Friday, June 27, 2014

The Stupidity of Alcohol

This topic is a little off the running path but it may shock you to know I have a life outside of running.


Nevertheless, what I am about to talk about is often tied to many sports and running is definitely not immune. The subject is Alcohol.

Runners, by and large, seem to like to drink alcohol a fair amount. Its appeal is lost on me, however.  I don't fully understand why people who work so hard to rely on their bodies to perform optimally like to take in a substance which is simply bad for them. While I am a teetotaler, I have at least given it a shot. Therefore, my opinion can't be dismissed as easily as some who dismiss views on children if you don't have any or views on women if you aren't one. You see, I drank for a few years once I became legal to do so and then basically lost all interest.

Now, I’d like to say I plan to never drink alcohol again. I’d like to say I am doing it for my health alone and am taking a stand against alcohol. But that’s not the case; at least it isn’t the reason I haven’t had a drop in 15 years. No, I stopped ordering beer and its ilk because I simply didn’t like the taste of the stuff. I deserve no parades and no “good for you”s. It’s easy to not do things you don’t enjoy. 

But lots of people do things they don’t necessarily enjoy because of social pressure. Or they make excuses for drinking (e.g., “I’m not a drinker; I only drink when I am in social settings” holds as much water as “I’m not gay; I only sleep with men when I am in San Francisco.”) I used to drink alcohol as I assumed it was an acquired taste. You know, one you have to slide into gradually. I didn’t care that anyone else was drinking and was rather immune to social norms of drinking. But I did assume that perhaps it took refinement; or the right drink; or atmosphere. Then I realized all of that is moronic. Why should I imbibe in something that I don’t enjoy when there are many things to drink that I do enjoy? Like water. Or Diet Mountain Dew? (The line forms to the left to tell me that that drink isn't good for me.)

I did think that perhaps I hadn’t tried enough different alcohols. So I tried more. All kinds. I have had just about everything out there and nothing even remotely is appealing to me. You can fruity it up all you want but if you like those flavors, then just drink something with those flavors that isn't alcohol. 

So, a few months of not having an alcohol turned into a few years which turned into a decade and a half. I realized that in my recently acquired 39th year of life (you didn’t even send a card, you freaking lush), I had consumed alcohol for approximately a period of two years. Then I realized I liked less than just the flavor.
The culture surrounding any particular drink (and each one seems to have its own) didn’t fit me. I didn’t have things in common with those who liked to drink. More correctly, I did not have things in common with those who drank when they were drinking.

The excuses which alcohol provides people for ridiculous behavior, bad communication skills, and a litany of other things I find laughable. If I wouldn’t put up with that behavior from you when you are sober, I’m not going to do it because you voluntarily took a drug that makes you think you can do it now.  Heck, I can barely stand most people who are not impaired. Throw in alcohol and imagine how annoying that must be. 

But I ask friends what they did the previous night and they explain they went somewhere. The place was usually irrelevant as the focus of the evening was what they were drinking. The locale didn’t have to be excited because they were downing a depressant. The conversation was mostly sophomoric and without merit. They didn’t actually do anything at all. They drank. Remove the alcohol and what they actually did was mundane. But they had the time of their lives!

This dislike of the drink and the culture is not discriminatory towards certain drinks. Whether it is barflys in a local pub or insufferable oenophiles swishing a particular pinot around to let it breathe (even though they can’t tell a red wine from a white wine), each have their own peccadilloes which I thoroughly enjoy avoiding.

And so should you.  Think of all the deaths (over 10,000 in 2012 from DUIs alone), suffering, fights, domestic abuse (both genders) and every horrible thing which are a byproduct from alcohol.   

It distorts truth. Ben Franklin never said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  In fact, Ben was actually talking about rain. His full quote is “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” But that won’t fit on a snappy t-shirt.

This hasn’t even touched on how horrific alcohol is on your body. Liver damage, cancer, toxic all-around. Yeah, let’s throw back a few more of those! 

