Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guzzlin' Drinks, Droppin' Pills and Fast Women: My Grandma's Marathon Race Report


I drove over solo from Lincoln to Des Moines on Thursday night (3 hours). Then Friday morning I hopped in one of 3 minivans full of Des Moines runners heading north. The vans included some of my Des Moines running friends such as Ryan Kramer, Greg Bell, Martin Popp, Tony Cendana, Paxton Bennett, and Ben Jaskowiak.
The drive up to Duluth was another 6 hours or so. And it went very smoothly.

The weather at Grandma's is always unpredictable (and the forecast had been changing daily) so we were excited when we approached Duluth and the temperature dropped from the 70's to down around 45 or 50 very quickly! It was about 2:30pm Friday when we arrived at the Expo/Packet Pickup at the convention center in downtown Duluth. The place was busy but it was very well-organized and we were able to get in and out pretty easily.

Packet Pickup in Duluth.

We then headed about 10 minutes away to the dorms at University of Wisconsin-Superior where we would be staying. The dorms are nothing fancy but they are very affordable and there is shuttle service to the starting line for both the half and full marathon from right outside the dorms. The dorms also provided sheets, pillows, towels, and soap which was great. The less details to think about on race weekend, the better.

About 4pm I did a 3 mile shakeout run with Ben Jaskowiak, Ryan Kramer, Martin Popp. It was cool and windy. Great running weather! I felt a bit sluggish, but I usually do when I only run 3 or 4 miles per day those last couple days before a long race. (I had cut down to 80 miles the week before the race and ended up logging only about 30 miles between Monday and Friday on race week).

Then around 6pm we headed to dinner at a local restaurant called Clyde's. This was a really cool atmosphere compared to hitting the pasta dinner that was basically set up in the middle of the Marathon Expo. Clyde's is also apparently a good music venue, so it's on my list to go back next time I'm in Duluth.

Then it was back to the dorms and to bed around 9:30 or 10.


My alarm was set for 5am because the shuttles came at 5:45 for a 7:45 race time. My roommate Ryan Kramer didn't snore and I actually slept well on the dorm bed. When we woke up to foggy, misty, cool conditions, I was excited. With temps in the 40's and very little chance of the sun coming out, I was no longer worried about heavy rain or heat slowing me down.

I ate my normal breakfast of one banana, a cup of dry cheerios, and an energy drink. The shuttle ride up to the start line was about 45 minutes and went smoothly. I got off the bus and walked immediately to the Porta-Potties. Unfortunately, there were already rather long lines. I had time to burn so I waited 5 or 10 minutes to use one. But more bathrooms is my number one recommendation to the Grandma's race directors because the lines grew to ridiculous lengths as it came closer to race time. I simply had to go in the woods for my last pit stop just a few minutes before the race started.

I warmed up with Des Moines runner Ben Jaskowiak. We did an easy 10 minute jog (around the parking lot of the car dealership next to the starting line) and then a few stride-outs and drills. We then walked our drop bags over to the dropbag area and made our way to the start line. Although I wasn't entered as an elite athlete this year, allowing elites to drop their bags right at the start line would be a nice touch. I know it would have saved us all some time and some fighting through the crowds.

I got to the starting area and found my Lincoln Running Company teammate Jason Zakaras. We both were shooting to run 2:35 and we planned to run together. We lined up probably 25 yards from the front of the pack because you don't want to get pulled out too fast by the truly elite runners who get out in 5 minute mile pace.

I just went with my normal race singlet, shorts, hat and PRO Compression socks. My only modification for the cool weather was a light pair of gloves. I had 3 Clif Shot Gels stuffed inside my gloves. I like the Double Espresso flavor with 100mg of caffeine for a nice boost. I also had about 8 Salt Stick brand salt pills in my little zippered back pocket of my running shorts.

The old "use your gloves to carry fuel" trick. 2:24 marathoner Eric Noel gave me this tip. 

The weather felt great as we started. Upper 40's, heavy fog, light winds which blew from the east--right off the lake. (Grandma's Marathon runs north to south on a 2-lane highway that skirts the western edge of Lake Superior). With all the fog I didn't see much lake on Saturday, but I hear it's pretty. It was misting off and on so the humidity had to be near 100%. The road was wet but there really were not many puddles so the damp weather didn't seem to slow you down or cause any slippage at all.

Zakaras and I got off the start line comfortably and slowly worked our way past some packs of elite women and others in the first mile. We hit mile 1 in 6:01. It was comfortable and while we had wanted to be more like 6:05 or 6:10, it was a good start. We were ready to dial in on our 5:50 to 5:55 race pace goal.

I like to chat my way through the race so I was asking folks where they are from, how fast they plan to run, etc. Somewhere around that mile 1 mark, Zakaras and I met the two elite women that we would run with for the next 20 miles or so. Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison, pro runners for Adidas and Asics, respectively.

Brianne spoke up and said she was planning to run the Olympic Trials "A" Standard of sub 2:37.
Without even thinking about it I told her to just run with myself and Zakaras and we would take her there. Sometimes (ok, most times) I'm really full of crap---but I'm so glad that I opened my big mouth and offered to help these ladies stay on pace.

It was a win-win situation. Sure, I was leading the pack most of the race and taking the brunt of the light wind that was hitting us from the front-left.  But I would have set my own pace anyway. My long legs don't make it easy to tuck in behind shorter runners.
Mentally my race became much easier when I switched from thinking about running for myself to helping these women qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon. I was instantly accountable in a way I couldn't have been otherwise.

So we settled in and hit 5:49, 5:45, 5:51, 5:48 and then 5:52 for mile 6. We were right on pace. Even a bit ahead of pace. I was calling out the mile splits for everyone and trying to cut the best tangents I could in the fog on this curvy highway. Our little pack of 4 runners would swell to 7 or 8 briefly as we passed runners who had gotten out too hard, but it never lasted long. It always ended up coming back to just the 4 of us working together. Fans were few and far between out on the course, but probably every mile or so there would be a group at the end of someone's driveway.

Around mile 7 I took my first gel and then unzipped my back pocket to grab a salt pill. I imagined my thumb and index finger neatly plucking one pill out of my pocket. But I had visualized it wrong. When I pulled my hand out, I turned the pocket inside out. I turned around to see all my salt pills hit the pavement. And I started to curse my luck out loud.

Zakaras quickly told me to stop freaking out. This was a big help.
I mourned my mistake for about half a mile and then made a new plan to drink Powerade at each water stop and skip the plain water entirely because Powerade does have some salt content. I was even able to grab two cups of Powerade at some aid stations and I guzzled it down.
It turned out that I still felt low on salt between miles 13 and 18, but I never fully lost my vision/saw spots everywhere as I had in my previous marathon.

We continued to grind out miles in that 5:50 zone as we moved through the fog on the gently rolling hills of the highway (all splits listed below). We hit the half marathon in 1:17:07, which was right where we wanted to be.

Around this time we spotted 2 African men pacing 2 African women probably 100 yards ahead of us in the fog. We knew that we had to reel them in and then blow by them quickly so they didn't try to latch onto our group. Brianne and I discussed this out loud. It took us about 2 more miles to catch them and we passed them around mile 15. They didn't put up much of a fight.

We hit mile 20 in 1:57:49 and this was where it became every man (and woman) for himself. Zakaras started to pull away first. He wasn't speeding up much but he was holding that 5:50's pace where I had started to fade to between 6 minutes and 6:05 per mile. The two women also ended up pulling away from me the last few miles.

Brianne Nelson had a very gutsy finish to end up as the 2nd place woman. Brianne and Zakaras ran 2:34 and Lauren Jimison and myself ran 2:35. I gutted out the last 6 miles and passed several men who were hitting the wall. I was slowing slightly, but I wasn't dead. The last 6 miles is when you enter the city of Duluth. I passed many more runners than passed me during that last 6 miles. And I ended up knowing most of the runners who did pass me late. Iowa runners Jake Stanton and Martin Popp and Illinois runner Daniel Kittaka were among them.

The crowd support is very good once you get to town and that really helped to carry me through. You do wind around in town quite a bit and I started to wonder where the finish line actually was.
I finally found it and finished in 2:35:31. That's a huge PR for me!

Post-race I was impressed with how organized the drop bags were. With about 6200 runners in the full marathon and 7300 in the half marathon, that is no small task. And there were plenty of snacks to be had. I heard there was a long wait for post-race massage, so I just skipped that area.

Here's a few pics from finish line area:

I have to say that I was happy with my choice of shoes this time around. I went with the Scott Eride AF Trainer. It's a light trainer with great tread and I had no blisters or any sort of issues at all. I didn't think about the shoes at all during the run, which is exactly how it should be.

A huge congratulations to Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison who both made the U.S. Olympic Trials "A" Standard, which means they will have a chance to compete in Los Angeles in early 2016 and hopefully make the Olympic Team!

Thanks to all who made Grandma's Marathon 2014 such a special weekend. And we will see you further down the road!


3 Clif Shot Gels--Double Espresso

Powerade--Approx 30 oz?


See my complete results here.

See my finish line video here.

