Saturday, May 2, 2015

No Boston Magic

I wanted to share a few quick thoughts on the Boston Marathon. It's been about 12 days now and I'm glad I went, but I likely won't return. The downhill pounding didn't treat me well despite my specific preparation and strength work going in.

The weather was tough too. High winds (headwinds) and some rain. Even on a perfect weather day, I just don't think this course lays out well for me.
I made a conscious decision not to adjust my pace or race plan for the weather. Even 10 days later, I still have no regrets about that, especially considering that the uphill (slower) part of the race in Boston is the 2nd half.  I ran my first half marathon in 1:16:23. That's 2:33 marathon pace, which I believe I'm capable of running (just need to put it all together).

I had trouble finding a good rhythm at Boston. I was fighting the wind and looking for a pack to settle in with for the first 7 or 8 miles which just cost me too much energy. The wheels started to come off around mile 17. My pace slowed enough that I was getting passed by way too many runners in the last 8 miles. Even my college teammate Doron Clark from Minneapolis passed me about mile 25!
I finally finished in 2:41:53 which put me in 353rd place. Out of about 30,000 runners that's not so bad I guess.

I was shivering and suffering the entire walk back to the apartment with my buddy Ryan. But luckily, a hot shower and a meal seemed to cure most of my suffering. Of course, there were sore hips and quads for the next couple days. But that's expected after a downhill race.

I'll hold off on doing an in-depth analysis of the race organization, expo, and so forth. In short, I wasn't impressed by the logistics, "27th Mile" after-party, or security (why are so many people passing through security and boarding the bus to the start line carrying bags and extra pairs of shoes if there is a no-bag policy in place??).

The bottom line is I just didn't feel the magic at Boston. Maybe it's because it wasn't a struggle for me to qualify, maybe it's because I'm a midwestern guy and Boston doesn't feel like home to me, maybe it's because I hate the 10am start time, maybe it's because I don't like the downhill pounding of the course and just didn't run well on April 20, 2015. Maybe all of the above.

All that being said, I had a good time riding the city bus and exploring Boston by foot. My Lincoln Running Company teammate Ryan Regnier and I stayed in a studio apartment in the South End area less than a mile from the finish line. It worked out really well because we had many restaurants and a nice neighborhood lined with brownstones and historic churches right outside our door.
I also got to spend a little time the airport with another of my teammates, Austin McKillip and his family. Even his mother and mother-in-law were there. Yeah, he's totally whipped.
Oh, and the JFK museum was worthwhile. That's about the only touristy thing we did that weekend.

Hope to add some pics from Boston here soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Greedy In California: CIM Race Report (12/7/14)

Wow! I need to get back on the blogging horse here. It's been about 2 months since I had a disappointing run out at California International Marathon (CIM) and then floated into the holidays without giving an update on what went wrong.

I'm not going to over-analyze this race (wait, I probably am) but here are the high points...

I flew out with my Lincoln Running Company (LRC) teammate Ryan Regnier and met up with other teammates Brian Wandzilak, Tom Nichols (now living in Denver area), and Eric Noel (now living in California). 

Ryan Regnier and me at the Expo (above) and a shot from the shakeout run we attended.
We did the usual expo thing and had some fun there tasting Nuun flavors (I still don't like Nuun) and chatting with other runners. It was a great expo. We ran around downtown Sacramento and found it to be a pretty average city. The Old Town Sacramento area near the river was unique and packed with candy stores. Just what we needed going into a marathon!!

Ryan Regnier and I drove the course the day before the race and hid some water bottles along the way that we could find on race day. I was surprised to see that the course was not very scenic. The majority of the race was a run through a suburban scene of strip malls, tire shops and chain restaurants. I guess I had heard so many people compare it to Grandma's Marathon that I expected it to be more scenic and less suburban.

The highlight of the day before the race, though, was hanging out with Ryan Regnier's aunt Jean who lives about 30 minutes outside Sacramento. She took us to a local diner for pancakes and then drove us through the beautiful rural areas of nut trees and vineyards that are just outside Sacramento.

Despite Ryan's aunt Jean being nearby, we stayed at a Holiday Inn (which was crappy) to be near the bus pickup area on race morning. It worked out well and the bus got us to the start in plenty of time.

