Tuesday, 06 December 2011 17:21

Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon Race Report

Where do you start when you want to write a race report about a marathon in Vegas?  Vegas is an epic city!  Running a marathon is an epic event!  Hanging out with Beth and Emily is epic!  So much to say so let's just jump right into all of it, but not before this:


Pre-Race Friday/Saturday/Sunday We landed in Vegas on Friday morning after dealing with having to de-board our plane because of an issue with the flight attendant seat.  Not a big deal but when you are up at 4:30am to get to airport early the day gets long very fast.  When we landed in Vegas we went straight to the expo to pick up our packets and walk around and it was very enjoyable.  Dinner at Hash House A G0-Go with Karen, my brother and sister in law and back to the hotel room early because we were exhausted. Saturday Karen and I woke up early and went for a 30 minute run.  On the way out we were with the wind and it felt great, but on the turn around it was straight into the wind and slowed us down by about 1:00/mi but it felt good to shake out the legs.  We headed back to the expo to try and meet other bloggers (which I did when I ran into Beth) and what a disaster this was.  I think all 30,000+ people and their families and their extend families were there.  After about 30 minutes I told Karen that I had to go and sit away from the crowds because I had my fill of human interaction (a nice way of saying bumping and shoving.)  At that point I texted Beth (yes I have her phone number - jealous?) and said I'm ready for lunch would you like to meet.  She was kind enough to say yes and so we had lunch with Beth and her friend Erica at Otto.  Otto is a restaurant owned by Mario Battali that I had the fortune of eating at when I lived in New York and loved it.  This time around was no different as the pizza was excellent as was the salad and eggplant appetizer I ordered.  The cannoli was good but not like old school New York restaurant good. After heading to the hotel room for the remainder of the afternoon we went back down to the strip for the blogger meet up.  We had a great time meeting with Rebecca, Jeff, Matty Beal, Jessica and Coach as well as seeing Beth again (this was a mixer by the way.)  After a few hours it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up. Sunday was race day, but waking up and not heading to a start line was hard to deal with.  Lots of sitting around until around 11am when we headed to IHOP for brunch.  I ordered pancakes and eggs with dry whole wheat toast.  They messed up our order and thus we had an extra serving of pancakes.  I wound up consuming approximately 1000 calories.  I took a nap at 1pm and then after waking up at 2pm I had a smoothie, got dressed and ready to head toward the race. We took the highway to the race site as The Strip was closing at 3pm and we wanted to park as close to the start as possible.  Well as we exited there was tons of traffic and I was getting antsy.  It was around 3:30p that I jumped out of the car and headed toward Mandalay Bay to use the bathroom and then head to Corral #1. Race Standing around in Corral #1 I did my best to kill time and stay warm.  It was at this point that I turned around and lo and behold there was Emily.  A sight for sore eyes if there ever was one.  I wanted to see Emily because I needed to calm my nerves and also because who wouldn't want to meet Emily? As we stood in the Corral we laughed and chatted as if we were cousins.  Just being in her presence I felt a sense of calm come over me and I was ready to run/race.  I had kept repeating to myself:  Stick to the plan!  Stick to the plan! The plan was to run 2 miles at 7:30/mi pace and get comfortable then drop down to 7:10-7:15/mi for 5 miles then back off to 7:20/mile for 5 miles and hit the strip.  Figuring The Strip would give me a shot of adrenaline I would drop down to 7:00-7:10/mi for 10 miles and then really hit the speed button for the final 4 miles.  Stick to the plan!  Stick to the plan! As we heard the gun go off we moved slowly toward the start and then I said good-bye to Emily as started running.  It wasn't as crowded as I expected but immediately we made a left turn and so you had to slow down and navigate that turn.  This would be the first of about 150 turns in the first 13.1 miles of the race.  I had said all weekend that the first 13.1 miles of the course looked like it was designed by a 3 year old with an Etch-A-Sketch.  We made turn after turn along with 180* out and backs mixed in.  Funny thing is that in retrospect this was the better half of the full marathon. After Mile 1 I saw that I was around 7:50/mi pace but now room had cleared out and we were running.  I got down to 7:30/mi pace and held that through Mile 2.  At this point I knew I had to really drop down if I had a chance.  I sped up and after about 2 miles I caught up to the 3:15 pacer.  I mentally took note of the fact that it took me 2 miles to catch him so I should be able to catch the 3:10 pacer after another 3-4 miles.  I was running great tangents and felt strong.  I was in stride and moving very well with nothing hurting too bad.  The top of my left foot acted up again as it has for the past month or so following 70.3 Austin. It was at Mile 8 that I could feel my grip on a Boston Qualifying pace slip away.  We went up a bridge and I'm not sure what happened but I felt so slow.  I felt as if I was running in mud and that I could not get up this hill at all.  Once I crested I could feel the pull of the downhill begin to work and I caught up to the runner I had targeted my pace off of.  It had also become night time at this point as well and I was just chasing this runner. From Mile 8 to Mile 9 or so was the straightest stretch of this run and we got to experience it twice as we made a 180* turn and headed back to where we came from.  At one point you make a left and head to another 180* turn but my legs felt great and I could see the 3:15 pacer just ahead of me again and I kept pushing to stay in eyesight of him.  I thought that if I could be near him with about 7 to 8 miles to go I could make a push for a near 3:10 finish. As you are running toward The Strip the light from the Luxor was a beacon to run to.  We headed up over a bridge and then the sound from the crowd began to rise.  You knew that The Strip was right there.  We headed under a walkway and made a left turn onto the strip and the adrenaline rush took over, but that did not last long. As soon as you made that left you could see the mass of humanity and the chaos of this merging of full and half-marathoners.  A little background on this run is that the marathoners started at 4:00pm and the half-marathoners started at 5:30pm.  I ran a 1:37 half-marathon and knew that when I got to the merge (sounds like Survivor) that I would be combining with those from the first few corrals of the half-marathon or those that would be running 7:15-7:30/mi paces.  I had figured I could feed off of their speed but this was not the case. The race directors and the Rock-N-Roll organization figured that a tiny cone with even smaller areas pointing for marathoners to one side and half-marathoners to another would be a good idea.  Not so much.  As I said I figured I would be running with 7:15-7:30/mi paces but what I found were walkers on the marathon side.  This to me meant that the corrals were not policed and people just jumped in where they wanted. I fortunately got in behind a woman who was directing traffic.  By directing traffic I mean that she was yelling at everybody that the half-marathoners needed to get the (insert explicative) out of the way and run to the right.  Unfortunately they did not all listen.  At this point it was pick up the pace to get through this madhouse but at the same time I was expending energy dodging people. At one point I literally ran right over a runner because he was on the marathon side of the race and came to a complete stop to grab water.  I had no place to go and ran him over but luckily neither of us fell but this did practically stop me dead in my tracks.  Before this sounds pompous of an us (marathoners) versus them (half-marathoners) let me just say that I think this was the fault of the organizers of the race in separating the track and not of the runners.  There should have been more of a barricade between the two.  If you are going to ask how did I know who was a marathoner and not, I can tell you for sure who was because I had just spent the last 1.5 hours with the same people all running at the same pace so you knew who was a marathoner and who was not. Once you got to the first turns on the course the crowd thinned out a bit but it was still crowded.  At about Mile 18 I saw the best sight I could ever have seen.  I saw my wife and just had elation come over me.  I tapped her on the arm and she asked me quickly if I was going to do it and I shook my head that I wasn't going to qualify.  At that point my heart kind of sank as the knowledge that this wasn't happening truly set in.  I started running with Karen and fell in behind her like we do when we run together. I felt my pace slowing down considerably and with the knowledge that I was not going to get to 3:10 I almost threw in the towel and just run to the finish.  This is when the competitor in me took over.  I said to myself that my wife did not sacrifice Saturday evenings for the past month for me to just finish and I picked up my pace.  I passed her and kept on running so that she would chase me. After about 3 miles I could feel the strength in my legs begin to disappear and my pace slow down considerably.  It was at around Mile 22 that I was chicked.  I was chicked by my wife.  She passed me with ease and was looking strong.  Hoping to hang onto her heel and have her pull me I picked up my pace but I had nothing.  My body was just not cooperating anymore and I slowed down for Mile 23.  Again, the competitor took over and I told myself that I was going to negative split the last 5K of this race and I picked up the pace. It was around Mile 24 where I heard cheering for Jason.  I looked around and did not recognize anybody.  I thought how do they know my name?  Was my name on my bib and I did not notice before?  I was a little disoriented and could not figure it out until the guy next to me started to pass me and I looked at his chest and saw Jason on it. As I got closer to Mandalay Bay, which by the way always looks really close since the landscape is so flat.  Truth be told is that Mandalay Bay always looked like it was around the corner but because it was flat it never showed up until you were literally on top of it and that messed with my mind a bit.  I rounded the corner to come down the chute and wanted to kick it in but there was no 5th gear.  There was nothing, but the beauty of seeing my wife after I crossed the finish line. I fell into her arms and held her very tightly because I felt disappointed in being so far off the pace, but because of all the time invested in this attempt from her.  I also could no longer stand the pain of my foot.  I never spoke of my foot because I did not want to have any excuses for not qualifying.  And no excuses is still my mantra.  I gave this race everything I could and left it all on the course, almost more than should be left out there.  At a couple of times I burped and could feel the bile in my throat, and then there was one experience that I thought I would be the poster boy for giving it all I had when I thought I crapped my shorts. Knowing that I left it on the course made me feel like a champion.  Knowing that I crossed the finish line in 3:31 and beat my previous best marathon time by 8 minutes made me feel like a champion. Post -Race It felt like the temperature dropped 15 degrees at the moment I crossed the finish line.  I was freezing and Karen and I headed straight to gear bag pick-up.  I changed clothes and immediately began hearing the complaints of marathoners regarding the merge amongst other issues people had.  After meeting up with my brother and sister in law and sharing war stories it began a family affair of PRs.  Karen set her half-marathon PR with a time of 1:57:00 and both my sister an brother in law set automatic PRs since this was there first half-marathon.  We were all on a high until it took us two hours to get out of Mandalay Bay.  My mood picked right back up when I had a post race meal of pancakes, eggs, granola, yogurt, crepes and fruit.   Here are my mile splits:

Mile 1 7:51
Mile 2 7:36
Mile 3 7:20
Mile 4 7:05
Mile 5 7:23
Mile 6 7:20
Mile 7 7:23
Mile 8 7:43
Mile 9 7:45
Mile 10 7:31
Mile 11 7:32
Mile 12 7:36
Mile 13 7:45
Mile 14 7:22
Mile 15 7:34
Mile 16 7:34
Mile 17 7:46
Mile 18 8:05
Mile 19 8:22
Mile 20 8:37
Mile 21 8:47
Mile 22 8:57
Mile 23 9:20
Mile 24 9:45
Mile 25 9:30
Mile 26 9:24
Mile 26.2 2:08
Total 3:31:32

  Take-Away As a race this is not the place to go to try and qualify for Boston regardless of how flat it is.  I also am not 100% sure this is the race to try to set a PR.  I say that because it was disorganized and there were people all over the course.  This is the 3rd marathon I have run and I have never had the experience I had in Las Vegas.  There were people all over the place and it just felt very chaotic.  I carry my water and nutrition with me so I had no experience with this but I heard from other racers that there were water stops with little to no volunteer support.  I know that they ran out of medals as well.  The craziness of trying to leave the hotel was too much for me especially after running for 3.5 hours. I can say that from a competitive stand point I will never do this race again.  I can also say that if I wanted to go and hang out and then jog a half-marathon with friends for some good laughs that this would be a race to put on the list of maybes. Thank you for reading through this race report and again Thank You so much for your support.  I truly appreciate it and I know that you all helped carry me through the end of this race.

Published in Race Reports
[caption id="attachment_4698" align="alignright" width="272" caption="Las Vegas Marathon"]las_vegas_marathon_strip_at_night1[/caption] On December 4th I will toe the line with Emily of Run EMZ fame in an attempt to qualify for Boston.  My wife Karen, Beth of SUAR, Trish, SkibbaDoo, Jess, Beal and a whole host of others will be there as well.  This is not like any other marathon in that it starts in the evening.  The marathon starts at 4pm and if I run a Boston Qualifying time I will be done by 7:10pm.  As you can tell from this the race will start with the sun up and finish with the sun down, although I'm hoping the bright lights of the strip will make it somewhat easier on the body to think that it is still light out. Yesterday, I ran 20 miles and treated the day like race day.  I wanted to simulate what it would be like to wait all day and then run later in the evening.  I also wanted to test nutrition plans that I had read on the internet.  I wondered what would happen to me from the standpoint of the mental aspect as well as the physical aspect.  Would I be too hungry to run?  Would I be starving midway through the run?  How about when I might need to use the restroom?  So many questions to answer and I couldn't wait to get after it. In this post I am going to give you what I normally do on a long run day that takes place in the morning, what I did yesterday and what I plan on doing in my next training run for Vegas.
For my normal early morning runs I typically do the following:
1- At 8pm the night before I will eat a nut butter and jelly sandwich.
2- Wake up at 3am and have a Herbalife smoothie (~120 calories) and a cup of coffee with 20 oz of water.
3- Start running at 5am and on the run I will carry with me a 20oz water bottle that has liquified EFS liquid shot that equates to 200 calories per hour.  I drink a sip every 2 miles and it works very well for me.
4- Drink a recovery Herbalife smoothie (~240 calories) and eat a fried egg on toast ~190 calories)
For today's evening run I did the following:
1- Ate two nut butter and jelly sandwiches at 8pm the night before.
2- Woke up at 5am and had a Herbalife smoothies (~210 calories) and two cups of coffee with 20 oz of water.
3- Ate a meal at 11:15am of 2 pancakes, 1 egg, 2 slices of toast with nut butter and honey (~900 calories) with a Herbalife smoothie (~120 calories)
4- Drank about 40 oz of water through out the day.
5- Took a nap at 130p for about 45 minutes.
6- At 2:30 I drank another Herbalife smoothie (~120 calories)
7- On the ride to the run I ate a HoneyStinger waffle (160 calories) and took 3 First Endurance PreRace capsules.
8- On the run I drank my liquified EFS Liquid Shot every 2 miles.
9- Drink a recovery Herbalife smoothie (~240 calories) and eat a fried egg on toast ~190 calories)
I never felt hungry on the run but I did fell somewhat sluggish so this is what I plan to do for my next evening run:
1- Eat ONE nut butter and jelly sandwiches at 8pm the night before.
2- Wake up at 5am and had a Herbalife smoothies (~210 calories) and two cups of coffee with 20 oz of water.
3- Eat a meal at 10:00am of 2 pancakes, 1 egg, 2 slices of toast (~750 calories) with a Herbalife smoothie (~120 calories)
4- Drink about 60 oz of water through out the day.
5- Take a nap at 130p for about 45 minutes.
6- At 2:30 drink another Herbalife smoothie (~120 calories)
7- On the ride to the run I at a HoneyStinger waffle (160 calories) and took 3 First Endurance PreRace capsules.
8- On the run drink liquified EFS Liquid Shot every 2 miles.
9- Drink a recovery Herbalife smoothie (~240 calories) and eat a fried egg on toast ~190 calories)

As you can see I plan on eating an hour earlier so that my body has time to process the food before I go out on the run.  It was at the 2 hour mark that I had to use the porto-potty but up until that 2 hour mark I kept thinking about when I might have to go.  I was a battle of wills between my mind and my body on when this would occur and I think that pulled some energy from me.

In addition to making adjustments for my nutrition plan there was the situation with the time of day and the tricks on the mind.  The sun goes down much faster than it rises so that took me by surprise and played mind tricks on me.  As soon as the sun went down my pace slowed by nearly 30 seconds per mile.  It was as if the darkness pulled the energy right out of me but my legs felt great and my body was fine but mentally it zapped me and I was not prepared for that.

I would suggest that you bring a light with you or a neon bracelet or something to keep the light going so that your mind doesn't play tricks on you.  I also wore arm sleeves and they were necessary as the temps dropped about 5-6 degrees once the sun went down and the wind picked up a bit.

So I will try my new plan next weekend or maybe during the week to see what changes need to be made after that and keep going until 12/4 rolls around.

Have You Ever Run An Evening Race?  What Did You Do To Make It Successful?

Published in Train
[caption id="attachment_4735" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Crossing the finish line is a an accomplishment"]marathon_finish_chute[/caption] Today I will be heading out at 3pm to start a 22 mile training run.  I have a goal of running the 22 miles at around 8:00/mile.  Two weeks ago I ran 18 in 7:51/mi and last week I ran 20 in 8:40/mi.  The difference I believe can be answered by the fact that last week was my first attempt to go out in the late afternoon / early evening to do a long run.  The Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon starts at 4pm and thus why I am running later in the day. My entire training world has flipped upside down with this late start and I am having a difficult time getting used to it.  On mid-week runs I have gone out later in the day, to once again simulate the late start and my runs have not been great.  Yes, the weather here in Texas has been a little like Cybill in not wanting to figure out which season it wants to be.  For the past two days we have had Fall weather with temps in the 60s and today when I start my run the temperature will be near 75*.  It is hard to gauge my ability right now since the weather in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks will most likely be colder and less humid. As I research the topic of later evening race starts I find articles about nutrition and sleep.  Things to do during the day that keep you off your feet so as not to tire your legs.  There is quite a bit of information out there but one article that I found interesting was about the 5 biggest mistakes people make while training for a marathon.  It got me thinking about the past two weeks and what the next two weeks holds for me and I wanted to share the article with you. The article appears in Competitor.com and was written by Sabrina Grotewold.  You can read the entire article [HERE] but I am going to provide you with the bullet points and provide my thoughts on my training for this marathon:

1. Overtraining & Undertraining

I believe that I am neither over-trained or under-trained.  Since Coach has switched the plan to marathon specific training my run mileage has increased, but my bike training has decreased significantly.  During triathlon season I would have mid-week rides of 2 hours plus 1 or 2 recovery rides of an hour added to a 3 to 5 hour ride on the weekend.  Now I have a 1 hour recovery ride on the weekend and maybe a 2 hour low heart-rate ride during the week.  What has not changed is the amount of swimming and for me that is great.  I need to continue to work on my stroke but swimming provides great recovery for the legs since they are not pounding he pavement.

2. Completing Long Runs Too Fast

I have seen the research and read all the coach's stories about how training at a slower pace than race pace is what is needed to race fast.  I started my endurance career following this theory and it led me to a 4:29 marathon the first time I ran one.  The second time I ran a marathon I ran it in 3:39.  That second marathon included running long runs faster than I had previously.  Recently I ran a training half-marathon 'race' at a pace of 7:31/mi and this was only two weeks after racing 70.3 Austin.  Today I want to run at 8:00/mi which is 45 seconds slower than marathon race pace compared to the 2:00/mi slower pace most recommend.  For me it is about finding out what I can tolerate so that when I run 7:15/mi on race day my body knows what it has to do.

3. Experimenting On Race Day

We all know this and yet I read race reports about how the person tested this out or tried something new.  For me the race should be boring for you in terms of what you are going to do.  You have a race plan, you have eaten the same thing, you have worn the same gear and everything else is the same on race day as it is on your long run training days.  Today I am executing a nutrition plan to bring with me to Vegas and I plan on having December 4th be exactly the same as November 19th in terms of food.  Why would you throw all those hours of training out the window by putting on a new hat that all of a sudden itches?  Why ignore your training to test out that new flavor of GU or Gel at Mile 22?  Makes no sense to me so stick to what you know and don't change a thing. [caption id="attachment_4736" align="alignright" width="256" caption="Creating A Plan and Sticking To It Will Get You To The FInish Line"]marathon_running_pace_finish[/caption]

4. Going Out Too Fast

Just like #3 we all know #4 and yet again I read race report after race report that the person went out to fast.  Some can hang on but for the most part the race falls apart for them at the end.  For me this falls to planning.  Create a plan and stick to it.  For the Dallas Running Club Half-Marathon I ran I had a plan to run 7:45s for 5 miles, 7:30s for 5 miles and then hopefully sub-7s for the final 5k.  The first 6 miles I was around 7:35/mi then was able to drop down to 7:30/mi and when I want to run those sub-7s I was only able to get down to 7:20/mi.  Had I stuck to 7:45/mi I might have been able to get down to sub-7s, but in the end I had a plan and I stuck to it.  I did not say to myself in the first 5 miles that those 7:35/mi paces were easy and I should drop at Mile 3 down.  Instead I stayed steady and was able to lower my paces along the way.

5. Placing Too Much Emphasis On Time

I am torn on this being considered a mistake.  I have a goal of qualifying for Boston and for that I need to run a 3:10 marathon.  So am I placing too much emphasis on this goal?  I don't think so because if I don't make it I'm just one of a gazillion (yes that is a real number go google it) that didn't make the time needed and thus will fuel my fire to accomplish that goal. That being said I also understand that when people don't reach that time they consider the day a failure and unfortunately that is just not true.  Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment in itself.  There are so many variables that go into these events that are out of our control and we just have to accept what the day gives us.  Being prepared to overcome those obstacles is just as important as your finishing time.  You can take the lessons learned from that particular race and apply it to the next race because there will be one.

What Are Some Mistakes You Have Made During Training For A Marathon?

Published in Train
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 11:14

That Course Was Long

[caption id="attachment_4643" align="alignright" width="231" caption="Source: Wikipedia"]jones_oerth_coutner_course_certification[/caption] On Sunday I ran the Dallas Running Club Half-Marathon and my watch when I was finished read 13.13 miles.  Extremely accurate I would say, wouldn't you?  When I was done I stayed by the finish line to wait for Karen to finish.  As I was waiting I heard runner after runner say that the course was long. I heard: That course was long.  I have 13.24 what do you have? I heard: Man I would have been faster if the course was not so long.  A 13.28 mile half-marathon? I heard:  Who measures these courses?  Seriously every one I have run was long and this was 13.22 miles....... Let's first start out by saying courses are certified by a governing body and thus are not long or short by the discrepancy that your watch is showing.  Why would a race director sell a 13.1 run and then make it 13.28?  What do they gain from that? So let's discuss running the tangents.  When you run the tangents you run the straightest line there is so you remove discrepancies from a course.  How about the fact that you are running side to side to avoid the people in front of you?  That adds the distance to your run. How about the fact that GPS units use a triangulation to 'guess' where you are at.  They don't pinpoint your exact spot and follow you.  It guesstimates where you are at over the course of that run or ride and gives you a distance that you travelled. Karen and I were discussing this yesterday because her watch showed she ran 13.24 miles and I told her that I ran the same exact course and the course measured out to 13.13 so how could she have run a 13.24 half-marathon?  It created a bit of a discussion in our house to say the least.  I gave her all the reasons above but remembered reading about how courses are measured and wanted to show that courses are neither long or short and are accurate to within 1/100th of a mile.  Very accurate wouldn't you say? You can read the entire article here, but here are the highlights from my perspective: ==================== The preferred method of measuring a course is with the "Jones-Oerth" counter attached to the front wheel of a bicycle. The counter is then calibrated over a surveyed or steel-taped 1000' calibration course. My bike and counter registers over 18,000 "counts" per mile (a counter registers different totals depending on tire size). That is just over 3 inches per "count", producing pretty good accuracy. When calculating the measurement factor for the bike counter, a "Short Course Prevention Factor" 1/10 of 1% is included in the calibration constant. This Factor gives a course that is very slightly long, adding a perceived 5 meters over a 5K. Yet, much of that can be "eaten up" by the rider swerving to avoid a pothole or a vehicle, or in doing a first time measurement. When a course is measured for certification, it is done along the "Shortest Possible Route" (SPR) that a runner can take. That is, the route is measured along the line of sight a runner has, cutting all tagents and crossing corner to corner. If a course is to be restricted in any way in meauring (such as staying to the right of the road or going wide around a turn, there will need to be monitors, fences, or cones to do so. Anyone reading this article has probably seen that you can't rely on runners to stay in the breakdown lane, or to run where they should if it is not monitored. ==================== [caption id="attachment_4645" align="alignright" width="237" caption="Source: USATF"]jones_oerth_counter[/caption]