When I mentioned I was writing this article to a friend, she said that she had never seen anything remotely like it. She assumed that she was one in a million who didn’t like alcohol, didn’t want to drink it, and something was wrong with her. I assured her she was far from alone.

Now, I know this won't sit well with all people and I am not saying you can't have a drink. Or that there are no good side effects which may be beneficial, as some studies seem to say. But it is not like you couldn't get those side effects from something else that isn't alcohol. 

In the end, the point is all about doing what you enjoy best which benefits you the most. Everything we do is a cost-benefit analysis. I have just done the math and realize that subtracting alcohol from my life gives me the correct equation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 10th Edition 
129.9 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Run
Place: Dexter, OR
Miles from home: 135
Weather: 70s; bright sun


That is the sound someone makes when right as they are about to upload 30 different lap splits to their computer they delete them instead.  That might make this recap a little shorter.

The Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Race (and 12 and 24 hour versions) all took place around a 1(ish) mile trail in the Elijah Bristow State park just a little south and east of Eugene, OR. Mostly shaded crossing within feet of refreshing river/reservoir/babbling brook. (If there had been a little easier access to the water I am sure I would have jumped in it at some point! ) A first time event, with a grand total of about 40 athletes, it was nonetheless very well-run, both literally and figuratively.

The set-up was simple: with one aid station containing a large assortment of beverages and foods (standard fare for an ultra), runners would run around a forgiving trail for a designated time in order to see how far they go.  If it appeared they would not finish a complete lap, they were giving a marker to drop when they heard an airhorn so that their exact distance could be measured.

My plan for the day was to take part in the 6 hour event but to do so in basically two separate runs.  By this I mean I planned on running for ~20 miles, breaking, then running again after ~90 minutes of break time to see how much further I could get.  the purpose of this was to have two hard runs in one day, both of distances I normally don't run without competition.  The break was designed to give me enough rest so that I could indeed run hard for both runs and I wouldn't be doing the death shuffle at the end, more or less walking miles to pad my total.

As the day of the race drew nigh, and the weather looked a bit warm, my plan seemed to be a brilliant one. I decided that in my downtime, I would leave the park, go back to my hotel, shower, pack my stuff, eat something and then come back ready and refreshed to run again. I am pleased to say that this idea worked like gangbusters and was similar to something I did for another 6 hour run last December.

At the start, three runners shot out of the blocks.  One, Joe Uhan, I had met a few months prior and has a 16 hour Western States finish to his credit.  Another, Beverly Anderson-Abbs is a Canadian national record holder.  The third I did not know but was happy to let go as well. I had no intention to compete with any of them regardless of what race they were running (all started at the same 9 a.m. start time. Personally, while I like sleeping in, a few less hours in the heat of the day would have been appreciated.) Before the lap was over another female runner slipped ahead of me, got about ten yards in front and there we would stay for the next four miles.

My mile splits were roughly in the 7:30 range which felt good but definitely were earned.  While the loop was virtually flat, it was definitely not road racing.  As soft trail, with oodles of twists and turns and small rises a few times, does not a fast course make, especially when this is what you hit every single mile. There was a good .25 of a mile on pavement that looped runners out of the forest and into the checkpoint every mile that I absolutely loved. After I passed the female runner in front of me (Emily) I spent the next 16 miles basically setting my own pace.  It was a pace that got faster virtually every mile and felt good along the way.

In spite massive amounts of preparation to keep my body properly lubed (I did not want another disastrous chafing incident like what happened at the Windermere Marathon earlier this month) I could feel I was still eating through the protection I had been using.  I could not have been more happy to be stopping at 20 miles, if, for nothing else, to shower and relube.

When I did take this break, the temperature was already 70 degrees and the partly cloudy day the forecast had called for was rapidly dissipating. The trail itself was mostly shaded which gave us a great respite from the sun, but it was far from a cool day.

