"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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marathon #9: St George -- Keep It Simple

The game plan for St George this weekend is simple: let gravity work.

After some hills in miles 7-11 it's all downhill to the finish line. Just keep moving and let gravity do what gravity does.

That's it.

Now back to watching the Red Sox hopefully not complete a total choke job while I pack...


What a complete and utter failure by the Red Sox. I'm glad I have something to take my mind off of this epic disaster this weekend Maybe I'll get home on Sunday and realize that what I saw last night didn't actually happen. No way that actually happened. Right?...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thanks for the concern, but...

I've heard the questions and concerns before. I first heard them back in early 2010 as I was training for my first marathon. They cropped up again as people found out I was going to run my second marathon just three weeks after my first. And again earlier this year as I was preparing to run three marathons in 30 days. They come from various family members, friends and people I go to church with. From athletes, other runners and people who have never run a mile in their lives. In person, on Facebook or from my wife, who hears them from others.

The comments range from a simple, "you're crazy" to "the body just isn't meant to run that much/far" to "aren't you concerned about your knees/other body parts/overall health" and often times include an anecdote about some friend or family member who will never be the same again because of some injury or health problem sustained by running. It doesn't seem to matter that said friend/family member may have been a middle-aged woman or a new runner putting in too many miles too frequently or someone who for decades has eaten a well-balanced plate of the five food groups: fast food, doughnuts, soda, high fructose corn syrup and fat (hopefully I didn't offend anyone there. If so, it wasn't directed towards anyone in particular). None of this seems to matter because everyone with an Internet connection is now a board-certified all-knowing medical specialist who KNOWS that running a marathon, or multiple marathons, or a 50 mile ultra-marathon just isn't healthy.

Wait, 50 mile ultra-marathon?


October 29th. Champoeg State Park. The Autumn Leaves 50mi/50k ultra. 
Why now?

1. I've got the mileage base in place. Since March 5th I've run five marathons, with my sixth coming next weekend in St. George. Six marathons in just under seven months. There's a number of 20 mile training runs in that time frame as well.

2. Timing. After my 3 in 30 days Marathon Maniac-to-be campaign in June/July, I backed it off for a few weeks and spend some time swimming and cycling as I prepared for my first triathlon in early August. After that I was back into marathon mode getting ready for Pocatello. Pocatello and St. Georege are four weeks apart and St. George and the 50-miler are another four weeks apart. That gives me a week or so of rest and recovery, two weeks to get in six or seven solid runs and a race week where I won't do much of anything. Many of the training plans I found online suggested a long run of 26-30 miles 3-5 weeks in advance before tapering. St. George does this for me.

3. Looking ahead. Next year is when I'll probably decide if long-distance triathlons are in my short-term future or not. I've pegged two Olympic distance races that I might want to attempt (one in July, one in September) and while I will still run a couple of marathons, I probably won't run as many as I have this year. The miles and and a focus strictly on running may not be there. If 26.2 miles isn't something to disrespect, 50 miles doesn't want to be messed with either.

4. Health. I feel great. I haven't had even a minor running injury in more than a year, despite the mileage and workload (my pulled lower ab muscle in April was a freak thing from my spin class and only caused me to miss one long run, so I don't count that). I've settled into a good running weight after gaining 10 pounds of muscle prior to the Red Rock Canyon marathon in March (lots and lots of hills). I've given back two or three of those pounds, but have my body fat % has continued to drop. It took a few months to feel comfortable at this new weight, but I feel awesome these days. I can run fast when I want to (PR'ed in my last 5k). I can run uphill, downhill, short, medium or long distances and I can do it while feeling great the next day (and even same day).

5. A new challenge. I've done the marathon. I'm a dues-paying Marathon Maniac. I'm getting closer to the 4-hour barrier with each race. But I feel like I need a new challenge and I'm still an eternity away from even thinking about an Ironman race. This race less than 30 minutes from my house on a flat looped course. It's a 10k course that I'll run eight times. It means I'll pass my drop bag at the end of each loop and be able to gather myself and whatever I need before heading out to run another 6 miles (there's another aid station out in the middle of the loop that is passed twice per loop also). If ever there was a course for me to try to run 50 miles, this would be it I think.

So while I appreciate all of the concern for my knees, my health and my sanity just know that I know what I'm doing. I'm nearly two and a half years into this running thing and have learned to listen and take care of my body. I know what I can do and what I think I can do.

Dig deep.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marathon #8: "Running the Gap" Pocatello Marathon Recap

I'm going to skip all of the pre- and post-race stuff and just get right to it. The biggest thing I took away from this race last year was that under no circumstances could I allow myself to start too fast. The first 14 miles are downhill and while it was nice to run a fast first half last year, I paid for it on the back end.
The race had a pace team for the first time this year and given my pace problems in the past, I lined up next to Carol, the 4-hour pacer, who said she planned to run a steady 9:09 pace while walking through each of the aid stations. This sounded fine and good until the gun went off and Carol took off. It was too dark to see my Garmin, but I knew we were not running anything near a 9:09 pace. Barreling down the canyon, our 4-hour group of about 10 runners clocked an 8:19 Mile 1 and followed it with miles of 8:32, 8:33, 8:36 and 8:28. In fact, we didn't run a 9:09 mile until Mile 9, and it was the only mile in the entire first half slower than 9 minutes.
As we began the second half of the race Carol told those of us still with her (about six or so at that point) that we were about 5 minutes ahead of where we should be (no, really?) and that she was going to slow down. Myself and two other runners were comfortable at our pace though so we continued on. My thinking was that as long as I was running with people and the pace was comfortable I'd be alright. Its when I find myself alone in the later miles that trouble sets in. One of the guys I was with was running his 42nd state, the other, his first marathon.
As we started up the hill in Mile 17, the first-timer and I pulled away a little bit from our Canadian friend. Still under a 4-hour pace and feeling good making my way up the hill, I was in a good place. By the time I hit the top of the rolling hills at Mile 19 though, I had given up about 100 yards to my running partner as he powered his way up the hill. I wasn't sure if he would keep that pace, but more power to him -- he finished in 3:56.
My Canadian friend caught back up to me just after Mile 19 and we ran together for another mile before I took a few extra seconds at the Mile 20 aid station and he continued on. Carol caught up to me at Mile 21 and by the time we got to the top of the last hill at 21.5 she was 50 yards ahead of me. She was still a little bit ahead of the 4-hour pace, but I was working for every step at that point and didn't have enough left in the tank to catch back up to her.
I remained positive though and enjoyed the last few miles. My wife and kids were parked along the way in a few spots and offered encouragement and I eventually crossed the finish line in 4:08:21. 
A couple of take-a-ways:
1. I held the 4-hour pace for more than 22 miles. I'm getting there. I'm close.
2. I was 61 seconds off of my PR set back in June in Seattle. This is either satisfying or frustrating depending on how I look at it. Frustrating in that I know I could have come up with 61 seconds somewhere along the way. Satisfying in that I still felt like I ran a pretty darn good race.
3. I cut 27 minutes off of my time from this race last year. 27 minutes! There's been improvement.
Overall, it was a good race and I'm glad I did it. I learned something things that will help me going forward. Here's the obligatory post-race photo: