Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It Lives!

I'm sure you know that I'm not a running gadget type of guy.  No GPS.  No iPod.  No heart rate monitor.  But, I do use one gadget—my trusty running watch.  Well, many running watches, actually.  I tend to go through them quickly.  I don't know why.  I just do.

I prefer Timex watches.  I've always had the Timex Ironman Triathlon watches—even back when I confused Ironman with Iditarod.  They do what I need them to do, and they look decent enough to use as my everyday watch.

Two weeks ago, the indiglo light died.  When would press the indiglo button, the screen would go completely dark.  I found this ironic.  On Monday, the whole watch died.  I wept.  Uncontrollably.  For days.

Then I took it apart.  While a Timex isn't a Rolex, it isn't cheap.  So, I wanted to see if I could convince some poor schlub to buy my dead watch on eBay replace the battery.  Here's the result:

Hooray!  I did it!  And I didn't lose any of the world's tiniest screws in the process!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Days Off

It seems as though my PR-busting performance in the Twin Cities Marathon has finally caught up with me.    During a set of 400s last Tuesday, my right knee began to develop a little bit of pain on the front-inside part of the kneecap.  I'm 95% sure it's "Runner's Knee".  So, I've cut back pretty drastically on my miles since then.  I swam on Friday, and did an easy 10 mile run on Saturday.  The long run wasn't problematic, but if I went any faster than 9 min/mile, my knee would hurt.  So, bottom line, it wasn't better, I just wasn't aggravating it.

Between icing my knee and rest, I've been going crazy.  I may try an easy 4 or 5 miles tomorrow just to see how things are going.  It's rather frustrating because it's been a few weeks since the marathon, and I was doing really good building back up.  On top of that, I've developed this strange twitching phenomenon in my left bicep, and it's migrated a bit to my left quad.

But…  I know it's good to take the time off and heal up.  A few missed days of running won't destroy all my fitness, and I'd rather get this knee healed up than let it drag on for weeks and months.

So, here's to rest and recovery—may it be fruitful.

P.S.: Another Flash Run this week.  Wear a costume!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The iPod Has Ruined Running

Running is a strange sport.  In some ways it's an individual sport.  All it takes is for a person to head out the door and run.  But, running is very much a community sport.  There's this deep bond between people who run.  Some run fast.  Some run slow.  Yet we have this connection that transcends speed and distance.  It's hard to explain, yes, but running as a sport wouldn't exist without it.

I get the need for "alone time" while running.  Some of my best runs happen when I'm the only person at the track, hours before the sun rises.  Just me, the track, and the sound of my feet striking the ground.  I get that.  I understand running for miles and miles on your own—through the woods, down the beach, around the neighborhood.  I get that.

This morning was not one of those mornings for me.  I had some extra time, so I drove to the lakes and put 10 miles in going around Calhoun, Harriet, and Lake of the Isles.  If you've never ran at the lakes on a Saturday morning, know that it is THE place to run.  On a Saturday in the summer, the trails are so crowded that it's tough to pass people.  Today, it wasn't quite that crowded, but in my hour and a half of running, I passed hundreds of runners.

And 95% of them had music players in their ears.

Never have I run with so many people, yet felt so alone.

I wore my 2010 marathon shirt, and each time I would see someone wearing the same shirt (at least 5 or 6 other people), I wanted to say to them "Nice shirt!" or something that exemplifies this connection that we, as runners, share.  But I didn't say anything because they were in their own, electronically enhance world.  Too absorbed to even make eye contact.  No desire to offer a wave, or a smile.  Nothing.  Alone.

I ran with an iPod for a while last year, but hated it.  It wasn't that the music messed up my pace—which it did.  It wasn't that it was a hassle to always worry about the iPod—though that was part of it.  It's that I couldn't stand being isolated from the very sport that I love.  I hated not hearing the sounds of traffic.  I hated not noticing the birds, or the planes overhead.  I hated that I was running outside, but could have just as easily been on a treadmill, and the experience would have been the same.

It happened in the marathon, too.  I would see something funny or exciting, and when I made a comment about it to the people around me, no one responded.  No one even heard me.

