Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dallas White Rock Marathon Race Report

After underachieving in my October marathon, I started looking for a redemption race.  I needed a December marathon not too far from home, so I did a quick internet search and the Dallas White Rock Marathon seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  Average highs of 60º, about a 5 hour drive from home base, and not too hilly.

I arrived the day before the race for the expo.  It was located conveniently by the start/finish line.  There were lots of vendors there, and I spent a leisurely couple hours walking up and down the isles sampling free products.  I was a little surprised not to see any moderately famous running celebs there.  Most races this size will have one or two there as a guest speaker, or on a book tour.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sony Walkman Giveaway Winners

Before I go into detail about the giveaway winners, I'll just mention real quick like that I ran in the Dallas White Rock Marathon on Sunday.  My next post will cover the race details, until then, just take note I finished in 3:34:39 which is right around a PR.

Now back to the giveaway.  Thanks to everyone who entered and shared their story.

The first Walkman was awarded based on the best music misfortune tragedy combined with the conveyed  need for a new mp3 player.  There were several deserving runners, but when it came time to single one runner out as being the most needy, most desperate, most worthy, Jill from RunWithJill took the cake.  Jill basically dropped her iPod at the gym (fail), and someone took it before she realized it was gone.  Now she's stuck with an oversized FM radio that won't stay on during workouts and slows her down.

The second Walkman is being given away with a random number drawing.  And the winner is:  Char from My Life's a Marathon.

Congrats to the winners:  Jill and Char!  Merry Christmas from 2 Slow 4 Boston.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Think I've Mastered Running. Other Topics: Giveaway, Dallas Marathon.

I am so glad to have finally mastered the art of running.  Of course, on the surface there isn't much to it; just put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can.  However, some of us distinguish ourselves from the novices. 

So, how do I know/prove that I have mastery over the sport?  Is it winning a race?  Knowing what a fartlek is?  Getting a online degree called a Bachelor Of Running Degree (BORD)?  Could it be from qualifing for the Olympics?  Nope.  None of the above. 

Turns out all I had to do was turn 40, which I did last week.  Now I join this elite group that calls themselves masters.  All of a sudden I know what I'm doing when I toe the line at a race.  To all my fellow master runners out there, you no longer have to look down at me (like my last name is Sandusky).  I am one of you.

My first chance to show off my master prowess is at the Dallas White Rock Marathon this Sunday.  I am pretty excited for this race, in part because I have prepared well (300+ miles in the month of November).  However, the weather report isn't looking too good; chance of showers with a low of 37º, high of 44º.  This will probably be the worst marathon conditions I've ever ran in.  If I hadn't already paid for everything, I'd be tempted to find another marathon.

Last, but not least, I am currently conducting my first blogger giveaway of 2 pairs of Sony's W-Series Walkman MP3 player headphones.  It runs until December 6th, so please feel free to visit the link, read my review, and enter to win if you haven't already done so.
Sony Walkman NWZ-W263 MP3 Player

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sony Walkman MP3 Player Review And Dual Giveaway!!!

Yes, you read the title right.  I will be giving away 2 Sony Walkman (NWZ-W263) MP3 Players.  Merry Christmas from me to you!  See details toward the bottom of this post, but first I've got to tell you all about them (from a runner's perspective).

I'm a pretty basic guy, IMHO.  Aren't all guys the same ladies?  Eat, drink, sleep, (fart).  Repeat the next day.  Actually, what I mean by being basic is that I just want my mp3 player to work and do what it says it will do.  Let me preface those remarks.  I have been through a lot of mp3 players and headphones in my running non-career.  Expensive or cheap ones all seem to break in one way or another.  Every pair of corded headphones I can remember have developed a short where sound in one ear cuts in and out, and eventually out altogether.  Another problem I have with corded headphones is that I have to manage the cord both while running and while packing and unpacking them from my gym bag.  Cords tend to flap from side to side while running, and if you don't take care to pack them away after the workout in an orderly fashion, they become a hot tangled mess.  Annoying!!

My cord issues led me to research and try wireless headphones that use Bluetooth technology to communicate with a separate mp3 player or phone.  I preferred this system on the surface to dealing with a cord, but new problems arose.  First, batteries on both the mp3 player and the headphones needed to be charged after almost every workout since transmitting wireless signals take lots of juice.  I could live with that inconvenience, but where Bluetooth headphones really failed me was they broke fairly quickly.  I went through at least 3 different sets of Bluetooth headphones and none lasted more than 5 months.  That can get expensive at $50 - $80 a pop.  Not that I took bad care of them, but I sweat a lot and for an extended time on some of my workouts and that moisture would make it inside of the ear pieces where all the circuitry is and fry it over time.  I even bought headsets marketed as "Sport" and "moisture resistant".  The other half of this equation is needing a mp3 player with Bluetooth.  Not a big deal, but any mp3 player with this feature tends to be close to $200, and I went through a couple of those too for various reasons.

By necessity, I was on the lookout for a music solution that would work for my workouts.  One day a saw an ad with Meb Keflezighi and he was wearing these Sony Walkman headphones.  I had never heard of them before, but I could tell just by looking at them they had a lot of potential for me.  And they were only $50.  Back to the theme of being basic.  All these headphones do is sit in your ear and play MP3s. They do have basic controls like pause, next track, previous track, and volume.  Two things this amounts to is there is less to break, and less weight to carry around.