I was feeling good and healthy going into the race.
I had led in with a solid 2:38 at Des Moines Marathon (October 19) and then mileage weeks of 55, 106, 110, 114, 87, 79 and then 53 the week of the race. I had even suprised myself and run a 1:12 half marathon in early November during a 106 mile week (at the Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, NE). 

Hindsight being 20/20, I see now that I was aggressive by taking this 1:12 half to mean I could run 2:30 or 2:31. My goal early in the fall was simply to PR. Anything sub-2:35 would have accomplished that. But after my 1:12 half marathon, I believed my own hype and those stupid online pace calculators. I had adjusted my official goal down to 2:32 but secretly wanted to run 2:30.

The weather was great on race morning. It was around 50 degrees (I think) and cloudy/cool at start time. I had planned to run this race without trying to pace with teammates. Nobody's goals were close to mine. We had some guys looking to run 2:22 and others looking at 2:40. 

The gun went off and I got out in 5:45 for the first mile and was happy with that considering it is a downhill mile. I followed with a 5:53 which put me right back on pace. My problem came during miles 3 and 4 where I got antsy and picked up my pace to 5:38 and then 5:36 as I tried to find a good pack to run with. 

I certainly did find a good pack. As I continued to roll along and talk to a couple guys in our pack of about 6 runners, I found that they were all 2:28 or 2:29 marathoners. I realized about mile 7 that I was punching above my weight class but was actually pretty comfortable in the 5:40-5:45 pace we were running so I made the conscious decision to just carry on as long as I could.

I was remarkably even with my pacing thanks to the pack. Miles 5-17 were all in the 5:41-5:47 range.
I began to fall of the pack around 16 miles and realized that I wasn't actually slowing down but my pack had started to pick it up in order to run negative splits. We had split 1:15:04 at the half marathon, and most off my pack would end up running 1:14 for the second half of the race and finish in the 2:28 to 2:30 zone.

I turned miles 18 and 19 in 5:59 and was really feeling those quick early miles (3 and 4). 
For mile 20 I fell to 6:18 and mile 21 was worse. I had hit the wall hard and my legs felt like stone. I probably would have tried to jog in for a 2:40+ finish time if I hadn't seen my teammate Tom Nichols struggling just as bad as myself right at mile 21. 

But I caught him and we decided to drop out together. We hung out awkwardly near the water stop and eventually found a spectator who was headed to the finish and he gave us a ride to the finish line. We got there when the clock was about 3 hours. We were able to find our teammates and the rest is history. Congrats to those who did finish CIM. I just got a little greedy.


5:47.1  28:42 at 5 miles
5:41.6  35:45 at 10k
5:42.3  57:15 at 10 miles
5:43.2  1:15:04 at Half
6:18   1:55:42 at 20 miles

2:02:29---Did Not Finish (DNF), dropped out at mile 21.

Note that I don't appear in full results but my splits are there if you search my name.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hometown High and Headphone Guy: Des Moines Marathon Race Report (10/19/14)

I was certainly in uncharted waters going into the DSM Marathon. I had never run a second marathon only 4 weeks after the first. But I had laid out an aggressive plan to run 2 fall marathons as warmups for my goal race, the California International Marathon in early December, and I wanted to stick to that plan. Unfortunately, I had been sick with flu symptoms in those 4 weeks between races and was still battling congestion during race week. My mileage had suffered too. While I normally run 80-120 miles per week I had only logged 67, 75, 81, and 55 (week of DSM including race).

Despite all that, I've had a pretty solid year of running and felt good the days leading up to the race. This was my hometown race, after all, and I wasn't going to miss it. When I was growing up in Des Moines in the 80's and 90's this race simply didn't exist (2014 is the 14th year), so I was excited to see how the city would support the race. 

The day before the race I drove 3 hours over from Lincoln, NE (where we have lived for just over a year) with my wife and two boys. My wife and 10 year old son had plans to run the 5k which I didn't see because it started 45 minutes after the full marathon. But my son Gavin had a great race and ran a 5k PR of 19:58! 

Race kit laid out night before the race.

We stayed in town with family the night before. I laid out my race day gear as usual. Things looked a bit different. This would be my first race wearing my new Smarty Pants Vitamins jersey and I was surprised at the way so many fans called out "Go Smarty Pants!" out on the course. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. 