I hustled to my car to make the 20 minute drive to the hotel.  Pulling up, I saw a McDonald's right next door.  I slipped in through the drive-thru, grabbed a Dr. Pepper and a triple Cheeseburger and devoured both. By the time I was in my hotel room, they were gone.  A quick showering, tending to my wounds and redressing had me grabbing my bags and putting them into the car. Twenty minutes of driving back to the race and an hour and a half had passed. I did some spot-lubing, drank a big glass of water and started running again.

The first few laps were almost a minute slower than what I had averaged for the first 20 miles. I could see that I was not going to get 15 miles in for the second run of the day, as originally planned. Rather, it looked like I might get 13 and I would be happy with that.

I saw that Joe, the leader who had lapped me barely a hour into the run, had stopped at 26 miles and was manning part of the aid station. Some of the other 6 hour runners looked like they were definitely hurting in the heat. I continued to pat myself on the back as I passed them, knowing I assuredly would have looked even worse if I had stayed.

The trail actually looked different with the sun shining in certain places where it has been overcast previously.  What an interesting perspective light gives to something you thought you were intimately familiar with.

There were, by my count, three small "hills" to deal with each loop. The most steep was right before the runnable road section.  My goal was to not walk up any of these hills, especially the hard one before the road. While many were doing just that in the later stages of the  six hours (and if I had to do another 6 or 12 hours I would have too!), I pleased myself by not once in 30 laps, walking the stupid hill.  But boy did I want to.

When I hit that 30th lap, I knew I had a 50k+.  I had about just enough time in the event to run two more laps, if I averaged like 7:00 per mile. I didn't have that in me. Plus there was no real point. I had come to do what I planned to do and tacking on two more miles would add nothing to the experiment/experience.

If you remove the time I spent high-tailing it to the hotel and back, I was able to complete those 31.5 miles in 4:09. That equals a 7:54 mile which is not too shabby for a training run. I was pleased.

All told this gave me a 81 mile training week.  That is far and away the most miles I have run in a week in 2014. Granted, I have always said that it is what is in the miles that matters more than how many of them there are, but this week it was both.  This was one of the easiest 80 mile weeks I have done.  Throw in the fact that I had to take extended time off to help try and heal the leg issue which stemmed from my bike crash in 2012 and I was elated.  I am not out of the woods just yet. I know the leg/back still require work.  But considering I ran all of 111 miles in the entire month of April, running 81 in one week was a huge victory.
The rest of this summer will be more of the same as I try to run a great amount of high quality miles as I run and race my way back into shape.

Was cool to see bestie Shannon knock out another long training run less than a week after doing a marathon.  all in prep for what is going to be a disgustingly hot 50 miler in Oklahoma on the 4th of July. No thank you!

Kudos to the organizers of the Elijah Bristow series of races for putting a great first year event. Every one of the racers I had the chance t o speak to seem very friendly as well. You might be tired and worn out but it is amazing how you can almost always say "Good job" to someone who has lapped you numerous times.  Even more impressive is when you say it and mean it.

The course was far from tough but don't let the fact that it was virtually flat make you think that it won't behoove you to do some trail running in preparation. Even on what was essentially a buttery smooth trail, the difference between trail running and road running is like comparing apples and rhinoceroses. (Rhinocerii?) But for events of this nature I would give it high marks.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why You Should Date a Guy Who Runs

On many occasions I have met a couple where one was an active runner and the other was merely their athletic supporter. I always wondered how these runners and non-runners could co-exist so peacefully until I thought about all the positives of dating a runner.  So, I thought I would list a few of the pros of dating a guy who just happens to run.

1. Eat all you want

Not only will he never notice but there is virtually no chance you will ever out eat him. Also, he will be too busy cramming lots of food in his mouth to mention it even if you do. He probably will just high-five you.

2. You don't ever have to wear makeup/get dolled up

But if you do, it will knock his socks off.  If you happen to be a runner as well, he will be quite used to seeing you sweaty, with messy hair, no makeup and panting at the end of a run.  Chances are he probably even likes you more that way in the first place.


3. The legs

So many fellas who hit the gym concentrate on the beach muscles: chest, arms, back.  Runner guys not only have great legs but they usually have a nice ass as well. Good luck finding those with Big McLargeHuge from the gym.

4. Pedicures are not seen as frivolous

In fact, we probably will join you for one, especially after a long hard race. We understand how nice it is to get a foot rub and let's be honest, that is half the reason you get your nails done in the first place.

5. Trips to fun places

Sure the guy might not be up for much because they have a race to run but while they are killing themselves on race day, you get to take in the sights of whatever random place in the world this race takes place in. He will probably also be able to scout out all the restaurants, places to sight-see later and lots of neat side excursions on his runs through town.  These are places a guidebook would never be able to tell you and now you have your own personal tour guide!

6. You will become a runner (if you aren't one already)

You can't be around that sort of excitement of racing without catching the bug yourself eventually.  Then, your health improves, your mood gets better and now you get to go on running dates and experiences those aforementioned trips in a brand new way. You will then be bonding with this guy in the way he probably has been secretly plotting for you to bond with him anyway. (runners like runners, natch.)

7. Running = sex god

OK, maybe not that far but running is an endurance sport. All the other jocks who see running as a punishment partially do so because their cardiovascular system is in shambles. How many times have you heard that runner fella say he was going to go run an easy 8 miler? Yeah, he has stamina.

8. We are just good guys.

Runners are, by and large, some of the most intelligent, caring, giving subset of the population (this goes for both genders.) You have to look hard to find one who is a jerk. While not everyone is a diamond, isn't it nice to at least be looking in the jewelry store?

You know, I was going to come up with ten reasons but then I realized if I hurry up and get this run in, I will be in a great mood and ready for a good nap and/or cuddle.

(Oooh, there's 9 and 10 right there!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

St. Gregory's Track and Field Coach Fired for Worst Offense Ever: Running

If you haven’t already read this, get ready to do one of those head shakes and rub your eyes maneuvers from the cartoons.  A track and field coach was essentially fired…for running.

Last month, Matt Aguero was terminated as the head track and cross country coach of St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla. To give you the full breadth of what has happened, I would suggest you read Jon Gugala’s excellent article on what went down.  But basically, Aguero was fired because the athletic director of St. Gregory’s University, Jeff Potter, did not like that Aguero ran the Boston Marathon against his opinion. Not his decree. Not university policy.  But his opinion.

If you are already getting the feeling that Potter has the vacant start of a middle manager out of touch with the real world and has all the charm of Lumbergh from Office Space, we are on the same page. Somehow, in Potter’s convoluted view, a track and field coach does not actually enhance his standing, or even stand pat, by running the world’s most famous race.  No, by doing so, he says there is “an innate selfishness to some degree” where this could interfere with the coaching.

I will agree that outside interests could interfere with any occupation. Yet, we often praise the NFL coaches who basically eschew their wife and kids to spend many sleepless nights in the office, devising the newest ways to confound Peyton Manning. Just think how much these coaches could get done though, if eating food, drinking water and sleeping were given up! There are countless distractions like this which selfish coaches like Aguero do which really cut into the time they could be coaching. *insert intense sarcasm*

All kidding aside, if outside distractions have a severe impact job performance, there is really little argument against ending employment, especially if those distractions are chosen by the one being fired.  If you have a drug habit or an affinity to spend nights with hookers or a plethora of unsavory things, they might make you a worse employee. However, showing the runners you are coaching that you not only can run (Aguero ran a 2:35 at Boston, by the by) but also fit it into your schedule could be nothing but positive. Aguero did just that.

He had a meet the Friday and Saturday before Boston.  He then flew to Boston on Sunday, ran the marathon and was back Monday night.  How many days did he miss of work or track practice? Well, let me get my abacus out because sometimes this math thing can be hard.  OK, here it is.  It was zero. Aguero missed not one single day of anything. You see, St. Gregory’s was closed for the Easter Holiday and not only was there no track practice, the entire campus was shut down. In fact, even the class Aguero teaches only takes place in the Fall. There was no reason whatsoever for Aguero to be anywhere he did not want to be.

