Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hydration Plan B: Training Run Testing

Regarding marathon hydration, it seems my lack of coordination makes taking water from aid stations and consuming it without stopping impossible. I either spill it out of the cup, dump most of it on my face and chest (an unsightly wet t-shirt contest consisting of one dude), or get so little it’s not worth my while. So, I have developed two possible alternatives to address my hydration difficulties during the marathon.

As some background, during my long runs I place these wonderful 8oz Ice Mountain water bottles on my course. They come with a very convenient twist top that makes water consumption extra easy.

Possible Alternative Hydration—Alpha Plan (PAHAP) [please not this awesome acronym is also a palindrome] involves carrying cone shaped paper cups with the ‘v’ portion of the cup cut off. Said cone shaped cups will be turned upside down on the top of the marathon cup (which the kind organizers at Bayshore have already informed me are 7oz cups) to form a water consumption device da Vinci would be impressed with. The coned shaped paper cups are very light and can easily fit into my marathon shorts pockets, plus they are reusable and crushing them flat doesn’t affect their performance. I will be testing PAHAP on Saturday’s 10M run.

Possible Other Hydration—Omega Plan (POHOP) involves strategically placing my trusty Ice Mountain 80z water bottles on the marathon course the night before. I plan on arriving early Friday and driving the course, and I think I can find some a few places to stash my water later in the evening. POHOP also involves including a very nice note rubber-banded to each bottle saying, “I belong to a marathoner who would love nothing more than to consume me tomorrow/today. Please leave me here because my owner is sufficiently uncoordinated enough to take the water given out by the volunteers. Thank you!”

And as for running, last night’s goal was to negative split my 10M run. Splits went 6:52, 6:42, 7:00, 7:12, 6:45, 7:00, 6:47, 6:48, 6:52, 6:43. Success by about 20 seconds. 6:52/M average.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Know Your Enemy*

In the midst of winter, as cold strong winds pushed through dark Michigan nights, there were times I slightly resented not being able to begin my workouts until 8:30pm. But working with Phillip and seeing the progress he has made in vastly improving his reading ability makes it all worth the late night runs. Plus, like most things time can change your perspective. Now, when I begin my workouts at 8:30pm the sun is just setting and weather is cool with slight winds. As chronicled previously, this is my favorite weather to run in.

If my enemy is heat, than I’ll avoid if I can. And my promise to be accountable to Phillip helps me avoid the heat. It’s a win-win. However, sadly, my last week before taper is also my last week with Phillip, and I’ll miss him more than I’ll miss the high mileage. The program doesn’t typically allow carry-over from student to tutor, but I’ve already began to lobby for an exception.

Alas, as I begin to crest the summit of my Bayshore training and prepare to descend into tapper madness, I begin to wax poetically. So, to the numbers. Last night was 5M, splits went 6:11, 6:23, 6:24, 6:34, 6:19 for a 6:22/M average.

*Although I’m not a huge Green Day fan, their latest song was one of two stuck in my head last night in my sans iPod run. The other was the Black Eyed Pees Boom Boom Boom.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beat Down II, Race Report

or, how 77 degrees punched me in the face for almost 13.1 miles.

My Half was about an hour and a half away from Lansing, so I was up early to allow myself time to get there, pick up my packet, stretch and begin the race at 8:15. As I was driving to the race, I was watching with dread the temperature monitor in my car. Like a game of hot and cold, the closer I got to my race, the higher the temperature got. When I arrived, the temp was 70 degrees.

Now, I knew it was going to be warm, but this was higher than what they had predicted. I had tried everything I could to hydrate, but I knew I was in for a long race. I do not run well in warm temperatures. Oh, and the huge storms they were predicting, well not a cloud around to obscure the angry sun.

By mile three, I was tired and the temperature had hit 75 degrees. By mile five, I was praying for a car to swerve and hit me (an honorable DNF). I had assumed this course was flat because the webpage didn’t have an elevation map…I assumed correctly for the first seven miles. At mile 7, I found hills and I lost hope. By mile 10, I was cursing out loud at the hills because it detracted from my agony. Mile 12 was, simply put, the worst mile I have even run. Every step hurt, every thought screamed ‘give up,’ and the sun was delivering its devastating final blows. A kind guy, in his 70s, passed me during mile 12 and said “going great, keep it up!” In response to this act of kindness and encouragement, I wanted nothing more than to break his hip (I'm kidding, sorta). I uttered, “thanks, you too.” I have never been more envious in my life.

