Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fast is Fun

This is an older article which I used to help kick off a chapter in my latest book, 138,336 Feet to Pure Bliss. I decided to reprint it as I think given an article I read in a recent issue of Running Times really seemed to echo its sentiments.

A wonderful thing has been happening in the past decade or so: Americans are running. From 5Ks on up to the marathon and beyond, the nation is experiencing a running boom unlike no other. The American elite are winning or at least in the argument for winning marathons while further on down the ladder, runners fill the ranks from age group aces to weekend walkers. I have been very fortunate to become friends with some of the legends in the sport while also counting among my friends those who are just happy to finish a marathon under six hours. In doing so, I have noticed something surprising: a slight backlash against those who run fast.

“I run to enjoy myself and do not care about the time on the clock,” is the crux of the argument against going faster or harder. Well, that is why I run, too.  But I race for an entirely different reason. I am usually met with silence when I ask why bother even showing up for a race when a run by one’s self should create the same enjoyment. Silence is fine. I know the answer.

We all enjoy accolades. Do an 18-mile training run and no one at work cares that much. Run in the half-marathon race lined with bands, and bring home a shiny medal, and you receive mounds of attention.

Which leads to the obvious: Everyone wishes they could run faster, if even just a little bit. But why? Well, because the truth of the matter is that running fast is fun. I enjoy the leisurely pace of a long run with friends as much as the next person in short shorts and racing flats.

No, it is not that running fast goes against the enjoyment of the sport. Running fast, by whatever definition “fast” is to each individual runner, is what makes the sport what it is. That temporary flight that separates us from our grounded brethren is what drives us all.

Embrace your wings, unabashedly so.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

America's Finest City Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 18th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 263.8 miles run in 2013 races
Race: America's Finest City Half Marathon
Place: San Diego, CA
Miles from home: 1087 miles
Weather: 60-70s; overcast, humid

A last minute addition to my schedule, the AFC Half was a race I ran back in 2009.  Hard to believe it had been four years since I had been there but time really does fly by the older you get. Even though I was signed up to run the race I have much bigger fish to fry in the next few weeks (specifically my Dane to Davenport) so I couldn't let this make me deviate from my schedule to much.. Originally I had planned on doing something close to 18 miles on Saturday and then 15 on Sunday.  So when I changed my schedule to include this race I had to figure out something else.  Fortunately, my host for the week and her friends told me about their running group who were doing anything from 15-24 on Saturday morning. Perfect!

The group was very welcoming with some going for sub-3 hour marathons later this fall, some training for longer events and everyone being quite fast. I haven't run with a group in Portland yet and given my travel schedule when I lived in Salt Lake City I didn't run with my club there as much as I liked but I still remembered the camaraderie of running with people who know your story.  They might not even know what you do for a living or exactly what other aspects other friends know but they have traded sweat on hard miles in bad conditions and someone knows much more about you that way than most others.

The only problem with getting a long run in on Saturday was that I needed to be at the expo shortly after 10 a.m.  I was graciously invited to do a book signing out of the Moving Shoes running store booth, which I shared with running great Meb Keflezighi. Meb is a partial owner in the store and was signing his own book. We spoke very briefly and he seems as genuine and humble as he does in front of the cameras and in interviews.  As I have stated before, often the faster you get, the more you realize how lucky you are to run that fast regardless of hard work and persistence.

So, while I would have liked to get a few more miles in, the 15 I was able to get was perfect. I figured a nice good paced 15 plus a hard run 13.1 the next day would make up for the small loss of total planned miles.

Of course, even though I ran those 15 miles and got next to no sleep over the days leading up to the race doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t throw logic aside and not want to run as fast as I could. Fortunately, in the race on Sunday it took me only a few miles to realize that I wasn’t going to be running that fast.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marathon Recovery Techniques

I wrote an article for Running Times magazine a few years ago about recovering quickly from a marathon.  I have been asked by some to repost that article for others to read. And look at that, I was talking about eating beef long before I began working with various beef councils across the United States!

A marathon-a-week runner reveals his short-term recovery secrets

June 1, 2008
Having run a marathon, you should be able to kick back for a few weeks and enjoy some downtime, right? However, by the same token, if you've just trained hard and run a 26.2-miler, chances are you're not of the type who enjoys resting on your laurels.

In addition, it only takes so many "How long was this marathon?" comments from well-meaning NRFs ("Non-Running Friends") to remind you why you go on a run to avoid them in the first place.
So what to do? Even the most ardent multiple marathon runners know that the body has just been put through the metaphoric ringer and rest is needed. But that knowledge does not satiate the desire to lace up the shoes and hit the roads/trails/treadmill as soon as possible.

In 2006, I ran a full marathon every weekend. As such, I underwent a self-imposed crash course in recovery techniques using myself as the guinea pig. While most runners will not need to know how to get from one 26.2-miler to the next in a single week, that does not lessen their desire to recover and feel like a runner again. Therefore, I have taken what I learned to offer up four recovery techniques to help get you out running again.

Go For a (Short) Run

What and why: We have all heard how you should keep moving and not sit down immediately after finishing a marathon. I feel this theory extends to the next few days as well. Providing gentle blood flow to sore areas not only helps bring nutrients that heal into the muscles, but also assists in moving out the waste products and damaged tissue, and that serves to reduce post-race soreness. While work obligations and the normal life I led during the weekdays in 2006 took its toll on me, I know I never would have made it through the year if I had not been out running, even if just for 15 to 20 minutes at a snail's pace, the day after each and every marathon.
More insight: Jim Hage, a 2:15 marathoner and one of only two men to win back-to-back Marine Corps Marathons, attests to a primary recovery method called "Hair o' the Dog." While he agrees rest is vitally important, he believes getting back out there is important, too. "It's a major psychological boost to keep moving rather than atrophy mentally and physically. Sort of like having a cold; I generally feel worse if I give in and feel sorry for myself."
One of's top marathoners of 2006, Mike Aldrink of Columbus, Ohio, concurs. Moreover, the psychological boost he receives from not remaining sedentary is quite high, even if he only goes for a short, slow jog.
Plus: Remember, Dick Beardsley went for a nice easy run the day after his infamous Duel in the Sun with Alberto Salazar at the scorching 1982 Boston Marathon.

Take An Ice Bath

What and why: The basic theory of an ice bath is that the freezing water will constrict the blood vessels in your legs, reducing swelling. Once you leave the icy coffin and warm your legs, the ensuing blood flow will deliver fresh oxygen to the muscle cells, helping the cells repair the damage done from the exertion during the race. I personally do not subscribe to the idea but it definitely works for some.
More insight: Even more important than scientific research is real-world applicability. Renowned ultramarathoner Lisa Smith-Batchen swears by the ice bath as the quickest way to allow her to feel like a runner again. For someone who has run the 135-mile Badwater race through Death Valley, climbed 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, turned around and run back again, her words deserve credence. Despite the benefits, she admits getting into a cold bath isn't exactly comforting. "To be honest, it is so hard for me to just jump in the ice bath," she says. "I personally sit in the bath and start with luke warm water and then run only cold water until the bath is cold."
Plus: Terrell Hale, a sports massage therapist in Rockville, Md., who worked on athletes in the 2004 Athens Olympics, also prescribes a dip into an ice bath "as soon as possible after a marathon" as one of the quickest roads to recovery.

Eat Right

What and why: Whether you are a multiple-finisher or a first-time survivor, the urge to scarf down lots of yummy but horrible food is almost too much to bear. And, to some extent, you have earned the right to do so. But remember, the body is in desperate need of repair after the rigors of a marathon and its immune system is at its weakest. So eating a gooey cheeseburger and French fries from a fast-food restaurant or munching down a full bag of Doritos isn't the best thing you can do for yourself. You will recover best by giving your souped-up engine the proper fuel it needs.
More insight: Don't let up on your carb intake just because you're done with the marathon. Your body needs to refuel and rebuild cells in the hours and days after the race, so eat plenty of whole grains and fruits and vegetables. But also be sure to take in adequate amounts of protein -- from meat, fish, dairy products, beans, soy or legumes -- to help repair broken down muscle fibers. Also, focus on foods and juices high in potassium, such as bananas, orange juice, milk, raisins, baked potatoes or squash, and try to replace your electrolyte losses with a few sodium-rich foods.
Plus: Ultrarunner Dean Karnazes says that two things which really help him are to supplement his already healthy diet with Arnica montana (oral tablets; not rub) and to rehydrate using a recovery drink with a high carb/protein ratio such as Accelerade.

