Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seattle Marathon

I know this post has been a long time coming. I could give a dozen different reason as to why I have taken so long to get this up, but I won't bore you with the tedium that is my life. I'll just say that my life hasn't gotten any easier since finishing the greatest race I've ever run.

The Seattle adventure began on Thanksgiving Day. That was when my mother and I flew in for the race weekend. I had invited her earlier in the year, since she had never been to Seattle before and I knew that bringing along a support crew would make things a lot more fun. We arrived at the host hotel early in the afternoon and my plan was to do an easy seven mile run to recon one of tougher parts of the course. As I left the hotel that afternoon, I could not have known that the events that would soon follow would foreshadow the remainder of the weekend. The events that I am going to reveal here have not been told to my marathon advisor, John Ellis. I began my run feeling well prepared. I had printed a map before I left of the course that I planned on running. I don't know if it was the change of location, the tall buildings, or typical Seattle cloud cover; but my Garmin would not grab a satellite signal. After waiting ten minutes, I decided to take off and see if it would get something along the way. I ran Northeast out of downtown, toward Interlaken Park. This is where the toughest hills on the marathon course would be and I wanted to check them out. The hills were fairly decent, climbing 500 feet in a little over a mile. I was pretty confident of my ability to climb, based on my training and being at nearly sea level. Something happened as I was descending back into the city. I took a wrong turn. I'd been following my printed map and it seemed pretty straightforward. It was probably another forty-five minutes before I got the feeling that I was going the wrong way. At that point I had no idea were I was and because the hills and the weather, I could no longer see the cityscape. I ran a bit longer until I found someone to point me in the right direction. Remembering that it was Thanksgiving and no businesses were open. Upon finding out how far I had gotten off course, I decided to start walking up the hills and jogging the downhills and flats. Before leaving, I had told my mom that I wouldn't be gone any longer than an hour and a half. That time had passed, but I didn't want to call her until I was sure that I was back on track. My mom asked, "why didn't you just call a cab?" With hindsight, I might have, but I figured that this would all make for a good story. It wasn't until I was within a couple of miles from the hotel that I began to get concerned that I might have made a big mistake. I might have sacrificed all of the training I had followed so religiously, out of stubbornness. I determined though, when I arrived back at the hotel that I would maintain a positive attitude about this and I wouldn't tell John until after the race. All told, I ran and walk a little over 15 miles in right around three and a half hours. We walked a couple more miles for seafood Thanksgiving dinner at the pier that night.

The next day I awoke, not feeling any fatigue from the night before. We spent the day Friday, walking around to many of the famous Seattle landmarks. I had spent two years in and around the Seattle area while attending school for work, so I had seen everything before; but I wanted to give my mom the opportunity to see as much as possible. We kept it pretty leisurely, with the primary focus being good food and coffee. For dinner that night we visited a highly regarded pizza restaurant, where I had a delicious clam pizza. We watched the lighting of the annual Christmas tree and I made a quick trip through the race expo. I picked up my packet, with plans of spending more time there the next day. The day was finished off by going to bed early.

I awoke the morning before race day at 3 a.m. with the feeling that I was going to be sick. I tried as best as I could to convince myself that I was OK, but eventually I couldn't hold back any longer. I then had the fortune of revisiting the same feeling on an hourly basis for the next ten hours. I wrote John that morning to pass along my situation, which I had determined as food poisoning, and seek his advice once again. He quickly wrote back with words of encouragement, recommending water, yogurt, and pasta when I could eat. By 1 p.m. I was starting to feel better and was able to hold down the yogurt, rice crackers, tea, and bananas that my mom had gone out and picked up for me. I continued to rest for the remainder of the afternoon and finally felt well enough to go down to have a pasta dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening. I finished off the night by laying out everything for the next morning. It ended up not being the day I had planned on and I was feeling pretty anxious about how I would feel in the morning.

Race morning I got up and felt like the previous 30 hours had never happened. I had a high protein breakfast of a smoked salmon and egg bagel sandwich, a banana, a bottle of water with nuun and coffee. I jogged my warm-up from the hotel to the starting line. I got there just in time to watch the half marathon take off. The start was broken into four waves, marathon walk, half marathon run, half marathon walk, and the marathon run. My mom arrived about fifteen minutes before the start to take my warm-ups and shoes. I decided to race in my Brooks T6 Racer distance racing flats. I had put around 40 miles on them during track and speed workouts two months prior to the marathon. I wore a long sleeve shirt under the Brooks Distance Singlet that I had printed with a large Brooks logo across the back and the Team Point Two logo that Jamie had designed for the team, on the chest. The day was supposed to be in the upper 40's with a good chance of a drizzling rain, but I figured I could get away with my Brooks HVAC Shorts. All told, I think I nailed the attire perfectly. I was never too warm and I didn't feel cold at all.