Go Meb!  If you can hear me.
To date, I have had my Sony mp3 player for 8 months.  All of the features still work great except for a LED light which is supposed to light when it's charging.  The main point I would like to make is that it is still playing tunes long after my other devices have failed thanks to its ability to handle sweat.

The neck band hugs the head so it is barely noticeable when
stretching or lifting weight while on your back. 
I have the previous model which is a
little different look (size).

So, I was pretty wordy in telling you how I was driven to the Sony Walkman because I think it's relevant in how it separates itself from the competition.  Now, I'll cut to the chase and shoot some bullets your way on my experience:

  • Like Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking (sweat resistant).
  • No cord to get in way, or break, or tangle.
  • The over the ears, behind the head headband stays in place and hugs the back of your head so you can workout on your back without it getting in the way.
  • No display allows for longer battery life.
  • Light weight.  When I'm in the zone, I don't notice them.
  • Easy to use.
  • Decent price tag.

  • No fancy features like a touchscreen. (This could be considered a pro)
  • The rubber ear piece makes a good seal within the ear which is good for hearing the music, but not optimal for hearing background noise or having a conversation when music is paused. (Minor complaint)
  • No radio, no recorder, and no Bluetooth.  (Even less minor of a complaint)
Read or watch another detailed review at CNET.

Now for the details on the giveaway.  I took a long shot, kinda like all these soldiers asking celebrities to the Marine Corps Ball on youtube, and contacted Sony about providing me with a couple mp3 players to send out in conjunction with my review.  After several emails back and forth, they generously agreed to provide them to me with very few strings attached.  What I mean is that you don't have to go through a lot of trouble in order to put your name in the hat. You don't have to 'Like' a bunch of stuff on Facebook, and/or send out tweets (assuming you even have a twitter account).  What I would like everyone to do however is visit Sony's new running community.  There are lots of useful links there, and you have the option to create a profile along with Meb as a way to connect with more runners.

Once you've explored Sony's "Run" community, I offer you up to 3 chances to win Sony's newest W Series Walkman.  These are an upgrade to the pair I own.  They're smaller, have twice the memory (4 GB) and currently sell for $70 - $80 dollars.

Sony Walkman #1 :
  • Be a follower on my blog.
  • Leave me a comment and you will automatically be entered in the random drawing.
  • Optional - Do me a favor and mention this giveaway and link to it from your blog, and get a bonus entry.  (Let me know if you've done this)

Sony Walkman #2 :
  • I would like to give one of the mp3 players to a reader who could use it the most.
  • Be a follower on my blog.
  • Leave a comment telling me about your music misfortunes, or why a new mp3 player would complete you.  Please try to make it a work of nonfiction. :-)
  • I will pick a winner based on merit.
  • All non winners are automatically in the random drawing for the other Sony.

In summary, by telling me why you need a mp3 player and linking to my giveaway from your blog, you have 3 chances to win 1 of 2 Walkmans.  After consulting with my magic 8 ball and my astrologist, I am told the winners will be chosen on Tuesday December 6th, 2011, so hope to hear from you until then.   Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Importance of Being Flexible, Among Other Things

So, I just noticed that someone who Googled the query, "what causes a slower marathon than expected?" was linked to my post about my last underachiving marathon.  Thanks a lot Google for putting me at the top of that list.

Last week I was reminded of the importance of being flexible.  And I'm not talking about something out of the Kama Sutra, or turning the act of pooping into an ab workout.  No, I'm talking about forces of nature conspiring to keep me from hitting the pavement.

My most recent week of running started out great, much like the week before where I hit the 80 mile milestone.  Until Wednesday that is.  At 5:45am, I was 3 miles into my 15 mile run on my gym's indoor track when I got a page over the loudspeaker.  I was lucky to even hear my name being called because my gym has those cheap, old fashioned loudspeakers around the track that sound like someone yelling into a kazoo.  Turns out my wife Lora was on the phone and she needed me to come home stat since she woke up sick (strep throat) and we have 3 kids who have to have adult supervision.  And after my wife, I'm the closest thing to an adult in our family.  Honestly, I was a little upset/letdown at first because my run got cut way short, but I didn't let on.  In the big picture, this was the first time I got called home during a workout, and that includes the times Lora was pregnant.

Here's where the flexible part comes in.  I ended up making it home before anybody needed help, so I put in another 3 quick miles on the treadmill.  I could've put in more miles that day, but I was content to play Mr. Mom mixed in with a little Betty Crocker, and tack some miles on to the next day's run.

So Thursday, I planned on hitting the gym for another attempt at 15 miles.  Only one kink.  When my alarm went off, Lora was still sick  (who would have thunk antibiotics take more than a half day to get rid of strep throat).  Hence, no gym for me.  I must have a little OCD since I was a little frustrated getting taken out of my routine again.  Can you say Rain Man?  The good thing is we have the aforementioned treadmill and I hopped on it again for 6 miles where I had to stop and get our oldest off to the bus stop.  Then I came back and ran 9 more to get my 15 for the day.

Who still enters their age and weight when they climb on the treadmill?  As a computer programmer, I would love the chance to put some code into a treadmill that gives some feedback.  Someone enters in 24 years old and 106 pounds.  My mill could tell them their time would be better spent hitting some weights and eating something, or "Quit making everyone else look bad."  If somebody enters in an age of over 90, I won't even consider the weight, I'd have the treadmill put a little IM scrolling across the display, "You've put in your dues, you don't need to do this anymore.  Hope you can still read this."  Under the "Calories" column, I could blink the text, "Not enough" for all runners.  Finally, anyone who's been on the treadmill for 3 hours straight might get told to get a life, or that this treadmill will self destruct in 5 minutes.  How about, "Why don't you show this much stamina in other parts of your life?"  Hey, I resemble a few of those remarks.