The problem here, if you look a little further, is that something sorta rotten is afoot. I had the opportunity to speak with Aguero and wanted to clarify some things which I was just dumbfounded by. I am speaking about the French athlete, Vivien Majorel, who took fifth this year at nationals in the 800 meters. Soon after, Marjorel’s grandfather was near death’s door and Marjorel left for two weeks (one before and after their Spring Break) to spend time with him. Potter chastised Aguero for not making his athlete return sooner from burying his grandfather. In the audio, Potter makes a point of stating that they did not know how close Marjorel was to his grandfather, as if there is a scale on the back of those green notebooks we had as a child that says how close you are to dying relatives equals the amount of days you get to grieve.  E.g.  If you went fishing with your grandfather as a child that equals three hogsheads which equals 10 days of bereavement.

Potter says with disdain in the audio provided in the Gugala article; “It’s a grandfather” almost spitting out the last word.

Aguero says, almost in disbelief to the HR person in the audio: “That’s the statement he made to me.  It’s a grandfather.  No one knows the relationship someone has with a grandfather.”

The audio goes on to paint a picture that I hate to say but it is what it immediately struck me as: xenophobic. How dare that French kid spend time with his family. This university took a chance on him and this is the thanks we get? I wonder if the kid in question had been a local farm boy whose Pappy what Potter’s reaction would have been. Which leads me to the conclusion I didn’t want to draw but has almost been forced on me by Potter’s own actions and words.

Aguero is the only non-white head coach at the university.

I am not saying Potter is racist. I am saying that this entire discussion throughout the audio smacks of nothing but good old boy favoritism and “You ain’t from around here, are ya?” But why else would Potter, himself a track coach at one point, think that running the Boston Marathon and having leniency for those who have lost loved ones, be bad traits for a coach?  It certainly wasn’t Aguero’s record as a coach. In Aguero’s first year he exceeded Potter’s goal for recruiting athletes. One of those athletes, marathoner Monika Kalicinska, won an NAIA championship in May 2013 at the end of their first school year as a program. (St. Gregory’s lost their track program in 2008 and hired Aguero to help bring it back.)

Throughout the audio on the tape and my own conversations with this 34 year old, who spent 6 years coaching at Cameron University, I got nothing from Aguero but a person who has respect for the rules, the sport and his athletes. The thing I get from Potter is that he laid out an arbitrary opinion, didn’t like that it wasn’t followed and decided to throw the power he had around to show that.  We have all dealt with people like this. Personally, I was once asked to do a speaking gig but apparently it wasn’t cleared by everyone involved. It went over like gangbusters but the highest on the ladder didn’t like he wasn’t consulted. The end result, I wasn’t invited to speak again in spite of those on the panel and those in the audience showing dismay at my “ejection”.  But it didn’t matter because the person at the top had an opinion. Facts be damned.

Without a doubt, Aguero was wrongfully terminated. I am unsure exactly what his next move is but I hope it is not to go back to work under Potter. There is no question Potter would trump up another charge and maybe end his career for good.  As such, if there is anyone out there, countrywide looking for a new coach (Aguero has no problem going anywhere to continue his coaching career) I would highly suggest you get in touch with Aguero.

He’s the kind of coach I would want directing me.

UPDATE 7/15/14:  AD Potter has resigned.

UPDATE 07/21/i4: Aguero Hired at Oklahoma City University

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Windermere Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 9th Edition 
98.4 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Windermere Marathon
Place: Spokane, WA
Miles from home: 360
Weather: 70s; bright sun

No one goes into a race hoping that when they come to the end of it that they have to put a positive spin on What they accomplished. Moral victories suck for the most part. But after a rather disastrous race at the Windermere Marathon, spinning is what the order of the day. However, to shake up my normal format for writing race recaps, I am going to tackle this weekend from some different angles. I know many read my recaps looking for insight into a race, so I will try to provide that here. First off, I will start with the cons of the Windermere Marathon, which I can really only think of two.