The race plan John had given me was to let the pace come to me. Go out uptempo, but not strained for the first ten miles, not looking at the Garmin at all. Then from mile ten through twenty. just maintain, not dropping the pace or speeding up. The final advice was to race from mile twenty on. I understood the plan and did the best I could to follow it. From the start, I was pretty impressed with my position. I had placed myself just three seconds back from the starting mat, so as not to waste any energy getting past people while finding my pace. I found a group that felt right fairly early on and we stuck pretty close together through mile 15.

I knew pretty early on that my pace was faster than planned, but it felt comfortable and I wasn't straining to maintain. My first 5K was 18:40 (6:00/mi) and I was 38:51 (6:15/mi) at the 10K mark. When I finally checked my Garmin at mile 10, I was running a 6:38/mile pace and feeling great. From mile 3, I had been alternating between water and sports drink at each aid station. I took a GU between miles 11 and 12. When I crossed the mat at the half marathon mark I was 1:26:52, running at a 6:37/mile pace. The next seven miles were fairly flat and I followed the plan of maintaining the pace and nutrition. By mile 20 I had only dropped to a 6:40/mile pace and was still feeling good. I started pushing the pace as I entered the first of the hills that would last the next three miles. At that point I figured my overall place to be 29th. Just past mile 21 I came alongside one of the runners, in a Boston Marathon shirt, that I had been pacing with and told him that he was doing well. He told me that I had a great stride and that he would probably not be able to hang with me for much longer. He was right, just not the way he had planned it. He started to pull away from me slowly and try as I may, I couldn't close the gap. Others began to pass me, but I knew that my Boston Qualifier time of sub-3:10 was secure. I wanted to do John proud and pass some people in those last miles. I think the downhills actually took more out of me in those last miles. I just couldn't push my cadence the way I needed to. I held strong, not letting anyone pass me in the last mile and putting on a kick at the end.

I finished the Amica Seattle Marathon in 3:01.26 (6:55/mi). I finished 36th place overall and 4th in my age division. I not only met my goal of running a sub-3:10 and gaining a BQ for 2011, but I crushed my previous marathon time by over 20 minutes. I could not have been more pleased with my performance. I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and happiness. I owe such a huge debt of gratitude to John Ellis, my teammates from Team Point Two, and everyone else that supported me along the way. My mom soon caught up with me after finishing, with warm clothes and a big congratulations. That evening, we went out for a post-race sushi and sake dinner. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.

We flew home the next day with no incident. By the time I arrived home, I was already planning my upcoming racing year. It is to include two half marathons, three marathons, and an Ironman triathlon, all culminating with the Boston Marathon in April 2011. I am a little disappointed that registration had already closed for 2010, but this will allow me to re-focus my priorities and achieve my future goals. I would recommend the Seattle Marathon to anyone interested. It is a challenging course, but Seattle is a wonderful city with a well run race.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This Season

As I was out for my long run last weekend, I began to ponder...what is this season? This is Fall. It is the time of year when everything changes. When the heat and long days of summer subside. The leaves change color and the trees (and my dogs) begin to shed. Just take a look at my teammate Jamie's blog over at It's A Running Thing and see how beautiful Fall can be.

For many around the office and Wyoming, this is hunting season. The time of year when size really does matter. When it's OK to wear camo and fluorescent orange around the office. Coffee talk changes from politics and religion to the shot that just missed and the one that got away.

Another season is taking place around here, and that is sugar beet season. Worland, Wyoming is home to the Wyoming Sugar Company (formerly Holly Sugar). Sugar beets are very interesting and something that I had never been introduced to until moving to Worland. For two to three weeks each October beets are harvested and hauled here from all the area farms. This means a constant flow large dump trucks, filled to the brim with these pale white root vegetables. As a runner, this season brings certain inherent risks along with it. The first being additional road traffic, with vehicles that can't give you much right-of-way. This is especially true when they are passing each other. The other danger is that one of them might come free and take you out while running. While it might not seem too bad if you look at the one I picked up on my run the other day; they are solid as rocks and the largest one ever record in Worland was 22 pounds. Imagine that...something the size of a watermelon and hard as a rock, coming at you at 45 miles per hour. DUCK!!!

This leads me into the final season. The season that Team Point Two is taking part in. MARATHON SEASON! Our first team member, Donna, finished her race and met her goal in Portland. You can read all about it over on Nicole's blog at Running Bébé. Congratulations Donna! I am the next team member to go, with Seattle being less than six weeks out now. My training is just starting to peak this week, and not only are the miles long, but they're getting tough too. I'm excited, the finish is finally coming within view. So, to everyone out there, enjoy the Fall and good luck this season!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Running Partner

This is my running partner Winnie. She is a chocolate lab/springer spaniel mix. Winnie will be eight years old this December. She is more than just my running partner, she is my roommate, my vacuum (of food), and my best friend. Winnie loves to run. She has a obsessive attraction to tennis balls. I can't remember life before the Chuck-it. Winnie and I have an agreement that she will get to exercise at least once each day. It may be a walk, a run, a swim, or some ball playing, but regardless the time or the temperature it has to happen.

