Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Running Secret

I have a secret side to me, a side that only a select few people know about, mostly because they wouldn't understand.

I am a runner. Sure, a lot of people know that I run, they just don't know how much. I plan vacations around running, read about running, day dream about running. It is my passion, maybe even an obsession some might say. It is something that non-runners just don't understand. I love the challenges and rewards of running, the cold early mornings that reward you with a beautiful sunrise. Seeing the world in a fresh way, from a slower perspective than a speeding vehicle.
I have learned not to talk much about my running to non-runners. Sometimes I find myself telling little lies or half truths about my running habits to non-runners. When I sneak out for long lunch breaks to get in a quick five miler, I might say that I have some errands to run. When getting up at 4am to get a run in before work it's like I have a dirty little secret that I don't dare tell due to the the "are you crazy?" looks that I would get. It's that same shocked look that they have after they ask you how far your marathon was and you politely tell them, 26.2 miles. Sometimes that's part of the fun too.

I often get the feeling that non-runners think that running is just a hobby for me. Something that I do in my spare time, an extra-curricular activity that is not necessary. Sometimes these non-runners will look at you funny or think that you are being foolish for trying to arrange your schedule to fit in a run for the day. Some of these same people don't think twice about watching TV for hours every evening or taking 10 smoke breaks throughout the day.

I don't always enjoy running. Sometimes I have great runs where I feel light as a feather and I think that I could run forever. Other times I may have to battle with my mind and body to coax myself along every mile just to finish.
Despite how I may feel during the run, I am always satisfied and feel great afterwards. It is what keeps me calm yet energized. Running gives me strength and confidence to do things that I might not otherwise think that I could do.

There has been pain and suffering caused by running.

Lost toenails
Bloody nipples
But there have been many more great people and experiences!

The Sioux Falls Area Dailymile Crew. I really miss you all!

Great Hy-Vee Runners! (Sioux Falls Half Marathon)

After the Mankato Marathon with Tom.

St. Cloud Earth Day run with the coolest ladies!
 Megan, Jenn, and Jenessa.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploring your area

Grand Trace Conservation Area
When is the last time that you looked for someplace different to run? Because I have a coach, most of my runs have specific goals which does not leave much room for many "fun runs". It's not that I don't enjoy the challenge of these runs, but it's nice to be a little spontaneous once in awhile.

I run for several reasons, obviously health, fitness, competition, etc. But another reason I run is to explore the area around me in a way that many people don't do anymore, on foot. It is interesting how different the world looks when you are out on a run as opposed to driving the same area. Even beyond that, there are several places that a run can take you that you would never see in a vehicle.

I have been planning for a couple of trail races in 2011 which inspired me to change up my scheduled workout a bit today. It is about four miles to the Grand Trace Conservation Area from my house. I decided that I would check out the trails a bit in the middle part of my scheduled 10 miles today. It was a chilly 18F with a windchill of about 3F this morning. As cold as that sounds, the temperature really wasn't bad other than running into the wind.
Entrance to Grand Trace

Grand Trace has a gravel entrance off of the paved road. As I was entering the area a truck with a couple of hunters happened to drive by. It is a short road to the start of the trail so I followed them in and flagged them down. After speaking with them a moment I learned that it was the last day of rifle hunting season so I told them to keep an eye out for me because I would be running on the trails. Luckily I never saw a hunter or heard a shot while I was out there! It was a great area to run through, quite the mix of hills and trails. It is all fairly wide open with a couple of stream crossings. Other than scaring up some wild turkeys I didn't see much wildlife.

Trail running is no joke. The terrain is uneven and the hills are challenging.Today's test run was a bit of a wake up call for me. It was very humbling to have to walk up some of the steeper hills after finishing a hilly 10 miler just under 8 minute pace on the road earlier in the week.

My first test will be at the 10 mile distance with the Run Toto Run trail race in Kansas City. My first thought was to run the 50K at this event, luckily my coach advised against using this as my first 50K. After today's run, I am glad because it wouldn't have been real pretty.

I do have my sights set on the Greenland Trail 50K in Colorado this spring. It appears to be about an 8 mile loop that is run 4 times with a maximum elevation of 7,400 ft. It will be interesting to see how the elevation affects my running, not to mention the 31 miles of trails!

Running a 50K or even a 10 mile trail run may seem a little extreme to some. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, and run somewhere that you have never run before. Explore your area. You may even have to drive a few miles to find a place like I did, but for me, it has always been well worth it. Most people won't find a view like this on any of their running routes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Trot 5K

It was a blustery cold November morning. A morning that most people would have preferred to stay under cover in their warm beds. Only the brave or crazy would subject themselves to these frigid temperatures to test their running speed and skills against others.

I had lowered my finishing time expectations for this race because of the cold temperatures. I have not done many cold air runs yet this year and if I am not acclimated in tends to really bother my lungs. I set my original goal at 22 minutes, then adjusted it to 22:30 after I had seen the weather report.

On the morning of race day I felt great. We were to start in front of the high school, luckily we could stay inside before the race to keep warm. 10 minutes before race start I stepped outside to warm up a bit and get the blood flowing. It was COLD! I was really hoping that my body would warm up as I ran. Anyway - let's just skip ahead  to the start.

Nobody seemed to want to toe the front line, I figured what the hell and got up there. When they started the race of course a huge group of young kids took off like they were running the 100 yard dash, and that's about as far as they led the race. I quickly found a good solid pace behind some young crazy kid in front that was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I was cold in my layers and gloves, I cannot imagine how cold he had to be! Running a 5K is such a beast because it is almost like running all out for 20 minutes. It hurts and you don't have a lot of room for error. I felt like I kept a solid pace right behind the race leader for most of the way. He was not pulling away and I had no desire to try to push the pace with him. At the first turnaround we both had a pretty decent lead on the pack behind us but there was a lot of race left at that point. At about the halfway point I started hearing some footsteps behind me and was passed by another guy but nobody else was even close. I kept the two leaders close but knew that I didn't have enough to take them. The distance actually seemed to go by quickly and we were soon on the last stretch. We all poured it on to the end and I finished 3rd overall finishing in 20:46. I was very pleased with my race performance. I didn't feel like I had gone out too fast and considering the weather conditions, I felt like I gave it what I had on this particular day. It was a pretty cool feeling for me to finish 7 seconds behind the winner, not bad for a 41 year old!

Here is a short video of the finish taken by professional videographer and wife Corrin. This will give you an idea of how close I was to finishing first. I will be back for revenge!

On a side note, this race was a great community event and I was also able to meet fellow Daily Mile runner Sara and her husband. Yes, it is true, I was not the first DM'er in Bethany Missouri. Daily Mile is everywhere!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marathon # 3 - Mankato

Marathon number 3 is in the books. It was much more difficult than I anticipated, I did not reach either of the goals that I was aiming for...but it was still a rewarding experience and my best effort on that day. Sometimes that is all that you can ask for.
Fellow Daily Miler Tom and I after the race.

Before I start rambling about my marathon experience I would like to recognize some people. First, congratulations to my sister-in-law Kari who rocked the half marathon! And a huge thank you to the rest of the family, including my wife, that raced around to cheer us on throughout the run and put up with my whining about my performance after the race. It wouldn't have been the same without them there!

My coach and I had been talking about the possibility of a Boston qualifying run at this marathon. My training had gone very well this summer and I had a strong PR at the Sioux Falls Half Marathon. If you have been keeping up with my blog you will know that the thought of running an entire marathon in the 7:30's was all a bit overwhelming to me. Additionally, my last month of training had not really gone well due to my relocation and starting a new job. After talking it over with the coach, we decided that 3:30 pace (8:01) was completely obtainable and would not be out of reach by any means. This really helped take the pressure off, but in the back of my mind, I was still considering the 3:20 finish. I would wait and see how I felt on race morning, but I didn't tell of any of this to the coach.

Along comes race day! The weather forecast leading up to the race was for a 60% chance of rain all morning. It was cloudy and sprinkling on and off before the race. I ran in to fellow DM'ers Tom and Sara before the race and we had to get under a tent for a little while to stay dry. Luckily the rain stopped before the race started and never became a factor. In fact the weather was almost perfect. It was nice cool and cloudy morning, great weather for a long run!

Back to the race. I was excited and feeling good. I had decided that I was going to see how it felt to hang with the 3:20 group, I decided to go for it. Part of me said that if it was too much I would just drop back with the 3:30 group while another part of me knew that it doesn't usually work that way. After a brief pep talk from Dick Beardsley to start the race, we were off!

The pace was great, I had no trouble keeping up and felt very comfortable. At about mile 5 we approached the first of two large hills. Instead of trying to keep up with the pacer I ran my own pace up the hill and then picked it up to catch back up. I stuck with the pacer until around mile 11, then I let him go and decided that I had better run my own race.

I get pretty focused on what I am doing when racing. I really don't know what is going on so much around me because I am thinking about pace and running form and constantly evaluating my exertion level. My wife told me that I ran right by her at mile 10 while she was shouting and clanging the cowbells, I never heard her or saw her. Fellow DM'er, Jeri, told me the same thing, she was screaming at me and taking pictures, I ran right by her, didn't see or hear a thing.

Through the first 15 miles I had an average pace of 7:38, right on target for BQ, but that was all that I had. It seems that after 15 - 17 miles life gets much more difficult for me. Between 15 and 19 miles my average pace dropped a full minute to 8:37. After 19 it was pretty much a battle for survival. I finished off the race with a walk run strategy and my spirits were crushed. I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to walk any parts of the race but my calves were cramping up and my right knee was really starting to hurt. Finishing the race was painful, I had to talk myself into running any way that I could. I ran with a guy that was struggling like me for awhile for inspiration, but it wasn't enough. I even had to walk some during the last mile of the race, it wasn't until 25.5 on the Garmin that I decided one way or another that I was going to run it in the rest of the way.....and I did.
Dragging my sorry ass to the finish.
Photo courtesy of Jeri !

I heard and saw my family cheering me in just before the finish, it was a great ending to the race! It's funny how the first hour or so the pain and fatigue are so great that I tell myself I will never run another stupid marathon. What's the point of putting yourself through weeks of training for this torture called a marathon? I couldn't even remember why I had decided to attempt such a thing.

Then the pain begins to fade and the mind clears. I am starting to think about how it all played out and what I could have done differently. Hmmm....could there be a # 4?

Technical Stuff (sort of)

My fuel plan worked well for this run. I took a Hammer Gel about every 5 miles. I also took 3 Endurolyte capsules each at miles 9 and 18. I drank either water or Gatorade at every water stop sometimes even 2 cups  to stay hydrated because I sweat like a man!

I likely would have finished a little sooner had I followed the plan and went with the 3:30 group, but I will never know. Besides, I would probably be kicking myself for not doing it had the 3:30 run gone well.

I am not sure what's going on with the knee, but I will be doing some spinning and very little running this week to recover. I am definitely looking forward to some cross country running on tap for this fall!