I can't change this.  It's a reality that as more and more people take up this great sport, more and more people will do it with music players.  I think that's sad.  But, I guess I have to get used to running—while undergoing phenomenal growth—becoming a more individual sport than it ever has been.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Official Photos from the Twin Cities Marathon

It's no secret that good race photos of me are hard to come by.  Exhibit A from the Red, White and Boom! Half Marathon:

Yup, that's me having a seizure while crossing the line

So, imagine my surprise when I check out the official photos from the Twin Cities Marathon, and most of them are actually pretty good.

Not a great shot of me, but I remember the guy in front of me.  He kept spitting, and it kept getting blown into me.  I eventually made a decisive pass to end this situation.

I like this one, and I look surprisingly good being about 0.2 miles from the finish.

I'm hurting a bit more here (maybe near Lake Street?), but still strong.

Exciting finishing photo

Ok, here's where things get crazy.  Here is this awesome photo of me giving a fist pump into the air crossing the finish line.  I love this photo so much that it's my Facebook profile photo.

And…moments later, here I am regretting that fist pump/jump in the air.  No really, that's the face of serious PAIN.

And just to prove that I can still take awful photos while displaying that yes, I am in Minnesota and thus super-pale.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flash Run Coming Up!

Remember all the excitement from a few weeks ago?  You know, when we mourned the last day of summer at Twin Cities in Motion's first Flash Run?  No?  Well, read my post on it, then come back here.

Why am I bringing this up again?  They're doing another one! You can find all the details on Twin Cities in Motion's Facebook Page or their Twitter Account.  The exciting part about this Flash Run is that their doing it in St. Paul, so it's in my neck of the woods.  If you're too lazy busy to check out the details on their Facebook/Twitter pages, here are the first two clues:
Flash Run Clue 1: Monday marks the anniversary of when the US took control of Alaska from Russia back in 1867. Plan to meet at Moscow on the Hill, St. Paul.
Flash Run Clue 2: Run out some "I just sat in traffic" frustration. Be there at 5:45pm.
So, be there, and I promise you'll have a great time meeting other runners from the Twin Cities!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Well, Now What?

It's typical to get the "post-marathon blues".  With the main training goal firmly in the rearview mirror, no one would fault a marathoner for being a little...lost.  Well, I'm not lost.  (As I always tell Katie, I have an impeccable sense of direction, and that I'm remarkably modest.)

Some of it may be that I'm still on a high from the marathon—even a week and a half later.  Maybe I'm setting myself up for an eventual letdown, but the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon is one of those races that I'll remember for a lifetime along with the first race I didn't come in last, and the first race I finished first on my team.

But I've also set some short term goals for myself racing-wise, and I'm still trying to assemble the long term goals.  Here's what I've got going on:

Short Term

  • Tesfa 5k:  This is a great race that Katie and I did last year.  It's really small, and it's on a beautiful course down in Ft. Snelling State Park.  I've set this as my "post-marathon recovery race".  I'm following Higdon's advanced post-marathon plan, and this 5k will be the flourish at the end.  I considered doing the Monster Dash 10 Mile a week earlier than the Tesfa 5k, but decided against it.  It think it might be too soon to race a 10 Mile, and I'm not going to pay 50 bucks just to do an easy 10 mile run.  If I enter a race, I'm going to race it!
  • Turkey Trot:  Katie and I are still working on our Thanksgiving plans, but I'd like to do some sort of a Turkey Trot wherever we end up going.  Of particular interest is the Turkey Trot put on by The Parade Company in Detroit just before the best Thanksgiving Day parade in the country.  There's a 5k and a 10k (plus the Mashed Potato Mile), so I'd have plenty of options.  If we stay in MN, I need to do some searching.

  • Indoor Triathlon:  Once things got ramped up for the marathon, cross-training went by the wayside.  I'm going to try and get back in the pool, and maybe plan some sort of indoor triathlon for the winter.  They seem like fun events, and the playing field is much more level because everyone uses the same equipment.
  • Winter Carnival Half Marathon:  Not too sure on this one.  Katie is interested in doing this race, and it looks intriguing (and cold!).  I don't know if I could put in the training necessary to do well here with the Christmas holiday and all, but we'll see.

