Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bix 7 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 10th Edition 
143.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Bix 7
Place: Davenport, IA
Miles from home: 1953 miles
Weather: 70s; bright sun; humid

At the beginning of this month I took on the Peachtree Road Race-a 10k on the fourth of July in Atlanta in its 45th year. Drawing nearly 60,000 people it is more an event than a race. Closing out July, I ventured to Davenport, IA to an area I am quite familiar with to tackle the hills of the Bix. This one-of-a-kind 7 miler, itself in its 40th year of running with nearly 18,000 runners, follows much of the same format as Peachtree, in so much that a lot of the runners are there for the show. While the Peachtree owes much of its existence to Jeff Galloway, the Bix has both Joan Benoit Samuleson and Bill Rodgers to thank for flourishing as it has.

Quick history lesson: When the 1980 Olympic Games were boycotted by the US, Bill Rodgers instead decided to go to Davenport to compete.  Soon thereafter Joan followed suit and the two have been mainstays ever since. Now the largest non-marathon event in the Mid-west, it is a race of tradition, hills and Slip N Slides (stay tunned.)

My own race experience is of little consequence. I am out of running shape. I am also not a short distance runner even if I was in the sort of running shape I wanted to be in, which I am acutely aware is relatively fast at best.  In addition, a 12 hour (!) expo had me at the Swirlgear booth on my feet for a long period of time.  If you have ever worked an expo and tried to race it is like the Iditarod. However, as the first ever speaker the Bix has had at their expo, I live by what I speak. Whatever you have on that day, give it. If you do, you should never be disappointed.

This is of course, flowery language that any competitor, myself included, can scoff at and ignore. I can always be disappointed. I certainly gave just about everything I had on this day and found myself not even remotely close to happy to with the end result. In fact, about 14 seconds is all that kept me from being downright disenchanted with my running. However, let me get to a little course description before I go much deeper.

The Bix is known for Brady Street Hill. Runners barely run a block before they begin charging up a quarter mile long hill. This sort of incline is tough enough as it is but coming right at the start before you can even get warmed up makes it more difficult. Having a huge crowd around you makes it even worse.

**Here I am going to take a small sidestep from the course description to talk about placement of yourself in a race. I started fairly far up in my corral, based on a time I submitted which wasn’t too far off my actual finish time. Yet, within yards, I found myself running up the backs of people who absolutely obviously did not belong there. Runners, this is my impassioned plea: you know where you should be in a race. Please not only do yourself the favor of not having hundreds if not thousands of runners pass you, which is disheartening in and of itself, but also the runners around you, by putting yourself in the right place.

About 100 yards into the race, runners pass underneath some scaffolding. I am unsure who was on the megaphone but a deep voice boomed: “Runners, if you are passing under me right now, you have virtually no chance of winning the Bix.”  It caused a hearty laugh amongst many of us as it was 100% true. Barely 20 seconds into the race and we knew it would take a series of incalculable miracles for any of us to cross the finish line first. Now that doesn’t mean our own goals are not important, regardless of our pace, but as important as they are, they do not supersede the group collective of the running body. I cannot tell you how often I have begged and pleaded with my fellow runners to do what they can to be courteous. Runners are known by many (most other runners) as the nicest people. Well, we can also be courteous too if we line up where we ought to. I wasn’t even racing per se and I was beyond perturbed at my fellow runners. Working together means we all win in the end.


This was a very long aside but it absolutely needed to be said. Back to your usual race recap**


As often is the case with a race with a signature feature for which it is known, it is other portions of the race which can be more taxing. After the Brady Street Hill, those running the seven mile race see those running the Quick Bix, a 2 mile race where runners crest Brady Street, turn around and head back toward the finish, branch off. A block later, the Seveners (I just made that up) turn down Kirkwood Boulevard. A runner at my pace (6-7 minute miles) will experience their first breath of elbow room right around this turn, just as the boulevard narrows a tad with a tree-lined median. Here is where the neighborhood occupants come out to play.

This particular race day it was far from as blistering as it could be.  It was in the low 70s at the start with the sun blocked by some haze. It wasn’t good conditions, it just wasn’t horrible. But if it had been a hot day, the people out with a variety of watering-down-the-runner contraptions were ready and waiting. As you continue down this tree-lined street, you pass under an extremely low bridge.  Only 8’8’’ tall, competitors can and do jump up to hit the pieces of plastic that hang down to warn you that “Truck that hit Tubes will hit Bridge.”

Down a hill competitors run before two quick turns have them mounting a hill with a worse grade than the infamous Brady Street Hill.  Cresting this hill and immediately going back down it makes you realize that on this out and back course, you will be doing the same up and down in about a mile.

At the turnaround is one of at least two wet pieces of thin plastic covered in water that a local family has out for runners to have fun on.  If you chose to muddy yourself and add some time off your overall finish, head up their yard and slide back down. 

Completely that, turn around right before River Drive on the banks of the Mississippi (the only place in America where this mighty river runs east-west) and head back toward the start. 

My race consisted of realizing I was starting far too back, that the heat and humidity were once again going to rob me of any decent skills I had, and that even if I pushed it I would still be full minutes off what I knew I could do. So instead, I decided to run hard but have fun.

As slow as the race was for me, I was very pleased with my first mile of 7:13 given the bobbing and weaving of the aforementioned crowd and then the hill we had to conquer. I was a little less pleased with my second mile of 6:07, given the downhill nature of the run. By the time we hit the third mile I had already seen not only the elite men and women head back in the other direction, but many of the runners I could have been running with if I was in shape. That was a little disheartening but alas. When I got down to the first slip and slide, I only made a half-hearted attempt to go up the yard about ten yards before sliding down like a baseball player going into second base. I wanted to have fun but I didn’t want to treat the race like a complete joke.