Mankato really shined when putting on this race. There was fantastic support along the route and the water stops were great. Because it was the first year for this marathon and a limit of 2,000 runners the expo was small but still offered a nice variety. I would recommend this marathon to anyone considering it but I would also encourage you to be ready for some hills. You can't run in Mankato without running some hills!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Attitude Adjustment with the Altitude

The taper has been good to me.
I have for the most part quit worrying and thinking about the BQ.
I have quit whining and whimpering about the Missouri hills.
I have readjusted my attitude.

I am typically a very positive person. My glass is usually half full, I work hard to anticipate and prepare for the worst and work to improve on it. I generally see adversity and problems as opportunities to learn and grow stronger for the future. But, I am human. Even I have a bad day or two where the attitude stinks and life doesn't seem fair. Luckily for me, I have a great support crew within my running world which has helped me claw my way back to the top of the attitude chart.

I am back.I don't mind the hills now.I am getting stronger.They are getting easier.They will make me better.

Less than one week now until the Mankato Marathon!

If you are truly bored, here is a 52 second video of me running up one of the hills on my route. This will give you an idea of the terrain in the area.

Monday, October 11, 2010


As I write this update, there are only 11 days until the Mankato Marathon. My training has been fantastic. I have had great improvement and even surprised my coach with my progress. I ran my fastest half marathon ever a day after turning 41. There is a chance that I may even qualify for the Boston Marathon while in Mankato. Sounds exciting...but I don't feel it.

I have trained hard all summer for this marathon; I have logged over 1,200 miles so far this year. But I seem to have lost my motivation. Maybe it is because there are too many other things going on in my life outside of running right now. Moving to a new state and starting a new job are certainly a part of it. Maybe it's the challenges of my new running path. Running in the dark isn't quite the option it used to be. We are living in the country now, when it gets dark, it's black. Also, after being used to the relatively flat plains of South Dakota, the Missouri hills are really kicking my ass.
A couple of the "rolling" hills on my runs.

I know that distance running is hugely mental.
I know that running these hills will make me stronger.
I know how good it feels to finish a great race or run.
I know the rewards of perseverance.
I know that I can run 26.2 miles.
But I have my doubts. There is a part of me that wants to give up and quit. Looking at the map of the marathon, makes me question what the hell I am doing.

I have just begun my taper. I am physically and mentally ready for this break and to have the marathon behind me. I am ready to have fun with my running again.

Maybe I just need a little inspiration.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sioux Falls Half Race Report

Sprinting to the finish!

While training for the marathon, every fourth week coach gives me an easier mileage week with a race at the end of it. It's a great test to see where I am at in training. Last weeks race was the Sioux Falls Half Marathon. With my heart rate training zones adjusted and the recent progress that I have been making I really felt like I had a solid chance of running my fastest race ever at this distance. Discussing my race goal with Coach the day before, I had told him that I wanted to finish under 1:38 which was my previous PR (personal record) at this distance. Coach agreed and thought I could pull it off, then he used one of his motivational tricks and tried planting a seed in my mind. He told me that one of the people he coaches (who shall remain nameless) had just finished a half the week before in 1:36, I thought that would be pushing my luck and pretty much blew off that competitive jab he gave me. So here is how it all unfolded.

The Race
With my goal time set, coach had me break down the race by 5K times. He told me that it was much easier to break the race up into 5K goals than to think about how many more miles there were. I took his advice and the morning of the race I wrote on my hand where I needed to be for every 3 miles. My goal was to average 7:25 per mile or better so my 3 mile goals were 3(22:15), 6(44:30), 9(1:06:45), 12(1:29:00).  When my first 3 mile split came in at 21:24, I didn't feel like I was pushing the pace too much and was happy that I had banked a little time in case I started slowing down a little. As I write this, I see that I ran the second 3 at exactly the same pace 21:24. This put me almost 2 minutes ahead of my goal pace at 6 miles, I has banked a little more time, I was still feeling good, things were going great! I did my best to focus on keeping my arms and shoulders relaxed and trying to keep a good running form. At mile 9 my time was 1:05:03, I had run the last 3 miles at 22:15 (goal pace) and had not lost any of the time I had banked. This meant that I had to just hang on for another 4.1 miles and I even had a little wiggle room. I was still feeling good but I also knew that could change at any moment. Upon reaching the 12 mile mark I was still running some strong miles. I reached 12 at 1:27:16 which meant that I was still running fairly consistent splits and had run the last three in 22:13, pretty much goal pace. At this point I knew that I was going to decimate my goal of coming in under 1:38! My plan was to try and kick hard the last 1.1 miles but I didn't know how much kick I had remaining and I was not sure exactly where the finish line was. Mentally, I really like to know where the finish is so that I can gauge just how hard to kick to the end. I completed mile 13 in 7:25, right at goal pace, and then kicked it down for the final sprint to the finish. My final time was 1:36:18, I smoked my previous best by over 2 minutes! This was one of the better races ever for me. I felt good the entire run and I really believe that breaking the race down into 3 mile segments helped too.
I finished 67th overall out of 1137, 10th in my age group, and the 51st male.

Tech notes: 
I chose not to wear the compression leggings on for this race. I had only worn them once during a training run and wasn't ready to try them on race day yet.

I did not use any gels or other fuel options for this race. It was a cool morning, the weather was perfect and I was pretty sure that I could run my goal time without needing to take anything considering the conditions and actual running time. I did take a little water and Powerade throughout the run but not much. I had made sure to drink lots of fluids the day before and the morning of the race so that I was well hydrated. Other than being slightly cramped in the calves, I felt great after the race. I was planning on taking some Endurolytes before the race but I didn't get them set out the night before and forgot to take them.

