Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I love spectators. I'm glad they're there, I feel like I draw energy from their cheers, and the louder and more boisterous they can be, the better. I can't imagine what it would be like to stand out side just cheering when I'd so much rather be running. So, hats off to them.

However, if there's one thing I wish they would never, ever say anywhere between miles 20-26 of a marathon, it's this: "you're almost there!" First, it's a lie. Six miles is six miles, and it's a pretty long way. It's about a half hour for even the best when they're fresh, and no easy task after 20. For many of us the last six takes closer to an hour, and if we've hit the wall hard, even longer.

Some schools of thought believe that half of the energy of a marathon is done in the first 20 miles, the last 6.2 is the second half. I fully subscribe to this, if you label "energy" as "mental fortitude." I looked at the splits of my marathon... 8:20 average for the first half. 8:08 over the first 20 (I sped up some, probably foolishly). But the last six were in the nines somewhere dropping my average to 8:22 or so. It was a long, hard slog, and I felt every one of those miles as a battle against my body's desire to slow down or quit.

In no way did I feel "almost" there until mile 26. And even then, when I spied the finish line, it still felt impossibly far away. Perception is messed on both ends, I guess- both mine and theirs.

So, as much I love spectators, I kinda wish they'd save the cheer "You're almost there!" for sometime after mile 26, when it feels a little closer to accurate.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weird post marathon fact #282

Post marathon, it's sort of weird not to freak out over every little ache and pain. You're sort of in the habit, but then you remember it doesn't matter as much anymore. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why I run

Someone asked on the LJ runner's community why people run marathons- I gave the answer why *I* run marathons. I hope you enjoy...

I think it has to do with addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal. I have to run further and further distances to get the same high from running. The pleasure I got from five miles, so wonderful the first time, soon faded and I needed seven. then 10. 15. and so on. But I can stop at any time!

*twitch* :)

Seriously though, running through long distances tears down some of my psychological defenses and helps me see myself more fully- do I keep myself moving when I hit the wall, or do I quit? Do I have the smarts to realize when pain is a warning sign that shouldn't be ignored? And how do I strike a balance between the two when my blood sugar is plummeting and my legs feel like they're made out of lead?

That's sort of why I like running. Nothing is solved, and usually I end up right where I started. But I can see myself a little bit more clearly at the end of the day. Oh, and I've burned off a bunch of stress and maybe a bunch of french fries, too. And I've made a bunch of good friends who are also marathoners. And I like the medals, and to see myself improve. And it's fun to have a tangible reason to train.

Okay, wow, people really shouldn't let me near a keyboard when I've only gotten three hours of sleep. I ramble, and ramble, and ramble...

Monday, October 22, 2007


First, the stats-

Distance- 26.2
Time- 3:39:16
Pace- 8:23

70/310 AG; 638/3750 OA

A lot of the race is a blur- just mechanically putting one foot in front of the other, trying to maintain good form and a speedy turn over. But I do have some snippets...

Beginning of the race, and a lot of us are having problems with our Garmins locating satellites. I start chatting with the women next to me who's having the same issue. Turns out she's a member of the Ann Arbor program that I'm coaching in West Bloomfield. Out of 15000 marathon, half marathon, and relay people, it's weird that I'd pick one of the 50 with whom to strike up a conversation.

The bridge, and seeing the first hints of morning from between the two countries.

Running fast through Canada; I'm not sure if the wind was to my back, or I hit my stride, or whatever, but the four miles through Canada were all sub-8. I'm thinking I may have paid for this later...

Underwater mile was fast; I love down hills, and I get a huge psychological lift from passing people. Thus, it was almost certainly a too-fast 7:03. but it was fun!

Hitting the 25K mark (15.5 miles) and hearing one guy ask another "Are you Religious?" To which I turned and said "It feels like 'bout time to stary praying, doesn't it?"

Belle Isle. Better than last year.

Hitting the 20 mile mark and thinking: "10K left to go." Normally, I'd think right after this "I can do a 10K!" This time, I thought "I can do a 10K?" Cue Sarah McLachlan's "Hold On" and the lead weights guy to attach anchors to my feet.

I did enjoy running through Indian Village, though mostly (like Patrick McGoohan) I just wanted to get out. Course, as soon as I did I was running straight into the wind on Lafayette. Which um... sucked.

Every mile from there seemed a victory, but would be followed by the realization that I had to run another mile. And another. Till I hit that blessed sign that say "26" and only another .2 miles to go. Three hundred and something yards. When I saw that I started to move faster. When I finally saw the finish line, looking impossibly far away, I moved faster yet. When I crossed the timing mats I was moving at a pretty good clip... 5:30 pace.

I stopped my garmin, and looked: 3:39:16! I really, really wanted to break 3:40, and I did! I would have been content with dropping a mere hour from last year's time, at 3:46. Heck, I'd've been okay with breaking four hours. But hitting the 3:30s... that's something to celebrate!

I do want to send out thanks to my family for putting up with me during training (especially during taper!) my friends for being an great training partners, my 501 folk for being great inspiration, and all ye who may have waded through my diatribes!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hidden Forest Trail Run

First the stats:

Distance- 8.5 (8.2 Garmin)
Time- 1:06:15
Pace- 7:48 (8:05 Garmin)

Ya'know how a roller coaster is a big hill at the beginning, with a series of smaller ones that you take faster and faster? Well, this course was exactly the opposite. It starts off with a relatively easy loop, from which the 2.5 mile people go on to the finish line. Add a slightly harder loop with a more difficult hill for the 5.5 mile people. The last loop has a 150 foot, ~15% grade hill that seems to last about half a mile or so.

It was sort of neat to see both my heart rate and my pace drop as I flew down hill, though.

Anyway, I was 3rd in my Age Group, 27th Over All (out of 111). I got a neat little plaque, and everything! Number two in my AG only beat me by 30 seconds, but he was six minutes delayed on his first loop, and his form as a heck of a lot cleaner than mine. So I'm content. :)

[edit]I looked him up on (also known as athlinks) and saw he's run a sub-3 marathon. so I have no problem getting beat by him, even if it was in the last 30 seconds...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Call it a taper if you like... I'll call it having a cold.

Saturday, it started off as a sore throat. Not a big deal, really- a couple of sprays with the medicine and I was fine.

Didn't feel that much on Sunday during the duathlon. When I finally let myself feel it, it had worked it's way into my sinuses, where it's managed to lodge itself pretty well. I've been taking OTC drugs, and they've helped.

On the other hand, my training hasn't been all that much to write home about- took Monday and Tuesday off, did a very easy four yesterday, and meant to get in six to eight today but didn't think to do it this morning... and it was too late. Oops. So, if four days I'll have racked up four miles running, no swimming, no biking. Not my typical training regimen.

I'm okay with that- my body needs the time to fight off the infection, and I imagine it's also healing itself of the training abuses, too. My legs felt extra springy yesterday, and hopefully they'll feel even better tomorrow.

But with 10 days left till the marathon, I'd better let my body do this right and not screw it over by doing too much too quickly. I was happy enough to let the duathlon go by giving 85% of max effort. For this race... well, my plan is 75% for the first half, 85% till mile 20 and whatever I've got left for the final 6.2.

We'll see if I'm able to hold to it. I've been pretty mediocre at hanging on to plans in the past. :P

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Great Pumpkin Duathlon

It's been a hot day today.

The poor runners doing the Chicago marathon were subjected to some of the worst marathon weather possible- "record high temps" are probably among three of the most feared words in the running lexicon. Right next to "Stress Fracture" and "you'll never run again."

For me, it was better- high 70s to low to mid 80s for my duathlon. The heat did get to me some, but not too badly. Anyway, the stats-

Great Pumpkin Duathlon
Total Time- 2:32:10
Run 1 (5K*3.08M)- 24:16 (7:53 min/mile)
Transition 1- 1:49
Bike (40K*23.17M)- 1:15:39 (18.4 mph)
Transition 2- 1:16
Run 2 (10K*6.12M)- 49:09 (8:02 min/mile)

The distances in metric are what the website says I was supposed to have done; the miles shows what my Garmin recorded.

