Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 18

It's been a week since the race and I've gotten over the disappointment of not getting the BQ. It's always a tough pill to swallow when you don't achieve a goal but instead of dwelling on the past, I'm channeling that energy into preparing for Phoenix in February. With the cooler weather coming, I should be able to get in the long runs that were lacking in the last cycle due to the extreme summer heat. You just can't beat the Arizona winters for training.

After the race I was feeling pretty beat up but I'm happy to report that I'm able to walk like a human again. Normally I'm feeling better a day, maybe 2 afterward but this time it took 4 days which had Christine calling me Ozzy. All I can say is running down a mountain seriously tore my legs up. Still I was feeling alright by Thursday which had me considering a short run but it had been a long week and I opted for the extra rest instead.

So having not run for a week, I was glad to be able to get in 3 miles yesterday although, if I had my choice I would have run on the road. Instead, because of a short business trip, I had to run on the hotel DM. It really felt great to be running after the week off and while my calves were somewhat tight, it was still a good 30 minute effort. I might even try to get in a few miles later this afternoon.

Otherwise, I have been enjoying a post-race cheat treat week. After training hard and eating clean for the past few months, it is nice to cut loose and not worry about it. I can't say that my body is all that pleased which serves as a good reminder that it prefers good food over junk.

Now that you are caught up on my training, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the outpouring of support; it really meant a lot to me. I don't know if I would still be running if it wasn't for the great online community we have. You really are my inspiration to keep grynding.

I was also remiss in forgetting to give a shout out to Amy and Eldon who we met for dinner after the race. They had just finished a tri and were heading home but took the time to meet up. Congrats to Amy for getting through her first OWS and finishing 3rd in her AG.

On a more personal front, Christine and I are moving forward with our new business, Wegrynd. One thing that we have noticed is the lack of reasonably priced, eco-friendly running gear currently available. With a blend of recycled polyester and bamboo charcoal we hope to fill that niche.

Not only is the fabric good for the environment but it is good for you in that it provides UV protection as well as antibacterial properties. Another benefit of the bamboo charcoal it that it is odor absorbing. Just because you train hard, your clothes don't have to smell like it.

Now that training will be scaling back, I'll have time to get the website up before the shirts arrive in about 2 months.

For those of you that are wanting show your Wegrynd colors before the shirts are in, we do have visors available on our eBay site.

That's all I have and once again, I can't thank you enough for the support, it is very much appreciated.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon

After all the training miles have been logged, ready or not, race day arrives. Fortunately for me I got here healthy although there was the matter of a slight achilles niggles that a few extra rest days got rid of.

At the expo
The trip into Salt Lake City on Thursday was easy enough and on Friday we got packet pick-up out of the way early so we could check out the course. I also wanted to put out a couple bottles with UCAN and SOS Rehydrate for in race refueling.

Starting area in daylight

The ride up the canyon was amazing and made for a good preview of the course. It was also helpful that the mile markers were out already. When we got to the top, where the starting line was we stopped for a bit to admire the gorgeous views. One thing we noticed was that it was much cooler at the 9700 foot elevation but didn't give it the thought I should have.

The plan was for an early dinner and bed by 7 so I would be well rested for the 3 am alarm.

Dinner went as planned but when the sun was still out well after 7 I started watching a movie. This was not really much of a big deal since when I finally did power down at 9 I couldn't sleep anyways.

As I tossed and turned for the next few hours I tried to clear my mind, or at least visualize the the race but one thought kept coming up; that was of the bus to the start careening down the side of the canyon after driving off the narrow mountain road.

Ready to go
It's amazing what goes through your head before a race.

At some point I was able to fall asleep but 3 am came way too fast. Since I had everything laid out and ready, it didn't take long to get my poop in a group and be headed to the bus. Along the way I met a fellow runner from AZ and we walked over together and shared a school bus seat for the trip.

I'm happy to say that the ride was uneventful and we got to the drop off safely. Since I was on an early bus the were no lines for the "Honey Buckets" which was nice. With business done it was now time to find some warmth. As I mentioned, it was cool enough during the day at 9700 feet but before the sun was up at 5 am it was downright cold, maybe in the 30s.

While I was dressed for a bit of a chill with an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt I wasn't prepared for there being no fires or heaters. No bueno. I figured they would have planned for this, or at least let us know in the pre-race communications but nothing except for foil blankets.

For the next hour plus there was nothing to do but fuel up and shiver as daylight slowly appeared from the distant mountains. Now this didn't do anything to warm things up but trying to stay wrapped up and warm actually provided enough of the a distraction.

Before I knew it, the announcement that the race was beginning in 15 minutes and I had to scramble to get gear on and hoping for short lines at the Honey Buckets. With everything taken care of, I managed to get to my pace group with about 30 seconds to spare. So much for warming up.

I don't much remember if there was a horn or a gun, just that the mass in front of me was moving and that I was along for the ride.

Right off the bat we had a steep decline and with the quick pace and bouncing, one of my water bottles came loose. Luckily it bounced for and as I slowed to scoop it it, all I could think of was getting trampled by the 1000+ runners behind me.

For the next quarter mile or so I carried both bottles as I worked out this potential issue. It soon dawned on me that I could simply cover them with my shirt. Problem solved.

Soon I began to settle into a rhythm and let the decline determine might pace. With the steep grade I didn't want to be too fast but conversely I didn't want to expend too much energy holding back.

The first challenge began just passed the 3 mile mark with decent incline for about 100 yards followed by a light uphill before we looped back. At this point my legs felt a little stressed but it wasn't long before I relaxed and got back into the groove. By now it was light out but the sun had yet to make it's way into the canyon. I was doing alright but even with gloves my fingers were still cold.

Just beautiful
As the early miles clicked along I was feeling good but was slower than the 7:20 pace I wanted to be by a good 15 seconds. This was somewhat of a concern but I had faith in my strategy and training that I would be able to finish strong.

Soon the 9 mile point was approaching and this was where I would take my first refueling break. The original plan was to walk as I drank but since I was behind schedule I decided to run at an easy pace in the 9s. This provided for a nice break and at the next available opportunity soon made a quick rest stop. As I exited the Honey Bucket I saw my pace group approaching and settled in with them. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing but I wasn't planning on having them catch me until much later. Still this was something I could work with.

Things were still going pretty good but there were some signs that all was not well. For one, I was beginning to notice some pain developing in my calves as well as my quads. Going into the race I tried to do a fair amount of hill training but I really underestimated how this extreme course was going to effect me. I just needed to continue to grynd and at the 13.1 mark I was on pace at 1:40 but needed to make a quick stop.

The real issues began around mile 16 when it became more of a struggle as my calves were hurting much more on the steep declines at this point. Even after some motivation and inspiration from The Black Crowes' Ballad In Urgency, I came to the realization that today was not my day and began to focus on finishing under 3:45 which was still doable.

What I was really happy for was my next refuel before mile 18. At some point I went off script and stopped taking my ENERGYbits and honey along with water. I seem to recall feeling something minor in my stomach after something and allowed it to spook me going forward.

It was also around this time where the sun was starting to make it's way into the canyon and it felt great. Finally I was able to take off the long sleeve shirt I had been wearing and be comfortable with my singlet. It was pleasant enough that it didn't bother me after all the training in the desert.

When I got to the bottle I wasn't all that thirsty and wound up tossing it after drinking about 2/3 of it. I have no explanation why but by now my head was as scrambled as my legs. What's worse is this came at one of the more difficult sections on the course. It was on a slight, but long, incline at around the 18.5 mile mark that I gave in and began to walk.

It was now all about just finishing.

The last time I was here was around mile 14 of Last Chance BQ.2 - Chicagoland Marathon a year ago. This was more of a disapointment as I had what I considered a very good training cycle which I was for the most part injury free. I did everything I needed to do except for a few long runs that didn't happen due to the Arizona summer.

For the next 6 miles there was more walking than running and while I never considered dropping out, BBW was in my head. I was broken as he had me questioning whether I'd ever run 26.2 again.

What was interesting was that I was not alone. There seemed to be about a half a dozen other runners who were in the same boat as me; they would run past me and then as I started running they would walk and I would go past. This kept repeating itself and while we all probably noticed the same thing, we were also oblivious to one another's struggles and focused on our own tale of woe.

Really the story should have ended here but what makes for compelling theater is when things are at their bleakest, the hero of the story rises up against all odds and slays the dragon. Now before you get any ideas of a miraculous recovery where I was able to sprint the last few miles to BQ, put that out of your head. Besides, the truth is always more interesting.

In this movie what really happened was by the 24 mile mark, I was done with the shock of any bit of downhill running resonated in my calves. So while we were out of the canyon and into the city, there was a fairly steep and long downhill section that I couldn't take; even walking down it hurt. A lot

It was here, at my lowest, that I resigned myself to the fact that I would never get into Boston as a qualifier. I was even composing a blog post in my head explaining why I was giving up the quest for a BQ and why I was going back to being the Halffast Runner. All I wanted was for this to be over with.

Thanks Alesha
As this was going on I began to hear someone shouting at me to get going. We were almost at the finish and no one walks downhill. As I turn to see what is going on, I see 2 women, one of which had the 3:55 pace sign, passing me and telling me to get running. Suddenly I snapped out of if and realized that they represented a PR and I better get my ass moving.

Let me tell you those first few strps were an experience in pain but as I saw these ladies urge other runners to keep going, the pain started to subside somewhat. Soon I was actually able to gain some ground and it wasn't long before I was going by them. Yeah it still hurt but no more than when I was the walking dead. It was also time to put some music back on and Montrose's Space Station #5 was just what I needed as I crossed the 25 mile marker.

With the finish in sight, my legs were trying to keep up with the tempo as I pushed as hard as I could. By now I was back on a flat section and had wiped any pain out of my mind as the track switched to my finshing song, Kickstart My Heart. It was go time as the music was pumping, the crowd was cheering and the end was near. I was intent in using whatever I had left in the tank as I passed the 26 mile flag and chugged for the finish. As I crossed the line I raised my arms and was just glad it was over. When I stopped my watch shortly after, I saw I was slightly over 3:53 so I knew it was a PR. Later I would find out my official time was 3:53:02 which bettered my previous record by 3:38.

Before I left the finish area I wanted to hang around and thank the pacer that made the PR possible. After a couple minutes she came in and I told her how much I appreciated her encouragement and how grateful I was for it. This is what the running community is all about, helping and cheering and picking up one another. Sure, it's an individual sport but you cannot go it alone.

Now I've been asked by a few people if I would do this race again and while it was a wonderful experience, probably not. The course was just too extreme for this desert dweller and 36 hours later my legs are still toast. These Revel races may offer a great chance to BQ but unless you have the ability to train for steep hills, you will pay a price.

All I know is I'm looking forward to a few days to a couple weeks off before I start training for Phoenix in late February.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August 13

The time is just flying and I cannot believe that race day is only four weeks from today. At least I'm in a better place than I was last year at this time when my PF was to confine me to the elliptical for a couple weeks.

Today I was looking forward to logging some miles on Usery Mountain since it's been over a month since I was there last.

Fortunately I was in bed early last night but although I didn't get the best night's sleep, I still managed to be up and out the door by 5:30. Let me just say that this paid off as the sun was just about to peak over the mountain as I was set to begin the run.

Once again the plan was for 1 up, 1 slight down, 1 slight up, 3 down, 2 up, rest/rehydrate, 2 down and 2 up. This makes for 5 good mile speedwork on the 4% grade while getting in some hard uphill miles as well. Today was actually the first time I saw multiple runners out but as usual there were many bikes on the mountain.

One of the goals for this outing was push it a bit harder on the uphills and I was lucky enough to have a cyclist who was going up at a pace around 9 and felt like chatting. Too bad I could only keep up with her for about a half mile on one of the steepest portions of the run.

I have to say that I was very happy to get in a productive run with the major downhill portions coming in at 7:24 - 6:55 - 6:53 - 7:15 - 7:24. The last 7:24 would have been better had I not experienced a wardrobe malfunction and had to stop to retrieve my Nathan fuel belt which fell off as I was trucking along at a 7 minute pace.

One thing that helped was having the metronome app going on my phone. I want to find a good cadence and found that my sweet spot was right at 182 bpm on the downhill. This should come in handy on race day for sure.

In all, things have been going very well thus far in August. In the last three weeks, I haven't bagged any runs; managing 31, 39 and 34.5 quality miles per week. The finish line is in sight so it's time to stay focused. I could still use to lose 10-15 pounds to get down to a race weight I like but I''m down 10 and have been more fat adapted lately.

One other "hack" that I have tried is to wear orange glasses  a couple hours before bed and have to say that they seem to be helping. The premise it to avoid blue light at night to promote sleepiness. Given the world we live in, it is just too hard to refrain from TV, the computer or phone so this is a viable alternative.

Now I'm not sure if these glasses are actually working or if it is the placebo effect but I actually feel tired earlier and seem to get to sleep faster. Honestly I don't care why they work, just that they do work.

Well, that's about all for now. Just need to keep on keeping on and not do anything foolish over the next four weeks.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31

What a difference a year makes.

As the calendar gets ready to flip into August, I'm 40 days out from race day and feeling pretty good about things. Maybe I'm just kidding myself but last year at this time I felt like I was trying to convince myself that everything was ok when it wasn't. Mentally I wasn't in the game as BBW was getting the best of me and the nagging PF was not helping. This time around I'm injury free and while I'm not running as long or as fast I would like to, I'm in a good place.

I haven't done as much running as I would like this month due to the heat and taking extra rest (some of which was just laziness) and had to step up my game just to hit 100 miles for the month. I know I shouldn't stress about a random number but it was in my head. There was also some good natured peer pressure from the Twitter community that motivated me to log 23 miles over the last 2 days with 3 quality runs.

Since the weather hasn't been conducive to being out after 9 or so on weekends, coupled with my inability to get out of bed to be out on the road before the sun comes up, I'm actually taking a liking to these Saturday doubles.

Another thing I have going for me is the results of my latest Inside Tracker test. As I mentioned before, my iron levels were a bit off so I made some changes in my diet and supplementation which have me going in the right direction.

I've also optimized a few other markers that were off so now it's just a matter of staying the course and losing some weight.

As things sit today, every thing's in its right place and I hope to keep it that way. As long as I listen to my body and take extra rest when it wants it, I see no reason I won't do great in UT as long as I don't sweat the small stuff.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 17

The dog days are here, that is for sure, but while it's been a productive couple of weeks I can tell the heat is wearing me down so it's time to back off a bit.

I started to notice it more in the past week as I have felt more fatigued especially in my legs. It didn't help matters any that I was overly ambitiously last weekend when I hit the local track to rip off some Yassos when it was over 100. As a result, I was absolutely thrashed for my long run on sunday and barely managed 3 miles before I has to walk.

It was more of the same for the next run on Tuesday where I opted for an easy 3 instead of the scheduled speedwork.

Since I've been here before, I know now that it's best not to fight it and realize that I will be better off to listen to my body instead of try to power through it. I've had enough with injuries to understand that it's preferable maintain my health as opposed to worrying about mileage. It's less than 60 days until the next BQ attempt and there is no way I want to be in the same boat as I was last summer.

After skipping my recovery run on Thursday I planned on getting a long run in yesterday. The only problem with that it this time of year I need to be out on the road no later than 6:30. Unfortunately I was lazy and by the time I got out after 8 it was already 90 and not a cloud in the sky.

Now I don't know about you but what kills me is the sun and not the heat which is why by the 4.5 mile mark the sun had me beat. No matter how well I'm hydrated it just kills me. At this point I knew that I was just going to have to struggle through 8 and maybe shoot for another run later in the day.