  • St. Patrick's Day 10 Mile:  I'm considering making this my next "A Race".  It has good timing, and I've never raced a 10 mile before.  The training for the race would give me incentive to keep my base mileage up, which will help immensely with my plans for the summer.
Long-Term, Summer 2011

  • I've been informally referring to Summer 2011 as my "Summer of Speed".  I'm going to take a year off of marathoning to focus on shorter distances.  In particular, I'd like to see how low I can take my 5k PR, with the big goal being finally breaking the 20 minute barrier.
  • A PR-Buster 5k: I need to pick a race that I'll focus on for really working on that 5k PR.  The Brian Kraft PR is appealing because it's a really fast field and a flat course, but it's so early in the season that I may not be really ready for it.
  • 2 or 3 Triathlons:  I enjoyed my triathlon experience this past summer, and I'd like to try my luck at a couple of them next summer.  I don't know which ones I would choose, but I do know that I'd like to do more of them.
  • Red, White, and Boom! Half Marathon:  I enjoyed this race last summer (even in the humidity).  I'd train hard for this and maybe shoot for some ungodly fast time like 1:30.  If I could do that, it would set me up pretty well for my next goal…
Super Long-Term, 2012

  • BQ:  If you had asked me after the 2009 TCM if a BQ was on my radar, I would have told you "Sure, when I turn 75 and the qualifying time is 4:45".  Things are different now.  Running a 3:42 marathon puts a BQ within reach—at least mentally.  A 31 minute drop in time is no small feat, but neither was a 67 minute one.  If I did make a run at BQ, it would certainly be at the Twin Cities Marathon.

  • Boston Marathon:  Well, this just follows from the previous one… ;-)

These plans are still in a state of flux (except the Tesfa 5k, which I'm 100% sure that I'll do).  Got any suggestions of races or goals?  I'm open to pretty much anything at this point.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

How I Took 67 Minutes Off My Marathon PR

...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race black Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!  ~Quenton Cassidy from "Once a Runner"
As the soreness has been vanishing from my legs the past few days, I've had some time to take a hard look at the race, and in doing that, I've tried to figure out how I ended up doing what I did.  There isn't one thing that made it all happen, or a big running secret that people will beg me to share.  In reality, there are two things that made it all happen—training, and strategy.  I hope this post will shed some light on this, and that you might be able to take something helpful away from reading this and apply it to your next race.

Before I do that, though, I just want to put this in perspective.  Taking 67 minutes off a marathon PR is big, yes.  But the amount of room for improvement when you start at almost 5 hours, versus 4 hours or 3 hours, is much larger.  So, I'll say that I'm not expecting to ever make a jump like this again—if I kept taking an hour off my PR, I'd be in danger of getting Olympic Gold!

Returning to our narrative, success in the marathon is by no means guaranteed.  When reading through this post, and contemplating the reasons that I give for my performance, note that some of it is colored by the drive that I had when I signed up for the 2010 TCM.  Based on many metrics (my 5k times, my half marathon time, my marathoning experience, etc.), I should have shot for a 4 hour marathon—maybe even a 4:15 marathon.  That wasn't enough for me, though.  I took a big chance by setting such a lofty goal, and I could have crashed and burned in a spectacular manner.  I understood this risk.  When it comes to running, though, I tend to approach it as described in the leading quote.  So, that being said, here is my analysis:

Weekly Mileage Increase

One of the most obvious sources of improvement was that I just ran more.  I was able to put in significantly more miles per week than I did last year, and more miles generally equals better fitness (not always true, but it is one important indicator).  I peaked at around 60 miles per week instead of the 40 miles per week that I peaked at last year.  With this higher mileage, my long runs were now 33% of my weekly mileage instead of half.  Why is this important?  The quality of the long runs improve.  I was able to do each of my 20 mile runs at a targeted pace (10'00", 9'30", and 9'15") without overstressing myself. Unlike last year where my 20 mile run left me out of commission for a few days, I was back on my feet and feeling great the day of each 20 mile run this year.  This helped indirectly with my TCM performance by allowing me to accept three 20 mile runs, which is the next topic.

