Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today's Run - Horse Shit

As I was changing my clothes after my run today, a couple pulled up and parked next to me in the lot. The cute, young lady got out of the Jeep and asked me if I had a good run. My response was "I survived. And I only fell once so yeah, I guess it was good."

But that only sets the scene through a pinhole. You see, I was covered in mud. I don't think I had any higher than my knees, but my shoes and calves were doused. In fact, my shoes were so bad that when I got home, my socks were muddy. And so were my toes. So yeah, I guess it was a good run.

As for the falling part, it was on my first lap and I missed a rock or root and took a spill. As I run more trails I'm becoming more familiar with falling. And I don't like it. I used to pride myself on staying upright. Maybe I shouldn't have made that comment to myself about never falling. Oh well. Nothing was broken, bruised, or twisted. The impressive part of the fall was that I managed to do half a roll. I tripped with my left foot and stumbled and half caught myself with my left hand. As my right hand was reaching out to catch myself, I somehow changed my reaction and landed on my forearm and rolled a bit onto my right side. As usual it happened insanely fast and incredibly slow. If you've fallen before, you know what I mean. Anyway, the half a roll helped slow my momentum and I got up, dusted myself off, and had a little laugh to myself. As I thought about moving again, I looked right next to where I fell and saw a heaping pile of horse shit. And it was fresh. Somehow I missed it. Thank God. So I snapped a picture and got back to running.

Here's the pile of horse shit I narrowly missed rolling in:

The first loop was decent but muddier than I expected. Bad enough I had to skirt many of the sections on the extreme edges of the trail. And it's apparently normal because there was a beaten path in many sections where other hikers had done the same thing. Even the horses skirted some of the worse parts, or at least tried to. But I didn't feel too bad about slipping since the horses slipped plenty too. I guess four-hoof drive can only do so much in thick mud.

My muddy Altra Lone Peaks after my run. Gnarly.

My Altra Lone Peaks worked great. I had no issues with the mud other than nearly losing a shoe once or twice. The mud only stuck to the sides of the shoe and only stuck to the bottom treads for a stride or two before coming off. I did get some mud inside my shoes but I expected that since the toe-box has a mesh-like fabric to let your toes breath. If air can come out, mud can get in. My only complaint is the lack of velcro (or a surface to adhere velcro to) on the heel of the shoes to allow my gaiters to stay put.

The second loop was just as muddy and a bit hillier. There was a section that run under a power line but that added some hills to the mix. I tried to keep my aid station stops short and managed fairly well. Refilling is easy but finding the motivation to punish yourself a little more is harder. The final loop was a repeat of the first but with a bit more added on. I somehow missed a turn on the first loop so went back to see what I missed so I wouldn't get too lost during my race. Did I mention this was a dry run for my next race? Sorry, it is. Was. Whatever.

The Lone Peaks have a "rudder" on their heel but clearly it doesn't keep the mud from spraying up your legs.

Overall, I felt good. I didn't have everything dialed in like I wanted but did a fair job. My hydration was good seeing as I peed at least twice. My electrolyte levels were okay but not as good as they should have been. I think a few electrolyte tabs at the aid station would have helped. My fueling was lower than it needed to be. I was doing okay the first two laps and had a decent amount of gel going in. But the last loop I didn't take in enough solid food so I started to lag behind on pace and energy levels.

My muddy toes. Obviously before my shower. And yes, I have hairy Hobbit feet.

Temps were around 40F when I started and 45F when I finished. Moderate cloud cover with some sun. Light breeze coming off the lake when I passed by or was out on a peninsula.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was two breakfast burritos and an iced latte. During the run I had some Hammer gel along the way (two flasks that had maybe 4 gels total), one e-Gel at the start, one bottle of water, two bottles of Hammer Fizz, and one bottle of flat soda. I also had a Honey Stinger waffle. Recovery was a chocolate Zico followed by a Joey Jr. at Moe's Southwest Grill (with chips and salsa).

Nothing special for the run. Continuing to use my new iPod. Had continued success with my Altra Lone Peaks.

Aches and Pains:
Since the trail was so muddy, I had to deal with tons of ankle twisting and wobbly strides as I adjusted to rocks, roots, and mud. Nothing really hurt as I stayed loose but after an hour or two I could feel things getting sore. Near the end I could feel my legs protesting but nothing major. Knees are a bit sore right now but again, nothing too terrible. I did step on a few stingers (sharp, pointy rocks) and managed to kick one or two rocks (which always hurt). Beyond that, things felt okay.

Codename - Horse Shit
There was tons of it out there. You couldn't go 25 feet without seeing a pile of it. It was in various stages of decomposition; fresh to stale. I only managed to kick one pile when I wasn't looking and avoided the rest as much as I could.

Lap 1 - 49:07
Aid Station 1 - 3:23
Lap 2 - 49:59
Aid Station 2 - 4:46
Lap 3 - 1:26:26
Finish - 3:13:42

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today's Run - Homage

Finally. Some semblance of getting back into my groove. Sort of. Maybe.

Today's run almost didn't happen thanks to some bad timing. Wife and I agreed that I'd run this afternoon instead of this morning so we could spend the day shopping together while the kids stayed with my in-laws. Gotta love free babysitting, especially when the in-laws and the kids have a blast with each other. So we shopped around town, ran errands, had a nice lunch, and picked up a few groceries.

But by the time we made it home, it was nearly sundown. I hate it when winter decides that the sun goes down so early. So I scampered around, got dressed, and booked it out the door while I still had a few stray beams of sunlight. I ran one of my usual routes instead of running at the local state park since I was short on time and sunlight. And I'm glad I went when I did. The sun was just below the treeline when I got back and cars were starting to scare me when they drove by without their headlights. But I made it safely and generally enjoyed myself. I recorded another podcast, listened to some podcasts, and did my best not to kill myself with a faster pace. Since I came back alive, I guess I was successful.

Temps were about 45F, sky was clear with a few clouds, and the winds were steady around 10 or 15 mph.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was eggs, toast, and coffee. Lunch was a giant ceasar salad with grilled salmon. During the run I took a hit of Hammer gel around mile 1 and another hit around mile 2. I took one bottle of water and one bottle of watered down flat soda.

I took my new iPod and wore my Brooks windbreaker. It's bright as fuck and I'm glad I took it to cut down on the windchill. My face was pretty cold the first half mile as I ran by open farmland. On the gravel road the winds were lighter but the jacket still helped keep me warm. I also wore my new pair of Kinvara 2 that I've had stuffed in a box waiting for another pair to retire.

Aches and Pains:
Not really any to speak of except my left knee felt a little twingey around mile 4. I think this was mostly due to the new shoes.Link
Codename - Homage
I think I gave UltraDad a run for his money with my intro to the latest podcast episode. Guess we'll see how he likes it. Too bad I can't do a Canadian accent, eh?

Outbound - 30:12
Inbound - 30:12
Finish - 1:00:18

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Today's Run - Christmas Run of Shame

Today's run was ... unpleasant. I've been non-running for a week now and I hate it. It's like cabin fever creeping into your joints and exploding. It's like a bad jingle stuck in your head refusing to come out until you perform a lobotomy with a rusty spoon. It just plain sucks. And as my fellow runners have told me, I just needed to suck it up.

So I did. My meds have had time to work their magic on my sinuses (and my GI tract) and I felt well enough to run today. Actually I felt well enough yesterday but didn't want to push my luck. SO I waited until today. I tried to wait until tomorrow but it just didn't work. So I ambled out the door on a very short run today. Very. Short. But it felt like a marathon. Well, no, it didn't. But it felt longer than it actually was.

And despite all my complaining, I survived. And I feel pretty good. Not great but well enough to try another run. Hopefully tomorrow. Maybe by then my memory of today's run will have faded enough to let me enjoy it. Today was a long slog. I felt out of synch. Very rusty. Almost broken. Not like a broken bone but like I forgot how to run.

Enough negativity. The positive side of today's run was that I only took two, very short breaks. Less than 30 seconds a piece. And I got to run with my new iPod Shuffle (a Christmas present). I have yet to name it so keep an eye out for a contest or something shortly. But I made it back safe and sound and I'm ready to go again. So I guess my brain has healed. At least a little.

Roughly 51F with heavy clouds and just a hint of sun. Moderate breeze that I only felt on one little section.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was a beast. Two giant cinnamon rolls that had to be at least 500 to 750 calories a piece. Plus some coffee. Pre-run snack was a few tidbits of Chex mix and a few swigs of GU Brew. On the run I had flat soda from Wegmans. Recovery was a small bottle of Ensure and some water.

I'll be retiring this pair of Saucony Kinvaras (150 miles now). And of course my new iPod. Everything else was standard issue.

Aches and Pains:
Everything hurt. Not sure if it's because of my shoes being so worn or just my body recovering from being sick. Likely a heavy dose of both.

Codename - Christmas Run of Shame
Because I felt shame for eating such a large breakfast and for not having run for so long.

Forgot to hit my split button so don't have one.
Finish: 16:38

Friday, December 23, 2011

Old School Lumberjacks

I've long been a fan of Shorpy and the awesome pictures posted there. In fact, I respect their work well enough that I'm not even going to download and post their image. Yes, they are that awesome. So if you aren't familiar with the site, go check it out and subscribe for your daily dose of nostalgia.

Meanwhile, here's two photos of old school lumberjacks getting the job done.

A Big Load (click to view full size)

I'm a Lumberjack (click to view full size)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Podcast Hiatus

My podcast will be on hiatus for two weeks as I celebrate the holidays. I suggest you do the same.

