Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bix 7 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 12th Edition 
143.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Bix 7
Place: Davenport, IA
Miles from home: 1953 miles
Weather: 70s; bright sun; humid

At the beginning of this month I took on the Peachtree Road Race-a 10k on the fourth of July in Atlanta in its 45th year. Drawing nearly 60,000 people it is more an event than a race. Closing out July, I ventured to Davenport, IA to an area I am quite familiar with to tackle the hills of the Bix. This one-of-a-kind 7 miler, itself in its 40th year of running with nearly 18,000 runners, follows much of the same format as Peachtree, in so much that a lot of the runners are there for the show. While the Peachtree owes much of its existence to Jeff Galloway, the Bix has both Joan Benoit Samuleson and Bill Rodgers to thank for flourishing as it has.

Quick history lesson: When the 1980 Olympic Games were boycotted by the US, Bill Rodgers instead decided to go to Davenport to compete.  Soon thereafter Joan followed suit and the two have been mainstays ever since. Now the largest non-marathon event in the Mid-west, it is a race of tradition, hills and Slip N Slides (stay tunned.)

My own race experience is of little consequence. I am out of running shape. I am also not a short distance runner even if I was in the sort of running shape I wanted to be in, which I am acutely aware is relatively fast at best.  In addition, a 12 hour (!) expo had me at the Swirlgear booth on my feet for a long period of time.  If you have ever worked an expo and tried to race it is like competing in the Iditarod. However, as the first ever speaker the Bix has had at their expo, I live by what I speak. Whatever you have on that day, give it. If you do, you should never be disappointed.

This is of course, flowery language that any competitor, myself included, can scoff at and ignore. I can always be disappointed. I certainly gave just about everything I had on this day and found myself not even remotely close to happy to with the end result. In fact, about 14 seconds is all that kept me from being downright disenchanted with my running. However, let me get to a little course description before I go much deeper.

The Bix is known for Brady Street Hill. Runners barely run a block before they begin charging up a quarter mile long hill. This sort of incline is tough enough as it is but coming right at the start before you can even get warmed up makes it more difficult. Having a huge crowd around you makes it even worse.

**Here I am going to take a small sidestep from the course description to talk about placement of yourself in a race. I started fairly far up in my corral, based on a time I submitted which wasn’t too far off my actual finish time. Yet, within yards, I found myself running up the backs of people who absolutely obviously did not belong there. Runners, this is my impassioned plea: you know where you should be in a race. Please not only do yourself the favor of not having hundreds, if not thousands, of runners pass you, which is disheartening in and of itself, but also dangerous to the runners around you, by putting yourself in the right place.

About 100 yards into the race, runners pass underneath some scaffolding. I am unsure who was on the megaphone but a deep voice boomed: “Runners, if you are passing under me right now, you have virtually no chance of winning the Bix.”  It caused a hearty laugh amongst many of us as it was 100% true. Barely 20 seconds into the race and we knew it would take a series of incalculable miracles for any of us to cross the finish line first. Now that doesn’t mean our own goals are not important, regardless of our pace, but as important as they are, they do not supersede the group collective of the running body. I cannot tell you how often I have begged and pleaded with my fellow runners to do what they can to be courteous. Runners are known by many (most other runners) as the nicest people. Well, we can also be courteous too if we line up where we ought to. I wasn’t even racing per se and I was beyond perturbed at my fellow runners. Working together means we all win in the end.

This was a very long aside but it absolutely needed to be said. Back to your usual race recap**

As often is the case with a race with a signature feature for which it is known, it is other portions of the race which can be more taxing. After the Brady Street Hill, those running the seven mile race see those running the Quick Bix, a 2 mile race where runners crest Brady Street, turn around and head back toward the finish, branch off. A block later, the Seveners (I just made that up) turn down Kirkwood Boulevard. A runner at my pace (6-7 minute miles) will experience their first breath of elbow room right around this turn, just as the boulevard narrows a tad with a tree-lined median. Here is where the neighborhood occupants come out to play.

