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.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lifehack: 10' charger cord

It won't change your life but, man, does it make things easier.

A 10' phone charger cord gave me a lot more room at my work office.  I don't have to bend around to make my phone find the plug.  Those 3' cords that come with the phone just won't's amazing the difference with a 10' cord.  

Easily available on Amazon for both Android and Apple products.  Cheap.  Good.  




Sunday, August 09, 2015

On Perseverance

When I started this Blog, I debated what to name it.  The word "Perseverance" stuck and resonated with me, for many reasons.  So often, you just have to keep hanging in there, resolutely.

It was therefore fascinating to note a recent article in Fast Company titled WHAT HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT PERSEVERANCE  (yeah, they used all caps in the title,'s not me yelling).  It's a nice, short read and captures several illustrations of perseverance.  I particularly liked the quote in this article from "Boys in the Boat", a book I have not read buy my highly-literate wife has raved about.

Persevere.   You might help the odds of your own success in the process.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Run/Walk Presentation Photos

On Tuesday, August 11, I'll be making a short presentation about using the run/walk method.  It will take place at the West Lafayette Fleet Feet store.

Below are photos of the highly sophisticated poster boards I drew with Sharpies.  It will dazzle you.

I have written other pieces on run/walk...a starting link is here.


Friday, August 07, 2015

On Leadership Maturity

A friend of mine recently captured, in remarkably succinct manner, what one does if one is a mature leader. 
Leadership maturity is:
  • understanding reality,
  • taking responsibility for failures,
  • charting a way forward and
  • building a healthy team
Such leadership is rooted in the current and, at the same time, keeps an eye on the big picture.  We so often get pulled into one or the other.
A good word for me. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Smarter than who?

Had a good recollection of my father this morning. He taught me,  among many other things, how to ride a horse on our farm when I was young.

He was fond of telling me, when the horse wouldn't do what I wanted,  "Joe, you gotta be smarter than the horse.". Calmly, leaning on a fence post, advising but not bailing me out.  " Be smarter than the horse."

And there are days and those words still encourage me.



Saturday, August 01, 2015

On Beauty

Was up before dawn today to get my last long run in before the Wausau Marathon three weeks from this morning.  We've had  brutal heat and heavy humidity for the last month, so typical of late-summer Indiana.

But not this morning.  The gentle north breeze brought clear skies and low humidity.  The added treat was a fantastic full moon, a Blue Moon (the second full moon in the calendar month), floating high in the western sky as the sun gently approached the eastern horizon.

I saw more than a few people out walking or running early, many of whom I knew...the mood was festive.  "It's a beautiful day!" was the universal sentiment.

Which made me think of Harry Caray, the late, great, legendary baseball announcer. Harry always led his broadcasts with an enthusiastic "It's a BEAUTIFUL day for baseball!" (sound clip here ... so good to hear Harry's voice again!!!)

Yet, as baseball fans know, it's often NOT beautiful weather in Chicago, where Harry broadcast for many years.  But Harry was neither dumb nor clueless.  In his love for the game, any day on which you played baseball was a beautiful day.

This morning was truly a beautiful summer day by any definition.  Yet beauty is much broader than that.  The gift of health, the gift of safety, the gift of exercise, the mere ability to go outside on our own two feet and move freely....THAT is beautiful.

Any day we can run is a beautiful day.

What I think about while I run.


Today's Run:  20.0 miles, R/W 6/1, 3:16:11, 9:49/mile pace