See my pics here. (4199 is my Bib #)

MY SPLITS (I don't race with GPS and I missed hitting my watch a few times)
Mile 1 -- 6:01
Mile 2 -- 5:49
Mile 3 -- 5:45
Mile 4 -- 5:51
Mile 5 -- 5:48
Mile 6 -- 5:52
10k -- 36:19
Mile 7 and 8 -- 11:49 (5:54.5 avg)
Mile 9 -- 5:58
Mile 10 -- 5:41
Mile 11 and 12 -- 11:52 (5:56 avg)
Mile 13 -- 6:00
Half Marathon -- 1:17:07
Mile 14 -- 5:41
Mile 15 -- 5:52
Mile 16 -- 5:51
Mile 17 -- 5:58
Mile 18 -- 5:56
Miles 19 and 20 -- 11:58 (5:59 avg)
20 Mile Split -- 1:57:49
Mile 21 -- 6:03
Miles 22,23,24,25 -- 24:13 (6:03 avg)
Mile 26.2 -- 7:25
Total Time 2:35:31

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All-Comers Track Meet at Lincoln Northstar on 6/18/14

I went out to a local all-comers track meet last night. It was put on by my friend Brian Wandzilak at the Northstar High School Track.
I didn't run since I have Grandma's Marathon in just a couple days, but my son Gavin wanted to use the meet as a workout. So Gavin ran the 400, 800, and Mile. Gavin had a great time running against the grown-ups and high schoolers.
The weather was very windy and temps in the upper 90's. Not a good day to run fast, but still a good day for a workout.
Great to see some friends and LRC Racing teammates out there last night!
I had two hungry boys to feed so we didn't stay for the final event----the Donut 2k. I'm sure it was great fun in the heat.

Below are some pics from the meet. See them all here.
Download or use them if you like but please credit this website.

The 800 with Hayley Sutter, Gavin Sellers and company.

Gavin takes it all in. 

Dan Haden wins the 200.

Starting line (shaky chalk line drawn by Wandzilak) of the true mile.

True Mile start with Jacob Kaemmer, Andrew Jacob, Logan Watley, Jeralyn Poe and others.

This is Market to Market Relay mastermind Ben Cohoon on his way to a sub-6 True Mile.

Derek Sekora in the True Mile.

Gavin's USATF State Meet

Over the weekend my son 9-year-old Gavin competed in the 800 and 1500 meter events at the USATF Nebraska State Meet. Omaha Burke was the host for the meet and it was in the 80's and very windy both Saturday and Sunday.

Omaha Burke on Saturday morning. 
Gavin got a bad draw and ended up in lane one for a waterfall start in his 800 meter race on Saturday. This meant he had to get off the line very fast to avoid getting stuck in a crowd. So Gavin got out and led the race (in the wind) and then faltered in the last 300 meters and finished in 2nd place. He still ran a 2:39 to match his PR (personal record).

Gavin leads the 800 meters about 150 meters into the race.

He was disappointed after his performance Saturday and said his plan was to come back and win the 1500 Sunday to claim his first NEBRASKA State Championship (he has won a few in Iowa). I knew Gavin was much stronger in the 1500 than the 800, he just needed to run a solid race and not let the nerves get to him.
Luckily, Gavin got out Sunday in the 1500 and ran a very smart, very even-paced race. He was in 2nd place for the first 400 meters and then took over and ran solo the rest of the race. He ran a 5:19 which also matched his PR. See full results here. Gavin is in the 9-10 year age group.

I am very proud of Gavin's efforts from the weekend. Congrats on another State Championship!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Race Report: Havelock Charity Run 10k on 6/7/14

Wet And Wild Havelock 10k 

When I woke up Saturday morning there was HEAVY rain. Flood-the-roads type of rain. So things didn't look promising.
I got out of bed and got myself (and my 9 year old Gavin) up to the Havelock area of town anyway, about a 25 minute drive. My son and I warmed up for about 10 minutes and got completely soaked. Luckily, the rain let up from heavy to what I would call moderate or steady by the time the 7:30 race time came around. No lightning and just a steady rain meant no delays or cancellations---i.e. the race would start as planned.

Before the race it was fun to meet Lincoln native/local running hero Mike Morgan (who runs professionally for the Brooks Hanson's group in Michigan) but was back in town for the weekend. I lined up right behind Morgan at the starting line figuring he would get away quick and I could follow his line the first few blocks.

Starting line as the wheelchair athlete starts just a few minutes before the 10k start.
That's me on the right in the orange hat lined up behind Morgan.

I went into this race just looking for a nice workout/tune-up two weeks out from Grandma's Marathon. I was hoping to get out smart and see if I could run the second half of the race faster than the first (negative split). I was also excited to see how our LRC Racing team would do in the 10k team competition, and see if I could help the cause. This turned out to be a non-issue as there weren't many Team Nebraska jerseys (our chief rival) at the start line. I'm not even sure if they fielded a full team. The 10k field of individual runners, however, was very strong.