I thought I should write a quick note in response to a few folks who have asked about my new race jersey. 
So here's the scoop: I will be wearing my Smarty Pants gear for some races and my Lincoln Running Company gear for others. Basically, I will wear my club gear (LRC) in any race where they are supporting me financially (by paying entries, travel expenses, etc.) and I will wear my Smarty gear (or whatever I feel like wearing) for other races. Team Smarty Pants isn't a real club team like LRC, it's just a loose group of people around the country who like the product and agree to be an "ambassador" and receive free products and gear in exchange for "getting social" about the products on Twitter. 

All that being said, this is a great product that my kids had been taking for about a year before I got involved with Smarty Pants. It's the only way my kids will take Omega-3 vitamins at all. Use this code for 15% off your order: #RunSmarty14 

Now back to the race report....

I did my usual routine of waking up and eating a light breakfast 2 hours before race time. One banana and a cup of dry cheerios, then a V8 brand energy drink with caffeine about 45 minutes before the race starts. Caffeine is my drug of choice on race day. Research indicates that caffeine reduces perceived exertion while running (you feel like you are running slower than you're actually running), and I'm a big believer that this is true.
Wish I had known this in high school in the mid-90's...

I was lucky enough to have time to set 6 of my own bottles out along the course the night before. I used the same mix that seemed to work at Omaha. 
The bottles had my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. (Feel free to email or tweet at me if you want any marathon nutrition tips! I think I almost have it figured out.)

We arrived about an hour before race time and parked on the north end of downtown DSM. The weather was crisp but really just about perfect for a marathon. 40's and fairly light breezes. 
I jogged for about a mile and then went over to the starting area. I wore gloves and arm sleeves to stay comfortable early in the race until I warmed up. I ended up ditching the sleeves at mile 6 and the gloves around mile 21 after I spilled a cup of water all over them. 

I liked the start area being on a bridge over the river. It gives you a view while you wait to start and a "big race" feeling. The deep field of Kenyan runners vying for the new $10,000 winning prize also gives you a big race feeling. (I met one athlete at packet pickup who had just got off a plane directly from Kenya. He had come to Des Moines for a chance at the money.)
Of course, I knew I wouldn't be in that mix (the winner ran 2:12) but it's always fun to watch 20 Kenyans start a race and watch most of them drop out along the way because the prize money only goes down to 5th place. Once they realize it's not their day they stop running and save it for next weekend where they will be racing in Dayton or St. Louis or wherever there is prize money. I will do a separate post soon about how the Elite Runner fields are handled at Des Moines Marathon and other races. And I should probably note that I did receive a free "elite" entry at this race because I met the time standard of 2:35.

I got out very relaxed the first mile and fought the urge to go hard too early. At DSM, as in most marathons, the full and half-marathon competitors start at the same time. There were some fast half-marathoners in the race, which can make it hard to tell who your competition is early on.
I ran 5:59 for mile one. I was chatting with several Nebraska and Iowa runners during this mile including Shannon Suing, David Bohlken and others. This was just the pace I had planned. A good start.

A mix of Full (blue bibs) and Half Marathoners (orange bibs) at Mile 1.

My wife Bridie and 10 year old son Gavin spectating at Mile 1 (before their own 5k!)
The full and half marathon runners split around 2.5 miles into the race. The half marathoners turn south for their pancake-flat jaunt through Waterworks Park and Gray's Lake. Full marathon runners head west up the Grand Avenue hill which is over 1 mile long (although there is a flattish stretch halfway up). 

It was apparent as soon as we started climbing Grand Avenue that this would be a lonely marathon for me. The Kenyans had shot out and left just a handful of us strung out minutes behind them. I chatted with a runner from Carroll, Iowa on the way up the Grand Avenue hill. His name was Scott Cale and he was wearing a baggy orange t-shirt which made me wonder if he was for real. (He turned out to be a solid runner who finished the race in 2:40.)

I ran with Scott up and down the South of Grand hills for a couple miles and then pulled ahead around mile 5. We agreed to see each other at the finish and catch up. I felt I couldn't wait any longer to start moving up. I could see two runners up ahead and one was clearly struggling. 
He was a blonde guy wearing royal blue gear. I was feeling comfortable up Foster Drive as I chased the royal blue runner and a runner in all black, who turned out to be Dan Sevcik (a Runablaze Iowa team runner). 
I peeled off and tossed my arm sleeves at mile 6 and then passed the royal blue runner about mile 7 (as you come back onto Grand Ave and head west toward Polk Blvd).

