Monday, October 17, 2016

Is This Heaven?

Nope. Its Iowa. So I have to be 100% honest when I admit that Iowa was not a state I was dying to get to. But a few things changed my mind.

First, sure... its boring there. I had a list of about 3 things I thought looked kind of cool and 2 of them were closed when I got there. I ended up watching college football most of the time. But during the race, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the neighborhoods surrounding Des Moines are. They are REALLY pretty and filled with very neighborly people. I get the feeling the quality of life there is very good.

Second, I saw a cardboard cutout of John Wayne in a window. On a whim, I thought "Where was John Wayne born". Sure enough, Winterset, Iowa (45 minutes from Des Moines). Since the "Field of Dreams" field was 3 HOURS from Des Moine, I thought this would be a fun post race event. And it was! The John Wayne Museum was right there next to his old house. Good stuff. The picture here is me and the Duke!

Oh and there was a race too. I went into this race thinking I would be happy just crawling to the finish. Truly had thoughts of getting a 3:15 or so and call it a day. Plus it was 70 with 100% humidity and I was literally sweating just waiting for the race to start. But as I was sitting there, i started thinking about a story I heard Jeff Galloway tell the night before at the pasta dinner. It was about his friend who ran the 800 meter race in the Olympics. Basically, every heat, the guy was always dead last and would come and barely get to a qualifying position. He squeeked into the finals and found himself in the same position. Dead last until the last 200, 6th place with 100 left and he ended up diving and winning the gold medal. How did he do it? Negative splits? Nope. His 200 splits were all exactly what he tried to go out for. Moral of the story, run your own race. How did it work out for me?

As I looked at the Kenyans in front of me before the race, I'm not running the fastest marathon, but I'm going to run the smartest one. My strategy was to drink an obscene amount of gatorade and eat all my nutrition exactly according to plan (never skip a single one). I would go out at a comfortable pace and then not change it. That happened to be about 7:03. Around mile 19 i started to see folks stopping. It was brutally hot and humid. Even the Kenyans looked hot. I was stalking the 3:05 pace group for a long time (I honestly didn't know if it was the 3:10 or 3:05 until i almost bumped up to them). Anyway, it was so hot that 6 of the 8 members of that group just stopped at mile 19. The guy holding the sign went into the woods and tossed the sign! I ended up catching the other 2 how kept going. I felt strong and had my best mile of the day, 6:25 for mile 26. My last 10k was faster than my first 10k. I ran my 3rd fastest marathon ever. I didn't have the sign for the 3:05 pace group, but could have.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Quite a Stretch

As I say goodbye to another triathlon season, I take a moment to reflect where I am at. I really enjoyed this season of triathlons (maybe more than any other season ever). I felt absolutely no pressure, I didn't train for events I didn't want to (sorry bike) and I was still able to have a good time pounding out good times!

I got 7 triathlons in this season. This is tied for the most I've ever done. My secret is doing absolutely no bike training whatsoever. Somehow, I was able to be very successful nonetheless. In the 7 races, I had 6 top 3 AG finishes (including 3 first place finishes). I had a couple of 6 place overall finishes. By far, my biggest accomplishment was getting 12th overall, 1st AG in the Lake Logan International. I didn't break 40 in the 10k, but i DID PR in the swim AND the bike. I also broke 2:19 (a near perfect day).

So where am I exactly? I finished last year's half marathon calendar with a HUGE and completely un-beatable PR. I had a very successful tri season. In the past 26 races, I've gotten 22 top 3 AG finishes including 12 first place AG finishes and 2 outright wins. Not bad for an old man!

But past is past. Now what? I have on tap 27 races for full year 2016 (which would tie 2005 and 2006 as most ever and be 2 more than last year). I have 9 halves before year end and a marathon in Des Moines in October. Last spring, I was able to combine the best shape I've ever been in with a real knowledge of how to win races. I hope to get back to peak season form my November. Past that, I have Big Sur next spring and then who knows? Still enjoying it after all these years.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Deadwood Nearly Killed Me

Just got back from my trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I would definitely chalk this one up to a GREAT place to visit, but I'm glad to be home now. While I was there, I got out to the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Park, Mount Rushmore, and explored all around Deadwood. Basically the entire state seems like its either part of some sort of park or is sectioned off as an Indian reservation.

Like most of natural things, pictures don't do the beauty of the landscapes justice (so I won't post any). But there were several times I looked out over the plains or up on the black hills, or the kraggy mountain tops of the badlands and was overwhelmed. My main interested was trying to get up close to some buffalo! I really can't describe the experience of being 25 yards from a wild animal (not in zoo) of that size.  It was surreal and just really cool.

     Wild Buffalo on the side of the road near Custer State Park

I stayed in the Bullock Hotel which was the location of where Seth Bullock and his partner had their hardware store warehouse. Bullock himself had plans to turn this into a hotel. I learned a ton about Bullock including how he knew Teddy Roosevelt and was even one of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War! I enjoyed Deadwood and even gambled (and won 32 bucks!)

Here I am with Wild Bill Hickock and Jack McCall.