First though, here is a chart showing my weekly mileage since April.  Remember, it's not one workout that makes the difference, but a steady progression in distance.

Weekly Mileage Chart.  Marathon training officially began the first week of June.  You'll notice the steady increase in distance punctuated by stepback weeks to avoid overtraining.

Number of Long Runs

When I said that one workout isn't critical, I lied—sorta.  It's not a specific workout that's critical, but there is a type of run that is critical—the long run.  A little theory first.  We hit "The Wall" because we use up all the available glycogen in our muscles.  Glycogen is easy for your muscles to process, and running is pretty easy when fueled by it.  Once it's gone, though, your body has to burn fat, which is considerably tougher to process.  When you're burning fat, you're body feels very, very fatigued because it has to work so hard for even a little bit of energy.  So, avoiding The Wall means using your glycogen stores efficiently enough such that it can carry you 26.2 miles instead of 18 or 20 miles.  That's where the long run helps.

Long runs should be done much slower than marathon pace.  It's all about time on your feet, and not about speed.  Running 20 miles trains your body to use glycogen more efficiently—including knowing when to burn fat.  From the start of the marathon, your body knows that it has to maximize it's glycogen resources, so it will burn some glycogen and some fat instead of just glycogen.  As long as your pace isn't too fast (another huge point, and I'll address that later), you can get by using a combo of glycogen and fat.  It's the 20 mile runs that train your body to operate this way.

So, by doing those three 20 mile runs, my body was conditioned to operate as efficiently as it could as long as I didn't screw it up by going out too fast.

Starting Slow

Continuing from the previous topic, starting the race too fast can really ruin your race.  You run the first 20 miles of a marathon not to achieve your goal time, but rather to make the last 6 miles bearable enough so you can achieve your goal where it counts—the finish line.

I started slow.  I didn't get caught up in the excitement such that I was busting out 7'30" miles from the start (the 7'30" mile would come later…).  My body was able to cruise pretty easily at the beginning, turning miles 1-7ish into warm-up miles.  I didn't even try pushing the pace until mile 15.  So, when I got to mile 20, I still had plenty of fuel.

Negative Splitting

The fastest way to run a marathon is with perfectly even splits.  You should start at the goal pace such that you run out of energy entirely the second you cross the finish line.

I can't do that.  In fact, most elites can't run perfectly even splits at their threshold pace.  So, negative splitting is the next best thing.

The dashed black line is the trendline.

Starting slow, I increased my average pace over the course of the race (see chart above).  I had some outliers caused by aid stations, hills, etc., but the trend is most definitely downward.

This strategy helped me in two ways.  First, it conserved glycogen early in the race, leaving me with the ability to keep pushing at the end.

Second, it provided a mental boost as I was able to pass people in the later stages of the race.  The timing company that TCM used for this race, MTEC, is absolutely fantastic.  The data that they provide is unlike anything I've ever seen, and they even provide quick access to your own personal finish video.  But it's the data that I'm interested in right now, and specifically the number of people that I passed.

A bit of explanation is needed here.  Each runner wears a transponder chip on their shoe.  It has a unique number that is tied to each runner.  At the start of the race, the runners cross the timing mats, and the system records that.  At the next set of timing mats, it does that again.  MTEC then looks at the order of the runners at each mat and determines how many people you passed and how many people passed you. An example:  4 runners, A, B, C, and D, start a race.  At the start, they cross the line in the order A-B-C-D.  At the next set of timing mats, they cross in the order D-B-A-C.  So, Runner D passed 3 people and was passed by zero people.  Runner B passed 2 runners (A and C), but was passed by 1 runner (D).  This is exactly how MTEC's system worked for all 8000+ marathon runners.  Here are my specific results:

Early in the race, I let people pass me a lot more than I was passed.  That's exactly how I planned it.  But look at my results starting at the halfway point—I took command.  I was getting faster, and everyone else was slowing down.  In the last segment—the hardest—I still passed 489 people!  It is a HUGE psychological boost if you're passing people.  I picked out someone ahead of me, then passed them.  I repeated this over and over, and I got faster and faster because of it.  This is how negative splitting helps you do well in the marathon.

Intervals and Hills

Beyond the number of long runs I did, the biggest change that I incorporated into my training this year was speedwork.  Each week, I would do either 800 repeats, hill repeats, or a tempo run.  The 800s and hills were particularly helpful.  Why?  I mean, I'm not going to be running at my 5k pace marathon ever, so why run that fast in training?

Speedwork and hills are really dynamic strength exercises.  Running hills helps you run hills, yes, but hills benefit everyone—including the flat-landers—because it strengthens your leg muscles.  Speedwork and hills also force you to run with better form, thus teaching your body how to run more efficiently.

In 2009, from about Mile 18 onwards, I shuffled.  My feet barely left the ground, and my speed dropped accordingly.  Not only did I hit the wall, but I couldn't even find a slower stride.  I shuffled.  Take a look at these photos from the marathon this year:

Katie took these photos of me at mile 21, just before heading up the last hill.  I was tired and starting to hurt a bit, but my stride was still very strong.  I was moving as efficiently as I could even at this late stage of the race.  With about 0.4 miles to go, Steve snapped this photo of me, and there's no shuffling to be found:

In fact, I'm looking pretty good here

That's what speedwork and hills do.  I strengthened my legs quite a bit, so that even when I was tired, I could still keep my form strong.  When we shuffle, we're less efficient, and we get tired even faster.

One last anecdote on speedwork and form.  I stopped at the first two aid stations on Summit (mile 22 and mile 23) for Powerade.  I walked through each of these aid stations.  Whenever I started walking last year on Summit, I would tell myself that I would walk to the next corner, then start running.  Well, the next corner then became the corner after that, and the corner after that, and I did more walking than running.  This year, I drank the Powerade, then started running right away.  There was no coaxing needed to get myself moving again—I just did it.  And that, my friends, is the benefit of speedwork and good form.


Quite honestly, I don't have much to say on this.  My nutrition strategy worked.  I drank adequately.  I didn't drop any Gu packets.  I wasn't hyponatremic.  My nutrition strategy helped by not screwing the rest of my strategy up.


I don't have anything in the way of plots or photos to support this one, but my outlook on the race helped.  I was going to get 3:45.  I was going to blaze.  Sure, I said that I would be happy with a sub-4 hour finish, but in all honesty, it was 3:45 or bust.  When I hit Summit Avenue and knew my goal was within reach, nothing was going to stop me.  I didn't care how much it hurt, I was going to keep running.


So, those are my secrets.  Nothing groundbreaking.  I hope that you can take something away from this if you're planning on running a marathon.  Just remember, there is no wall.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon: Beyond the Finish Line

Picking up where I left off in my last post, exciting things happened after I crossed the line besides my legs malfunctioning.

First—and I think any marathoner would agree with me on this—is that any volunteer that helps you in the chute is the best person in the world.  Whether they give you a medal, banana, or a shirt, you are so happy to see these total strangers that all you want to do is hug them.  So, to those that helped me in the chute—thank you, and I'm sorry if my effusive gratitude freaked you out.

I got my medal and mylar blanket, and moved on to the Powerade table.  Mmm, more Powerade.  Then a bottle of water and a banana.  This year, I was smarter.  Instead of collecting all the food items, then trying to juggle them as I moved through the chute, I paused to eat them.  So, banana, pause, bread, pause, salted nut roll (yummy), pause, chicken broth, pause, hot, still pausing, that's a lot of chicken broth, still pausing, finisher shirt.