In a nutshell, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Set up a calibration course on a flat, straight road. Once laid out and marked, this standard calibration course can be used at any time in the future. It is best set out on a lightly traveled road.
  2. Attach the counter and calibrate the bike. Every bike wheel will calibrates differently. Even changes in temperature during the day can change the constant several counts per mile.
  3. Ride the course at least twice. Use the longer of the two rides as the final ride. The rides must be within .00008 of the distance of each other, or a third ride is needed. While it may sound like a difficult precision to attain, experienced measurer s routinely have their two rides match to within 10 counts or less (about 30") even over courses 10K and longer.
  4. Recalibrate the bicycle following the measurements to be sure the constant has not changed. A change in temperature or air pressure can change the constant. Adjust the course if needed.
  5. Complete the application and draw a detailed map to accompany the paperwork. The map should allow a total stranger (or a new race director) to set up the start, finish, and race course.
  6. Send this paperwork to the certifier postmarked no later than race day, and preferably earlier. Courses cannot be retroactively certified after the date of the race.
With this tool measuring a course can we all put to bed the idea that a course was long or short?  Can we just say that we did not run the most efficient race we could have?  At 70.3 Austin I swam the 1.2 mile course in 40:08 which was 29 seconds faster than my time at 70.3 Oceanside but about 5-6 minutes slower than I had anticipated.  Guess how many miles I swam that day?  You are correct if you guessed 1.4 miles.  Now this is the perfect example of not swimming a straight line.  I had to pass people and I sometimes swam around them.  Other times (most of the time) I was not sighting well and thus was all over the swim course.  I did not get out of the water and say that the RDs created a long swim but instead took my medicine for not swimming a straight line.

Did You Know About The Jones-Oerth Counter?

