Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blast From The Past: 2009 Dick Beardsley Half Marathon

The Dick Beardsley half marathon was the start of my 5 week ambitious fall schedule in 2009.  I would run this event in Detroit Lakes, then the following week I'd run the half marathon in Bismarck, have a couple of weeks off followed by the FM Half marathon. Mentally I was a little unprepared for this race, since my first half marathon in the spring I hadn't run the 13.1 mile distance again, and my last long run before the event went poorly.  The weekend prior I had an out of town wedding to attend and had some trouble finding a rhythm with my schedule heading into the event.

It was dark out as Erin and I drove to Detroit Lakes early in the morning of the event.  We parked at the high school and walked over to Washington park. Packet pickup was well organized and I went through quickly.  We had some time to kill as I tend to be early for events like these and fortunately we found many runners from the Fargo area that we knew to talk with. When the time came to line up to start I was surprised at how large the event was.  I lined up towards the back of the crowd and waited for the start.  I was far enough back that I didn't hear much of the starting announcements or even the signal to get going, but after a little bit saw the people head of me start to move and I trotted across the starting line.

The race starts with a 2 mile loop into town away from the lake before meeting back up with the lake and running around it for the last 11 miles.  As you start heading away from the lake you run about a mile uphill before you get to turn around and head back downhill.  Heading up the hill I wasn't quite holding myself back as much as I should have, but it wasn't disastrous either.  The crowd is a little deceptive to start this race, some people are only running a 5k and start out at the same time as you.  If you're using others to gauge your own effort you can easily get misled.  As I was finishing the in town loop the 5k runners split off and the half marathoners start their run around the lake.  I was glad to be back to some flat ground again and I was enjoying the view out over the lake.  Crowd support was not nearly as good as when I'd run Fargo, but this was to be expected based on those I'd talked to that had run the event before. 3 or 4 miles in there was a DJ setup on a trailer playing Black Betty as I passed.  I remember thinking how perfect the beat of this song was for running and what a nice pick-me-up it was.

As I continued on around the lake the flat terrain gave way to some hills.  I wasn't really expecting much because I thought it would be flat all the way around the lake.  After a particularly long uphill I was coming down a steep short downhill and I saw Erin and Rick.  I didn't expect to see Erin during the race, but she had met up with Rick and they drove some of the course.  I dropped a couple of empty water bottles with them and continued past the relay exchange station.  By this point in the day it was starting to get warm out and one nice person had setup a garden hose on a ladder with the spray directed at the road.  It was very refreshing as I ran through it.  Towards the end of the race I struggled, the rolling terrain adding difficulty I wasn't mentally prepared for and the warmer temps took their toll. The last few miles felt like they went on forever, but eventually I was turning the last corner heading for the finish line.  I was proud to get my finishers medal and glad to be done running for the day.  I had some post race munchies as Erin and I tried to figure out where we wanted to go eat.  We didn't really feel like joining others at Zorbaz so we opted for Perkins. As we entered the restaurant we ran into Rick and Kristy and joined them before heading back to town.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Marathon Recovery

Since the marathon on Saturday I've felt surprisingly good.  There was some soreness in my quads for a day or two, but other then that my body has held up fine.  Sunday morning Erin and I went to the gym and biked for half an hour just to keep things moving.  I took Monday off and got back to running again on Tuesday with a very easy 3.5 miles.  On Wednesday I repeated the 3.5 mile route and focused on keeping my heart rate down as I ran.  Thursday I started the day with a run to the store and then 3 miles with Erin for a total of 7.  I was getting tired the last mile, but overall felt very good.  Additionally my 7 miles put me over 250 for the year with the Thursday morning group earning me a free pair of shoes.

Mentally I'm doing better as well.  I moped around for a few days disappointed that I had missed my goal and Fargo. That disappointment has since turned into resolve to do better in my next long distance event.  I know there's still lots of things I can do to improve and I just have to focus on doing them.  Unless my half iron man goes very poorly I think I'm going to push forward with my ambitious plans for the year.

In a week and a half is the Buffalo River trail run.  Erin and I have lots of friends who will be running either the 5k, or the 10k that day.  I'm hoping to get out there this weekend to check out the course so I don't have to worry as much about making a wrong turn during the race. It should be lots of fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 Fargo Marathon

For Erin and I, marathon weekend began with packet pickup and the expo Thursday night.  After work, we headed over to Perkins for a quick bite to eat and then swung over to my parents house to go over the map and figure out where we'd see my mom on the course.  After that, we drove to the dome.  When we got there the parking lot was mostly full. The kids race was Thursday night and had finished shortly before we arrived. We went inside and quickly found our packets.  After verifying that our chips were working, we started to roam around the expo.  Our first stop was at the Swanson Health Products booth.  We picked up a number of free samples, most of which was stuff that we didn't really know what it did.  I was a bit disappointed because last year they were giving away some different protein bars. Being able to try some new things lead Erin and I to pick up some of them for our training throughout the year.  The rest of the expo wasn't terribly exciting.  There were a number of chiropractors and physical therapists there and a few booths selling running related gear.  After running for a few years now, I've seen most of the products and there wasn't really anything new to catch my attention. Around 8:00, Erin and I where scheduled to give an interview with Kim Baker who was doing a story on Rick.  I waited with Rick's sister Jodi for a while before getting a call from Rick.  Kim had just finished up interviewing Rick and was still in south Fargo at Rick's house.  With it already being a bit late, I told Rick we'd need to reschedule and Erin and I headed home to try and get a good nights sleep.