But, I never stopped running. I’ve run long enough to know that these types of runs are going to happen. It’s a part of the game we all know about but don’t like to discuss. When it happens, it is awful, deflating, and humbling. But it is only one day, one run, one race. Driving home I promised myself I would regroup and improve at Sunday’s 5K. Also, while driving home, it poured rain and the temperature dropped significantly.

On Sunday, as I was preparing to leave for the race, I seriously considered not racing. It seems Saturday’s beat down was still tugging at me—including very sore and spent legs. But, you get past an awful run by getting back out there and running again. There were over 7,000 participants and over 1,300 racers at the Race for the Cure, and some of Lansing’s finest runners were there.

The temp was in the mid sixties and a slight breeze kept things feeling somewhat cooler. Lining up with such a huge crowd is awesome, and I was excited but anxious about how I would respond. I ran a fast first mile at 5:49, but then the soreness and toll of the 13.1 the day before began to weigh heavy on me. Not to be defeated, I fought through, going 6:22 for mile 2 and then 6:21 for mile 3; and kicked hard the last tenth. Although they were pretty big drop-offs from the first mile, they were the best I could summon. I finished under 19:30, a pretty good response and AG award worthy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Races, One Weekend

I will be running in two races this weekend. Tomorrow is the Borgess/National City Half Marathon. My race plan is to keep the first mile at about 7:10, keep everything up to mile 7 around a 7:00/M, then try to crank it up to 6:50s. The temperature is supposed to be around 60 at the start—which I can handle so long as the oppressive heat’s ugly and mean sister humidity stays away.

Sunday is our local Race for the Cure, perhaps my favorite local race. I have no idea how I’ll be feeling after my half the day before, so I don’t have a set goal, just an expectation to push myself as hard as I can.

Happy running this weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love at First Touch

During my 22M training run (with a little extra for good measure) I suffered the worst calf cramps ever imaginable. All day Sunday and Monday I stretched that baby out, and it still hurt with every step I take, ever move I make, I’ll be watching me…sorry. The knot in my calf remained. Going to work Tuesday I was positive there was no way I could do my 5M run that evening, I couldn’t even walk.

But then, as if the Running Gods were apologizing for their cruel weather conditions of late, they inspired Nitmos to discuss his love affair with BioFreeze. He discussed how BF’s magical healing powers surpassed even Mr. Miyagi’s healing powers. I immediately demanded—in a childlike manner—that my administrative assistant find me a bottle (during Administrative Assistant’s Week nonetheless). I did not explain what BioFreeze was, or where to begin looking for it; I simply told her it was a matter of life and death.

A bottle was located not a half mile from where I work, and I left immediately to purchase it. The results: BioFreeze is the most amazing product ever. Ever!

On Tuesday I was able to run my 5M pain free, and not pushing it I still hit a 6:47/M average. Still lathering that magical aqua paste on my calf I was able to pull off some solid mile repeats last night. 5:52, 6:00, 5:54, 6:06, 5:55, 6:04. BioFreeze, I have loved you from the moment we first touched.


UPDATE: The 2009 Chicago Marathon is now full.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Race Report of Sorts

This past weekend I decided I was gong to run 22 to 24 miles for my long run. And, for a while I had been planning on making this long run as close to the real race deal as possible. And, how else can one simulate a marathon race other than running in a marathon. So, that is exactly what I did. I ran a marathon.

I found a race not too far away, and I signed up for it about a week before the race. My goal was to just run 22 or 24 miles then pull up and DNF or walk/slow recovery run to the finish. So, under race conditions, I had a very exciting long run.

The race has only one real hill, and that was in the first mile. From there its a few rolling hills until mile 4, then its flat. I wanted to take the first mile slow, and I was trying to average 6:55 to 7:05 miles thereafter. The only concern I had was the starting temperature was 56 deg (sure—it isn’t the 72 to start Chicago last Fall, but still pretty high for this time of the year) and the humidity was beginning to ratchet up.

The first mile was a 7:18, just what I wanted. And that would be about the last thing that would go my way. Instead of just picking up the pace a bit, I hit the next mile at 7:00 flat. There was no reason to do this, I got sucked into the ‘going out too fast’ mistake so many of us make. Worse, I wasn’t really paying attention to Garmin the Great, so I was missing my splits. Therefore, when I hit mile 3 at 6:41 I could have taken note and slowed down. Instead, I hit mile 4 at 6:46. Mile five was a 7:05.

By this point, Garmin was about .03 ahead of the mile markers, and I was missing most of my splits. I had planned to break the run down into 4 5M parts plus whatever else I was going to run. If the goal was to run 7:00 average, I failed the first 5M segment due to my two 6:40 miles.

Miles 6-10 were the best part of my race. It was overcast and it seemed like it would rain. I had consumed my first Gu and things were going well (although there was on slight setback: I had some water intake issues and spilled a bunch on my face, which of course caused my left earphone to short out for a few miles). Splits went: 7:03, 7:06, 6:54, 6:57, 6:55. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of these. But I felt great. Second 5M segment, perfect.

Miles 11-15 went poorly. After mile 10 I slowed to actually drink the water, and by now the humidity had hit over 80% and the overcast sky was a hazy and angry sun. Worst of all, I finally got a look at a mile split—mile 10, 7:22. I flipped out, I panicked, and I dramatically overcompensated. Mile 11, 6:28. Stupid, stupid, stupid. At this point I was getting dehydrated, the weather conditions were killing me, and I had crushed a mile when I had no business doing so. But I didn’t see my super fast split, I just felt taxed. The remaining splits went: 6:59, 7:01, 7:12. Third 5M segment—mega fail due to wasted energy.

Miles 16-20 were where things really got bad. I was starting to feel a cramp in my left calf around mile 16. I thought, “Oh Noes, not calf cramps!” I was slowing down under the heat and humidity and I just tried to keep everything about a 7:15 mile. I went 7:10, 7:23, 7:46. The big slowdown was due to the fact that I stopped and walked through the water station at mile 17. Worse, the cramps were still building. Mile 19 was a decent 7:31, but during mile 20 there was a turnaround. As I slowed and made the turn the calf revolted. I was suffering Nitmosian calf cramps.* It was horrific, and I actually laughed out loud as I stopped to stretch. Mile 20, 8:07. The fourth 5M segment can be titled “paying for the 6:40s and the 6:30—and paying hard.”

I did everything I could to make it to 22M, with splits going at 7:45 and 8:03. The Nitmosian calf cramps were relentless. And, at mile 22, I pulled up and started walking/stretching.

After I felt the calf cramps could be managed, I did a very slow recovery jog to finish the last 4.2 miles. I had completed my long run, and even managed to finish the marathon.

And what have I learned? First, I need to find a better way to consume water during a race (race cups = getting wet and little hydration). Maybe a fuel belt, maybe something else, I’m working on it. Second, carry salt tablets and use them. Third, be extraordinarily mindful of knowing your splits and DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. Lastly, in the event you have a slower than pace mile, DO NOT GO CRAZY AND OVERCOMPENSATE BY RUNNING A VERY FAST NEXT MILE!!! I did this twice.

* Special thanks to Sun Runner for the phrase

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Best of Luck

I wanted to give a shout out to Lam, FL, and Ana-Maria, who are all running Boston on Monday. I wish all of you the best of luck.

I also want to say good luck to Amy and Vandy-Montana, who will be running the St. Louis Marathon this weekend.

Finally, good luck to Ms. V who is running the River City Half Marathon. Man, makes me wish I was running a marathon this weekend (or this upcoming Monday).

Beat Down

The weather was a sunny 58 degrees and I could just feel a great run looming like a runner at the food table after a 5K. Sure, I was trying to sneak in a 10M run between my many nonstop commitments throughout the day, but that is nothing new. I step outside, let Garmin the Great lock up some satellites, and off I go—feeling great. I know my first mile is fast, but I’m feeling good and I decide to not look at GtG during this run. Probably a mistake.