Published in Race
Sunday November 6th was the date of the Dallas Running Club Half-Marathon and just a short two weeks after having raced 70.3 Austin.  In between the Half-Ironman and Half-Marathon I completed the following training:
  1. 18 mile run at a 7:51/mi pace.
  2. 13.1 mile run at 7:36/mi pace.
  3. Cycled for 1.5 hours and covered nearly 37 miles at a 17.5 mph pace with the second half into a dead headwind.
  4. Over 5,000 yards of swimming
That is just the big days of training as I prepare my mind and body for a run at a Boston Qualifying time at Rock N Roll Las Vegas.  Needless to say the legs are tired and Coach and I discussed this not being a true A race so we didn't worry about taper and were using it as a training day for that December 4th marathon.
That being said I had a very good day at the office and following is my race report for my 3rd run at the Dallas Running Club Half-Marathon.
[caption id="attachment_4638" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Flashing the bling after the race"]karen-Jason-DRC-halfmarathon-race-report[/caption]
The alarm went off at 2:48 and I was up and ready to go.  Typically I would drink a smoothie and go back to sleep before heading out to train at 5am.  Today was different though as I had a 5 mile run scheduled before the race.  Remember this was not an 'A' race and a training day.  Today's schedule called for 18 miles and I told Coach that I wanted to do them first so that once the race was over I could come home and watch football and not have to go back out for more running.
At 4:30am I set out for a 5 mile run that I wanted to run at an 8:30/mi pace.  True warm-up.  When I got home I was dripping in sweat as the humidity was high and reminded me of the summer here in Texas it was that bad.  When I checked my watch I had covered the 5 miles at a pace of 8:31/mi.  Score one for following a plan and pacing properly.
Inside the house I made a smoothie and ate a bowl of granola with a banana which is my typical pre-race breakfast.  Made a cup of coffee and we got into the car to head down to White Rock Lake.  This is a course we have run plenty of times so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.  We parked the car, walked to the event, checked our bags and got in the porto-potty line.
Longest part of the day as we spent nearly 30 minutes in line.  Fortunately waiting allowed us to see Lesley of Racing It Off fame.  A few quick hellos and I finally get into the stall take care of my business and walk to the starting line.  I gave Karen a kiss good-bye as she was going to run with the 2:10 pacers.
I walked up to the 1:40 pacers as my goal was to run a plan that was hatched earlier in the week with Greg.  A lot of people gave me great advice about what I should do to run this race.  There were those that said take it easy, those that said to run the race, others who said pay attention to heart rate and whatever pace that was stick to it.
My plan going into this race was to run those first 5 miles at 8:30/mi and I did that.  Now at the race I was going to run the first 5 miles at a pace of 7:45/mi, then the next 5 at 7:20/mi and hammer home the 5k at what I was hoping would be sub 7:00/mi pace.  I have no clue what that would have equaled in terms of overall time but I wanted to run and see what I could do on tired legs and continue to build my confidence for Las Vegas.
When the gun went off I was about 50 yards behind the 1:40 pacers.  I had figured that a 1:40 half-marathon was a 7:38/mi pace and sitting back here I could comfortably run the 7:45/mi pace I had planned.  As we went out it was no more than 1/4 of a mile into the race that a woman across the road from me tripped and went down.  She yelled she was find and hopped back up pretty quickly.  As soon as that happens I think immediately that I need to stop and just run with Karen who has a tendency to fall but I also know that we spoke of her focusing on her stride and getting past this.  We talked so much about it that when I left her I said to her:  Keep The Rubber Side Down.
I kept on running and we immediately hit a hill.  I remember this hill from last year and power up it and run past people.  I catch up to a woman who is breathing so hard it's annoying.  I have to kick it in to get past her as I can't stand it.  I push past her and the mile marker shows up and my watch beeps.  I look down and we just ran the first mile in 7:37 and I am still behind the 1:40 pacers.  This guy is running fast I think to myself but I check all my facilities and I feel great.  I'm not breathing hard and my legs are feeling awesome.  This is a process I will do at every mile marker as I don't want to push so hard that I affect my next 4 weeks of training.
After a hair-pin turn we get out around the lake and this is my course.  Before I know it we are at Mile 2....check the watch and it reads: 7:33/mi and I am still behind the pacers.  What is this guy doing?  Plan on positive splitting this race?  As I say out loud:  This guy is going way to hard for these runners two guys run up next to me and say:  Thank you for confirming that as I thought it was me.  We converse for a bit and then we go our separate ways.
At this point I have forgotten everything about this course from last year and I am just running.  I get to a point where we tackle another hill and I say:  Yup I remember this.  Not a big deal.  We get over that hill and make a right and it hits me like a ton of bricks.....there is a long uphill run before we cross over a bridge and then head down for about 50 feet before we have to start climbing again.  Miles 3 and 4 at a pace of: 7:33 and 7:35.
I am getting near Mile 5 and I am ready to execute my plan of dropping down into the 7:20s after Mile 5.  It is at this point that one of the 1:40 pacers says to another runner that if we can get past Mile 6 we are good to go.  Oh yeah, there are more climbs and Mile 6 just feels like an almost vertical climb.  As I get to Mile 5 at a pace of 7:33 and see the climbs I think to myself well you can drop down after Mile 6 is passed.
I pump my arms and my knees.  High knees up a hill and pump those arms and you don't lose your stride and can essentially climb with no issues.  It is using this method that I pass a host of runners who are panting.  I can tell that they are practically shuffling their feet up the hill.  I wonder if it is because the 1:40 pacer is going faster than 7:38 but I cannot be concerned.  I am not breathing hard, my legs don't feel sore.  My feet are not generating any hot spots so I pump up the hill and HELLO downhill.  I pass Mile 6 at 7:34.  When I see this I know that I can hold this time throughout but I want to drop and this hill will certainly help.
You essentially go straight down hill and this can do a number on your legs with the pounding but I glide down the hill and before I know it I get chicked.  I just smiled and laughed because I can here the pounding of the pavement this woman is doing and I know here quads will be shot as soon as we make the right hand turn to what is known as the Dolly Partons.  A couple of climbs and sure enough we make that right and we begin to climb Parton #1 and I pass her with ease and that would be the last I see of her.  After climbing #1 and going down hill I climb #2 with no issues and notice a woman with a neon yellow shirt that is holding a very solid pace and I want to hang with her.  We make a right and are finally running flat.  Pass Mile 7 in 7:23.  Plan is being executed.
After you pass Mile 7 there is 7-11 hill.  I call it this because there is a 7-11 on the corner and I immediately think that going up this hill is going to take 11 minutes and start laughing to myself because I never put two and two together before.  As you make the right turn to go up the 7-11 hill you have to first cross a bridge.  With the number of runners on the bridge it just bounces all over.  Remember when you were a kid in the bounce house and if your legs did not meet the platform perfectly you would almost get a dead leg?  That is what running over this bridge is like.  I am caught up to neon yellow girl and she makes a comment to another girl that this bridge sucks.  I comment to both of them that if we run faster we won't spend much time on the bridge and I pick up the pace and I power through 7-11 hill.  Off the bridge and make a turn toward Mile 8 and as I pass it I see: 7:28/mi.
The section between Mile 8 and Mile 9 is mostly flat and where the pictures are taken.  Time to get out my big smile for the camera.  After the pictures are taken it is time to get back to work.  Time to focus on those 7:20s as we are coming up on Mile 9 then Mile 10 and time to drop the hammer on the 5k portion.  Before I know it I'm passing the Mile 9 marker and the watch reads 7:34/mile.  OK, time to re-check my legs, breathing, feelings.  All feels really good.  There is some soreness in my legs and I realize that I've already now run 14 miles but that doesn't not mean that I can stop.
I climb the last, I believe, hill as I head toward Mile 10.  I am so ready to drop the hammer and it is a great feeling.  I had decided that I was going to toss my handheld at the last aid station which I assumed was Mile 10.  Wrong assumption a I had just passed the Mile 9 aid station.  I think to myself OK hold on to the bottle until Mile 11 and then toss.  I am ready to get going and Mile 10 shows up and the watch flashes: 7:38.  It is time to go.
As I start to drop the hammer the feeling is that this is uncomfortably comfortable.  Perfect I think and before I know it I am at Mile 10.5 and think OK only 2.5 miles and you can hold this.  I am just cruising right now.  I pass a few more people and pick up a few more targets.  It is all about target hunting now to keep me going until the finish line.  Quickly Mile 11 is upon me and my split for Mile 10 read: 7:20.  OK, I am dropping my times from the previous 10 miles.  This is good.
I pick-up another female runner and we run past a guy who was looking good and then just stopped.  She yells at him to keep going as it is not a time to stop.  I yell' c'mon baby we got less than 2 miles.  You can do anything for 2 miles.  Let's go.'  I have no idea if that helped him or not as we cruised past him.  It is at this point that last year's race hits me.  It was last year that I hit a wall at Mile 12 and I was promising myself that this was not going to happen this year.  I was going to push until I could not push anymore.  This was going to be REDLINE RACING.  I pass the Mile 12 marker and my watch reads: 7:36.  What just happened?  I'm running harder but going slower?  I then decide to lengthen my stride.
Lengthening my stride allows me to control my breathing.  It is at this point that I realize that the woman I passed was literally running on my shoulder.  I could basically feel her breathe on my neck. I turn around and ask her what her goal is.  She says I don't have one but am I bothering you.  I tell her it is not a bother (it really is) but that this is not an 'A' race and I want to pace her the rest of the way to her goal.  She says well I hit the wall back there but hanging onto your heel as helped me tremendously.  OK, then let's go.  We start running hard.  I get to Mile 12.5 and I can feel that I am losing my fuel in my tank.  She is now outpacing me.  I then hear a few more footsteps and sure enough another runner was on my right and I was going to do my best to not let him pass me.
We turn the corner and it is the finisher's chute.  I've got nothing left and put it into cruise control to avoid injury and he passes me but by only a few feet.  I hang with him as long as I can.  As we come up on the finish line I see the time and I think to myself.....REALLY!  I cross through the finish line and move quickly to my left and put my hands on my knees.  I want to collapse but I know if I do two things are going to happen.  1- I won't get back up 2- The medical people will be there in a rush and it will take forever ton convince them I don't need help.  I walk a few steps and bend over again.  After a few moments I walk to get my medal and a bottle of water.
It is at this point that I look at my watch and see my overall time for the event:  1:38:42 unofficially.  This is just two minutes off of my 1/2 Marathon PR.  I am so fired up because I had just run a half-marathon two short weeks after a half-ironman at a pace of 7:31/mile.  I needed some confidence building and validation that I could run 7:15s in Vegas to qualify for Boston.  Having no taper and lots of wear and tear on my legs from the year and to put up a time like I did I am beyond ecstatic.
[caption id="attachment_4639" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Getting Ready To Load Up At Breakfast"]shannon-karen-jason-drchalfmaratho_race_report[/caption] I waited at the finish line for Karen to come through.  I did something that I almost never do and that is stretch.  It was great to actually loosen up the muscles and need to follow that more often.  Of course it was then that I started to notice that my feet were hurting.  Iran this race in my new Brooks T7 racers which I love but probably not the smartest move to run in them today.  That being said as I'm writing this my feet feel great now.
After the race we headed over to Cafe Brazil with Shannon of Iron Texas Mommy along with firends Marcy and Steve.  This was the perfect place to end a great day.
My plate consisted of:
  • 2 Egg White Veggie Tacos, Sweet Potato Fries and Guacamole
  • 1 Pumpkin pancake from Karen with honey and maple syrup
  • Copious amounts of water and Decaf Holiday Blend Coffee (which is really a Fall Blend and was great)
I am going to enjoy watching Football and now and then this evening pack up my swim bag as training continues tomorrow and I have my eye on the prize:

3:10 (7:15/mile pace) at the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Published in Race Reports
Thursday, 10 November 2011 16:31

Where Is My Speed?