Friday morning started early.  All week our plan has been to get up early so we're used to the schedule and race day isn't such an early start for us. Throughout the week, we've gotten up and always had something to do.  A couple of days I went into work early, and a few we ran.  However, on Friday, I didn't need to go in to work until 8:00 and since we were taking the day as a rest day, we just bummed around the house for a few hours in the morning.  Of particular interest was the weather forecast. Earlier in the week it looked like we would have to run in some heavy rain, but Friday morning the forecast began to change.  It looked like rain in the afternoon on Friday clearing by the time the 5k would start.  We would get some more rain throughout the night but shortly after the marathon would start the rain would break up again.  It wasn't mid 40's and low humidity like I'd prefer, but it was certainly better then what we were expecting.

I got off work at noon and headed over to Rick's house.  Kim was still setting up for my interview so I went inside and had a chance to chat with Tim, another one of the local ultra gang, who was also there. After a few minutes Kim was ready and I went out to Rick's camper to do the interview.  I talked a little about running with Rick, the training class, and a little about the impact Rick has had on my life.  Then we got some footage of Tim, Rick, and I walking down the street before Tim needed to head back to work. Rick had volunteered to post some signs along the marathon route and I tagged along to help.  It took a few hours to place the 100 signs.  It wasn't the most critical job but we were proud of how well we had them spaced along the course. When we were done with the signs it was time to head home for supper.

When I got back to our house, Erin had supper started.  Her parents were already here and DeAnna was still on her way here from Bismarck. I helped get supper ready and just as we were ready to sit down to eat DeAnna arrived.  We had a carb heavy meal and then tried to figure out what the plan was for Saturday morning.  Eventually we settled on DeAnna going with my sister Steph and her boyfriend Jake.  They would be moving all over the course and have a bag of extra stuff with them in case Erin or I needed anything as we ran.  Erin's parents would join my mom near the middle of the course.  We wouldn't see them as much, but they wouldn't have to move around as much as the other group would.  After getting all of that straighted out we headed off to bed to try to get as much sleep as we could before the big day.

Not many cars but a few sprinkles when we first got here.
Marathon morning started at 4:30 at our house.  The alarm went off and we went over to the computer to check the weather and look at the radar.  It was raining, but it looked like things would clear up around the time the race would start.  We got dressed, made a last minute check of the things we'd bring to the dome, and the things we'd send with my sister and headed off to the dome.  When we got there the parking lot was mostly empty.  We parked next to Rick's camper and headed inside to eat breakfast.  Erin had a bagel and a banana while I had some oatmeal raisin cookies.  When we were done, we relaxed for a little while before more people started to show up. Chris was the next one to get there.  We chatted with her and her husband for a few minutes before Erik pulled up. A couple of minutes after that, Kristy arrived and we headed back into the camper to chill before the race started.  Erik joined Kristy, Erin, and I at the camper while Chris went into the dome to meet up with some other people.  As the morning progressed, more and more of Rick's family stopped by to drop stuff off and hang out before the race. Rick's sister Judy and Jodi's boyfriend Trent were making some signs to hold up along the course.  Some of the ones I liked were: "Worst Parade Ever" and "Mortuary ahead, look alive."  Hanging out there before the race, we enjoyed a fun atmosphere and a perfect way to pass the time before the start of the event.
Judy and Trent making signs

Erin and Kristy's last minute preparation
Cassie and Trent before the race
Erik, Jon, Erin, Kristy and Rick before the race
Rick isn't smiling, it's almost like he knows whats to come
As usual, Rick was the last one out of the camper as we headed toward the starting line.  I made sure to keep him in sight so we didn't duplicate last year where Jodi and Heather got too far ahead and he couldn't find them.  Our group lined up towards the very back and anxiously awaited the start of the race.  Shortly before it started, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see Cory.  He told me Maggie lined up with the 4:15 pace group, but they were far enough ahead that I couldn't see her.  It was nice to see another friendly face as the race began.  The first few steps past the starting line felt like I was barely moving, I checked the Garmin and saw my pace was around 10:00.  Way too fast for what I had scripted out.  I dialed the effort back a little to get to my warm up pace and tried to settle in.

