of that, let’s break this race down.

Starting at Town Brookhaven runners make a quick jog out and onto Peachtree Road. I am pretty sure that it is an Atlanta citywide mandate that every third roadway has the word “Peachtree” in it somewhere.  After a short jaunt on Peachtree, which runners will become familiar with later on, we pass the aforementioned Oglethorpe University and begin a series of runs through neighborhoods which may become the beautiful trademark of this course.

Over the next two miles, secluded in a green wonderland, with the Silver Lake in the backdrop right behind a canopy of trees, runners will be completely shaded from sun, wind or rain. Popping back out onto Windsor Parkway after this trek through greenery, the mansions are as plentiful as the road is soft. Before you know it, you are closing in on the first 5K, beginning to run down a nice long stretch of downhill toward the Capital City Club golf course and its well-manicured fairways. 

Skirting the golf greens and the luxurious clubhouse, which are so inviting that you wish all golf courses were actually running courses, you are greeted by even more stately homes. Given the residential nature of this area, there are more than a few speed humps that runners must simply be aware of. It should go without saying but runners should always keep a careful eye out for their footfalls, so these little humps shouldn’t be much of a problem.  As we saw in the London Olympics when poor Morgan Uceny took a tumble, even elites can tumble on the buttery softness of an all-weather track.  In other words, just be cognizant of yourself and surroundings. Unfortunately, as this area is so beautiful, you might need a reminder when you are running through it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Men's Olympic Marathon Approaches (Predictions)

As these Summer Olympics begin to wind down, and I have seen far less of them then I wish I had for a number of reasons, I know one event will not pass me by – the men’s marathon. Even though, as I mentioned in a previous post, to catch it live I will have to be up at 3 a.m. PST, you can bet your sweet bippy I will be.

I recall writing something somewhere about the men’s marathon in 2008 but I will be damned if I can find it in my archives.  Let’s just say I was utterly convinced that Ryan Hall was going to win. Obviously my opinion was shaped by a little bit of homerism but I also laid out a well-thought reasoning as well. As you know, I was way off as Sammy Wanjiru crushed the Olympic Marathon record in stifling Beijing heat and humidity.

So who am I will predicting will podium this year? We have already seen East African dominance fall by the way side in some of the earlier track meets this Olympics. Galen Rupp, with his silver in the 10,000 meter gave the United States its first medal in that event since about 350 BC. (I will have to remember to fact check that.) Then Leo Manzano won a silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final, running the fastest time ever by a U.S. athlete at the Games. The 5,000m won’t be run until Saturday so it is hard to tell exactly if this trend will continue but counting Bernard Lagat or Lopez Lomong out would not be wise.

Now, granted a small shift in the medal count in some of the shorter long distance events does not have much bearing on the marathon. Additionally, East African dominance at the Marathon level has really solidified itself in the past four years since Beijing, even with the untimely death of Sammy Wanjiru.  I am also far less convinced of the American ability to medal at a these games.  Yet for some reason, I think we may have a better shot then we did four years ago.

I have been fortunate enough to have a conversation or two with Ryan Hall, saw Meb at a book signing and I have had one tweet with Abdi Abdirahman.  So obviously I am super tight with them all. But knowing anything about these men individually is not why I feel this is our best chance to snag a top spot since Frank Shorter got the gold in Munich 4 years before I was born. 

In order to compete well on this stage, competitors who are usually out to best each other, must work together even though they wish to win.  I recently read an article by Kenny Moore about those Munich Games and it became even more clear how running alone will get you basically nowhere (Joan Benoit Samuelson’s epic 1984Olympic games win notwithstanding). What I have witnessed from the three US finalists is a tight kinship. I have seen how they really do thrive on working with each other. And while I am less doe-eyed about their chances as I was four years ago, I still think we are in for a major surprise on Sunday.

Gold: Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (Kenya)
Silver: Ryan Hall (USA)
Bronze: Abel Kirui (Kenya)

I also think the winning time will be in the 2:07s with the race for bronze being tightly contested by Ayele Abshero from Ethiopia.

Either way, though my eyes might be tired at 3 AM, I will be wide awake.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fox Valley Marathon weekend

I had the sincere pleasure to take part in the Fox Valley Marathon weekend last year as part of Illinois Team beef.  Situated in St. Charles, just a short drive outside of Chicago, this race was absolutely top-notch. But don't take my word for it - take Chicago Magazine's!

What I absolutely loved about this race was it's 20 mile option.  The Fox Valley Marathon is situated just a few weeks prior to the Chicago Marathon. For those looking for a last minute catered-long run before tackling the big one, there seems to be no better way to do so than by taking part in the Fox Valley Final 20.  You can read my recap of the 20 miler last year here.

However, just having a catered 20 miler is not what makes this race so special.  The attitude of the people who run it, from top to bottom are absolutely wonderful. Working with the Illinois Beef Association made it even better. It is hard to tell you how quickly the bite-sized morsels of freshly grilled beef were devoured by hungry runners at the end of the race. Eschewing typical bagels and bananas these runners wanted protein, zinc and iron to get in their system and they wanted it right now!

As such, being back again to work hand-in-hand with the Illinois Beef Association is a special treat. All the hubbub around the beef tent post-race had the local media trying to figure out exactly what was going on. To educate so many about how much lean beef does for the endurance athlete was something I have been happy to do for over two years and counting now.

I have worked with IBA on a plethora of events and look forward to doing so in the future as well. Look for us at the expo where I am doing a book signing of my new book and look for them post-race where you can get your fuel for the finish!