[caption id="attachment_4677" align="alignright" width="148" caption="Had Very Good Running Economy at the US Open"]Toyota_US_Open_Championships_triathlon[/caption] I am not writing this post about the fact I am afraid of qualifying for Boston.  I am writing this post because I want to talk about the lack of speed I displayed at 70.3 Austin.  It has been haunting for the past few weeks that my time at the half-marathon was 1:53.  This is not a horrible time by any means but when your goal is in the 1:40 range then there is a problem. Add in the fact that after that race I ran 18 miles at a 7:51/mi pace, then two half-marathons (one in training and one in a race) at times of 1:39 and 1:38 and I think you can understand my dilemma with trying to cope with a 1:53 or 8:40/mi pace.  Yes it was hot, yes it was hilly but in the end those are excuses and there were others that had to run that race and ran it faster than 1:53. As I do with all things pertaining to race day and breaking down my race I emailed Coach to tell her of my disappointment in the run.  As is always the case she talked to me in terms that I can understand.  This was her response to my email:
I am sure that is a struggle for you but, let me say that what you run at regular pace and what you do after a hard race pace bike effort are very different, most of the time....
I run a 3:10-3:15 Marathon.. ran a 3:47 at Kona, my goal based on that was 3:40-3:55
I usually run about a 1:28-1:30 half marathon... ran a 1:40 at Vegas... goal was 1:38-1:45
In trying to do the math I noticed that the marathon was a 15% difference between 3:15 and 3:47 and the half-marathon was 10% difference between 1:30 and 1:40.  For me that means that my half-marathon of 1:38 which is 98 minutes would equate to a 1:48.  1:48 is what I ran at 70.3 Oceanside in April.  Is that 10% a standard?  Probably not but it is a good gauge.  Even when I ran the DRC Half-Marathon I thought that the time of 1:38 was incredible considering I had tired legs and started to equate that to running off the bike but I guess it is not exactly the same.
Matt Fitzgerald wrote and article on this very topic for Competitor.com, which you can read here, and it compares Hunter Kemper to Greg Whiteley.  The article points out that Whiteley was a better pure runner than Kemper but when it came to the running portion of a triathlon that Kemper always was better.
Here is an excerpt from the article that helps to explain the disparity with pure running and running in a triathlon:

Why some triathletes run better off the bike than others is not fully understood, but it appears to have something to do with differences in how individual athletes’ neuromuscular systems are wired. In a 2010 study by Australian researchers, about half of the triathlete subjects tested exhibited involuntary changes to their normal running mechanics after riding a bike. These changes reduced their running economy.

Were the triathletes who maintained their running economy off the bike more experienced or better trained? No. The difference was hardwired. This was shown in a previous study by the same researchers involving elite triathletes. All of the triathletes in that subject pool were experienced and extremely well-trained, yet almost half of them also exhibited the same economy-spoiling changes in running form after cycling.

The best triathlon runners typically run 5–6 percent slower over a given distance in a triathlon than they do in a running race of the same distance. It would be helpful if this figure could be held up as a universal standard. In that case you could test the disparity between, for example, your freestanding 10K time and your Olympic-distance triathlon 10K run split and know that, if the disparity was 7 percent or greater, you could adjust your training to close that gap. But, because of differences in hardwiring, there is no universal standard. Some triathletes can’t come within 5 percent of their standalone run times in triathlon even with perfect training.

The goal right now is to get faster, especially with Vegas coming up, but so that my running economy has a much smaller difference when I run off the bike.  This week I rode for two hours and then ran 20 minutes off the bike.  I can say that I was running 7:24s off the bike in those 20 minutes and my legs felt great.  Maybe the marathon training is improving my running economy already but we won't know for sure until I rack my bike in T2 in Puerto Rico and head out on the run and try to close the gap between 1:36 and that finishing time.

How Close Are Your Stand Alone Run Times Versus Your Triathlon Run Times?

Published in Train
Thursday, 01 December 2011 15:44

Are You Dynamic?

When I first hired Coach C to train me I was of the school of static stretching.  You know what static stretching is.  Stand with your feet next to each other and then bend over and touch your toes and hold for 12-15 seconds.  No bouncing or risk injury.  You do this twice and then move onto the next one and keep going.  I thought I was doing it right, and in fact I was but I was doing it at the wrong time.  I should have been doing that after the run. Coach C taught me that before I run or bike or swim that I need to do dynamic stretches.  She gave me a list of walking lunges, skipping, karaoke, butt kicks and high knees.  After doing these exercises prior to a run I noticed that my legs felt fresher and ready to run.  I also started to notice that my heart rate was up to 121 bpm when I was done.  It was then that I started to do the dynamic stretching just prior to the gun going off in a race, when I could.  Those races always seemed to have great starts and I figure it has to do with my heart rate being slightly elevated before I took off running.  I guess it is like warming up a car before you put it in drive and take off down the street. I have also noticed that I have a lot less pings and dings to my legs when I do it.  By that I mean that those hip flexor issues that I hear other runners/triathletes suffer from don't exist for me.  I will say that I have had some calf issues in the past two weeks and have addressed it with ART but believe that part of the problem is that my static stretching after my workouts became non-existent.  If I want to get to Ironman Texas in May in great health and shape I need to incorporate static stretching back into my routine along with the dynamic stretching.  My plan is to keep getting ART treatments as well as adding in Bikram Yoga for flexibility purposes. Here are some examples of dynamic and static stretching from Competitor.com.  Find the post written by Nathan Koch P.T., A.T.C [HERE] [caption id="attachment_4797" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Side Leg Raises To Do Prior To Exercise"]dynamic_stretching_leg_raises_running[/caption]

Do these before

Inchworms: Start in pushup position and walk your feet as close to your hands as possible. When you can’t go farther, stop and walk your hands out in front to return to pushup. Come down on stomach and arch your back up for a spine stretch. Leg swings: Stand sideways next to a wall, and swing outside leg forward and back, increasing height each time. Walking lunge with twist: Perform deep walking lunges to stretch the hips, twisting torso away from the back leg. Static sustained stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint/muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go farther on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to activity, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.

Do these after

Frog stretch: Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Turn toes out and squat down as low as possible, keeping heels flat on the floor. Press knees open with elbows. Quad stretch: While standing, grab the top of your right foot and bring it closer to your glutes, while pushing hips forward. Pigeon: On the ground, bring a bent right leg in front of your body with your left leg behind you to stretch your glutes.

Do You Stretch Before and After You Workout?

Do You Practice Dynamic Stretching?

Published in Train
Sunday, 30 October 2011 11:44

I'm Doing Something Right?