I meandered over to the sweat check and got my bag-o-stuff.  I plopped onto the grass and started stretching a bit.  That felt good.  I then rolled around in an effort to get up.  Eventually, I managed to stand, but this time I had a very exciting thing around my neck that was not a finisher's medal:

Not actually around my neck in this photo, but you get the idea

Hannah, the super-cool Communications Director for Twin Cities in Motion and flash-run organizer extraordinaire, sent me a message earlier in the week offering me a VIP Pass for Sunday morning.  In the message, she described the VIP area in this way:
There's food in there and from what I hear, super awesome "deluxe" porta potties (I'm serious.). 
Upon hearing about the "super awesome 'deluxe' porta potties", I took her up on her offer!

Now, it's not very often one is considered a VIP.  The last time I was a VIP was in kindergarden.  Everyone was VIP for a day, and we got a cool VIP badge made of purple and yellow construction paper.  I think we also got to bring in a special show and tell and help pass out worksheets.  Very cool stuff.

But, being a VIP at the marathon is even cooler.  Why?  Well, you get free stuff:

TCIM Hat—score!  (Unfortunately, photography classes weren't included with the VIP pass)

You also get a great seat right at the finish line at tables with real linen tablecloths:

But, the thing that I'm sure you've all been waiting for is the super awesome deluxe porta potties.

See that gray trailer there?  That's the porta potties.

After sitting for a few minutes at the table and enjoying a green apple (really, this was a great, great thing to just sit and rest for a couple minutes without being surrounded by throngs of people), I went over to the porta potties.  It was divided into "Men" and Women"sides.  I chose "Men".

Holy.  Cow.  These "porta potties" were actually nicer than my own bathroom at home!  I didn't want to be "that guy" who takes all kinds of photos in a bathroom, so I took one.  (I promise, there was no one else in there when I was there.)

Yes, artwork!  And running water! (Once again, the VIP pass did not include photography classes)

I used the running water to wipe down my face a bit since it was covered in salt.  That felt really, really good.  Then I left.

So, a HUGE thank you to Hannah for a really cool experience.


After leaving the VIP area, I crossed the Capitol grounds to find Katie, who was waiting right where she said she would be, and was the same place we found each other last year.  A sweaty hug was followed by a few photos:

And once again, Katie was awesome because of all the riding she did to catch me at so many places—particularly since she should have been recovering after breaking and hour at her first 10k the day before.

She let me rest on her bicycle as we walked back to the car.  We went home, and I rested.


Now, Tuesday, I'm pretty sore.  More sore than Monday.  But, I knew that would happen.  Is being sore fun?  No—especially when you have trouble standing on the bus and almost land in some stranger's lap—but I digress.  I set a tough goal for myself, ran a smart race, and beat the goal into submission.  If that means being sore, I'll gladly take it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon Race Report: There is No Wall

Wow.  Just, wow.  It's now a day after the race, and I'm not sure it has all sunk in quite yet.  My first marathon was an unforgettable experience, but the sheer joy that I feel right now is incomparable.  I came into this race with a pretty lofty goal, and while I was confident in my training, I didn't know if I could do it.  What ended up happening, though, was what I considered to be the perfect race.

I'm planning on this being a series of posts, with a general race report today, and then a more nerd-like analysis later.


Even considering my unwanted wake-up call, I was in a good mood when I arose at 4:20am.  I then had a happy breakfast:

Katie drove me to the Dome and I was there around 6:00am.  I knew that I didn't need to get there quite so early, but it calms me to be early to places.  If we had aimed to be there at 7:00am or 7:15am, every red light or line to get in the doors would have stressed me out.  I found a spot in the Dome, and just relaxed for an hour or so.  I had a salt packet at 7:15am, and a Gu at 7:30am.  After the Gu, I made my way outside.

This turned out to be my biggest mistake of the day.  Last year, I waited on the lower level of the Dome, where there are 2 exits.  On the upper level, there is 1 exit, so there was a long line to get outside.  I hurried down to sweat check, and made my way to the starting corrals.  Since it was now 7:45am, the corrals were pretty full.  I intended to get up to the 4 hour runners, but the furthest I could push my way through the crowd was 4:10.  Not ideal, but I accepted my place and didn't stress out about it.

This is one occasion when having done this before was helpful.  As the horn sounded for the wheelers and Corral 1, I remained calm, cool, and collected.  I didn't get my adrenaline going too soon, and this helped immensely with the first few miles.