What else could a treadmill tell a person?  Would anyone buy my treadmill?  I don't know, I'm just saying I've got ideas.

Now back to my point of being flexible...

Friday I'm happy to say was back to my normal routine, then BAM!  The weekend hit and it was all effed up again with schedule conflicts.  Surprisingly to me, the spell checker doesn't complain about the word "effed", huh.  Blogger must have sprung for the deluxe slang/urban dictionary.  I spent a little time stressing Friday night about how I was going to get my long run in:  Here's how my options played out:
  • Plan A was to wake up early Saturday and complete the long run in time to take my 4 year old to swim lessons at 11:00a.  Didn't happen.  Lora went out with her parents leaving me babysitting our 2 youngest.  
  • Plan B, wait until after lunch.  Run my long run outside.  Didn't happen.  The weather was nice except for the wind which was blowing 25 -35 mph with gusts over 40.  Running into that could be just 20 mph shy of the hurricane experience.  No thank you.  Besides, Lora wasn't back yet to watch the kiddies.  Next!
  • Plan C, run downstairs on the treadmill again making it the third time this week I 'got' to be flexible. Plan C it was.  

Looking back, I was shooting for another 80 mile week, but with all that happened, I can't complain about ending up with 78 thanks to being a little flexible.  That is still the second largest training week I've ever had.  Here's my recap:
12 miles total: 7 x 1 mi. intervals @ 6:45 avg., 3 mile tempo @ 7:30 pace.
6.74 miles in 20 minutes on stationary bike

15 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

6 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

15 mile treadmill tempo run @ 8:00 avg.

7 mile recovery @ 9:00 avg.

23 mile long run on treadmill @ 8:45 pace


Well, less than 3 weeks until I run in the Dallas White Rock Marathon.  I guess that means I need to start thinking about a taper.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Training 4 Dallas

The Dallas White Rock Marathon is in less than a month (Dec. 4th), and I've been trying to squeeze in a few more quality workouts before I have to taper.  And when I say quality, I mean quantity.  Sure, I've been doing some decent mile intervals and tempo runs on a regular basis, but I also set a mileage PR last week.  That's right, how does 80 miles sound?  Does that make me a running octogenarian?  Allow me break it down:

11 miles including 7 x 1 mile intervals @ 6:54 avg.
15 miles recovery @ 9:06 avg.
15 miles recovery @ 8:54 avg.
10 miles including 5 mile warmup, 5 mile tempo @ 7:30 avg. 
7 miles recovery @ 9:15 pace
22 miles @ 9:15 avg.

My previous weekly best was 77 miles set the first week of September.  Technically, I covered all 80 miles in 6 days since I like to rest sleep in on Sundays.  That and it's my day to pray to God I don't get injured and tear an important mucsle during my upcoming speed workouts.  (BTW, the preceding week was a 66 mile one as I was building back from an October 9th marathon).  I started off last week nicely with the intervals.  That left me tired Tuesday for the 15 miler.  It took about an hour of running before I felt warmed up.  I got in 3 or 4 good miles before I finished the run in glycogen depletion mode.  Wednesday's 15 was about the same way except I felt a little better and my pace was a little faster.  I was a bit disappointed with my 10 miles at the YMCA on Thursday, but only because that morning turned into social hour and I spent time talking instead of running.  Nonetheless,  I thought my heart rate looked pretty good during my tempo miles.  Saturday, I was in no shape to go as fast on my long run as usual, probably thanks to the aforementioned mileage accumulation.  However, I did run 22 instead of my usual 20.  I read on the internet last week where it was suggested to do your long run in the amount of time it would take to complete a marathon, only run fewer miles and go slower, and that is what I did.

My weight has been going the wrong way lately.  Halloween contributed to that, but I need to get some self control and eat healthier.  I thought the extra miles would help, but I guess they only gave me an excuse to eat more.  Having said all that, I'm only about 3 or 4 pounds above where I was a month ago so don't feel too sorry for me.

Just so you don't think I spent my whole week running...  Here are some photos of a few other activities I did over the course of last week:

Went trick-or-treating on Halloween.  My kids are the 3 on the left.
Don't tell them I've been enjoying their candy.

Saw an 80s hair band called "Tesla"  with some friends on Saturday night.
The garage band I'm in covers their song, "Modern Day Cowboy."

Any guesses what this monstrosity is?  It is the makings of a chicken
coop.  The wife and I have been working on it for months it seems.
Hope we can get it done before Winter sets in.   It is also the reason
I haven't been blogging as much lately.

Have a good week!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Back Down To Business

Well, it took about a week and a half after the marathon for my legs to finally start feeling normal when I ran.  Last weekend I went for a 13 mile long run as I build back up to doing 20 milers.  Afterwards, I took the family out to lunch at a local burger joint.  We sat by the kitchen where a couple guys were sweating over the grill trying to keep up with demand. 

Out of the blue, my wife Lora says to me, "You know what I really like?  Watching a guy in the kitchen, cooking."  That, by the way, was a little lighthearted dig at me for not doing more meal preparation around the house. 

I thought, two can play at that game.  So I said, "You know what I really like?  A woman who knows her place, and gets the laundry done on time."  That was probably the best comeback I could come up with on the spot, but it was at least true that she hates doing laundry and had been putting if off. 