Jodi, Rick, Cassie and I entering downtown
The first few miles went very smoothly.  There was a brief sprinkle of rain, but it was so light it wasn't of much concern.  I smelled something funky along oak street near the baseball fields caused by this spring's flooding. As we neared downtown, I saw my sister for the first time.  She asked how it was going and I told her well. There was a band across the street from where she was waiting and I thought to myself "at least she has something to listen to as she's waiting."  I found out later that the band was playing the same song over and over.  After a short run down Broadway, I turned towards Moorhead thinking I wouldn't see my sister again at our next checkpoint because she would wait at the first one until she saw Erin.  It turns out the timing worked perfectly as Steph arrived at checkpoint 2 just a few seconds before I did.  I smiled for a photo and continued on across the bridge into Minnesota.

The Minnesota side of the river smelled much better.  The lilacs were in bloom and very fragrant.  The course runs south in Moorhead before looping back on itself and heading into Concordia.  This gives runners an opportunity to see friends both in front of them and behind them.  I had a chance to see my coworker Matt who was running the first leg of the relay.  He was near the end of his leg of the race and still looking strong.  On my way back north, I saw Kristy and then Erik and Erin and finally Chris and Maria, all of them looking like they were having fun. When we ran through Concordia, I remarked to Rick that this is where it all began.  He and I have run a lot of miles together since first meeting up at that spot.  From Concordia we traveled back into Fargo across the Main avenue bridge.

Returning to Fargo
Shortly after crossing the bridge was the downtime Y and Steph was waiting to see us again.  I shouted for a towel and quickly wiped the sweat from my face before dashing off again towards Lindenwood park.  Around this time I started to feel a little tired, which wasn't entirely unexpected given that I've been running for an hour and a half.  I started to look forward to the 5 hour energy I would pick up from my mom at mile 9. Just before I met up with her and Erin's parents, I was passed by one of the wheelchair participants.  I'm guessing it was the leader of the half marathon by the speed in which he overtook us.  After I passed my mom and Erin's parents at mile 9 and enjoyed my 5 hour energy pick-me-up, the course continued south past the cemetery and into the neighborhood near the country club.  I was excited to see the O'Keeffe's out along the route and had a chance to high five Sam before he had to head off to practice. Just south of this point was a brief out and back that gave us a chance to see Kristy again before heading towards my least favorite part of the course.
Heading over to high five Sam
Last year, everything seemed to fall apart in the river drive neighborhood.  The sun came out, it got very warm and humid and I struggled with the conditions. This year the weather wasn't quite as bad and I was feeling much better.  I saw our next door neighbors at United Blood Services as well as Cory who was out along the course to cheer Maggie on.  As we neared the halfway point, I saw someone who was obviously not enjoying herself at the time.  I talked with her a bit and reminded her of how far she ran in training just to get to the race and told her she earned her spot here.  It seemed to help and after a few minutes I picked up the pace to catch back up to Rick.  As I was working to catch Rick, I passed another runner who was sobbing.  I tried to talk to her as well, but it seemed like she didn't really want to talk so I kept working to catch up to Rick.  On the way out of the river drive area there was a lady who had a hose and sprayer out at the end of her driveway.  As I went past I enjoyed a quick soak and thanked her for being out there.  At this point in the race I was drinking enough from my water bottle that it would be almost empty by the time I found the next aid station.  I found myself wishing that the aid stations would be a bit closer together.  When I passed the O'Keeffe's again Sam had left, but John was out on his bike.

I found myself working harder and harder to keep up with Rick.  He had gotten a few steps ahead and I just couldn't seem to catch back up.  I pushed a while longer trying to catch him before I made the decision to let him go and salvage what I could from this race.  Last year I had stubbornly pushed on toward my goal despite knowing I needed to adjust to conditions.  This year I wasn't going to make the same mistake.  I felt bad about not being able to keep up with Rick since he planned his race around what I was trying to do, but I think I would have gotten myself into a lot of trouble if I kept pushing as hard as I was.  After I slowed down, I continued to feel worse.  When I saw my family at mile 17, I had already gone through all of the Endurolytes I had with me and asked for some more.  Steph said she would dig them out and give them to me as I came back one block over.

Steph and I

Before I saw Steph again, I ran across a runner that I could tell was hurting.  He was on his cell phone yelling at his mom trying to figure out where to meet up with her. From what I could tell he started the race in a pair of Vibram five fingers and planned to switch shoes at mile 10.  He was still in the five fingers at mile 19 and it was obvious that each step he took caused a lot of pain.  I tried to offer a few words of encouragement, but it didn't seem to help so I tried to push on towards my next meet up with Steph where I could get some more Endurolytes.  There was a little miscommunication and it was actually 2 blocks over where I met up with Steph and Jake.  I took a walk break to swallow the pills and chat briefly with them about how things were going.  I told them I was hurting and I felt really messed up but that I thought I could keep going.  They offered some words of encouragement and I headed off.