I walked to the starting line and got going.  Even though it was a colder morning (about 39°F), I was comfortable in a singlet and shorts.  Running down 6th Street was everything I remembered, although it was pretty quiet going through the tunnel under that building.  I had a deliberately slow pace, and passed few, if any, people.

Mile 1: 8'46"

Good pace, a little quick, but I was very happy with it.  This next mile had my favorite part of the entire race—the bells at the Basilica.  They're so loud and joyous, you just can't help but smile—unless, of course, you've got an iPod and are in your own little world.  But I digress.

Up the hill to the Walker, I kept the mantra in mind: "Constant Effort".

Mile 2: 8'43"

Still good on the pace.  I turned onto Douglas, and continued uphill with the mantra.  A little bit down the road, I came across a group of Tom Horner supporters, and we got each other pumped up.  Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page was on his street corner with his tuba, and we flashed each other a wave.

The first aid station went smoothly.  I took 2 cups of Powerade, had minimal spillage, and didn't loose much time.

Mile 3: 9'07"

Turning towards Lake of the Isles, I began to run the tangents in earnest.  It was less crowded around me than it was last year, so I could move from one side of the road to the other without too much effort.  I still don't understand why others don't do this.  Are they really excited about adding a quarter mile to their race?  For most of the race, I ran the tangents rather skillfully.

Mile 4: 8'36"

Good, now I'm settling into my pace.  It was in this stretch as I got to Lake Calhoun that I saw Leanne.  More accurately, she saw me, yelled out my name, and I was able to turn and wave before it was too late.  Thanks Leanne!  Also, another aid station and some Powerade and I was good to go.

Mile 5: 8'04"

Huh?  I ran that one much too fast, and there was even an aid station in there.  Ok, well, I'll pull back a little bit.  Here was also the first time I saw Katie!  I saw her before she saw me, so I called out "Katie!" and got a high-5 from her.  Last year, I didn't have any spectators who knew me until Mile 14—this year I had 2 before mile 7!

Mile 6: 9'03"

Slower, better.  I took it easy up the hill on Berry Parkway, and then cruised to Lake Harriet.  I ate drank ingested my first Gu here, and I must tell you about how much of genius I am—and it's second only to my modesty.  I made a Friday afternoon decision to forego pinning the Gu to my waistband.  That was a bit of a hassle last year.  This year, I tried something new.  I had compression shorts under my running shorts, so I folded the legs up a bit to create "pockets" for the Gu.  I tucked the Gu into the shorts, and they didn't bother me or get in the way.  It was a fantastic solution, and I'll be doing that again.

Mile 7: 8'31"

I'm happy with that.  I was in cruise control for most of this stretch since it was flat and was just a gentle, sweeping turn around the lake.

Mile 8: 8'46"

Easy up the hills on Minnehaha Parkway.

Mile 9: 8'43"

An aid station right away, with some more Powerade.  I was also very happy that the one drum troupe was back under the Nicollet Avenue bridge.  It sounds so great reverberating through the bridge.

Mile 10: 8'33"

Good pace—still not too fast.

Mile 11: 8'26"


Mile 12: 8'48"

Second Gu right at the start of this mile, followed by a longer uphill climb to the bridge over Nokomis.  Keeping it easy, though.

Mile 13: 8'24"

I got a little worried here.  I checked my overall time and I was about 1.5-2 minutes slower than even pacing.  I knew that I would have to negative split if I wanted to get under 3:45.  I also ate my second salt packet here, but it was a little moist from me spilling Powerade and water down my front.

Also, Mel-O-Glaze Donuts is the MOST TORTUROUS spot on the whole course.  The smell of jelly donuts was overpowering, and I exclaimed to the lady next to me: "Doesn't that smell wonderful?".  She responded with a look of "I think you just said something, but you're probably crazy, so I'm going to drift back into my iPod world."

