Friday, December 21, 2007

Motivation, Injuries and Winter in Minnesota

Well, I need to get going on training for the next marathon but it seems I am in the middle of the normal holiday, Minnesota weather, injury blues.

The knee is still problematic so I have been hesitant to get running on it. I don't want to run all year on a sore knee. Once I target my next marathon it is improbable that I will abort and I am hoping to get in 2, 3 or even 4 marathons this year and a 50k as well.

For those that don't know what running in Minnesota in the winter means, it is darkness, ice, snow and cold. The good news is we plow our bike paths after snowfalls so you can run easily, the problem is the darkness as it makes seeing the ice an issue. Once you do get going it is almost always enjoyable you just need to slow down a bit to avoid a fall (yes, another lesson learned the hard way).

I have done a wee bit (meaning very little) of cross training and the knee hasn't gotten worse so the plan is to take it easy through Christmas and then get going once the new year starts.

Have a Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kansas City - 2007

Ok, the event is set it's Kansas City, the city of fountains. The plan was to drive down Thursday night, take in the expo on Friday and for me to run the marathon on Saturday and for Karyn to run the 5k that starts 15 minutes after the marathon.

We arrived late on Thursday, the drive down was marked by rain and we had a minor problem in navigating to the hotel. I missed the turn I should have taken so we went through downtown Kansas City, MO and then back out to Kansas City, KS (this explains why I have always been confused about which state Kansas City is in :-). Normally just a minor issue as the delay was probably only 10 or 15 minutes but when I am starting to enter my pre-marathon stress zone, not good.

We arrived at the expo which was hosted at the Crown Center Hyatt in downtown Kansas City. The parking was free (after you get your ticket stamped - a nice touch in contrast to TCM). The packet pick-up was easy and quick and although the expo is not huge everyone was very friendly. My thanks to Saturn, Waddell and Reed and all of the other exhibitors for making it a fun expo.

Since we had our packets we decided to tour the course before the spaghetti dinner. The one thing that was obvious is that yes the course had a few hills. I had expected that but in driving the course they were a bit longer than I would be used to. Since my plan was to run slow anyway I would simply not charge the hills, no big deal. Worse case a few minutes slower.

The spaghetti dinner was enjoyable, we talked to a couple guys at the table. One guy from St. Louis and the other from New Mexico. They also had Patty Dillon talk during the marathon.

Packet picked up, dinner eaten, now it was time to go back to the hotel, get everything ready, then sit back and relax.

My plan was to drink Clif Shot Apple Crisp Electrolyte from start to finish. I would carry two bottles and then reload along the course. Clif Shot had given away a packet of the stuff a few years back at TCM and I had finally tried it (I thought it sounded disgusting) and found I could stomach it and it seemed to work. I had read on Hal Higdon's webpage (or in one of his books) that if you drink electrolyte you should just drink it from start to finish in order to avoid energy spikes and to help the stomach get used to it. I have had stomach issues in almost every marathon using Gu's, bars and a water/electrolyte mixture so figured this was worth a try.

Ok what is the weather forecast? We originally though it would be rain but the forecast was changing to cloudy and warmer then to clear and warmer yet. Well, the latest forecast was that we could expect highs in the lower 80's, windy and clouds moving out as the morning went on, no problem just keep a conservative pace, take it easy on the hills and enjoy the day.

I was my normal stressed out self before the race, I had a coughing attack at the hotel and about lost it. We arrived in downtown and after a few stressful moments in getting parked we found our way to the start line. The race starts at the crown center which is a downtown mall right next to Hallmark Headquarters. The morning temp was comfortable (low 60's) and it was easy to line up for the start. The marathoners and 1/2 marathoners started together and we would split off around mile 6. I love these mid sized marathons, all the good things of the larger races but a whole lot less people.

The race plan was to run 11:30 miles and to make sure that I go out slow. I had planned on taking an electrolyte walking break every 15 minutes.

We meandered out of downtown during mile 1 and climbed a hill for mile 2. It was a reasonably steep hill so I kept saying keep it easy, no hurry. After we climbed the hill we came back around the Liberty Memorial and had a great view of downtown KC. I kept thinking that it was a nice morning a bit warm but not yet hot. Miles 3 through 6 were somewhat uneventful through an area referred to as Westport, the course is real neat lots of turns and yes a few more hills. Mile 6 goes through an dense set of shops that seemed like a yuppies delight.

