"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Champoeg Half-Marathon Recap

I woke up this morning and took a quick inventory of how I felt. In the resting position I didn't feel too bad at all. Excellent, I thought, I slept off the pain I went to bed with. Then I put my feet on the floor and took a step towards the bathroom. If not for the bed table stopping my fall, the floor would have done the job. It wasn't the pain felt yesterday that nearly put me on the ground (blisters on multiple toes, knees that felt like someone had dinged them with a hammer among other things), it was two extremely stiff calf muscles that apparently didn't get the wake up call this morning.

To briefly recap the race yesterday, my time, unofficially (times haven't been posted online yet) was 1:48:30 (8:17/mile). Right where I expected to be. Right where I hoped I would be. I am completely satisfied with it. I couldn't have run any harder for any longer than I did, at least on that day.

The weather forecast called for occasional showers throughout the morning and that's what we got. We arrived about 75 minutes before the race so my buddy could register. The field we parked and registered in was wet and it started raining as soon as we got there. By the time I was ready to put my shoes and socks on, my feet were already wet, so I had to quickly try to dry them.

30 minutes to race time, I wandered over to the restrooms for one last visit (one of many in the 24 hours leading up to race time). NOTE TO ALL RACE DIRECTORS: When you have more than 300 people show up to your event, all of whom have been guzzling various liquids for the past 24-48 hours and who will be running for the next 1.5-3 hours, please provide more than two restrooms. If the local farmer's market can bring in two dozen and drop them on a parking lot every week, I'm sure you can do the same. Make it happen. As it was, I was about 60th in line and just barely made it to the front of the line before we started gathering at the starting line.

The race director himself, a fine human being I'm sure, was a whole different story. We're all standing there, ready to hit play on our Ipods and start running and he starts giving us some instructions as far as the course was concerned. Very nice, thank you for telling us where the first turn is. I'm not kidding when I say that he then went on to describe every turn and landmark we would encounter over the next 13 miles. It seemed like it was a joke. Like we were all keeping track of it, writing or drawing his verbal map on our arms or something. After the first 30 seconds or so of this the crowd of eager runners had mostly tuned out and had either gone back to stretching, talking with those around them, or fiddling with their clothes, earphones, pacing gadgets, etc. when out of nowhere we here, "Go!" What, no Ready, Set?

The first few miles were pretty easy. We started on a road so there was plenty of room to work around people while paces were being set. I don't run well with others. I don't like their pace and I don't want to run at their pace. But I did have one lady who stay within my peripheral vision for the first three or four miles. It was unspoken, but it was a good pace. It was my pace. It would be great if she could keep this pace up, I thought. But alas, she made the turn soon thereafter to head back to the finish line (there was also 5-mile race for those not wanting to do the full 13.1).

At about the 4-mile mark we started gradually going uphill, culminating with a pretty good climb 1.5 miles later. After the climb there was a steep decent, covering about 1/2 mile. The rain had stopped before the race had started, but it was misting at this point. There wasn't any wind though so it wasn't too bad.

The turnaround point was at the 7.7 mile mark. I'm not sure how far out I was from that when I saw the race leader flying towards me, on his way back. I learned later that this guy finished in 1:07 (5:06/mile). To say he "ran" is an understatement. It looked more like he glided over the road, hardly taking the time to touch the ground on each step. A lady running next to me at the time commented on how fast he was going and I agreed, adding that it didn't even look like he was trying very hard. Simply amazing.

After the turnaround point I encountered a headwind. Luckily, after about 3/4 of a mile of this I turned and didn't have to deal with it the rest of the race. It did start to rain pretty hard at this point though and did so for about 3 miles.

By the time I reached the steep 1/2 mile climb going back (the steep 1/2 decent going out), I was feeling pain in my knees like I had never felt before. I made my way up the hill, knowing that going downhill the next 1.5 miles was probably going to hurt even more. I was right.

At the bottom of the hill there was about 3 miles left. 25 more minutes I thought to myself. I was just about there. I kept my pace up, though if it hadn't been for the 175 beat/minute Podrunner mix I was listening to this would have been impossible. I had noticed one guy and one lady who had been in view at varying lengths behind me since the turnaround point (10-50 yards?). I decided that I wasn't going to let them beat me. If others were going to show up out of nowhere (and a few did) and pass me, fine, but not these two.

I passed the 12 mile marker and buckled down again. One more mile I thought to myself. The last one is always the longest though, isn't it (especially when it's actually 1.1)? I made a couple of turns, ever aware of my two chasers behind me. The finish line must be right around that next corner I thought. Unfortunately I thought this about four times. Finally, I came around a turn and could see the finish line about 1/4 mile ahead. At this point, the lady had passed the guy and was closing in on me. No way I thought. Not this close to the finish. I kicked it up a half-notch (because I didn't have a full notch left in me) and gradually pulled away from her ever so slightly, crossing a few seconds ahead of her.