And then came the winds; strong, gusting, relentless and angry winds. And even though I felt like I was flying, and that I was killing the run, I was in actuality getting beat down. Miles 5-9 were awful, terrible times.

But I love the awful run, because it reminds me how much work I have to do as a runner; how every run is slightly different and that you can never take anything for granted when running. Bayshore is six weeks away, and I’ve still got some serious training to do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Little Blogger Love

The local Lansing newspaper runs several blogs on its webpage. One of those blogs is called Kick Asphalt, written by a marathoner/triathlete. Unfortunately, some of the comments the blog receives are rude and insulting. Here are a few examples. “You really should start thinking about getting a life....,” left after a post about the difference between being a jogger and a runner.

Others include “Well it must be nice Ms. Runner moneybags to be able to spend oodles of money on running events. Oh how proud you must be, especially during a time when one out of every nine people in the state are without employment. Right now is not the time for you newspaper people to be bragging about having -- and spending-- lots of money. Maybe you should consider writing one of these blogs about how the folks without jobs run their marathons and triathlons. I suspect they go to the park and "pretend" they are competing in an event. Way to be sympathetic.” This comment was in response to a post discussing which races to run in for the upcoming year.

Or this one, “This blog just never ceases to amaze me. It's not OK for posters to pick on the blond bimbo who moderates this blog, but it is OK for the bimbo and her boss to pick on an overly obese man. I'd be so amused if his mother showed up on this blog.” This comment came from a post discussing “The Biggest Loser” marathon controversy.

And finally this one, “Ohhhh Spring is upon us! I can't wait to get home from work and go out and run 75 miles tonight. Afterward, I'll go to the pool and swim 1,000 laps. Oh, spring! You make me feel like a school girl!

Give me a break people! You are all so self absorbed. Inclement weather doesn't occur just to throw off your running schedules. It sounds to me like at least a few posters on this site have taken the running thing a bit too far.”

These are but a few of the rude and hurtful things people post. As a fellow blogger, I wonder if such comments would discourage me, and I’m grateful for the blogging community I’ve found here, compassionate, supportive, witty, funny, and encouraging.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A New Path

Using trusty I created a nice 12M run from Buck and Bunny’s (my parents) home in Midland, Michigan. But, honestly, I wasn’t very excited about the route. The major downside is that most of the run would be on crappy country roads (unlike nice country roads that I love to run on). While discussing my run with Bunny, she mentioned the Pere Marquette Rail Trail—which is a flat, all asphalt, trail that goes for 30+ miles.

Well happy day. And the route was amazing. I wish I had known about it sooner. I did a nice out and back. Best of all, my younger sister Gunior rode a bike alongside and kept me company during the run.

My goal for the run was to keep my pace between 6:50 and 7:05, nice and easy and pretty even. I was able to do this with the exception of the very last mile, which I just kicked into gear for no real good reason. Splits: 6:52, 6:56, 7:03, 7:04, 6:57, 6:50, 7:01, 6:58, 6:55, 7:06, 6:34.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mostly Non-Running Related

On the running side, Wednesday’s 6M and yesterday’s 5M both averaged 6:41/M. But yesterday’s was the better run because I didn’t run a stupid-fast first mile. Compare 6:12 to 6:32. I’m looking forward to leading a group run tomorrow of 6M and then 12M on Sunday. I wish you all happy running.

On the non-running side, I caught an Arby’s commercial for their roast burger. If you haven’t seen it, an Arby’s manager is comparing the competitor’s burger to Arby’s fine product. The grabber of the commercial is that one of the employees starts using the greasy competitor’s burger to slick back his hair.