Once again for you runners, I highly recommend breaking your next race up into 3 mile or 5K splits. It is so much more mentally manageable for long runs. This was great advice from the Coach.

Daily Mile
Daily Mile is a social media network for athletes. The greater portion of athletes are runners but there are a good variety of other endurance athletes on this site as well. It is an extremely supportive online community where I post my workouts. We comment on each other's workouts, share triumphs and tribulations, and can ask or answer a variety of training related questions. Here are some great Daily Mile members that I have had the pleasure of meeting from the Sioux Falls area. It is such a great thing it is to spend time with like minded people that understand the allure of running as you I do. Non-runners just don't understand why we would torture ourselves with chaffing, cramps, muscle soreness, and running through the various crazy weather conditions.
Awesome group of Daily Mile friends!

Me with Angela and Matt. This was their first half and they both ran a fantastic race!

Trying to finish strong!

Monday, September 6, 2010

47 to 3

It's been just over a month since I have updated the blog and a lot has happened since then.As I write this, there are 47 days until the Mankato Marathon, which will be my third marathon. I am at the point in my training that running a fourth does not sound very appealing. It's been a lot of hard work to get to here and I still have just over a month of training to go. Here is my long winded story of what has happened within the last month.

Century Ride for JDRF
What an amazing event! Because of my limited cycling training, I was very concerned about being able to ride then entire 100 miles. My longest ride prior to La Crosse was only 50 miles and when I told some of the other riders this, I could see them trying to mask a look of concern on their faces. My Coach had assured me that this would not be a problem, but I was not 100% sold on it. When race day came, it was not nearly as difficult as I had feared. The last 15-20 miles my feet started to get a couple of hot spots on them, but overall I was feeling good. With stops along the way for food and stretching, it took about 7.5 hours to finish. More importantly, it made me realize what a fantastic event this was. JDRF is a great organization that is funding research throughout the world to not only find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes but make lives easier for those that have it. The Wisconsin ride raised over $600,000 for JDRF and all rides combined last year raised over $4 million. It's a great feeling for me to be a part of this; helping someone with their fight against diabetes. Throughout the weekend I was able to meet many people who had children or siblings with Type I diabetes, it was truly inspiring to hear their stories and to know how thankful they were for us being there for them. I will definitely be participating in this event again!
About 60 miles into the ride at a rest stop right by the Mississippi river.

Marathon Training Update
Yesterday I told my good friend Jeff Pickett that I wasn't very happy with him for getting me started on these stupid marathons. Just over one year ago he suggested that we train together for the Twin Cities Marathon. Half way through the training he developed an injury that kept him from running it, for some crazy reason, I keep doing them.
Maybe it's knowing that they were not perfectly executed and with a little work I can finish faster and with less pain. Maybe it's just that I need to have a goal ahead of me in order to keep running and challenging myself. Nevertheless, marathon training is no cake walk. There is a huge time commitment and many sacrifices along the way.In a nutshell, 18 - 20 weeks of training, all for three and a half hours of running your ass off.

Enough bitching already...

My training is actually going very well. I have been putting in some solid weeks of training. I finished the month of July with 150 miles and August with 143 miles of running.
I am still struggling with my endurance on the long runs. After 2 - 2.5 hours I really start to go downhill. My calves get cramped, I begin to run out of energy, and at times I struggle keeping hydrated enough because I sweat like like a beast. I have been experimenting with my hydration and electrolyte replacement on these runs and I feel like I have made some improvements, but still feel like I am not 100% there yet.
First, I have been using Endurolyte capsules for about 3 months now. These are electrolyte replacement capsules. They are easy to swallow and seem to help reduce my calf cramping. I generally take 3 capsules before running, then about 3 every hour during my run.
For yesterday's run I tried two new items in addition to the Endurolytes. I finally broke down and purchased a pair of Zensah compression leg sleeves. I have been wearing some cheapo compression tights from Walgreen's for several months now for recovery after runs. I finally splurged and purchased the Zensah's and I am glad I did. I hardly noticed that I was wearing them and I have absolutely no calf soreness after yesterday's long run. They may not be the sexiest things in the world, but my calves were happy!
Zensah compression leg sleeves.
The second thing I tried out for my long run was a new fuel replacement. I have been using gels for quite some time and really don't mind them; but I don't believe that I have been getting everything from them that I need for endurance, so I tried another Hammer Nutrition product, Perpetuem. I was a little concerned about the flavor and consistency of this product prior to trying it, but it is actually very good. For my first trial I mixed it a little light, I made up a 2 hour bottle using 3 scoops in an 8 oz bottle for my fuel belt. I premixed it in a measuring cup before pouring it into the bottle. It had some lumps when I poured it into the bottle but they disappeared after I shook it up. The flavor was great, not too strong, and the consistency was similar to that of a thin protein shake. For this run I took a mouthful every 20 minutes and followed it up with some water. The early consensus, I like it! It is much easier to use than trying to tear open a gel and get it swallowed down and I didn't feel hungry during my run either.
Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem

Last but not least is my coaching. I must say, Coach Kline from PRSfit really knows what he is doing. He gives me my weekly workouts, answers my annoying questions, and gives great feedback from the workouts. He is definitely a teaching coach who along with his wife Diane, are very supportive of their team and others. It is obvious that they love to see others grow and succeed.
When teamed up with the coach he had me run a lactate threshold test. This is a test to determine your anaerobic threshold and help set heart rate training zones. Coach had me run this test again on Monday and my LT was much lower than the initial test back at the beginning of June. This means I have made some progress! Because of this test, Coach set up new training zones for me that kicked my butt this week. Aerobically, they were not too bad to run, but physically, my legs have some work to do. I had a difficult time running a fast pace to get to and stay in zone 4 or even the top of zone 3 during my last two runs. I am sure it will come in time, but it is currently quite a challenge. I am sure that the cooler weather helped, but yesterday's long run was scheduled for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I completed 17 miles in this time which is just a hair under 8 minute miles for the duration. This has been my strongest long run to date and I was not completely wiped out when I finished either. I love seeing progress like this!  I have my first half marathon in quite some time scheduled for this coming weekend and I am excited to see how it will turn out!