This particular race day it was far from as blistering as it could be.  It was in the low 70s at the start with the sun blocked by some haze. It wasn’t good conditions, it just wasn’t horrible. But if it had been a hot day, the people out with a variety of watering-down-the-runner contraptions were ready and waiting. As you continue down this tree-lined street, you pass under an extremely low bridge.  Only 8’8’’ tall, competitors can and do jump up to hit the pieces of plastic that hang down to warn you that “Truck that hit Tubes will hit Bridge.”

Down a hill competitors run before two quick turns have them mounting a hill with a worse grade than the infamous Brady Street Hill.  Cresting this hill and immediately going back down it makes you realize that on this out and back course, you will be doing the same up and down in about a mile.

At the turnaround is one of at least two wet pieces of thin plastic covered in water that a local family has out for runners to have fun on.  If you chose to muddy yourself and add some time off your overall finish, head up their yard and slide back down.

Completely that, turn around right before River Drive on the banks of the Mississippi (the only place in America where this mighty river runs east-west) and head back toward the start.

My race consisted of realizing I was starting far too back, that the heat and humidity were once again going to rob me of any decent skills I had, and that even if I pushed it I would still be full minutes off what I knew I could do. So instead, I decided to run hard but have fun.

As slow as the race was for me, I was very pleased with my first mile of 7:13 given the bobbing and weaving of the aforementioned crowd and then the hill we had to conquer. I was a little less pleased with my second mile of 6:07, given the downhill nature of the run. By the time we hit the third mile I had already seen not only the elite men and women head back in the other direction, but many of the runners I could have been running with if I was in shape. That was a little disheartening but alas. When I got down to the first slip and slide, I only made a half-hearted attempt to go up the yard about ten yards before sliding down like a baseball player going into second base. I wanted to have fun but I didn’t want to treat the race like a complete joke.

After sitting at the expo for many hours and hearing everyone who had run the race previously tell me how horribly difficult the return trip home was, I had psyched myself out.  Even though I had just ran down the hills and knew what was in store, I was cautious.  Honestly, while the bump around mile 3 and then again 4 was a toughie, for the most part the rise back to Brady Street wasn’t too shabby.  In fact, I was getting my wind to me around mile 5 which shouldn’t have been a surprise. I am not a sprinter. I do well at long distances because if I have a strength it is not getting as tired as others.(If you can call that a strength, that is.)  But now I felt good. Even with the hills I had run a pair of 7:15 miles and was enjoying the day.

On the return trip back there were thousands of runners streaming in the other direction.  I heard my name on numerous occasions and through my hands up in hello with a quick “Hi!” Most of the time I couldn’t pick the friendly face out of the crowd but on occasion, eyes would lock and a smile would break out. These are friends you know, work with or will see but for some reason during a race hearing your name and seeing a friendly face gives you a boost. I somehow, out of the thousands, saw Lacie Whyte of Swirlgear who I am working with an a new book to be released this fall. (Details to come!)

Even though my time was going to be meh, I decided to have an un-meh time, if you follow my drift.  Before getting back to Brady Street, running down Kirkwood Boulevard with all the fans provided ample opportunity to high-five kids, dance to some music and, most importantly, have another go at a slip and slide.

This time a horizontal slippie in the grass median of the two lanes, I saw what looked like the most inviting slide ever. The water appeared cold and refreshing, if water has a look to it. Unlike the well-meaning people out with a spray bottle or a water hose, I had a feel a dip here would actually be beneficial. You see, when you are already drenched in liters of your own sweat, a spray bottle is laughable at best.  But the dilemma as I approached the slide was how I was going to go about this.  Did I want to chance another leg under baseball slide?  I still had more than mile to go and I really didn’t know if this area had been vetted properly by the beer-swilling crowd. What if there were rocks or sticks underneath?  So, I somehow decided that face-first was best.