After sitting at the expo for many hours and hearing everyone who had run the race previously tell me how horribly difficult the return trip home was, I had psyched myself out.  Even though I had just ran down the hills and knew what was in store, I was cautious.  Honestly, while the bump around mile 3 and then again 4 was a toughie, for the most part the rise back to Brady Street wasn’t too shabby.  In fact, I was getting my wind to me around mile 5 which shouldn’t have been a surprise. I am not a sprinter. I do well at long distances because if I have a strength it is not getting as tired as others.(If you can call that a strength, that is.)  But now I felt good. Even with the hills I had run a pair of 7:15 miles and was enjoying the day.

On the return trip back there were thousands of runners streaming in the other direction.  I heard my name on numerous occasions and through my hands up in hello with a quick “Hi!” Most of the time I couldn’t pick the friendly face out of the crowd but on occasion, eyes would lock and a smile would break out. These are friends you know, work with or will see but for some reason during a race hearing your name and seeing a friendly face gives you a boost. I somehow, out of the thousands, saw Lacie Whyte of Swirlgear who I am working with an a new book to be released this fall. (Details to come!)

Even though my time was going to be meh, I decided to have an un-meh time, if you follow my drift.  Before getting back to Brady Street, running down Kirkwood Boulevard with all the fans provided ample opportunity to high-five kids, dance to some music and, most importantly, have another go at a slip and slide.

This time a horizontal slippie in the grass median of the two lanes, I saw what looked like the most inviting slide ever. The water appeared cold and refreshing, if water has a look to it. Unlike the well-meaning people out with a spray bottle or a water hose, I had a feel a dip here would actually be beneficial. You see, when you are already drenched in liters of your own sweat, a spray bottle is laughable at best.  But the dilemma as I approached the slide was how I was going to go about this.  Did I want to chance another leg under baseball slide?  I still had more than mile to go and I really didn’t know if this area had been vetted properly by the beer-swilling crowd. What if there were rocks or sticks underneath?  So, I somehow decided that face-first was best.

Gathering up a head of steam I splooshed down the blue plastic setting off a shower of water in either direction.  As I slowed to a stop, a young lass snapped my picture with her phone. I stood up, said” Send that to SeeDaneRun.com!” and continued on. I am sure she had no idea what I said and since I have yet to receive the picture, it appears my words went unheard.  (Bummer.) I have a feeling it was pretty epic.

Onto Brady Street we turned and even though the start was at the end of this hill, I knew we had another half of a mile to go after it ended.  The course is not a pure out and back and therefore mileage must be tacked onto the end. I could see I could salvage some pride by running a semi-fast last mile and nail a sub-7 minute per mile average.

As I thanked the guy who passed me and said he loved my presentation (I think this might have been said to either soften the blow of him passing me or soften my spirit so I wouldn’t fight back with a kick), we turned the corner and saw the finish ahead.

Pushing a little harder than needed just to make sure I had done my math right, I hit the finish line in 48:44.  I was only 503rd overall out of over 10000 finishers. At least I snuck in under 7 minutes per mile, even if I didn’t get into the top 500. Then again, even if I had run the time I am entirely capable of, I would have barely made the top 200 and just edged out this 57 year old pixie from Maine named Joan something or other.

Yet one of the random people I saw in the crowd was a woman by the name of Carol.  Carol was in attendance at the speech I gave on Friday and afterward came up to me almost in tears.  The gist of her story was that at age 68 she was on the fence of whether she had it in her to ever run her first marathon.  She mentioned that after hearing me speak, she decided it was now or never.  We spoke at great length and I gave her my card as I wanted to possibly make sure she stuck to her plan.  Mostly I did it because I wanted to be inspired daily by Carol as she chased her own dreams. I then recommended the Quad Cities Marathon in Davenport for this local as her first marathon.

Here’s hoping I see her cross the finish line soon.


Monday, July 21, 2014

CamelBak Partnership and Product Review: CamelBak Marathoner Vest

Full-disclosure: I hate wearing hydration packs, bottles or anything of the sort.

I am, for the most part, a roadracer who enjoys having water handed to him every mile. Call it pampered or lazy or what have you but it is true. So when I do find a product I like that falls into this category, it is a small miracle. Fortunately for me, I found it years ago with CamelBak.


When I attempted my first 100 miler back in 2007 (The Old dominion 100), I was wearing a CamelBak. Even though I ended up DNFing this race at mile 87, at no point was I anything but happy with the pack and CamelBak has come a LONG way in seven years. Of course, as runners, we find a product we like, it pleases us, and then for some reason we try to find something better. I flirted with a few other products but couldn't really find that same marriage of comfort, ease and design. Then I was burglarized.

Four days before Christmas a few years back my loft was broken into. I lost a great deal of important things; more important than any running gear. But in the list of itmes it would have been just great if the thieving meth-head bastard had not stolen were my CamelBak products. So to say I am excited to be announcing my partnership with this fantastic company would be quite the understatement.

As such, I, the quintessential wanting-nothing-on-my-body-at-all runner, will be reviewing a slew of Camelbak products and giving my honest assessment of how they work over the next few weeks. I will be starting with the newly designed CamelBak Marathoner Vest.

I took this new vest on a small run just to see how it felt initially. I also consciously made the rookie mistake of not burping the bladder so that it would slosh around inside. I wanted to see how it would perform under less than optimal conditions. Let me say it did a stellar job. But that was a 5 miler. Anything can go right for half an hour.