Thanks to Super Fan and Super Race Director Julie Feist of Beatrice, NE for this pic at about mile 7.5.
I was feeling good and couldn't help smiling as I ran past my alma mater Roosevelt High (mile 9) and then ran by my first house on Kingman Blvd (mile 10). My goofy smile was apparently contagious as the scattered crowds along the way were screaming for me. "Keep smiling!" and "Go Smarty Pants!" were common cheers. I was amazed how much fun people had calling me Smarty Pants out there!

I was running solo from mile 7 to 10 but was slowly reeling in the runner in black (Sevcik). He was laying down solid splits and I was happy to have someone to chase. I quickly passed an African woman about mile 10 who had apparently fallen off the lead pack and was struggling. (3 international women ended up beating me that day and all the international women had gone out aggressively.)

It was definitely a breezy day but I didn't realize how breezy until I entered the wind tunnel of Drake Stadium. Cool to run a lap there, but it was a windy lap. I was still about 10 or 15 yards behind Sevcik.
The turnaround at Drake allowed me to see who was in front of me and approximately how far ahead they were. I could see the women's lead pack had at least 3 minutes on me and they were working together. 

I exited Drake Stadium, climbed back up to Kingman Blvd, and near mile 13 I passed Sevcik without him putting up a fight. (After the race we met and he told me he was having ankle problems. I don't believe he had finished the race.)

I was through the half in 1:18:16 and was disappointed when I saw it on the big clock. I had hoped to be in the mid-1:17 range. But I had no real basis for that goal time, having never run this course before. I reminded myself that the hills on this course were behind me. 

Right after passing Sevcik I caught an African woman who had fallen off the lead pack. She was trying to latch on and use me to break the wind. I decided to push for a few minutes to drop her. I got carried away and turned a 5:14 mile for mile 15 as I passed Roosevelt High School again. I had succeeded in leaving her behind but I suffered for it the rest of the race. When I passed Ashworth Pool and entered the bike trail that leads to Waterworks Park, I was hurting. This was the most desolate mile of the race. The only people I recall seeing were at a small waterstop. I only ran a 6:25 for mile 18. 

Luckily, I had a water bottle and an energy gel stashed near mile 18 and that seemed to energize me again. I spotted my friend James Clevenger at mile 18 cheering on the side of the road. He was screaming, jumping up and down, and generally going crazy. "This is YOUR day, Chad Sellers!" He shouted. This gave me a big lift! 

I was now in Waterworks Park where the full and half marathon courses come together again. At first it was nice to have some slow runners to pass, but this would get challenging as I made my way through the next couple miles and the packs of runners got larger. The half marathon runners tended to take up most of the road. 
I was lucky to spot a woman in a pink shirt working as a bike marshal around mile 20. I asked her to ride near me and ring her bell to warn the half marathoners I was coming by. 
Kathy quickly started to help. She also offered some moral support. At one point she said "My husband does REALLY LONG bike rides, so I know what you're going through." 

Kathy was a tremendous help in cutting a path for me with her bike and her little bell. Although, I still had to yell "on your left" all the way around Gray's Lake to make sure people got over. This probably took about the same amount of energy as weaving around everyone, but it felt like a safer strategy. 

Around mile 24 (a man who will forever live in infamy as) "Headphone Guy" was running on the left side of the trail with 2 people to his right. They made a wall across the trail. I yelled and Kathy rang her bell but Headphone Guy couldn't be bothered to pay attention. 
I finally had to lower my shoulder and bump him out of the way. And I would do it again. Although I shouldn't have to.

Please don't run more than 2 people wide on the trail!!!!

At mile 24, I would pass one more runner in a red Simpson College Alumni singlet. And I hated to do it. Des Moines runner Jake Sutton was leaning to the side and his head was bobbing around. I yelled to him to keep it going but I wasn't sure he would make the finish line. 

I had a nice run in and felt good the last couple miles. My older son Gavin and my wife spotted me around mile 25 and cheered me in. The Johnston Cross Country girls also went crazy for me at mile 25 which was a great surprise. I finished in 2:38:13 and was happy to be done.

