Monday, October 27, 2008

Photo Time

ORN: 5.1 miles, R6/W1, 49:12

Back to regular running after taking a full week off. All systems felt "GO" on the easy 8 miler last Saturday. This morning was the first cold run of the late fall; the seasons have changed. I'm set, though, looking forward to Memphis on December 6. Much more to come on that.

Here are some photos for you. First, you can find our photos from Italy here.

And you can find pix from my marathon in Indianapolis on October 18 here. The smiling photos at the end are very genuine.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race Report: Indianapolis Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles, 4:43:43, R3/W1, 10:49/mile

Quick Summary

Now that’s the way a marathon should go!!! On a perfect autumn day for running, the Indianapolis Marathon went as well as the USAF Marathon went poorly four weeks ago. My new hydration and calorie plan seemed to work; I carried the 3/1 ratio all the way to the end, finishing strong. I felt terrific afterwards. A marvelous day.

The Gory Details

Growing up on a cattle farm in Nebraska, we always had horses and Dad taught me to ride around age 6. He’d hoist me up on a big quarter horse (no ponies on that farm) and then help me learn to direct the huge animal. Invariably, the horse would have his own mind, ignoring my puny efforts. I’d get thrown or get off in disgust, telling Dad how the horse “wouldn’t work.” Vividly, I remember him, calmly leaning against a fence post, saying “Joe, get back on the horse.” Despite my protestations, he’d calmly but firmly say again “Joe, get back on the horse.” And eventually I would. And I learned to ride.

This metaphor for overcoming a setback came back to me repeatedly in the past four weeks. After the frustration of bonking so badly at the USAF Marathon, I simply HAD to get back on the marathon horse, to see if I could get through it enjoyably. I was lucky to have a race available so soon to test a better method of hydration and electrolyte replacement, something I failed miserably in doing at USAFM.

This race is wonderfully convenient for me, a mere 70 minutes from my driveway. I slept in my own bed, was on the road at 5:30am, stashed a plastic bag of Gu and supplies under a bush at the halfway point of the race by 6:45, picked up my bib and chip and still had nearly an hour to relax in my car before the 8:30 gun. The field numbered near 6,000 runners, with 1,100 running the marathon, the rest doing a half.

The weather could not have been more perfect. Partly cloudy, a slight breeze out of the north, a temp of around 50 at the start and never got to 60 even at the finish. I wore a long-sleeve tech shirt underneath a short sleeve tech shirt at the start. The gun went off on time and I was back on horseback, hoping for a 4+ hour ride without getting thrown off.

The first five miles went smoothly. I got into my 3/1 run/walk ratio from the start. I had to work to hold my running pace to the calculated 9:45/mile. But it all seemed to work OK. At mile 5, I was about 70 seconds ahead of my planned pace.

At Wes’ suggestion, I have taught myself to take a couple of sips of water during every walk break. While not perfectly executed yet, it worked pretty well. I downed my first 10 oz of electrolyte water in the first 30 minutes of the race and knocked off another 20 oz of water in the next 30 minutes. This pattern followed all day; 10 oz of electrolytes at the top of each hour, followed by water the rest of the hour. The course had plenty of port-o-potties fortunately. At mile 10, I was 40 seconds ahead of my planned pace. The miles were just clicking off.

We came past the breakoff point for the half marathoners where I had stashed my bag earlier. I dropped off the long sleeve shirt, swapped my cap for my visor, reloaded three more Gu packs and headed out on the much-less-crowded out and back portion of the marathon course. The day was beautiful as we moved through a state park, full of trees in splendid fall foliage. At mile 15, I was 14 seconds behind my plan.

Surprisingly quickly, we got to the turnaround point at mile 19; we were heading home, I was feeling good. Would this continue?? I just stayed with the plan, running 3 minutes, walking 1 minute, drinking two or three swigs every walk break, downing a Gu every 45 minutes, enjoying the day. Amazingly, I had my second fastest mile of the day in mile 20; it’s 10:09 was bested only by a 9:56 during the mostly down hill mile 10. With 6.2 to go, I was 16 seconds ahead of the plan. Miles 21 and 22 went smoothly. I knew I was moving into the real test.