The race! Oh yeah, there was a race. I knew going in it was a trail marathon but didn't do any trail training at all. I'm in really great shape right now having just PR'd in the half last month and having PR'd in my 1/2 and full mile training times (way to be humble Adam) but this race kicked my ass in every way possible. There were a number of difficulties from the get-go:

  1. Soft surface: I haven't fully figured this out, but my body just hates soft surface. My theory is that since I'm roughly 200 lbs, I basically sink down into the soft ground and have to exert a great deal more energy to move. With hard surface, my 200lbs just bounces off the surface and propels me forward. Plus, I think the softer surface makes my foot strike change dramatically. This (i think) lead to...
  2. Ouchies: Nothing serious but I tweaked my shin while running last week and swimming didn't exactly help. I took a week off but it took just 2 miles for it to be aggravated. And while normally this pain would be a 1 or a 2, since my foot strike was different I had to do a lot more lifting of my foot (causing my soreness and irritating it even more). Did I mention this race was in June?
  3. Heat/Sun: For some reason South-Western South Dakota is in the Mountain Time Zone. That is good for getting more sleep, but what it effectively does is push the day an hour later. This means a 8am start really feels like 9am. This means warmer and sunnier. It was a big mistake of mine not to think about this. I didn't put on suntan lotion because I also thought that the race was mostly canopied (mistake number 2). At any rate, the first half especially was very expose and it was warm (albeit dry since the dew point was low).
  4. Race was not downhill the first half: I'm no genius. But close your eyes and read this ;) If there is a stream next to you for 13 miles, and that stream is flowing the opposite way as you, YOU MUST BE GOING UPHILL. If someone can give me another explanation (and there were no locks or anything like that). The race elevation has the race as downhill the first half and very down hill the second. I'll agree the second half is very downhill but the first half is not at all.
At mile 8 it became obvious I needed a new strategy. My time was exactly 1 hour which put my pace to be a 3:30 marathon. I didn't want to run for 3 1/2 goddamn hours given all the above. So I came up with a plan. It was to go really easy until mile 13 and then pray that the race report of being VERY downhill the second half was true. In the mean time, I would back off pace even more, concentrate on hydration and food, and get ready to essentially negative split the marathon (something I've never been able to do).

At mile 13, we reached the half marathon area. Several things happened almost immediately:

  1. The soft surface that was essentially a sand trap at a golf course turned hard. I thought it would since there were a ton of half marathon runners, but it was even harder than I had thought. 
  2. This was VERY good news for my shin (the surface along with some advil made it essentially a non issue).
  3. The trail quickly became very canopied. The sun wouldn't really be a factor again and since the dew point was so low, my body temperature started to come down.
  4. The trail was VERY downhill for the second half.
As a result, my heart rate started to drop, my mile times started to go down (by about a minute), and I started to use the energy I had saved. The result is evident in the chart below:

 For the first time ever, I negative split a marathon. Towards the end of the race, I started picking people off left and right. I always forget that if I'm hurting, chances are other people are hurting too. We were all running the same course with the same conditions. Since I have run 38 other marathons, I was just a little smarter. I went from 11th to 4th place overall.

I gotta say that I thought a great deal about Mohammad Ali during the race. If you recall, my best race (and maybe best time at one of these races) was in Louisville where I PR'd. Ali passed away on Friday while I was in Deadwood and I have been struggling to define exactly what he meant to me. I don't really have idols and I never had any connection to him. I'm not even really a boxing fan. As I ran the last mile in Louisville, I pictured him running with me and I ran a 6 minute mile. For this race, I kept thinking about him (especially those last 3 miles). I kept repeating to myself and then out loud: "To be a champion, you have to be defeated". I think this is what Ali meant to me most. He wasn't someone who won something and then lost it. He was someone who lost something many times and always came back again. I repeated this over and over again and I ran faster and faster. I felt he was cheering me on this race just like in Louisville and I'm happy to say that I PR'd for trail marathon. My last 3 miles were sub 7, which on a trail and after so much adversity, I am very proud of. I was completely defeated at the beginning of this race and by the end I felt like maybe not a champion, but someone who was able to accomplish more than seemed possible earlier.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

It's On

I think 2016 is off to a great start. I have really built on the gains from the end of last year. I have taken my half marathon PR from 1:24 all the way down to 1:21! I have finished no worse than 5th overall over my past 5 races, while getting 1st in my age group for all (as well as an outright win today at the Not So Normal Half).

Year over year, my half marathon time is down 5 minutes! This after not being able to budge more than 40 seconds over 10 years! Why? I'm not sure. I have not given myself any excuses when it comes to taking days off. So i have been putting the reps in. Also, I've found a new love for training which has made competitions easier. Finally, I've been very focused. That always helps.

So what's next? Four more halves and a 10 miler ahead of my next marathon (including some races that I won last year so I'll be attempting to defend my crown). As far as the marathon, it's DEADWOOD, SD!!! I need to finish off the HBO series before I go for sure. After the marathon, it's a few triathlons then back to the half. This year is going to be the year of the half. I think Deadwood is a tough trail marathon, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to do my fall marathon in a place that could be a PR. I am running at a pace that theoretically could (and should easily) break 3 hours in a marathon. That would be amazing. For now, continuing to concentrate on halves!