Jake Sutton eventually did cross the finish line about 2 minutes behind me and promptly collapsed. But it wasn't too serious. It looked like he was just depleted of electrolytes and possibly dehydrated. The medical tent had no salt or electrolytes on hand (really?!). I fed him some of my own Salt Stick Caps (electrolytes!) in the medical tent and he felt better within minutes.  
Shout out to Jake for finishing the race despite his body failing him. 

Also, shout out to some friendly faces I spotted along the way or talked with post-race: Julie Feist, Ivan Marsh, Theresa/Jim/Peyton McClure, Johnston Girls Cross Country, James and Robyn Clevenger, Ryan Kramer, Doron Clark, Ryan Kollman. Several of my LRC teammates and more that I've forgotten to mention.

The medal was pretty average in terms of size, but a nice design. And I like that Des Moines isn't engaging in the "my medal is bigger than yours" arms race that some marathons are engaging in.
The shirt is a light half-zip long sleeve design. Nice design and color choice.

There were many bands out along the course playing music. The crowd support was very good for a smaller/mid-sized marathon, especially downtown and during the middle miles along Polk and Kingman Blvd. The early miles (3-7) through the ritzy South of Grand neighborhoods were a bit sleepy but there were a few front yard bbq's (with Samosas and Bloody Mary's) going on there which was great to see. 

After I crossed the finish line at the Des Moines Marathon, there was plenty of food available including pizza, deli sandwiches, peanut butter, you name it. 
The traffic control, aid stations and general organization was all top notch. I was proud to be a Des Moines native on race day. And proud to drop the shoulder on Headphone Guy. It had to be done.

Thanks to Julie Feist for this finish line shot.

Approx 36-40oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

4 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 

SHOES: Scott AF Trainer 

SPLITS (non-GPS watch)

6:17 (18:16 3 mile) (Grand Ave Hill)
6:07 (Grand Ave Hill)
5:54 (36:15 6 mile)
5:56 (59:48 10 mile)
6:11 (1:18:16 half marathon)
5:14 (Polk Blvd south to Roosevelt High--This one killed me!)
6:09 (1:59:17 20 mile)
18:59 (miles 22,23,24--Dodging half marathoners at Gray's Lake)
7:36 (last 1.2 miles)

2:38:13 Final Time. 10th Place (2nd American-born runner)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Be Aggressive, B-E Agressive: Omaha Marathon Race Report (9/21/14)

I decided to jump into the Omaha Marathon about a week before the race. I knew I wasn't super fit yet, having just started back training seriously in early August, but my half-marathon on 9/7/14 had gone better than expected and a low-key marathon just felt right. Especially when I was offered a highly discounted entry from the Race Director.

Besides, since moving to Nebraska about a year ago, I've taken it upon myself to be involved in as many different races here as my time allows. I'm at the age now where I don't have to be in top form for every race. I'm not too proud to use some races as workouts along the way to bigger goals. 

And the Omaha Marathon has a bad reputation as a brutally hilly and poorly managed race. I was excited to see for myself. Spoiler alert: neither of these things is actually true. 
I don't know who managed the OLD Omaha Marathon, but HITS Endurance (based in New York) took over the race 2 years ago, and this was the 2nd year of a new and relatively flat course. Overall, they did a nice job despite apparently marking the 10k course very long.

Omaha is a Sunday race so I went up for packet pickup on Saturday afternoon. Since it's only an hour drive from my house in Lincoln, this was worthwhile for me to know I had my race number before race morning and then go home to my own bed. I also stayed for the pasta dinner because it was free with my entry. It was a great way to soak up the pre-race atmosphere. The pasta dinner was right across the street from the packet pickup (which was at the TD Ameritrade Baseball Park) which made it convenient. I felt some good energy here from both the runners and the race staff and volunteers. I got my bland plate of pasta and chatted with a few "50 Staters" and other half and full marathon folks. 

A couple shots of the small (and outdoor) packet pickup and expo. Luckily the weather was great.

Having had major issues with nutrition/electrolytes in my first few marathons, I decided to place my own bottles out on the Omaha Marathon course on Saturday night. This was easy because the course runs through a few parks where there are picnic tables or fenceposts where I could set the bottles for an easy run-and-grab.
I placed 6 bottles out along the course containing my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. 
This mix worked well for me and I think I finally figured out how much salt I need during a marathon. About 6 Saltstick Caps seems to do the trick and prevent me from losing my vision/seeing spots late in the race.

Race day kit laid out Saturday night.

I drove up from Lincoln, leaving just before 5am on race day. The weather on race morning was good. About 50 degrees with a cool breeze and clouds at the start. The sun would come out a few miles into the race, but I never felt the heat or sun affected my performance. 

I got to the start line and had no idea who I would be racing, which is part of the fun. I had several LRC Racing teammates running the half marathon so I wasn't surprised to see them. Although the picture in the Omaha World-Herald the next day makes it look our team captain Logan Watley and I have just discovered each other. That's me on the right in the orange hat.

In any case, the race started and I got out in a very relaxed 6 minute mile pace. It became clear by mile 2 that it would be a 2-man race between myself and Stephen VanGampleare. We chatted for several miles and it turns out Stephen went to Creighton a couple years back and now lives in Colorado Springs. 
We rolled through the first 10k taking turns leading the way and ticking off 5:40 something miles. I didn't feel like we were intentionally pushing the pace, and we definitely benefited from some downhill stretches in that first 10k. 

We were also fortunate to have Will Lindgren on the bike with us making sure any cars along the course could see us coming. He's also full of stories and jokes (and generally full of crap) as many of you Nebraska readers know.

The out-and-back course starts downtown then runs for a few miles through a sketchy neighborhood north of downtown. At mile 5 it then transitions into a nice park and onto Minne Lusa Boulevard which has some nice historic homes and seems to be a nice area. Miles 7 through 11 lead you onto the bike trail along the river which is scenic if you only look at the river and ignore the industrial area on your right.

The two of us continued to roll along at a comfortable pace on what is a slight downhill toward Carter Lake. At mile 11 you emerge from the bike trail onto the road at Carter Lake and run for 2 miles to the half marathon point where you turn around. 
We got there in 1:15:59, which was over a minute faster than I had planned. But I didn't go into panic mode. I still felt strong and had been getting my fluids down. 

The turnaround was a bit goofy as it was set up on the side of the road in some tall grass. Why would I come off the road into some grass to turn around? 
I was looking for a timing mat on the ground (to run across and prove that I had been there) but the timing system HITS uses has something like speakers suspended above you on a steel arch rather than a timing mat. Once the appropriate number of people yelled at me to cross under the arch, I did it correctly. 

We continued to run together through about 17 miles. Between miles 14 and 16 you start to see the slower marathoners coming at you on the trail, still in their first half of the race. The slow and steady climb from Carter Lake back up to the River started to slow me down slightly and my competitor was able to start to pull away. It happened in slow motion and wasn't a decisive move as I was hanging on just 10 yards behind him, then 20 or 30........and then the large hill at Energy Park and the Minne Lusa/Redick hill at mile 20 really sapped what little pop I had left in my legs. 

I knew at this point I had been way too aggressive early on, especially considering that you hit the bigger hills in the second half of this race. I went into survival mode and my struggle the last 5 miles was just to keep my legs moving and finish the race. I was certainly not in top condition. And it only took me about 18 miles of feeling great to figure this out! 

Thank you marathon for another cruel lesson.
After my last few miles of merely surviving, I was happy to enter the stadium and do a lap around the warning track before finishing. Although the gravel on the warning track was a bit slick, a stadium finish is a nice touch.
Congrats to Stephen VanGampleare on a great race and a PR! 

The post-race food was good. BBQ sandwiches, fruit, milk, etc. The nice thing about these smaller races is that you aren't herded around pre and post-race and you don't have to really wait in line for food. I enjoyed the sunny weather and hung out with a few friends for awhile to get my award. It turned out to be a plaque and a running armband/headphones. Which wasn't too bad of a prize. If only I had an i-phone it might work! 

The finishers medals were substantial and have an LED light that flashes, which is definitely unique.
Overall, I think this is now a well-run marathon. There was good traffic control, enough water stops, enough porta-potties, a relatively flat and visually varied course (downtown, residential, parks/bike trails, Carter Lake). 
Now all we need is more people to come out and run and more people to spectate!

I had terrible mile splits towards the end but I still ran a decent time. And I feel like for me there is no better workout for the marathon than running the marathon.
The great thing is that my legs didn't feel trashed when I finished. I felt better than I had after any other long race. I was worn out but not injured. I took two days off to recover and started training again. 

Now for the Des Moines Marathon on October 19th and the goal race this fall will be the Cal International Marathon (CIM) on December 7th.


Approx 36 oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

3 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 


5:58 (17:42 3 mile)
5:43 (29:08 5 mile)
11:17 (miles 8 and 9)
5:49 (58:00 10 mile)
5:52 (1:15:59 Half Marathon)
12:13 (miles 15 and 16)
12:13 (miles 18 and 19)
6:09 (1:58:30 20 mile)
13:24 (miles 23 and 24)
8:34 (last 1.2 miles)

2:40:19 Final Time---2nd Place

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How I Just Missed Making Olympic Trials (Okay, it was 10 minutes): Freedom Run Half Race Report

Last Sunday I made my way up to Valley, Nebraska (just west of Omaha) for the Freedom Run Half Marathon. There's also a 10k, 5k, and Family mile offered but the main event is definitely the Half.

When I arrived there were volunteers out directing parking and everything looked ready to go. I got to meet Race Director Judy Argintean and she was gracious and well-organized. I was able to grab my bib number quickly, use the locker room inside the Valley YMCA, and warmup on a quiet dead-end street adjacent to the YMCA. The weather was great with temps in the 50's and light winds.

The Start/Finish Area Pre-Race. 
My expectations for myself were modest going into this race. I had just started training seriously again about 5 weeks before race day and this would be my first race of the fall. I felt like I was probably in 1:14 or 1:15 half shape so I just wanted to run that pace, avoid a meltdown, and build some confidence going into my fall marathon season. 

There was a brief ceremony pre-race that looked to my non-military eyes something like a military funeral. Men in uniform, rifles, flags, etc. It was a touch that reminded us what the Freedom Run is about.........honoring service members and those we lost on September 11th in particular. 

In any case, we got to the start line and a rifle served as the starting gun. The course leaves the YMCA parking lot and heads probably 400 meters out to the highway where most of the race is run. I immediately fell into 4th place and could tell this would be a lonely run right from the start. But what better way to work on mental toughness than run a half marathon pretty much by yourself?

I trusted my body to set the pace and I settled in at 5:33/mile pace for the first 4 miles or so. The course is basically an out and back on a very flat highway. There is a lollipop through a new construction neighborhood that occupies from the 2 mile mark to about the 3.5 mile mark. Otherwise the course is out and back. Somehow I didn't find it boring, but I had never been to this town before so it was all new to me. The great thing about a course like this is the lack of turns. The bad thing is that if there is any wind, there's no escaping it. We did have a slight headwind on the way back from the turnaround point but I can't blame my slow fall from 5:33 to 5:49 pace on the wind. (Splits below)

I had done very little in the way of quality workouts coming in but was feeling surprisingly good and in control as the miles went by. And while I may have had more in the tank, I'm not sure how much. It was hard to push myself to the max without any other runners near me. Maybe next year we can get a deeper field to run the Freedom Run. 

With Nebraska's own "Run Guru" Will Lindgren (his daily blog at is mandatory reading for serious Nebraska runners) in charge of this USATF Certified race course and elite athlete recruiting, I'm sure it will happen. 

Lindgren promised the flattest and fastest course that Nebraska has ever seen. And he definitely delivered. The course was well-marked and had plenty of cones along the way. The highway and the shoulder is also pretty flat so you aren't fighting a side-hill the whole way. I've also run the Grand Island (State Fair) Half and I would say that while there aren't any real hills on that course, this Freedom Run course is even flatter. Or at least the Freedom course has far fewer turns to slow you down.

Lindgren also delivered by bringing in a few national-class runners to compete. How he did this with a modest $600 prize purse, I have no idea. 
Most notably, Zach Hine of Boulder,CO, who was able to run a 1:04 half marathon and qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon. This appears to be the fastest half marathon on Nebraska soil in over 20 years. Even more impressive is that Zach Hine ran alone without the aid of any pacers (besides one woman on a lead bike) for the first 9 miles or so. At that point Colin Morrisey (Team Nebraska) was brought in to pace Hine from approximately miles 9 through 12. 