The Lincoln Track Club race staff did a nice job of getting the race started very close to on time considering the wet conditions that really slowed down their setup.
When the gun went off I quickly settled in at about 9th or 10th place and found a few other runners to pass those first couple miles with. I found out later that a couple of them were runners at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln). 

I hit the mile in 5:27 and was feeling pretty good that I was able to find a line on Havelock Ave that didn't have too many puddles, despite the raging river on the south side of the road as we approached 84th street. A nasty surprise when we turned south onto 84th street about 1.5 miles into the race was about 4 to 6 inches of standing water that filled that intersection. No way to avoid it.

I felt like the Scott Eride AF Trainers I was wearing did a nice job of draining the water, though. I've been wearing these light trainers for speedier workouts the last few weeks and I really like them. I'm likely to wear them at Grandma's Marathon in two weeks. They are more substantial and offer more cushion than the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 shoes that I wore for the Lincoln Marathon in early May. I came out of that marathon feeling more beat up than I would have liked and I'm sure that wearing too light of shoes was a big part of that.

Back to the race......When we went south on 84th they had the right lane of traffic closed for runners. Unfortunately, that lane was about 3/4 filled with water so there wasn't much room to run. But we pressed on and hit the second mile in 5:33. 

Mile 3 is mostly uphill. I ran a 5:40 without using too much energy. I hit the 5k mark in 17:15 and started to use a downhill portion of the course to pass a runner or two. I got back down to about 5:20 for mile 4, but forgot to grab the split on my watch. 

Mile 5 was a turnaround loop in Mahoney park which included a few rolling hills. I was losing focus and started to struggle a bit. I was passed by a teammate just before the turnaround but was able to catch back up to him at mile marker 5 and he ran with me and encouraged me through the last mile. I was able to pass a runner wearing a Nebraska Wesleyan singlet in the last mile and also hold off a Team Nebraska runner who was closing very strong in the last 400 meters. 

This is me about 100 meters from the finish line.

I finished in 34:19 and was 10th place. I had reached my goal of going faster in the second half than I had in the first. I went 17:04 in the second 5k to 17:15 in my first 5k. I can't remember negative-splitting a 10k in a very long time so that was encouraging. 

Here are a few other pics my wife took of the top finishers Saturday:

Mike Morgan was first in 31:42. 

Trevor Vidlak was 2nd in 32:04.

Mike Rathje was 4th in 33:12.

This is my son Gavin (2393) at the 3k start. 

Congrats to my son Gavin! He was 28th overall and 2nd in his age group in the 3k race. This was more of a tempo run for him as he prepares for track meets later this summer. 

With nearly 800 finishers between the two races, this was a good-sized race. Kudos to Nebraskans for coming out to run in the wet conditions.
And Kudos once again to the Lincoln Track Club on a well-run event. They had ample donuts, Pepsi and other snacks available at the finish. The rain ended shortly after the race did, so it was a great time to catch up with teammates and rivals. 
And it was a great day to be under an orange hat. Hey, it keeps the rain out of your eyes.

Also a great day to be wearing blue and gold! Congrats to my LRC Race team on winning the 10k and 3k team titles on the men's side. And congrats to our women for winning the 10k team title in impressive fashion. 

Now on to the cooler climate of Duluth, Minnesota for Grandma's Marathon in just two weeks! 
Thanks for reading.


See the LRC Racing team report here.

See the full Havelock Charity Run race results here.

See all the pictures my wife took Saturday here. Please give photo credits to my website if you want to use any of the pics. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

19 Days to Grandma's Marathon

I've been busy chasing kids (since school is out!) and putting in my peak training weeks here before Grandma's Marathon on June 21st.
I've been getting out at 5am every day the past couple weeks so I can get home to the boys and let the wife get to work. That means I also need a little afternoon nap some days, which the kids will usually comply with after a few empty threats.

It's watermelon time, suckers!

Training is going well. I'm feeling healthy and recovering well. I should be on track for my goal of 2:35 (5:55 minutes per mile pace) at Grandma's, despite only having about 6 weeks of training between the Lincoln Marathon and Grandma's.
My weekly mileage since the Lincoln Marathon on May 3rd has been solid. I took 5 days off and only ran 11 miles during my recovery week right after Lincoln. Then I went 98, 114 and 120 miles. I wrapped the 120 mile week yesterday (June 1).
I've been healthy enough lately to get in 2 faster workouts per week. Usually one on the track and one tempo run. I did a nice 11 mile tempo run last Friday, for example. I like to do my quality workouts alone so I can listen to my body and focus on my own pace.

My last 2 weeks of training. 114 and 120 mile weeks.
I went with too light of a racing flat for Lincoln Marathon and my legs really tightened up on me.
So I'm trying to decide which shoes to wear for Grandma's Marathon and I'm also looking ahead to my run across the Grand Canyon (and back!) on July 11th.
Stay tuned.