If you actually made it this far reading through my blog without falling asleep, I thank you. When I look at the road ahead and behind me, my training it seems a little daunting at times, hence the whining at the beginning of the post. I do love running and the challenge of the training and the races. In life, seeing progress and growth is a great motivator for all of the hard work we do whether it be running, working, or raising a family. The fight is the journey, the results are our rewards...never stop fighting.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Picking the right races

It's been a great start to the year for my running. In May I PR'd at the Fargo Marathon finishing in 3:56 and some change.
 My first 10K of the year, early in July, I outright won the entire race. Not because I am anything close to being a fast or elite runner, but because there were only 20 people running in it.
My very first Overall Win!
My second 10K of the year was tough to find. There are not many Sunday races in the area and I had to work on Saturday. I happened to stumble across a 10K trail race in Aberdeen, SD. It's about a 3 hour drive from Sioux Falls but I have been wanting to do some sort of a trail race for quite some time now and this was my opportunity! 
It had been raining off and on in the Aberdeen area and they were predicting rain for Saturday night. When I woke up on Sunday there were puddles in the parking lot and the Weather Channel was flashing severe thunderstorm warnings. Ugh, it was really going to suck if I drove all that way to have the race cancelled due to lightening! As I drove out to the sight of the race though the clouds started breaking up, in fact we had a brief shower about 5 minutes before the race and that was it for the morning. I was excited and apprehensive both about the trail being muddy, especially since I had no idea how difficult it would be. 
Bring on the mud!

Getting to the starting line, I lined up in the second row. I was not so bold to even think that I would finish near the front but nobody else seemed to want to be up there. The 5K and 10K runners started at the same place and time. I was quickly grateful that I did start at the front because the first two miles were all single track trail with lots of twists and turns and very few places to pass anyone. I tucked behind a group of ladies that were mostly running the 5K and just worked on maintaining my pace and control of my feet on the slippery turns. I think I probably ran with a smile on my face at least the first mile or two. It is such a fun adventure ducking under branches, jumping over tree roots, dodging the mud puddles while running as fast as you can without ending up on your ass. 
The trail wandered in and out of the trees which made it very difficult to judge how far you had traveled. The tree canopy was very dense so I really couldn't trust that my Garmin was measuring distances accurately either. Quickly into the first mile I had a guy right on my heels, I offered a couple of times to let him pass me, but he waited until we reached a clearing somewhere around the end of the first mile. I let him by and focused on running my own race. Not long after, I was caught behind somebody that had gone out too fast. She was really breathing heavy and slowing down but there was just no room to go around her for awhile. In the meantime the person I was pacing myself behind was pulling away. We came out of the trees and into a field at one point where there was just enough room to pass so I did. For awhile when we ran back into the trees it  seemed like I was running all by myself. I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I certainly wasn't going to risk looking behind me. Before long I caught the lady that I had been following, she offered to let me pass but I just wasn't ready. She really started to slow, so I took the pass. When we came out on to the road again, I realized that I had also just caught up with the guy that passed me at the end of the first mile. It felt good when I was able to recover a little on the road but had plenty of speed to still pass him. Back into the trees, and I was alone again. I had no idea how many people were ahead of me or how close anyone was behind me so I just continued to run my own race. Once again we came out of the trees and they had us running in a grassy ditch. One of the volunteers yelled to me, "just a quarter mile to go!", but I couldn't believe it because my Garmin had just turned over to 5 miles. Instead of putting the hammer down and finishing hard, I just continued on until I was sure that the finish was close. I finished in 54:05 which is a 10K PR for me. I am pretty sure that this race was about a mile short of a 10K, but I'll take it.
I finished second place overall and second place in my age group, winning $50 and a medal!
Second place spoils, not so bad!
I cannot remember a race where I have had so much fun. I will definitely be doing another trail race someday soon! 

Pre race shoes

Post race shoes

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Healthy, Beautiful, Deadly?

Running is healthy and beautiful for sure.

Last week I completed a three week buildup in my training. It's been a challenging three weeks, not only to complete my workouts but to find the time to do so. In those 3 weeks I ran 131 miles and biked 137, not to mention the strength workouts. To the non-runners this probably sounds crazy, but I have goals in front of me and I enjoy my activities. Workouts may seem like a hassle before you begin them and then there are bad workouts where a run just doesn't go well and you can't wait to be done, but I ALWAYS feel better and have a great sense of accomplishment when I am done. It's like a drug. It makes you feel better, it makes you look better and it gives you more energy, how can you lose?
Working out and training is obviously not all roses and rainbows. There are time conflicts with work and family. It takes careful planning and time management to get these things done. Secondly, there are generally some aches and pains that go along with training. Sore muscles, bruises, and a variety of other minor maladies are all part of the amateur and professional athlete's life. This year I made a couple of visits to the physical therapist, mostly due to over-training and not really knowing what I was doing. Other minor injuries this year have included ...
Bloody Shin from biking

The infamous 'bloody nipples" from shirt chaffing.

Losing a toenail.