Get a Massage

What and why: Getting a quick rub-down immediately after finishing a marathon feels great, but getting a sports massage 24 to 48 hours after your run will help flush your body of the excessive amounts of lactic acid and muscle waste that your body continues to produce in the hours and days after your marathon. It's hard to know for sure whether I would have done all 52 marathons at the pace I did in 2006 without them, but I know they helped immensely. I have come to realize massages are not just a "treat" but are a necessity to good health and fast recovery.
More insight: Make sure the masseuse knows not to rub too deeply. The muscles in your legs are already tender as it is and a deep-tissue massage may do more harm than good. Hale suggests regular massage throughout a training cycle. Not only does massage facilitate greater recovery and help prevent injury, but the training schedule of each individual runner will inform how and when the massage is done.
Plus: The combination of consistent massages and day-after jogs got me through the year. The massages
helped repair the damage done to my body and the short runs helped keep me sane. Without both, I sincerely doubt my endeavor would have been as successful as it was.

Will these things work for you? Hopefully, but remember that no two runners are the same, so the best way to find out what works for you is to experiment. That's what I did, and for me, the proof was in the end results. When all was said and done, I averaged 3:29 per marathon for the first half of the year and sped up to a 3:13 for the second half -- all while my PR was 3:07.

I guess if running is the addiction, I don't want the cure. I just want to make sure I recover properly so I can keep at it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Site Running

I once had a discussion with a friend about the word "sight seeing".  I was flabbergasted to find out it was not "site seeing" which is the only form of the word that actually makes sense. You are seeing sites. You are not seeing vision. (Yes, I know "sight" also means something worth seeing but "site' just makes so much more sense.)  Nevertheless, the best way I have found to ever actually see a locale is on your feet. Preferably at around an 8 minute per mile pace.

In Chapter 12 of 138,336 Feet of Pure Bliss entitled "This Country is Beautiful" I talk about seeing the country on foot.  To clarify, I also talk about seeing the whole world on foot.  Korea, Italy, the Caribbean.  The more I see, the more I know I have seen so little.

This past weekend I spent sometime in British Columbia. I made my first foray into the province on New Year's Eve last year because my best friend wanted to see some snow (she is from Texas) and I knew Portland wasn't going to get any.

So we hopped a plane to Spokane and picked a random city in Canada to go and play for a day. Cranbrook was our destination and using my uncanny ability to find awesome places to run, I found the Cranbrook Community Forest.  Soft powdery snow and with a temp getting no lower than 18 degrees, it was ideal. (Not to sound old fogey-esque but where in the heck did real winters go? I mean, 18 degrees for Canada in December?! That was sometimes April in Titusville when I grew up! But I digress.)

This time I wanted to take advantage of a rare weekend off and with the weather still nice headed up to points along the coast. Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria, Campbell River and the towns in between were just a few places we hit in Canada. (By the by, holy crap are ferry rides expensive. The two we had to take were about 1/3 of the total expenses for the whole 5 day trip. No wonder people stay put. As an aside, I saw there is a marathon on one of the islands in the Strait of Georgia that requires three ferry rides to get to. Yeah, I'll just by a seaplane, thanks.  Must be cheaper.)

But while the 1400 miles of driving allowed us to see some fantastic sites (thank you very much) it was when we got out of the car and went for little six milers that the true awesomeness showed itself. Granted most of it was planned as exploring for too long just wasn't in the time table, but the nuances of a town or a city are just not seen when you are in a car. Walking takes too darn long.  Being on a bike means you are always about to become fenderfood (trademarked, by the way.)  Running is the perfect blend of safety and speed that allows us to see so much of the world.