I think a few other little meaningless things were said before she was all like, "Why do you always have to be right?"  So I was all like, "Well how do you think it makes me feel knowing that my wife is always wrong?"

It was kinda quiet at the lunch table after that which I didn't mind cause usually my wife talks a lot and it gives me a headache.  At least, that's how I remember the conversation, and if it's on the internet, it must be verbatim.  OK, I better stop there since she reads my blog, and if I keep going, she will probably cease to see the humor in my highbrow writing skills.

My lovely wife, Lora, who might be regretting about now
asking me to mention her more in my blog.

That story was a bit out of place for my running blog, but worth telling I think.  Now back to my regularly scheduled, and overly analytical post.

I have never done more than 2 marathons in a calender year before, but thanks to the previous marathon leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I have signed up for a third.   I just registered for the Dallas White Rock Marathon on December 4th.  Anyone know someone who's running it too?  Any bloggers?

This also means I haven't done 2 marathons this close together before now.  Not that it's a big deal, but by the time I get back to running 70 - 80 miles/week, it will be about time to start tapering again, and I do want to race it with a PR in mind.

Here are my workouts from the last 7 days as I prepare to run another 26.2 in a little over a month:

5 miles @ 8:30 avg.
13 miles @ 8:12 avg.
10 tempo miles @ 7:54 avg.;  10.15 miles on stationary bike in 30 minutes.
7 miles recovery @ 9:00
12 miles @ 8:30 avg.
12 Lactate Threshold miles @ 7:18 avg.;  6.85 miles on stationary bike in 20 minutes.

Total running miles = 59
Total biking miles = 17

Next week I'll start back in on intervals for the first time since the marathon.  Hope everyone is running some good races this fall.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon Race Report

My final marathon as a non-master didn't turn out the way I envisioned.  I trained pretty hard, set some impressive PRs leading up to the race, but in the end, I can't help but feel disappointed.  The irony is that I ran faster than I have ever run a marathon in my life.

Feeling good at the start.
My 3 year old, Lacey, waiting for something, anything,
to happen at the start.

Before I get into how my race went, I'll mention a little bit of background on the marathon.  The Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon is in it's second year.  They announced about 4,000 participants who chose between a 5k, half marathon, or full marathon.  On the 5k, the pace bicyclist took a wrong turn and all the runners followed him.  When all was said and done, they ended up running about 3.8 miles, and no prizes were given for various reasons.  Of course some runner's were pissed.  I think it's inexcusable (and kinda funny) not to know where you're going when you're responsible for about 1,000 paying runners following you like the pied piper.

The marathon itself is a dual loop course, kinda like a figure 8, but the loops are separated by several miles.  It's mostly flat and fast.  Even though there was the snafu with the 5k, everything went well with the marathon.   The events in general were well organized with more free food afterward than what you'll find at most big city marathons.  I partook in some post-race pizza, beer, donuts, and hot chocolate.

Going off road around mile 10.
Let me start out with the good.  I finished the 26.2 miler in 3:34:18; over a minute and a half faster than the PR I set last year, and I did so in a little less than optimal conditions.  That comes out to an 8:11 average pace, and 15 of my splits were under 8 minutes.  I've never broke the 8 minute mile in a marathon before.  The other positive from my race was taking 3rd place in my division.  I had never won any award in any race over 4 miles.  More on that later...

Money Shot

Now for the bad which I plan on spending most of my time on.  While I should be happier about my PR, my planned finish time was a sub 3:25:00 under ideal conditions.  Reaching that time would mean I'm making good progress on my BQ goal as I need a 3:15:00.  I have set the bar high, and not performing up to my expectations is depressing.  Striving for certain time goals is what drives my training.  I guess it's just the way my brain is wired.  I think I have a decent excuse for not running better, but I'm having problems coming to terms with forces beyond my control.  Yes, I'm talking about the weather.  At first glance, the conditions were near ideal; low 60s with cloudy skies and intermittent light rain.  The problem is those aren't perfect conditions.  With all the rain before and during the race, the humidity was around 97%.  Also, the temps remained a constant 64º, about 10 degrees above optimal.  Let's explore temperatures for a second.  Here is an excerpt from Jeff Galloway's webpage about how temps affect running.

Most runners begin to slow down at 55 degrees and start suffering at 65 degrees. Of course, the body can adapt to heat stress and push the threshold up a bit, but you usually can't run as fast on a 75 degee day as on a 45 degree one. High humidity is also a major problem. It's like a wet blanket; it doesn't allow much evaporation or perspiration and your body heat builds up.
If you try to run too hard in hot or humid conditions you'll hit "the wall" sooner than expected. Trying to maintain a goal pace in heat is like going out too fast early in the race. Temperatures generally increase hour by hour; therefore you must adjust your pace for the temperature expected at the end of the race.
Adjusting Race Pace for Heat: Estimated temperature at finish - Slower than goal pace - 8 min mile becomes...
55-60 degrees - 1% - 8:05
60-65 degrees - 3% - 8:15
65-70 degrees - 5% - 8:25
70-75 degrees - 7% - 8:35
75-80 degrees - 12% - 8:58
80-85 degrees - 20% - 9:35
Above 85 degrees - Forget it... run for fun
* Note: This chart is based upon my own experience in the heat and talking to other runners. It has no scientific verification.