Gathering up a head of steam I splooshed down the blue plastic setting off a shower of water in either direction.  As I slowed to a stop, a young lass snapped my picture with her phone. I stood up, said "Send that to!” and continued on. I am sure she had no idea what I said and since I have yet to receive the picture, it appears my words went unheard.  (Bummer.) I have a feeling it was pretty epic.

Onto Brady Street we turned and even though the start was at the end of this hill, I knew we had another half of a mile to go after it ended.  The course is not a pure out and back and therefore mileage must be tacked onto the end. I could see I could salvage some pride by running a semi-fast last mile and nail a sub-7 minute per mile average.

As I thanked the guy who passed me and said he loved my presentation (I think this might have been said to either soften the blow of him passing me or soften my spirit so I wouldn’t fight back with a kick), we turned the corner and saw the finish ahead.

Pushing a little harder than needed just to make sure I had done my math right, I hit the finish line in 48:44.  I was only 503rd overall out of over 10000 finishers. At least I snuck in under 7 minutes per mile, even if I didn’t get into the top 500. Then again, even if I had run the time I am entirely capable of, I would have barely made the top 200 and just edged out this 57 year old pixie from Maine named Joan something or other.(That's Joan Benoit Samuelson if you didn't catch it.)

Yet one of the random people I saw in the crowd was a woman by the name of Carolyn.  Carolyn was in attendance at the speech I gave on Friday and afterward came up to me almost in tears.  The gist of her story was that at age 68 she was on the fence of whether she had it in her to ever run her first marathon.  She mentioned that after hearing me speak, she decided it was now or never.  We spoke at great length and I gave her my card as I wanted to possibly make sure she stuck to her plan.  Mostly I did it because I wanted to be inspired daily by Carolyn as she chased her own dreams. I then recommended the Quad Cities Marathon in Davenport for this local as her first marathon.

Here’s hoping I see her cross the finish line soon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

CamelBak Partnership and Product Review: CamelBak Marathoner Vest

Full-disclosure: I hate wearing hydration packs, bottles or anything of the sort.

I am, for the most part, a roadracer who enjoys having water handed to him every mile. Call it pampered or lazy or what have you but it is true. So when I do find a product I like that falls into this category, it is a small miracle. Fortunately for me, I found it years ago with CamelBak.

When I attempted my first 100 miler back in 2007 (The Old dominion 100), I was wearing a CamelBak. Even though I ended up DNFing this race at mile 87, at no point was I anything but happy with the pack and CamelBak has come a LONG way in seven years. Of course, as runners, we find a product we like, it pleases us, and then for some reason we try to find something better. I flirted with a few other products but couldn't really find that same marriage of comfort, ease and design. Then I was burglarized.

Four days before Christmas a few years back my loft was broken into. I lost a great deal of important things; more important than any running gear. But in the list of times it would have been just great if the thieving meth-head bastard had not stolen were my CamelBak products. So to say I am excited to be announcing my partnership with this fantastic company would be quite the understatement.

As such, I, the quintessential wanting-nothing-on-my-body-at-all runner, will be reviewing a slew of Camelbak products and giving my honest assessment of how they work over the next few weeks. I will be starting with the newly designed CamelBak Marathoner Vest.

I took this new vest on a small run just to see how it felt initially. I also consciously made the rookie mistake of not burping the bladder so that it would slosh around inside. I wanted to see how it would perform under less than optimal conditions. Let me say it did a stellar job. But that was a 5 miler. Anything can go right for half an hour.

So I decided to take it out on a full length run of the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park here in Portland, OR. Well, that run was aborted do to the combination of a humid day in the park, my supernatural ability to sweat liquids that I haven't even drank yet, and a seam on a pair of shorts in a place where a seam should never, ever, ever be. But prior to that second degree burn from chafing (I am serious. It was bad), I put a solid 21 miles of running, fast hiking and twisting and turning through the park. The pack was simply stellar for the entire three hours.