It is running that allowed me to check out the Burnaby Lake in suburban Vancouver and learn more about how it is in deed of some serious dredging.

My shoes took me to pay homage to Terry Fox statues in both his childhood home and also where he would have ended his cross-Canada journey if osteosarcoma hadn't taken his life far too soon.

I found an odd bit of art along the Victoria SeaWalk which was hidden from virtually every other view that I would have had if I had not run right next to it.

Once we left BC and headed back to Portland the long way along the Washington Coast, it was oddities like running on a beach in the westernmost zipcode in the contiguous United States that helped break up what would have otherwise been long drives.

After leaving Forks, WA (home of the Twilight saga - I am Team Dane in case you cared to know) and heading to the famous Hole In the Wall we found we could get there and back far faster than the hikers (who looked like they were going on a 7 day tour and not an hour long hike) leaving us more time to go see other things as well.

All in all, obviously a car will get you to places faster and walking will allow you to take everything in more deeply. But nothing quite melds the best of both worlds like a nice jog through the world.

So in just about a month, when I take on my 150 mile Dane To Davenport, it will be a fantastic journey of seeing the Heartland.  From Dane, Wisconsin to Davenport, IA, I will get 150 miles of roads, trails, tracks and paths to take mental pictures of to last me a lifetime. Looking forward to every step!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Karhu Fluid3 Fulcrum Review

Having a partnership with a shoe company has many perks.  One of them is getting advance "copies" of shoes to go on test runs. This can be bad, as I learned previously with another shoe company, as you basically become a guinea pig for prototypes. However, with Karhu, who has been in the shoe business for decades, I love being able to pull out a pair of shoes few have worn and go see what they can do with no worries. That said, as with everything I try, talk about or review, you know it doesn't matter if the product was given to me for free, you will still get my honest opinion. Which is why you will probably be happy to hear that I think the Fluid3 Fulcrum is pretty fantastic.

(And if you stick around to the end of this review, I have a 15% off code for you to use! Exciting!)

I recently read a review of the Karhu Flow 3 Trainer that was quite thorough. I love the Trainer and have worn them in most of my recent races. I just hadn't written a review like about them yet, and after reading his, I don't have to do so - it nails all the things I feel.  But above and beyond talking about the shoe, the reviewer mentioned things that, for the most part, I don't care about. More accurately, they are things I do not think about at first but when pointed out, I think "Yeah, that is pretty cool." Things like the packaging and the slogans and the history of the company which come in pamphlets in the box. Well, since I read that review I started to start noticing those things.

So fresh out of the box, the new Karhu Fluid3 is just snazzy.  Gone are the days when just adding a bright color will make a shoe stand out. As such, somehow, even though the color is a bit eye-popping, it is not  too much of the "Hey, look at my new shoes!"

Sliding them on, they just felt nice.  Then again, new shoes always feel like Christmas. However, wit hthe Fluid3, there was something about the way the tongue of the shoe was structured that it just felt nice and snug. I coudn't notice anything off the top from its appearance that would clue me into to the fit.  I just knew I couldn't wait to give them a test run (or five.)

My intention before writing this review was to try them on some different terrain and over numerous distances and speeds. As such, I did a double digit mile run with them on all pavement, another double digit mile run on a mixture of pavement, soft trail and grass, a track workout and finally a nice 6 mile tempo run.  I figured that was more than enough variance to form an opinion.

I noticed right away that the shoes felt just a touch heavier than the Flow3 I had been running in.  Turns out, the Flow3 is 8.6 ounces (for a size 10.5) and the Fluid3 is 8.9 ounces (for a size 11).  A whopping .3 ounces and my feet could tell the difference. Also, as there were limited models I actually wore a size 11 for the Fluid3 and didn't notice any difference. I might actually have sized up a little bit after 145 marathons.  My uterus didn't fall out but I lengthened my feet. Go figure.