I still felt good at the mile 23 marker and a slight hill faced me, one which proved difficult on this course a year ago. Yet the mile went smoothly and mile 24 was done. A mild but long incline extended from mile 24.5 to mile 26. It was here I felt the most pain of the day. My left ankle had begun hurting around mile 17 due the camber of the course sloping mostly to the right. On the hill to mile 25, I had pain in and around my right knee, perhaps from the same camber issue, perhaps from fatigue. In both cases, though, I had none of the cramping or nausea I felt at the same points four weeks ago. It was just pain and it wasn’t all that bad.

As we slogged up the hill, I determined to stay with the 3/1 all the way to the end. Fascinatingly, it seemed to work. After three minutes of painful running, a 60 second walk really made a difference. The course finally made it to the top of the hill and we reentered the park hosting the start/finish line. With about a half mile to go, I could see the finish line and the slope was flat. The pain disappeared and I got the biggest, dumbest smile on my face you could imagine. I ignored the remaining walk break, accelerated to the finish line and crossed feeling terrific. My final chip time was 4:43:43, exactly 60 seconds better than my projected time. I had hit the splits all day.

One further test remained; how would I feel post-race? Boy, what a difference. I had no cramping at all. I was joking with the race volunteers at the de-chipping station. I grabbed some more water, a couple of bananas and walked back down the course to cheer on the folks coming in to a 5 hour finish. I was pumped; I walked and walked and yelled and cheered for them. I yacked with spectators. I made Purdue jokes. I downed the bananas. I headed for the food tent, got a hamburger, found some folks with whom I had run to sit and laugh and talk with and enjoyed the whole surroundings. After a little while, I walked comfortably back to the car, called my wife (who was relieved to hear me laughing) and drove home.

After getting home I did a little more analysis (you are surprised??). I kept up with the fluids, averaging about 25 oz/hour for the race. I slurped down six Gu packs during the race, the most Gu I’ve ever eaten in a marathon. I ate about 24 Wheat Thin crackers as well, which added more salt to the 400mg/hour of sodium I got from the electrolyte drink and Gu. And I had no cramping during or after the race. Further, I cut 5 minutes from last year’s time in the same race, not to mention finishing with more enthusiasm.

What was the timing impact of all the fluids?? Reviewing the per mile splits, it appears the four bathroom breaks cost me about 4.5 minutes of clock time. Comparing to the USAFM, where I had almost the exact same time through mile 21 as I did yesterday, the improved hydration cut my finishing time by 24 minutes. So, to “invest” 4.5 minutes and get 24 in return seems like a pretty good deal, not to mention feeling good at the end.

Yeah, Dad, I got back on the horse. I wish I could give you a phone call to laugh about it together, but you know how it went.

It was a terrific day. It was "the best race conditions allowed." I hope my experience can help you as well as we all persevere and keep learning.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh yeah, a marathon tomorrow

In a few hours, I wake up and head to Indy to run the Indianapolis Marathon. This will be my second marathon in four weeks, the closest ever for me.

The big task tomorrow is to figure out the whole hydration/electrolyte/fuel question. The very things which eluded me at the Air Force Marathon have really been motivating me to try it again.

The plan looks like this. I’ll do a 3/1 run/walk, shooting for a 10:45/mile pace, the same as I did at USAFM. I’ll carry my own fluids. At the top of each hour, I’ll start working on 10 oz of electrolyte drink with 390mg of sodium and other goodies. After that, I’ll look for additional 10 to 20 oz of water each hour. Fuel will be Gu, one every 45 minutes. I’ll throw on some Wheat Thins as well. I decided against the PB&J for this run. I also opted out of the Salt Stick capsules; I tried it in one run last week and just am not sure of how it will sit. I think it will work eventually, but am not going to try it tomorrow.

The weather looks near perfect in Indy tomorrow, as it should be around 42 at the start and near 60 by the time I hopefully finish.

