GTIS Race Report

First, do enough training. Then believe in yourself and say: I can do it. ~ Haile Gebrselassie

New PR: 1:26:24, 68th overall, 3rd in division

For a race in which I didn’t actually start feeling okay until past the half-way point, this one turned out well. I had zero expectations for this one so goal-setting was a bit of a challenge. Arbitrarily, I settled on 1:25 as a pie-in-the-sky goal, PR as goal #2 (though actually had my old PR wrong so nearly screwed this up) and a sub 1:30 as my “I’ll be okay with that” goal for the day.

My other objective for this race was to get a bit of a feel for the whole remote-start-line aspect since I will need to repeat this style of race-day shenanigans in November. I am not sure I really nailed any of it, but it was good practice.

I slept through my alarm a bit and was pretty tired as I zombied my way out the door around 5:30. Jammed up to Idaho Springs and made my way to the busses that took us up to the starting line in Georgetown. My buddy, Caleb, found me in line so we were able to hang out on the way up the hill and throughout the pre-race warm ups and whatnot. His friend, Mike, made it a trio.

We milled around the start area for about an hour, got our numbers, tried to stay warm, etc. With about 30 minutes to go before the start, we warmed up a bit (ran the first couple miles, which were on a loop, and did some strides) and then bullied our way into the front of the starting corral.

Pretty quickly after making it into the corral, it was time to race. I ditched my t-shirt and water bottle and we were off. I was pretty far up front so had clear sailing for the first couple of miles which featured some hills (up), tight corners, and relatively steep downhills. My buddy, Rafa Pacheco (who ended up 24th with a solid 1:21), ran by me about 1.5 miles in and we exchanged words of encouragement. I definitely went out a bit on the spicy side (have to knock that off) but settled into my target pace fairly quickly, though I wasn’t feeling super well.

I really struggled to find my pacing and shake whatever was causing me to feel so bad in the early going. Finally, I ducked into a toilet around mile 5.5 to relieve myself and this seemed to make things improve in the next couple of miles. I didn’t really start to feel okay until around mile 7 when I was able to pick up my pace on a stretch of dirt roads and start picking people off. I actually felt human for the next several miles, lost my rhythm a bit on a short uphill around mile 8.5, was able to recover from that and motor through about mile 12.5 then faded just a bit on the run up to the finish. After a couple of final turns, I was done with a new PR (barely) of 1:26:24.

Lessons learned: I certainly didn’t approach this race with as much focus as I probably could have and didn’t really eat or sleep as well as I should have in the week prior. I went out too fast but was able to overcome some wonkiness early, which was nice. Mostly just focused on staying smooth and working on form when things weren’t going quite to plan. At New York, I am going to try to get off my feet once I make it to the starting line. I definitely didn’t do this well yesterday. I also plan to take more clothing to the start as I was a bit chilly waiting for the race to get rolling yesterday.

All in all, it was a solid effort and a good race. I plan to do a recovery run today to see how things shake out and don’t think I’ll lose any real training time (another goal for this one). I feel like I am on track at this point and am hoping this event really helps kick start the rest of my NYC training. If you are looking for a fun half, I recommend the GTIS. Good stuff.


Pre-race work-out

Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. ~ Military Adage

For the past several years, I have implemented the same pre-race strategy: take 2 days before the event completely off, run my pre-race workout the day before, get off my feet. For those of you looking for a good, pre-race workout, here’s my approach (thanks to World Champ, Mark Plaatjes):

  • Warm up for 20 minutes
  • Do 4, 20-second strides
  • Run 1-mile at race pace
  • Get off your feet

Today, I did this workout up at my house, so the warm-up was a little spicier than I would have liked (given that there are approximately 150 meters of consecutive “flat” places to run anywhere near my place) but the strides felt progressively better as I worked through them. I give myself enough time to recover completely between each set, then recover completely before trying to lock in my race pace for the prescribed mile. Today, I was a bit on the fast side but it was good to shake things out. Since I don’t normally race half marathons, I am not as familiar with my pacing so I went out a little too hard, then backed off in the second half mile. Still was about 15 seconds faster than my fantasy target race pace but I felt solid.

I am using tomorrow’s race from Georgetown to Idaho Springs (GTIS) to get my head wrapped around logistics a bit. New York is going to require some patience in the early morning lead-in to the race. Guessing I’ll be taking a train to the ferry and then jumping on a bus to the start line so I am going to use the bus-to-start cluster tomorrow to get myself more in tune with that nonsense and “practice” the waiting game that I’ll inevitably face in November at NYC.

Tomorrow’s race should be interesting. I have only raced two other half marathons. The first was in March before I raced Boston and I felt like I put in a pretty solid effort. The second was a couple months after Boston in the run-up to San Francisco and that one was a bit of a disaster. I have three goals in mind but am mostly focused on starting a bit conservatively and finishing strong. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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.


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