Even jammed packed with the provisions I thought I might need for a 50k of traipsing through the forest, it felt light as a feather. The 70 ounce bladder (2 liters) was snuggly in place in the back. It sits very lightly on the shoulders and doesn’t swing around. There are two clips to hold the drinking tube along the right shoulder pad. The mesh pocket on the back can even carry an extra piece of clothing, and I almost shed my soaked shirt in the forest to put it back there. I also noticed when I took some pictures there were ample reflective bands in the front and the back of the vest. The cushioning on the pack itself was not only airy but extremely comfortable. I assumed a pack had to be one of the other, either cushy and hot or breathable but non-existent.  This married the two excellently.

Even when I was getting increasingly irritated from my chafing, and everything should have been bothering me, the pack was top-notch. When I tried to alleviate my growing "problem" I simply reached into one of the ample pockets to grab some BodyGlide. As I attempted to keep my mind off the pain, I grabbed some of the Shurky Jurky I had stashed in another pocket along with some PowerBar Gel Blasts.  I remember thinking that I had more food in here than I had eaten during my 50 miler course record at the Iron Horse 50  a few years ago.  Yet it still all seemed to be in its proper place. My camera and phone (separate items) were also in store and easily accessible. I wouldn't want to deprive you of these lovely pictures of my sweat-drenched self.

When the run left the park and I took to the city streets, I realized I had depleted all 70 ounces of water. So, I simply slid the pack off, and with CamelBak's proprietary Antidote system,  easily undid the huge screw valve and filled the bladder halfway again at water fountain I came across in town. (NW Couch and NW 18th Ave if you are curious and need one.) If there is an easier or better bladder out there than CamelBak's I haven't found it.

Simply put, I was blown away with how wonderful this pack was. Even the little things like excess straps rubbing against my arms, or swaying as I sprinted down the switchbacks did not occur. I don't know how Camelbak did it but they made this road runner enjoy a relatively large running pack. My hats off to you, guys and girls.

Quick stats:
Price: $100 (a virtual steal)
Total Weight: 1.13 lbs / 513 g
Color : Skydiver/Egret  (Or blue and silver. I speak color wheel)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eating Meat is the New (and Old) Eating Healthful

As an advocate of eating meat, I am often forwarded a slew articles by many people stating how bad meat is for you. I also get to be called some pretty horrific things by some spineless people who like to hide behind anonymous twitter names, blogs, etc. Fortunately I have thick skin. However, when another article found its way to my doorstep I wanted to take the time to respond to it.

Written by a "strong, healthy ultra endurance athlete on a 100% organic, real food, plant-based lifestyle" named Sarah Stanley, this article is entitled "Why Going Meatless Is The New Black." (Edit: Unfortunately, this article has been removed so some of my points referencing things said might be a bit confusing. Believe me, reading the article wouldn't make any more sense anyway.  Double Edit:  I found the link thanks to the people at Wyback Machine. Click here. ) Eye-rolling at the title aside, I thought I would give it a read as I like to hear opposing viewpoints. It helps me learn things or at least hear the newest ludicrousness. In addition, I have never met Ms. Stanley but I am almost positive we have exchanged an email or two as we both lived in the same neck of the woods as athletes for about four years.

Because Ms. Stanley touts her athletic record I thought I would take some time to look it up. She is a perfectly fine athlete having run a a variety of races. It did, however, take a little searching to find any of her results. Now, I am not looking up her times to belittle her. I only look up someone's race times when they want to use their results as proof for how their diet is superior. The average person doesn't know what times for marathons and the like are and as so many "can't run down the block", they don't know enough to call bullshit on someone who need it. So I found her races.

While this list is not exhaustive, it appears Ms. Stanley has a finished a 100 miler race just a hair shy of 25 hours, a 50 mile race just over 10 hours and one marathon (out of a handful over 4 hours) in 3:40. Solid times. Nothing to sneeze at. Nothing to necessary brag about as being proof of the superiority of your diet either, but there they are.