And as an early Christmas present to you, I'm formally coming out of the closet as the voice behind this podcast.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Drymax Socks

For those in the running industry, Drymax Socks are a well known brand and often endorsed by elite athletes running some serious races. In fact, it was because of these prominent ads and frequent endorsements (you can see ultrarunning phenom Andy Jones-Wilkins in his Drymax ad here) that I bought a few pair to try out myself. I figured if they were half as good as these people say, then they may work for me.

Turns out they didn't work for me. At all.

Now before you completely dismiss my opinion as sacrilege, keep in mind that this is my opinion. And even though I'm a bit picky when it comes to socks, I did give them an honest try. In the past I've had issues with my feet. In fact, I still do to some extent. Specifically, my big toes do not bend at the knuckle. They bend at the ball joint, but not the knuckle. No idea why. They never have as far back as I can remember. Then there's the toe next to the big toe. Those are the ones that have given me issues since I've started running longer distances. And like most distance runners, those issues manifest as black toenails. Over time, I've treated my toenails with clippings, trimmings, filings, more trimmings, and even one instance of pulling the dead nail out with pliers. Yuck. While trimming has helped, the best treatment for me has been larger shoes.

In addition to the bad toenails, I've also struggled with blisters. It wasn't until months after my worst blister incident (which was also my first ultra race) that I realized that my socks were causing the blisters. I used to wear Asics socks primarily because they looked cool and my local running store had them in stock. It turns out they were probably the worst socks out there to wear. After I came to this realization, I began searching for the best sock out there. I settled on my Saucony socks just because that's what I had and they seemed to work.

Turns out, they've been the best so far. Yes, it's already been proven that I'm a Saucony snob. But really, check your running socks. Turn them inside out and look at the seams. Those seams on the Asics socks are what gave me blisters. The Saucony socks didn't have any. And the Drymax socks? Well, I ran into different issues with them.

Yep. I got a hole in them. From my big toe. On both feet. On all pairs. Over the course of a few months. Now, surely it looks like I need to trim my toenails, right? Only a toenail long enough and sharp enough could slice through a sock like that, right? Wrong. My toenails are trimmed on a regular basis. I've learned from my black toenails that if I don't trim them, I'll pay for it. Dearly. And while the nail may be sharp, they've never cut through my Saucony socks. Nor my Asics. Not even my junky Champion socks. Must be the sock.

As further proof, the heel portion of the sock is wearing thin. Already. I've had a pair of bamboo Feetures that have done the same thing but that was over a year of wearing them. But from wearing socks a few months, I'd never expect to have the fabric wear so thin.

If you're curious how much I've worn the Drymax socks, it has been as much as my other socks. They received no special treatment beyond an extra run or two in wet weather to test how they handled moisture. I've done blazing hot summer runs to cold winter runs. I've done bone dry runs to full immersion in water runs. I've worn a variety of shoes, run on a variety of surfaces, and have not modified them in any way. And despite all this, the socks failed me.

I think what bothers me the most about this is that I really, really wanted them to work. I don't know if it was the "cool" factor of wearing the same gear as the pros or just finding a sock that was super awesome. Regardless of wanting them to work, they didn't. And as much as I hate to write a bad review of a product or company that has a large following, I feel it is my duty to report the truth. No lies, just facts. So I will be ditching my Drymax socks once they wear out. Like my Feetures though, I'll find a good use for them. From sun glass storage to headlamp storage, I'll find something for them to do besides go in the trash.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday's Run - Suck Fest

Oh. Dear. God. What was I thinking. 20 miles? Really? And not only that, but with women? That are faster? I must have had too much to drink this weekend. Or maybe I hit my head in the shower.

Okay, enough with the whine, let's get on with the show. I'll try to keep it objective. Try.

We started our run with introductions. Kris D. brought along a friend, Julia. Bidi B showed up shortly there after whipping her car into the parking lot. Her need for speed would last the entire day.

After introductions, we were off. We met/parked at MM 4 on the trail so we headed west toward the train cars and MM 0. It was an easy run at a decent pace. We chatted, ran by some people walking their dogs, and generally had a good time. At MM 0, we walked a bit, talked more, then turned around and headed back.

Gradually Kris and Julia pushed the pace a bit but not too terribly. I was still able to keep up and didn't want to slow people down too much. I love how people always say they run slow then crack out a fast pace. It's all relative. On the way back to the cars we saw the same people walking their dogs, talked some more, and finished up the group run.

And while I often complain about how fast people run and how slow I am, I also know it helps me push myself faster. It was great to see some new faces and hear new stories. Just hope I didn't scare anybody off too much (I even managed to keep my shirt on).

After we got to the cars, Tabitha and I reloaded our gear for another run. I harassed her about taking too long in the aid station when I should have had a giant cup of STFU and filled my own hydration pack instead. More on that in a bit.

So Tab and I pushed on for another leg of the trail. This time we headed east and agreed to run to MM 8 before deciding if we'd go further or not. If we turned at MM 8, it would give us 16 miles total. More than the 14 miles on my plan but I've already determined I can't stick to the plan to save my life. So pushing to 20 miles (turning around at MM 10 instead) was fine with me. I wanted more miles and so did Tab. Little did I know how much it would cost.

On this section I felt decent. Until a half mile in. When I realized I didn't refill my hydration pack. I ran with it for the first 8 miles. I generally only last 10 miles with my pack. So even though I had sucked down some fluids at the car, I knew right off the bat that I would need to ration my water. I did have the smarts to grab one of my handhelds but it was only half full. My lack of fluids would end up being the source of my demise. I would eventually run dry with only half a mile to run but the entire 12 mile run was a constant battle to not drink as much as I wanted or needed. I felt like I was in the desert or something conserving my water. I felt like a complete idiot for going into this race without a plan. And that lack of a plan, truly the lack of respect for the distance, is really where I fucked up bad. Aside from screwing up my fluids, I didn't really factor in my fuel or electrolyte needs. I just ate what I wanted when I felt like I needed it. No nutrition plan at all. Same with electrolytes. I knew I'd run low late in the run so I grabbed some pills but they only helped so much due to the lack of water in my system. And I took no source of caffeine even though I had a giant bottle in my car.

In case you couldn't tell from my tone so far, the wheels fell off. Then the axles. Then everything else. The first 4 miles our were okay. The 2 miles after that I could feel myself slowing down but again, I felt okay. I was 6 miles out so far and doing okay. We turned around and I slowed down a bit more. With 4 miles left, I knew my tank was empty. But I dug deep and pushed on. I continued to push until my hamstring cramped up. I pushed until my calves cramped. I pushed until my gut screamed bloody murder. I pushed until my head started to hurt. I was such a zombie that I knew Tab was saying things to me here and there but I couldn't quite understand what she was saying. My mental faculties were not quite up to par. How far gone was I? Far enough that I knew if Tabitha dropped her pants and flashed her boobs I wouldn't have even noticed. My head was down and every time I stopped to walk it sucked. Not because I had to walk but because it felt so good and I knew it would really suck when I started to run again.

Yay me.

In the end, I somehow found enough in me to make it to the car. 20 miles. Well, technically it was more like 21+ with the detour. I don't know how, but I did it. Maybe it was the magic rock Tab gave me. Maybe it was some switch that I flipped. But I think what really kept me going was that I knew the faster I finished, the faster I would be able to stop. The Richmond Marathon didn't hurt this much. My last 50k didn't hurt this much. I was beyond fried and even now still a bit foggy. And no, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the half a beer I had when we finished.

Temps were 40F to 45F. The sun was out for a bit at the start but heavy clouds moved in later. Slight sign of snow at the very end. Light wind for most of the run.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was yogurt, coffee, and a small bottle of Ensure. Before the run I took an e-Gel. During the run I had my hydration pack which ran dry at about mile 19.5. During the aid station break I took in some water and some Hammer Endurolyte Fizz. I also had some bagel with salt on it. During the second leg of the run I had two Honey Stinger Waffles and some of my Hammer Gel (I think I had some during my first leg too). Recovery was half a beer courtesy of Tab (it tasted like ass but I was thirsty enough to drink some), some flat Coke, and the rest of my salty bagel.

The only gear to take note of was my Ruez booty short underwear (no chafing and no freezing of the nibbles n' bits). I'll review them when I can find some time to do so. I also tested a replacement for my whistle's necklace. It seems to work just fine.

Aches and Pains:
Feet were sore. Right hamstring start to cramp up with 6 to 8 miles to go. Calves started to cramp up with 4 to 6 miles to go. Head started to hurt with about 4 miles to go.

Mile 1 - 10:46
Mile 2 - 12:24 (includes pee break - only one of the run)
Mile 3 - 10:53
Mile 4 - 10:25
Walk Break at Turnaround - 3:52
Mile 5 - 10:25
Mile 6 - 10:45
Mile 7 - 10:41
Mile 8 - 10:39
Aid Station Break - 12:52
Mile 9 - 10:35
Mile 10 - 11:19
Mile 11 - 15:40 (gun range bypass)
Mile 12 - 12:16
Mile 13 - 11:15
Mile 14 - 11:44 (turnaround point)
Mile 15 - 14:10
Mile 16 - 10:41
Mile 17 - 14:03 (gun range bypass)
Mile 18 - 15:05
Mile 19 - 12:48
Mile 20 - 14:13
Finish - 4:17:42

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today's Run - Naked Running

Went for a naked run today. And before you jump to any conclusions, please keep in mind I ran naked, not nude. There's a difference. Check out The Naked Runners for proof (they have an awesome podcast too).

Here's the Silas and Dave at a recent TEDx event:

Anyway, it was these guys that inspired me to run naked today. Granted, I did wear shoes, but I ditched the distractions. No watch, no phone, just me and some water bottles. The wind was blowing pretty hard so I had two distinct encounters with it. First, on the outbound portion the wind was at my back and blowing pretty good. How good? Well, it was strong enough to make leaves chase me. And pass me. I know I run slow but that made me feel even slower. I got passed by a leaf. Second was on the inbound portion where the wind was blowing the little seed pods off the trees and into my hair. Looked like snow but wasn't as slippery. Or as cold.

Aside from that, it just felt nice to go for a run. I caught myself checking my wrist a few times thinking about my time and pace. But I forced the feelings down and kept my focus on the run itself. Me, Mother Nature, some heavy breathing, and a good amount of sweat. I can only hope she was as satisfied as I was.

Temps were about 55F. Sky was partly cloudy with a decent amount of sun. Wind was the biggest factor as it cooled things off and made the inbound portion difficult at times. Wind was easily 15mph to 20mph.

Took my North Face wind breaker with me and had to ditch it after a few minutes. It worked great at blocking the heavy winds but it was warmer out than I thought and I was starting to sweat. Also ditched my winter hat at the same place. Had a major failure with my Drymax socks as I put a giant hole in one of them. More on that later.

Fluids and Fuel:
Took two bottles, one with water, the other with Hammer Fizz. Finished about two-thirds of each. Recovery was an EAS drink. It was okay but tasted just like Ensure.

Aches and Pains:
None to speak of.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anything is Possible

Just when I think life has finally broken my back, just when I think things can't get any worse, one of two things happens. Things really do get worse, thereby proving that things really aren't as bad as I thought they were. Or things get better, thereby proving anything is possible.

I don't even now how to introduce Buffy to you. I could rattle off her impressive running record. I could tell you she has an awesome drive. I could wow you with her wonderful attitude. But nothing really does justice to the fact that this little girl ran a half marathon. So when you think it can't be done, just remember anything is possible. If this little girl can run a half marathon, anything is possible. If my fat ass can run a 50k, anything is possible. The only thing holding you back is you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today's Run - Candid Camera

Very slow run as I spent a lot of time running back and forth in front of the camera. And lugging the camera around also made things go slower too.Beyond that, pretty boring run. Saw some really neat frost and some steam rising off the little pond off the trail. Hope to edit and post the video at some point but work is more pressing.

Temps were about 25F to 30F. Even when the sun came up it wasn't that warm. Sky was clear and the sun was out (eventually). No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was a glass of water. During the run I had a bottle of water and a bottle of Hammer Fizz. Recovery was a small bottle of Ensure followed by a breakfast of eggs, toast, yogurt, and coffee.

Wore my Ruez underwear and I'm quickly enjoying them, but not so much the bikini briefs. Think I'll save those for when I wear shorts. Also lugged my camera and Pod around. Awkward. I'll also be formally retiring my Saucony Exodus shoes. I loved them when they worked for me but I'm now officially a full-time minimalist runner. I swear I was running in a pair of high heels out there.

Aches and Pains:
Calves are still stiff but not really painful. Just feel like an old man when I get up to walk around. Beyond that, everything else was fine.

Codename - Candid Camera
Felt bizarre taking video of myself running. A little nervous to watch it but I'm excited to edit it. Assuming anything is usable.

Mile 1 - 16:47
Mile 2 - 18:36
Mile 3 - 14:14
Mile 4 - 15:41
Finish - 1:05:20

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 VA Runner Blue & Gray Half Marathon

Must be Christmas time because everyone is getting PRs today. Including me.

After reviewing last year's notes and the route again, I had a decent idea of what to expect for today's race. Going into the race I also had the expectation of just going along at my own pace and not really racing. Turns out I can't do that. I can't run in a race without racing and without giving it my all. I thought I could make this a training run but it turns out I can't. Oh well, I tried.

Anyway, I didn't have a goal for this race other than to assess my time as I neared the end and push for a PR if I was close. Beyond that, it was just a question of how cold I'd be and how much I could tinker with my fluids and fuel. After an early alarm this morning, I hopped in the shower and got dressed. I headed down the road and downed a small coffee. I made a pit stop at Wal Mart, then another one at another one, then drove the course. Once I got a bead on the water tables, I decided to run with just one water bottle, something I rarely do since I drink like a horse when I run.

Once at the start, I had to park down by the 13 mile marker and hoof it to the start/finish area. I got my chip, chatted with some local runners I knew, then headed back to my car to warm up. I had dressed in shorts with calf sleeves but had pants on over top just in case. I ditched the pants but kept my extra top layer on, grabbed both bottles, grabbed my fuel, and headed back to the start. Talked to my dad (aka my personal photographer) for a bit, then meandered around a bit trying to stay warm.

With zero nerves going into the race, I lined up, stripped off a top layer and started. I ditched one of my bottles and my extra layer at my car and did my best to stay warm. The first mile made my fingers hurt. Hurt enough to make me want to look for extra layers of clothes that people may toss on the ground. Nobody really tossed any layers so I had to deal with the pain. Mile 2 was downhill and like the Lumberjack that I am, I tore off down the hill like a jack rabbit. Down the small hill on Cowan and the bigger Hospital Hill left me tired with sore feet. But I pushed through to the canal trail.

On the other end of the canal trail we head through some snaky turns before heading over to the gravel road around the ball fields at the college. I was doing okay, taking on fuel every 2 or 3 miles or so, avoiding the ice as much as I could, and drinking when I thought about it. My right hamstring would cramp up a bit but would get better after I pushed fluids for a mile or so. At the gravel loop, I peeled off to take a leak behind some sheds until I saw that the road turned enough that people in front of me could see me. Not much to see but I'm not that brave. So I went a little further until I saw a tree that worked well enough to hide behind. Slipping on the frosty grass, I got back into the race but felt off my rhythm. But I continued to push through and refilled my bottle as needed.

As I cruised through the same real estate I had already run through, I felt okay. I'd walk every mile or two for no more than a minute. I knew from previous races that a 1 mile run followed by a 1 minute walk would get me through a marathon so I used the same routine loosely today with similar success.

As I clicked off the 10th mile, I fly down a short hill and back to the canal trail doing math in my head. It took me a good mile to finally figure out that not only was a PR an option, it was easily within reach. The only question was Hospital Hill. I've run it several times before but I didn't know how much energy I would have left in the tank. So I ramped up my fuel intake before the hill hoping to power through. I walked up the steps to the bottom of the hill and ran the first little portion before crawling to a walk. I did a mental reboot of sorts and started running again. I had turned my music on around mile 8 and had found a solid groove. Shortly after doing this, I began passing people. Nothing major, but it was easier to reel people in. Back at the hill, I found this groove again and started running. And ran to the top. Passing people the whole way. I've walked that hill many times and know what it feels like. It hurts. It sucks. But it's just a hill and you'll eventually get over it.

Once to the top I walked a bit to refill my bottle and take a short break. From there, it was running to the end. Even up the more evil hill on Cowan. Hospital Hill is a mile long. But it just knocks you down. The hill on Cowan kicks you in the nuts while you're still down. But I powered through the hill continually checking my watch to see where I was on pace. I amazed myself with my time on Hospital Hill but knew I still had to finish. Past the store fronts, ditching my water bottle at my car as I ran by, then a full on sprint to the finish.

A new PR was born. Unofficially about 10 minutes. Maybe 11. I'm certainly happy with my time and I enjoyed my finish. I felt good, finished strong, and was happy.

But I wasn't done.

You see, there's a local running legend that was also running today's half. Her name is Buffy but her real name is Elizabeth. The same name as my own daughter. In fact, they're both 7 years old. That's right, a 7 year old girl ran the half marathon today. So after I finished, I stopped at my car for a drink, then headed back out onto the course to find her. She wasn't far behind me and I picked her up about a half mile or so from the finish. I ran with her to the final turn before letter her cross by herself to enjoy the moment. She had fun and enjoyed it. Her parents didn't push her into it. She was tired but not in any danger health-wise. I congratulated her and her dad after the finish.

But I still wasn't done.

I went back out on the course. I cheered people on as they passed me and headed toward the finish. Many were in their own zone but many said thanks and smiled. It was great. As I got a little over a mile from the finish, I refilled my bottle at the final water station and caught the last runner. She was walking and obviously in pain. I stayed with her to the finish. We walked. We talked. We were quiet. I never introduced myself, never pushed DailyMile or anything else on her. Never told her to train more or to give up. I tried to keep positive, encouraging, and helpful. I carried some Gatorade for her for a bit and just kept her company to the end. As she neared the finish, I stopped to let her go the last little bit by herself. She said something like "thanks for getting me this far." My response was something like "I didn't get you this far, you did it yourself. Enjoy the finish. It's yours."

So with that, I hope I gave her and Buffy a bit of an early Christmas present with my presence. Not that I'm a big deal but I've been there before. I've been last and I know how much it sucks. I hope I took just a little bit of that suckiness away for her. And I hope I distracted Buffy enough to enjoy the race just a bit more.

Temps were about 25F to start and warmed to about 40F by the time I finished. Maybe 45F by the time I finished walking in with the last runner. Winds were light but noticeable in some areas. The sun was out but you never really felt it. Ice was present in some areas, especially the water stops.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was a small can of Starbucks Double Espresso and a little GU Brew. I took one e-Gel before the start of the race. During the race I didn't start taking gels until mile 3. I had two small flasks with about 2 or 3 servings in each. I took a small swig of gel again at mile 5 I think, then again around 7 or 8. Around mile 9 I started going every mile with a small swig. My single bottle had Nathan Catalyst in it and I refilled it with more water and more Catalyst around mile 6. After that I refilled my bottle as needed, which was around mile 8 and 11 I think. Recovery after my race was chocolate flavored Zico followed by more water. Lunch after that was a sandwich and cinnamon roll and iced tea.

Aches and Pains:
My ankles hurt the first few miles from pounding my fat ass down the hills. After that, they felt okay except for the occasional cramp in my right hamstring. That appeared to be easily cleared up with more fluids. But right now my calves are stiff and sore.

Codename - Anything is possible
If my big butt can do a 50k and if a 7 year old girl can do 13.1 miles, then you can do anything you put your mind to, just like Doc Brown said.

Start - 0:23 to cross the start line
Mile 1 - 9:43 (downhill)
Mile 2 - 9:53 (downhill)
Mile 3 - 10:48
Mile 4 - 10:55
Mile 5 - 11:02
Mile 6 - 10:59
Mile 7 - 11:45 (includes bathroom break)
Mile 8 - 10:14
Mile 9 - 10:47
Mile 10 - 10:31
Mile 11 - 10:14
Mile 12 - 11:18 (Hospital Hill)
Mile 13 - 10:09
Finish - 2:19:03 (a new PR by nearly 12 minutes)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Altra Zero Drop

Back Story
I first heard about Altra Zero Drop on Twitter and DailyMile through the usual sources of fellow runners that had their hands on a pair of their shoes before the rest of us normal folks. While I envy these people for getting so many products to review, I don't envy the work that goes into reviewing them. It's taken me months just to craft this one post.

Anyway, I heard about the company and wasn't terribly impressed. After all, I've long been a Saucony snob and doubted I would ever convert to something different. I had finally boarded the minimalist bandwagon and was really enjoying my Kinvaras and Peregrines. Then I started reading more and more about the Altra toe box and how much larger it was. This caught my interest because I've had issues with my toes in the past and the prospect of eliminating those issues was oh so tempting.

So I finally broke under the weight of my own self-induced peer pressure and bought a pair of the Instincts from a friend who happened to work out a deal to become a distributor. I was hesitant to buy shoes from such a new company but that temptation of healthy toes just wouldn't go away. I'm sure anyone out there that's had a black toenail can attest to how annoying and gross they can be.

After wearing the Instincts long enough (more on them in a second), I opted to try their Lone Peak trail shoes. These were the ones I was most excited about since most of my toe issues stem from trail runs, especially the long ones. I feel that I've now worn both shoes long enough to write a respectable review of each.

The Instinct

I have the grey pair (or "gray" if you're an American like me but doesn't use the English spelling). I call them my "space shoes" or my "Spaceman Spiff Shoes" depending on how I feel. I do not like the looks of the black ones and really wish they'd get some bright orange ones. I'd even settle for lime green. Mine are size 10.5, the same size I wear in my Saucony Kinvaras. I could give you the nitty gritty on weight, length, etc. but I'm sure somebody else has done that so I'll skip it. In the box, you get two pair of insoles. I immediately went with the thinnest pair. I also opted to use the "modified" lacing they have on their site but only the top portion. I didn't do the funny stuff where you skip crossing over. These shoes also have 75 miles on them currently.

They fit like nothing I've ever worn before. But when you think about it, that's pretty obvious. How many shoes out there have an oversize toe box? None that I know of. But I will say my toes were happy. They had plenty of room to party and weren't cramped. There were no toenail issues and only one very minor blister on the end of my toe after running the Richmond Marathon. The top of the shoe is tight. The alternate lacing appears to help some of that but I've found it's more of a technique to get them laced than other shoes. It's almost like there's little to no give in the laces and the upper. So too loose and your foot slops around. Too tight and your foot falls asleep (or it feels like a giant is standing on your foot). The alternate lacing at the top appears to alleviate some of that pain.

Joint Test:
As a zero-drop shoe, there's obviously not going to be much cushion underneath them. So after longer runs, my knees and hips were hurting. But I'm notoriously a heel-striker so I'm not too surprised they hurt. I've tried to adjust my stride and cadence but when I stop thinking about it, I fall back into old habits. Generally around the 10 to 15 mile mark is when things really start to be noticeable, but that's about the same as my Kinvaras that have 150 miles on them. I'm sure if you're used to a minimalist shoe or have a proper foot strike pattern, you won't notice much difference.

Toe Box:
As I mentioned before, the toe box is the real selling point with these shoes. I started running in Saucony Rides, size 10 wide. After some black toenails, I upped it to a size 10.5 regular and have been fine since. But my longer runs, especially on trails, would see those black toenails crop up again. Not so with the wide toe box. The best analogy I can think of is the regular shoes out there are like ballet slippers while the Altras are like bedroom slippers. One is very constricting while the other is roomy. This is the make-or-break feature for me. If Altra was a conventional shoe with a conventional toe box, I wouldn't buy them.

Buy them. There are some things I don't like but they are overshadowed by the things I love. I'm not a fan of their colors. The top of the shoe fits tight. The heel is a little loose sometimes. But I love the large toe box. I love the overall feel of the shoe (lightweight and breathable). And I love how engaged the company is in their customers.

The Lone Peak

In almost every aspect the Lone Peaks are just like the Instincts. The primary differences are the lugs on the bottom, the little "rudder" on the heel, and the lack of a second pair of insoles. With that said, I opted for a size 11 in these just to give myself an extra little bit of room for my toes. I'm not sure if this was wise as my foot slides sometimes. Kind of a mixed bag right now but I'm thinking my next pair will be size 10.5 and I'll compare them to see which is best. Who knows, maybe the size 11 will work well later in my ultras when my feet are swollen. This pair has 25 miles on them.

Like the Instincts, they fit tight on the top of the foot and have plenty of party room in the toe box. I tried the alternate lacing I mentioned above but for today's run I went traditional and it felt a little better. I'll try switching my Instincts to see if it improves but overall it doesn't appear to impact performance in any way.

Shit Hits Fan:
I've thrown everything I can at this shoe except ice and snow. Mud, small rocks, large rocks, sand, water, dirt, branches, leaves, roots, and then some. Nothing has slowed these shoes down. My trail running consists of two primary types of trails; single track dirt and old railroad beds. On the single track trails the shoe offers great grip and doesn't cling to the mud. The lugs are wide enough apart to let the mud come off and the sole is large enough to give you plenty of traction. On the railroad bed I'm faced with ballast that varies from soft pine needles to large pointy rocks. The rock plate in the sole kept my feet happy through short and long runs. It easily out-performed the Saucony Peregrines in my shoe rotation. In the sand it gripped easily but didn't kick up as much sand as I expected. In the water, I was impressed. More impressed than I am with the grip of the shoe. I took a giant leap across a small creek and managed to look like an idiot by landing in the middle of said creek. Knee deep in cold water, I slogged out and was impressed by how quickly the shoes drained. Within minutes, portions of the outer were drying. In the next mile to mile and a half, a good 85% of the water had drained from inside the shoe. The only thing that felt wet was my sock. I only had a quarter mile of the lead-shoe-syndrome after taking a full soaking. After that, things drained and dried pretty fast. Faster than I expected.

Time for the bad news. The areas where this shoe could be made better. First, the "rudder" on the end of the heel. I have no idea what purpose it serves but it feels like a waste. Maybe over time I'll change my mind and since trimming it off would take more time than it's worth, I'm not going to mess with it. Second, the top of the shoe could use some padding. Again, this is a bit of a grey area. Too much padding means too much water retention or too much weight. But a tad bit more would help protect your feet (or even your toes) from those sneaky sticks that try to stab you on the trail. Third, gaiters. Most trail runners I know wear them. This shoe isn't designed for them. At least not the Dirty Girl Gaiters I use. I applied the Velcro to the heel and it lasted about 5 miles. Plus there's no d-ring loop on the toe to hook your hook. While I know I can hook my hook to the laces, it doesn't hold as well. This is the only clear advantage my Saucony Peregrines have over the Lone Peaks. Finally, color. Yes, again with the color scheme. I know this is a new company but these colors are blah and drab. And when I run in the woods, I don't want to blend into my surroundings, especially during deer season. Bright colors could save my life. Plus they look cool and have no impact on performance.

Final Analysis
Buy a pair of these. Either type or both. I'm not paid to endorse these shoes or this company. In fact, I paid them for the shoes. And I'm going to do it again. These guys pay attention to the small details other companies don't bother with. The box itself is a wealth of information and is built like a brick shit house. No flim flam here, these are solid shoes with a big toe box.

The Instincts are like the Kinvaras I'm used to but with that large toe box and less cushion. The Lone Peaks are like the Peregrines but with better traction and more toe room. So all in all, they're the best shoe I've got in my rotation right now. I'm not saying that they're perfect by any means. There is certainly room for some improvement. But this is a young company and I'm sure there will be changes down the road. But in the end, they're the best I've got right now.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Molly Roohi - Ironman Triathlete

A local running legend ran Kona this year after a very impressive Ironman finish in France earlier this year. While I've never really met her, she did teach me that I pretty much can't swim worth a shit. No, she didn't say that, but I could read between the lines. And I'm fine with sticking to running. Maybe some time later, much later, I'll attempt triathlons.

Anyway, she was invited to compete at the Ironman World Championships this year. An amazing feat in itself. What's really amazing is how well she's handling a poor performance. I was shocked at how poorly she did but then I realized, she's just as human as everybody else. And the fact that she was not only invited but also finished the race, tells me that she is a bit super-human.

Her splits were 1:10:35 (swim), 5:54:21 (bike), and 7:17:58 (run). Her swim was okay, she felt good about it. Her bike was rough with the wind and a flat about 2 miles from the end (so she just ran it in instead of changing). Her run was horrible (her words, not mine). I can't imagine walking a marathon but I'm amazed at how well she did despite the hardships she faced. Overheated, sunburned, dehydrated, under fueled, and totally exhausted. But I'm still amazed and impressed that people can do this and do it so well. While her 14+ hour finish time may not be as awesome as she had hoped for, it's pretty damn awesome in my book.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Richmond Marathon

An in-depth analysis of a first-timers marathon.

First, this report (and the one I link to in a moment) isn't for normal human consumption. If blood, sweat, tears, chafing, and swearing aren't for you, leave now. If they are for you, then you're just as messed up as every other runner I know, including myself.

Second, let me link to my race report over on DailyMile. It's a long read but it will give you my initial impression of the race and how I did. Once you've read that, then come back here to read more about those topics I forgot to mention or needed more room to talk about.

My DailyMile race report.

Okay, now that you've read that long, beast of a report, here's everything else.


Aside from this being my first marathon, this is also my first race in Richmond. Living close to the city, roughly an hour north, meant I could have stayed at home in my own bed. I opted to make it a weekend event and instead booked a hotel for both the night before and the night after. Based on a poor experience earlier this year running a half marathon in Williamsburg, I knew this would be a great chance to enjoy the moment.

The city of Richmond came across as fairly unique in my eyes. I've been through, into, and around the city nearly my entire life. But I never saw this much of it. And for the most part I liked it. There were many times where I felt like a country-bumpkin, especially with the number of homeless people and my lack of skills at city driving. But overall I liked the city. There were a ton of bikes on the road and most cars respected them, despite my disdain for a good 80% of them not using protective gear like helmets, lights, bright colors, etc.

I picked the Hilton Garden Hotel since it was close to the race start and since it had better reviews than the race hotel, the Omni. When race morning came, it was a short 2 or 3 block walk to the start line. By race morning there were already a steady stream of runners moving in that direction so it was easy to just join the crowd and enjoy the walk. Despite it being cold as all hell. Even after a few years in the Snow Belt of north-western Pennsylvania, I still don't like the cold that much. Although when it comes to running, I'd rather it be cold than hot. Anyway, it was easily in the low 30s and there was a steady wind that made it even colder. Not fun but I knew it would shape up nicely. Plus you can't really change the weather, only endure it.

With the finish line only an extra 4 or 5 blocks from the hotel, I knew it would be an easy walk back when I was done. I was half right. The distance was easy but there was a steady uphill to fight. I didn't know that until race day when I ran down to the finish to see how far it was. Things look a lot closer when you look at a map than they do in person.

One of my biggest complaints about the venue was the location of the expo. Having little experience in big races like this, I just assumed the expo and packet pick-up were close to the start/finish area. They aren't. You could get there by bike, but it would be a while. Even driving took longer than I would have liked but I managed. The expo was the typical race expo I've seen at other half marathons before. Lots of vendors selling their junk. Some of it is funny, some of it catches your eye, but as a whole it looked like junk. The only exception were the other races advertising and the local running store. You can always count on those to put out some quality stuff. I did like that there was a bib check system that let you walk across a timing mat to make sure your timing chips worked. I did not like that said timing chip was on my bib, but I'm just weird like that.

Another complaint was the lack of amenities after the race. Yes, they had water, my medal, a foil cape, and food, but I expected a little more. Maybe I'm spoiled by our local half marathon that dishes out hot soup and hot food along with the rest of the fancy swag. Oh well. Oh, and my first medal was losing the ribbon. The seams were coming out so I promptly went back for a replacement. Thankfully the 12 year old kid didn't give me any grief. Guess that thousand-yard stare makes people think you're crazy.

They also had no finish-line photo opportunities that I could see. There were a few spots on the course where you could tell photographers were set up, but none were labeled. Again, I must be spoiled by other races because the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon does that. They label their photographers on the course and give you a chance to pose for photos after you've finished.


From head to toe, I had the following gear:
- Saucony beanie hat
- Under Armour visor
- Switch sunglasses
- #DoEpicShit tech shirt
- Saucony arm sleeves
- Saucony gloves
- Generic tech jacket from Kohls
- 3 hand warmers (1 in each glove, 1 in my shorts)
- 2 Amphipod handheld bottles (large)
- 2 Amphipod flasks (small)
- chapstick
- RoadID
- Timex watch
- whistle
- Gatorade drink mix
- Nathan Catalyst drink mix
- BodyGlide
- North Face shorts
- Saucony calf sleeves
- Saucony socks
- Altra Instincts (shoes)

Overall, everything performed great. I pre-treated my feet with some Mission anti-chafe cream and that helped. I didn't feel any chafing on my feet until the last 5 miles or so, but by that point everything was hurting. I did end up with a blister on the tip of my left toe (the one next to my big toe) but I always have issues with that toe on both feet. And it was a small blister that was easily treated after the race and barely felt during the race.

I also pre-treated my primary chafe zone (my crotch) with BodyGlide as well as my armpits (a new chafing point in the past few months) and my nipples. Thankfully nothing really chafed that bad during the race. I reapplied BodyGlide to my nipples once around Mile 10 and my crotch about 3 times at various points. I also did not dump water on myself until very late in the race and did so sparingly to my head and neck. I knew from past races that this was a great way to cool my body off but also a great way to inflict serious pain from chafing.

My shoes worked out great. They're fairly new to me and only had a few miles on them but they have a wonderfully wide toe box. And for longer races where my feet swell, this is exactly what I needed. The minimal cushion was a bit hard on my knees but I expected that. My shorts weren't an issue, nor my shirt, hat, etc.

With the temperature starting out so cold, about 35F or so at the start, and ending so high, about 60F by the time I finished, I knew I would need to dress in layers. In fact, that's how I knew the race had started because there was suddenly a strip show taking place in front of me as people were suddenly flinging clothes to the side. Sure enough, I ditched my cheap and old jacket before the first half mile. Next came my beanie hat around Mile 5 or so. The bad news is it developed a hole at some point in the past month or so. The good news is I had no qualms in ditching it because of the hole. The ugly news is that I have yet to find a company that produces quality running hats that fit people with giant fucking heads like mine. At Mile 10 I was noticing that my sleeves were accumulating sweat. Which means my body is warming up and I need to ditch them. So I stripped them off. I was sad to see them go but I wore my old ones just for this scenario. Last to go were my gloves. I tossed those around Mile 14 I think. My hands are always cold so when they started warming up I knew it was warm enough to lose them. Again, these were older gloves so I was okay to see them go.

A bit of advice for those running their first marathon. Be prepared to ditch clothes at some point. Most marathons don't have the option of a drop bag like you'll find at ultras. So be prepared to lose your clothes. Dress accordingly. And cheaply.

Another bit of advice for your first marathon. You can show up in just your shoes, shorts, and shirt, and run without any other equipment. Richmond provided water every two miles and then every mile after Mile 20. That's plenty of water stops for most people. And each water stop also had Powerade (which I can't drink, but that's another story). They also had two gel stations. Not enough to run a marathon but I could have easily started a running store with the amount of clothes and gels I found on the road. Yes, many were squished or empty, but many gels were unopened (and un-stepped on). There were enough there to run the whole race without bringing any of your own. I never expected that. And while I expected to see clothes ditched here and there, I didn't expect the sheer number of items. Enough that it looked like empty cups at a water stop at times. And speaking of water stops, in the later ones be prepared to have sticky shoes for a bit. Some people can't run and drink.


Another thing for first-timers to look at is the course and the amenities provided. While I was disappointed to know where I was on the course when I got to Mile 22, it was an even trade with knowing where I was at Mile 10. But knowing what the race will provide for fluids and fuel was vital to me in this race. Had I gone and drank their Powerade, I would have barfed and likely not finished. Thankfully I took the time to test Powerade on my own and found that I didn't like it. Thus my need to carry Nathan Catalyst and Gatorade. The Catalyst was easy to use although it takes practice taking a tablet out of the tube and dropping it in the bottle without making a giant mess. I'd suggest you take the tablet out of the tube, close the tube, then put the tablet into an empty bottle. That way you won't splash and if you do, it won't ruin the rest of your tube. And if you use tablets like that, expect the shaking to produce a lot of gas in your bottle which may cause it to squirt out. Be careful. Also wait until all the fizz is gone or that gas will end up in your gut. Trust me, you don't want that.

The same tests took place with the fuel offered on course, Accel Gel. Thankfully I could stomach it. And thankfully I brought my own. I split my fuel between PowerBar gels and Hammer gels and they both worked. I wish I had taken more though. As I got into Mile 20 through Mile 26, I could tell I was running low on fuel. I did my best to take as much as I could but I didn't plan well enough for the later part. In fact, I had to take an extra gel on course and some beer and some pretzels to help close the gap in fueling. It helped but it wasn't enough. I also wish I had consumed more electrolytes during the race. As the temperatures rose and my body began to overheat, I could cool down some but I was still losing too much salt. While I could feel it on my face and could feel my pace drop, I think if I had pushed more fluids as soon as I noticed this, I might have done better.

Aside from the fluid and fuel deficit, my next biggest regret was music. I should have taken some but I didn't want to carry the weight of an old-school iPod or my phone. Plus, messing with earphones isn't something I want to worry about at Mile 20. But I think I could have pushed through those tough moments if I had my music with me. I'm a firm believer that music makes me run better, especially later. Same goes for flat Coke, but I can only do so much.

Other regrets include not taking in my surroundings more. There were a lot of wonderful views that I missed because I was so focused on running by them. For me, the best way to do a marathon is to do it two or three times. This way the first time you can focus on finishing and the other times you can focus on the view. I also wish I had exchanged more info with other runners. Which means I also wish I had simply talked to other runners more. A few exchanges here and there just weren't enough to replace the lack of music.


My recovery was way different than expected. I fully intended to be in so much pain I could barely walk the next day. Or even later the same day. It turns out I recovered just fine. My old high school cross country coach warned us to never get into a hot tub after a race. Apparently he knew some students that did and they turned themselves into limp noodles that could barely walk. And I'll agree with him, but only to a point. I think they likely overstayed the suggested time in the hot tub. A friend of my wife's ran with me a bit the week before the race and suggested my wife and I sleep in different beds the night before and that I should get into the hot tub after the race. I followed both suggestions and came out the other side much better. Not only did I have a good night's sleep (not really but at least I didn't toss and turn so much that I kept my wife awake) but I also had a faster recovery.

After the race, I went back to the hotel and loaded up on salty foods. I knew I was low so I recovered as best as I could. I put my legs up for 10 minutes or so, then rinsed in the shower before getting into the hot tub. The hot tub felt great but I kept my session to only about 10 minutes. I stretched some, then got back into the hot tub later that night after dinner. And dinner, by the way, was wonderful. Best damn burger ever. Do not overdo it on soda though, it'll keep you up when you need to be sleeping.

The next morning I was stiff and sore, but easily back to 80% health. My run that morning was short and slow but it felt great. I could feel all the kinks working themselves out and the muscles warming up. I should have gone longer but figured some down-time was well deserved. Now that I'm a couple days beyond the marathon, I still feel good. A bit stiff when I wake up, but easily moving like normal soon enough.


In my full race report, you'll see that I ran pretty even splits through the entire race. My second half was only about 5 minutes slower than my first half, and that's after a PR on the first half. And if you want to crunch numbers and do research, you'll see that I've been getting faster. How is that possible? Easy. I have a secret. The most well-known secret there is. I trained and I lost weight.

My training was pretty simple but haphazard at times. I tried to focus on my long runs and did my best to not skip them. If I had to skip a run, I'd try to skip the shorter ones. I did no pace work, no repeats, no speed work, no hill work, no fartleks, nothing. Yes, some of the routes I ran were hillier. Yes, some of the routes I ran were on trails. Yes, some of my runs were with faster people. But nothing was organized or planned. I just trained naturally and went with what felt right at the time. I listened to my body.

My weight loss is another well-known secret. I watched what I ate and exercised. All those fancy books out there with diets, revolutions, and everything else is a bunch of shit. You want to lose weight? Eat right and exercise. And by the way, eating right includes eating healthy foods and controlling your portions. I simply cut calories and lost the weight. And that weight loss helped me get faster. I never thought I could run as fast as I have in the past two months. And that confidence boost feeds even more weight loss. I guess another way to explain it is to think of it this way. Imagine running a marathon with a 5 pound dumbbell in each hand. It's going to hurt like a bitch and you'll be slow. Drop those weights and that's how I ran faster.


I thought I yapped long enough it would probably make all those English teachers out there happy if I put a Conclusion in here to let you know I'm done. Richmond was fun and I'd easily suggest it to anyone looking for their first marathon. The venue was nice and the route was scenic. People were pleasant and I had a great time. Focus on your training, gear, and weight. The training will teach your body what to do in the race. Dropping weight will help you go faster. And the gear will make things easier for you. And don't forget to have a recovery plan in place. Know what you're doing when you finish or you'll stand there with an addled mind until they close up shop. It helped that my wife was there to guide me back to the hotel but it was also nice to know that I could make it back if I needed to. And have fun. For crying out loud you're running a marathon. It shouldn't be work, it should be fun. So have fun! And try not to have any regrets. But if you do, use them to put forth a better effort in your next marathon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Followers

I understand there may be some new followers out there, and I'd like to take a moment to say welcome. I don't post here as much as I'd like to but if you take a gander over in the side bar, you'll see that I can also be found on Twitter (@thetk42one) and Dailymile (tk42one). I frequent many other sites but these two are the most likely to produce results. Or drop me a comment or email or text or whatever you'd like. I'm sure I'll find out about it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Marathon Family

This past weekend, our family ran a marathon. No, we didn't each run 26.2 miles. We ran, combined, over 26.2 miles. So I guess that makes us an UltraMarathon family.

To start the adventure off, I ran a 20 mile race. It was my first time at this specific distance (automatic PR!) but I've run over 20 miles in the past. I wasn't terribly worried about the distance but I was more than worried about the cut-off. The forms said 14 minute miles. And I think last year it was 12 minute miles. While I'll spare you the gory details, I will share the fact that I was happy to finish. Before the cut-off. And before a few people. Yeah for me not being last! Oh, and if you want to know the gory details, go here. But be warned. There's poop talk involved.

That was Saturday. The next day, we all carted ourselves to the local YMCA for another string of races. This time I was the head crew, cheer, and pace person for the rest of the family. Yvonne and Elizabeth took off for their 5k race. Both were decked out in some bright colors and both did an awesome job. Yvonne scored a new PR by running sub-40 (and nearly taking my head off when she chucked her water bottle at me at the finish - no worries, I had a good laugh over it). Elizabeth scored third place in her age group and she was only 15 seconds slower than her first 5k race. Both did a great job and were happy with the end result. I had a great time cheering them on as they started and neared the finish and had a blast cheering for a few other local runners I know.

Then it was William's turn. He ran the kid's 1 mile race. As expected, he came in last but he has consistently shown that he doesn't enjoy the longer distances much. And that's fine with me. I'm pretty sure he'll be a wrestler or football player anyway. And like I do with Elizabeth, I try not to push him too much and instead try to focus on the fun aspect. Well, he was sad when he didn't get a prize like his sister. And that's what I'd expect a 4 year old kid to do.

So, with my 20 mile race, Yvonne and Elizabeth doing a 5k, and William doing a 1 mile race (with me pacing), we racked up 27.2 miles over the weekend. As a family of course. Pretty damn nice.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

My Rebirth

I'm in a fog. A deep fog. I haven't run in days and I feel like I'm slowly approaching death waiting for the Reaper to swing his scythe around and end it all. But through the fog, I hear the horn. I hear the horn of Dailymile calling to me. My pores scream out in pain from not breaking a sweat. My body craves the endorphins of a long run. My mind needs, absolutely needs, to go for a run.

And so today I'm hoping to make it through the frog in the coming days. I've had good news, even though I'm still overloaded by the bad. To start with, you'll notice that big fat zero over there for my training. That's because I fell. When my exercise ball burst. With me on it. So I fell a solid 2 feet to the floor. On my ass. Without catching myself or rolling away. Which has left me in some pretty damn good pain. Like up to a 9 out of 10 when it happened. Thinking I broke my tail bone, I went to the doctor. After a solid round of x-rays, the results are in. No break. The only anomalies were a button from my shirt and "minimal anterior endplate osteophyte formation at the inferior endplates of L1." Whatever the hell that means. So even though the pain has dropped down to a 3 out of 10, there's no break. Good news out of the bad news.

In other good news, my wife will be teacher to Stephanie B.'s youngster (from Dailymile). Not sure I like having people know me (long story), but I'm glad they can all talk about me and how crazy I am. My wife will also be teaching the son of an old childhood friend. I started kindergarten with him and now his son is in my wife's 1st grade class. Neat that we live in such a small world.

Back to more bad news, my injury has left me without the drive to run. Instead, I'm confused about everything. But I'm making headway into my own head and hoping to get back in the saddle. But without sitting down because my ass still hurts like hell.

So I'm hoping this is a bit of a re-birth of sorts. I've gotten rid of the mohawk and I'm hoping to make this my new start. A rebirth if you will. I've been trying and trying to make so many changes for the better and I can only hope this will be my launching point for getting things nailed down and focused on where I need and want to be.

I have a lot of big races on my calendar and I may have to drop them. Once I was able to come to terms with that, I was able to move on to the next step of recovering. I don't want to drop from these races, but I think I can live with myself if I had to.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Thank You

I'd like to take a few lines here and send out a thank you to all the sponsors of my recent 50k. But keep in mind that these are not sponsors that pay me to speak on their behalf. In fact, most of these have gotten money from me. That's right, I get no monetary gain from their support and often have less money because of them. Not that I'm faulting them for anything, I'm just telling you that I support these individuals and companies freely.

I wouldn't have been able to do this race with out my family. My wife, my kids, my father, even my mother who was miles away. Everyone helped push me, cheer for me, and love me. It was a long race but without them I would have had nobody to share it with.

I have very few friends in the real world. It's sad but true. Most of my friends are virtual and I remember them mostly by their avatar pictures or their online handles. Even those I've met in real life I still struggle to use their real name (I'm talking about you Melli and KL). But there are a few friends I'd like to call out specifically. Not because I like them more than somebody else but because they helped me during this race. Logan, thank you for inspiring me to do epic shit. I don't think I'd have continued down the dark path of ultras without you and your adventures. Andrea, thank you for the gift. Rarely do I get real mail and even more rare are gifts from the heart. Because of you I will know it is always inside me.

FIT for This World
Stephanie was my personal trainer leading up to this insane adventure. Without her I would have been a weak blob of fat. But thanks to her I'm a strong blob of fat and muscle. I've had 24 sessions with her (23 were before the race) and I can honestly say that her contribution to my performance has been immense. I can feel core muscles work when I run, I can feel the legs flex and power through tough trails, and I can move logs like they were twigs with my upper body.

I'm a self-labeled Saucony Snob. I love their shoes and their gear. So my shoe of choice during my race was the Saucony Exodus 2.0 (in black and orange). I also wore my Saucony calf sleeves. Both helped me survive the long run by saving my feet and my calves.

The North Face
I debated long and hard about what shorts to wear during my race before I finally settled on my North Face Cardiac shorts. They don't chafe and they have pockets. Two key points for me during long runs. I loved how they performed and would choose them in a minute if I had the choice. Unfortunately I only have two pair.

I've long been skeptical of any company that guarantees anything. So when I read that this sock company could prevent blisters, I wasn't buying it. Even after reading reports from many other runners, I still wasn't willing to buy them. But I eventually caved in and got a few pair. They feel funny with their odd texture but sure enough, I have had no blisters. Even when my feet felt horrible and I was sure I had blisters, I had nothing but some chafing. No blisters at all and I loved it.

BodyGlide is one of the best tools you need in your gym bag. It works for so much it's scary. I've used it in some pretty dark places and it has saved my ass many times (literally and figuratively). I've even used it on my hands when I work outside. Simply the best. If you don't have it, get it.

Crank Sports
Like everything else, I had to be patient and find the right gel for my long runs. I've used GU in the past and like many of their flavors. Even recently discovered 2nd Surge from PacificHealth Labs has been great. But so far, nothing quite tops the e-Gel by Crank Sports. Not even the Hammer Perpeteum could keep me going quite the same.

Mission Skincare and King of Shaves
Like BodyGlide, my Mission products save my skin. From their sun block to their muscle rub, I love it. And while Mission saves my skin, King of Shaves makes me look good while I run. Well, as good as possible with this ugly mug. But their razors and after shave at least make me feel like I look good.

Shear Elegance Hair Studio
Pam was nice enough to dye my hair. And even though I was hoping for an orange so bright it would peel paint, the ginger color I ended up with is just as much fun. I got a few stair from my mohawk before the race but with the red mohawk I got even more. I loved that my family could eaisly keep tabs on my through the race as I was the only fool out there with a gingerhawk. Thanks to Pam for making it so easy.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

2011 DRHT 50k - Take Two

This time last year, I was gearing up for my first ultra marathon ever. And like most virgins, I had no idea what I was in for. There was much pain, fear, emotional lows and highs, and in the end tears of joy. I was seriously under-trained, under-prepared, and under-informed. But I learned.

This year I go into things with more training. Still not as much as I want but certainly more than last year. I even ramped things up a bit and got a personal trainer to beat me into shape. I've trained on the course at least twice a month all year long as well as logged a few miles on other trails on the In the end, I'm going into this year's race feeling much better about my training and my overall knowledge of the course and distance.

There are certain things I'll be doing differently for this year's race in an effort to keep my head in the game and to keep my load light. First among them, I'm going to try to keep things brief so you can go about your merry way.

- Last week I got a mohawk. This afternoon I get it dyed orange. As in Saucony ViZi-PRO orange. Or DailyMile orange.
- Tonight I go to packet pick-up at VA Runner.
- Tomorrow I may run a mile or two at the most. My training plan has me down for a rest day but I think I'm going to be very jittery.
- Tomorrow night, I'll be attending a DailyMile meetup for dinner at the local Vinny's. I doubt anyone will show so it'll likely be my family and myself.
- After dinner tomorrow night, it's off to the trail meeting. As in the volunteers that take care of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail (DRHT). Bedtime will be whenever I can convince my brain to shut up enough to go to sleep.
- Race day, Saturday, will be me driving by myself to the race. There will be NO live updates from the race. I might get a tweet out (!/thetk42one) but nothing is certain. I will NOT have my phone with me on the course. If I need music, I'll listen to my iPod. I will be running shirtless and will only feel slightly sorry for those running slower than me (my back is pretty hairy). My shoes, shorts, and socks have already been picked out. My drop bag and gear is nearly ready to go.
- I will NOT have a crew. The race is two out-and-back sections and has plenty of aid stations (about every 4 miles). This should meet my water needs and I'll have plenty of gels and other stuff to choose from. I'll be able to go past my drop bag twice so I'll be able to take/leave what I need.
- My cheering section will be my wife and two kids. I specifically asked for them to be at this race since they weren't there last year. They'll try to catch me a few times on the course then at the finish. The course isn't terribly safe or easy for two young kids to watch the runners.
- My father will play the role of my official race photographer. He was there for me last year and did a great job.
- If you want to come cheer for me (or the other runners), go to the race website for details on where and when to be (

Goals - This list is mostly for me, but feel free to keep reading.

1. Finish.
2. Set a PR (faster than 8:52:42 - set last year).
3. Run under 8 hours (15:30 pace).
4. Run under 7:30 hours (14:30 pace).
5. Run under 7 hours (13:30 pace).
6. Fly through the aid stations and don't waste time.
7. Keep steady, consistent pace.
8. Keep hydrated and fueled (don't bonk).
9. Have fun.
10. Finish.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Egg Shell Syndrome

As you may have read earlier, I hate the taper. Just like most runners, tapering is one of the hardest things to do leading up to a race. You've trained and trained and now you suddenly feel like you're stuck in mud. Personally, I think I'll be skipping the whole taper thing after my next race. It just doesn't sit well with me and it makes me go a bit mental. And I don't think it will help me that much. However, I do think a recovery week will help me rest a bit and heal a bit before a race. But that's a future experiment.

Today's post is about the odd phenomenon I've discovered that I go through in the days leading up to a race. Especially a big race or one that I'm very nervous about. It's the Egg Shell Syndrome (ESS). ESS is nothing more than the sudden increase in paranoia that anything and everything you do could injure you in some way. An injury to your feet, legs, toes, or something along those lines that will take you out of the race. With ESS, everything becomes a potential landmine. Legos on the floor. Socks on the kitchen linoleum. A careless kid that steps on your toes. A hidden divot in the yard. Any sort of cough or sniffle or sneeze.

ESS almost entirely mental. Yes, there are certain hazards that we are required to deal with in our daily lives. Some deal with more, some with less, but they are always there. That hose waiting to trip you on the sidewalk has been there for a month. But in the days before a race, ESS makes that hose look like a military obstacle course.

Unfortunately, I've found no treatment for ESS. Just like tapering, it happens. There's no way I have found to conquer the sudden change in mental state. No medications, no therapy, no treatment. You just have to deal with it and push through. It's just part of training.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Treg loper

I'll be using the #tregloper tag on my tweets between now and my 50k. Maybe longer. But the real reason for this post is because of my mother. It seems she wants a picture of her son. Specifically, her son's haircut. Because I told her what I did this past weekend. Because my wife blabbed.

Not that I was keeping it a secret or anything. In fact, it's rather difficult to keep it a secret. Hell, I got stares left and right everywhere I went this weekend. I got a few comments about losing a bet (including from my barber). My barber even asked if my wife knew what I was doing when I went in for my do. Amazingly she not only approved, she even gave me the green light to allow William the same should he want to be like dad (he declined).

The real reason for the new style is to do something wild. Something that will keep me sane while I struggle through my taper. Something so shocking that those working the aid stations will remember me as I pass through. Oh, did I mention that I'm getting it dyed bright orange next week? Yeah. I'm going for that level of shocking.

So here you have it. My new haircut. And yes, I know my head looks a bit pink. I'm working on my tan and got a bit too carried away yesterday.

PS - That's all you get to see for now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mid Year Review

No, not the dreaded mid-year review you get at work. I'm talking about a mid-year review of my running goals. Or just goals period. What ever you want to call it, I think it's time to review and reassess where I stand and what I want to accomplish. You can see my original list of goals here. Updates below are in Red.

My running goals included:
  • run 1 marathon (already registered for Richmond in November) - Still the only full marathon I have on my calendar.
  • run 2 half marathons (already registered for DRHT half in February, MCHH in May, and Williamsburg half in May) - Done. And then some. Ran the DRHT Half, the MCHH, and the Williamsburg Half. I also have the VA Runner Half in December that I'll run. I also have several 13 mile+ training runs that I've finished.
  • run 1 sprint triathlon (this will likely be in February) - Nope. Not going to happen. Triathlons are officially off my radar.
  • run 1 50k ultra marathon (this will be the DRHT 50k in August) - Just a few weeks away!
  • run 35 miles by my 35th birthday (October 3rd) (this is my #run35 and #tregløper project) - Not sure about this. The fundraising portion isn't going to work and the whole 35 mile run may not work since I'm on a wait list for a 100k the week after.
  • raise money for the Friends of the DRHT (Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail) - Seriously slacking on this but I have been volunteering and attending meetings.
  • run on the DRHT (or any trail) once a week - Pretty good on this. Maybe 80% completion.
  • set a half marathon PR (2:35:06 set on 12/12/2010) - Did this twice. My trail half time was 2:33:35. My MCHH time was 2:30:55. Sweet!
  • set a 50k PR (8:42:52 set on 8/8/2010) - Hopefully this will still happen.
  • lose 5 pounds (231 pounds on 12/22/2010) - Really struggling with this. My food consumption hasn't changed too much.
Other goals included:Link
  • improve core strength - Thanks to my trainer, I'm doing well.
  • run more on trails and uneven surfaces - About once a week I'll hit the trails.
  • avoid the treadmill at all costs - Going strong!
  • shop for and maybe buy a road bike (assuming triathlons are in the mix for 2012) - Nope. All triathlon stuff is gone, so no new bike.
  • do more stability/balance work - Again, thanks to my trainer, I'm doing well.
  • adhere to the cross-training in my training plan instead of sleeping in - Once again, the trainer has been helping. I still slack on doing some of the cross-training on my own, but I'm still hovering around 60% on that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tip Tap Taper

I hate the taper.

It leaves me feeling weak and slow. It's purpose is to rest your body before the big race. The big race may be a 5k or a 100k. For me, it's my second ultramarathon. My second 50k. My second time running the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail race. I ran it last year and finished. Last. But I finished. My pacing was way off. My training was way off. My respect for the distance was completely missing.

So this year I took things more seriously. I hired a personal trainer. Twice. I trained with higher mileage. Both longer runs and more miles per week. I've done well so far but I fear I've over-trained a bit. My left calf has been bugging me for weeks now and I'm starting to get nervous. I have roughly 3 weeks left to prep for my race and I've bitten the bullet to begin my taper.

And I hate it.

But I'm hoping the extra rest will heal my calf and heal my mind a bit. I'll continue to run during my taper but will ease off my LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs and ease off my overall mileage. Right now it sucks. I hate it. I want to go run. I have trails I want to explore, I have routes I want to test, I have fuel and fluids that need to be worked out. Instead I'm stuffed inside. At least I'm missing a lot of the heat.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to prep for my 50k. Mapping out the route. Planning my drop bag. Doling out my fuel and fluid needs. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Run For The Dream Half Marathon

I'll warn all the readers up front, this will not only be a detailed review of the entire race weekend, but it will also be long-winded and potentially graphic.

Friday morning was spent paying my debts. In other words, I had to clean the bathrooms before I could go out to play. Once that was done, I packed up my gear, loaded the car, and went on my merry way. About an hour or two down the road, I realized I had forgotten my gels. Feeling like a dunce, I nearly turned around but decided to just go with the flow and pick up some gels at REI, the race expo, or a local running store.

As I headed south towards Williamsburg, I made a pit stop in Richmond to shop at REI. I think the biggest think I don't like about the company is they don't have a store close enough for me to shop there more often. But then again, that probably saves me some money. Needless to say, it was very difficult to NOT buy all sorts of little gadgets and equipment while I was there. I stuck with what I originally went for, another Amphipod hand held bottle. Amphipod is currently my default bottle now when running. Mostly because it's lid is easy to take on and off. I'm still not 100% satisfied with it, but it's the best I've found out there (and yes, I tried the others that REI had and didn't much like any of them).

After REI, I made another stop at Panera for lunch, then headed to Williamsburg. Check-in at the hotel was 4 pm so I cruised around a bit before parking in the Visitor Center lot. They were having a car show so I walked through on my way to the race expo. Nothing too exciting to see since most were street rod customs.

The race expo was a serious disappointment. I know this is the first year for the race and I can only compare this expo to the Marine Corps Historic Half (MCHH) expo from this year and last year. Both MCHH expos were quite large, although this year felt smaller for some reason. The Race For The Dream (RFTD) expo was exponentially smaller than expected. As in maybe ten vendors. At most ten vendors. And the area reserved for the expo was just as large as the area reserved for packet pick-up and race information. Yeah, small. But I got a Fuel Belt pouch for my wife and the gels I'd need for the race as well as all the other goodies I could manage to scrounge.

I went back to my car to paw through my freebies and discovered I didn't get my Colonial Williamsburg ticket as promised. So I headed back over to the expo, got my ticket, and signed up for the shuttle that would take us to the starting line. By the time I finished I was able to check into my hotel room. I unloaded all my junk and headed to the Market Square area to find some grub. The desk clerk at the hotel suggested the Retro's Good Eats as a good place for a burger and fries. Turns out, it was the best meal I had while I was there.

After dinner, I went back to my room and chilled out. There wasn't much to see in the historic area since nearly everything shuts down at 5 or 6 pm. But the crowds were light so that gave it a nice atmosphere. The downside was my hotel room wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. Granted, it was one of the preferred hotels for the race, but I was hoping for a bit higher class. Guess I should have opted for the other hotel that cost more.

That's not to say the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel wasn't a nice place because it was. It just wasn't as fancy as I wanted it to be. The beds were okay, the sheets were clean, the bathroom was clean, and the customer service was great. They even let me stay an hour after check-out just so I could shower after my race. But the room wasn't terribly fancy. So I guess staying on a budget meant nothing fancy. Including just basic cable on TV and hardly any open plugs to charge your cell phone. Nothing fancy also meant a shower curtain that took a shower with you unless you pushed it outside of the tub to drip water on the floor. But there were no roaches or bugs and the A/C worked and everything looked clean.

Saturday morning I woke up early to head out for a run before cheering on those running in the 8k race. So I made it up and out the door super-early and managed to find a very nice trail to run on. My only issue with the trail was that it was well hidden and I took the wrong shoes. I didn't expect to have a dirt, single-track trail to run on so I took road shoes. Turns out I should have brought my trail shoes and gaiters. Lesson learned.

The trail itself was quite nice. Plenty of hills in both directions, steps, bridges, and nearly all single-track. Finding it is a trick though. If you can find the Williamsburg Inn, you're very close. Go to the end of Basset Hall Road and you'll see a tiny sign for the trail. It's about a mile and a half long (one way) and was a ton of fun to run on.

After my jaunt in the woods, I headed back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast before heading over to the Palace Green to cheer on the 8k runners. I knew a few of the people running so it was nice to ring the cowbell and take some pictures as they went by. And if you don't know about Steve Speirs and his running exploits, you need to. He's a pretty damn amazing athlete and has inspired me to think about doing some crazy stuff. Imagine running a seriously fast race just two weeks after a 24 hour ultra.

After watching them go by I hoofed it to the finish line and got to catch the finish. This was also the Masters race so a ton of the top finishers were over 40. Astounding. I got to meet some new people from DailyMile which was awesome. From there, I went back to the hotel to drop off the cowbell before meandering around the historic section of town again. Managed to see a few things here and there but nothing terribly exciting. I think if they did more living history stuff I might enjoy it more.

There was a smallish parade of sorts which was a Call to Arms I think. Basically a bunch of fife and drum crews came from across the country and Canada and marched down the street. It was a lot of fun to listen to and watch but a lot of people kept jumping out to take there pictures, thus blocking my view. And there were no bagpipes. I like bagpipes.

Lots of walking later, I grabbed some lunch at Seasons Restaurant which was just okay. The burger there was bigger and more expensive than the one at Retros but not as good. Then it was back to the hotel for a nap. Getting up so damn early plus all that walking took a toll on me. Once I got up I poked around a bit in the hotel room before heading to breakfast. I was going to stay close to the hotel and eat at Huzzah Pizza until I saw there menu. Just pizza. Boring.

So I managed to grab a spot at the bar at the Blue Talon Bistro. It was decent food but a bit overpriced. Not as overpriced as Trellis (which was $20 to $50 a plate) but enough to make it more worth while to go back to Retros. Seeing a trend? Yeah. Next door was Baskin-Robbins so I splurged and had a milk shake. Then it was back to the room for some sleep.

Race day. I rarely sleep well the night before a race and this race was no different. So getting up early didn't really matter much at this point. I took a shower and grabbed a couple of bananas and coffee before heading to the shuttle. I learned a valuable lesson here, don't eat two bananas before a race. It doesn't agree with the stomach and I should have known that. Luckily the eggs weren't ready yet or things may have been worse.

Heading to the shuttle, I realized it wasn't where I thought it would be. Instead of leaving from the normal shuttle spot, it left from the group drop off area in the parking lot. I was afraid I'd be late for my scheduled shuttle but they didn't bother checking your wrist bands at this early in the day there were plenty of spots on the bus.

During our ride to the start line, the driver told us where to pick up the bus going back. Then he dropped us off a good two or three blocks from the start line. I was thinking we'd be closer but after I thought about it a bit, it was just like they do at the MCHH. I walked over to the start area and meandered around a bit. Met another person from DailyMile and made several trips to the bathroom thanks to my two bananas.

The runners were led into the starting corral (which was labeled and organized based on your bib number - fast runners up front, slower runners in the rear) by a fife and drum corps. We listened to the announcements, heard the starting horn, and were on our way. The first two miles or so went through the historic district which was nice. You were still fresh and had plenty of time to look around. Thankfully there was a bathroom at the end of mile one (thanks again to the bananas) and thankfully that was the end of my GI issues. You can read a full race report here.

After the race, I promptly headed through the finish area, the after-race party, and made a bee-line to the bus back to the Visitor Center. The best part of the after-race party was the chocolate milk. Awesomeness. And everyone was super-polite and great at cheering for you well after you finished. But the bus wasn't coming as quickly as I wanted and there was a huge line, so I walked (and jogged a bit) back to the hotel. I asked politely (and was granted) a few extra minutes to shower after the race so I could smell nice as I drove home.

The drive home was long. Way long. Like I just wanted to stay in the cold shower and put my legs up. And maybe take a nap. And maybe take another cold shower. It was so damn hot. Thankfully the race had aid stations every two miles or so with water and Gatorade but both liquids were rarely as cold as you wanted and some of the aid station workers were surprised when I'd show up and want my hand held bottle refilled. I was also surprised that they had no fuel of any sort on the course. No pretzels, no gels, nothing. The course was very well marked though and the course marshals were great. Finishing in the stadium was awesome. It felt great to cruise through the finish with people cheering you on in the stadium.

Bottom Line
Overall, this was a decent race. Not great, but by no means horrible. I went into this really unprepared but survived. Running the MCHH the week before took a lot out of me but the worst part was not knowing about all the hills and getting over heated on the course. There's only so many variables you can control in a race and the rest is just something to deal with. There were some things I wish that were done better, some things that were awesome, and everything else was just fine.

I haven't decided if I'm going to run this next year. My thinking right now is that running the 8k race is the better thing to do so you have plenty of time to walk around and sight see for the rest of the weekend. But I think I'll reserve my final decision for when it's closer to race day.