repeat_training_triathlonAs humans we are creatures of habit and while change is a good thing it may not be so good when it comes to training for endurance events. If you have read this blog long enough you know that my weeks are setup the same from week to week and that I get up at the same time everyday except for Friday.  I believe by doing this I am training my body to be prepared to go and not confusing it to the point where it has no idea what is happening next.  Yes we want to confuse our muscles so that they get stronger but you confuse them through different exercises not through different start times. This week I have been doing research on trying to find an eating plan for a late in the day marathon.  On December 4th I will be running the Rock N Roll Las Vegas marathon and it starts at 4pm.  Obviously the later starting time means that I need to adjust my body clock to be ready for optimal performance at that time.  I will be doing at least one late evening run per week until race day but my biggest concern is fueling for that day.  I have all day to eat and that could throw a major monkey wrench into my plans to qualify for Boston. In case you were wondering my week usually looks like this:
  • Monday:   Recovery bike and a strong swim coupled with core/strength
  • Tuesday:   Strong swim and solid run
  • Wednesday:   Moderate Length ride and a brick run
  • Thursday:   Solid Run and an Open Water Swim
  • Friday:   OFF
  • Saturday:   Long Bike and Brick Run off the bike
  • Sunday:   Long Run
I start my days with a 3 am wake up and a smoothie breakfast, coffee and water.  I am working out by 5am and done by 7-8am each day.  This gives me nearly 24 hours of recovery before the next day.  I am never tired, nor am I hitting snooze or missing workouts.  I believe my body has adapted.  I am hoping that I can get my body to that point with only 6 weeks before Vegas.
In doing this search I came across this article on Competitor.com that gave me confidence in how I workout in terms of time of day and routine.  The title of the article is Live Like A Clock:  How A Routine Aids Performance.  The main points were:
  1. Improved Consistency:  Dedicating yourself to a routine not only acclimatize the mind and body to running hard at a certain time, but it also transforms how you think about, and schedule, your week.
  2. Adaptation=Optimization:  research has shown that when athletes exercise at the same time each day, the body responds by optimizing performance during those hours.
  3. Better Sleep Patterns:  Another benefit to running at the same time each day is better sleeping patterns.
  4. Improved Recovery:  When you fluctuate the time of day you run, you’ll often be completing runs and workouts on less than 12 hours total recovery between sessions. Our body doesn’t reset overnight, so when you run later in the evening on Sunday night and then run early Monday morning, your body is operating on limited recovery time.
  5. Healthier Eating Habits:  Finally, developing a routine leads to better eating habits and reduces the risk of bathroom breaks or cramps ruining your workouts. When you run at the same time each day, you can accurately predict when you’ll be hungry and provide yourself with healthy food choices.
I can say that my recovery from 70.3 Austin has been phenomenal.  My legs have felt so good that waiting for yesterday's 18 miler was more stressful than the taper prior to the 70.3.  Wondering how the run yesterday went?  How about 18 miles covered in 2:21:40 for a 7:51/mi pace with a heart rate in high Z2-low Z3 at 157.

Do You Train At The Same Time Everyday?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 14:21

One Step At A Time

The following article was written by one of the participants in the Marathon Makeover program that I run  If you don't know what Marathon Makeover is, please allow me a moment to tell you.  This is a 40 week program that helps turn couch potatoes into marathoners.  I started this program at the end of 2010 and the program officially kicked off in January 2011.  We are more than halfway through with eyes on the prize for October through December when the participants will complete either a half or full marathon. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I have enjoyed reading it. ==================== How It All Started  It’s 4 a.m. on Saturday.  The first thing that comes to mind is snooze.  And I do just that until 4:30 a.m. when the alarm sounds again and returns me to a semi-conscious state.  I cannot fathom the thought of parting ways with this 800-thread-count cocoon.  I question my sanity.  Why would I punish myself?  Why would I set such high expectations of myself on the one and only day of the week when I can sleep beyond the 6 o’clock hour?  I lie still trying to find an excuse – reaching, for the most creative and justifiable explanation as to why I should skip out today.   Nothing comes to mind. In the absence of morning sunlight and in a bit of a lethargic state I blindly pat around for the clothes and other items that I laid out the night before – technical fabric gear, several bottles of water, two bottles of Honey Milk (one for before and after), a towel, sunglasses, my iPod, and a pair of well-worn sneakers. Shoes are laced up and I’m out the door.  It’s still dark, but I am slowly being released from a state of lethargy.  That’s a good thing because now I am behind the wheel of my car and making my way to White Rock Lake.   Remembering what the nutritionist said, I reach for a bottle of Honey Milk to get some carbs in before training.  She claims for “sustained energy.”  I have yet to experience this phenomenon. Doubt revisits as I think about what I am about to endure.  I ask myself, “What on earth was I thinking when I showed up for that meeting in January?”  Unemployed and glued to my computer in search of the perfect job opportunity, I took a brief break to visit a social media site.  Across my screen flashed an advertisement touting the promise to turn couch potatoes into marathoners.   As I scoured the marathon web site, the memory of competing at a collegiate level flooded my mind.   I had aspirations to compete in the WNBA and to someday make the Olympic volleyball team.  The second major knee surgery benched those dreams my junior year in college.  Feeling displaced - in the absence of team camaraderie, the friendly taunting of opponents and the boisterous celebrations following a win - my focus shifted from the court to my career where that driving, competitive spirit found its home. For the last several years, all of my goals had been career related.  I was going stir crazy after three months of unemployment.  I needed something to cling to, something to strive for.  A few days later I found myself at the introductory meeting for this 40-week marathon program.  I was surrounded by people who in no way, shape or form resembled couch potatoes.  The majority of the people, who showed up for this meeting on a snowy January morning in Coppell, looked like lifetime athletes and runners.   And there I sat, uncomfortably and thinking I would much rather be eating a potato than sitting in this room resembling one.  I prayed that someone who looked like me would show up and help shoo away the anxiety that was quickly settling in.  There I sat certain that I had already been labeled “Least Likely to Succeed” or “Most Likely to Impede Progress.”  The meeting ended and the group leader approached me.  We spoke for some time and I realized we had quite a bit in common.  He had just recently relocated from the East coast to the Dallas area, had only in recent years taken up running and he too was unemployed.  He took special interest in me and my story.  Before I knew it, I was committed to 40 weeks of what I was sure would be sheer torture. Week 1 [caption id="attachment_3377" align="alignright" width="300" caption="After completing Mile 1 in Week 1"]Marathon_Makeover_North_Dallas_Running[/caption] I returned the following Saturday for our first weekly group run.  A few additional people joined the group this week.  A handful claimed they were not runners and that made me feel at ease.  The group watched a video demonstration of the do’s and don’ts of marathon training before we stretched and we were off to conquer the one mile – our goal for the first week of the 40-week program.  In the video, the founders instructed those who had not been in the routine of running to walk for the first 10 weeks of the program.  Anxiety loosens its grip as several wanna-be marathoners nod their heads in agreement.  Following the video, we stretched as a team and before I knew it we were off - our silent pact to walk the first 10 weeks instantly abandoned.  I followed suit.  Peer pressure no doubt.  Coming in last has never been an option for me. Thankfully, half the group puckered out within 50 paces or so and we slowed to a leisurely stroll.  Afterwards, we took our first team photo and went our separate ways.  That day, the athlete buried deep down inside of me made a pact with my current self to train hard and improve each week. Week 21, White Rock Lake  Pulling into the graveled parking lot I downed what was left of my Honey Milk.  It’s still dark but I spot two vehicles in the parking lot.  One I recognize as Jason’s, our trainer.   I get a closer look at the second vehicle and I say to myself, “This can’t be it.  This is my worst nightmare.” Good morning, “Is this it?” I ask. “Yup, this is it,” Jason confirms.  He is fresh off a triathlon.  And beside him stands one of the most seasoned runners in our group.  The once 15-20 member group has dwindled down to six participants at most and just two on this particular morning.  The urge to unlace my shoes, hop back in my car and race back home overcomes me. Mile 1 We exchange a few pleasantries and a few stretches later they are kicking up dust.  The “urge” hits me again.  Instead, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and pray for divine intervention.  The first mile feels just like it did on day one.    My joints are aching and my breathing is labored.  How on earth will I cover the 9.33-mile trail along this lake?   I think back to week 10 or so when we were to complete six miles.  The horses were off and I walked side-by-side with an older gentleman in the group.  I turned to him and blurted, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”  Still staring at the ground in front of him and seemingly struggling a bit himself he said, “Just keep plugging along, one step at a time.  You will get there.”   His proclamation hit home with me.  I have not seen Joe since but his deposit of encouragement resonates with me week after week.  Despite the dwindling number of participants, I have been plugging along ever since no matter how arduous the task. Mile 2 The sun is coming up.   And according to my Garmin watch I am 2.23 miles into this process.  Many people - seemingly lifelong runners and cyclists - flood the trails.   Most are running in groups of two to ten.   I attempt to stay to the right and out of the path of the clusters of Cathys chattering and chuckling as they briskly run by.  I wonder how they manage to breathe at that pace, much less laugh and carry on a conversation.   Cyclists sail by to the right and to the left.  Before I know it, no one is following the unwritten rule – walkers to the right, everyone else pass on the left.  I prefer order.  I like processes, policies, procedures.  I adjust the volume on my iPod so I can hear passersby as they approach.  The air is still and thick.  If it weren’t for those dashing by me, there would be absolutely no sign of a breeze. Parents pass by with their double strollers - infants in tow and fast asleep.  Canoes, boats and families of ducks enliven the lake.  Those hoping for a big catch cast their lines.  Considering the task at hand I wouldn’t mind trading places with the infants, ducks, and fishermen – in that order. Mile 3 My breathing pattern has improved.  My joints are still aching and my “runner’s” toe is giving me grief, but I know there is no turning back now.  Every half mile or so I make a mental note of the 911 location markers.  You know, just in case. Mile 4 I feel like running.  Well jogging.  And I do.  This feels good.  When my breathing becomes erratic, I slow to a brisk walk.  I check my Garmin – 4.45 miles. Mile 5 I’m well past the halfway point and I feel good about it!  This isn’t so bad after all.  I stop to refill my water bottle a second time.  As I am leaning on the water fountain that is temporarily assisting me in maintaining an upright position, a group of young boys approach.  And before I can move out of their way, one after the other they stoop down to the ground-level fountain I am certain is intended for man’s best friends.  They each take in mouthfuls of water.  Cheeks puffed out they begin to spray one another with water instead of hydrating like my nutritionist said.  I was annoyed initially, but their laughter lightens my mood.  I smile and turn to the one boy with the motorized scooter and I playfully ask, “What’s the weight capacity on that thing?”  He tilts his head in confusion.  Another boy who appears to be two or three years older roars with laughter.  He got it! Mile 6 My iPod dies.  I feel like dying too. Mile 7 I look up to a now blazing sun.  Off in the distance I can see downtown Dallas.  Even better I can make out Renaissance Tower.  I have made my home there now for the last six weeks.  It feels good to be back in the swing of things.  To pass time I try to make out the floors and count down from the top floor to the 15th floor where my office is located.  I immediately lose count as I am forced to make way for a group of at least 50 runners as they whiz by. When I accepted the position of Technical Trainer I thought I knew what the position entailed.  But to my satisfaction it has been so much more than what I anticipated.  I think back on my work week and recall the unanticipated but welcomed projects that were assigned to me.  Early in the work week I asked myself, “How will I approach this addition to my work load?  Will I have enough time to complete these tasks?  What is priority?  Will the end result be good enough?”   These are all questions that I asked of myself in past careers as well.  And frankly, these are the same questions I have asked myself week after week on this journey to becoming a marathoner. In the past, when tasked with additional and unanticipated duties anxiety would immediately surface.  I would cancel all personal plans to make way for a series of 12- to 16-hour work days.  Come Friday, I would find myself still lost in the myriad of tasks on my plate.  All weekend plans were out the window. Mile 8 What has been the difference?   How do I now manage time for self?  How did I find that foreign concept that everyone speaks of – work-life balance?  As I continue to focus on the buildings in distant downtown Dallas, it doesn’t take me long to figure out what prompted this transformation. A half marathon is 13 miles.  Upon completing that first mile with my team on that blistery cold January morning I thought to myself, this is an unattainable feat.  But that athlete in me, as promised, continued to train, improve and conquer the increased mileage week after week.  I now manage my career and workload in the same manner.  No matter how overwhelming the tasks at hand may seem, I approach work with the right attitude.  Sure one may complain a bit along the way.  With an office positioned near the coffee bar, I oftentimes hear the grumblings about increased responsibility and workload.  Growth is oftentimes accompanied by discomfort.  And people tend to want to share and spread their feelings of distress.  As I overhear these conversations I am sometimes tempted to lean outside of my door and toward the break room to say what Joe proclaimed to me in week ten of training, “J keep plugging along, one step at a time.  You will get there.” Training for a marathon, like other exercises, unquestionably improves one’s mental health as efficiently as it does one’s physical well-being.  Sure I feel better as a result of training.  Sure I have shaved off nearly 40 pounds since I began this journey.  But what I am most impressed with is all of the psychological benefits of training.   I am less stressed and I am able to easily cope with daily stressors.  Training has forced my mind and body into synchronization.  It refreshes my mind and keeps it clutter free so that I am now able to manage multiple tasks without being easily distracted or becoming overwhelmed.  And when I find myself at a road block, I locate the nearest 911 marker, my supervisor and/or co-workers, for guidance and direction.  Much like the marathon team, we are in this together.  I never expected that the benefits of my quest to be a part of that one percent of the population to complete a marathon would spill over into how I approach my career.  Marathon training has changed my life.  I now realize that if I change the way we look at things, the things I look at change.  Once one finds the courage to start that new work project, exercise routine or even degree plan, you will find your way to the finish line. Now just at the halfway point of the program, I can now wrap my brain around completing a half marathon at the conclusion of this training program.  Notice I didn't say that it hasn’t been painful along the way.  I just had to learn to adjust my attitude and approach. Mile 9  I stretch my neck to find the bridge.  The bridge signifies that I am in the home stretch.  I see it.  My body fills with pride.  What seemed like such an intimidating assignment just a few short hours ago didn’t turn out to be so bad after all.  Just on the other side of that long wooden and steel rainbow is my pot of gold.  The finish line – 9.33 miles.  I pull my shoulders back, make my way over the rickety bridge and repeat several times, “No task is too big for me.”  Double digits where are you?  I am coming after you.  I’m just going to “keep plugging along, one step at a time.  I WILL get there.”
Published in Race
Sunday, 21 August 2011 12:07