MILES 7-16
During mile 6 was the split off from the 1/2 marathoners which was good as there were too many runners for me to just zone out. Miles 7 and 8 were along a concrete creek bed called Ward parkway. It was around mile 7 or so that I came along side the 5:00 marathon pace team and the pacer was going through a list of marathon mistakes, I threw out charging up hills as she had listed most of the normal ones - trying something for the first time, wearing something new, starting out to fast, not enough training, wearing worn out shoes, no plan, etc... It was a reminder to myself to take it easy on the hills. Mile 9 or so we climbed a fairly steep hill through a beautiful neighborhood (think expensive homes). Miles 10 through 12 were fairly level as we went along Ward parkway again except this time it was along traffic and homes. I met Karyn around Mile 11 and she reloaded my supply of electrolyte. Mile 12 marks the furthest from downtown that we would go which I remembered from our drive. It was starting to get fairly warm. Miles 13 through 16 were downhill but hot.

I would be remiss not to mention the great volunteers that were along the course, they were energetic and helpful and the marathon had plenty of water and other stuff. The police also did a great job in keeping the cars from being an issue. There were a few disgruntled drivers thanks to their great work.

MILES 17-21
Miles 17 to 21 were an out and back down a boulevard, It was around Mile 18 that I first started really feeling the heat. They provided us ice soaked paper towels which felt great around Mile 18. I was cramping up a bit during these miles and had to walk a bit more than I would like. We started uphill again around Mile 20 and it just seemed to continue for a longtime.

MILES 21-25
Still climbing, we finally crested the hill at Mile 23 and began a downhill journey. I ran with the lady for the 5:15 pace group starting at 23 but my legs were finished and I had to back off. Every time I tried to run I just kind of cramped up. I muttered on through 24, then 25. They had ice at 25 which I put under my hat.

After eating the ice, I had recovered enough that I was able to hobble on the rest of they way. The finish is into the Freighthouse district and is not a bad way to finish. You round the corner at about mile 25 3/4 and then have a straight shot to the end. Not a great day but what a gorgeous city, I loved the course, the volunteers and the city.

They give you two shirts and a medal, the finishers shirt is a nice tech shirt that you can run in, the other shirt is a participant t-shirt that is given to all of the runners (5k, 1/2 and Full). They had plenty of water, cookies, fruit, yogurt, bread, etc... at the finish.

A couple of notes from the race, I had asked Karyn to bring my soccer slides to the finish as I always enjoy getting the shoes off after a race. Well it turns out that as she stopped to take a picture of the finish area from a bridge overlooking the freight area a gust of wind came up and blew them out of her hands down onto the railway below. We couldn't get to them as the area was blocked off for safety.

I should mention that she did very well in her 5k which started at the marathon start and then went through the marathon course Miles 25-26.

The last item is more interesting concerning my running mindset, remember when I said my goal was to run 11:30's and to slow down on the hills. Well here are my mile splits:

Mile Time
1 00:14:16
2 00:12:18
3 00:11:48
4 00:11:25
5 00:11:10
6 00:11:17
7 00:11:14
8 00:11:31
9 00:11:27
10 00:11:27
11 00:11:12
12 00:13:10
13 00:10:43
14 00:11:18
15 00:12:10
16 00:11:56
17 00:11:42
18 00:12:00
19 00:12:39
20 00:12:42
21 00:13:32
22 00:14:33
23 00:13:28
24 00:14:50
25 00:13:30
26 00:13:01
26.2 00:02:37

What you might notice is a slowdown as the race moves on but that's not the issue (mile 12 was slower as that is where I refueled and chatted briefly with Karyn but you can see I then picked up the pace -- can you say stupid).

Remember when I said I was going to take it easy on the hills? Let's walk through how that went.

First here is a view of the approximate course elevation by mile:

Notice the major climbs are from miles 1 to 3, 8 to 10 and 19 to 23.

Look again at my mile times during these three stretches:

Miles 1 to 3
1 00:14:16
2 00:12:18
3 00:11:48
* Notice that each mile is faster

Miles 8 to 10
8 00:11:31
9 00:11:27
10 00:11:27
* Notice the even pace

Miles 19 to 23
19 00:12:39
20 00:12:42
21 00:13:32
22 00:14:33
23 00:13:28
* Notice the slower times period

Could it be that maybe I missed the mark on taking it easy on the hills. I thought it was the heat that caused me to fade and to cramp, maybe it was my approach on the hills. Also, notice the complete lack of any even pace at least as it relates to 11:30's or was I trying to run 12s?

Add these to my already long list of marathon mistakes. Who knows maybe I always charge the hills and don't hold pace, this is just the first time I have taking the time to plot it out.

Maybe next time things will go as planned.........................

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Quest for 50 States begins

My quest for 50 states begins in late September, early October. I have 3 states complete (MN, WI and TN) just 47 to go.

The really fun part of doing 50 states is all the research you get to do that ultimately helps you decide which marathon you will do when. In order to get in 50 by 60, I have to choose multiple marathons in multiple states and then try to figure out how to train for them. Let's see at 4 marathons a year, hey that won't work I am going to need to average almost 5 a year, man there are a lot of states.

To get the quest going I initially decided to knock off Iowa. If that sounds easy, well it wasn't. First there were 3 marathons in Iowa within 2 weeks of each other. They are:

On the Road for Education in Mason City
Siouxland Louis and Clark in Sioux City
Des Moines in well Des Moines

I initially wanted to do Mason City as it's only a couple of hours from the Twin Cities and would be easy to coordinate travel, etc... The problem with it, I was going into it overweight, under trained or said another way SLOW......... So if I run it, I would be one of the last finishers as my best guess is that my time will be between 5 and 5:15. In 2006 there were 95 finishers, 10 runners finished over 5 hours, 5 runners finished after 5:15.

My next choice was Siouxland - 118 finishers in 2006, 20 or so over 5 hours about 5 hours away. The interesting part about Siouxland was that it starts in Nebraska and ends in Iowa which means I could use it for either state but not both in reading the 50 states rules. Did you know there are at least two 50 state clubs? I didn't so is my goal 50 states or is 50 and DC, yet another thing to plan. Here are links to the clubs:

50 States Marathon Club
50 and DC Marathon Group USA

Then there was Des Moines about 4 hours or so away 1000+ finishers in 2006 more than 50+ over 5 hours. The course looked interesting, you kind of meander around downtown in a circular kind of loop, the kind of course I like, lots of turns no long straight aways. Ok Des Moines it is, that is unless you know something about 14 year old girls and a certain band called the Jonas Brothers. They were coming to town and my daughter just had to go, they were the warm up band for Hannah Montana, yes even I had heard of her, she is Billy Ray Cyrus's (Achy Breaky Heart) little girl and has a show on Disney, just in case you don't know. The concert was Sunday, the marathon was Sunday morning a bit hard to coordinate if my day goes bad. What to do? Then I heard the news, Hanna Montana tickets were almost impossible to get. Ok, I would wait and see and then decide what to do. As there was no way they would get tickets, ok wrong again they did. New plan choose an alternate, I could do On the Road, not what I wanted to do, did I have another option and sure enough after a quick visit to:

A new plan was hatched, just how far away is Kansas City, the answer is around 6 or so hours and they have a marathon on Saturday, that could work, the review looked ok although it said it was hilly. What does that mean????? It doesn't matter, it's a go, Kansas City here we come.

My report on Kansas City will come shortly but as a tease I discovered yet another flaw in my race strategy. I think this is mistake number, ok I have lost track.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Injuries, pain, patience - part II

Ok, maybe it was dumb to try and go back to back days on the knee over the weekend. I ran 7 Saturday and it seemed mostly ok. A little pain but not unmanageable. On Sunday, I decided to run and every step hurt, so I aborted about a 1/4 mile in.

Well, I decided to be proactive this time and called for a Doctor's appointment. Good news I was able to get in right away, even better news it's just patella tendinitis. So I can resume running, I just need to run on alternative days, ice, stretch and do all those other things I normally don't do. As long as I manage the pain, it won't be a big deal. Time to focus on the next marathon..........