Now as my running partner, Winnie struggles with the same problem that I sometimes have. Which is forgetting that you don't have to run hard all of the time. When she was younger, it wasn't a problem she could go for miles and never let up. It seems though, that as she grows older and my runs longer, that she can't always go along with me. I have never taken her on anything longer than ten miles and now days we keep it under seven. She loves to run and be there with me. She is a showoff. When other dogs are locked in there yards or stuck in the backs of trucks, she will pick up the pace. As if to say, look at me, I'm getting to go for a run. We just can't go for long runs every day. I give her a day off and feed her joint supplement, then in a day or two she is ready to hit the trail again.

Winnie doesn't know it yet, but next week we will have another runner moving in with us. Moose is a three year old boxer/black lab. My parents have Moose's brother and sister, Hooch and Simone. They were all adopted after being taken from a home that neglected them as puppies. Moose has been living with a family that has several young children and another dog. Because of the trauma in his past, he is very skittish and they were thinking of putting him down. I couldn't let that happen, so next week he moves in with us. As I understand it, he is a bit overweight, but has plenty of energy. I am going to put coach Winnie on getting him slimed down. Maybe now, Winnie will have a running partner that she can call her own.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Out and Back, Not Down and Out

On July 13th I began marathon specific training as a member of Team Point Two. The plan was to train through the Crazy Horse Marathon in 12 weeks and focus on the Amica Seattle Marathon in 20 weeks. With my ultimate goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April 2010. John Ellis, the team marathon advisor sent me the training plan for the week on July 12th; which consisted of a track workout, a hill workout, a long run, a cross training workout, and a couple medium distance easy runs. Now to be clear, I had been splitting my training time between three sports during triathlon season in May and June. At the end of June, when my tri season concluded, I took two weeks of active recovery before starting on the marathon focus.

Day one of marathon training began with a track workout. The plan was for a 2 mile warm-up, 2 sets of .75 mi, 1 mi, .75 in 4:36, 6:08, and 4:36 with a 4 minute recovery jog between each distance and 1 mile jog between each set, followed by a 2 mile warm-down jog. The workout was going great and I was feeling tough until the last .75 mile. As I came down a straight away at 600 meters, my right calf cramped up to the point that I had to stop. I tried stretching it and walking it out, but I knew immediately that I was done for the day. I went home and contacted John to let him know what had happened. His advice was to take a rest day the next day and then to try running again the next day. That workout was an 11 mile trail run, which was fairly painful, but I gutted it out. I then followed that with a bike ride the next day. When I finished the bike ride I noticed the amount of swelling from my ankle to knee, and self-diagnosed something more that just a cramping issue. After the initial injury, I had been icing and popping vitamin Ibuprofen as much as possible. John advised me to switch my runs to elliptical or bike rides. I decided to get in and see a physical therapist as soon as possible.

By the middle of the next week my recovery had begun. I had done a few elliptical workouts and decided, that is a drudgery that I would not wish upon anyone. Not to say that elliptical doesn't have it's place in training; but like with so many stationary machines, they are not designed for my 6'4" frame. I visited a physical therapist and we started an aggressive course of treatment to get me back on the road as quickly as possible. They diagnosed me with a moderate strain of my soleus muscle. The plan was to use a combination of electronic stimulation, ultra-sound, massage, ice, stretching, and strength training. I was also released to begin running again with lower miles and moderate pace. The PT continued on a twice weekly basis for 4 weeks, along with ice, self-massage, and ibuprofen. At which point I was released to get back to focussing on my goals. Through the entire recovery John and the rest of Team Point Two was there for me with appropriate workouts and lots of support.

There are few things that I took home from this whole experience. First off, when you find yourself injured, remember there is a future after injury. It was immediately depressing to find myself injured at the very beginning of my focused training. I had to be willing to change my goals and re-focus on getting healthy again. Several of my fellow teammates have found themselves in same position this season. All of them have been able to start down their own roads to recovery and in some cases change there goal races to later dates. Next, listen to the authorities. I firmly believe that my rapid recovery was based on my willingness to listen to and obey the advise of John and the physical therapists. The next wasn't so much of a learning point as it was reminder, STRETCH. Focused stretching is every bit as important as the workout itself. The last idea is to be open to trying new things. I avoid doctors and medical professionals if at all possible, but in this case the physical therapist was exactly what I needed. My natural response would be to tough it out and not say anything, which would have been extremely detrimental in to my training. I also picked up a pair of compression calf guards and begun to use them on my hard workouts. I started using ice baths more often to speed my recovery after challenging days. To wrap this up, I am even considering scheduling a weekly massage to reap the benefits of muscle recovery and repair.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano (Sound Mind in a Sound Body)

Today, the fire crew of which I am a part, participated in the BLM National Fire Operations Fitness Challenge. The plan is to use this program to encourage our firefighters to maintain year round fitness. By testing them today, we were able to see who had stayed in good shape and who needs work. It set a baseline standard that everyone can work from to improve their personal fitness. Countless studies have shown that fit and healthy firefighters tend to be injured less during their careers.

