Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Runs

Two weeks ago, I had been sensing a bug coming on, but being so close to my race date...I was in denial. I was scheduled to run 24 miles (one of five runs over 20 miles) in my training program for April’s 11th running of the Boston Marathon.

I have to be careful writing this because like many runners, I am superstitious (knock on wood, rub the rabbit’s foot, rub the lucky charm, etc here.)

The best advice I’ve got on running when not feeling well is the above the neck rule…if it’s above the neck (cold symptoms) you can consider running, if it’s below the neck (flu symptoms, fever, body chills) you’re better off leaving the car in the garage and not running.

Mother nature didn’t provide much help with a dose of snow that moved the normal long group run from Saturday to Sunday. I took advantage of the Saturday day off by spending the day with my daughter at her dance competition—I had to look back to last December (’09) as the last Saturday that didn’t revolve around a long run. An awesome consolation prize except for the part about the Dance mom that accosted me for videotaping the dance—how was I to know that rule???!!

Fast forward to the long run nine days ago. Due to the snow, my 24 mile route was all concrete and asphalt which meant that my body was going to take a bit of a pounding vs. a crusher bike/running path route. Strike #2 (or is this strike#3?) was that my 3:15 pace group with Runner’s Edge of the Rockies was smaller than normal due to the schedule change, the LA Marathon, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) one of my running peers had a calf injury that kept him at home. As a result, I was the only one scheduled to go 24 miles.

My running group sets up aid stations with Gatorade and light snacks every two miles with “out and back” routes. My first choice was to run beyond the 10 mile marker and turn around at 12, but that would mean running the 2nd half alone. I decided to keep with the group and add the miles in at the end or “double back” somewhere along the way.

Sixteen miles into the run at a water station and bathroom stop (marked on the map) was a small park. The hutch and roof for the porto-potty restroom was there. The bathroom was not—who steals a porto-potty? At this stage, the effects of the “bug,” testing out Stingers gels (nobody told me that honey is a mild laxative) escalated the need for a full bathroom—not just a bush.

My internal GPS remembered a 7-11 about a ½ a mile away so I altered my route to hit just in time. Feeling I had better “quit while I was ahead,” I got back on the path to the long run starting point and finished with 22 miles for the day. Did I mention the rock in my shoe I picked up early on or having to double-back to get my running jacket left at the eight mile mark? In other works, pretty much a Rosanne Rosannadanna run—everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Despite all that, I finished with a 7:55 average pace.

One week later

The weekday runs (no pun intended) after my tough Sunday long run were equally tough as I wound up taking a sick day and sleeping until 1:30 the Monday after. As the week (or was it weak) went on, I began to regain my energy. Once again, Colorado’s Mother Nature "threw me a curve" and we had a Spring blizzard which once again moved my Saturday run to Sunday.

Prior to Sunday, I’d read Ryan Hall’s ASICS blog article “Getting Ready to Head for Boston” on his portfolio of shoes including his race day pair—Gel DS Racer. I have long considered a lighter race day shoe like Ryan and the other elites run in. I broke one of the “cardinal sins” in marathon training and was going to try something new right before my big race. I decided to try and “channel” Ryan Hall’s mojo and run in a pair which I picked up from Boulder Running Company.

The Sunday race was scheduled to be a "7/6/1"which was a 14 mile goal pace run—seven mile warm-up/conversation pace, six miles at goal pace, and one mile recovery.

Armed with my brand new ASICS, I set out on the hilly asphalt neighborhood course in Superior, Colorado. The route was picturesque and had 1,466 ft of overall ascent, so it would be a good test for Boston’s hilly course (5,761 feet according to Garmin’s site.)

What a difference a week makes. As bad as I felt a week ago, I felt full of energy and noticed a big difference with a lighter shoe minus the rock. I replaced the thin liner the shoes came with my orthotics. Once again, we had a smaller group running out with the 3:15 pace group (four of us) including a guest runner from Alan Culpepper’s Running Store, Solepepper (just outside of Boulder, CO.) During the warm-up seven miles, I kept having to slow down (which is a good sign for me,) and once we hit the six mile goal pace section, I “took off.”

My final average time including warm-up and cool-down was a 7:30 average pace. I figured I would have PR’ed a ½ marathon that day based on the first 13 miles. Talk about two totally opposite long runs.