Will it work? I’ll know tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back Home from Italy

ORN: 4.2 miles, R6/W1,

Whew!! Back from Italy late Sunday night, took Monday off and now into the regular grind. What a marvelous time we had!! I’ll have photos posted in the next week or so. But here’s one funny running story and some other bullet points from our 12 days of pasta and scenery.

We visited the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa last Monday, just a couple of hours after my 17 mile run. The tower and the scene around it is comical; all the tourists stand and laugh. After gawking for a while, we paused for some gelato, Italian ice cream, oh so creamy. As we stood there, I noted a “42” spray painted on the street. I just happened to remember a Marathon is 42.2 km long and wondered if this wasn’t the “almost to the end” marker for a marathon which would finish next to the famous tower? We got home and a quick web search confirmed it; this was the finish of the Pisa Marathon. I guess if I wanted to go back there next May 19, I could run, laughing, to the finish line! For now, I’ll settle for the photograph.

So much more to say about Italy…I’ll just run a list, in no particular order for you:
  • Best Meal. A tiny restaurant in Florence with five tables and an elderly owner who spoke no English. Fantastic food, a warm welcome, wonderful evening.
  • Best Single Dish. In Lucca, called “Vegetable Soup” in English on the menu. Actually more a stew than soup, it had a puree with 2 types of small beans, spinach and amazing flavors of spices. Indescribably good.
  • Worst Meal. None. No bad meals. At all.
  • Italian drivers are not as crazy as I had been led to believe. I drove for a week and got along OK. Only once did someone make an obscene gesture at me.
  • Fashion. Italian men and women dress well. Especially the shoes. High heel boots seem to be very much in vogue this fall.
  • Cold Blooded. Italians also seemed to be colder than I was. While I was in shorts and a golf shirt, they were in parkas and scarves. Seriously.
  • The normal goods of life are expensive. Food, rent, petrol. We wondered how those on the lower end of the economic ladder make it there.
  • Italy is densely populated. There are people everywhere. I’m sure used to wide open spaces, American style.
  • Churches are museums in Italy much of the time. They look to the past. Where is the faith? Where is the look to the future?
  • Trains are a fantastic way to travel in Europe. Way more relaxing than driving.
  • Movie stars always have perfect complexions.
  • My family was surprised to learn I can do a pretty good voice impersonation of Bill Clinton.
  • Italian port-o-potties work differently than the American version. And are cleaner, as a result.
  • Italian pasta is thinner than the same-named American pasta.
  • Marble is pure calcium carbonate and is sawn off the sides of the mountains.
  • I love traveling with my wife.
  • If there is no smoking on an airplane, why are their ash trays in the plane’s restrooms?

A great trip. Great to be home. Persevere.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Italy Update

ORN: 17.0 miles, R4/W1, 3:05:00

Greetings from Italy!!

Wow, has this been a great trip and we have another 5 days here. The art in Florence was astounding. Even me, a card-carrying, linear-thinking engineer was deeply moved by seeing Michalangelo's "David"...the most famous statue ever. The food is just beyond description. It is great to be with my three sisters and our spouses. We're all safe and enjoying it.

Running was cool this morning. I knew I had to get one long run in on this trip to bridge the USAFM and the Indy Marathon coming up. The schedule allowed it this fact, I'm typing this from an Internet cafe in Lucca which I came to after running...they didn't seem to mind me sitting here in my sweaty tech shirt!! I'll post photo of where I ran when I get home...but if you search for images of "the walls of Lucca" you'll see it. A 2.5 mile loop on protecitve city walls built in the 1200's. Now a verdant, beautiful walkway. What a cool spot to run. My hydration plan kicked in...I was a little low on fluids and calories, felt it sliding away around the 11 mile mark. I chugged the second Gu and dialed up the fluid rate and I staved off the early tendancy to dehydrating. Finished strong. 17 miles in

So much more to write...will wait till I get home and don't have to pay per minute to connect!!

What on earth happened to my Chicago Cubs?? I leave the country and they drop three straight to the Dodgers and pack it in for another year??? Oh my...what a bummer for this baseball fan.

Hope Portland Marathon went well for those of you who ran it. Good luck to all of you running Chicago this Sunday!