(EDIT:  Use "DANE" to save $5 off your registration for 2016!)

1. I hate the name. Windermere is a real estate company and I am sure they are a fine company indeed. However, a race that is nothing but a sponsor’s name leaves the race with no real identity. Even the ‘in-bed-with-USATF-until-2040 Nike’ has the sense to call their race in San Francisco the Nike Women’s Marathon. Again, no insult meant to Windermere but at least throw a Spokane in there somewhere. It's a great town and should be represented. (Which I know it is with the much smaller Spokane Marathon in the fall, but still.)

2. The race is not nearly as downhill or flat as one can be led to believed. There are a great deal of small rises in this race and a variety of medium rises as well.  Plus, and I have said this about many races (including my personal best race) I do not like running on a bike path. Constant twisting and turning and undulations even in the matter of mere feet make for a tough go for some.  And by "some" I mean at least "me" and this is my recap so that is the con you are left with.

Two other complaints I have are more exact day specific but I would like to get them out of the way as well.  Coming into the race the temperatures were known to be much higher than desired for many runners and also higher than normal. While the race did an excellent job of having a plethora of aid stations on the course (one virtually every other mile) they did not keep them adequately stocked with cold drinks.  The only thing worse than not having any liquid is reaching an oasis and being handed a lukewarm drink. This can be remedied in a number of ways. First, instructing volunteers that there is no need to have a hundred cups already filled with liquid and sitting in the sun (especially for a race with ~400 marathoners) will keep the liquids be as cold as possible as long as possible.  There would never be a time when a rush of that many cups would be needed.

Second, ice. LOTS of ice.  Then bring more ice.

My other complaint I will save for a minute as I want to get to the pros of this race, which there are many.
First, the volunteers were plenty and extremely nice as well as encouraging. While there were stretches of long loneliness on the course, where there were spectators they were loud and boisterous in their support.
The vast majority of the race was marked with these little yellow arrows that were rather ubiquitous. It would be very hard to get lost on this course, even if the volunteers were not exceptionally good at keeping one running in the right direction.

The course itself, even with the above bike trail I do not like, spent many a mile wandering next to the Spokane River.  Under a canopy of trees in many places, this trail really was something special to behold.  Well over half of the race is on this trail and I can see the allure. It is quite beautiful.

While I said I did not like the name of the race "Windermere" at least sounds a little regal.  At least it was not the Marathon or something like that. In addition, the mile markers looked like House for sale signs which I thought was a nice touch.

The race started in the town of Liberty Lake and many of the locals of this small community outside of Spokane came out to cheer us on, including the Mayor himself. (On a sidenote, my favorite fact of the day is that Liberty Lake was named after an Etienne Edward Laliberte (a French Canadian-1871), who later changed his name to Steve Liberty. I can’t think of a more made up sounding name than “Steve Liberty” and will be using it in stories henceforth.) This leads to the beginning and essentially the end of my race, all in one.

Being a point to point race (which all runners understand but in reality is a misnomer; all races go from one point to another) this meant runners had to find their way to the start somehow. The race was gracious enough to provide transportation for runners from either the finish or one of a variety of sponsoring hotels. However, while the intention was well-meaning the execution left a little to be desired.

As I sat, a few miles away, with my best friend Shannon and a handful of other runners at one of these hotels 15 minutes before the start, we were all but assured our shuttle was not coming to pick us up. One of the runners rousted her sister from her slumber and with about 14 traffic laws being broken crammed seven of us into an SUV and headed toward the start.  Kinda.

One of the passengers was well-meaning in that they thought they knew where the race started.  While I did know where it started, I assumed the direction they were taking us was one that was maybe not the way one would go by foot (I had originally “worst case scenario” the situation earlier and found out how to hoof it from the hotel) but the way a car would go. I soon realized they were mistaken about the starting location. I took over and began directing.