His assertion makes sense to me.  Based on the above chart, my race pace should have been a good 3% (15 seconds) slower solely based on the temperature.  I didn't take Jeff's chart into consideration and hence, started out too fast for the conditions.  That came back to haunt me about mile 20.  What I haven't figured out yet is how much the weather gets the blame, and what blame if any goes to my process of nutrition, tapering, and starting out too fast.

To illustrate how the weather affected my performance, I've included some Garmin data I collected.  On the left is an 18 miler I did 2 weeks before the marathon to cap off a 63 mile week in sunny 55º weather.  The chart on the right is my first 18 miles from the PF marathon done in 64º cloudy weather with 97% humidity:

Training Run 9/24/11
PF Marathon 10/9/11

The moral of these 2 charts is that my 55º training run averaged a 7:49 pace with an average heart rate of 168.  For comparison, The first 18 marathon miles averaged a 7:52 but with a heart rate of 178.  In a good example of over analysis, that works out to 1,631 extra heartbeats worth of oxygen my blood had to try and deliver to my muscles over those 18 miles.

Based on my own experience and some research, I estimate my lactate threshold to be around 175 bpm.  This further illustrates why hitting the wall was only a matter of time in the marathon.

Remember I mentioned earlier I took 3rd place in my division?  Well what if I told you my division was the Clydesdale division?  I'm not so bad-ass anymore, huh.  I know most people think of me as a typical skinny runner, but according to the entry form, if I'm over 170 lbs, I've got a handicap.  When I signed up I was 171 lbs in case you were wondering.  The only positive thing I can say about being in the Clydesdale class is that I had to beat out all my plus sized peers from across all age groups (assuming they declared their fatness).  I was a good 20 minutes away from placing in my age group.  By the way, race morning I weighted in at 167 lbs since I was very diligent about my diet that week, so I don't know if I should be feeling any guilt, but ethically, I'm in the clear because what happens after signing up is kinda like what happens after boxers or wrestlers weigh in:  They are locked in the weight class no matter how much their weight fluctuates.  (I am back up over 170 now)

Back to the race...  The last 6 miles I hit the proverbial wall.  I was saddened to look down at my watch and see that mile 24 was a 9:20 split, but in my defense my legs were really burning the last 4 or 5 miles.  Despite the burn, they weren't trying to cramp.  Any lesser man might have given into the urge to walk, but I forced myself to keep the legs churning and actually got faster the last couple miles.  The way my legs felt after hitting the wall, I was actually impressed I ran as fast as I did.

Prairie Fire Marathon, Final Hit the Wall 10k

Currently, I'm still in my marathon hangover.  The muscle soreness left after 3 or 4 days, but most days running 5 miles is a struggle even at recovery pace.  I have yet to get back into any kind of speed work.  I know this is nothing out of the ordinary.

I'll leave you with a couple bullet points:

  • This post represents my one year anniversary of blogging.
  • Did everyone hear about that 100 year old guy who finished the Toronto Marathon in 8 hours and change?  WOW

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Someone Call Osama bin Laden to See If Hell Froze Over, I Won a 5k!

Chalk one up for the mid-pack runner.  Chalk another one up for the (almost) middle age runner for that matter, because Saturday morning, I won the Valley Center 5k, an annual 5k road race on a certified course that was open to the general public.  By the way, when I say "won", I don't mean 1st place in my aging age group.  Nope.  I took first place overall, and I set a PR by 46 seconds in the process.

The morning started off on the opposite end of the 'joy' spectrum.  Rain.  Kansas has been in a drought, so wouldn't you know Mother Nature decided to cry me a river in the 1+ hours before start time.  Combined with the 55º temps and wind, it was proving to be a cold, wet morning.  There was also lightning out, so the race was in danger of being postponed.  Against the forecast, the rain actually all but stopped by the time the race got underway.

I jumped out to the quick lead.  It was a little surreal to be THE runner who was following the pace bicyclist.  Since it had just got through down pouring, the streets were wet, and at times I noticed that my shoes weren't gripping the asphalt like you would expect.  Thanks to the aforementioned rain, there were also small streams flowing through most of the intersections that I had to try and jump over; kinda like the steeplechase.  Not an easy task in the later part of the race, and my shoes became introduced to some water. 

By mile 2, my heart rate was up to 200 BPM (95% of max).  The rest of the race, my breathing felt OK, but my legs were real heavy; I was yearning to take a walk break with one mile to go.  No one kept with me after the beginning, so I was curious how big my lead was.  I looked over my left shoulder and spotted one runner one to two hundred yards back.  Turns out, it takes a lot of energy/concentration to look back over your shoulder when running 5k race pace with a red lined heart rate.  Perhaps a better description is my brain was starting to become oxygen deprived.  Either way, I couldn't focus on what was going on with my pursuer.  I didn't know if he was gaining or fading, but I knew I was slowing down.

At the 3rd mile, I had nothing left in the tank.  The second place runner didn't seem to be any closer to me however, and the finish line came into view.  I had to attempt another leap over a body of water, then fight fatigue as there was still a PR on the line.  As anti-climatic as it might seem (thank goodness), I finished the race unchallenged.  The second place runner finished about 22 seconds back, who by the way turned out to be the first place woman.

I could stop there, and perhaps leave those of you who don't know me very well thinking that I'm a pretty fast runner.  However, I have a couple disclaimers to paint a better picture of reality.  First, it was a small race.  Thanks in part to the weather and other local races, there were only 22 runners.  Second, my finish time was 20:08.  That's a pretty good time for me, but a pretty poor time for a 5k champion IMHO.  My main objective of the race was to set a PR, and I did that big time.  My previous best was 20:54 from 2010.

Even though this is the smallest race I know of, they have the coolest glass trophies for the top 3 finishers.

Finally, I'll share my Garmin data.  I had hoped to break 20 minutes, but my first mile was too fast and I got noticeably slower each mile as a result.  A few other things like wind and wet conditions didn't help much either.

As with all short races, my heart rate goes up pretty fast.

Meanwhile, I did taper a couple days for this race, but really I'm deep into marathon training mode; running 70+ miles per week since the Pikes Peak Ascent last month.  The Wichita Prairie Fire Marathon is 2.5 weeks away, and this was a pretty good speed workout to help prepare as I get ready for another taper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pikes Peak Ascent Race Report

Last Saturday, this flat lander, mountain/trail running virgin made it (by foot) to the top of Pikes Peak.  My uncle, who lives by the base of it and did the race back in the 80s, had 2 pieces of advice beforehand:  1) The mountain will win, and 2) I will set a PR.

First of all, if I'm going to do this post justice, I have to start by mentioning Jill of Run With Jill fame.  Before I ever made it out to Colorado, the aforementioned Pikes Peak Ascent alumna would make time to talk to me about the Ascent and other running topics.  Then, once I got out there, she met my family for dinner and even picked me up at 5:45am to shuttle me to the starting line so that my wife could sleep in, and more importantly, my little offspring could sleep in too.

Jill and company all smiles early in the morning while picking
 me up for the race.
Jill sure was in good spirits for that early in the morning.  Had I tried to snap a picture of most girls that early in the A.M., I could probably expect to have my camera broken into a thousand pieces over the top of my head.  Talk about dandruff.

We got to the starting line in plenty of time to mull around and chat.  I saw a few of my friends from Wichita who ventured out to run/hike/walk the race, including Hannah.
Jill, myself, and Hannah giddy with excitement.  Don't
we look fruity.

Ready to start.  Can hardly see Pikes Peak with the first
"hill" in the foreground.

The Ascent has 2 waves.  The first one starts a half hour earlier than the second, and has a smaller, faster  field based on qualifying times.   I suppose that was done so that when you're single file on the mountain trail, you're not waiting on other runners as much.  I might be 2 slow 4 Boston, but I wasn't 2 slow for that first wave.  Booyeah!

The Race Course:

In-line perspective

Side Perspective

The first small section of the race was on the road heading up to the mountain.  It seemed pretty tough going for a beginning to a race, but it was a 4.5% average grade afterall.  That was just a warm-up.  Once we got on the mountain, I really started sweating.  Not because I saw what was ahead of me, but it was actually unseasonably warm and the slope had increased to about 13.4% (as per race's website).  I started worrying that I would become dehydrated.  Luckily I was able to cool off as the temps. started to drop with the elevation gain.
Ignoring the glare from the sun, this is looking down
 at the runners going through the Rock Arch.

The middle part of the race is the easiest.  There are about 3 miles where you run through a bit of a valley and hit an aid station or two.  I actually got my pace up to sub 9 minutes for short stretches along there while watching my heart rate drop.

Aid Station.
View of the finish, kinda.

The most depressing part of my race came at mile 9.  My Garmin GPS switched itself off after it's memory filled up.  After noticing this, I first was in denial that I had that many previous workouts stored, and wondered if it was the elevation that took out my watch.  Unfortunatly, it was done recording data for the rest of the ascent, but I was able to use it as a heartrate monitor and a pace calculator.  Here are my Garmin's charts up to that point:


Points to notice from what Garmin data I did collect:  The first 9 miles took me from 6,000+ feet to 12,000 feet elevation; my heart-rate stayed around 177 bpm the whole time; and if the first 9 miles took 2:30:27, then the final 4.32 miles took 1:37:23, or an average of 22:32 minutes/mile.

Fast forward, the treeline arrives about 10.2 miles into the race at an elevation of 12,000 feet.  I envisioned getting past the treeline being comparable to the scene from 'Total Recall' where Schwarzenegger is on Mars and his eyes bug out of his head after the oxygen gets sucked out into the atmosphere.
This is either a still shot from Total Recall, or it's an edited
pic of Maria Shriver's hands around Arnold's neck after she
found out about his love child.

Turns out being up above the tree line wasn't that bad.  Granted I was slower, but I couldn't perceive that I was at the time.  Actually, I felt an adrenaline rush come on as I got the false impression I was getting close to the end, and because I was still feeling strong.  I started passing racers, and that trend lasted off and on the rest of the way to the summit.

It's hard to know exactly what awaits you the first time you do something.  In my case, I was surprised that some of the trail was lined with small pebbles which I would compare the traction with that of sand.  Also, above treeline, there was lots of rock; as in boulders.  Sometimes I couldn't tell what was trail and what was rock.  One of the rockiest sections was what's known as the 16 Golden Stairs.  I would say it's the closest thing to rock climbing I had to do that morning.
The 16 Golden Stairs from above.

Soon after the Golden Stairs, I was crossing the finish line with an official time of 4:07:50.  Despite this being my first run up the Peak, I was pretty disappointed I didn't break 4 hours like I thought I should.  After finishing, I felt like I still had more to give.  Although I was exerting myself, I kinda ended up settling in with the pace of those in front of me instead of setting my own pace.  All this leads me to wonder if I need to go back and try it again.  The competitive side says 'yes'.