Finishing was a weird experience. There must be something about the experience your body has just gone through to cause you to not be able to think very clearly. After continuing in the same motion for almost two hours, all of the sudden so many things are happening. Run through the chute, look at your time (forgot to do this), turn off your own stopwatch (forgot to do this until a minute or so later), tear off your bib portion, get handed a medal, be given a bottle of water, be directed over to the food table, have various race personnel ask how you're feeling. It's difficult to comprehend it all at once.

So I did it. And I'm glad I did. I'll get into the post-race activities and how I felt another time but it was a good experience. More than anything else, I learned that I've got work to do if I expect to be able to run twice that distance in a full marathon. I'll take a couple of days off to recover and rest. I'm playing in golf tournament next Saturday so there won't be any long run this coming week. But after that it's back to work. Maybe I'll find a few races to run over the next few months. I'm not sure. I need to at least maintain where I'm at right now though, so I don't have to start from scratch in February/March of next year. I'm glad I got talked in to this though. It was a bit intimidating. And now, having done it, I think the next half-marathon will still be intimidating, but for different reasons.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Olive Garden MVP

A quick shout out to Diane the Olive Garden waitress is in order.

Diane executed her waitress responsibilities beautifully last night. I ordered the never-ending pasta bowl special and told her I was going to eat an obscene amount of the stuff. Within moments, our table was being served our 1st bowl of salad, followed closely by a 2nd bowl. That's nice, I thought. But I didn't come here to eat salad.

My first plate of pasta soon arrived, and that's when Diane really stepped her game up. Instead of wandering away and coming back later to see if I wanted another plate (after I had already been sitting with an empty bowl for some time), and then making me wait another few minutes for the order to arrive, Diane instead asked what I would like next, even before I had taken my first bite. Awesome. By the time I was finishing my first plate, the 2nd was arriving and I was ordering my 3rd. Never staring at an empty plate for longer than a minute or so, this process continued until the rest of our table was finished and I was willing to be done so as to not make them wait for me. I don't know how many plates I polished off, but Diane boxed up one final one for me to take with me.

Perfect execution. Here's a shout out to you, Diane the Olive Garden waitress. You've earned it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Go Time

In the final stages of preparation for the Champoeg half-marathon on Saturday. I feel pretty good at this point. I've had to good Saturday runs of 10.5 and 11 miles, a couple of consistent weeks running 5, 5, and 3-5 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and then had a good 6 mile run on Saturday as I started to taper my miles a bit. This week I ran 4 on Tuesday and had planned to run 2 yesterday, but had to call a bit of an audible. I went up to the high school to run on the soft, spongy track only to find that the marching band and cheerleading squads had taken over the entire stadium, closing the track. More than a bit miffed, I did what anyone (I think) would do less than 72 hours before a race: I said screw it, I'm going to go find the biggest hills I can find and run them. And so I did (it wasn't hard to find them as the high school is essentially build at the highest point in all of West Salem).

So 3 miles up the hills it was. And it felt good. I pushed myself pretty hard, finished up back where I parked and knew I was ready to go for Saturday. In a related story, I was rewarded with a shin splint in my right leg this morning. Shouldn't be any problem though.

My diet the last couple of days has been a steady diet of banana/strawberry/blackberry frozen smoothies, water, bananas and pasta. Eating lots of carbs today and then will eat a normal amount tomorrow.

Today's prep will consist only of some good stretching. Tomorrow I'll probably walk or lightly jog a mile or so and follow it up with some more stretching.

The goals for Saturday:

Race of my life goal: 1:44:48 (8:00/mile)
Realistic goal: 1:48:05 (8:15/mile--my pace in all of my training runs)
Worst case scenario goal: 1:50:00 (8:24/mile)

The forcast calls for 50% chance of rain at racetime. At least it won't be t0o hot.

It's go time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Protein vs. Carbs

If the choice between eating protein or carbs the day before a long run was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it early on. At my parents house yesterday I was offered some left over steak. Too tempting to turn down, I enjoyed it. And when I wasn't hungry later on in the evening, I realized that there would be no carbs running through my system like there usually is on Saturday morning runs. To the steak, I added a breakfast of three eggs, a tomato and two pieces of wholesome toast. I was interested to see if I would feel any different primarily eating protein rather than carbs.

Without giving a travelogue of the entire 11 miles (1:34:18, 8:34/mile), I'll just say that I felt like I had to gut the whole thing out. I didn't get any sort of second wind nor was I able to speed up at all the last mile, peaking with a kick the last 1/4 mile. I felt like my body lacked any sort of reserve energy.

Edge: Carbs

Also a first today, I ran in the rain. A different experience to be sure, but not too bad. Other than my wet socks causing my toes to form blisters on top of blisters. As I finished the run, I felt (and probably looked as well) like a cold, tired, wet dog.

I'm pretty confident in my ability to finish the half-marathon in under 1:50:00 in two weeks. I'm feeling like a great day would even put me under 1:45:00. This week will be similar to the last, 3 miles on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday and 5 on Thursday. Saturday will be tapered back to around 7 probably, depending on which route I decide to run. I may go back to Bush Park and run on the unpaved bark trails. Easier on the knees for sure. After that, it's race week.