Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monster Bash 5K Dash

This weekend was the Monster Bash 5K Dash at Wichita's North Branch YMCA.  I got there an hour and a half before race time, not to run it, but to help time it.  This year I started helping the local race director, Clark Entz, time races once he got an electronic chip timing system.  I've been saying for years Wichita needs to get into the 21st century and start chip timing. 

Background Info:  The Easter SunRun 10k/2M back in April was the first local race to use chip timing.  Not only was it new to us, but the technology was new to the country.  We use the BigTags which are disposable chips stuck to the back of the race bib numbers, and it was so new that the manufacturer had to loan us the prototype hardware since the manufactured versions were not yet available.  One reason it took Wichita awhile to get chip timing was the expense.  A basic system costs between $20,000 and $30,000.  When Clark first announced he needed someone to setup and operate the chip timing system, I jumped at the chance to combine 2 of my interests, running and computers.

Back to the race...  I like the different perspective working the finish line gives me.  For one, I get to meet people I normally wouldn't.  A couple came up to me and asked if I would take their picture in front of the finish.  I found out they were from Orlando, Florida.  They actually said they were enjoying our weather.  How many times have you heard someone from Florida compliment Kansas on our weather?  Another lady came up and was wanting advice on glucosamine suppliments.  I also got to chat with a few friends, one of whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years.

Besides running into friends I know, I met a fellow blogger for the first time.  Lacy's is one of the first running blogs I came across on the world wide web.  One of the reasons I started my own blog was to connect with other runners, so when I somehow recognized her through the costume she was wearing, I had to introduce myself.  I was a bit surprised when she recognized me too.

My morning ended by tearing down and packing the equipment away after which one final 5k participant finished the race.  Notice I said participant, because I'm not sure the terms runner, jogger, or even walker would quite apply.  Ok, I'm sure she walked, but she finished in 1:24:15 for an average pace of 27:07 minutes/mile, a full 24 minutes after the next to the last place person.  I'm not singling her out because she was slow, or obese, or lied about her age (21 my ass).  Congrats to her for going 3.1 miles.  I'm only mentioning her because she insisted we manually access the computer file after the fact and add her to the results.  Again, I can understand most people who sign up for a race wanting to see their name/time in the results, me included, but I would think someone finishing in that time frame to be a) not caring b) just trying to get some exercise c) embarassed to come in last.  One thing that didn't suprise me about her was when she asked where the post race pancakes were.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Counting Calories

It's been almost a week since my marathon success.  I might add I've had my share of epic fails in marathons too, so I'm relishing this one a bit.  I've already signed up for my next marathon, the Austin Marathon, next February 20th.

One reason I felt I did so well this time around was I shed a bit of weight.  I'm not talking a lot, but I'm about 5 pounds lighter than I was for my last marathon, and I've lost about 10 lbs. since July.  I had to brace myself for ridicule whenever I would mention my stricter diet plans because everyone else thinks of me as a skinny runner already, but I knew I had the weight to lose.  I also knew I would feel better, run faster, and run longer without getting injured as easy.  I've been told that for each pound of fat I carry around, I should add 2 seconds per mile to my pace.  Doesn't sound like much until you start adding it up.  Losing 10 lbs. would mean an automatic 20 second/mile improvement or a 9 minute improvement on a marathon time.

Over the Summer, I was at the point where I had gained a few pounds, and even though I was putting in 60+ mile weeks, I needed to change something to get down to where I had been several years ago.  My strategy was to count my calories.  The idea is if I consume less calories than what I burn, I will gradually lose weight, and that's what I did.  Counting calories didn't sound fun, and it seemed impossible to account for everything I ate, but I found a website that made everything bearable.

The website I used is called "" (there are others like it).  You can actually track quite a few things.  Besides keeping track of the food you eat, you keep a daily total of the calories you burn, and how much you weigh.  It has a database with foods to choose from, and if it's not in the database, you can create and store custom foods.  It also tracks the nutritional info of all the foods which I utilized some.  For instance, I could see how many of my calories were coming from fat, carbs, or protein.  From the Runner's World articles I've read, ideally 70% of calories should come from carbs, and 15% each from protein and fat.  I found that even though I tried to eat healthy, I was eating too much fat, up to 30% fat calories per day.

Here are some of my screen shots from to illustrate.

Foods and their calorie breakdown

Daily Activities.  You give duration, FitDay calculates number based on age, weight, sex.

Calories burned versus consumed.  Looks like I was a good boy that day.

Pie Chart showing distribution of calories

My weight chart from July to October.
Maybe this information can help another runner out there who is in a postion like I was.  Feel free to let me know if anyone finds this useful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Marathon PR in 3 Years

I started the weekend by hanging out in the RunWichita booth for the marathon's expo on Saturday.  I got to see a few friends, and talk about running for a couple hours to get me psyched up for the next day.