Rachel found me on the course in about the same place as the previous year.  I told her how messed up I felt and that I thought I could at least walk to finish the marathon.  She joined me and did her best to get a little more out of me then I wanted to give.  When I walked she told me that I could walk faster.  When I went under a bridge she suggested I run the downhill.  I'm blown away by her ability to say what I need to hear when I'm hurting.  She was able to reassure me that I wasn't in too much trouble and that I just needed to get some more water in me as well as gave me a ginger chew to try.  After traveling a few miles with her, I thanked her for the company and told her I would be fine and that I would appreciate it if she would go back and find Erin in case she was hurting.  I continued to run/walk a few miles before I started to feel a little bit better and tried to sustain a slow jog.  It was harder then I would have liked, but I was able to keep moving without walking.  After turning onto 17th Ave N, I knew I was almost done.  I picked up the pace a little and continued towards the Dome.  Just before turning onto University, there was a guy dressed as the grim reaper holding a sign that said "The end is near."  The sign really helped lighten my mood as well as many of the runners around me.

Erin and I after her first marathon
I picked the pace up on the ramp leading into the Dome and finished as strong as I could.  Rick was still in the finish chute waiting for me. Steph, Jake, DeAnna and Erin's dad, Tony, were just on the other side of the barricade.  A lady who finished just a few steps in front of me almost collapsed but a couple of race volunteers caught her.  They were going to guide her over to a wheelchair, but she recomposed herself and was able to wander off on her own.  I wasn't feeling much better than this myself, but Rick put his hand on my shoulder to steady me and I walked around a bit until I felt a little more normal.  I chatted with everyone for a bit waiting for the rest of our gang to finish up.  I didn't have to wait too long before Erin was crossing the finish line.  I gave her a big hug when she finished and told her where she could get her medal.  A few minutes after Erin came in, Kristy finished.  Rick gave her a hug and they headed off.  We found out later that she was feeling a little hypothermic and needed to try and warm up as soon as possible.  We told our family that we would be a while because we wanted to see our friends finish and they headed out.  Erin and I sat on the floor in the finish shoot until Erik finished.  We both gave him a hug and congratulated him.  We followed Erik over to get his medal and meet up with his wife.  I was getting hungry so we stopped by the table with food and picked up some cookies and pizza.  After snacking and chatting for a while, we saw Chris and Maria on the displays on the dome.  We got up and headed over to the finish line to meet them as they crossed it. After some hugs and tears, we grabbed some more food and then headed out to the camper for some group pictures before everyone headed home.
Look at all those smiles after we finished

Saturday, May 21, 2011

PR and Damaged Psyche

I'll post a full writeup of the Fargo marathon soon, but i just wanted to post my result and some initial thoughts I've had.

My official time was 5:12:53. I was able to PR by about 37 minutes.  It wasn't by initial goal, but it was a good backup goal and I am proud of what I was able to achieve. However my goal of 4:38 was not achieved.  It would have been hard to do, but I still think it was possible if I would have run a smarter race.

In each of my three runs this year that have gone at least marathon distance I've gotten my ass kicked. While I can make excuses about still learning how to run these distances I haven't really had much success at any race longer then a half marathon to this point.  With an ambitious plan to possibly run as many as 4 ultras this year I really have to question if I'm ready for such an undertaking. Perhaps I should focus on shorter distances this year and look to do longer events the following year.  I think there's a good chance I could bang out a 50 miler in 12 hours, but do I really want to suffer for 12 hours?  I could regroup and do a better job building base mileage and get better at the marathon distance before pushing further again.

I know it's easy to be hard on myself so recently after the Fargo Marathon when I'm still feeling the aches and pains and time will probably change my opinions.  I felt it was important to get this written down before feelings change and these ideas are forgotten.  Whatever I decide to do should be thought all the way through and these are valid points to consider.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final Preparations

With the marathon less then a week away attention has shifted from lots of running to the last minute details.  Here are some of the things I've been focusing on this week.

I've been working with Rick to develop a pacing plan to allow me to hit my time goal.  I start off slow to warm up, run the middle miles slightly faster and then fade a little towards the end.  Rick has expressed an interest in running with me and I'm looking forward to the company.  I'm hopeful that with his help I'll learn how to run a better race.

I've done a mental walk though of the course.  Having the same course as last year has helped with this as well as having a video drive through.  I've spent some time looking at the route and thinking about each place it passes as well as how I felt last year in those places.  Hopefully I can learn from my mistakes last year and have a better event this year.

Looking at the extended forecast.  As of right now it's looking warm and rainy.  Not what I'd hoped for, but at least I have some time to get used to the idea of running with wet feet.

Figuring out last minute workouts.  I want to keep active, but don't want to go into the event tired.  Monday night Erin and I ran 3 easy miles.  Tuesday we'll do some light biking.  Wednesday we're going to do our last hard running workout before the marathon.  Thursday we'll run with the group from the store, but only do a couple of easy miles.  Friday will probably be a rest day.

Figuring out our situation with out of town guests and in town spectators.  Erin's parents will be in town from Bismarck to see her first marathon.  Also Erin's friend DeAnna will be coming from Bismarck as well.  We've gotten the house cleaned up for the guests and we need to develop a plan of where to position them as well as my family around the course.  We need to consider what items we might need along the way so that we can pick up stuff from them as we're running. Developing a plan to meet up after the event is another thing we'll need to take care of.

Nutrition is getting a little more focus this week as well.  We've been trying to eat better all week as well as plan a menu that will work for both us and our guests the night before the race.  We also need to make sure we have everything on hand that we'll want during the race. We also need to make sure we stay on top of hydration throughout the week.

We need to make sure clothing and gear is ready for the event.  I've decided on 1 handheld for the race and Erin will probably use a couple of them, swapping them out as we pass family and friends along the course.  We'll probably do a load of laundry later in the week so that all our workout gear is clean and we can make adjustments to whatever conditions we need to run in.  We'll also need to pack clean clothes and shower stuff for after the race.

I'm being a lot stricter with my sleep schedule this week.  Every day I'm getting up around the time I'm going to get up on Saturday so falling a sleep at night and waking up on time aren't an issue.

We're going to pickup packets and hit up the expo Thursday night so that we have more time with our guests Friday.  This schedule will also help us stay off our feet the night before the race.


It's a lot to think about, but it definitely helps to be prepared going into the marathon.  I'm optimistic that I've taken care of everything I can control and we'll just have to deal with the things we can't control.  It's going to be a fun weekend.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blast From The Past: My first marathon

The 2010 Fargo marathon was my first marathon.  I had signed up with the training group again and had been primarily running with Rick like the previous year.  This year training went more smoothly because of the previous year's experience and the flood didn't impact my training as much.  Heading into the marathon I felt well prepared.  The 20 mile runs had been very hard, but I had gotten through them and I was confident I had earned my place at the starting line.  My goal was to finish in 5 hours and I didn't have a backup time goal. If I missed 5 hours then my only goal would be to finish.

The special guest at the 2010 Marathon was Dean Karnazes.  He was scheduled to speak at the pasta feed the night before the marathon and also run in the event.  A couple of days before, Rick casually asked if I'd ever considered running an ultra marathon and I told him I was interested in doing one eventually.  I asked why he was curious and he told me that he was trying to get some of the local ultra marathoners a chance to meet with Dean the morning before the race.  He said I should try to make it if I could as a "future ultra marathoner." I arranged to get some time off of work and met up with a group of runners in the lobby of the dome.  We chatted as we waited for Dean, but eventually realized that he was running a bit late.  A few minutes turned into a few hours and most of our group had to leave to get back to work.  I thought I should probably head back as well, but figured since I'd waited this long I should stick it out.  Eventually Dean turned up and Rick, Rachel, Ben and I got to chat with him before a press conference.  Dean was shorter then what I thought he would be, but I was amazed by how toned he looked.  I was even more amazed by the interest he showed in us.  Ben talked about how he started running and about running the 100 miler at Leanhorse.  Dean seemed as motivated by what he heard as we were by getting to meet him.  After chatting with him for a bit I got a picture and headed back to work with a big smile.
Dean Karnazes and I before my first marathon
The morning of the race, Erin and I headed up to the dome leaving about the same time we left the previous year.  I didn't anticipate the increased crowds and found traffic more problematic then last year.  Eventually, we made it to the dome and I met up with Rick again in his camper.  Some of Rick's family joined us including his sister, Jodi. Jodi was hoping to qualify for Boston and Rick was going to pace her during the marathon.  We chilled out in the camper and I was much more relaxed then the previous year until it started to rain.  I was a little concerned about having to run in the rain, but I figured I'd deal with it. Heather, another runner friend of ours joined us just before the start of the marathon.  She was hoping to tag along with Rick and Jodi and also qualify for Boston. Eventually Erin headed out to get to the first location on the route where I would see her. With the start time getting closer and closer we started to all exit the camper and head in the direction of the starting line.  Rick as usual had some last second thing to take care of and was the last out of the camper.  By the time he was out, Jodi and Heather were lost in the crowd.  Rick showed a little frustration about losing them, but with this many people packed around the starting line there wasn't really much we could do.  We headed towards the back of the mass of people and awaited the start.

Shortly after crossing the starting line, Rick and I parted ways.  He was going to have to run much faster then I should be if he was going to catch his sister.  The rain didn't last much past the first mile and then gave way to some clouds and a lot of humidity. As I neared downtown, I saw Erin for the first time.  Things were going well at this point and I was just a little ahead of schedule.  The route cut over to Broadway for a bit and then turned east towards Moorhead where I saw Erin one more time.  Once in Moorhead I made my way over to the pacer for the 5 hour group and chatted with him for a bit.  I found myself needing to pee and started to pick up the pace a little to get a head of the 5 hour group.  At the 5 mile mark I found a port a potty without a line and stopped.  I felt disappointed that I was stopping during a race, but I know how uncomfortable it can be when you have to go to the bathroom while you run.  Around mile 6 is the first relay exchange; after going by that I found myself being passed by all of the people with fresh legs.  Crossing the bridge into Fargo I looked for Erin again and soon found her.  We had enough time as we passed for her to tell me that Rick had gone by a little while earlier still looking for Jodi and Heather.  From there the route continued south along Lindenwood Park.  As I neared the park I found my family who had come to cheer me on.  

A bit further south from my family was a short out and back right next to the river.  I had told Erin about this spot on the course because she would be able to see me 3 times without moving.  I was still doing well after seeing her the second time as I headed into the southern most loop on the course.  Rick and I passed head-on  as he was leaving that loop and I saw that he had found Jodi but Heather was no where to be seen.  We didn't have much time to talk as we passed so I was left to wonder what happened. I found out later that Heather had some issues and wound up throwing up around the halfway point and was not able to run the rest of the race with the same level of intensity. However, Jodi was able to keep her pace the rest of the way and did meet her goal of qualifying for Boston.  The river drive area is a much newer development compared to the neighborhoods we had previously been running in.  Instead of the towering trees we had been running under, the road was lined with young trees that didn't give any shade.  It was here where the sun came out and the temperature started to climb.  I remember early on seeing someone with a sprinkler near the road and thinking of how nice that will feel on the way back.  I thought it couldn't be more then a few blocks and I'd be running through it on my way back to the dome.  It turned out the loop was a lot longer then what I thought it was and I was pretty well cooked when I left the river drive area.  I saw Erin again before heading to the 7th, 8th, 9th street portion of the course.

Around the 16 mile mark I was struggling badly.  I stuck to my decision to keep my pace as long as I could hold out and fought through another mile.  At mile 17 I passed my family again.  I switched from the hydration pack to my fuel belt and took off again.  I was able to make it a few blocks before deciding that this was it, my 5 hour goal was gone and I started walking.  I've described this section of the course as 4 miles of going nowhere.  You run North on 7th, then go over a block and run south on 8th before doing a small loop and going back North on 9th.  It's a nice neighborhood, but this back and forth really sucks.  Fortunately it gives spectators a good place to see runners multiple times and my family had a great opportunity to see just how much I was struggling.  My sister, her boyfriend and Erin all took turns "running" with me as I plodded along as best I could.  Around mile 21 Erin asked if I wanted her to keep going with me and I said no, so she headed back to the car to meet me at the finish.  Shortly after she left I was feeling really down about how things were going.  The thought of quitting had crossed my mind, but I knew it would be easier to deal with the temporary pain then to live with quitting. After pushing through the discomfort a little while longer, I caught up with someone I had been going back and forth with for a while.  She had gone over to a course official because she wasn't feeling well. After I had gone a couple of blocks I could hear an ambulance coming to get her.  I felt fortunate to still be going even though I was in a lot of pain.

After making it back though the downtown area I ran across someone in a pink tutu.  I heard a "Hi Jon" and looked up to see that it was Rachel.  I was really glad to see her. Injury had kept her out of the race, but she had come to see some friends of hers.  Seeing how miserable I was, she kept me company as we headed north towards the dome.  Every now and then I was able to get a little running in, but for the most part I was walking.  Eventually I made it to the dome and it was time to leave Rachel.  I thanked her for keeping me company and did my best to run to the finish.  Crossing the finish line was very emotional.  I thought back through the 26 miles I had just traveled, and then through all of the training I had done to get to this point.  It had taken a year longer then what I first planned but I had finally finished a marathon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Choosing a marathon goal time

The past few days I've been thinking about what my time goal should be for the marathon.  Qualifying for Boston is way beyond my current abilities. (I'd have to run a 3:10) Qualifying for the JFK 50 miler is a possibility, but not something I'm very interested in at this point (C standard is a 4:30 marathon)  Going for a PR is always a good idea, but I don't think that would be a great goal this year because it wouldn't force me to work very hard (I would need to beat 5:49:06)  I could choose a round number time like under 5 hours, or 4:30 but it seems a little silly because those round numbers are just picked arbitrarily.

What I want to do is to run as hard as I can for 26.2 miles and finish having nothing left in the tank with the knowledge that I can do no better then what I just did.  On the surface it seems like an easy goal to achieve.  All I would need to do is run as hard as I can until I cross the finish line.  If you've ever started a run too fast you know what a horrible idea that plan would be.  Jacked up at the start of the race I could keep up with the elites for maybe up to a mile, after that I would be in for 25 miles of misery having exhausted myself way to early.  On the other hand I could walk 26 miles and sprint the last hundred feet or so.  I'd have a better time then if I started off too fast, but this still wouldn't be the rewarding experience I'm looking for.  I need to find that magical pace where I'm working hard the entire way without burning out too soon.  To complicate matters I can't just go off of the pace I've been training at.  Tapering a few weeks before the marathon ensures you arrive at the starting line in peak physical fitness.  I will be capable of much more then I've been doing each week on the long run.  Additionally I've found in the past that I thrive on the energy of the crowd and can push myself harder during an event then I can when training.

With all of these factors, how can I come up with a goal? In part by looking back at what I'm capable of.  Last fall I ran a solid half marathon.  It was paced fairly well and was a true indication of what I could do.  Using this as a starting point for calculating a marathon goal time should work well, assuming my fitness is at a similar level to what it was last fall.  That introduces another problem of how do I know my fitness level is similar?  Rick suggested I compare similar runs from last fall and this spring.  I should be able to look at the distance, pace and heart rate and see how things line up.

This chart is matched the best I could without going to far back prior to the half marathon or the coming marathon.  In general it seems like for the same distance and pace my heart rate is the same or lower then last fall.  Where heart rate and pace are the same I'm going further.  This is enough to convince me that last falls time is valid to work from.  Now how does a 2:09 half compare to a marathon.  Is that the equivalent of running a 4:18(2x2:09) full?  Fortunately there's a great tool out there by McMillan Running, the McMillan Running Calculator.  This site has been a tremendous asset to me ever since Rick first showed it to me. By entering in my race time from last fall it will project out what I could run races at other distances at.  In this case my 2:09 half marathon projects out a 4:32 marathon.  After all this science, I'm going to introduce a bit of a fudge factor based largely on intuition and give myself a window of 4:28 to 4:38 for a goal.  This should be what I'm capable of in good conditions.  If conditions are poor, like they were last year I'll need to change my goal but at least I've got a good place to start from.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

12 miles with the training group

Last weekend the training class ran 12 miles. Our usual group formed at the back of the pack with Rick, Erin, Chris, Maria, Erik and myself.  Kristy wanted to get some extra rest and did not join us, however Lamont was with us for the first part of the run and Eric joined us the entire way. As we got going Erik and I had a chance to talk about what his plans were beyond the marathon. He had mentioned possibly working up to an ultra.  I suggested trying the 25k at Afton this year and possibly looking for a fall marathon like twin cities. Rick has joked in the past that he doesn't like to see people he knows sign up for marathons because he knows how hard and unpleasant the training and the event can be.  While this is said in a joking tone, I can see there's more then just a bit of truth to it.  I know Erik can finish the 25k at Afton and after enough time has passed after the event he'll probably convince himself that it was fun like I've done, but while he's running those 15.5 miles up and down the hills in the heat he'll probably be cursing my name.  Afton was a great learning experience and running the 25k last year helped me get through trail mix this year.

After around 4 miles we arrived at the Y and most of the group hit up the bathroom there.  Heading out from the Y we kept up our pace which so far had been a bit faster then our normal long run pace.  We did yet another 4 mile loop of 8th and 9th streets before getting back to the Y for another rest stop.  I'm definitely looking forward to after the marathon when I won't have to run in that area again for another 6 months.  The last 4 miles I worked to keep our pace constant with what we'd done already, I wanted to average 11:30 over all 12 miles, about the same pace as our last mile the previous week. With about a mile to go Erin and Eric started to pick up the pace but a held back a little.  With half a mile left our group had gotten a little spread out and I decided to make my move on Erin.  I picked up the pace to what felt like about a 5k effort and closed the gap on Eric and Erin quickly.  Feeling good I kept this effort up until I reached the dome and finished the last mile.  After the Garmin beeped with the completed lap I look and saw that my last mile was around 9:30.  I feel good being able to do that at the end of a 12 mile run.  The rest of the group finished shortly after I did.  I felt proud of the effort everyone put in and the pace we were able to keep throughout the run.  Only 1 more Saturday run left until the big day.

New Tires

Just out of the box
Last week I ordered some new tires for my road bike, I've got a few thousand miles on the original tires that came with the bike and they were looking rather worn so I figured I'd get some new ones before Liberty.  I found a racing tire that I could get in red and decided to give it a try.  After getting the tires put on I decided to bum around town on the bike and eventually wound up at my parents house.  Below are some pictures I took of Winston when I was over there.  Mom claims he's getting bigger, but I don't see it. With the ride home I got in 19 miles.

The red doesn't quite match the frame, but looks good anyway.
The following day I took the bike out again for a bit of a harder workout.  It was warm and windy out, great conditions to make me work hard.  I headed south past Horace and then turned East on Country Road 14.  Without much to block the wind out there I was getting sick of constantly fighting the wind.  When I hit University I turned North again and enjoyed a bit of a tail wind.  From there I basicly headed home and wound up with 22 miles that day.  I'm hoping all this biking will get me into better shape for my half iron man coming up in about a month.