Now, I want to address each one of the points she makes in the article and if I can't disagree with her, I will say so.

1. Her first point is that it takes ~ 2,500 gallons of clean water to produce one pound of beef. Well, first off, it takes a lot of water to produce many things (I touched on a similar claim in another article here.) While I found conflicting sources (one said it takes 5000 litres to produce a kilogram of beef, which is the same as saying 590 gallons to produce one pound of beef) it appears it takes much closer to 450 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Or 1/5 what the claim was. (Just as an FYI it takes 1.1 gallons to produce ONE FREAKING ALMOND.  Look at this chart to see how much water it takes to produce tiny little things (e.g, 5.4 gallons to produce a single damn head of broccoli.) Furthermore, the stats means the amount of water used to create the food for cattle, as well as all the water a cattle drinks during its entire lifetime. It is taking into account every single aspect of water which eventually goes into cattle. So in other words, it sounds like it takes a lot of water to produce beef until you realize it takes a lot of water to produce most things. (Please note: it would take this amount of water for the cattle to simple be alive and not be turned into food as well. In fact, since they live longer if not slaughtered, they would consume more water.  But don't let that nugget get in the way of your misinformed righteousness, Ms. Stanley.)

2) Sarah's second point is so rife with error and conjecture I could write an article about every word in it but I want to keep it concise. She states that 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms. For citation she uses the ASPCA for this statistic. Of course, that particular article just says it is true with no evidence or study. It doesn't say what it is basing this statistic on. It just says it is true. So in other words it is unfounded and complete and utter bullcrap.

I do know I have been to many feed lots in the US including the biggest one in Idaho in Grand View. What I saw were healthy, happy animals with enormous amounts of land to run around in. And if there is a roof that covers 750 acres of land, I must have missed it. (See picture.)

I want to take an aside here about "hormones"  and how the usage of the word  makes so many appalled even when they have no idea why they are bothered.. Let's do a quick experiment:

Make a dot the size of a ladybug.  That is approximately how much hormones are given to a cattle prior to its slaughter. Note, however, those hormones must be completely out of its system before it is killed for food. That cow will weigh around 1400 lbs. Now take the same dot. Give it to a 140 person 21 days out of every 28. What do you have? Birth control. (Of course, Hobby Lobby will love this argument but that is not my point. And it really confuses the hell out of people when I put down both vegetarians and the religious right in the same article but there you go.)  My point is that "hormones" at least when it comes to cattle, barely exist. Stop thinking they are horrible. They keep the animals healthy and strong and give you a good end product that is healthful.

I am also not negating that 80% of the antibiotics used in America are used in Animals. It takes a great deal of antibiotics to keep a lot of animals healthy. There are nearly 90 million head of cattle in America. There are also over 2 billion (with a "b") chickens in the US. They will require more antibiotics than human just by sheer numbers. So when you say 80%, know what you are talking about.

3) Sarah then says that  most people aren't even eating "real meat". This is like when the Huffington Post says that thin women are not "real women". Yes, they are. And yes the meat is. Just stop it.

4) I have no idea what her fourth point is about other than saying life is connected. OK. I agree.

5) Her fifth point is that if you are an awful human being and must simply eat meat then make sure it is always "organic."  Most people haven't the foggiest clue what organic is.  Calling something organic does not make it wonderful. Want to know what is organic? Cancer.

6) She says there is no compelling reason to make meat the center of attraction. Other than the fact that there are a plethora of reasons, she is 100% correct. Meat, especially lean beef (here is a list of the 29 cuts of beef that are leaner than skinless chicken thigh; yes, you read that right) is low in calories, high in protein, zinc and iron, and tastes good. I think those are all good reasons.