As we approached the starting locale we could see that no runners were on the course yet even though it was 5 minutes past the 7 a.m. start time.  This was, as first, a welcoming thought. Even though the race was chip timed, none of us wanted to be chasing down groups of people.  As we drew even closer we could see a traffic blockade and a large slew of runners ahead. We piled out of the car as one volunteer said “No problem! They haven’t started yet.” Our driver then took the car away as we raced the few blocks to the start.  That was entirely unnecessary. You see, the race was waiting for the last few shuttles to arrive.  While I never found out if the one which was late arriving to my hotel was one of those shuttles, let’s just say I was both relieved and a little peeved at the same time.

The forecast called for a very warm day. I do not like warm days for races. EVER. My number one recommendation for this race would be to start it no later than 6 a.m. There might be days when it is a little colder but the trade off on days like this is incalculable. When we finally did begin the race, it was 30 minutes past the start time and already in the 60s with not a cloud in the sky. Oh well.

This late start, warm weather, and my general lack of being in shape lately made the first few miles of the race rather perplexing for me.  My hopes were to stick to a nice 7:15 pace for a 3:10 for the day. After four miles, including me purposefully pulling back on the throttle and encountering the biggest hill on the race by far, I was still under three hour pace (or a 6:52 mile.)

Normally, when I hear people who haven’t run more than a few marathons say they were “on pace” for a finish time at 4 miles in, I roll my eyes. It matters little what pace you were on barely 16% into a race. However, I have a little more experience in this genre and when I tell you I felt controlled, I did.  And it felt good. It felt easy. It felt like I was going to slow. Too bad that wouldn’t last.

After a jaunt through Liberty Lake and a little hop onto a city street for a mile we finally headed toward the bike trail. Not before we ran through a little section of cottages that were as cute as a button. One runner remarked that they looked like something directly out of the 60s and Levittown-esque.  (OK, the history nerd writing this added "Levittown-esque" but you get the point.) Before getting to the bike trail, we also ran right past the hotel I had nervously been shuttle watching at about an hour earlier. This gave me a chuckle.

A quick bathroom break had allowed me to check on my hydration levels and I felt good.  It would be, unfortunately, the last time that would happen for many hours.  Even after realizing a sub-3 wasn’t going to happen today and backing off substantially, a 3:05 seemed to be easily in my wheelhouse. More than a few runners who had shot out of the gate like a rocket were coming back into my sights. I figured I would easily get a top 10 finish and a solid backbone for the remainder of the year’s training. Even when I had one runner pass me at mile 10 and his comment of “Only 16 more miles” really got to me, I assumed I would be OK.

Unfortunately, within another mile or two I began to feel some wear and tear.  I backed off the throttle some more knowing all I wanted was something, anything, under 3:10. I didn’t care how far under exactly. In fact, after reaching the halfway point and feeling that I was chafing in an untoward way I spent more than a few seconds at the first aid station reapplying lubricant. I am sure it “helped” but not the way I would want.
The rest of the race can be broken down into two parts

1. The part where I continued to run fairly well, even slowing a bit more as the heat crept up, accepting that I might actually run a 3:10-3:13
2. The part where my body shut down completely and I wondered if this would be the first marathon I did not finish.

While I champion the fact that a DNF sometimes means Do Nothing Foolish, one thing I really don’t ever want to do is DNF a marathon.  However, as I sat on a park bench, at approximately 23.5, I thought this might be my first.  But then I realized there was no one who was going to come get me on this park bench, I was exposed to the sun and the only place there was going to be shade, liquids and hopefully some medical attention was at the end.

So I pulled myself together the best I could and began a shuffle.  I could run for about 100 yards before reduced to either walking or standing.  A few dry heaves and full on vomits followed and even my resolve which I thought was iron in the last few miles was having havoc wreaked upon it. Shuffling like a zombie I could only focus on that tree. Then that bump in the trail. Then that building up there. Seven minute miles became 12 minute miles. But I was moving forward. (The wavy line is not my salute to Guglielmo Marconi but rather my walk, jog, stop pattern of the last few miles.)