My race day didn't start off that well.  I rely on my Garmin GPS watch for both pacing info and heart rate, but I didn't try turning it on until my wife dropped me off by the start, and sure enough, it was DOA despite charging it the night before.  Just my luck I use it 6 days every week and it chooses marathon morning to go tits up.  The silver lining is the next day I researched online how to fix it, and it turned out to be a simple solution, so at least I'm not stuck buying a new watch.

Despite freaking out that my little wrist computer was now just a decoration, I told myself I can still do this the old fashioned way.  I've put in enough miles that I can come pretty close to guessing what my pace is and should be.  Before I knew it, the inaugural 2010 Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon was under way.  My first mile was an effortless 7:57, but I knew that was a little faster than what I could maintain.  About that time I was figuring out almost every runner has a watch, I'll just start asking them for my splits.  As luck would have it, a friend from the YMCA found me about mile 3 and we ran together until mile 9 using his GPS for our timing.  At the halfway point, I was told we were an hour, 48 minutes and some change into the race.  I did the math, and figured if I could hold pace, I would love to run a 3:36 marathon, but in the back of my mind, I knew it would get warmer, and I would hit the wall at some point, but I thought a 3:40 PR was likely.  Once I was into the second half of the race, it seemed like I was passing everybody.  However, most of them were either the half marathon walkers, or the early start marathoners, but I was passing the regular marathoners too.

In the mean time, I recognized a couple ladies who were there cheering on a loved one.  I had met them the previous day at the race expo when they started a converstion with me about becoming a Juice Plus+ client of theirs.  I said 'hi' to them, and they remembered me and started cheering for me too.  Seemed like I would see them every 3 or 4 miles, and they would cheer for me every bit as loud as my own family was.  It was really nice to have the extra support there, even if they thought my bib number was $$$. (just kidding)

Turned out my idea of asking other runners for my splits wasn't working out, no one around me was running my same pace.  As I passed mile 18, I reflected that that was where I hit the wall in last year's Wichita marathon.  It wasn't until just before mile 25 that I had to fight hard to keep from slowing down, but by then I could start to hear the crowd and the announcer at the finish line and my adrenaline kicked me in the butt.  I crossed the line in 3:35:49, meaning not only did I run a negative split, but I PRed by almost 10 minutes!

Running down the home stretch.  That guy in blue had some nerve making me sprint after 26 miles
 As always, my family was there to support me, and I got to mingle with friends before, after, and even some during the race.

My final thought on the Prairie Fire 2010, is how much of an improvement it was to year's past.  First of all, it's nice to have an expo like all other big races do.  Second of all, there was a lot more corporate support, and it showed at the finish line where I helped myself to free pizza, beer, doughnuts, hot chocolate, massages, and more.  This is also the first year they handed out "Finisher" shirts, and the finisher medals were a step up in quality too.  This race is going to grow year to year if they keep it up.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Endeavor

I am excited to start a running blog about my experiences.  I told myself I would get the blog started before I run in the Wichita Prairie Fire marathon this Sunday, so here I am with 1 day to spare.  I'm really several years late, I've been running since 1999, and there have been lots of things to write about in that time.

I've had 2 long term running goals for awhile.  The first is to qualify for the Boston marathon, the second is to run 50 marathons in 50 states.  I'm nowhere close to either right now, my marathon PR is 30 minutes over what I need to get into Boston, and I've only ran marathons in 6 states.

I'm really getting psyched to run the marathon in 2 days, I think I have a shot at blowing away my PR of 3:45.  Hope I didn't just jinx myself by writing that.  I have boosted my training this year to include some 70 mile weeks, up from 40 - 55 mile weeks in years past.

The last thought I want to get across on my very first blog entry is that I believe anyone who is uninjured can run/walk a marathon if they put their mind to it.  Case in point.  I didn't know I was going to run my first marathon until a week before the race when some friends from work invited me to run it with them.  Up to that point, I had never even ran more than about 2 miles at one time in my life.  Now, I wasn't a couch potato either, I played basketball 3 times a week over my lunch hour.  But 26 miles did sound like a long way, so I told my friends I would try to run 6 miles that night and see how it went.  Turns out I wasn't able to run the full 6 miles without taking some walk breaks, and I was a little sore/tight.  However, I rationalized that I could manage to do 4 times that distance, so I signed up for the race just wanting to finish.  Everyone at work thought I was crazy for trying to run a marathon with basketball as my only qualification.  The next weekend I got to the starting line in my $16 pair of Walmart tennis shoes, and to cut to the chase, finished in 5 hours 8 minutes (and I beat the 3 co-workers who talked me into it).  Anyway, I tell that story from time to time to try and encourage others to give that distance a shot.