Can I fast forward to April 19th?...no…one more long run and a two week taper before tackling the real deal.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bibs, Corrals, Waves, and Bandits

If you weren’t a runner, you’d be trying to figure out what the heck is this blog about.

As excited as Nathan was in the movie, "The Jerk" when the phone book arrived, I too was elated to see my postcard arrive in the mail that stated, "This card confirms your acceptance into the 114th Boston Marathon on Monday April 19, 2010 provided the information you submitted is correct." Below was my gender, citizenship, DOB, Age on Race Day (I'm not telling,) and qualifying time of 3:21:38 (from Sacramento.)

Being my first Boston Marathon, I’m learning more and more about what’s in store for me in four weeks. As I was monitoring the blog and twitter chatter, folks were announcing their bib and corral numbers. I’d have to admit, I’ve been feeling like I’ve snuck into an exclusive club not really knowing “what’s what.” Hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, I had to ask a fellow twitter runner, “how do I know what corral I’m in?”

Fortunately, I’d run Chicago Marathon in 2008 which has a corral system, so I knew what a corral was. At Chicago, I studied beforehand and walked through the start the Saturday before—I still screwed it up. On race day at Chicago it looked a lot different with over 31,000 runners in attendance. I was “all turned around” amidst the sea of runners. I finally found the corral I should have been in, but it was PACKED and surrounded by a fence. I decided to hop the chain link fence to join my rightful spot and totally ripped the brand new shorts selected for what I’d hope to be my BQ race photo. I wound up having to tie my shorts into a knot on one leg to avoid an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. A mistake, but perhaps not as bad as losing my beer money in San Diego on a hill climb the year before.

From everything I’ve heard, the Boston corral system is strictly monitored and managed with an additional component—the wave. Not the football stadium or ocean variety, but two major groups (or waves) that spread out the start times of the various runners based on qualification times. From the BAA web site;

“NOTE: Once again the B.A.A. will be implementing a two-wave start. Those assigned blue bibs (numbers 1 ,000– 13,999) are Wave 1 starting at 10:00 a.m. and those assigned yellow bibs (numbers 14,000+) are Wave 2 starting at 10:30 a.m. Please start in the wave and corral to which you have been assigned. To learn more about the wave start, please refer to the Rules & Regulations section on page 14, or visit the FAQ section of the race web site at www.baa.org.”
Based on my 2009 qualification time of 3:21, I checked online and drew the lucky number of 9376 which puts me in corral #9, wearing a blue bib with “wave one” (at least I think so.)
I like the sound of 9…Drew Brees won a Super Bowl wearing #9. Penelope Cruz (who’s more of a 10) starred in “Nine” this last year. ’76 was a great year…bicentennial year, and the year my beautiful bride (and number one fan) was born (better throw that in the same sentence as Penelope Cruz) or I’ll be 86’ed.

According to internet lore and talking to Boston veterans, there’s also the concept of bandits—common at many marathons, but quite the alternative sport at Boston. Bandits?...people who steal your space blanket or runner’s belt?...the dog from Jonny Quest?...no…Bandits are people who aren’t registered and hop into a race to take in the event without the cash. Sounds like something I would have tried in college without thinking twice. Apparently, the bandits tend to try and exploit the process in the second wave (perhaps we’ll get some to comment on the blog on the condition that they will remain anonymous—I’m sure there’s an art to being a successful bandito.) I have visions of the equivalent of the Augusta Master’s marshalls who watch this “like a hawk” targeting bandits and corral jumpers.

It’s all good…I’ll take in the bandits just like the shrieks of 2,500 Wellesley College students at mile 12.5, “heartbreak hill” and the infamous pale blue and yellow finish line donning a blue #9376.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I was a Teenage Werewolf

Men in Tights Updated (March 23, 2010): Is Indiana Jones a man’s man?

The blog below generated quite a range in responses—largely supporting the athletic body type of a male marathon runner, but most of the comments were around men wearing tights in a marathon. The most extreme was from one of my DailyMile followers who proclaimed that “Nothing, nothing, nothing is worth shaving down or wearing girls tights though, coz I'm a MAAAAN.” Ouch—did I hit a nerve there?