...all minor, laughable injuries. It's just a part of the journey. As athletes we can easily be our own worst enemies while training and competing. It's all about pushing yourself to the next level. Going farther, going faster and getting leaner, meaner, and stronger. But there is a line. We have to be smart about it. Do you have a plan? Do you follow it or overdo it? We must learn to listen to our bodies, knowing when it is time to push and when it is time to recover, heal, and regroup. Backing off is no easy task. Do you know when to do it? Can you do it?
My two trips to the physical therapist were due to lack of a balance in my training. I was running harder, farther, and longer than I should have been. I was not taking proper time for recovery and I was neglecting proper strength training. Again all of this resulted in minor inconveniences for me with fairly quick and easy solutions to my injuries. I was lucky.
This last weekend somebody I went to high school with wasn't so lucky. I was on the high school wrestling team for a couple of years and the coach's son was a year ahead of me. He was an all star on the team. He went on to be a very good wrestler in college, then he went back and took over for his father, coaching at the same high school from where he graduated. His name was John Chapman. His wife is the track and cross country coach at the same high school. They were running the Bix 7 together for the second year in a row. Unfortunately at about mile 6, John, 41 years young, had a heart attack and passed away. I never really knew John very well, but it sure hits close to home. I will be 41 in September, it's scary. As an athlete you don't expect these things to happen to us because we eat well and we exercise; we are healthy. You can read about John here and here. It's a terrible tragedy.
It's been a hot and humid summer. It's easy to feel a little invincible after a good hard workout. We are not invincible, in any way.
Please, listen to your body, train smart, and be careful out there.

RIP John

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Training Update

I have not posted since the Fargo Marathon back in May, mostly because there hasn't been anything too exciting to post and I have been super busy. Since finishing Fargo I have enlisted a coach to help me with my training. Not because I have any hopes of becoming an elite athlete but because I was feeling overwhelmed with my summer training. As I have mentioned before, I am signed up to do a century ride as a fundraiser for JDRF and have plans to run the Mankato Marathon in October. I am a runner at heart but was talked into doing the ride because it is for a great cause, it is for one of the major charities that my company supports, and of course....I love a challenge. I did not even own a road bike until May so I had not clue as to how to train for a 100 mile ride while also maintain my marathon training.

The Coach
I found Coach Jeff from PRS Fit through my running buddy Jenn. Jeff trains his athletes mainly through heart rate training. I am just over one month into my training with Jeff and I can tell you that it has been a positive experience so far. He gives me enough workouts to keep me busy but not so much to cause injury. Jeff provides me with running, cycling, and strength training work outs. An interesting fact is that in the five weeks that I have been training with Jeff, I have had two complete rest days, one was during week one which was more of an evaluation week, and the second rest day was because I just could not fit a strength training workout into my day due to job responsibilities. This busy schedule fits right in with my restless personality, but it is also tempered with enough variety through the week to keep me injury free.

The Ride
Currently most of my weeks consist of 3 days running, 2 days cycling, and 2 days of strength training. Although it's not my favorite thing to do, I am enjoying the cycling. What a great way to cover much more ground than running, and it presents a unique set of challenges. My rides so far have been 1-3 hours in duration with my farthest ride being right at 40 miles and my average pace is typically about 15.5 mph. I still have a long way to go though because I am anticipating my century ride to take about 9 hours. Luckily I will have some other people to share it with. By the way, I have now raised just over $1,000 for the ride. I still have at least $2,000 to go. Thank you so much if you are one of the people that have helped donate towards my ride. If you have not yet but would like to, it is super easy, quick, safe, tax deductible, and can even be anonymous if you prefer. Just go here to donate to my ride, thank you so much for your generosity!

The Run
It has been difficult to figure out where my running performance had progressed. At this point in my training it is mostly building and maintaining a strong base. It has been a little different because the coach has us mostly run in prescribed heart rate zones for a certain duration of time. This means that you don't always know exactly how far your run will take you. Terrain, weather, and general overall well being can cause some fluctuation in distance. This is the first time in all of my years running that I really have not paid any attention and up until today, could not tell you how many miles I ran this week or last.

Last week was my first performance test since employing a coach. I ran the "Salute the Troops" 10K race. I can only remember running one other 10K, so I was a little worried about race strategy. How fast to go out, and what kind of pace that I could maintain. I was fairly confident that I could hold 7:30 for the 6.2 miles and if things were really clicking along, I might even be able to run it a bit faster. Unfortunately 80 degrees and 90% humidity do not make for ideal race conditions. I won't get into too many details other than I went out way to fast which is a common mistake. I just had a tough time judging my speed for the first mile or so. My splits were 6:55(whoa hoss!), 7:25, 7:23, 7:46, 7:53, 8:05, 1:10. Yep, that's pretty much what you would call a regressive run.

 Despite the fact that I didn't run the smartest race, I did finish in 46:36 (goal time was 46 or faster), which was good enough to be the overall winner of the race! It pays to pick the right race I guess, but it was particularly sweet because my father was there to see it. There may have only been 20 people in this race, but you know what, it still counts!!

In summary, my training seems to be going well so far. Next week will be interesting because we start to step up the mileage. As always it will be challenging trying to fit my training in while working 11-12 hour days, but, I am not sure that I would have it any other way either!

Special thank you to my wife and daughter for putting up with and supporting my passion / hobby and listening to me talk about all sorts of weird running things. And to my running / fitness friends for being just as crazy about running or working out as I can be at times.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fargo Marathon Recap

8am on 5/22/10 was the beginning of the Fargo Marathon, my second marathon.
Here is the short and long of it all.