On top of the world; or at least on top of Pikes Peak with Colorado Springs in the background.

Final Stats:

  • 13.32 miles in 4:07:50
  • 7,815' Elevation Gain
  • 14,115' Final Elevation
  • Average Grade = 11

  • Overall Place - 601/1704
  • Men's Division - 485/1175
  • Age Group - 74/172

I actually decided to purchase my professional photos from the Ascent.  Here are a few:

One of my less flattering photographs.  Some
parts were steep enough, it lessened the burden
by pushing on my thighs.
 After hanging out at the summit for a few minutes, I caught a shuttle bus back down to the starting area where they were handing out finisher shirts, food, and free beer.  I got to hang out with all my friends from Wichita and Colorado, and made a few new ones to boot.  I thought I came away from the race unscathed, but turns out my head of hair is as thin as the oxygen level on the summit, and my scalp got a sunburn.  At least my legs weren't sore the next morning.

I've got to disagree with my uncle on one account...  Since I made it to the top on my own accord within the time limit, the mountain did not win, I did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Almost Ready To Run Up Pikes Peak.

As I have been mentioning for awhile, I've been trying to get trained up for the 13.32 mile Pikes Peak Ascent which is now about 2 weeks away.  It seems I've always mentioned it more as an afterthought, as part of a post dedicated to other topics.  That means I've been storing up material on the subject, and it's time to let loose.

A week and a half ago, I did my long run on the treadmill.  Not because it was a pre-dawn 80º outside and humid, but because I needed some extended time going uphill as only a treadmill can provide in Kansas.  I got in a 14 miler in 3 hours, the last 10 miles of which was at an 11% incline.  Being the curious type that I am, I wondered just how much elevation I gained in those 10 miles.  Being the nerdy type also, I had a story problem to solve.  You remember those math story problems from high school that everyone complained about by saying, "When are we going to use this in real life"?  Well, here it goes:

Jack and Jill ran up a hill for 10 miles.  If the grade/slope of that hill was 11%, how much elevation did they gain before Jack fell down and broke his crown?

Answer #1 for the high school drop outs or mathmatically challenged: 
Jack and Jill ran for a long time, a long way, and are now having problems breathing.

Answer #2, break out your geometry and trigonometry textbooks:




There.  That was rather easy compared to some of the math I had to do to get my engineering degree, but I'll admit I did have to look up the formula.  Gaining almost 2 miles in elevation was a bit of a confidence booster since I've never raced up a mountain before.  I have a few pics from said run.  The first one is supposed to show me running the 11% incline, but it doesn't really look that hard or steep from the picture...  Judge for yourself:



Not that basements are known for high ceilings, but notice my head looks like it's about to 6" away from it.  Also I have a shelf right next to me.  When I installed it, I wasn't planning on being so high off the ground, so now I have to be careful with my shoulder or I'll bump it.

A friend who will also be running hiking Pikes Peak jokingly stated I should get ready for the oxygen deprivation by breathing from a straw.  I got to thinking about it, and decided, why not:



You may have noticed I'm wearing my Garmin, so before someone has to ask why; it's the only HR monitor I have, and I like to track my heartrate.
I ran a flat 20 miler last weekend.  It was 75º and humid starting pre-dawn.  By the half marathon mark, my shoes were so full of sweat, I could hear and feel the squish of each stride as they hit the ground.  I would probably not bother to mention this run if not for the fact that I managed to get a nipple bleed even though I applied Body Glide to it before I started the run.  And when stuff starts coming out of my nipples, I tend to find that titilating interesting.

Right Nipple Bleed.  I just had to wear a white shirt.
All the sweat helped the blood disperse, so it's
not real obvious in the picture.

Finally, I would like to give 2 Pikes Peak shoutouts:
  • First to Jill, who has made herself readily available to me to answer Pikes Peak questions, and who should be running up the mountain that day too, assuming her heel has healed.  I'm looking forward to meeting her in person for the first time.
  • Second to my fellow Wichitan Hannah, who is taking time from her ultra training to run Pikes Peak.  I just haven't figured out yet if she is retired from blogging or not.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You Got Questions, I've Got Answers

Thanks to everyone who wrote in wanting to know something about me.  I enjoyed reading and answering all the questions, so without further delay, here are my responses:

My Photo
Q:  Have you ever run naked? How far did you go? Was it enjoyable?
A:  Yes, on my treadmill, but not too far.  Not particularly enjoyable as I recall, it was a little distracting.

Q:  Weren't you in that porn film?
A:  Yes, I was all over it.

Q:  Have you ever watched one of "your" films?
A:  Yes, multiple times.

Q:  What barnyard animal is staying at your house?
A:  A Turkey, and not just at, but inside at times.  Long story made short, he doesn't do well in 110º heat, and neither do I.

"Bak Bak Motherfuckers!"

Q:  What was your favorite OTHER sport?
A:  Favorite sport to watch is Pro Football.  Favorite sport to play is either soccer or baskeetball.

Q:  Who got to name the kids?
A:  My wife and I went through some names together, and came to mutual agreements on all 3, but as I recall, I had to convince her of 2 of our kids names.

My PhotoChris K:
Q:  Do you really think you are too slow for Boston?
A:  Yes, I know I am, and the BAA lowering the qualifying times didn't help me, but thanks for your confidence in me.  I do have faith that I will qualify someday.