My crack marketing department (my wife) slipped me a photo from last Sunday’s LA Marathon of a man’s man; Shia LaBeouf wearing (you guessed it) running tights. This is the heir apparent to Indiana Jones, Megan Fox’s cling to hero in the Transformer series among other films. On top of that, the dude ran to benefit US Veterans—tell me this guy is not a man! I felt confident before, but now I’m in good company wearing my running pants…or tights, or whatever you want to call them.

Good enough for Indy is good enough for me.


Okay…so I’m not a teenager and I'm not a werewolf, but I couldn’t find a movie titled, "I was an Adult Manorexic." If you look closely teen wolf was a track star, and perhaps I'm feeling a bit misunderstood like the teen wolf.

Of all the sports I could have picked and got addicted to, I happened to chose running. As you get closer to a marathon race or deeper into the typically 16 week training program, the pounds tend to peel off the body. Running into a good friend this last month in California, he told me I looked “manorexic.” Another friend accused me of being a “bean pole.” Ouch...that didn’t sound flattering. Here is where I insert the disclaimer that while my blog stories are typically “light” I am not trying to offend anyone with an eating disorder, nor do I have an eating disorder.

My usual retort is to ask “have you ever seen the first few people crossing the finish line in a marathon?...they aren’t exactly beefy.”

I guess the point is, that for men, running is not always very sexy or masculine by certain narrow-minded perspectives.

This has been my most ambitious training program yet; hill training, speed work, tempo runs and five long runs of 20+ miles (I think my first marathon training program had one 20 miler.) As a result, my jeans are a bit looser after 14 weeks and nearly 400 training miles, but I can crack a walnut with my glute muscles and my hammies are tighter than a thoroughbred horse’s hind quarters. I got that going for me, but manorexic?

Peeling the pounds off isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on where you start. I think back to the birth of my first child in 1995, I was going “scoop for scoop” with the pregnant Dairy Queen runs. Christmas pictures that year revealed double chins and 20 pounds more than I carry today. I thought to myself, “you have become Chris Farley.” I modified my eating and got back to a more natural weight, but it wasn’t until my Forrest Gump moment in ’99 that I starting to run, and run, and run…

With six weeks and roughly 200 miles yet to go, likely my final running weight hasn’t been established. The sound bite of “five pounds equals five minutes” also plays in the back of my head. It’s not like I’m starving myself—when you train for marathons, you eat a LOT.

Why is it that women runners look great and male runners are manorexic? Some kind of funky reverse double standard.

The other dividing issue with men and running is tights. Due to a variety of leg issues, I tried and subsequently got hooked on Skins running tights. They sell two flavors, recovery and training/recovery. I run in the later. My niece calls them panty hose and can’t avoid laughing at me. My kids shutter if I come home from a long run and god forbid I walk into the house wearing tights with their friends around. “They’re not tights and they’re not pantyhose!” Can’t we come up with another name?…when I think of tights, I’m thinking ballet—“not that there’s anything wrong with that.” “Leggings” sound even worse. I’ll go with running pants.

Last Saturday called for a 24 mile run and cool weather which means nipple lube and running pants. During a run, humility goes out the door as you’re not worried about how you look. Male runner’s especially have a number of gross habits…your nose runs, there’s no Kleenex box, figure it out—not very pretty. There’s even urban legend stories of even more extreme body fluid emergencies over a race—do yourself a favor and don’t Google that one.

The 24 miler was by far my best run of the 14 week training session—great pace, good energy, few aches, and right at the time I wanted to finish in (intentionally running 40 seconds to a minute slower than race day pace.)

The reward that afternoon was a pedicure to tend to my aching feet and 1,000 miles of calluses’ built up since last July. Real men don’t get pedicures? With age comes wisdom...foot massage, hot stones on the calves, and paraffin wax soaking your feet—sign me up!

Post Blog Comments:

Anonymous said...

Very nice post! Love it!
Keep up the running. Manorexic is way better than the double-chin syndrome!
Take it from a female!

March 11, 2010 10:36 PM

BrennanAnnie said...

People keep telling me my husband has gotten too thin. We just ignore it. I get to see him naked and he looks just fine to me. And he is loving the speed he has gained by losing the weight.

March 12, 2010 8:12 AM

Michael said...

Nice post. I don't yet share your problem, having been at least 20 lbs overweight when I started running last fall. I've shed much of the excess, and still have a few flabby spots I'd love to see go before I wonder if I've lost too much. It is an interesting question from an evolutionary perspective. In Born To Run McDougall talk's about how to look at them the Neanderthal should TOTALLY have outlived early humans. The Neanderthal were big, strong, muscled dudes who could take down wooly mammoth. Our ancestors were this skinny dudes running for miles on the open plains to score a scrawny antelope. So how does that translate now into men who are more heavily muscled (within reason, anyway. I find those Mr. Universe guys about as attractive as a car wreck. And equally impossible not to look at, but not in a good way) appearing more attractive? There are exceptions to this, too, though. Look at that Twilight guy. He ain't exactly Schwarzenegger.

The fact is, if you're skinny because you are running a lot, and not because you are undernourished, chances are you are very healthy, and in the end I think that's more important than what people think you look like.

Though it is cool when people think you're hot. :)

From DailyMile comment;

I ran a Marathon pb last year by not wearing a watch, it was an accident though as I'd left it in the car........... Never trained for a Marathon though, they're always just for fun(???) or training...... Nothing, nothing, nothing is worth shaving down or wearing girls tights though, coz I'm a MAAAAN (allegedly) :-) ............................ see, not all Triathlete's reach for the ladyshave :-D

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Runnin' of the Green: Race Review

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a big holiday for me. Born with red hair and fair skin, it was always the holiday where it was cool to have red hair—even if my hair came from Swedish vs. Irish ancestry. Flashback to the third grade when I was riding the bus to a Broncos game with my dad when a sports reveler who was already “half in the bag” asked who else in my family had red hair to which I replied, “my dog Nick.” At the time I didn’t realize why that was so funny.

Anyway…I’m always into St. Pat’s so the downtown Denver Runnin’ of the Green 7K "Irish Marathon" (ROTG) sounded like a fun race to take in. Known as the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day race, the ROTG is held in the bar and restaurant rich LODO area of Denver.

My marathon training plan (from Runner’s Edge of the Rockies) had this last week as a “recovery week.” Typically each Saturday hosts a long run that gets increasingly longer as the program advances towards race day alternating with a “down week” or recovery week where the mileage is lower including the Saturday long run.

With the target mecca race (the 114th running of the Boston Marathon) a mere five weeks away, the timing was perfect to have a tune-up race.


Since I decided late in the process to sign up, online registration was closed (via Active.Com) so I had two options (Race Day sign-up) or at Runner’s Roost on Saturday. I was smart enough to pick the later. Runner’s Roost on Colorado Blvd. in Denver was bustling on Saturday with the atmosphere of an expo. Saucony had pitched a tent outside and was peddling their wares including a couple of green shoes. Inside, it was crowded with people loading up on running gear and registering but no lines existed at the electronic kiosks. The kiosk was quite cool with one swipe of the Driver’s License and a couple buttons, I was handed my bib number and chip and was ready to go. I couldn’t resist a shamrock racing shirt as I almost made it out the door without spending more cash.


The weather forecast played mind games with me the night before as they predicted cold temps with rain/snow and wind. If the course only threw in hills, it would have had the trifeca of the runner’s nemesis; weather, wind and hills. Lately, I’ve had the habit of laying out what I think I need to wear and throwing additional weather variables into a laundry basket and making a “game time decision” on what to wear. With a late start (10:15AM) I arrived plenty early and was able to get a parking meter ½ mile from the start/finish area. I took a jog to the running area as part of my warm-up and to get a feel for the weather and clothing. I settled for short sleeve shirt with ASIC arm warmers, heavy gloves, and racing cap which was just right for the short quick race.

Fortunately, Runner’s Edge of the Rockies had a tent set up to park a bag and had also organized a brief warm-up run. The atmosphere was buzzing (in some cases quite literally) with St. Patrick’s day revelers—the guy next to me at the start was “double fisting” a pair of Guinness cans. Green shirts, shorts, wigs, socks, and beads were adorned by many of the runner which contributed to a festive atmosphere.

One of the right calls I made was registering the day before as the line for race day registration was several hundred deep—the announcer later labeled the race as sold out and sent some of the disappointed runners straight to the beer line. Bummer for those hoping to race.

The warm-up run was good as it warmed me up and got the racing juices flowing. Coach Dave finished the warm-up with some “butt kickers,” strides and jog back to our home base tent. After grabbing a couple strands of green beads from the Runner’s Roost, I was ready to go.