Best Advice Received and Given

[caption id="attachment_3736" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Which Advice Is Best and Which Advice Do you Listen To?"]triathlon_training_advice[/caption] While waiting for what I hope will be the people who buy my house to cruise through and look through all my stuff (selling a house might be the worst thing you ever have to do in life) I was perusing the interwebs and stumbled across a piece in Triathlete.com titled What's The Best Training Advice You've Ever Received? There were some good ones on there and they all made me want to get back out and train even though I had run nearly 13 miles just a few hours ago and truly needed to rest my quads for today's long brick workout. Here is the list that was provided and I will add mine to the end:

We posed the following question to readers on the Inside Triathlon facebook page, “What’s the best training advice you’ve received?” Here are a few responses to help you feel motivated and inspired.

• Don’t wait until you think you are perfectly trained. Sign up, show up and have fun. • Train smarter, race harder. • Never out ride your run. • Smooth is fast….fast is smooth! • If you feel you are in control, you are not going fast enough. • No one ever wins the race in the water. Relax and swim YOUR race! • The water is meant to slow you down. Just relax and think of the water as an incredible masseuse. • After I withdrew due to injury: It’s just one race. • For the 140.6 distance: Don’t get caught up in the moment. Keep moving forward and smile. The day is long. Be patient. • Work on form, speed will follow. • The better you recover the more you gain! • First you learn to train, then you learn to race, eventually with time and effort, you’ll learn to win! • Follow a plan and invest your time to learn from others! • Rest is your friend • A healthy athlete beats an injured athlete anytime! • When you feel like quitting… dig deeper. • Get a coach! It isn’t too expensive and is worth every penny! • Sleep is NOT over-rated   The best advice I got was actually during a race and I have applied to each training session I put myself through.  It was around Mile 20 of the Dallas White Rock marathon where I was looking to run 3:29.  My coach was at the event and was going to run a few miles with me and I was starting to hurt and she said to me:  Those Who Can't Quit and Those Who Can Do.  That was all she needed to say and before I knew it I was back to my previous form and got my body moving at a faster pace for those last 6 miles and finished at 3:39.      

What is the best training advice you've ever received?

Published in Race
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