7) According to some studies, it does appear that a vegetarian lifestyle reduces greenhouse gases, even though the amount is up for debate. That said, I have always despised the argument that we are caring for the Earth. No, we are caring for the Earth in a way that makes sure it sustains life for us oxygen-breathing creatures. I don't mean to get off-point here but the Earth will ALWAYS be fine. If we turn our atmosphere into nothing but methane, I am sure a methane-breathing creature will arise. Now I don't want to kill off the human race but let's stop with the earth-hugging. The Earth doesn't love us.  It hits us with volcanoes and earthquakes and tornadoes. The Earth is kind of a dick. But yes, there could be less greenhouse gases (possibly) if there was zero production of meat.

8) Sarah says that going meat free helps prevent cancer in spite of this report by a small college no one has heard of called Harvard Medical School that says "large amounts of red meat can produce genetic damage to colon cells in just a few weeks, but it does not prove that red meat causes cancer."   There is, however, a clear and unarguable link between alcohol and cancer and many drink away, including holier-than-thou vegetarians.

9) The next attack is on the fast food chains, Lunchables and hotdogs. OK, virtually no one eating a hot dog is doing it for health reasons. As for Lunchables, come on. Is the argument so weak that you are going after a product called "Lunchables"? And knocking fast food joints really is knocking the things that people eat that they would put on no-meat products anyway. Sauces, oils, dressing, etc. Meat is not the problem.

10) Her tenth and final point is a heart strings one. It talks about compassion. I have zero problem stating that in order to eat an animal you must kill it. There is no sugar-coating that in my life. However, I have seen the way in which these animals live and by a HUGE percentage, they live wonderful lives.

Now, will this get read as much as something that is not Sarah Stanley-approved.  God I hope so. I don't have the (quizzically) large twitter follower numbers she has but I do get around.


I (Dane) am a decently good, healthy endurance athlete on a healthy diet consisting of meats, vegetables and somewhat less healthy diet sometimes consisting of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. But I have a course record in a 50 mile race and ran 52 Marathons in a year. Proof that eating lean beef really is awesome.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shurky Jurky Partnership

If you have heard me speak about nutrition any time in the past half-decade, you will know I am a huge advocate of eating lean beef. It is healthful, tastes good and is the lifeblood of some of my most audacious of my running excursions.

It should come as no shock that I have been able to wrangle a partnership with a beef jerky company. And not just any company but that of Choice Artisan jerky, Shurky Jurky.  I met the one of the owners and creators of Shurky Jurky, Mike Shur, some time ago at a local Sunday Market here in Portland, Oregon. I like to support entrepreneurs and love me some jerky so we started a conversation.

When I told him how much I eat beef jerky during the middle of my ultras (a quick look in the trunk of my crew for my Graveyard 100 miler two years ago proves this) we got into a deeper talk. After I tried his product and loved not only the taste, but the entire idea of his company, I knew we had to work together.

So it is with great pleasure that I am announcing that Shurky Jurky is the official beef jerky of, well, me. AS such, I am helping the rest of you get your teeth on this fantastic product.  Simply use this promo code (SEEDANEMEAT50) and you will get a complimentary Small Bag of your choosing: Beef, Pork, or Turkey on your first order above $25. In addition, you will can use the same code to get a free Small Bag for every $50 you subsequently spend with Shurky Jurky.  It is the code that keeps on giving!

Now most of this doesn't matter to me much but Shurky Jurky is 100% Primal, Paleo, Gluten-free & Whole30 Compliant. If reading makes you tired click on over to this video to learn even more about this delicious and healthful product. Meanwhile, get yourself over to their page and order yourself some jerky now.  You owe your tastebuds as much.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gilbert's Syndrome and Slowing Your Roll

I’ve never been particularly impressed with myself.

I am proud of my accomplishments, I am happy for what I have achieved, and can find solace in the fact that I give as much of myself as possible in my endeavors. But whenever I have been able to accomplish anything in particular, I automatically assume that it must not be too difficult. This holds true even when no one seems to have ever done what I just got done doing. To me it seems they must have simply not had the idea yet.