Summary (for those of you that don't care about the technical stuff)

Starting weather: pleasantly cool with a light rain (perfect)
Finishing weather: warm, sunny, and strong gusting winds (not perfect)
Goal time: 3:50
Actual finish time : 3:55:43
Overall place: 308 / 1878
Gender place: 471 / 1124
Age group place: 89 / 182

My goal for this race was to finish in 3 hours 50 minutes. After mile 22 I "hit the wall". My quads started to ache, my calves were cramping, and my right knee had a little bit of a twinge. At this point I believe all but the knee can be attributed to not taking in enough sodium. The knee I blame on not doing enough running specific strength training.

Overall, I felt great throughout the run until after mile 22, then it felt like the longest 4.2 miles of my life.

A marathon is such an interesting beast. You train 18-20 weeks for (in this case) 4 hours of running. Certainly there is much more to it than that, there are many mental and physical challenges along the journey. But the rewards are well worth it as well as the camaraderie of other marathoners.

The Details

Now for the good stuff!

I really feel like I learned some good information from my first marathon, and I am almost certain that # 3 will be even better. Here is what I have learned, the mistakes I made, and where things went well.

The Friendships
Before I talk about the actual marathon and training details I have to give a plug to the great DailyMile people that were at Fargo, I know there were more, but these are the ones I know and had contact with.
Jenn - I have spent many hours running with Jenn here in Sioux Falls. She has dramatically improved her running skills within the last year and will continue to grow. She's a great friend, keep your eye on her training, she will likely be qualifying for Boston this fall in Chicago.
Jenessa - This was Jenessa's first marathon. I had the great opportunity of first meeting her in St. Cloud for the Earth Day run where she PR'd her half marathon. She finished strong in Fargo and will also only get better. Way to go Jenessa!
Rob (aka Rob the Runner) - If your are on DailyMile you have got to check out his mileage. Rob is such a great spirit and inspiration on DM. In celebration of running Fargo, Rob was sporting the "mara-hawk" hairdo, check it out!
Emily A. - What a sweetheart! Emily and I had the same race goal and I had the pleasure of running with her for almost the first half of the race. She wasn't feeling it and eased off of the pace after awhile but she still had strong performance for the day.

The Training
When I first started training for Fargo, my intention was to use Higdon's Intermediate II plan. I quickly figured out that this plan was a little too aggressive for me and backed down the the Intermediate I plan. Not a huge difference but it did not have the 50 mile weeks. My running is a great mental release for me and I found myself overtraining and becoming injured three different times throughout my training. Between a hamstring problem, a knee problem, and tendonitis I guess that I am lucky to have even completed this marathon let alone PR it.

 I am my worst enemy with my training and created my problems by not allowing my body proper rest among other things. I am going to use a well respected coach this time and see if I can have a more successful training period.
A lot of equipment for such a minimalist sport!

Fuel and Nutrition
During the Twin Cities marathon in October I made the mistake of not taking my gels or drinking enough water because I didn't feel like I needed it. At that time I was also hung up on using one type of gel, which was the orange GU with caffeine (another mistake). This time, after some experimentation, I switched to the Hammer Gels. So far I love them. They are the best tasting and easiest to consume gels that I have tried. What seems to work for me is to consume one gel every 4 miles (or about every 35 minutes). I also drank water at every water stop to keep hydrated and help break down the gels. The one thing that I will change on my next marathon is to take in some electrolytes. Once again Hammer Nutrition offers Endurolytes, an electrolyte replacement. I actually purchased these before Fargo, but had not trained with them and was not comfortable using them. Side note: For the second time, I also consumed a 5 hour energy drink moments before the start of the race. Does it help? I like to think so, but it's difficult to say for sure at this point.

The Weather
Really nothing we can do about the weather. It's always the luck of the draw. Spring marathons are tough because you train through the snow and cold of winter, the nice cool spring days and then you hope it stays cool for your race. Leading up to Fargo it looked like it was going to be much warmer than what I had been training in. Luckily we caught a break on race day and had cool temps with a light rain, at least for the first hour. The clouds stayed out for the next couple of hours, then the last hour the sun and the wind showed up to add an extra challenge. I am glad that I was able to get a couple of warmer weather runs in pre-marathon so that I was somewhat acclimated to it.
The race actually finishes inside of the Fargodome, it's a great experience!

The Marathon
My game plan was to stick with the 3:50 pacer up until mile 23, then if I had anything left in the tank to give it some gas and finish strong. Throughout the race we were right on pace, even a minute or so ahead of goal pace at around mile 14. I kept falling behind the group at the water stops until somewhere around mile 16 when I actually found myself ahead of the pacer. This was not intentional but I went with it and did a decent job of maintaining about an 8:45 pace, at least until I finished mile 22. The pace group caught and passed me right after the mile 23 marker and I just didn't have it in me to keep up. My quads were aching and the last two miles my right calf started to badly cramp. I had to walk it off, I was afraid that if I kept running while it was cramping that it would get so bad that I might not be able to finish. I did a combination of running and walking to the finish. That last mile seemed like the longest mile ever.

In reflection, with better training and continuing to dial in my nutrition, I can realistically see taking another ten minutes off my PR for the Mankato marathon.
After the marathon with my running buddy Jenn.

The Technical Stuff
I have to say that I am very happy with my splits, they were pretty consistent until the bonk at 23. 

Looking at my heart rate, it took a pretty good jump about 1:45 into the race and continued a steady climb afterwards. This is where I believe that electrolyte replacement would have greatly helped.