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Grandma's 1994

This was to be my race to go sub 4. My second marathon, Grandmas again, it would be payback time. I had just missed out in my first marathon so I knew this would be the race.

My plan was to take my lessons learned -- start out slower, train harder, more speed work, watch my weight, race my race -- apply these lessons and race to my potential.

My race training started with the Winter Carnival 1/2 Marathon in January. It was a bit slow (1:56:00 - projected Marathon time - 4:04:00) but hey it was January, cold, and I was not in 1/2 Marathon shape. So I decided to map out a series of speed races finishing with 3 long runs - 20, 22 and 24 miles with the last one 3 weeks before my marathon.

My next race was the St. Patricks day 8K, the day went well and I finished with a PR (ok so it was just my second 8K, it still was a PR). My time was a 35:55 (projected Marathon time - 3:32:00 - yes this is it). Next race Rochester 20k, my time slipped a bit but the day was tough, very windy and cold (projected Marathon time - 4:01:07 - full fledged cold the next day, maybe that was part of my problem, keep up the faith). Next race - Healthy Start 5k. My time was a 21:10 (projected Marathon time - 3:26:21 - oh yea, back on track). Next race - Get in Gear 10k. My time was a 44:38 (projected Marathon time - 3:29:28 - still on track).

Ok just three long runs to go, everything was aligning for the race of my life. Maybe I could go for a 3:30, no back off you don't want to be greedy, target a 3:45.

The first of the final 3 long runs, I ran with Scott and Michael around Nokomis and over to the river roads, no problem, I felt like we took our time and could have gone faster - 20 miles in 2:54:00 (projected Marathon time - 3:29:28 - still on track).

The second of the final 3 long runs, I went for a long run with Scott. He is faster than I am so I knew it would be a good work out. Everything was going well until around 11 miles in, something got real tight in my right calf. I had to stop. I tried to run on it and I was able to get through three more miles and then I had to stop. I tried to walk it hurt. Now what, ok don't panic, walk it in, ice it give it a day or two.

The third and final long run, I decided to go back to Nokomis again. I felt good mentally the calf had held during my shorter mid week runs and I had gotten in 11 with just a bit of tightness. I took off and said to myself let's do it, keep the pace slow, nothing stupid. The calf tightened around mile 9, I made it to 10, hobbled through 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 and was done. It hurt, I stopped and held back tears of disappointment as I walked it in.

Decision time - do I run or not? I want a sub 4, everything was so good what went wrong? I decided to bike all week. I would just go out and do a final mid level run, no more than 12 the weekend before and then make my decision. I felt ok at the start and by mile 9 it was tight by 10 I was done.

What to do, the money is paid, we have a good hotel this year. My daughter Kristin was born the fall before, she is our miracle daughter (I wanted to run this one for her) as our previous pregnancy ended in a still birth. I knew that all I had to think about was all the pain my wife endured during the pregnancy and I would make it through the tough miles. I was motivated. Katie said it was fun the year before. Karyn said it was up to me.

Ok, decision made, We would go, I would run as long as I could and somehow get to the finish line. In the back of my head I kept thinking maybe the calf will hold. Start slow - finish strong?

Marathon Morning - It was a beautiful day, I went as long as I could which was about 10 miles. I then went into a modified walk/run. I would walk, the calf would loosen, run, it would tighten, repeat......... As I went along, I felt great physically and mentally the leg just wasn't working right. I talked with runners, bantered with fans, talked to volunteers and spent a few extra moments with my family along the way. I remember stopping at one point and just staring at Lake Superior, what a gorgeous and yet frightening looking lake.

I had a blast, yes it was a disappointment to not to achieve a sub 4 but I learned that there was more to running than just running. I learned to enjoy the event and that my family and friends didn't care about my time only I did. Enjoy the journey, it's why I run, how about you?

Follow-up - It took a while but I eventually went to the Doctor for the calf. It turned out the calf injury was the result of a winter running mishap where I slipped on the ice and probably tore it a bit. Since I just ran through it, I ended with a lump at the junction of the calf and Achilles. After a few physical therapy sessions, the scar tissue got removed and I was back to normal. Moral for runners - when you are injured you might want to seek medical assistance.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanskgiving Run

Today I ran for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was a beautiful Minnesota morning, light snow, light wind around 20+ degrees. I ran in Lebanon Hills, the trail was slippery and rocks were a bit difficult to see but hey, in a few weeks we probably won't be able to run trails at all (snowshoe yes, run no). My knee is still bugging me so I kept it slow the knee is more tender than painful.

I listened to a workout from Carmichael Training available from Powerbar at no cost, here is the link:

I listened to their workout on "Running Intervals" and I think it will be a useful speed workout for me (no today I didn't try it as that would have been a bad idea). The second workout is on "Tempo Intervals", and I think it will help as well.

Happy Thanksgiving............

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grandma's 1993 - My first marathon

I thought I would reflect on my first marathon first as I still have fond memories of it.

The adventure began in the fall of 1992 when my buddies and I noticed that the Twin Cities marathon was taking place. We said we should do a marathon (I of course said yes and thought to myself there is no way I can run 26 miles, no way). My running buddy Scott said we should do Grandmas the next summer, I of course responded as any guy would and said sure. We then forgot about until one of us brought it up in late December. Neither of us backed off, which led us to figure out our own training program. It basically went like this, Scott would run 5 miles, I would think I couldn't go 5 and then would do 6. He would then do 7 and of course I would go 8. We did this all the way through our training.

Grandma's takes place in Duluth, Minnesota the third Saturday in June, it is a point to point course from Two Harbors to Duluth. They have a 1/2 and full marathon as well as a 5k. The 5k is the night before and the 1/2 marathoners run the 2nd half of the race. Hotels fill up early, so my pregnant wife, daughter and I ended up staying at the Days Inn in probably the smallest room at the hotel designed for 1 person.

Duluth is a gorgeous town, it's hilly and right on Lake Superior. The marathon packet pickup, spaghetti dinner and finish all take place in Canal Park. It's basically a strip of land that is between Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor (think two entrances - 10,000 runners).

The spaghetti dinner was good and the expo was cool. I was pumped and ready to run, I just worried would I get up in time. The race starts up in Two Harbors and they provide buses to the start line from various spots in Duluth. For this race I was running with two buddies, Scott and Michael who picked me up so I didn't have to worry about the buses. We arrived at the start line which is actually at a Ford Dealer, thousands of runners, hundreds of porta pots, music blaring, what a scene. We dropped off our bags and proceeded into the gate, I now understand how a cow feels. Our plan was to run 8 and 1/2 minute miles. It was a slight stretch for me as I had not run longer than 20 miles and normally trained at a 9 minute pace. I was still thinking can I do the marathon, let alone having a clue about my pace.

We met a guy from Cleveland as we waited at the start line, his name was Ed and he said he had done multiple marathons and he was running the same pace as us. Little did I know what would lie ahead with Ed. The national anthem played, jets flew over, the train started off, the gun sounded and we were off.

At Mile 1, Ed sounded off 8:45 pace not bad but we would need to pick it up. Mile 2, Ed sounded off 8:30 pace, great we were on pace. At mile 2+, Ed sounded off 2 minutes, then 4, then 6, there's the balloon, 8:30 pace. Ed continued to talk and sound off the time, he was driving us all crazy. Around mile 3 you can see the finish line (the lift bridge) and wow does it look a long away. Lake Superior is gorgeous, what a view. Ed kept sounding off the time and then first Michael and then Scott broke off for a restroom break. Around mile 9, I too broke off and was free of Ed.

The race continued for me alone and then I saw Karyn (wife) and Katie (daughter) what a lift. Katie had made a sign with my name and encouragement, it was fun to see them and gave me a huge boost. I said I was doing great and having a blast. It's amazing how good you feel at this stage in a marathon although I was still thinking that I couldn't make it to the end. Ok, just remember, keep going, don't freak.

