Dream Deferred: No NYC for me

Bummer, man. ~ The Dude

On Thursday, a mere 3 days before the 2012 NYC Marathon was set to start, I made the difficult decision to not participate in this year’s event. As Hurricane Sandy ramped up and looked to be headed straight for the east coast of the U.S. (targeting New York and New Jersey), I definitely started to wonder whether or not it was a good idea to try to squeeze in this race into what would certainly be challenging conditions. After Sandy hit, I still had some hope that the race, for me, could go on. Once evidence of the fuller devastation was revealed, however, my heart just sank. People’s lives had been uprooted along with the trees of Central Park. Was it even in good taste to go to NYC to recreate when so many people had lost their homes, their businesses, their lives?

I can see both sides of the “should the race go on” argument as having valid points. I struggled with these and went back and forth about whether I could do some good in New York while I was there. At one point I considered going even if the race was not to be run just to see if I could volunteer or witness the rebirth of a great city. Ultimately, the travel and accommodation hurdles proved to be much too high and the desire to stay out of the way of recovery efforts much too strong and so I am spending the weekend at home. I may watch the event on Sunday. I certainly will be interested to follow several friends who will be racing on Sunday to see how they fare. But my own dream of running the NYC Marathon will have to wait another year.

Please consider donating to the relief effort. Also, vote the environment this election season.



New York is a helluva town. ~ Beastie Boys

I’ve been pretty quiet of late due to an abundance of work and trying to stay fit. I had to take a little time off in September to reset then caught a cold 2 weeks ago just when I was starting to feel fit again (just after running a PR 10K in training, go figure). So as I approach next week’s race, I am, once again, cautiously optimistic about how well things will go. As of today I am planning to run conservatively through 20 then assess. We’ll see how well that plan sorts itself out.

Overall, this hasn’t been the best training cycle for me for a number of reasons. After running trails most of the summer, I came into training mode with a general clunkiness going on. My right knee was acting up a bit, I just felt “flat” a lot of the time, and I was having a tough time getting up for the process. I think that beating my goal of running a sub-3 back in April made establishing a new goal difficult. That was such a major milestone, running a 2:55 or whatever just didn’t hold as much luster.

In recent weeks (barring that stupid cold I caught), I have been wrapping my head around what running a PR or even another sub-3 at NYC would mean and have come to the conclusion that I should go for it, despite not having had the most fantastic run-up to the event. I am in shape, I have the confidence and experience to run a smart race, NYC will be a tougher challenge but with a LOT more crowd support than Eugene, and I have the benefit of already reached my goal for the year so, unlike Eugene, I can just put everything out there on the table and see what happens without fear of blowing my chance of meeting my sub-3 goal.

So, for NYC, I have several targets in mind: 2:55, 2:58, 3:00, finish. I am guessing the first mile or two will be slow but I’ll work my way slowly back up to 6:40s and see where the chips fall. If I feel awesome when I hit the Bronx, I’ll start racing. If you are interested in following my progress, I’m bib #6583.

In the meantime, send out good thoughts to everyone along the east cost getting hammered by Sandy. It’s a big one.


Recovery: Putting yourself back together post-race

I run the marathon to the very last mile. ~ Beastie Boys

First of all, I have to say how sad I am about the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (MCA). His music has been in heavy rotation in my life since 1986’s License to Ill and he will be sorely missed. As I have said before, cancer can go fuck itself.

Now on to (hopefully) less depressing topics: Race recovery. I am no expert but have learned a few tricks in the past few years about what works for me once the racing is done and your bod is in need of some TLC.

Immediately following a longer event, I am usually fairly dehydrated and my electrolyte balance is all out of whack. I sweat like it’s going out of style so even though I try to stay on top of hydration during the race, I still am depleted by the finish. Once I stop running and my heartrate starts to drop, my blood pressure crashes. The fluid level in my system is depleted and when the pump slows down, the volume of blood being delivered to my brain diminishes. Bad things can happen after that if I don’t get some fluids going. And stat. So immediately post-race, I guzzle some Gatorade, grab a couple bottles of water (or re-usable cups, if available) and I find a place to sit down if I am feeling woozy. I have also found that chips are my bestest friend immediately after a race. I think the salt and calories treat me right so I’ll whack down a couple bags of those as well. Lunch-sized bags, not Party Size, tubby.

I try to get moving again fairly quickly post-race vs. sitting for too long. If I feel well enough to jog a little, I might try that but usually I am just up for a stroll back to the hotel or shuttle or wherever I need to be next. If you have friends or family attending the event, have a place picked out to meet up since there will be hundreds of runners milling around like zombies post-event and finding your loved-ones in this mess is not happening. I have found that a couple miles is a decent distance for a post-race walk but durations may vary depending upon what works for you. If you can walk back along the course and cheer for those racers finishing after you, that is a lot of fun.

Once I get back to my room, I jump in an ice bath then follow this with a warm bath to help flush my legs. Not the most pleasant of experiences but I do find that it helps reduce the inflammation in my legs and puts me on the road to recovery. I also try to get in some decent complex carbs at this juncture to try to rebuild my glycogen stores. Lunch is usually on the immediate agenda as well, so as soon as I have cleaned up, I’ll head back out to grab some grub. I find that it helps to spend at least a little time in the afternoon with my feet up. I’ll watch a movie or read a book before heading back out for a mid-to-late-afternoon walk or celebration.

The next day:
Usually, I travel for my big races so like to spend some time post-event exploring the town. I have found that this helps get my legs moving again and greatly reduces the down-time post-event. The past three marathons I have done, I have spent a good chunk of time the following day walking or hiking in the surrounding area. Post-Boston, I walked the Freedom Trail, which was fantastic and when I was in San Fran last summer, I walked all around the area checking out the sites of Chinatown, Telegraph Hill and the neighborhoods of the Bay Area. In Eugene last weekend, I hiked a small peak south of town. Going down stairs or downhill can be daunting but it is worth it to get out to soak in the sites as well as to keep things moving.

I keep pushing the fluids and tend to eat like there’s no tomorrow in the days following the race. I also like to wear compression tights on the flight home as this seems to make my legs recover more quickly.

The following week:
I tend to need a couple days for my legs to feel less like hunks of wood and like to throw in walking/hiking during the first week post-race. If I am feeling fantastic, I might try a short, easy run as early as Wednesday after a Sunday event but usually find this to be counter-productive. I keep the running super light and easy for at least a couple weeks after a big event, tend to move to easy trails vs. roads and definitely don’t push the pace or intensity much during this period. I have made the mistake of trying to jump back into faster workouts too quickly in the past and am learning that time spent being nice to myself now, pays off immensely later. I can either take it easy for a couple of weeks now, or be required to take at least another couple of weeks later. Think “big picture” at this juncture vs. short-term pleasure. I missed trail running last season due to my road racing schedule and am SO jonezing to run the amazing trails around my house. But I am forcing myself to hold back a bit, be patient with my recovery, and wait a bit to get out on a longer, more intense run. The trails will be there when my bod is ready to roll. (Hopefully by Sunday!)

One final note, the above recommendations are based upon racing marathons where the intensity level and surface contribute to more post-event suffering than I experience when running trail races. Even after the Leadville 100 in 2010, I was running normally again later that week. To be completely honest, I am WAY more wrecked after racing a marathon than an ultra. Though I haven’t fully “raced” an ultra yet… I’ll have to get back with you on that one. Let me know if I missed anything.

As always, have fun out there.


EDIT: Talked with my coach and World Marathon Champ, Mark Plaatjes, on a run today about recovery. He recommended running only 2-3 days – no more than 5 miles per run – the week after a marathon. If you feel like jumping on a bike and doing easy rides, that is fine. Week two, you can increase your runs to 4-5 and add some distance but no intensity. Just keep everything mellow. The third week you can start running your regular schedule with some fartleks but no sustained efforts. After that, you should be good to go back to your regularly scheduled training regimen.

We also talked about doubles and his take on them is that if you have time to run in the morning, come home, eat, take a nap, get up around noon and do another run, eat, take another nap, then doubles are sustainable. If not, they are just a recipe for injury. He does like adding easy bike riding as a supplement in the evening after hard morning runs.

Good stuff.


Level up: Sub-3 Completed

Be the banana. ~ Susan Nuzum

Way back in the 5th century, a wise person said, “Patience is a virtue.” After running a 2:58:47 (gun time) at the Eugene Marathon this weekend, I could not agree more. Throughout the first 20 miles of this race, when I felt so good and wanted so badly to run faster, I kept telling myself, “Be patient,” and doing so paid off in spades.

Everything came together for this race: a solid training cycle, limited injury/wonkiness complications, good focus and preparation, fantastic weather, a good course… the list goes on. Sometimes, one can have everything prepped and ready to go and one small thing throws off the whole endeavor. But for me, at the 2012 Eugene Marathon, all the stars aligned and I had a great day of running.

The Prep:
After running a solid 5K in January, I decided that perhaps my fitness had finally returned. I was physically crushed after Boston last year and it took forever to recover. This effort, in the off-season, really helped bolster my confidence that I had returned to form and was in a good position to take another stab at the sub-3-hour barrier. My team was training for Boston so I just settled in to their regimen and started looking for a different race to run this Spring. I settled on the weekend of April 29th since it seemed to a) fit my schedule well and b) not push me too far out of the team’s cycle. This would give me a couple more weeks to prepare, the opportunity to tack on another long run or two onto the program and the ability to include a slightly more extended taper. OKC and Eugene were contenders and Eugene won out with the promise of “less bad” weather potential (Eugene could be rainy but never has extreme storms or heat like can be found in OKC) and more appeal on the travel front (sorry, Oklahoma). Plus, I have been trying to support areas with my travel dollars who do a better job of not discriminating against others and Oregon wins that competition hands-down.

Leading up to this race, I was more focused than any other event in regard to nutrition and attention to staying rested and healthy. Rach always keeps me very well-fed but I have a tendency to add snack calories here and there and have been known to be less disciplined than I should be when it comes to sodas and whatnot. Starting at the end of February, I made sure to pay special attention to my snacking, soda and beer consumption and made sure I was getting a lot of extra sleep throughout the week. I run enough (and generally snack very little) that this probably didn’t make a huge physical impact, but mentally it made me focus a lot more and feel like I was really sacrificing for this difficult to achieve goal.

My workouts were formulated with the help of Mark Plaatjes, who is just fantastic. Pretty much stayed on a similar plan of attack as prior cycles but added one over-distance run (28 miles) and several “fast-finish” long runs to the plan. Frankly, most of my longer runs didn’t go as well as I would have liked but having completed several marathon training cycles at this point, I knew that getting them done was slightly more important than hitting every split right on target. Again, patience paid off.

Race weekend:
I headed out to Eugene on Friday and went straight to the Expo to pick up my bib and get that nonsense out of the way. Eugene is mellow enough that I probably could have flown in on Saturday without creating too much stress but I didn’t want to risk bad weather or other factors getting in the way of my travel. Eugene has some great vegetarian options as well and I ended up gravitating to Cafe Yumm for meals on three different occasions during my stay. I picked up some general provisions at Trader Joe’s and after driving the first 10 miles of the course and dinking around Eugene for a bit, headed back to the hotel to watch a movie and hit the sack early.

Saturday, I did my standard pre-race run (slightly extended to get the lay of the land so I wouldn’t be confused at all on race day). I ran from the hotel to the start (about 1.75 miles), then did some surges (4) on the way back toward the hotel, then did 1 mile at race pace on the course. Felt fine and dandy. I then headed out to King Estate Winery to meet family for lunch and some wine tasting. I spent the rest of the day with my feet up and head down, either watching movies or napping (briefly). I hit the sack early and the next morning, it was go-time.

Race day:
Up at 5:25 to get ready, I ate some food (1/2 a bagel w/almond butter and banana, a cup of coffee, some gatorade), did my  warm-ups in the room, then headed out the door at 6:25 to jog over to the start line. It was cool and overcast – perfect racing conditions – and after 4 surges in front of the line, I joined my corral. I ate 4 Clif Blocks and finished off a 12oz Gatorade before the start, chucked my short-sleeved warm-up shirt off-course and after getting a quick pep-talk from Meb Keflezighi, we were off.

I was seeded in Corral A, so was pretty near the front of the pack at the start and was able to settle into my race pace quickly. Way different than some of the larger races I have done where the first mile or two are incredibly frustrating from a pacing standpoint. I started looking around for people to run with and settled in with one guy who claimed to be wanting to run 2:58. After running with him for a bit on rolling terrain, I dropped off as we were ticking off 6:40s and I wanted to be super conservative through 20. As with most of my experiences running at (or near) sea level, hills were super easy. I would just maintain pace up hills and people would come back to me. By the first mat at the 5K mark, I was right on target pace (21:30ish, 6:45 pacing) and I kept these even splits through at least mile 20. My plan was to run 6:45-6:50 pacing all day unless I was feeling fantastic after mile 20 and I nailed it.

The majority of the hills come in the first 9 miles of this race and honestly, they were not a big deal at all. Training at altitude on hilly roads builds the strength and confidence to master most hills and dropping 6000+ feet in elevation makes them a breeze. The steepest hill on the Eugene course came on 19th street, about mile 9. I sailed over this one with a guy from Philly who was aiming for about a 2:58. He told me his last two marathons were 3:00:22 and 3:00:28 and he wasn’t going to let that happen to him again. Eventually, I dropped off his pace and he finished a bit in front of me for the day so a special congrats to him on breaking 3-hours!

The course loops back on itself and we passed Hayward Field at about mile 9 and sets off east along the Willamette River into Springfield, home of the Simpsons. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this portion of the course and was pleasantly surprised to find us running in a forested park area for a bit then nice, residential neighborhoods. I crossed the half-way mark in 1:28ish and kept rolling.

By mile 16, I was starting to get tempted to pick it up a little bit as I was still feeling fresh and relaxed and was nailing my 6:45 pacing. Whenever these urges arose, I reminded myself to be patient and continued to run relaxed. I am so glad I took this approach as the last 10K of pretty much every marathon I have run has been particularly difficult and Eugene was no exception. We ran along Pre’s Trail in central Eugene for a bit then headed west along the Willamette. I started feeling the effort around mile 18, flubbed a gel hand-up at mile 19.5 (for which I circled back briefly) and by mile 20 was content to work out the math of what I needed to do to get in under 3-hours and delay any notions of picking up the pace for if I started feeling better. There was a great cheering section at mile 20, which really helped and as we crossed a footbridge for the final leg of the race, I was feeling drained but confident I could get this done. I walked briefly through an aid-station at mile 23 but then just kept thinking, “Run sub-7s,” all the way in. The sun came out at mile 24 and even though my legs were dead, I motored in. At mile 26, Hayward Field came into view and a felt a wave of joy as I stepped onto the track and pushed the last 150 meters to the finish. 2:58:47 gun time, 7.5-minute PR, 87th overall and 13th in my age group. Good stuff.

The Aftermath:
Post-race, I took some time to relish the moment in the recovery area, sat down and ate some chips for a bit and drank a couple bottles of water. After about 5 minutes, I felt ready to get going so started my walk back to the hotel. Met up with a couple people who were out spectating and pacing friends and generally took my time getting back to the hotel. I was tired, of course, but not destroyed like after other races. I took an ice bath then went out to grab some food and a celebratory beer with Heather and Ewan North. Ewan had some stomach problems during his race so didn’t finish as well as he had hoped but still managed a top 10 2:31, which is impressive to say the least. I headed back to my hotel, ate some more and hit the sack early.

Monday, I woke up starving and had time for a fantastic breakfast at the Morning Glory in Eugene, then headed south to hike Spencer Butte. The weather on Monday was less agreeable than on race day (drizzley and socked-in) but it was good to get out to get my legs moving and hike around in the forest. I had a bit more time to kill before my flight so checked out the Hydrangea Gardens in Hendricks Park then jammed out to the airport for my return flight. All in all, a fantastic weekend adventure.

SFO Marathon Race Report…

I have been taking a break from things for the past few months but wanted to come back with a race report from my last effort, the San Francisco Marathon, prior to running my next race. I have been struggling to regain my form since well before Boston, really and SFO was put down as an effort to not dig myself into a deeper hole. Though I think I was successful in not digging any deeper, I still didn’t have very much luck getting my mojo back and even took about 3 weeks off in September – running only 2-3 times per week – in an effort to get my feet back underneath me. I was just starting to feel my form coming back in late October when I caught a fairly aggressive cold that knocked me out for most of November. Finally feeling recovered from that endeavor, I am actually starting to feel sharp again. Just in time for next week’s Colder Bolder 5K.

The Colder Bolder is a seeded race that pits people of equivalent abilities (based on Bolder Boulder finish times) against one another. Fortunately, I had a less-than-stellar BB last spring so I get to run against the 40-42-minute group. Psyched to see how I can do but given I am just now ramping back up and the course difficulty, my expectations are fairly low. That has seemed to work in my favor in the past, however. So we’ll see how it goes.

And now, the San Fran Marathon race report…

San Fran is a crazy town. Way different than I expected but it lived up to its reputation in many ways as well. Going into this race, I had zero expectations. I didn’t even really know if I would finish and planned to race entirely on feel. I had some goals in mind but none of them weighed heavily on my mind as I ventured out to the Bay Area. Just wanted to have fun, run with good form and see where that took me.

I flew into SFO on Friday after about a 2-hour delay in Denver due to foggy conditions in San Fran. Upon landing, I was able to navigate the Bart easily and soon found myself in a throng of people on Powell Street, a short walk from my hotel. I jammed up to the hotel and was surprised to find my room available at a fairly early hour. Dumped off my stuff, headed to the expo, all good.

The expo was much smaller and more mellow than I anticipated. I bowed down to the retail gods and then made my way over to the MapMyRun booth to say ‘hi’ to fellow Colorado and #DenverLunchRun runner @boulderrunner (Todd Straka) who would go on to run an incredible half marathon on Sunday. I looked around for @sarahstanley with whom I have had the pleasure to run on at least one occasion but she was busy working as a race Ambassador so wasn’t available. After perusing the expo for a bit, I did a fairly intense yoga session put on by Lululemon then headed back to my hotel. A quick trip to the grocery store for some provisions and visit to Thai Stick for a bite to eat followed, then I settled in for the evening.

Saturday, I walked down to the Ferry Building to meet up with Todd for some coffee and to join the Lululemon shake out run. There was a decent sized group and several distances from which to choose. I had 2 miles + strides then 1-mile at pace on the schedule so, in standard form, Todd and I chose to run the full 3-mile warm up then do our strides and tempo. We got to run with Bart Yasso for a bit, which was pretty cool and checked out the new minimalist shoe from Saucony he was sporting (SUPER light). We ended up doing a couple of laps around Giant Stadium on the waterfront then I headed back to the hotel to put my feet up, ice my ankle and watch a movie and read. I headed back over to the expo later that day just to see what was going on and to get outside and see more of the city. Probably walked/ran a bit more than I should but again, I was here to have fun. Hit Thai Stick again for dinner then hit the sack.

The race starts early (5:30) in order to allow runners to run across the Golden Gate Bridge so I set my alarm for 4:05 to ensure that I had plenty of time to get my act together in the morning. I ate some food, downed some liquids, donned my gear and headed down to the Embarcadero for the start. It is always fun seeing the ever growing masses pouring into sleepy city streets as one approaches the start of an early morning race and as I made my way towards the event, more and more people joined me on my trek to the start. I jogged the last mile or so then found the bag drop area and then got in line for one last pit stop before the race began. As the start time drew ever closer, I didn’t seem to be making much progress in line and eventually, I just bailed. I had already missed my official start with the sub-seeded athletes and wanted to get in with the sub-3-hour pace group if possible. I was a couple minutes behind that as well and started the event at the back of wave 2. Not ideal and a little stressful but I rolled with it and quickly passed over the official starting line to begin my day.

The first few miles of the SFO are flat and run along the Embarcadero. It was still dark out so there wasn’t a lot to see and I was focused on trying to catch up to the sub-3 group so I just worked on staying relaxed, making up some time but not pressing things. I quickly caught the 3:20 group and shortly thereafter passed the 3:10 guys. The first hill hits at about mile 2.5 and it is actually the steepest of the race. I flew up this and kept rolling. When you are from altitude, running at sea level is like cheating. You can really hammer hills and actually recover on the downs, which is particularly refreshing. Good times.

I finally caught the sub-3 group at about mile 3.5 and settled in with them running comfortably at 6:45-6:50 pacing. We ran through a park then another medium-length uphill on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Running across the bridge was fun and we got to see the leaders on the way out then all the runners behind us on the way back across. After crossing the bridge, the course rolls for a bit then climbs up into Golden Gate Park. At this point, there was a little confusion about the pacer switch off and we ran sans pacer for about 3 miles through the park. I stopped to relieve myself but kept the people with whom I was running  in sight (knowing that I was actually a couple minutes ahead of this group on the clock) and ran comfortably through the remainder of the park (about mile 16). The course then merges with the second half course and climbs up into the Haight.

It was during this segment that I started feeling the effort and though I was keeping the 3-hour group close, was starting to struggle to maintain good form. The official 3-hour pacer came by me after a tight, sidewalk section and I latched on for a bit then let them go. Again, my goal was to keep them in my sight as I still had a couple minutes in the bank at this point but the race diverts runners onto parallel streets on a couple different points during the race and at the first of these, I lost track of the group and this, coupled with my form degradation, made me decide to back off. So I took some walk breaks, spent some time drinking water at one of the aid stations, and generally tried to enjoy myself and hold good form through the remainder of the race.

The last half is decidedly less interesting than the first with most of the course running downhill through industrial areas and neighborhoods devoid of architectural interest. I just jogged it in at this point, not worrying about how fast I was going or what time I might get and fairly soon was back on familiar ground with about a mile to go to the finish. I made sure my last mile was strong, again with the focus on form, passed Giant Stadium then under the Bay Bridge and home in 3:18:48.

I ran the first half in 1:29:04 and the first 20 in 2:18:31 (pretty close to sub-3 pacing). Very happy with these numbers and my race overall. I think that if I were healthy, I could definitely run a great time on this course. The second half is way faster than the first, I felt pretty great for 20 miles and the course suits me well. Perhaps I’ll run it again next year and see what I can do.

Post-race, I was actually fairly miserable. I had serious stomach problems for the rest of the day and am willing to blame these on the electrolyte drink provided during the race. I had plans to tour the city after the event but ended up just sleeping and staying near the restroom. I was able to rally, however, and jammed out to Berkeley to meet Pete, Edy and Todd for dinner. After a beer, gigantic salad and pizza, I felt MUCH better and grabbed the last train back to San Fran then collapsed into bed.

Up early on Monday, I packed up my stuff and hit the town. I did my own little walking tour of SFO and wandered through China Town, up to Telegraph Hill and back down to the Embarcadero for lunch. I got to see most of what I had on my list but would love to go back to enjoy more of what the Bay area has to offer. All in all a great trip!


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