So I decided to take it out on a full length run of the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park here in Portland, OR. Well, that run was aborted do to the combination of a humid day in the park, my supernatural ability to sweat liquids that I haven't even drank yet, and a seam on a pair of shorts in a place where a seam should never, ever, ever be. But prior to that second degree burn from chafing (I am serious. It was bad), I put a solid 21 miles of running, fast hiking and twisting and turning through the park. The pack was simply stellar for the entire three hours.

Even jammed packed with the provisions I thought I might need for a 50k of traipsing through the forest, it felt light as a feather. The 70 ounce bladder (2 Liters) was snuggly in place in the back. It sits very lightly on the shoulders and doesn’t swing around. There are two clips to hold the drinking tube along the right shoulder pad. The mesh pocket on the back can even carry an extra piece of clothing, and I almost shed my soaked shirt in the forest to put it back there. I also noticed when I took some pictures there were ample reflective bands in the front and the back of the vest. The cushioning on the pack itself was not only airy but extremely comfortable. I assumed a pack had to be one of the other, either cushy and hot or breathable but non-existent.  This married the two excellently.

Even when I was getting increasingly irritated from my chafing, and everything should have been bothering me, the pack was top-notch. When I tried to alleviate my growing "problem" I simply reached into one of the ample pockets to grab some BodyGlide. As I attempted to keep my mind off the pain, I grabbed some of the Shurky Jurky I had stashed in another pocket along with some PowerBar Gel Blasts.  I remember thinking that I had more food in here than I had eaten during my 50 miler course record at the Iron Horse 50  a few years ago.  Yet it still all seemed to be in its proper place. My camera and phone (separate items) were also in store and easily accessible. I wouldn't want to deprive you of these lovely pictures of my sweat-drenched self.

When the run left the park and I took to the city streets, I realized I had depleted all 70 ounces of water. So, I simply slid the pack off, and with CamelBak's proprietary Antidote system, I easily undid the huge screw valve and filled the bladder halfway again at water fountain I came across in town. (NW Couch and NW 18th Ave if you are curious and need one.) If there is an easier or better bladder out there than CamelBak's I haven't found it.

Simply put, I was blown away with how wonderful this pack was. Even the little things like excess straps rubbing against my arms, or swaying as I sprinted down the switchbacks did not occur. I don't know how Camelbak did it but they made this road runner like a relatively large running pack. My hats of to you, guys and girls.

Quick stats:
Price: $100 (a virtual steal)
Total Weight: 1.13 lbs / 513 g
Color : Skydiver/Egret  (Or blue and silver. I speak color wheel)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eating Meat is the New (and Old ) Eating Heathful

As an advocate of eating meat, I am often forwarded lost of articles by many people stating how bad meat is for you.  I also get to be called some pretty horrific things by some spineless people who like to hide behind anonymous twitter names, blogs, etc. Fortunately I have thick skin. However, when another article found its way to my doorstep I wanted to take the time to respond to it.

Written by a "strong, healthy ultra endurance athlete on a 100% organic, real food, plant-based lifestyle" named Sarah Stanley, this article is entitled "Why Going Meatless Is The New Black". Eye-rolling at the title aside, I thought I would give it a read as I like to hear opposing viewpoints. It helps me learn things or at least hear the newest ludicrousness. In addition, I have never met Ms. Stanley but I am almost positive we have exchanged an email or two as we both lived in the same neck of the woods as athletes for about four years.

Because Ms. Stanley touts her athletic record I thought I would take some time to look it up.  She is a perfectly fine athlete having run a a variety of races.  It took a little searching to find any of her results which is something I only do when someone wants to use their endurance results as proof for how their diet is superior. While this list is not exhaustive, it appears Ms. Stanley has a finished a 100 miler race just a hair shy of 25 hours, a 50 mile race just over 10 hours and one marathon (out of a handful over 4 hours) in 3:40. Solid times.  Nothing to sneeze at. Nothing to necessary brag about as being proof of the superiority of your diet either but there they are.

Now, I want to address each one of the points she makes in the article and if I can't disagree with her, I will say so.

1. Her first point is that it takes ~ 2,500 gallons of clean water to produce one pound of beef. Well, first off, it takes a lot of water to produce many things (I touched on a similar claim in another article here.). While I found conflicting sources (one said it takes 5000 litres to produce a kilogram of beef, which is the same as saying 590 gallons to produce one pound of beef - interesting what you can do when you look at other sources, huh?) it also takes 1.1 gallons to produce ONE FREAKING ALMOND.  Look at this chart to see how much water it takes to produce tiny little things.  (e.g, 5.4 gallons to produce a single damn head of broccoli) So in other words, it sounds like it takes a lot of water to produce beef until you realize it takes a lot of water to produce most things.

2) Sarah's second point is so rife with error and conjecture I could write an article about every point in it but I want to keep it concise.  She states that 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms and cites the ASPCA for this statistic and that article just says it is true. Based on what I don't know.  I do know I have been to many feed lots in the US including the biggest one in Idaho in Grand View. What I saw were healthy, happy animals with enormous amounts of land to run around in.  And if there is a roof that covers 750 acres of land, I must have missed it. (See picture.)

And to take an aside here about "hormones" which the usage of the word and how appalled people get over it just makes me cringe.  Make a dot the size of a ladybug.  That is approximately how much hormones are given to a cattle prior to its slaughter. Note, however, those hormones must be completely out of its system before it is killed for food.  That cow will weigh around 1400 lbs. Now take the same dot. Give it to a 140 person 21 days out of every 28. What do you have? Birth control. (Of course Hobby Lobby will love this argument but that is not my point. And it really confused the hell out of people when I put down both vegetarians and the religious right in the same article but there you go.)  My point is that "hormones" at least when it comes to cattle, barely exist. Stop thinking they are horrible. They keep the animals healthy and strong and give you a good end product that is healthful. 

I am also not negating that 80% of the antibiotics used in America are used in Animals. It takes a great deal of antibiotics to keep a lot of animals healthy.  There are nearly 90 million head of cattle in America. There are over 2 billion (with a "b") chickens in the US. They will require more antibiotics than human just by sheer numbers. So when you say 80%, know what you are talking about.

3) Sarah then says that  most people aren't even eating "real meat". This is like when the Huffington Post says that thin women are not "real women".  Yes, they are. And yes the meat is.  Just stop it.


4) I have no idea what her fourth point is about other than saying life is connected.  OK. I agree.

5) Her fifth point is that if you are an awful human being and must simply eat meat then make sure it is always "organic".  Most people haven't the foggiest clue what organic is.  Calling something organic does not make it wonderful. Want to know what is organic? CANCER.

6) She says there is no compelling reason to make meat the center of attraction.  Other than the fact that there are a plethora of reasons, she is 100% correct. Meat, especially lean beef (here is a list of the 29 cuts of beef that are leaner than skinless chicken thigh; yes, you read that right) is low in calories, high in protein, zinc and iron and tastes good. I think those are all good reasons.

7) According to some studies, it does appear that a vegetarian lifestyles reduces greenhouse gases, even though the amount is up for debate. Although I have always despised the argument that we are caring for the Earth.  No, we are caring for the Earth in a way that makes sure it sustains life for us oxygen breathing creatures. I don't mean to get off-point here but the Earth will ALWAYS be fine. If we turn our atmosphere into nothing but methane, I am sure a methane-breathing creature will arise. Now I don't want to kill of the human race but let's stop with the earth-hugging.  The Earth doesn't love us.  It hits us with volcanoes and earthquakes and tornadoes. The Earth is kind of a dick. But yes, there could be less greenhouse gases (possibly) if there was zero production of meat.

8) Sarah says that going meat free helps prevent cancer in spite of this report by a small college no one has heard of called Harvard Medical School that says "large amounts of red meat can produce genetic damage to colon cells in just a few weeks, but it does not prove that red meat causes cancer."   There is, however, a clear and unarguable link between alcohol and cancer and many drink away, including holier-than-thou vegetarians.

9) The next attack is on the fast food chains, Lunchables and hotdogs. OK, virtually no one eating a hot dog is doing it for health reasons. As for Lunchables, come on. Is the argument so weak that you are going after a product called "Lunchables"? And knocking fast food joints really is knocking the things that people eat that they would put on no-meat products anyway. Sauces, oils, dressing, etc. Meat is not the problem.

10) Her tenth and final point is a heart strings ones. It talks about compassion. I have zero problem stating that in order to eat an animal you must kill it. There is no sugar-coating that in my life. However, I have seen the way in which these animals live and by a HUGE percentage, they live wonderful lives.

Now, will this get read as much as something that is not Sarah Stanley approved.  God I hope so. I don't have the (quizzically) large twitter follower numbers she has but I do get around.

I (Dane) am a decently good, healthy endurance athlete on a healthy diet consisting of meats, vegetables and somewhat less healthy diet sometimes consisting of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. But I have a course record in a 50 mile race and ran 52 Marathons in a year. Proof that eating lean beef really is awesome.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shurky Jurky Partnership

If you have heard me speak about nutrition any time in the past half-decade, you will know I am a huge advocate of eating lean beef. It is healthful, tastes good and is the lifeblood of some of my most audacious of my running excursions.

It should come as no shock that I have been able to wrangle a partnership with a beef jerky company. And not just any company but that of Choice Artisan jerky, Shurky Jurky.  I met the one of the owners and creators of Shurky Jurky, Mike Shur, some time ago at a local Sunday Market here in Portland, Oregon. I like to support entrepreneurs and love me some jerky so we started a conversation.

When I told him how much I eat beef jerky during the middle of my ultras (a quick look in the trunk of my crew for my Graveyard 100 miler two years ago proves this) we got into a deeper talk. After I tried his product and loved not only the taste, but the entire idea of his company, I knew we had to work together.

So it is with great pleasure that I am announcing that Shurky Jurky is the official beef jerky of, well, me. AS such, I am helping the rest of you get your teeth on this fantastic product.  Simply use this promo code (SEEDANEMEAT50) and you will get a complimentary Small Bag of your choosing: Beef, Pork, or Turkey on your first order above $25. In addition, you will can use the same code to get a free Small Bag for every $50 you subsequently spend with Shurky Jurky.  It is the code that keeps on giving!

Now most of this doesn't matter to me much but Shurky Jurky is 100% Primal, Paleo, Gluten-free & Whole30 Compliant. If reading makes you tired click on over to this video to learn even more about this delicious and healthful product. Meanwhile, get yourself over to their page and order yourself some jerky now.  You owe your tastebuds as much.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gilbert's Syndrome and Slowing Your Roll

I’ve never been particularly impressed with myself.

I am proud of my accomplishments, I am happy for what I have achieved and can find solace in the fact I give as much of myself as possible in my endeavors. But whenever I have been able to accomplish anything in particular, I automatically assume that it must not be too difficult. This holds true even when no one seems to have ever done what I just got done doing. To me it seems they must have simply not had the idea yet.

I know, however, that I have done some things most people either cannot or will not attempt to accomplish. 52 Marathons in 52 weekends being one of them. There are times, particularly when I am feeling out of shape after a sub-par workout, that I have no idea how I was able to do those marathons in 2006, especially at the effort I did them. Since I finished the 52, with the other events and challenges I have put myself through, I have been able to piece together parts of a puzzle to find out how it was all possible. Unfortunately, gaps still remain.

Attribute-wise I fall strongly in the above-average category for many different measurable qualities. But above-average I just about the end of it. I am not in the single digits in body fat. I am not blessed with a high Vo2 max.  But at the same time I won’t fake humility. (There are few things that irk me more than false modesty.) I assumed that I had the intangibles that take relatively fit guys and allow them to do things relatively fit people cannot do. Then I realized out that was wrong.

Recently, I found out that I have Gilbert’s Syndrome. I had known for many years that I have an extremely high bilirubin count. When I was interviewing for the CIA and went through a litany of tests including bloodwork, etc, this was pointed out to me.  I did not know, however, that what I had was GS. For those who don't know what Gilbert's is, basically, under periods of stress my liver does not filter toxins as well as the normal person does. As such, while the normal person can move on from exercise in X amount of minutes to perform again, I cannot. Or at least, shouldn’t be able to do so. In fact, many doctors would say that someone with Gilbert’s would be unwise to tackle a marathon given how much it taxes the system of even those who are fit.

One.
Marathon.

Blood work done on me after a couple of recently hard, but not all-out, effort races showed my CK levels (a chemical marker of exploded muscle cells) were that of someone who had done something much harder for much longer. The one intangible that I thought I had, being able to simply recovery faster than others, didn’t exist. For all intents and purposes virtually everyone should be able to do what I do better than me.

Hmmph.


So, what’s my point? My point is not that people should be awed by what I have done. It is the exact opposite. What prompted this article was the 8 millionth reading of a blog, book, article, tumblr, tweet or snapchat of someone putting what they had done up on the impossible pedestal while placing themselves so low. That way, when the pedestal was toppled, they could be revered all the more.

Let’s not confuse my point. People should be proud of what they have done. I am the first person to stop people mid-sentence when they say they are “only” running a half-marathon this weekend. Because these achievements should be celebrated.  But they should be celebrated in context. In other words, there is a bit too much back-patting going on in the running world today. Plain and simply, not everyone is a winner.

It is OK not to be the best. Only one person can be anyway. There are degrees of achievement that anyone with an ounce of perspective can understand without needing to make every single accomplishment a David vs Goliath battle. If everything is the most epically amaze balls thing EV-AH then by definition nothing is. Funny enough, this could be seen as me telling runners to get over themselves, like Chad Stafko famously said last year (and I replied.) But that is not the case at all. Runners mostly do not need to get over themselves.  They just need to get over the need to embellish.


What is ironic is that while I am not impressed with what I do, I am almost always impressed by the achievements of others, especially if I see the effort given. Effort, not talent, has always been a hallmark of what I find to be most spectacular.


So be proud and share your stories. You will inspire others. But don't feel the need to create more drama than already exists.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Peachtree Road Race Recap


A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 9th Edition 
136.1 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Peachtree Road Race
Place: Atlanta, GA
Miles from home: 2600
Weather: 70s; bright sun


Very few people race the Peachtree Road Race. Tens of thousands experience it.  Count me as one of the later.
In one of the most evenly egalitarian races out there, 28, 478 men finished the race and 28,693 women crossed the finish line.  Over 57,000 people and only 107.5 people in one direction kept this from being split right down the middle.

While I made my name mostly by running 52 Marathons in 52 weekends in 2006, I have always been a fan of races of all disciplines and distances. I may not be any good at all at the shorter distances races, but I do appreciate them.  I also appreciate races that do so much to incorporate the everyman runner.  Granted many races do that these days as so many “adult onset athletes” are lacing up shoes for the first time, but few races have been reaching out to the running community as a whole for as long as the Peachtree.

When the Georgia Beef Board asked me if I wished to help the promote eating lean beef and helping educate people about how healthful beef is as a protein source for all people, let alone athletes, I jumped at the chance.  As I have been working with cattle producers and those involved with the promotion of beef for four years now, it is always my pleasure to help disperse incorrect information about beef.  Most galling to me is those who love beef and almost begrudgingly admit it as those who are so vocal eating meat are so loud in spite of the small numbers they have and the facts that show most of their lamentations are without merit.

When people here that there are 29 cuts of beef that are leaner than skinless chicken thigh, the shock in their eyes is almost comical. Furthermore, learning that beef has been on my training table and also in my fueling during long distance races leaves them in a state that tells me my work is far from done. But many are not surprised and they joined me and 60,000 of our closest friends at Lenox Square on the 4th of July.

In what has to be either a record or one of the top five coolest Independence Days in Atlanta’s history, we were met with a partially cloudy 64 degree, relatively humidity-free day. Hard to ask for better weather than that in the Deep South. 

One wonders what the original 110 finishers of the first Peachtree would think about this race 40 years later.  Fortunately, many of them are still around and still running and you can just ask them. Personally, with there being only so many weekends in one’s life I have never seen the allure of running one particular race numerous times, but if you find something you like, stick with it.

No one runs the race necessary to run a fast time. Nor is it particularly scenic course.  The crowds are nice but the participants probably out number them 10 to one in most places. What makes the race so iconic and one someone must experience? That’s a hard question.  What is it about certain races out there like the Boilermaker 15k in Utica, NY or the Bix 7 miler inDavenport, IA that take root in a seemingly odd place or time and grow exponentially.  It is usually not one factor but a combination of many which makes someone just know that they “have” to run them.  Fortunately, in the 40th running of the Peachtree I am now on the tens of thousands who have done so.

My time was pedestrian. Hitting 42:32 put me squarely in the top 1000 of the race. Saying I took it easy would be a miscategorization as I took it about as hard as I could without having to work very hard, if that makes any sense. It was my slowest 10k ever, including the few I have done at the end of Olympic Distance Triathlons. But I wasn’t here to run fast, whatever that means for me. (Heck, even my PR for this distance would barely crack the top 100 and that was run on a far more forgiving course.) I was here to take in the event, see what it was about and grasp why all these people deal with the potentially logistical nightmare of running a point-to-point race on a national holiday.

What I found was continuity. People enjoyed running this race so many times because it is the same. They know that they will run through Atlanta on the fourth of July and then go about their day.  They don’t care if it is hot (usually), humid (mostly), or hilly (always).  They want to know that as many things change in this world, this race will stay the same. Well, maybe it will get a little bigger and they a little slower. 

But they can accept that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Stupidity of Alcohol

The topic is a little off the running path but it may shock you to know I have a life outside of running.

*GASP*

Nevertheless, it is something that is rather tired to sports and running is one of them. Alcohol.

Runners, by and large, seem to like to drink alcohol a fair amount. It is lost on me, however.  I don't fully understand why people who work so hard to rely on their bodies to perform optimally like to take in a substance which is simply bad for them. While I am a teetotaler, I have at least given it a shot. Therefore, my opinion can't be dismissed as easily as some who dismiss views on children if you don't have any or views on women if you aren't one (for example.)  You see, I drank for a a few years once I became legal to do so and then basically lost all interest.

Now, I’d like to say I plan to never drink alcohol again. I’d like to say I am doing it for my health alone and am taking a stand against alcohol. But that’s not the case, at least it isn’t the reason I haven’t had a drop in 15 years. No, I stopped ordering beer and its ilk because I simply didn’t like the taste of the stuff. I deserve no parades and no “good for you”s. It’s easy to not do things you don’t enjoy. 

But lots of people do things they don’t necessarily enjoy because of social pressure. Or they make excuses for drinking (e.g., “I’m not a drinker; I only drink when I am in social settings” holds as much water as “I’m not gay; I only sleep with men when I am in San Francisco.”) I used to drink alcohol as I assumed it was an acquired taste. You know, one you have to slide into gradually. I didn’t care that anyone else was drinking and was rather immune to social norms of drinking. But I did assume that perhaps it took refinement; or the right drink; or atmosphere. Then I realized all of that is moronic. Why should I imbibe in something that I don’t enjoy when there are many things to drink that I do enjoy? Like water. Or Diet Mountain Dew? (The line forms to the left to tell me that that drink isn't good for me.)

I did think that perhaps I hadn’t tried enough different alcohols.  So I tried more.  All kinds. I have had just about everything out there and nothing even remotely is appealing to me. You can fruity it up all you want but if you like those flavors, then just drink something with those flavors that isn't alcohol. 

So a few months of not having an alcohol turned into a few years which turned into a decade and a half. I realized that in my recently acquired 38th year of life (you didn’t even send a card, you freaking lush), I had consumed alcohol for approximately two years. Then I realized I liked less than just the flavor.
The culture surrounding any particular drink (and each one seems to have its own) didn’t fit me. I didn’t have things in common with those who liked to drink. More correctly, I did not have things in common with those who drank when they were drinking.

The excuses which alcohol provides people for ridiculous behavior, bad communication skills and a litany of other things I find laughable. If I wouldn’t put up with that behavior from you sober, I’m not going to do it because you voluntarily took a drug that makes you think you can do it now.  Heck, I can barely stand most people who are not impaired. Throw in alcohol and imagine how annoying that must be. 

But it.is.everywhere. I ask friends what they did the previous night and they explain they went somewhere. The place was usually irrelevant as the focus of the evening was what they were drinking.  The locale didn’t have to be excited because they were downing a depressant. The conversation was mostly sophomoric and without merit They didn’t actually do anything at all. They drank. Remove the alcohol and what they actually did was mundane. But they have the time of their lives!

This dislike of the drink and the culture is not discriminatory towards certain drinks. Whether it is barflys in a local pub or insufferable oenophiles swishing a particular pinot around to let it breathe (even though they can’t tell a red wine from a white wine), each have their own peccadilloes which I thoroughly enjoy avoiding.

And so should you.  Think of all the deaths (over 10,000 in 2012 from DUIs alone), suffering, fights, domestic abuse (both genders) and every horrible thing which are a byproduct from alcohol.   

It distorts truth.  Ben Franklin never said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  In fact, Ben was actually talking about rain.  His actual quote is “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” But that won’t fit on a snappy t-shirt.

This hasn’t even touched on how horrific alcohol is on your body. Liver damage, cancer, toxic all-around. Yeah, let’s throw back a few more of those! 

When I mentioned I was writing this article to a friend, she said that she had never seen anything remotely like it. She assumed that she was one in a million who didn’t like alcohol, didn’t want to drink it, and something was wrong with her. I assured her she was far from alone.

Now, I know this won't sit well with all people and I am not saying you can't have a drink. Or that there are no good side effects which may beneficial, as some studies seem to say.  But it is not like you couldn't get those side effects from something else that isn't alcohol. 

In the end, the point is all about doing what you enjoy best which benefits you the most. Everything we do is a cost-benefit analysis.  I have just done the math and realize that subtracting alcohol from my life gives me the correct equation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 8th Edition 
129.9 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Run
Place: Dexter, OR
Miles from home: 135
Weather: 70s; bright sun

NOOOOOOO!

That is the sound someone makes when right as they are about to upload 30 different lap splits to their computer they delete them instead.  That might make this recap a little shorter.

The Elijah Bristow 6 Hour Race (and 12 and 24 hour versions) all took place around a 1(ish) mile trail in the Elijah Bristow State park just a little south and east of Eugene, OR. Mostly shaded crossing within feet of refreshing river/reservoir/babbling brook. (If there had been a little easier access to the water I am sure I would have jumped in it at some point! ) A first time event, with a grand total of about 40 athletes, it was nonetheless very well-run, both literally and figuratively.

The set-up was simple: with one aid station containing a large assortment of beverages and foods (standard fare for an ultra), runners would run around a forgiving trail for a designated time in order to see how far they go.  If it appeared they would not finish a complete lap, they were giving a marker to drop when they heard an airhorn so that their exact distance could be measured.

My plan for the day was to take part in the 6 hour event but to do so in basically two separate runs.  By this I mean I planned on running for ~20 miles, breaking, then running again after ~90 minutes of break time to see how much further I could get.  the purpose of this was to have two hard runs in one day, both of distances I normally don't run without competition.  The break was designed to give me enough rest so that I could indeed run hard for both runs and I wouldn't be doing the death shuffle at the end, more or less walking miles to pad my total.

As the day of the race drew nigh, and the weather looked a bit warm, my plan seemed to be a brilliant one. I decided that in my downtime, I would leave the park, go back to my hotel, shower, pack my stuff, eat something and then come back ready and refreshed to run again. I am pleased to say that this idea worked like gangbusters and was similar to something I did for another 6 hour run last December.

At the start, three runners shot out of the blocks.  One, Joe Uhan, I had met a few months prior and has a 16 hour Western States finish to his credit.  Another, Beverly Anderson-Abbs is a Canadian national record holder.  The third I did not know but was happy to let go as well. I had no intention to compete with any of them regardless of what race they were running (all started at the same 9 a.m. start time. Personally, while I like sleeping in, a few less hours in the heat of the day would have been appreciated.) Before the lap was over another female runner slipped ahead of me, got about ten yards in front and there we would stay for the next four miles.

My mile splits were roughly in the 7:30 range which felt good but definitely were earned.  While the loop was virtually flat, it was definitely not road racing.  As soft trail, with oodles of twists and turns and small rises a few times, does not a fast course make, especially when this is what you hit every single mile. There was a good .25 of a mile on pavement that looped runners out of the forest and into the checkpoint every mile that I absolutely loved. After I passed the female runner in front of me (Emily) I spent the next 16 miles basically setting my own pace.  It was a pace that got faster virtually every mile and felt good along the way.

In spite massive amounts of preparation to keep my body properly lubed (I did not want another disastrous chafing incident like what happened at the Windermere Marathon earlier this month) I could feel I was still eating through the protection I had been using.  I could not have been more happy to be stopping at 20 miles, if, for nothing else, to shower and relube.

When I did take this break, the temperature was already 70 degrees and the partly cloudy day the forecast had called for was rapidly dissipating. The trail itself was mostly shaded which gave us a great respite from the sun, but it was far from a cool day.

I hustled to my car to make the 20 minute drive to the hotel.  Pulling up, I saw a McDonald's right next door.  I slipped in through the drive-thru, grabbed a Dr. Pepper and a triple Cheeseburger and devoured both. By the time I was in my hotel room, they were gone.  A quick showering, tending to my wounds and redressing had me grabbing my bags and putting them into the car. Twenty minutes of driving back to the race and an hour and a half had passed. I did some spot-lubing, drank a big glass of water and started running again.

The first few laps were almost a minute slower than what I had averaged for the first 20 miles. I could see that I was not going to get 15 miles in for the second run of the day, as originally planned. Rather, it looked like I might get 13 and I would be happy with that.

I saw that Joe, the leader who had lapped me barely a hour into the run, had stopped at 26 miles and was manning part of the aid station. Some of the other 6 hour runners looked like they were definitely hurting in the heat. I continued to pat myself on the back as I passed them, knowing I assuredly would have looked even worse if I had stayed.

The trail actually looked different with the sun shining in certain places where it has been overcast previously.  What an interesting perspective light gives to something you thought you were intimately familiar with.

There were, by my count, three small "hills" to deal with each loop. The most steep was right before the runnable road section.  My goal was to not walk up any of these hills, especially the hard one before the road. While many were doing just that in the later stages of the  six hours (and if I had to do another 6 or 12 hours I would have too!), I pleased myself by not once in 30 laps, walking the stupid hill.  But boy did I want to.

When I hit that 30th lap, I knew I had a 50k+.  I had about just enough time in the event to run two more laps, if I averaged like 7:00 per mile. I didn't have that in me. Plus there was no real point. I had come to do what I planned to do and tacking on two more miles would add nothing to the experiment/experience.

If you remove the time I spent high-tailing it to the hotel and back, I was able to complete those 31.5 miles in 4:09. That equals a 7:54 mile which is not too shabby for a training run. I was pleased.

All told this gave me a 81 mile training week.  That is far and away the most miles I have run in a week in 2014. Granted, I have always said that it is what is in the miles that matters more than how many of them there are, but this week it was both.  This was one of the easiest 80 mile weeks I have done.  Throw in the fact that I had to take extended time off to help try and heal the leg issue which stemmed from my bike crash in 2012 and I was elated.  I am not out of the woods just yet. I know the leg/back still require work.  But considering I ran all of 111 miles in the entire month of April, running 81 in one week was a huge victory.
The rest of this summer will be more of the same as I try to run a great amount of high quality miles as I run and race my way back into shape.