One of only two mistakes in the race was getting to the starting line too late. Being a social oriented race, there were people who weren’t taking the race seriously (did I mention the guy armed with Guinness?) The problem was that I was several hundred people deep behind what my pace group should have been—as a result, there were casual runners, drunks, baby strollers, and SLOOOW runners bogging the front of the race.

With the congestion, I felt like a Toyota Prius without brakes dodging several hundred people as I took at the sound of the start. My goal based on the recent runs and speed work I’ve done was to average a sub seven minute mile pace—this meant dodging a lot of people and several times, I had to put on the brakes and bob and weave between the runners to try and start out at this pace.

I liked the course layout as it started and finished within the same city block along Wazee street in the LODO section of Denver. My running group, Runner’s Edge of the Rockies had approximately 60 runners out for the race and it was good to see them before, after and throughout points of the course providing each other encouragement.

Only other mistake in the race was that instead of using the plastic zip ties to attach the small credit card sized timing chip to my shoe, I thread my laces through the holes…as a result, I had to stop and tie my shoe at one point in the race—a first for me.


The good news is that I hit my goal and broke the seven minute mile pace in the 7K, but even better was that my conditioning felt great and didn’t feel I was huffing and puffing like I have in some of my shorter 5K races in the past. With over 3,800 entrants, I placed 15th in my division—I really need to target smaller races to have any hopes of ever hitting a podium. The best part was the ample supply of Killians Red Ale awaiting the runners at the end of the race—ahhh…”baby’s milk!”

A fun race and a great tune-up for Boston next month.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You Gotta Earn it!

(Subtitled: The BAA is Such a Tease)

The 114th running of the Boston Marathon is so close, but yet so far away. According to the web widget running on my site, the race is a mere 48 days, 9 hours, 26 minutes and 46 seconds away.

For those registered to run in the race, you’ve received the same emails I have and for the most part they are quite motivating; everything from pre-sale on the apparel, health tips, and the Boston Running Fitness Examiner’s Ben Haber. Ben chronicles “Faces of the 2010 Boston Marathon” who’s profiling the anti-elite runners that are running the race.

Ben's article last week profiled Vanessa Van Dongen who likens Boston to “running mecca” vs. my description of “running Nirvana.” A great read and uncanny in the comparison to my story; for both of us Boston will be a first, she qualified in her fifth in Chicago…I was two minutes short in Chicago, but qualified in my fourth a year later in Sacramento after re-hab’ing a stress fracture.

The stories are quite motivating particularly as we get closer to Nirvana. What I can’t figure out is the emails I keep getting that’s advertising all of the Boston paraphernalia. Don’t get me wrong…I’m ordering EVERYTHING when I get there…jacket, shirt, magnet, coffee mug, hat, mouse pad, bumper sticker, pennant, and bobble head doll if they sell them.

Something about the timing that rubs me the wrong way.

So what am I supposed to do, order online and stare at this stuff for another seven weeks? The Adidas Ad touts, “Run Boston Better.” The issue is that you can’t wear it until you’ve earned it. Talk about a SI Cover photo jinx…what would happen if you wore that jacket before the race…I can’t even go there. An informal poll with my running group all agree.

It reminds me of a story (true confession time) when I was a kid in grade school and we’d gone skiing at Winter Park in Colorado. It was a real “badge of honor” to show up to school on Monday with a lift ticket (they had the wire brackets back then) on your Gerry down ski jacket. The issue was I attached the un-removable lift ticket to my ski pants. My mom, being the trooper she is, delicately removed a sibling’s lift ticket and re-attached it to my jacket Sunday night so I could walk in “like a peacock” on Monday. Problem was, I was a small lad years before hitting the adult lift ticket age and I was promptly “busted” by one of the older students. A proud moment turned into a major embarrassment.

In modern sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc.,) the cardinal sin is premature celebrating—even though they had Super Bowl winner caps printed up for both the Colts and Saints, you don’t see them wear them until AFTER the game is over (what do they do with the boxes of Colts Super Bowl champs caps anyway?)

My point is, quit teasing me because I won’t buy the goods until I hit the expo and I won’t wear that jacket until I’ve earned it—after the race.

The 114th running of the Boston Marathon is now 47 days, 14 hours, 23 minutes and 38 seconds away.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine