Sunday, September 27, 2015

Miles, Marathons, Miatas

It's been quite a summer and early fall of running and training for fall marathons.  Mostly, lots of miles and more quick miles than I have done in the past.  My training record looks it.   I paste the screen shot from my on-line record on Running Ahead after today's run.

I've never had 181 miles in any 30 day period.  Ever.  September isn't over yet and it looks like I'll be over 160 miles for the calendar month.  The week and month totals say a lot.

No sense of any injuries.  To that, I credit the Run/Walk plan and the gradual build up.

What's it worth to do all these miles??  We'll soon find out, as I have three marathons, all in Indianapolis, over the next 6 weeks.  The first is this Saturday, October 3.  I plan to go out at my sub-4 marathon plan and see if I can hold it through 18 miles.  

Two weeks later, I run the final ever Indianapolis Marathon.  That one will be a simple long run, celebrating the last hurrah for a great race in our state for the last 20 years.

Three weeks after that, November 7, is the target...the Monumental Marathon, where I'll go for a sub 4 hour 26.2.

The miles are it's in the sequence to see if it will deliver.

Fun to know I'll be making all three trips with running buddy Jon.  We are now, officially, the "Miata Maniacs", but that's a story for another day.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An atypical sports fan

So, this afternoon, three professional sports teams I follow all played important games, simultaneously.  And the teams says something about me. 

The Chicago Cubs were in Pittsburgh for a big game vs the Pirates.  Not a surprise there.  

But, in the European Championship League (this is soccer), Manchester City hosted Italian powerhouse Juventus.  And, their rivals, Manchester United, traveled to Holland to play PSV Eindhoven. Yes, I really like English football/soccer.  

Through the wonders of text alerts, I could follow all three games while at work.  

And all three lost by one... Pirates over the Cubbies 5-4, Juventus topping Man City 2-1 and ManU upset by PSV by the same score. 

Did anyone else follow these same three games today??  

Yeah, it says something about me, but I'm not quite sure what.  

Persevere.  Even when you lose by one. 


Monday, September 07, 2015

Race Reports: Labor Day Double: Parlor City Half Marathon & Blueberry Stomp 15K

Key Facts:
Saturday: Parlor City HM:  1:56:31 (8:54/mile), R/W 4:30/0:30
Monday:  Blueberry Stomp 15K:  1:23:23 (8:53/mile), R/W 4:30/0:30

Summary:  It was a great Labor Day weekend with two races; Saturday's Parlor City Trot Half Marathon and Monday's Blueberry Stomp 15K.  Both were even  better as they were road tips with local running pal Jon.  They set up well for fall races.

The Details:

Saturday:  Parlor City Trot Half Marathon

Jon and I have a number of Indiana running road trips planned for this fall...this weekend kicks it off.  Up at 4am, we were on the road at 4:45 for the 2+ hour drive to Bluffton, Indiana for this small race, the second time I've run it, the first for Jon.  We arrived a half hour before the gun and had more than enough time to get our bib, get ready, stretch and still stand around and talk.  At 7:30am, off we went with an unassuming start.

This fall's entire running plan is focused on going under 4 hours at the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 7.  This weekend's task is to practice the exact pacing, hydration and fueling plan for that effort.  I needed to set this following my lousy hydration plan in the Wausau Marathon two weeks ago.  Thus, I changed, as follows.

Hydration:  The day before the race, I drank about 100oz of ice water at work plus more in the evening, to get all my desperate little cells as fluidized as possible.  Then, on race morning, I drank nothing at all before the gun.  I carried my own water in the race, with two 10oz bottles in my water belt.  I took a swig or two on most every walk break (more on that below). Both bottles were empty by mile 6.5, where I reloaded another 20oz at a water stop.  I finished those off by mile 12 but didn't worry about it for the final mile.  I felt fine all along.    Good, all around.

Fuel:  I made up an 8oz bottle of my home-brew energy gel and took a swig of that at every mile marker.  I noticed this really helped.  Not only did I not hydrate in Wausau, I also didn't fuel well either...this was better.

Pace:  I used a 4:30/:30 run/walk sequence from the beginning to the end.  I kept the run pace at 8:42 and my aggregate splits were mostly just under 9:00.  This five-minute cycle worked very well.

It was warm at the race site, upper 70s, and the humidity was near 100%, as we were largely in the woods and it had rained overnight.  I was drenched by mile 8. Yet, I felt good throughout, despite the heat and humidity.  If there was  low spot, it was  around mile 11 with a 9:17 mile.  But then I recovered and the last full mile was 8:25.  I was very pleased to see my watch with the unofficial time of 1:56:31 at the finish line.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I knew Jon was going hard for a PR and on track for it.  I had seen him along an out and back segment at mile 7.5 and he was close behind me.  I immediately headed back out on the course to see how he was doing.  In short order I saw him and we ran the final quarter mile together.  He was working so hard and, with wonderful and inspiring effort, earned a 9 minute PR.  I was very excited for him!  You can read his entire report here here.

Immediately following the race, Jon and I enjoyed catching up in person with fellow Marathon Maniacs Jen and Stevie Ray, above.  It's always fun to see familiar faces and talk before and after the race as we did Saturday.

Jon and I headed back to the city gym the organizers provided with shower facilities post race.  After we cleaned up, Stevie walked in and said "Hey, Joe, you won an Age Group award!"  Hmmmm, that's unusual and a treat.  So, we looped back to the finish line to pick up my prize, below.

A rare occurrence!!  Nice to have this to hang on the wall.  And, after we got home, I looked at the on-line race results and discovered just WHY I got third in my AG...because there were only THREE in my AG!!!  Hey, I was both third and last!!  Hooray for bling!!   Overall, I was 54th of 78 finishers...a small field of really good runners indeed.

The key takeaway from Saturday's race is how deep I can carry this pace.  I felt better at the end here than I did at the half-way point of the Wausau Marathon two weeks ago.   I really think I could have easily carried that pace another 3 or 4 miles.  Could I have carried it to 19 or 20??  Will temps in the 40s help enough?  There are many more miles to cover this fall to discover.

Monday-The Blueberry Stomp 15K

Up at a leisurely 5:30am, we were on the road north to Plymouth, Indiana at 6:30.  This race is a hoot, as it takes place during a big Blueberry Festival Parade, which attracts tens of thousands, literally.  We arrived, scored a great parking spot, got our bibs and were easily set for the 9am gun.  Over 800 runners queued up for the 15K and 5K races, a far cry from the 120 or so with which we gathered on Saturday.  And, in the large group, Jon and I happened to meet Miss Blueberry Festival and she agreed to a photo, a rose among the thorns!!

My objective for this 15K (a nice distance, seldom run) was to use my same pattern I'll use in November but to pick up the pace, running hard on legs still tired from a half marathon two days previous.  This worked well for the first two miles, with splits of 8:21 and 8:29.  Then the course pivoted to a long set of rolling hills which, coupled with temperatures moving into the upper 70s with high humidity, took their toll on me.  Most mile splits on the hills were in the 9:00 to 9:11 range.  The hydration and fueling plan, discussed above in the half marathon description, did work well though and I was encouraged in this pattern for the fall's marathons.

On the return downtown, the most fun part of this race emerged, as we ran in the opposite direction of the huge Blueberry Festival parade.  The energy clearly buoyed me, as the 9th full mile took only 8:27 and the final partial mile was at a 8:34/mile pace.

The final stats had me at 109 of 249's always a treat to be at least in the top half of the field.  I was 6th of 11 in my 60-64 Age Group, also encouraging.

Weekend Summary

We had good racing on a very hot, humid weekend.  It was even better to have substantial, extended conversations with Jon as we spent nearly 8 hours together in his nifty Miata convertible.

Jon's a terrific conversationalist which made for enjoyable travel.  Several more await during the fall.  I'm looking forward to them.

Persevere.  And have a terrific fall.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Just give it away

Several conversations over the past weeks have bluntly opened my eyes to the sheer glut of stuff most of us have.  Why not just give some of it away?  Why buy something new when something used can do?  Why keep that old shirt you haven't worn in two years? 

I complicate things so often for myself; thus, I need to be deliberate in making things simpler.  And nothing simplifies like getting rid of something.  Not a strength for me.  



Friday, August 28, 2015

Race Report: Wausau Marathon 2015

Stats:  4:37:50, 10:37/mile pace...R/W-all messed up

The Overview:

The Wausau Marathon on August 22, 2015 was my first attempt this year to go under four hours for the marathon.  It went well for 15 miles or so but a poorly considered hydration plan coupled with not enough "fast" miles in training caused the last 9 miles to be anything but marvelous.

And I learned a ton.

The Story:

Back in June, good running buddy Mike Taylor said "Joe, you need a dress rehearsal for this sub 4 plan of yours.  Don't leave it all to chance at your other target race on November 7."   Good words, Mike.  So, the Wausau Marathon in northern Wisconsin filled the bill.  I dialed up the training through the muggy Indiana summer and went for it.

The trip north was a treat.  My wife came along with me for the 7 hour drive on Friday and we had truly a wonderful trip.  The chance for extended uninterrupted time in the car led to substantive conversation which nurtures both of us.  On Friday night, we met up with fellow runner and fellow blogger Heather who lives near and works in Wausau.  What fun!!  The three of us sat and talked and, as is so often the case, found much in common, far beyond running.

We found a fine motel just around the corner from the start/finish area, which simplified all logistics.  With a 7am gun time, I was up at 5am, had oatmeal in the lobby, got ready without waking Gretchen and was at the start area just past 6am. 

Race Day is always fun and this one was especially enjoyable.  I had some good meet ups and was very happy to talk with Larry Macon once again.  Larry, a rock star in our sport, was as friendly and outgoing as ever.  Now at age 70, he still does multiple marathons every weekend, heading to New Jersey after finishing this race in Wisconsin.  "The usual logistics, Larry?"  I asked.  He grinned "Yeah, I've figured this out!"

The race started right on time (I always appreciate that) and off we went.  I tried to quickly establish my pattern for the day.  I used a run/walk ratio of 4:30/0:30...a five minute cycle of running for four and a half minutes and walking for half a minute.  While mathematically identical to a 9/1 pattern (which is roughly what you get by just walking through water stops), I find it more palatable psychologically to hit a walk break every 4.5 minutes.  This pattern meant my run pace needed to be 8:47/mile when I did run.  

I executed this plan, up and down the early hills and was ahead of my planned pace through mile 13, hitting hit the half marathon mark at 1:58.  This portion of the course was into the day's south wind and I was pleased.  We turned to go generally west for a ways and I started to feel the heat of the sun on  my back, now around 9am local time.  At mile 16, we dipped onto a running path through a park, the legs feeling sluggish.  By the time we emerged from the park at mile 18, my earlier pace at 9:00/mile had slowed to 11:30.  It was clear the sub four race was not going to happen. 

I shifted back to slower run/walk ratios but never really found a rhythm the rest of the way home.  I got more and more sluggish, with mile times drifting up to 13:46 at mile 22 and 14:36 at the mile 25 marker.  I walked a lot, shuffled a little, thought deeply, smiled plenty and eventually got back to the park where we started.  Gretchen was there, hoping to see me at 11:00am.  When she saw me around 11:30, at least I was smiling and she knew, before I told her, that today was not the day.  I have a wonderful wife!!!!

I crossed the finish line, marathon #58, grateful for the small gift of the announcer pronouncing my surname correctly.  I was done with running and done, period...fully wiped out at the end of a race as I have been since the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Adding insult to injury, my preventive paper tape fell off somewhere along the line and I had a dandy bleeding right nipple, as you can see in the photo below.  

I did have enough wits left to see Jose Santos, aka "Superman" along with his son Steve, whom I had talked with for a long time before the race.  Jose finished about 45 seconds ahead of me and was so pleased...race day was his 60th birthday and he celebrated his 98th marathon with his son.  How cool is that!!  

The organizers had a wonderful spread of food set up underneath a big tent with chairs and tables where we headed just after this photo op.  Remembering the curative power of a burger at mile 23 of last winter's HUFF 50K, I picked up a hot hamburger and slathered it in ketchup.  Then, I walked to a big cooler of ice-cold chocolate milk, grabbed two of these 8 oz cartons and sat down.  

Gretchen sat across from me and was a little concerned that I looked decidedly flat...she had good reason to, as the analysis below will demonstrate.  I started in on the chocolate milk and, man, did it taste good.  The burger was tasty and hot.  The second carton opened, I was starting to feel better.  I started talking with the young guy next to me who just finished his first marathon.  I asked Gretchen to pull out two more cartons of milk.  I started laughing with the new marathoner.  The third carton done, the burger half done, I began bopping to the  music playing.  By the time I began downing the fourth carton of milk, I looked at my wife and said "I'm doing better now" and she concurred, knowingly.  I finished the burger and we headed out, as I grabbed one more milk for the road.  We walked back to the hotel, feeling better, I showered and we headed home.

By the next day, I realized what had really happened:  I had dehydrated by mid-race.  I simply could not ingest enough water from the water stops and I was dried out.  Totaling what I drank post race is instructive:

  • Five 8 ounce cartons of chocolate milk post race
  • 24 oz of electrolyte drink back at the motel
  • Three 16 oz glasses of ice tea at lunch around 2pm
  • 24 oz protein smoothie during the drive around 3pm
  • Two more 16 oz glasses of ice tea during the rest of the drive
That's a total of 168 oz of fluids post race.  And I didn't need to pee until 8:30pm, when we got home.  That's nearly 5 liters of fluids by which I was in deficit...yeow.  No wonder I wasn't running well after mile 15.   

In the post-mortem of this race with the aforementioned Mike Taylor, he correctly informed/lectured/exhorted me to pay attention to my fluids, both prerace and during the race.  Message received.  I learned this once before in 2008...and now learn it afresh.  

This Race's Lessons:

The marathon is an exacting taskmaster, which for me is the most compelling reason to keep running them. The key lessons from this race:
  • The 4:30/:30 run/walk ratio works.  I liked it.  I need to continue to work on it.
  • I ran enough training miles but not enough quality miles, not enough miles quick enough to get to sub 4.
  • I have to carry my own water.  Gulping a bolus of water every mile and a half or so just doesn't cut it.  I need to sip, almost on each walk break, to stay hydrated.
  • Temperatures over 60 is not conducive to a hard marathon effort.
  • Chocolate milk is the greatest post race restoration drink.  Ever. 
  • A cold protein smoothie packed in ice is perfect for the trip home.  
  • Quickly go buy some lubricant to keep my white shirts white!!!!

Hope you've learned a bit from this write up.  

Persevere.  And stay hydrated while you persevere!!

Postscript:  About four weeks after the race, a package arrived from the Wausau Marathon.  Despite the difficulty I had in the later stages of the race, I placed third of eight in my age group.  And this earned me a Wausau Marathon beer glass!!  How nice of them to look this up and mail the prize to me.  Pure class, thanks folks!!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Never Eat Soggy Waffles

Wisdom from my granddaughter, as she told me how she learned to remember the points of the compass. any direction.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Race Report: Mahomet Half Marathon

Race Data:  13.1 miles, 2:03:48, 9:28/mile; run thru 10, then 6/1 R/W


The Mahomet Half Marathon is a fine, small race in a small town in eastern Illinois.  I enjoyed the run through the beautiful farm fields.  While I had hoped to break 2 hours, the 80 degree temps plus high humidity hit me at mile 10, so I had to slow over the final 3 miles.  It was great to begin the fall running season.


Mahomet, Illinois is about two hours from my house and the date landed perfectly for me as a set up for fall racing.  Up at 4:30am, out the door at 5 and, with the help of an hour time change when I crossed into the Central Time Zone, I was registered and parked just after 6am Central.  I had time to gently loosen up, stretch well and be ready to go.

The race started exactly as promised at 7:00am (I always appreciate that) and a field of 270 or so headed out. Starting temperatures were in the low 70s, with high humidity.  I went out, planning for a sub-2 hour effort, or 9:08 per mile.

The course was surprisingly delightful to me, though perhaps not for all in the field.  If you've ever driven across central Illinois, you will recall its main feature is featureless, lush, flat farmland.  By mile 2, we had left city limits and spent the rest of the race in a tour of that farmland.  Being a Nebraska farm kid myself, I found it wonderful to absorb at running speed.  The corn was tall and heavy laden, 3 or 4 filling-out ears on each strong stalk.  The soybean fields were a perfect carpet of uniform green, uniform and deeply colored.  It's a beautiful thing to see some of the richest farmland on the face of the earth giving food for all of us to enjoy.

A treat around mile 5 was to bump into a spectator wearing a Wheaton Cross Country shirt.  "Did you go to Wheaton College?" I asked?  Indeed, he had, and he jumped onto the course and ran a half mile or so with me.  Our youngest son went to Wheaton and this fellow was just a year behind him.  While he didn't know our son, they had common pals, I learned.  What a fun moment, out in the corn fields.

I stayed on the sub 2 hour pace through mile 7, then it slipped, bit by bit through mile 10.  At that point, I was keenly aware the temps were well over 80 and the full sun on the open country roads were taking their toll.  Since the main objective of this race was to set up for a strong marathon in 7 days, I shifted to a 6/1 run walk over the final 3 miles.

It would be cool if race directors gave an award for "The Most Witty and Humorous Comment to Water Stop Volunteers" because, while I was not close to an Age Group award, I do think I would have been a winner for humor.  The mile 11 water stop was obviously staffed by the local high school cheerleaders.  The matching hair bows, smiles and general bounciness were obvious clues.  So, it hit me what to say as I came into the station and made eye contact.  Try saying this out loud, using a "cheerleader" tone... hand motions are optional:

"We've got water, yes we do,
We've got water, how 'bout you?"

They looked at me a little funny but one of them allowed it might be a good cheer for a water stop.  I dunno...I doubt it will catch on but it gave me a smile the rest of the way in.

The race had a cool finish, onto and almost a full lap around the High School track.  I crossed the line, thankful for another race finished.

I placed 129th out of 256 finishers and 6th of 8 in my 60-64 age group.  The official results only posted my gun time, 2:04:06, while my chip time was biggie, just interesting.

Another fun treat...the Mahomet-Seymour High School mascot name is "Bulldogs"...wonderfully, the same mascot as my high school in Auburn, Nebraska.  I noted a line of track hurdles used to mark our entry onto the track and posed with a hurdle.  Kind of fun, as my limited high school track career was on the hurdles.  The big scar on my left kneecap is a life-long reminder of running (and tripping) on cinder tracks!

The organizers did a nice job of offering showers post race in the High School...that was nice.  I drove home, took a nap and was thankful for a good day.  
Next Saturday, I'll be running the Wausau Marathon in northern Wisconsin.  Stay tuned. matter the temperature.