After running errands and recovering I felt like another run was in the cards by 6pm. Now even though the temp was around 105 at this point, the sun was lower in the sky which afforded for more shade. This to me is far more bearable so I hit the road for 5.

You may think I'm crazy but run 2 on the day was much better and I was able to maintain a mid-9 pace with little effort. This was a far cry from earlier where high-10s were a struggle. I don't know what it is but the sun just kills me.

The other good thing about doubling up yesterday was that it not only gave me the opportunity to sleep in today but it allowed me to enjoy a fine wine courtesy of one of my fine Twitter friends Dr Debster who by the way scored a PR in the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half today, achy achilles and all. I raise my glass to you DA.

And with that, it's back to the cube farm tomorrow and hopefully back on schedule for September.

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4

Well, I did it again.

As much as I intend to keep things updated, I often don't have the motivation to write. Time can be an issue but mostly it's that I don't don't consider my training interesting. I'm also not as obsessive about it as I was in the past so I'm no longer sweating every little detail. While I do have a plan as far as distance and intensity I'm more open to scaling back as my body tells me.

What's new you ask?

For starters, I finally broke the 4 hour barrier with a 3:56:37 finish at the Phoenix Marathon back in February. Conditions were perfect on race day with temps around 50 for the 6:30 am start. The race was well organized and other than having to be up at 3 to drive 45 minutes to get on a shuttle to the start I couldn't ask for better. I just wish that they had a drop area with a shuttle nearer to the start because this would have gained me at least an extra hours worth of sleep since I live relatively close by.

Logistics aside, everything went great. I was on an early shuttle so I was there before it got too crowed which afforded for a good spot around one of the many fires they had for us. This also meant that I had plenty of time to relax and stretch before things got going.

The one thing that drew me to this race was that it is mostly downhill save for a pretty good ascent around the 4.5 mile mark along with some smaller hills toward the end..

To say I was happy with the outcome is an understatement. Although I stopped a half a dozen times to go, I was able to run the entire course without bonking while maintaining fairly consistent splits. This actually provided me with the confidence that I could BQ.

With this success, I began to look into finding a race my next BQ attempt. Having a few options for September races that a fast qualifiers, I decided on running the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon in Salt Lake City UT which features an over 5000 foot descent.

My thinking here is that I felt great on the downhill for Phoenix so why not try for something bigger. One of the issues I did have in that race was that I paid the price in my quads for not having done any hill training.

For this race I'll be ready because fortunately I have Usery Mountain only about 30 minutes away. While not nearly as big or steep, it gives me a nice 3 mile stretch with a 600+ foot drop to train on. I've already done it a half dozen times since the beginning of May and intend to do it at least that many more in the coming 2 months.

Other than this nothing big has happened run-wise. The only other race I have done was a 5K back in April which wasn't anything spectacular as well as participated in the United Relay. Pretty much I have been logging quality miles as I close in on 700 for the year and most importantly remaining injury free.

On the nutrition side of things, I've been pretty good save for a junk weekend for Memorial Day. I've had a couple Inside Tracker tests and overall things look pretty good. Need to work on my iron absorbsion but other than that I'm good.

Still, even though I have been eating clean, I'm struggling with my weight which has been between 155 and 160 for a while now. I'd prefer to be down to 145 or less fully hydrated for race day.

A lot probably has to do with stress at work but mostly because I do a piss poor job of getting to bed when I should. I seriously need to get into the habit of going to bed before 9 instead of staying up watching TV and using my phone. Problem it, when I do get to bed early it takes me too long to get to sleep so I wind up tossing around for a while.

One last thing to mention is that I've about hit my 4 year runniversary. I can't find my training log but I started running again some time around this holiday weekend back in 2012 and have run about 4000 miles since then. Not too shabby if I do say so.

What I'm the most proud of though is that Christine has kept up with her running over the past year and has shown steady progress as she ups her mileage, now in the 60s per month, and has her 5K time down to 41:26. Bravo

So there you have it; nothing too exciting. Just happy that I can get out and run.