Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's a Marathon?!

I have a feeling that is what my legs are going to say this weekend. Granted I have run two technical and challenges 50ks this year but I haven't run a marathon race since...are you kidding me?! 7 months ago?

This weekend I head to the Pacific Crest Marathon in Sunriver, Oregon. This was one of the 52 Marathons I did back in 2006, sandwiched in between Estes Park and Leadville Marathons. I knew how challenging the two in Colorado would be for a flatlander like myself but I never knew that parts of Oregon were so high as well. In fact, I thought of Oregon the way most (ignorantly) think of Oregon - constantly raining and green to the hilt. (Seriously - if you think it rains in Portland all the time, just use this little tool to test it against your favorite city of choice. Go ahead.  I'll wait.)

For many reasons, Pacific Crest remains one of my favorite marathons and one I was most proud of.  To somehow run a 3:16 the week after Estes Park, knowing I had 27 more marathons to run in a year of completely uncertainty, at elevation, made me very pleased.

I now face uncertainty as well.  How will my body react to a marathon, at elevation, after dealing with a bad case of staph infection (MRSA) in my foot in April that basically brought my training to a halt and my health running levels back to zero. Prior to the infection I was in a groove, doing great, running solid times.  Since then, it has been a struggle. With two marathons following this one in quick succession, I am trying to shock my system into learning how to run these 26.2ers again.

Often I am told by well-meaning friends when I voice this concern "Ah, you've run tons of these, you will be fine!"  They don't seem to realize that it does not matter how many marathons you have under your belt - the distance always remains 26.22 miles. It never gets easy. Take it for granted and as Bill Rodgers said, it will humble you.

So I am not taking it for granted. I am actually a little nervous. I like that. I like the butterflies. For whatever reason, the two 50ks I did earlier this year did not give me butterflies.. I knew given the weather or terrain (or both) that they were both going to be slogs.  They weren't going to be things I could race.  Pacific Crest can be those things. The race itself is a beauty in a nice dry climate.  It has potential to be a little warm, but, well, ass recent race weather has sown, so does just about everything else.

Nevertheless, 224 days after my last marathon, the longest I have gone in between marathons since the time between my 2nd and 3rd ever, I will take on this challenge again.

I am looking forward to it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Million Dollar Marathon Recap

This is not a recap of the Million Dollar Marathon as it is only in its 4th of 41 planned days of running from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. (Read my blog describing more about the MDM.)  It is not even a recap of my participation per se.  (I basically ran 13.5 miles in about 1:45.) It is, rather, a recap of the events, people and day I spent with what is an extraordinary group of people and a fantastic mission all put on by Above + Beyond Cancer.

My small participation on this thousands of miles of journeying did make me laugh, however. I was scheduled to run a portion on the town of Enumclaw, WA.  This town so happens to be the place where I participated in the National Duathlon Championship just a few weeks ago.  While that was rather ironic, the coincidence sandwich was best served when I realized that my particular leg of running would take me up the big hill which comprised the bike portion of the duathlon.  I have now done two events in Enumclaw, WA and know one road.

The night before my run, I ventured up to the greater Seattle area and met a kindred spirit in the name of Steve Cannon.  Steve is the brainchild behind the Million Dollar Marathon. Last year, Steve ran around Lake Michigan- 1,037 miles, in 40 days to raise money for cancer research.

We instantly bonded when we first started talking a few weeks ago but meeting him in person for the first time was like seeing a long-lost brother. Steve was herding cats as he tried to get runners, film crew, support vehicles and everything all working smoothly.  Only two days into this adventure and there had been inevitable but still frustrating setbacks. Nevertheless, Steve was calm and knew it would all start flowing in just a few days. People would find their roles and everything would simply gel.

It is roles that will define this run. Dr. Dick Deming and Charlie Wittmack are the founders of Above + Beyond Cancer and boh were on hand during the run.  Dr. Deming will appear numerous times throughout the run, running 26.2 miles each time, fitting it in between a busy life wrapped around fighting and curing cancer.  Charlie, an avid adventurer in his own right with summits of Mt. Everest under his belt, will be along side the MDM every step of the way. In the discussions between us on the road during my short time with these gentlemen the talk of what our "cancer connection" was came up. While there was more readily apparent through loved ones, I was given a bit of a pause.  Absolutely I had lost friends and family members to the disease.  But my thought process went a little broader.  What is my connection? Well, I'm alive. I'm human. That is my connection.  One doesn't have to be immediately affected by cancer to want to eradicate it. As Charlie said to me, if you haven't been affected by cancer yet, you will.

I started the morning with a group of ladies (and one gentleman) who would be running one of the longest
days of the entire trip up and over mountains. Keena and Renae were seasoned runners while Keena's boyfriend Andrew was self-described as a cyclist. Jennifer would be running her first run ever over 18 miles.  Our start time at 4 a.m. was ridiculously early for a night owl like me but in order to assure the run of 114 miles with oodles of climbing in the mountains was completed in time an early start was necessary.

