Monday, October 29, 2007

Double Header

For most runners, I doubt it's any big deal to hit the pavement two days in a row. Even 3,4,5,6 or more days straight. For me, it's not very common. I tend to follow a run one day, rest the next day, run the next, rest, etc. pattern. Typically, I only run 3 days a week. There are a couple of reasons for this but it all boils down to the fact that I don't have enough time in the day (or week) to spend running 5 or 6 nights as much as I might want to. So, three nights a week is pretty typical.

With the Disney Goofy Challenge looming, I figure I need to get the ol' legs in condition to handle the pounding they are going to take. This was my first of several planned back to back weekend days of running. Only 6 miles (Saturday) and 9.5 miles (Sunday) but I wanted to start slow lest we have any problems with the groin or hamstring - both of which are still reminding me that they didn't enjoy the Chicago Marathon!

Overall, I would say it was a success. I felt pretty good. I could feel the aforementioned muscles groups starting to tighten up by the end of my 9+ miler on Sunday but, considering that is the farthest I've run since Chicago, I was okay with that.

I'm looking to get a copy of Run Less, Run Faster soon. From what I've heard of this study, it sounds like a fit with my own training technique. I'd love to see an "official" study backing it up. As I mentioned, I only run 3 days a week. Due to this, I tend to push a bit harder figuring my schedule contains a lot of down time to rest fatigued muscles as it is. Frankly, this "philosophy" - if you want to call it that - has come about purely by accident through my schedule and my own simmering competitive need to run to a level which satisfies me. When I first started marathon training, I felt like I was wasting training days by going at a pace a minute or more slower than my typical comfortably hard pace. Of course, I know there are multiple running coaches out there just waiting to correct me on this mistake in my training plan but, for me, it's what I mentally need.

So, it would be neat to see what this new book says. Running less but running faster sounds to good to be true.

The plan going forward is to do back to back weekend runs with steadily increasing mileage about every 3rd week through December. I think that'll be enough preparation.

After all, I'd hate to be pulled from the marathon course by a paramedic wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Official

I don't know why I had been waiting to register for Boston. Registration opened in early September. I think I was waiting to see how I did at Chicago this year. If I BQ'ed again, I would have had the option of Boston in either 2008 or 2009. This would have afforded me some wiggle room if I just couldn't make it next spring. As we know, that didn't happen.

So, why wait? If this last marathon taught me anything, it's that you can never predict what is going to happen on race day. I shouldn't pass by the opportunity and assume it's going to happen again. It may not.

Let's get busy living:

Dear (ME) ,
This is to notify you that your entry into the 112th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2008 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.
We look forward to seeing you in April! Best of luck in your training!
Boston Athletic Association
I'm in...pending the ominous "provided the information you submitted is accurate" statement.
Disney Goofy Challenge and then Boston. My dance card is full for awhile.
Happy trails.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


This is the bookend post for the Chicago Marathon. End of sentence. End of discussion. Time to move on.

Mentally, I'm already on to my next race. But I said I'd have one more Chicago post and I'm a man of my word...

We've all discussed the situation ad nauseum. These are my final thoughts from the event:
  1. The Chicago Marathon is a great race. 2007 was a fluke.
  2. Obviously, the race directors weren't prepared for the heat and conditions. I have no idea what goes into race planning for this type of event but to say runners shouldn't have taken multiple waters at each station is ridiculous. This should have been an obvious (and predictable) reaction by runners in the heat. No excuses, please.
  3. Race directors all over the world just got a reality check about what can happen when you assume things are going to happen....and then they don't. This should be a good lesson and will benefit all races (and thus, us) in the future. Plan for the worst. Not the expected.
  4. Ending the race was the right call. The worst thing you can do is continue with a failed strategy once it has become clear it's not working (no political commentary here. I'm still talking about the race people!).
  5. I hold no grudge. Easy for me as I had water o'plenty and was able to finish. But I hear the issues and complaints and am sensitive to them. I don't think the race directors wanted or desired this result. I think they care very deeply about their race. I don't think something like this will ever happen again. I suspect they got trapped into thinking they could out guess Mother Nature and were burned. A human error. I make them all the time. If they don't learn from it, well, that's a problem then. I'm willing to bet the lesson was learned. Hard.
  6. The Chicago Marathon is still a great race! I'll be back one day. 2007 is chocked full of memories.

Okay, turning the page....

I'm busy making my plans for the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend now. I have 12 weeks to train after taking a week off from running. Normally, I follow the slow, elongated 18 week training plans. I'll be jumping into this with both feet 1/3 through the plan then.

For me, this will be a Fun Run (I know those words sting in light of recent events but, hey, we turned the page right? Let's reclaim the true meaning of those words!). Time does not matter. I need to be able to hump around the theme parks after the races with the kids so I will not be killing myself in the races. I may even stop to take a few pictures along the way this time.

I am signed up for the Goofy Challenge. This means I have a half marathon on Saturday, January 12th and the full marathon on Sunday, January 13th. I'll need to incorporate some back-to-back running days in my training. This is something I normally never do.

I'm looking forward to it.

Happy trails.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Marathon in Pictures

We're off! (Me = navy blue shirt , left of center - Perry the Joggler directly behind me in red shirt)

Feelin' good...7:15 ish pace and still happy. Steers salute!

Still running fine here...

Getting a little hot....

Halfway @ 1:36:09...but something is not right!?

Who am I kidding? I saw the camera and pretended to run. Legs are all knotted up below the knee by this time.

Final stretch on Columbus. D'oh! Leg cramps!

I guess I'll have to walk a bit.

Made a slight jog/shuffle even!

Reunite with the wife (sporting her Nitmos #1 fan shirt, of course)

Reunite with Mike and a joint Steers salute! Why we choose to wear navy blue on a sunny 90 degree day remains an open mystery.

Thanks to my wife Jill, Fun Guv and Marathon Foto for the visual aids.

I think one more post wrapping up Chicago ought to do it.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TC Connection

In the days since the Chicago Marathon, I've come to learn that the runner that died due to a heart ailment (and heat, in my opinion) was originally from my hometown, Traverse City, MI, prior to becoming a police officer in Midland, MI. In fact, I've now learned that this man graduated from the same high school and the same graduating class as me. The class of 1989.

I checked my yearbook last night. Sure enough, there he is. I can't say as I knew him. It's a large high school - one of the biggest in Michigan at the time - so it's not unusual to be unacquainted with fellow classmates. I recognized the picture though.

Weird. What a small world.

I've been considering the idea of getting a full blown physical for awhile now. I can't say that I've really ever had a complete one before. I'm not sure if heart ailments - like the one that struck the Chicago runner - could be discovered during a routine physical though. In any case since we engage in a sport that demands a lot physically, it might be time to check into getting myself Checked Out. Why not?

That's the least I can do for my wife and kids.

This hit a little too close to home. Literally.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Tale of Two (Half) Marathons

Or, Marathon Hell.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. This is my 2007 Chicago Marathon experience. Heavy emphasis on worst of times.

In a word: Surreal.

My time? Pathetic.

Am I disappointed? Only a little in that you always want to have a pleasant experience after so much work and effort to get to the starting line. It was not in the cards on Sunday. I'm very happy to have finished though. It was a crazy day. There were times I thought I'd have to leave the course.

In the matter of one mile, I went from debating whether or not I should keep my 7:20 pace for another mile or so to Will I Be Able To Finish?

But I'm getting ahead....

The gory statistics:

Chip Time: 4:18:12
Pace: 9:50

First Half time: 1:36:09 ( 7:20 pace)
Second Half Time: 2:42:03!! (12:20 pace?!)

You can see where the problems started.

The Start

I started in corral B and, let me tell you, it was nice to be so close to the starting mat. I crossed a short 90 seconds after the gun and was able to lapse into pace right off the bat. I even ran much of the first mile near The Joggler guy (the dude that juggles during the whole marathon). That was neat to see him work.

Miles 1-9

I was moving pretty good here staying around a 7:12 pace. I felt the heat. There was a point around the mile 5-6 range where it seemed like I really needed a water station and one never came. It might have been mental just due to the heat and crowd but it did get to me a bit. Though I was right on my goal pace through the first 1/3 of the marathon, I knew in the back of my head that this was going to be no PR race for me. The heat was already dragging me down a bit. I took in the sights of North Chicago...the fans...the buildings...I really tried to see everything this year. Last year, I didn't even look up. At 15k, I was at 1:07:15 (7:12 pace). On pace!

Miles 10-13.1

I noticed something "not right" happening during these miles. I was really starting to wear down quickly. I think some dehydration was setting in. I pulled back on my pace a bit and tried to just keep moving. Even though I really wanted to stop and walk a bit, I kept pleading with myself to make it across the half marathon mark before taking a walking break. I was taking fluids at every aid station but, in hindsight, probably not enough to replenish what I was losing from the sweat just running off of me in buckets. By the time I crossed the half mat, my leg muscles were starting to twitch a bit and were feeling very heavy. At the half-marathon, 1:36:09 (7:20 pace). I wanted a 1:35 at this point but, considering the conditions, I was still alright with this time.

So here I am at the half marathon mark, unknowingly dehydrated, sensing something is not right but unable to really do anything about it other than take in extra helpings of fluids at every aid station. I've never experienced a race dehydration or cramping situation - even in training - so what happened next was a complete first for me.

Miles 14-15

I started cramping in my left calve just below the back of the knee shortly past the half mark. A knot developed that caused me to kick my leg out to the side and I immediately stop running to work it out. I walked a bit and ran some more. Another 1/4 and the cramp returned. I dramatically slowed my pace. At this point, I knew I was in for some trouble but wanted to just get to the finish no matter how long it took. PR's, a second BQ were out the window. Maybe still beat my 3:36 Chicago time from last year? Maybe! Here I was walking to mile marker 14 after knocking out my goal times for the previous 13 miles. Despair! Helplessness! I was still able to run a bit though. Short walk breaks, longer run segments...I'll get there eventually.

Miles 16-18

It ain't happening. I can now no longer sustain a run past 20 steps. Both my left and right calves are horribly cramping whenever I go into a running gallop. I can walk though. In fact, I can power walk. No problems with cramping there but just during a running motion. Chicago PR is now gone. There is nothing left but to get to the finish line. Please don't let the cramps get so bad where I can't even walk. Every 1/4 mile or so I'd give another attempt at a run just to check things out and - BAM! - cramps, knots, general unhappiness. The legs below the knee are a mess. Looks like I'm walking to the finish now. How about that. I never would have thought this would happen. Heck, just a few miles ago I was moving through the course alright.

Miles 19-23

More power walking. I'm amazed that I can really move the legs fast while walking but absolutely cannot get into a run without the cramps returning. I think I can finish now. Thankfully, the cramps aren't hitting during the walking stride. A slow tour of the Mexican Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. Interesting. I didn't get to take these in last year but I sure got a look at them this time. I'm slamming Gatorade and 2 waters at every station, eating bananas, and taking anything anyone was handing out. I was not going to DNF. I was not going to fall over on the side of the road. I was seeing people getting medical attention all along the route now. That's enough to keep you sane, realistic, and accepting of food and hydration. Somewhere in here I recorded a 5k time of around 45 minutes! Well, there's a first for everything right?

Mile 24

Another attempt at a run leaves me with a bulging right groin after just 3 steps. How about that? It's actually protruding an inch. Another new experience. I guess I'll continue power walking. The legs are shot.

Mile 25-26

Yep, more power walking. Of course, I'm envious of those still running and looking reasonably fresh all things considered. More power to them. All around me I see people wearing 3:20 pace team bibs. I'm not the only one struggling. As Mike pointed out, it was Night of the Living Dead as there was a veritable zombie march coming down Michigan Ave trying to get to the finish. Various temperatures on store fronts read between 92 and 98 degrees. Last year I saw people walking and pulling off at this point of the course as I ran by and I wondered what it would feel like to be so close but unable to run. Now I know. Except, I had been walking for much of the past 10 miles.

Right at the 26 mile sign, I heard a police officer on a bullhorn imploring people to stop running and to please walk to the finish. I didn't know what that was all about. I learned after finishing that they had already closed the race and were re-routing people to the finish as quickly as possible. At the 26 mile marker, try telling people who just went through hell to walk to the finish. People were starting to run as fast as they could now. I tried on Randolph St. I couldn't.

The Finish

Coming down Columbus to the finish, I was both thrilled and disappointed. It is a long, freakin' way to walk 10 miles. Much easier to run it I think. I was thrilled to be done but very disappointed that this was how it turned out. I tried to run again at the 200 meter mark. More cramps and knots aborted it again. At the 100 meter mark, I did in fact manage to run across the finishers mat. A small accomplishment in a disastrous second half of the race. I earned that medal, I thought.

Despite my time, I think my feeling of accomplishment still overwhelms my sense of disappointment. That was a race so far out of the norm that time, records, and other goals had to go out the window. I am envious of those who ran a smarter race and were still able to come close to their goals. I feel for those who were unable to finish. I think, however, that the circumstances of this particular race should not leave anyone feeling disappointed in their own efforts. How can you properly prepare for something like this? I could have done better with early race pacing and hydration but you live, you learn.

I had a great weekend in Chicago nonetheless and the experience taught me a lot. I have many interesting memories and stories attached to that finisher's medal.

Of course, the overall feeling of the day has to be one of sadness for the individual who died and the others left in critical condition. It's so wrong to have that attached to an event that should be uplifting and empowering. A tragedy.

What an experience. Standing so bright eyed and and anxious at the starting line, I had no idea what the next 4+ hours would hold. It was not what I was expecting.

More to come.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Big Dance

...with the Devil?
Nah, I hold no animosity against the marathon course. In fact, I think the marathon wants us to complete it. It just wants to make you earn it first.
I think of Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore imploring the golf ball to drop into the hole. It's your home. Go home. It's our course. Run it well. Get to the finish line!!

I'm locked and loaded for the Chicago Marathon. One more short 4 mile warm-up tomorrow night and it's rest, relax, fuel up, and explode onto the streets of Chicago!

I'm looking forward to the expo. Maybe I'll try and corral Hal Higdon and Dean Karnazes into a photo. I'm sure no one else will be trying to do this right?

This will be my third marathon. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Somehow, I feel free from the pressure I experienced with the first two. Maybe because I no longer lack confidence in handling the distance? I know I can run 26.2 miles. The only question now is how fast?

Over these last few years, I've made a complete transformation from a part-time runner trying to stay in shape for basketball season to a full blown marathoner with little time or desire for hoops anymore. In effect, I'm my own Happy Gilmore (of course, his was hockey to golf).

I may or may not see any fellow bloggers out on the course. I wish for all of you a terrific race! I continue to enjoy the benefits of our shared experiences though and look forward to reading your race reports next week.

See you Friday, Mike, for our drive to Chicago.

Good Luck Chicago Marathoners!

Next post: 2007 Chicago Marathon Race Report

As always, a special thanks to the wife and family for continuing to support my "habit".

Happy trails to you.

Now let's kick some ass. Weather be damned.