There was quite a gap behind Hine as Team Nebraska runner Luka Thor took second place in 1:09 and Aaron Davidson of Kansas City took third place in 1:10. I ended up running 1:14 for 4th place.

Swag Consisted of a Cotton Shirt and Basic Medals.
The Swag was pretty average including a cotton shirt and some basic medals. But I have enough Dri-Fit shirts anyway. The mini-expo inside the YMCA was a nice touch. I was able to get my legs worked on by a sports chiropractor and grab some snacks at the same time. 

Kudos to Will Lindgren and Judy Argintean on a great event. I know that an Olympic Trials Qualifying performance in small-town Nebraska turned some heads in the running world. I hope that translates into people coming out to run the Freedom Run next year. 
It would make a great tune-up race before your fall marathon. 2 weeks before Omaha, 4 weeks before Twin Cities, 5 weeks before Chicago and Market to Market, 6 weeks before Des Moines.......


5:33.0  (16:41.2 at 3 mile) (17:17 at 5k)
11:19.7 (miles 4 and 5 together) (28:00 at 5 miles)
5:35.2 (34:44 at 10k)
11:27.7 (miles 7 and 8 together)
5:49.3 (56:42.7 at 10 miles)
5:49.2 (1:08:24 at 12 miles)
(1:10:47 at 20k)
6:16 for last 1.1 miles
1:14:40 at Half Marathon finish.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

No More Sunscreen

So I went in for my annual physical in mid-August. Had some blood work done, which is not my favorite thing. But I somehow survived the needle without passing out.

According to the doctor my "lipids are amazing." Apparently, that has to do with cholesterol.

The bad news is that I have a Vitamin D "insufficiency." It's pretty low but not quite low enough to be called a "deficiency" according to their scale.

Anyway, I will be taking Vitamin D supplements going forward and hopefully this gets me back on track. I have also slowed down on using sunscreen so my body can absorb the sunlight and give me some Vitamin D that way. You apparently need to have a certain amount in your body and then the sun somehow activates it or makes it do what it should.
That's my highly medical explanation.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grand Canyon Recap

I've been down (but not out) for a couple months here. I had a good run at Grandma's in late June and then caught some sort of virus that ruined most of my July including my planned Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run on July 11th.

I will give you a quick recap on that experience. (Better late than never, right?)
I flew down to Phoenix solo and then drove up to the south rim of the canyon (about a 6 hour drive if I recall) on a Thursday in mid-July. I arrived at my friend Brian Wandzilak's campsite around dinner time.
But I was sick. Upset stomach, generally felt like crap, etc. Not sure why I even showed up at the Grand Canyon. I was given some antibiotics about a day before I boarded my flight, so my thought was they would cure me overnight. It didn't happen.

The plan was to nap Thursday night until about midnight and then get up and start our run down into the canyon. This way we would be done by noon the next day and avoid the worst of the heat. When Brian woke me up around midnight, I felt like crap, and told him as much. But I also decided to get geared up and start the run anyway, still hoping for some sort of race-day magic. The campsite was 2 miles from the Bright Angel trailhead leading down into the canyon, so we put on our headlamps and hydration packs and started running that direction.
It was a cool, windy, pleasant night. Great conditions to start a 50 mile journey, except that I was in no condition to make the journey.

When we started descending into the canyon on what was originally a donkey trail, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to complete the journey. I may have been able to shuffle through 50 miles on flat ground even in my feeling-crappy state, but with all the switchbacks and what are basically railroad ties built into the trail about every 10 feet, I wasn't able to find a rhythm. And I could feel that I was shredding my quads (wearing them out and making them sore very quickly, for you non-runners) within a few miles.

I decided to pulled the plug about 3.5 miles down into the Grand Canyon. This was a relief mentally when I told my running partner Brian that I just couldn't go on. The bad thing was that we still had to turn around and run/hike back up. So we ended up going about 11 miles total that night and getting home to camp around 3am.
I slept a couple hours and in the morning I decided to go explore the Grand Canyon by myself. Mostly from my rental car rather than my own feet. I drove to several overlooks along the south rim and just took it all in. It was only 7 or 8am so most of the tourists weren't out yet and I actually had some quiet to take in the views.

Woke up to this guy Friday morning.

A few random canyon views.