And I’m left thinking. Alright, I get it, the competition’s burger is disgusting. Know what else I get, that Arby’s hiring standards are nonexistent. Seriously, Arby’s hired the kind of employee willing to use a greasy burger to fix his hair. What is that same kid going to do to my Curly fries? Thank you Arby’s for giving me a glimpse into the corporate culture there, where any warm and semi-functioning body will suffice as an employee. Go ahead, put him on the front line between friendly service and a food contamination outbreak. I’ll be there eating my curly fries and drinking my shake.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two Legs v Two Wheels

I’ve recently started running my 5 and 6 mile routes down MSU’s river trail. This trail basically cuts campus in half, and connects to a larger set of trails covering about 13+ miles. This path is great but can get congested with people. Worst of all, it can get congested with people on bikes leisurely pedaling along.

Last night, right after my first mile, some almost-teenager was just tooling around and taking his sweet time going nowhere. So, I pass him. Moments later he goes speeding by. About fifty meters in front of me he resumes his tooling around speed. I pass him again. And that little punk passes me again, but this time he maintains about a fifteen meter lead for the remainder of the second mile. Every time I made a surge, he sped up.

Shortly after mile two there is a split, and that stupid kid sits there and waits for me to pass him. Moments after I had selected the path I would be running on, he passed me. This happens again about a quarter of a mile later—he waits, I pass and go on my route, he passes me again.

Then the little punk puts some more distance on me. But at this point I’m thinking, this is my 3 mile turnaround kid, so later. I reverse, and start back. And you guessed it, almost half way through mile 4 the kid shows up again. Same story as before.

Approaching mile five he is now only two meters ahead, and I’m seriously thinking about giving a good sprint and knocking him down. Just as I decide I’m going to push him and his stupid bike into the river he looses interest and veers off down a street.

Hay little man, next time you try that crap with me I’m going to throw a packet of gu at you (then probably pick it up, that stuff is expensive for such an unappetizingly named product).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The One Shot Game

Or, the problem with the marathon. Recently I’ve been thinking about Chicago. The thing is, with a marathon, you only really get one ‘race’ for all of your training. To put this in perspective, think about a 5K. You pick a goal, you train for months and months, and you work hard. Race day arrives and you get 25mph winds or 85 degrees with 99% humidity and no rain. Any of these significant divergences from normal running conditions will assuredly kill a pr/goal time. But, you race it anyway, you try hard, and maybe you even come close. Oh well. But with a 5K you can recover and race again the next weekend, or the weekend after that. The reason being that the damage and stress you cause to your body during a 5K is not terrible. You won’t lose your ‘race’ spark.

For the overwhelming majority of marathon runners, you just can’t recover and race again the next week. So, if you bomb, or just narrowly miss your goal/pr due to high temps or a strong wind or you step on some guys foot during the early miles of the marathon and you don’t outright injure yourself but only cause a slight irritation that worsens with every step for mile after mile until you are forced to walk, you don’t get a second chance a week later.

Maybe you take another shot two weeks later, but from what I’ve heard the second marathon isn’t the same race. Sure you can gut it out and finish, but you don’t have the same kind of reserves. This is because you race the first race, regardless of the conditions, and give it your all. And it takes the body a few weeks to recover and regain that ‘race’ ready form.

And we all know this, which is why we all pray the Running Gods are kind to us and why we play such mind games with ourselves during our taper. But, then again, such things are part of the beauty of a marathon.


Last night was mile repeats. Splits: 5:53, 6:09, 6:11, 6:11, 6:23.

Monday, April 6, 2009


That was my weekend; 10M on Saturday and 20M on Sunday. Plus, my boss made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and therefore I had to play soccer Friday night—which I wasn’t thrilled about.

Regardless of my compulsory soccer game, I blew off my get up at 5am plan for Saturday because I was out late and I had agreed to participate in a group run. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “the group is meeting early e-mail” sent Friday night. So, when I showed up everyone had already left. Oh well, such things happen. I just hopped into my car and drove to the gym.

Start time for Saturday was 9:15 am, and I just few out of the gate and never looked back. Despite the fact that this was not a pace run I cranked my 10M, going 6:23, 6:38, 6:51, 6:55, 6:48, 6:57, 6:53, 6:55, 6:57, 6:46 (6:48/M avg). Not bad considering the hills in latter third of the run and the wind.

Sunday I was up at 5am and starting my 20M before 7am. I was crazy sore and tired from staying out and watching MSU beat Connecticut, so I just tried to stay relaxed and take the miles as they came (only looking at Garmin after mile 1 and at the half-marathon point). I also didn’t try to kick the last few miles because I was treating this run as if it were an actual marathon. Splits went: 6:44, 6:59, 7:03, 7:10, 7:12, 7:15 (gu/H2O), 7:07, 7:01, 7:09, 7:06, 7:02, 7:03 (gu/H2O), 6:59, 6:59, 7:15, 7:22 (gu/H2O), 7:23, 7:14, 7:23, 7:04. 7:07/M average. By the time I finished I had run 30M in under a 24 hour span, no wonder my legs were sore and tired.

I really began to dump on time during the last quarter of the run, with three out of the last five miles in the 7:20s range. Yet, I’m quite pleased with the effort and the time considering the difficult/hard running I’d completed this week. Now I can enjoy the step-down week in my training.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Real Running Hero

One of my very best friends runs, but insists he is not a runner. He is, however, a mountain climber. He has ascended and descended Mt. Rainier and some others. He will run 10M with a backpack on, but he never runs for time. All such matters notwithstanding, he will still sign up for a 5K or other local races.

While discussing a recent race he began to rant about the “stupid” people at the front sprinting out and then jogging back to the start line. “Why?!?” he wonders, “you are already going to run, why not just save the energy?” Such things are why he is not a runner, because runners do stupid (his words, not mine) things like run even a step more than the actual race distance.

My friend is also not the kind of person to take such ‘sprint outs’ without some sort of reprisal. Therefore, he has developed the habit of smoking a cigarette right before the race, about ten feet away from the starting line. He does this not because he is a smoker (in fact he never smokes outside of races), but because he finds it funny to do something so counterintuitive to his health right before he does something positive for his health—and is pisses people off. It really pisses people off. As he smokes, he delivers his meanest stare at the runners sprinting out.

He literally puts the cigarette out as the organizers are doing the 10 second countdown, and runs right up to the front—caked in smoke. I find this behavior offensive and hilarious. My friend, a real running hero. I think I should run a 5K with him this summer, just to witness the spectacle.

Have a great running weekend everyone, and good luck to those who are racing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

At the Back of the North Wind

After flipping my schedule around for the past few weeks—which included moving my pace runs from Saturday to Wednesday—I was excited to have a non-pace midweek run. Plus it was sunny and 50 degrees outside. Perfect. But I live in Michigan, and so there is always a catch. Yesterday’s catch came in the form of 40mph winds. That falls into the “tropical storm” category of Hurricane classifications.

Only runners would think, “low end of the tropical storm range, sunny, and warm, I’ll take it.” And, just because, I ran the quasi-hilly route (as oppose to the ‘Campus’ route with no major hills or the ‘running with the cows’ hilly route). Splits were good, going: 6:32 (hw*), 6:46, 7:06 (hw), 6:56, 6:41, 7:06, 7:03, 7:02, 7:06 (hw), 6:56 (hw).

Lastly, the foot felt fine except for a few awkward steps (typically hard left turns).

* hw = head wind

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


There was a large pile of debris, and to its left a large puddle. So I dodge right and slam my foot down on a rock. A sizeable rock, not huge (say the size of a ping pong ball), and then some instant discomfort. Discomfort goes away immediately. Event is quickly stored into the back of my brain.

This was right before mile 11 on my 19 on Sunday. And there was no notice of any discomfort again until about the mid-point of mile 18. But by Sunday evening I was hobbling around, barely able to put full pressure on it. RICE, RICE, RICE. Monday hurts just as bad and use this as an excuse to wear sneakers to work. Hobble around all day.

Tuesday morning, still painful, but not quite as bad. Wear sneakers to work again. Question of the day, will I run my 5M, or take it off? I make it a game time decision. At 8:30pm I decide I can go, but I’ll run on the treadmill because, if things go bad, I can just stop (and not be stranded and forced to walk back to the gym). First mile, discomfort and lots of minor adjustments to compensate. By mile two, no trace of pain. 5M at 6:25/M pace (6:41/M outdoor pace).

This morning, still some pain, not as bad. Ah, the fine line between an injury and being injured.