Was cool to see bestie Shannon knock out another long training run less than a week after doing a marathon.  all in prep for what is going to be a disgustingly hot 50 miler in Oklahoma on the 4th of July. No thank you!

Kudos to the organizers of the Elijah Bristow series of races for putting a great first year event. Every one of the racers I had the chance t o speak to seem very friendly as well. You might be tired and worn out but it is amazing how you can almost always say "Good job" to someone who has lapped you numerous times.  Even more impressive is when you say it and mean it.

The course was far from tough but don't let the fact that it was virtually flat make you think that it won't behoove you to do some trail running in preparation. Even on what was essentially a buttery smooth trail, the difference between trail running and road running is like comparing apples and rhinoceroses. (Rhinocerii?) But for events of this nature I would give it high marks.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why You Should Date a Guy Who Runs

On many occasions I have met a couple where one was an active runner and the other was merely their athletic supporter. I always wondered how these runners and non-runners could co-exxist so peacefully until I thought about all the positives of dating a runner.  So, I thought I would list a few of the pros of dating a guy who just happens to run.

1. Eat all you want

Not only will he never notice but there is virtually no chance you will ever out eat him. Also, he will be too busy cramming lots of food in his mouth to mention it even if you do. He probably will just high-five you.

2. You don't ever have to wear makeup/get dolled up

But if you do, it will knock his socks off.  If you happen to be a runner as well, he will be quite used to seeing you sweaty, with messy hair, no makeup and panting at the end of a run.  Chances are he probably even likes you more that way in the first place.

 




3. The legs

So many fellas who hit the gym concentrate on the beach muscles: chest, arms, back.  Runner guys not only have great legs but they usually have a nice ass as well. Good luck finding those with Big McLargeHuge from the gym.

4. Pedicures are not seen as frivolous

In fact, we probably will join you for one, especially after a long hard race. We understand how nice it is to get a foot rub and let's be honest, that is half the reason you get your nails done in the first place.



5. Trips to fun places

Sure the guy might not be up for much because they have a race to run but while they are killing themselves on race day, you get to take in the sights of whatever random place in the world this race takes place in. He will probably also be able to scout out all the restaurants, places to sight-see later and lots of neat side excursions on his runs through town.  These are places a guidebook would never be able to tell you and now you have your own personal tour guide!

6. You will become a runner (if you aren't one already)

You can't be around that sort of excitement of racing without catching the bug yourself eventually.  Then, your health improves, your mood gets better and now you get to go on running dates and experiences those aforementioned trips in a brand new way. You will then be bonding with this guy in the way he probably has been secretly plotting for you to bond with him anyway. (runners like runners, natch.)

7. Running = sex god

OK, maybe not that far but running is an endurance sport. All the other jocks who see running as a punishment partially do so because their cardiovascular system is in shambles. How many times have you heard that runner fella say he was going to go run an easy 8 miler? Yeah, he has stamina.

8. We are just good guys.

Runners are, by and large, some of the most intelligent, caring, giving subset of the population (this goes for both genders.) You have to look hard to find one who is a jerk. While not everyone is a diamond, isn't it nice to at least be looking in the jewelry store?

You know, I was going to come up with ten reasons but then I realized if I hurry up and get this run in, I will be in a great mood and ready for a good nap and/or cuddle.

(Oooh, there's 9 and 10 right there!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Runnin', Had Me a Blast

OK, most of us don't have much of a blast when it comes to running in the summer.  As for racing? Yeah, it takes a special breed to be able to peak on a hot and/or humid day.  I am not that special breed.

In fact, I wilt like an ant under a magnifying glass when the sun comes out.  It is no mistake that virtually all of my best marathon ties have come when the temperatures were in the 40s or 50s. There have been extremely notable exceptions and those days are ones where I wonder what would have happened if the weather had cooperated. As such, I have learned how to deal with the weather as best as possible and will share that with you.

1. Ease Off The Throttle

I have had many races where I knew I was in shape to run, say a 6 minute mile pace but knew the weather distracted otherwise.  So I made the decision to run 6:30s instead and finished slower than I wanted but fare better if I had tried those sixes, blew up and ended up walking 15 minute pace. The general rule is that above 55 degrees, for every increase of 10 degrees, marathon pace increases by 1.5-3%. So, in other words, there are going to be plenty of training runs and plenty of races in the hot and sticky months were it just is not going to be optimum for you to go all-out. Accept that and you will have a much better day.

2. You Simply Must Get Fluids

I am know for being a bit of a camel.  If the run is going to be less than 90 minutes, even in hot weather, I barely even think of taking a drink of water before I run, let alone taking water with me. But as the weather changes so should your plans. I still rarely take water with me but I know where liquid is available in case I need it. I also know that hydration is something you do before, during and after the run, if you want the best results.

Of course, too much liquid is a problem too. But don't let the fears of hyponatremia (and the rarity with which it happens) keep you from getting your fluids.

3. Mix it Up

Use the summer to work on your speedwork.  As I talked about in the Wonderfulness of Track, mixing up workouts is a good thing and in the summer when it is hard to really go long, going short and fast can be greatly beneficial.

4. Know It All Helps

It hurts like the dickens, leaves you crashed on the couch or side of the road and makes you wish for the icy cold hand of winter. Yet working out in this weather, if done right, will make you a better runner. It will make that cool, crisp fall morning where you put on your bib number all the more savory. Remember that much we do as runners is, or should be, delayed gratification. We put in the hard work and effort when others won't so we can achieve the things others cannot. The sacrficies we make in these not-so-prime months will pay dividends in the future. 

If you want that first sub-4 hour marathon or the first sub-20 minute 5k, the summer is where those dreams are made.

Go get them.