Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hell-o-ween Race Recap

I had a goal of racing a 10K this year and trying to get a sub 40min time. Typically I run the Turkey Trot 10K down in Detroit. Often I run with a family member or more, but I was thinking of racing it this year. Unfortunately, the Redhead and I will be out of town and therefore I'm unable to race the TT 10K.

Now the Redhead had been planning on running the one-time-only Run Thru Hell on Halloween 5K & 10K for a month or so. And she, Sun Runner, and the Engineer made a plan to do this race in Halloween get-up. Meanwhile I had been looking around for a local 10K sometime after Grand Rapids. It was only earlier on this week that I decided to join them for this particular 10K; that is, I had originally wanted to avoid this race because of the many vicious hills.

Now, because everyone in the group would be dressing up, I needed a costume. Fortunately for me, the Universe conspired and I found the greatest shirt in the world.

Aptly named "The Duel." This shirt represents everything that is awesome in this world. I mean, it has two dueling dragons and two heroic warriors riding said dragons...all engaged in a fantastic battle of good and evil. I saw that shirt, and I knew I had to have it.

My costume was set; I was a poorly adjusted adult male living in his mother's basement and who spends all of his time playing WoW. Aside from his extreme social awkwardness, he has an estimated Second Life worth of about $2,000. He is only running because his mother insisted he get some fresh air and make friend IRL. If he didn't finish the 10K, he would have to start paying for the family Internet. (It is important to note that once in character, I maintained said character for the duration of the event.)

With just over 3,000 runners, I left the crew and made my way up near the starting line. The first mile was a crazy jumble of running around a crowded dirt country road. I noticed my watch beeped before I had crossed the first mile marker. At that point I thought, best to just not look at my Garmin this race.

After the 5K and 10K split, I just focused on trying to pick off as many runners as I could. I dug deep and surged on the up-hills while pushing on the down-hills. After the turn-around, I began to look for the Redhead. Not long afterwards I saw the lovely Daphne running towards me.

After mile 4 I realized I hated my glasses, and they weren't even real. However, I was glad I was close to done, and I simply tried to focus on finishing the race. When I finished, I was surprised--but quite happy--to notice I had managed a sub 40min race.

Most importantly, my mom won't force me to pay for my basement internet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crazy is as Crazy Does

Before I begin to bother all of my friends/relatives and start to ask them embarrassing questions, I need a little help checking my sanity. I seem to have lost an orange Nike Chicago Marathon half-zip running shirt. It was from 2008 or 2009, I can't recall.

I can't seem to find it. And, in all honestly, I can't seem to find evidence on the web that it even existed. If is isn't on the web, could it possibly have existed? Am I crazy?* Did it exist, or was it just a dream about things I love (orange and the Chicago Marathon)?

If you have seen it--then give it back. If you have your own or know what I'm talking about and just want to help me sleep better at night, please confirm that it did exist.

Love Always,


* The Redhead is not allowed to comment on this. Recently I woke her up in the middle of the night as I was laughing hysterically--in my sleep. What?!? It is not my fault I very very funny.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grand Rapids Race Recap

To tell this story, a short recap about my training is necessary. I began this training session rather out of shape; but having taken well needed rest. The break allowed some lingering injuries to heal, but it meant my first real training run was a 10K disaster--an 8:56/M average. Compare that to the 6:36/M average I had for the same course the previous year. The July 4th 10K is significant also because it was occurred on a hot, sunny, and mostly unshaded course. Why do those three things matter? See this or this to remind you.

Alas, as the many hot and muggy summer days moved along, I kept diligent to my training schedule and maintained a healthier diet. Soon my times were improving, and the +25 pounds began to drop. I was returning to my racing form. Yet, it wasn't until some quality runs in August that I began to think I would be able to take a shot at another BQ attempt. When my last training run resulted in a 23Mer at a 7:01/M average, I felt a PR could be in the making.

But, I've had enough runs--several marathons included--where things didn't go well. Calf cramps have been an issues in the past, but I hadn't dealt with one this training cycle. Which is why I got extremely nervous when I woke up early Saturday morning with a terrible calf cramp. No &$!@ way! Now? Really! Needless to say, my confidence was a little shaken.

Later that day, the Redhead, my sister Emma, and my cuz LeBrian and I all went to the expo to get our bibs and do a little spending. Sadly, we failed to meet up with Sun Runner. Bibs and new gear in hand, we settled in for an early night.

Race morning found the temps cool, but the weather predicted the temps to rise quickly. Furthermore, not a cloud in the sky. Exactly the kind of weather report that calls for trouble for me and my calfs.*

My goal was to hit 7 minute miles +/- 5 seconds. After scrambling to the starting line, like always, the gun sounded and we were off. The first four miles were right on target. But mile 5 was a 6:30. Not a great idea. Regardless, I nailed the half at a 1:30. Miles 10 through the half are mostly through a park. In the part I remember feeling that the sun was beginning to take a slight toll.

After the half, the sun was full in the sky and blazing down on me. I tried to keep myself emotionally focused on miles 15-20, but by mile 18 things were falling apart. I began posting miles above the 7:15 pace. My last 8 miles went 7:17, 7:13, 7:31, 7:35, 8:13, 8:04, 8:52, 8:18, 7:54.

The times do not tell the story. Before mile 22 my left calf, which had been acting up after mile 20, snapped. I had to stop and stretch it. I began to run again but it was acting up with every step. I felt the race slipping away. After I passed mile 23 I saw a sign that read "Your next 5K will be your best 5K." I said some very sarcastic and slightly rude things to that sign. I had already began that negative thinking, the kind that infiltrates quickly and can become so consuming and overbearing. At mile 23 I had given up on a PR, another BQ, or even finishing the race strong.

Just after mile 23, I hit an aid station. And I gave up. I just stopped running and began to walk. Not a 'walk' to walk through the aid station, but a 'walk' to walk the remainder of the race. My calfs were awful, and I looked like a 6'1" salt-lick. I was in the darkest place any runner can go, I was in the center of doubt and dispair--located in my mind and pressing hard on my soul.

One volunteer was offering gummy bears. As I approached, and as he offered me the sweet and friendly gummy delights, I gave him a look of death. Couldn't he see, I was walking. Wasn't it obvious, I had given up.

Then I began to hear the volunteers. They kept telling me: I had it; I was doing great! As I slowly passed the stranger offering candy, he said: "Just start running again. It will be alright." I finished my water and continued to walk as I grabbed a Gatorade. But the encouragement of the volunteers and the supporters penetrated. One ray of hope pierced the dark center of my running existence, and I started to run again. I didn't look at my watch. It didn't feel like I was going fast; in fact it felt like I was dragging two blocks of concrete and not my feet. But I was running. One ray of hope, and I was running again. All previous goals became meaningless. The victory lay in the resumption of my running. I won my race three miles ahead of schedule.

It wasn't until I saw I had about 9 minutes and 1.2M to go that I thought I could still make a BQ. In the back of my mind I could recall previous disasters. Previous marathons where I lost hope and allowed the cramps to end a run. Previous marathons where the sun roasting my skull became too much. All of those fails allowed me to dig deep and to find a place I had never found before in a marathon. Soon I saw the Redhead and my family wildly cheering me on. I knew that I didn't have a crazy strong finish, but I also knew I could just stay steady and requalify.

Now, don't get me wrong, BQing again is a big deal to me. For reasons I haven't fully investigated I passionately wanted to run another BQ time. And I'm very excited I did. But, for me, the lasting lesson from the Grand Rapids Marathon was the victory over myself. The volunteers and supporters gave me hope when I had none. I could have fought it. I didn't. I embraced it, and I allowed it to carry one foot in front of the other.

* I know, the temps were nothing compared to what you Chicago runners had to deal with last week; but I ran Chicago 08, so I've been through that. I know your pain.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Between Two Lines

Never, not once, was there an apology
uttered from the pavement, not after
uncountable steps, not one groan of
remorse rebounded up,

nor was there a hint of shame from the rain
that refused to fall, that hung as a wall
of humidity; not a sound when
you stood, arms on your waist, slightly
bent over, and felt the rain pounding
an already soaked body; not even a
whisper of an apology from the wind,

and invisible miles passed without
compassion, miles that onlooking cars
could not see how many elapsed, how fast,
how far remained, miles that simply
pilled up like stones of a monument,

and foundations formed during
predawn hours, laid silently and
often sleepily, spoke no encouraging
words; while a muted sun, with all of its
various faces, offered nothing as it burned
dispassionately down upon your
waning body,

all of this, you endured, for today,
because today you run a marathon, and you
shall use the gift presented today…

to bare your soul, without apology,
between two lines.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Find Your Inner Calm

As I was mindlessly eating a Pop-Tart and some yogurt before my last long run, I began to ponder a bit about my pre-run routine. All of my long runs begin from one of two places. Occasionally there is a third option, which I did not utilize this training session. When you have started your long runs from the same place your routine becomes ingrained. This is a good thing.

The pre-run ritual clams us in ways subliminal and obvious. This calm carries over (or at least should) to the start of our run. But race day is totally different. The normalcy is out the window the moment your alarm sounds. Which is why one of the best skills I learned in high school is the ability to find my own little center of calm when surrounded by thousands of other runners. Panicking runners. Nervous runners. Runners nervous about the bathroom. Chatting and laughing runners. Runners returning to the bathroom for a second or third time. Runners warming up. Runners standing still.