Q:  Who's the boss? You or the Mrs?
A:  I think we do an equal amount of bossing each other around, the only difference is the Mrs. ignores me more than vice versa.

Q:  Do you wish you had an "h" in your name?
A:  It is kinda a pain having to clarify at times my non-common spelling, but at 3 letters instead of 4, it's 25% faster to write.

Q:  How handsome in real life is Jim 50 after 40?
A:  Jim graciously sent in a reply which I'll repost for those who missed it.
Jim: Let me handle this one for you Jon ... CK - I'm not sure words can describe the pure animal magnetism and deep manly musk that this gentleman exudes. He bowls overhand. Dead sexy indeed.

Well said Jim.  I've got one more thing to add.  Jim went down to "The Virgin Islands", now they just call them "The Islands".

My PhotoMichael:
Q:  Was it difficult going through life with your name or did it help get you chicks?
A:  Not too difficult, I can't really say that it's helped me get laid girls though.  I mean, I never went up to one and said, "Hi, I'm Jon Holmes.  Does that name ring a bell?"  Although, looking back, that might not have been a bad strategy.  If they knew my name then that could've been a sign I was trying to penetrate the right market so to speak.

Q:  Do you have any other major running goals (outside of Boston)?
A:  I haven't really mentioned it on my blog, but I want to run a marathon in all 50 states.

My PhotoJim ... 50after40:
(I can appreciate his knowledgeable and thoughtful questions about Wichita)

Q:  Do you wish you had more hills in Wichita to train on?
A:  Yes, this place is as flat as Kate Hudson.

Q:  Have you ever described yourself as a "Shocker"?
A:  Yes, I am a proud Shocker!

Q:  Will Wichita's airline industry ever come back to full strength?
A:  I think it will recover, but some of the jobs are going overseas, and like everything else, the economy has to improve first.

Q:  Do you ever go watch the Wingnuts?
A:  For most of you, the Wingnuts is Wichita's baseball team.  The Wingnuts have only been here a couple seasons, and I haven't seen them play in person.  For one, I'm not a big baseball fan, second they aren't even a minor league farm club.  Wichita used to have minor league farm clubs here.  I'll probably end up going as part of a social outing.

My PhotoCoy Martinez:
Q:  Do you think that barefoot running / minimalist running is just a fad and that it'll go away? Would you ever run barefoot?
A:  I don't see it staying as popular as it is right now, but a lot of people swear by minimalist running, and I think there will always be a market out there for it.  I'm too scared of stepping on something sharp to run barefoot, but I've been wanting to try a minimalist shoe like the Vibram 5 finger.

My PhotoJill:
Q:  What's next after Pikes Peak?
A:  It will be about time for a fall marathon, but probably just the one in my hometown.  My travel budget is shot for the year.

Q:  Do you think Pikes Peak is going to be the most rewarding race you've ever done?
A:  I actually think it might.  There are more factors/challenges at play than a normal marathon.  The greater the challenge, the greater the reward.

Q:  Do you think you'll reach a point where racing won't hold the same value to you as it does right now?
A:  Good question.  I'm sure one day that will happen, but it will probably take old age or debilitating injury to do it.

Q:  What's your blog name going to be when you make it to Boston?
A:  I really like my blog name.  I'm not sure I'll want to part with it.  Now the way Boston is set up, I might qualify, but never get in cause the faster times get priority, hence, I will still be 2 Slow 4 Boston on a technicality.

Q:  When you qualify for Boston, will you actually GO to Boston to run?
A:  Yes, it will be a priority to travel there and run and experience it.

Q:  Finally, will you wait for my sorry butt at the top of PP?
A:  I would like to do nothing more, however I doubt I'll be in charge that day.  My family will have already been waiting for me for 4 hours by the time I make it to the top, and the PP website says we should get off the mountain as quickly as possible for both congestion and health reasons.

My PhotoFair Weather Runner:
Q:  Who is your FAVORITE Wichita runner?
A:  That's a loaded question.  I know Hannah reads my blog on occasion, not to mention a few others, so it would be unfair to single someone out.  Maybe if you and Hannah were to get in a ring and mud wrestle while I ref, I could come to a conclusion.

My PhotoNelly:
Q:  How did you meet Mrs. 2Slow?
A:  I met her on an internet dating site.  Back in 1997, that was kind of a new way to do it.

Q:  What is your strength routine?
A:  Lift as much weight as I can.  Actually, I don't really have a set routine, but I do try and hit the weights about 5 days/week while at the gym.  My main exercises include lunges with dumbbells, leg extensions, ab crunches, and back extensions.  I do several sets of each while increasing the weight for each set.

Q:  Have you had any other injuries besides runners knee?
A:  I got a couple discs out of alignment in my lower back, so I spend a lot of time lifting and stretching trying to prevent it from bothering me.  Also, several years ago, I was tapering for a marathon when I came down with a kidney stone.  I had minor surgery 2 weeks prior to the race, but still ran a pretty good time.

My Photo
Q:  When is your BQ?
A:  I wish I knew.


Pikes Peak Training Week
7/2553 x 1mi intervals 7:00 pace
7/263Treadmill 12% incline 13:20 pace
7/2786 miles on track @ 8:45, 2 miles 11% incline @ 13:20 pace
7/2885 miles on track @ 7:45, 3 miles 11% incline @ 13:20 pace
7/2949 min/mi on track, 1 mile on 12% incline @ 15:00 pace
7/3020penciled in for 20 road run tomorrow morning