Lots of details, but to me that's part of the fun. Knowing that there is room for improvement is a great motivator!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Biking for a Cause

After much debate, procrastination, and sweet-talking my wife, I have finally decided to enter the world of cycling. I have thought about cycling on and off throughout the years but until now I have never been interested enough to part with the money required to purchase a bike and the necessary gear to go with it. Sure you can spend some money on running shoes and clothing, but getting started in cycling is a whole new ballgame. I did a lot of shopping around and asking questions before I bought my bike, I even pitted a couple of bike shops against each other to get the bike I wanted at the best possible price.

So here it is, the Giant Defy 3, so far it has been a great bike for me.

Other than the obvious fitness reasons for purchasing a bike, I have also signed up for a fundraising ride in August. I am riding 100 miles through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa in order to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation ( JDRF). This is a great organization that is working towards a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. My goal is to raise $3,000 or more for this ride. So here's my pitch -

If you can afford to donate even $5 towards this cause it would be greatly appreciated. You can quickly and easily donate here on my fundraising website. It's safe, secure website and you will absolutely not be spammed with emails, you can even donate anonymously if you like! 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I know many of you have families and other financial responsibilities. This is why I am only asking for a $5 donation. If you can and would like to donate more that would be awesome.

Thanks again, I will keep you updated on my training!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

St. Cloud Earth Day 20

Saturday April 17th was the Earth Day Run in St. Cloud, MN. It was a somewhat unique event in that they ran both a half marathon and new this year, a 20 mile run. I had great company at this race with Daily Mile friends Jenn B., Megan N., and Jenessa. Each of them ran well, both Jenn and Jenessa obtained half marathon PR's and Megan ran a very solid 20 miles. They are a great bunch, if you are on Daily Mile and you don't follow them already, you should, I expect each of them to have some great race results this year.

Obviously running is a physical sport, but I would say it is equally and many times more so a mental sport. Preparation, attitude, and determination are major factors in the result of any distance run. It is easy to be intimidated by a race or a long run. But if you have trained properly, and have the right mindset your results will generally be positive. I found a great quote on Twitter from EnMotivate : If you truly expect something to be difficult, it will be. ~ Pete Cohen.  I went into this run with expectations of having fun, maintaining a responsible pace,and working on fine tuning my fuel plan for Fargo.  

The Fun Part
An amazing thing happened on this day. I woke up in a great mood (not that amazing), and I was really looking forward to this run. I have been training hard through some really crappy weather and was looking forward to see how things would shake out. I have started to develop a new attitude towards running this year and it is all about enjoying the runs. I don't know that I have too many more PR's left in me and frankly I am not too worried about it. It is all to easy to obsess about training and racing, but my eyes have been opened to the joy of running. Throughout this race I made it a point to thank as many volunteers as possible and talk to and encourage other runners along the way. I hope I made some people feel a little better about there run, even if for only a few moments. I was running well and felt good most of the way, so why not try to spread a little love?

Maintaining Pace
Yep, I am very much a typical runner, I go out too fast at the start, and have nothing left at the end. I proved it in my first marathon and I still do it much too often in my training runs. This time it was different, but I did have a little help. My goal was to finish with a 9:00 - 9:30 pace without wiping myself out in the end. Luckily there were pacers at this race, so I found the 9:33 pacer and stuck with him. My plan was to run faster the last part of the race if I felt well enough to do so. 9:33 seemed a little too easy the first few miles, but I stuck to the plan like a champ, for the most part. I did pass the pacer and pick things up at miles 6 - 10 knowing that I was going to have to make a bathroom stop. When I stepped out of the port a potty I had to pick my speed back up to catch back up to the pacer which I finally did somewhere close to mile 12. I kept a pretty steady pace through the next 4 miles and then started to push the it a little at mile 16, simply because I felt like I could. I feel good that I was able to finish strong and run my last two miles at close to 8 minute pace, my pacing plan worked well!

The Fuel Plan
This is where I have the most anxiety about my long runs and the marathon. Mostly because I did such a poor job of it during my first marathon that I really don't want to make the same mistake twice. I have asked questions on Daily Mile and done a little experimenting on my own. I have not come to a complete resolution yet but here is what I have so far.

  1. 5-hour Energy - yeah, don't freak out. I am typically not a big believer in these things and I am not sure how much it has actually helped. But, the two times that I have tried it, I had solid results. I will give credit where credit is due, I borrowed this idea from Rob-The-Runner on Daily Mile.
  2. Hammer Gels - I have tried Honey Stingers and Hammer Gels on my long runs. I like the flavors and the ease of consuming the Hammer Gels. I use the non-caffeinated gels simply because I don't feel like I need any more caffeine than what is in the energy shot. I consumed one gel for every four miles. This seemed to work out well, but I may try every 30 minutes on my next long run.
  3. Water - I still have some work to do in this area but I drank from every water stop and walked through most of them to drink. I was still a little dehydrated at the end of the run but it was much better than my first marathon experience.
Here are some pictures of me and the great DM runners that I mentioned earlier

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finding hills in Eastern South Dakota

Living in the eastern part of South Dakota limits the opportunity to run many hills. They really are far and few, especially if you are looking for trail running. Most people don't go looking for hills, in fact they avoid and despise them. I am not sure that I actually enjoy running up a hill, but the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment is like a drug. I get an incredible high after ripping my lungs out on a challenging hill run.(sounds fun right?)

Running up a steep hill on pavement is one thing, but blasting up a single track trail is much more fun. Here are some of my favorite hills.

Big Sioux State Park
Elevation profile (hmmm... should I say this park is the tits!?)

View from the bottom of one of the hills. Doesn't seem like much.

But from the top, it's a little more daunting.

Beaver Creek Park
Elevation Profile