All of this distraction and borderline manic behavior can be quite unsettling. It is easy to get caught up in the emotional turbulence that exists before a marathon. To avoid this, I find a spot, it doesn’t have to be anything special, and I tune the world out. They are not competitors, but peers. We are all racing against ourselves. I just cycle through the same stretches I always do. I smile and I laugh a bit at whatever random thought happens across my mind. And I just refuse to be anything other than calm.

It is this calmness that makes it easy for me to simply stroll up into the corral. So, I wish you all great peace and calm before you begin your next race; however it is you find it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Taper Myths*

Myth # 1: Your body will feel great. Where does this myth come from? Mostly, wishful thinking. Even seasoned marathoners fall victim to this myth until they start to feel subtle or new aches and pains. The truth, you body is healing--not healed.

Myth # 2: You will feel good on all of your taper runs. Where does this myth come from? The idea that after your last long run during the training schedule your body knows it is at taper and therefore, because you leg muscles somehow know that you will be decreasing your mileage, they automatically feel better. This happens to me every time. I use a three week taper (going down from 23M to 13M to 9M and then 26.2M). And still, even after my 13M long run I have difficult runs during the week. I'm not saying I'm going crazy with my mid-week runs. Nope, doing the same thing I always do. But still, sometimes they suck. The truth is that this happens all the time during my training. But I never notice or care because I'm not on taper. I get taper blindness and forget how taxing training is on my body.

Myth # 3: Let me know one you have noticed.

*At least, as experienced by me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things of Fall II

Or things I learned the hard way...*

I'd call this a race report, but I don't use the half (two weeks out from a marathon) as a race, but more a marathon practice run. So, I'll just give you a few of my observations about the event and my practice run.

To begin, a few things I of note. What I like about the race is that the elevation somewhat resembles that of a rather well known marathon held out East.

Note the down first half, up second half, and down (mostly) from there.

The web page said the start time was 8:00am. As I was getting ready, they made an announcement that the half starts at 8:15. Soooooo, pause the warm-up and try to keep the Redhead warm.** Now, pausing your warm-up sucks, but it is even worse when the pre-race music is seriously the soundtrack to the worst wedding ever. The dance floor was empty if you run with the comparison. I was waiting for them to play the Chicken Dance or the Hokey Pokey.

But bad pre-race music is nothing compared to a race with about 4,000 people and about 25 porta-potties. I was honestly going to go 'bear' in the woods. I mean, I went deep into the nearby woods to try and get some privacy. I was mentally preparing myself to break new ground in my running career when I saw a deer. No joke, a deer. He paused, looked up at me, and said: "Really? How would you feel if I walked into your living room and dropped a duese?" Good point. I walked out defeated and stepped into the long long line.

This resulted in barely getting to the starting line before the 8:15am start. See me sneaking in? Look for the red arrow below.

Once the race began, I used the downhill miles to build up a little time, as the uphill miles awaited. After mile ten, I dropped the hammer to bring in a strong finish.

Yeah, I passed my fellow Boston Marathoner. I close like a cheetah.

Ah, but what did I learn the hard way? I learned that failure to apply Body Glide before a half is a huge mistake. I mean, how do you forget something as basic as Body Glide?

* If I am being honest I should also include this information, stashed away under the category of "Mistakes You Should Only Make Once." The proper order is Icy Hot, wash hands, use restroom and not Icy Hot, restroom, wash hands. Failure to follow the aforementioned instructions will lead to very terrible results.

**The Redhead was kind enough to wake up uber early and come along to cheer me on; plus take a few action shots. Her support, as always, was greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Things of Fall

Things I should know by now...but have yet to find out.

  • Look at the course map for my half on Sunday. When I casually brought this up, the Redhead said that she has already looked at it and has talked to a few runners who say it is a difficult course. Such things happen often.
  • Pick out my marathon outfit. Pick out my marathon playlist. Decide which shoes I'll be running in. And because I use the half has a pre-marathon test run, I better get going on these things.*

Which reminds me. This marathon I am going to make the last few miles special by rocking out to some of the best songs from the 80s. So, aside from "We Built This City" by Jefferson Airplane and "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" by John Parr, what shongs should I include?

*Except for the playlist, which I always save until the week of. I go out and get coffee and hang with college kids and make my marathon playlist. Also,I better get going on my song/no-song order. I'm thinknig 4M off, 4M on, 4M off, 4M on, 2M off, 2M on, 1M off, 2M on, 1M off, 2.2M on.