Overall Impression
I'm really quite happy with my performance. I wanted to be at an 8:00 min/mile for the runs and 18 mph for the bike, and I held to that pretty faithfully. My 10K pace was only 10 seconds off my beginning 5K pace, which is awesome- I didn't go out too fast and I saved some for the second run. The heat did begin to get to me toward the end of the race- I was very happy when I began my last mile. I was even happier when I finished it. :)

Run 1- 5K
It's always hard not to go out too fast when starting a race, and this was no exception. The first mile I had to constantly refer back to my Garmin to keep myself at or around an 8 min pace. It got easier once I got warmed up- but the first bit of a race always feels easier than it should. Of course, I could have run a bit faster, but what would have been the point? I had a lot of biking yet to do, and a 10K run later, and it would have been annoying if I had boinked. Place: 19/27

The Bike
The bike started off... interestingly. We began going down a pretty steep hill, and I had to hit the brakes because I would have been passing someone who took up most of the road- namely, a truck. It seemed I was breaking the vehicular traffic speed limit, maxing out at 37.2 mph on that first down hill.

At this point, I can see myself whining "But it didn't feel that fast, officer!" And really, it didn't. My new bike just freakin' rocks!

Not that much else strikes me about it, though- Grand River was both rough and windy, the Kensington hills just seemed to get taller the second time through, and my carefully laid out hydration plan seemed to work- though just barely. Needless to say, I didn't hit 37 mph during the second loop. But I didn't flag all that much- my first loop was in 36-37 minutes, and my second was in 38 and change. I'm not displeased. Place: 17/27

I wasted a bit of time chatting with a women with a beautiful Irish accent during the second transition, even as I was hurriedly taking off my bike shoes, moving my Garmin from my bike back to my wrist, and remembering to take off my helmet. It did take me a mile or so to remember to take of my gloves, which I carried for the rest of the run. :P But I guess I didn't waste too much time- my second transition was still ~30 seconds faster than my first.

Run 2- 10K
For some reason, I've always found that even if I have jelly legs, I still run faster and feel like I'm going slower when I transition from bike to run. Part of it is because I feel like my stride is super short. Part of it probably has to do with my cadence going up, more in line with biking than my normal running. But most of it is the subjective feel of moving very slowly. Even a slow moving bike typically goes faster than all but the best runners.

Anyway, I started off fast, and felt pretty good. My heart rate was at an acceptable speed, and I didn't feel like I was working too hard, so I just went with it. I started dumping water on my head to cool down. It's cold, but it really works! I got a bit nervous as I started passing a lot of people- but many were sprint competitors. Early on, tho, I passed a couple of people in my age group- it's weird, but I felt kinda bad for passing them. Strange, eh? Place: 8/27

They gave out a wet towel at the end of the race, which did wonders to help me cool down. I wiped off all the sweat that had accumulated, cleaned off my face, and threw the towel over my shoulder. About a minute later I noticed I wasn't holding my towel anymore, and had no idea where I left it. I asked a volunteer where I might have put it, and she (about age 14, I think) said very politely- "it's on your shoulder"

I looked. It was. And I said the only thing I could say at this point... "I think I need a nap."

Anyway, I got second in my Age Group, and tenth over all, though it was only out of 27. It was a pretty competitive race!

Great race; but I really think I need that nap now. :P

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Recognizing seasons

One thing I love about being an outdoor athlete- I feel a lot more in tune with the season than I ever did before. Years ago, I could get away with ignoring the leaves changing colors and falling, or the days getting shorter and colder, and stuff like that. Then all of the sudden, I'd be stepping in a two inch deep slush puddle with sandals and be forced to admit that winter has finally arrived.

It's different now. I actually really look forward to autumn, because it means cooler temperatures and that my next marathon is just around the corner. I'm able to appreciate the beauty of the leaves because I'm not unconsciously ignoring their color change. And when they fall and crunch under my bike tires or feet, It's hard not to admit that fall has finally come.

However, I can do without the leaves hitting me in the face when I'm biking- at 20 mph a leaf in the face is kinda disconcerting.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Swim Class!

So I finally screwed up my courage and made it out to a master's swim practice in the area. On the few days when I'm actually able to sleep in, it's hard to set my alarm back 30 minutes to try something new. But I'm almost certain that it'll be worth the effort; the swim instructor is really quite good, and able to build a little bit at a time where even my rather sleep deprived mind was able to follow.

Sadly however, I really have no idea how many laps I did. Many of them were in fins, too, so I'm not certain they count. My big problem is overusing my legs- the form useful in running is not so helpful in the water.

It is interesting to hear swimmers talk about "land athletes" however. It wasn't disrespectful... just a feeling of "ye are different than us." Difficult to put into words, really.