The challenge that we face each year with a program made up of over 30 seasonal firefighters, is that you cannot make them stay fit during the offseason. That is where we look to the fitness challenge along with a cash incentive for Gold and Platinum level participants; to show the importance of year round fitness. For many of these firefighters, it is only their third week of work and already we are testing their physical and mental strength. As a matter of fact, on only the second day of work for many of them, I lead the crew on a 9 mile run consisting of 7 miles of hill repeats. The idea is not to break them, or to show how fit we are as leaders. It's let them know how important it is to maintain their fitness and how high the expectations are for our crews.

So, today we tested 39 of 41 firefighters. The results were overwhelmingly positive. There were six men that scored in the Gold range and nearly a dozen more firefighters that scored above the Silver level. Our entire program averaged 234 points, which is commendable. We will test at least once more before the results are due at the national office at the end of the month. Everyone knows now where their weakness lies. For me, it is upper body strength. I spend so much time focusing on the run, the bike, and the swim, that I let my muscular strength fall by the wayside. I know this is where I need to focus and come next time, maybe a little more than my run will be doing the talking.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wyoming Race Network

The past several weeks I have been racing at various runs and triathlons. It reminded me of what kind of community we have here in this state. I listen to others talk about the groups that they train and race with in their cities and towns. Here in Wyoming our community covers 97,818 square miles. It seems like every race I attend there are more and more athletes from around the state that I would also consider friends.

At Bolder Boulder, I ran into two different co-workers that were either competing or supporting other racers. This past weekend at the Buffalo Triathlon, I hung out with two other Worland triathletes. At all the races there are plenty of other athletes that I know from other towns around the state. I meet even more people at the races that I look forward to hanging out with and racing against in future races. Now, here's the thing, these aren't my training partners. They are my race partners.

I will admit that I would rather be racing than training, any day. I think this realization is part of that reason. I never use to think of racing as a social setting, but it is becoming more and more of that for me. Don't get me wrong I still enjoy my solo training runs with just Winnie and I. It's just nice to be around others with common goals and motivations.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


When I was in high school I was always a member of a team. Except back then it was a team of individuals. We scored points as a team, but runners and swimmers spend most of there time competing alone. I like it this way. They say to train like you race. Which is perfect, since I spend most of my time training alone At least that was true until recently. I have actually become a member of two teams.

The first is a virtual marathon training team. Team Point Two was developed and is advised by John Ellis. This team takes a group of seven marathoners with varying abilities and experiences, all with the goal of making their next marathon faster than the last. We are supported by a group of advisors, as well as The Runners Round Table. This is a part of the Run-Net Community as Steve Runner refers to it. All I know is that it is a whole lot of fun. I am getting support from some great people and great runners. I have also been able to offer the same. I still don't truly know what to expect from this experience; I just appreciate the opportunity to be part of such an amazing team.

My other team is a bit closer to home. A couple of weeks ago I approached two of my employees about putting a team together and participating in my first triathlon of the year. The Razor City Splash and Dash Triathlon took place in Gillette, Wyoming over the weekend. This is the same race that had blizzard conditions last year. This year was a different story. The conditions were optimal; even though we encountered snow while traveling to and from the race. For the race you are allowed to build a relay team and the swimmer is also able to compete as an individual in the full triathlon. That is what we did, building a team to compete for the corporate cup trophy. I swam and competed in the full individual race, finishing third overall. My elbow hasn't fully recovered from the crash, but I felt like my swim went well. Next up was Sage, on the bike. He is a 30 year old Worland native that is less than six months off a major knee surgery. He spent most of the winter rehabbing and took up spinning at the local health club; while he was unable to run. He had only been on an actual road bike twice in the two weeks prior to the race. He is a powerful rider, with a lot of will power. Sage was able to maintain a 20 mph average speed over the hilly 17 mile course. The final leg was Myles. Myles is a former high school teammate of mine, as well as a collegiate track and cross country runner. His family all came out to watch and cheer us on. The three of us are grateful to work for a program that provides us the opportunity to work out for an hour each day. Our goal was to capture the corporate prize and hopefully set a course record. We were able to accomplish both. Breaking the old corporate course record by over 6 minutes. It was great to be a part of this team. We had a lot of fun and look forward to returning next year to defend our crown.