Finally, with about ¾ off a mile to go I found a pace I could get strolling at again.  I even briefly ran some low 7 minute miles again. I was finally in that horse smelling the barn zone that I can usually place myself in no matter how tired or sore I am.  It took much longer this time.

As I pushed across the final bridge, I was repugnantly aware of how many beautiful sights I had missed because I was focusing only on survival. I crossed over the finish in 3:30:56, good enough for 35th place overall. No less than 20 people had passed me in the last two miles. I took a few steps, had my medal placed around my neck by a Marine and then collapsed in the shade under a refreshment table. One runner who knew who I was (but unfortunately I do not know him) gave me an ice cold water. That revived me enough to be able to speak to the medical team which came over to help me a few minutes later. I am not going to go into a blow-by-blow of my foray into the medical tent and sundry other places but suffice it to say I was wrecked for nearly 90 minutes.  Only when, serendipitously, Lisa the girl whose car got us to the starting line in the first place, handed me some chicken broth, could I stop the downward spiral caused by dehydration, salt loss, etc.

Once again human, I was able to make it to the finish to cheer on all the other runners and wait for Shannon. She too was rocked hard by the heat and coming to many of the same realizations I had come to, decided to eschew the DNF in favor of walking to the finish.  Unfortunately for her, she walking was most of the last 10k or more.

All told there is potential here for a splendid race. Even through the disappointment, chafing (I honestly wish I could show you pictures to fully illustrate what pain I am in now) and heat exhaustion I can tell there is a great deal here that runners would like to be a part of.  I greatly appreciate that the race had me in as a guest and do hope that all those involved realize they have the makings of something special here.

It is just too bad we can’t control the weather.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SKINS Compression Clothing

A little history for you here.

My father was crippled in a hunting accident right before I was born. Complications from numerous surgeries and sundry other events led to massive problems with his legs and their circulation. Then diabetes set in. Growing up, I saw he was often wearing compression socks to help with the blood flow through his legs. If I had been a runner during that time, I might have drawn the connection between what the socks did for my father's legs and what they would do for a runner recovering from a strenuous workout.

When I first saw compression socks a few years later, I thought they were just throwbacks to the 1970s and wondered if runners would soon be wearing disco rollerskates as well.  Since that wrongful first impression I have tried a variety of compression clothing and one I really enjoy is one that many runners know very well- SKINS.

For those who do not know about compression clothing, the purpose of the product is to improve oxygen delivery to muscles, speed lactic acid removal and stabilize the lower leg for greater muscle efficiency.  But do they help race performance?

In the interest of full disclosure, studies have been mixed with regards to actual running performance.  However, those same studies reveal runners have a faster lactate recovery rate after exercise when wearing the compression socks than those who do not. But anyone can read studies and when I posted a recent picture of me wearing SKINS during the Whidbey Island Marathon and was asked how they worked for me
by a number of people, I felt my experiences could be shared.

First and foremost, when it comes to traveling and running, I am definitely well-versed in the area.  I spend way too much time immediately after racing neither taking ice baths or stretching (things I probably would not do anyway) but rather cramming my 6'1'' frame into planes built for people not 6'1''. Tight legs?  Check!  Sore muscles?  Double check!  I am like a walking experiment for whether compression clothing works for recovery. And without a doubt, I no longer get on a plane without wearing my SKINS gear.

With regard to whether the products work during racing itself, I feel it depends greatly on the race you are participating in. I do enjoy the way the clothing provides support for the muscles and in cases where the weather might be a little cool, the shirts keep the chill at bay.

I would highly recommend SKINS compression gear to anyone as it is not only highly functional but quite stylish as well. There is nothing wrong with wanting to both feel good and look like an X-Men!

That is why I am honored to be a new member of the SKINS team as one of their featured athletes.