The miles floated by, around mile 18 you move off of Hwy 61 and onto the entrance to Duluth. I could tell that I was tiring but I was still on pace for an under 4 hour marathon. As I continued my body started feeling different and I could tell I was in trouble. I thought to myself is this the infamous wall, I decided it was more like another room. I tried to do math to figure out what I needed to do to maintain the pace for under 4. Problem was I couldn't do the math but I kept trying as I struggled forward and after finally working out the math I came to the realization that under 4 wasn't going to happen. I was almost completely overwhelmed with disappointment when it occurred to me that I was still running a marathon and I should darn well enjoy it besides I was going to have to make it as Karyn and Katie were waiting for me at the finish. In later marathons, I would joke that I had to finish as my ride was at the finish line.

I continued my struggle through downtown Duluth, each step hurt, I couldn't take in any more water or eat as the stomach was headed south. I then went through mile 25 around the convention center and by the boat, looped under canal park ave and then came around the corner where I could see the finish line. I wanted to sprint it in but just didn't have the energy. I kept moving and as I got closer and the crowd became louder I was able to muster up a final acceleration hobble to the finish. What a fantastic feeling. My first comment to one of my buddies was never again. Later that evening when I looked back on the day, I still couldn't believe it. My buddies started talking about another marathon and asked what about me and all I could say was why not........

Injuries, pain, patience........

Well, some good news and bad news. The good news is that the knee pain I have had for awhile hasn't gone away even after 2 weeks off. That means I can start running again. The bad news is that the knee pain hasn't gone away and it feels vaguely similar to when I had torn cartilage. So my new plan is to start running and see if it gets worse. ICE, stretch and add a pinch of cross training and just enjoy some Minnesota winter runs.

Next marathon is either Little Rock and/or Olathe.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The start of my running

I had previously thought that running was a brain deficient activity and had made fun of many of my co-workers who kept asking me to do the corporate running series. I said it would be a cold day before I would ever run a race let alone pay for one.

Well when I first started it was a cold day in Chicago (December of 1991). I was at my in-laws celebrating Christmas and I needed some time alone. All I could come up with was to go for a run. Anything else I knew I would have company. I found whatever workout clothes I had, laced up my basketball shoes and headed outside. I started to run but since it was icy and snow covered I went slow. I discovered that my lungs didn't burst. It was so tranquil running through the forest preserve. I saw some deer and best of all no people. A runner was born.

When we returned to Minnesota after the holidays, I decided I would still try to keep running. The first thing I discovered is that the bike paths were plowed, after 12 years in Minnesota I had never noticed that they plowed them, kind of cool. The running continued through the winter as I discovered the wonders of Minnesota winter running. It's dark when you go to work and when you come home so you learn to run in the dark and watch out for black ice. I think I only wiped out 1 or 2 times which I kept thinking probably wasn't good since you dress about 20-30 degrees warmer than the outside. I also figured out that when it goes below Zero it's wise to cover the face and that mittens work better than gloves. It was also fun to see the looks I got from folks in their cars when the temp was -10 or so.

When I finally confessed to my friends that I had become brain deficient a couple of them (Scott H. and Cliff L.) convinced me to do a 5k in the corporate running series. It went great they paced me the whole way and I ended up running even mile splits of 7 min/mile. It was fun so I decided to do it again, this time they weren't there to pace me and I discovered that I could have used them as my first mile was a 6:15 and needless to say I freaked and struggled the rest of the way.

I continued to run and to race and then we talked about a marathon.........

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Goal is 50 before 60

I am now 50 and hope to complete a marathon in every state, I think of it as, get through 50 before 60 with at least one 50k, 50 miler, 100k and 100 mile race along the way.

GOAL: 50 before 60

As of today, I have 4 states down, 27 marathons completed, 29 started, more on each of these later.

What is this blog for?

I decided to use this blog to help to motivate me to get my daily & weekly runs in. I am not in as good of shape as I would like which probably has something to do with carrying more weight than I should and intermittent training.

So my plan is to use the blog to capture my thoughts with regards to running. I have run 25+ marathons (+ means I need to add them up :-) and I will go back in time and revisit each one. My most recent marathon was a few weeks back - Kansas City. It was a very enjoyable day all in all. So my next post will revisit that marathon and then I will go backwards through each marathon until I have got something recorded for each one, why, good question. I think my motivation is simply that each marathon has provided a special day for me and as time goes on, I forget what I experienced and I want to capture those days as they are my motivation.


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