Getting attacked by his tongue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dreaming Big

One of my goals this year is to complete a 50 mile event.  This is definitely a stretch for me, but with hard work I think it's something that's achievable.  I haven't decided on which 50 miler I want to do yet, but here's a short list of ones I'm closely considering.

The Nashville Ultramarathon - If I ran this Erin and I would fly down and visit her sister at the same time.  I'm optimistic I'd be able to talk my brother in law into coming along and crewing for me. Downsides of this one are the 12 hour time limit and dealing with the travel logistics.  This race is late enough in the season that it would be my last of the year, I also wouldn't have to sacrifice events before this to rest up.

The Northface Endurance 50 - This race looks well organized and has a 13 hour cutoff. Driving to Wisconsin will be a bit easier then dealing with travel arrangements to Tennessee and Erin could run a trail marathon at the same time I run my event.  The downsides to this event are it's the same weekend as Bismarck where Erin, Rick, Kristy and I planned on running the relay again, it's the weekend after the Dick Beardsley half marathon so I wouldn't be able to run that hard, and I'm guessing I wouldn't have enough time after the event to recover to try for a fast half at the FM mini marathon.

Surf the Murph - This event has a luxurious 14 hour cutoff and only about a 4 hour drive away.  It's even later in the year then Nashville so it doesn't conflict with any other events.  It's hard to come up with a drawback to this event, perhaps that should tell me something.

Leanhorse - This one didn't interest me too much until the past few days when I leaned that Maggie is looking to run the 50 miler this year as well.  Having a friendly face at the event and someone who has been there before would be a great help. It's in late August which works well with my event schedule, so well that I might be able to do this and Surf the Murph.  It is a bit earlier in the season then where I've been looking and I do have some concerns about being ready for this with all the events I have going on during June and July this year.  Other downsides to Leanhorse include the 12 hour cutoff and the heat that I will need to run in.

Two a day runs and a trip to Buffalo River State Park

Last week a coworker told me he was going to run the marathon relay with some friends of his and that he was interested in running a few times with me as part of his training for that.  We decided that Wednesday morning would fit both our schedules a planned to meet up in the morning.  During the middle of the night I got up to go to the bathroom and my foot hurt so bad I could barely walk.  I got back into bed and figured I'd have to text Matt later and let him know I wouldn't be running. When the alarm went off and I got out of bed my foot felt fine so I got ready to run and headed out to meet Matt.  He said he was looking to do 3-4 miles and I suggested a route that would take us around Microsoft and back home.  The route turned out to be a little longer then I thought it would be and he wound up going almost 5 miles.  Near the end I could tell he was dragging a little bit, but overall he did quite well.  My foot held up great throughout the run.

Wednesday night a group of us planned on doing a run out at Buffalo River State Park. The forecast was for a windy evening with some rain. Rick, Kristy and Maria met Erin and I in town and then we all drove out to the park together.  Chris joined us when we got to the park. When we started to run I immediately felt a few sprinkles, but that was the extent of the rain we encountered. The run began with a 2 mile loop through the prairie before finishing the run on trails near the river through the trees. For the most part the trail was dry, but in a few spots it was a little soggy. A few times we spotted some deer as we ran.  We wound up going just shy of 7 miles around the park. After the run we enjoyed supper in the picnic shelter in the park. We had an Italian beef sandwich, some chips, a noodle salad, a fruit salad, some potato salad, some twizzlers and cupcakes for desert.  After we packed up and left the park it rained the entire drive home.  We had gotten really lucky with the weather.
Gear and food for after the run
Heading out of town
Maria and Kristy in the distance
Cleaning up after the feast
Still cleaning up

Monday, May 2, 2011

Peak Mileage

This weekend was our last really long run before the marathon.  From this point out we'll be tapering to get ready for the actual race. 20 miles were on the schedule and Rick put together a great route for it. It was an out and back route, but the course looped back so that 1 rest stop could be used 3 times.  Additionally it was in a part of town that most of us don't get to do much running, so we enjoyed seeing some new sights instead of the looping courses we've been on the past few weeks.  Rick was working the rest stop this week leaving Kris, Maria, Erin, Erik and myself in our familiar role of the group at the back of the pack.  Pacing was great for the 20 miles.  We started off at a good pace that got a bit faster as we ran and our last mile of the day was our fastest.  I was thrilled at how well everyone did on this run.  I remember struggling the last few miles of my longest runs last year as I got ready for the marathon and I didn't see any of that in the crew I was running with.  The solid effort they put in helped me pace myself to one of the most productive 20 milers I've done.  Seeing how everyone does on race day is going to be a lot of fun.