I know, however, that I have done some things most people either cannot or will not attempt to accomplish. 52 Marathons in 52 weekends being one of them. There are times, particularly when I am feeling out of shape after a sub-par workout, that I have no idea how I was able to do those marathons in 2006, especially at the effort I did them (I averaged a 3:21 per marathon setting a nw personal best five times and going sub-3 in the 42nd race of the year.) Since I finished the 52, with the other events and challenges I have put myself through, I have been able to piece together parts of a puzzle to find out how it was all possible. Unfortunately, gaps still remain.

Attribute-wise I fall strongly in the above-average category for many different measurable qualities. But above-average is just about the end of it. I am not in the single digits in body fat. I am not blessed with a high Vo2 max. I don't process lactate at a rate that makes scientists scratch their heads.  But at the same time I won’t fake modesty. (There are few things that irk me more than false modesty.) I assumed that I had the intangibles that take relatively fit guys and allow them to do things relatively fit people cannot do. Then I realized I was wrong.

Recently, I found out that I have Gilbert’s Syndrome. I had known for many years that I have an extremely high bilirubin count. When I was interviewing for the CIA and went through a litany of tests including extensive bloodwork, this very high count was pointed out to me. It was very odd since most people who have such a high count are alcoholics. The problem with that hypoehtesis is that I haven't drank alcohol since 1999.  Simply can't stand the stuff. (And it is stupid to do so.)  But at least knew I had a high bilirubin count. However, as no other questions were asked of me with regard to it (or there wasn't a prevailing belief, I am guessing, that I had been on a bender the night before the bloodwork) I didn't know I had Gilbert's until recently. For the most part, having Gilbert's is not necessarily a bad thing. It isn't good but it isn't cancer.  Most don't know they have it because they do not exert themselves in a way to be affected by it.  For a long period of time, neither had I. Then I decided to start doing extreme athletic events most do not try.

For those who don't know what Gilbert's is, basically, under periods of stress my liver does not filter toxins as well as the normal person does. As such, while the normal person can move on from exercise in X amount of minutes to perform again, I take X plus some more. I can't do what other people can. Or at least, shouldn’t be able to do so. In fact, many doctors would say that someone with Gilbert’s would be unwise to tackle a marathon given how much it taxes the system of even those who are fit.


Blood work done on me after a couple of recently hard, but not all-out, effort races showed my CK levels (a chemical marker of exploded muscle cells) were that of someone who had done something much harder for much longer. The one intangible that I thought I had above others, namely being able to simply recovery faster , didn’t exist. For all intents and purposes virtually everyone should be able to do what I do better than me.


So, what’s my point? My point is not that people should be awed by what I have done. It is the exact opposite. What prompted this article was the 8 millionth reading of a blog, book, article, tumblr, tweet or snapchat of someone putting what they had done up on the impossible pedestal while placing themselves so low. That way, when the pedestal was toppled, they could be revered all the more. Or they attach titles to themselves that sound lofty but are unearned. (One female marathoner I know routinely calls herself elite when she has a 2:56 PR.  That's a solid time but it is no where close to "elite." But if I point that out, *I* am the jerk.)

Let’s not confuse my point. People should be proud of what they have done. I am the first person to stop people mid-sentence when they say they are “only” running a half-marathon this weekend. I keep them from putting themselves down because these achievements should be celebrated.  But they should be celebrated in context. In other words, there is a bit too much back-patting going on in the running world today. Plain and simply, not everyone is a winner.

It is OK not to be the best. Only one person can be anyway. There are degrees of achievement that anyone with an ounce of perspective can understand without needing to make every single accomplishment a David vs Goliath battle. If everything is the most epically amazeballs thing EV-AH then, by definition, nothing is. Funny enough, this could be seen as me telling runners to get over themselves, like Chad Stafko famously said last year (and I replied.) But that is not the case at all. Runners mostly do not need to get over themselves. They just need to get over the need to embellish.