The group was amazingly upbeat and awake from the interns for Above + Beyond Cancer to my friend Amanda Krenz from ABC 5 in Des Moines (where Above + Beyond is located) to Steve himself who, with virtually no sleep in the past few days came out to cheer me anf the rest of us on as we started. It think it is very much imperative that my morning face could not be seen in the dark video he shot.

My run and involvement were just a drop in the bucket of this entire excursion.  However, I was quite moved by the people involved and the organization itself.  From a logistical stand point I could appreciate all the moving parts and what is needed to get an endeavor like this underway.

When I ran my 350 miler along the coast of Oregon last year, I knew I could not have done it without the unbelievable support of my awesome friend Shannon Mitchel. A ultra running doctor, she basically kept me fed and moving with no thought needed from me on a daily basis. I look back and see how much she did for me, just one runner, and cannot help to be awed by that effort.  Now to think about multiple runners, changing daily, from multiple locations, who often meet for the first time minutes before they run and the logistics of MDM make my head spin.

However, having met who is in charge and who is running, both literally and figuratively, this operation, I have no concern whatsoever that endeavor will be an enormous success.

(If you are still looking to help the cause or are wanting to join the run, please go to

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review of Julbo Performance Sunglasses

Was told recently I am getting known for my trademark sunglasses. I was hoping it was for my soulful piercing green eyes or granite-like quadriceps but apparently it is for something which covers my face. Better Julbo.(I wrote about partnering with them last year here.) Given how much I love these sunglasses, I figured I should give a review on at leas ta few of the pairs that I wear.
than nothing, right? The sunglasses in particular (not specifically because I wear about 12 different styles) all come from the fantastic company called

First up:

The Dust.

Purely by accident, I have seemed to have worn these particular sunglasses the most in my races.  Perhaps it is not an accident then considering how much I do like them. In fact, they seem to be everyone else's favorite as well as I have never received as many "Hey, nice sunglasses!" as I have when I am wearing the Dust. The coloring definitely helps as the neon green on the arm/temple really pops off the powder blue. (N.B. As with all the sunglasses I am showing you, my selection of colors is just one of many different color selections you can choose.)

I thought the straight back styling of the arm would mean the sunnies would slip but I have never once had them move in a race. In fact, the slight curvature near the end makes them hardly any different than conventional sunglasses. The lack of any part of a bottom rim has almost always been essential for me for a pair of active sunglasses and the Dust is no different. While the thicker temple takes away just a hair of peripheral vision if you are REALLY looking for it, the appearance that it might is far greater than what happens in actuality.

The nosepad is one solid piece of curved softness that rests perfectly on my nose.  It sits just high enough to allow ventilation and keep the sunglasses from fogging up.

Seriously top notch all around.


The Trek is not normally a running sunglass (that's singular, right?) but I was very curious about it and wanted to try it out.  More reserved for mountaineering and climbing, It doesn't necessarily ride as well as other sunglasses in the Julbo family. That doesn't mean it doesn't still perform quite excellently. It does.

 I am showing you two different color types to show you how different each pair can look simply with a different scheme. Also, I wanted to touch on what I call the sweat bumper which you can see in the white and green model. A removable piece of foam, it not only helps the glasses fit a little more snugly on your face, it helps to keep sweat from running into your eyes.

Also removable all the side shields (pictured as orange and green above) which I personally have never felt the need to remove. But if you needed a little more ventilation, then by all means go right ahead.

I have worn these in more races than I initially thought I did which goes to show you that they obviously perform better than my initials thoughts. Reviewing pictures of me in the glasses I saw shots of me all over the country but this one really stood out.  This is obviously after Superman fixed it back in 1978. (Sidenote: Remember back in the early 80s when the networks would randomly decide to show some movie like Superman? For those of us with basic cable this was like hitting the jackpot.  But I digress.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Million Dollar Marathon

I was recently asked to be involved in a cool adventure.  That part is not new.  I am lucky enough, and visible enough, to be asked to be parts of lots of cool adventures. Most of them however, conflict with something else I already have planned or are simply something I can't be a part of for a variety of reasons.  But every once in a while, things fall into place and I can jump on one of those opportunities.

Next weekend, I will be taking part in the Million Dollar Marathon. This 4000 mile jaunt across the country begins June 21st in Ocean Shores, WA.  The purpose of this run is simple. In the next year, nearly 600,000 people in America will die of cancer. The American Cancer Society has determined that one-third of these deaths are the result of poor diet and lack of exercise. The Million Dollar Marathon has been organized  by the group Above + Beyond Cancer to educate the public about this issue through an event that is inspirational and motivational. So many people are taking to the streets and trails to change their lives and outlooks on life and this is a way for those involved with the MDM to use their running to make a difference.

The group of people running across the country is made up of all those that cancer has touched. Survivors, caregivers, advocates, all working together to beat this disease. I too have lost family members and friends to this dreaded "c" word. So, I will journey up to Washington state and join this fantasic group of people on their third day of running starting at 4 a.m.

Read that again: 4 a.m.  If you know one thing about me it is that 4 a.m. is usually about an hour after I normally go to bed.  So that says something about how much this cause means to me. Without a doubt, fighting cancer is something which means a great deal to all of us.  It robs us of friends and family in some of the worst possible ways.

If you are looking to be part of the team as it runs through your neck of the woods, hop on over to the application page HERE. Combining your love for running with a worthwhile cause is one heck of a day to spend a day or two of your summer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Updated View on Cross-Training

I am often asked how much, if any, cross-training I do in my normal routine. For the past few years, the answer was easy: slim to none. Looking over some old blog posts I see my ideas of how cross-training fits into my life has evolved.  So, I felt it was time to update them.

During my 52 Marathons in 52 weeks, I went to the gym a total of 2 times. The entire year. Mostly, I was deathly afraid of an overuse injury from the gym that I could not afford.  As such, I felt it was best to avoid it altogether. Obviously, one can hurt themselves simply stepping off the curb but I thought why risk it. To me, all a runner needed to do to be in running shape was to run.
Hello, Zermatt!

Since that time, I have done multiple other events and different sorts of physical activity to stay in shape. But mostly, when I want to exercise, I go for a run. It is just so damn easy and convenient. Put on the shoes and go. Sure, I do some trail running here and there (which to some extent is a type of cross-training) but other sports and activities have had to be pushed to the backburner. For a few years, I was more or less making a living on being a runner, in a variety of different ways.  When your paycheck relies on your legs, you cannot go will-nilly repelling down a cliff or go paragliding on a whim without some trepidation.

However, with a slightly different lifestyle not as reliant on hitting the finishline, I have learned about balance.  Without a doubt there is room in a runner's life for a bit of cross-training, regardless of your goals and speed.

I have been quoted as saying that cross-training doesn't really help you become a better runner - except for all the ways it does. What I mean by that is any sort of exercise is going to help your body if done in the right way. Period.  But the biggest problem with most runners is that they cannot simply turn their running off. From injuries they should not run through to races that should be DNF so they can live to run better down the road, runners like to run. Cross-training (whatever form it is) allows you to get that exercise jones while actually taking a break from running.

In the past few years I have done triathlons, aquathons, decathlons, adventure races, ultra marathon, stage runs and just about everything else in between. I still feel best when I go for a run.  This tells me I love running. Duh.  But it also tells me that mixing in different disciplines is good as well. The question to me is not whether cross-training actually helps my running, but does the time off from running help my running, regardless of what I am doing.  There I think the resounding answer is yes.

So hitting the gym every once in a while is very important for runners.  To work on legs. (Seriously.)  Runners think working out their legs is the last thing they need to do.  However, through much experience in this area, I have learned the hard way that neglecting all the legs in your muscles that running does not work can make running much more difficult down the road.

I won this fight. I don't remember much of the one I lost.
The proliferation of adventure racing and crossfit (and mud run and color blast and juggling hop scotch, etc.) has brought up a different breed of runner. These runners are incorporating different activities into their running schedule.  I am not going to say they are having more fun than those who simply run because I do not agree with that.  But they are adding variety which is a good thing.

Recently I have begun hitting the heavy bag again after more than few years off.  Just 15 or so minutes broken into two-minute rounds has left me sweaty and exhausted.  But on days when I really needed a break but wanted some exercise, this allowed me to get that fix without overworking my legs.  Given what I have put them through both intentionally and not so much in the past few years, they deserve this break.

Basically, as with all advice I give about running, it is given in the hopes that what I have learned from my failures and success can people others from having to do the same thing.  I am trying to impart that I want you and everyone else to be running healthily and happily for as long as you can.  I love the act and sport of running so much I want to make sure you can enjoy it as much as possible.

In short, if you love running and want to run for a very long time, learn to not run every once in a while.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Redneck Aquathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 13th Edition 
1 mile skied, 1250 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 165.9 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Redneck Aquathon
Place: Tygh Valley, OR
Miles from home: 90 miles
Weather: 50-60s; bright sunshine

I now know how to pronounce a whole slew of places in Oregon which would not evident at first glance.  That is one of the wonderful things about travel.

This weekend, while still not boarding a plane for what seems like a wonderful eternity, I got to experience the much drier, much higher side of Oregon (elevation - I am sure marijuana-wise it is about the same), just a few short hours of driving away.

This was going to be a small race but I wasn’t sure how small.  The aquathon was a newly added event to two other triathlons which already existed. One, the traditional sprint triathlon and the other, a very interesting two-looper.  Basically, in this “Pumice Man” tri you swam, biked, ran, then swam, biked, ran again.  Very interesting. I would definitely give this some thought for the future.

But my race was the aquathon.  Given my tough 50k the week prior, I was more than pleased to be partaking in what would be the shortest of the events for the day. A 750 meter swim was followed by a 5k and I could call it a day.

With a 9:30 a.m. start time and no bike to have to worry about getting properly racked, this would be about as close to a running event in terms of simplicity as one could get. I picked up my number and saw I was given bib number 2.  I then noticed there were only 4 competitors. To me, this meant one of two things: they were all ringers or they were all just jumping into the race like I was.  I ended up being somewhere in the middle in my thinking.

Because there were so few competitors I am going to give you their stories.  First was Max Mann.  (If there is a cooler name out there, I don’t know what it is.)  Max was a 14-year-old fish. He darn near looked me directly in the eye which means he is probably going to be about seven feet talk when he stops growing. His grandfather was one of the official photographers for the race and also provided all the hand-carved medals for participants. His grandmother was there to hand out the packets and do sundry other details. To say that I found this beyond cool would be an understatement.  Involvement by a family in and of itself is quite neat.  But to have it trickle up through generations is even more special.

Before the event started I had the chance to talk with Max for a bit and he seemed like such a wonderful kid. I also learned that he would be swimming the swim leg in nothing but a speedo. Apparently they had purchased him a wetsuit but his slender frame made it too baggy. In hindsight, the water was cold but I think I could have gone with just a swimsuit as well.  After the initial shock, that is. Max would end up swimming an excellent leg, throwing in different strokes (I swear) in the middle of the reservoir. I don’t think he was showing off; rather just getting a hard workout in.

Next was Eric Helser.  Eric introduced himself prior to the race.  It was at least his third year doing this race and he had won both versions of the triathlon in previous years.  I figured he would be a tough one to compete with no matter how much he downplayed his swimming ability. Eric told me a great deal about the campgrounds and the areas and I really got excited about the idea of ding the Pumice Man potentially someday. I had a feeling he had some quick wheels on the run and hoped I could get a minute or so on him during the swim to make for the fact that I had zero oomph in my legs.

Finally there was Marie Young.  The only female competitor in the race, Marie was a total trooper.  I didn’t fully catch her story but I did hear she had a lot of biking equipment stolen so more or less decided last minute to just do this aquathon. She seemed to have zero apprehension telling us she would be pulling up the rear of the race to which I had zero problem telling her that if she finished she would be the top female.
That’s what this race was about: showing up.  I have long said that you can never apologize for who comes to race.  You can only compete against those who are there. I think this thought really buoyed Marie a bit.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Prefontaine Classic Wrap-up

You have to love NRFs. (That is "Non-Running Friends".)

When I mentioned I would be going to the Prefontaine Classic to a few of my NRFs, they asked me if I would be competing. After my chuckle, not at their ignorance but at the fact that anyone could possibly confuse me for someone with enough speed to be invited to one of the most prestigious track and field events in the country, I told them no. I would, however, only be going for one night of the weekend as I have a prior engagement to race the next day.

So, I traveled down to Eugene, Oregon and went on a little run. I found myself on Pre's Trail. Although it has been two years since I last set foot on this trail, I am pretty sure I found the exact spot where I captured a picture which graces the back cover of my latest book, 138, 336 Feet to Pure Bliss.

After that, I went and grabbed a quick massage from Terrl lHale, the hand genius of Georgetown Sports Massage.  Terrel kept me on my feet during my 52 Marathons in 2006 and was undenibaly one of the reasons why I stayed healthy that year. Here to work on athletes at the games, whomever was a recipient of his skilled work knows exactly whayt I am talking about .

Best friend Shannon joined me to watch these games which consisted of a veritable who's who compete in a variety of throwing events, the long jump and some long distance running events, all held at historic Hayward Field. This was quite a nice little birthday present I gave to myself. I am not the biggest track nerd in the world so I was happy to have my program to keep track of exactly who the runners were out there all blazin'.

Even more special than just attending, I was granted a media pass to cover some of the athletes and be on the other side of the interviewer's microphone for a change. I spent the greatest amount of time speaking with Galen Rupp.  Here is Galen talking about what it is like to have a training partner such as Mo Farah.

I wasn't nearly as prepared with questions (or recording equipment) to capture all the athletes I wanted to speak to but to say they were accommodating and genial would be an understatement.  Earlier on my run, I was almost sure I had seen Mo Farah out doing a jog. When I asked him a few questions at the meet and greet, he looked at me strangely.  I was wearing the exact same clothing to the interviews that I had while running and he said "Didn't I see you on the bike path?"

It truly is a small world.