The Fluid3 performed admirably on all fronts. While not sold as a trail shoe and the trails I were running on were extremely light on the "trail" side of things, I didn't notice any marked difference in my performance. Same to say with the track workout.  Normally, I would go with a lighter show like the Karhu Flow Light which Runner's World just reviewed in its latest issue. Nevertheless, they were just as quick to respond to the rubberized track in a set of 400s as they were on all the other runs.  In fact, the first run I did in them was after I finished my Spudman triathlon, drove 8 hours home and ran the next morning.  The shoes felt so nautral and right that I kept forgetting that I was supposed to be paying attention to them in order to review them.

Honestly, if "never once thought about my feet" is the worst thing that gets said about a pair of shoes, then you have got yourself a winner. And that would be about the worst I could say about these shoes. They hugged my foot, yet gave it ample room.  The upper felt light and airy and when you sweat like I do, you want as much coolant as possible.  The fulcrum that Karhu has made famous has been toned down from previous models but still gives you as a runner the being-propelled feeling. I remember reading "I simply can't run slow in Karhus" and I would have to agree.

The Fluid3 are not necessarily for those who need stability as they are fitted more for neutral runners but I wouldn't be surprised if those who over-pronate a touch wouldn't find them to give them the support they need. Lots of negative in that sentence so let me clarify: these might just be for all kinds of runners. (For much more about the tech specs for the Fluid3 make sure to either click on the picture above or scoot on over to Karhu's website and read more.)

All told, it is a really solid shoe. I have already put close to 100 miles on it and plan on getting many more out of it by the time I am done.

In addition, as promised, if you use the code "SEEDANERUN" on Karhu's website, Karhu will automatically knock off 15% whopping percent from your purchase. You can also use that code at Karhu's parent site, Craft, which makes awesome running apparel as well.

This is the review that just keeps on giving! Thank me later when you are crushing new PRs in your Fluid3.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Inspiration of Terry Fox

If you don’t know who Terry Fox is—and you are a runner—I want you to Google him right now. Read up on him and then come back. I will wait.  *whistles*  Or click here.

Back already?  OK, good.

Since most of you didn’t do that, I will fill you in briefly. Terry Fox was a young Canadian who was diagnosed with cancer back in the late 1970s. He had to have his left leg removed, but it appeared that he had beaten the disease. He then decided he was going to run the entire length of Canada—on one leg—with the hopes of raising millions of dollars for cancer research. In case you missed that, he planned to run approximately 5,000 miles on one leg. Now 1980, the year Fox took on this challenge, was not exactly the Stone Ages, but running prosthetic from back then were still light years away from what they are today.

Unfortunately, Terry did not finish his run, but not because of being tired or getting injured. Outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, a coughing fit overtook Terry.  Going to the hospital, Terry soon found out the cancer had returned and was more aggressive than before. He had run 3,339 miles in 142 days (an average of 23.5 miles a day). He wouldn’t run again.

Recently, I have read a few books on Terry. I recently rewatched the ESPN 30 for 30 special on Fox called Into the Wind. (Sidenote: I am unsure if the producers of this film realized how literal the title was. When researching a cross-country run a few years ago, I talked to some noted runners who had done such a thing. I asked why virtually all the of the runs were done west to east. "Setting sun and prevailing winds at your back for 3,000 miles versus the opposite" was one answer.)  It has been nothing short of uplifting to hear what Fox did by overcoming insurmountable difficulties. Even now, more than 30 years after his death, he remains a national hero in Canada.

Terry’s goal was to raise $2 for every Canadian citizen or $44 million. When he was forced to quit his run he had raised about $1.2 million. Nevertheless, over $500 million dollars have been raised in his name, and the Terry Fox Run, which spans numerous regions and countries, is the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

All of this came from a little kid from Winnipeg. While Terry would ultimately succumb to cancer in June of 1981, his spirit lives on. That sounds cliché, but try talking about running to a Canadian and see how long you go before Terry Fox’s name comes up. With good reason, as well.

My point? Never underestimate what one person can do.