What is ironic is that while I am not impressed with what I do, I am almost always impressed by the achievements of others, especially if I see the effort given. Effort, not talent, has always been a hallmark of what I find to be most spectacular.

So be proud and share your stories. You will inspire others. But don't feel the need to create more drama than already exists.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Peachtree Road Race Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 11th Edition 
136.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Peachtree Road Race
Place: Atlanta, GA
Miles from home: 2600
Weather: 70s; bright sun

Very few people race the Peachtree Road Race. Tens of thousands experience it.  Count me as one of the later.
In one of the most evenly egalitarian races out there, 28, 478 men finished the race and 28,693 women crossed the finish line.  Over 57,000 people and only 107.5 people in one direction kept this from being split right down the middle.

While I made my name mostly by running 52 Marathons in 52 weekends in 2006, I have always been a fan of races of all disciplines and distances. I may not be any good at all at the shorter distances races, but I do appreciate them.  I also appreciate races that do so much to incorporate the everyman runner.  Granted many races do that these days as so many “adult onset athletes” are lacing up shoes for the first time, but few races have been reaching out to the running community as a whole for as long as the Peachtree.

When the Georgia Beef Board asked me if I wished to help the promote eating lean beef and helping educate people about how healthful beef is as a protein source for all people, let alone athletes, I jumped at the chance.  As I have been working with cattle producers and those involved with the promotion of beef for four years now, it is always my pleasure to help disperse incorrect information about beef.  Most galling to me is those who love beef and almost begrudgingly admit it as those who are so vocal eating meat are so loud in spite of the small numbers they have and the facts that show most of their lamentations are without merit.

When people here that there are 29 cuts of beef that are leaner than skinless chicken thigh, the shock in their eyes is almost comical. Furthermore, learning that beef has been on my training table and also in my fueling during long distance races leaves them in a state that tells me my work is far from done. But many are not surprised and they joined me and 60,000 of our closest friends at Lenox Square on the 4th of July.

In what has to be either a record or one of the top five coolest Independence Days in Atlanta’s history, we were met with a partially cloudy 64 degree, relatively humidity-free day. Hard to ask for better weather than that in the Deep South. 

One wonders what the original 110 finishers of the first Peachtree would think about this race 40 years later.  Fortunately, many of them are still around and still running and you can just ask them. Personally, with there being only so many weekends in one’s life I have never seen the allure of running one particular race numerous times, but if you find something you like, stick with it.

No one runs the race necessary to run a fast time. Nor is it particularly scenic course.  The crowds are nice but the participants probably out number them 10 to one in most places. What makes the race so iconic and one someone must experience? That’s a hard question.  What is it about certain races out there like the Boilermaker 15k in Utica, NY or the Bix 7 miler inDavenport, IA that take root in a seemingly odd place or time and grow exponentially.  It is usually not one factor but a combination of many which makes someone just know that they “have” to run them.  Fortunately, in the 40th running of the Peachtree I am now on the tens of thousands who have done so.

My time was pedestrian. Hitting 42:32 put me squarely in the top 1000 of the race. Saying I took it easy would be a miscategorization as I took it about as hard as I could without having to work very hard, if that makes any sense. It was my slowest 10k ever, including the few I have done at the end of Olympic Distance Triathlons. But I wasn’t here to run fast, whatever that means for me. (Heck, even my PR for this distance would barely crack the top 100 and that was run on a far more forgiving course.) I was here to take in the event, see what it was about and grasp why all these people deal with the potentially logistical nightmare of running a point-to-point race on a national holiday.

What I found was continuity. People enjoyed running this race so many times because it is the same. They know that they will run through Atlanta on the fourth of July and then go about their day.  They don’t care if it is hot (usually), humid (mostly), or hilly (always).  They want to know that as many things change in this world, this race will stay the same. Well, maybe it will get a little bigger and they a little slower. 

But they can accept that.