Mile 14: 8'39"

So, I didn't pick it up there.  There was a hill, and I took it easy.  But, I remembered something about my hill strategy.  The Runner's World forum post that helped inform my strategy said that if I keep my effort even up the hills, it will look like I'm moving backwards compared to other runners.  But, once I get to the hill after turning back onto Minnehaha Parkway, something will change.  It will start to look like everyone else is moving backwards compared to me, even though I'm keeping my effort constant.  This means I've run the hills smarter, and the everyone else is feeling the consequences of attacking the hills too aggressively.  Well, I noticed this EXACT phenomenon, and it was really, really cool.

Mile 15: 8'17"

Picking it up—that's good.  Another Gu, too.  What really surprised me in this section of the course was how crowded it was.  I don't remember this happening last year, but from Minnehaha Park for about ¾ of a mile, it was some really tight going.  I couldn't move around very much to run tangents, so I had to be content with where I was.  Then, all of a sudden, it just thinned out again.  The road width stay pretty constant through here, so I just had no idea what was going on.

Mile 16: 8'33"

Good pace considering I slowed to Gu.  I wanted to pick it up a bit more on this section of the course because it is pretty flat and shady, so it was a good opportunity to make up some time.

Mile 17: 7'38"

?!?!?  Huh?  What happened here?  Way, way too fast.  I thought that I had just ruined my hopes of a 3:45 marathon with this mile.  I slowed down, and tried to get my effort back under control.  It was here that I saw Kelli and her husband Eric right by the Lake Street bridge.  They were waving wildly in their bright green shirts.  Thanks guys!

Mile 18: 8'32"

That's better.  I saw Katie for the second time here, and she managed to get a photo of me running past:

I even managed a wave

I should have been more nervous during this part of the race.  It was here last year that things started to fall apart on me.  This year, though, I was feeling really good, and kept pushing the pace.

Mile 19: 8'06"

Ok, banking some time here for the next section of the course.  Here began a series of 4 hills that can ruin your race.  The hill up to Franklin, the hill from the Welcome to St. Paul sign, the hill up from Marshall Ave, and the big hill up to St. Thomas.  I kept with my strategy of constant effort up this first hill, and it worked marvelously.  One last Gu on the East side of the river, and I had a 10k left.

Mile 20: 8'13"

Still a quick pace.  I ran through "the wall" (not the real "The Wall", but an inflatable one), and was feeling super.  After this though, muscles started rebelling.  First was my right calf, but I ignored it and kept running.

I told myself before the race that I wouldn't know if a 3:45 was possible until I got to the East side of the river.  Considering how good I was feeling, I knew that I had a shot at it.

Mile 21: 8'22"

Not slowed too much by the hills, so looking good.  Katie appeared AGAIN, this time just before the final big hill.  She got a few more photos of me going by:

I still had a stride here, and did not have to resort to a shuffle

I managed a smile and a wave to Katie, but then focused on the hill that was approaching quickly

The Hill.  Last year, I had to ask others if I was still moving.  This year, I looked at that hill and said to it: "I own you."  This is where all my hill repeats are done, so I wasn't going to let it beat me.  I stared at the top, kept my effort constant, and made it up in no time.  No walking, no shuffling, just running.

At the top, there's a turn onto Cretin, then about 200 meters later, it's a left turn onto Summit.  At the turn, there were hundreds of St. Thomas students, and the roar was deafening.  I turned onto Summit—the closest thing to a "home course" that I've got—and said to myself: "I've Got This".  3:45 was going to happen, no matter what.

Mile 22: 8'51"

Yup, sub-9 even with the big hill.  I made it up the final grade to Snelling, and knowing that the net elevation change from that point forward was negative, I flashed a big grin.

Mile 23: 8'12"

What?  An uphill mile at almost 8 minutes?  I guess I've still got something left in me.  There was an aid station just past the Mile 23 marker, and I took 2 cups of Powerade.  That would be the last time I stopped for fluids.

Katie showed up for a FOURTH time just as I approached Lexington.  I yelled to her that "I've got this!".  She didn't quite hear me, but there was no stopping me now.

My right quad was the next muscle to go.  It tensed up, but I ignored it too.

Mile 24: 8'13"

Still pushing the pace.  I looked at my watch at this point, and saw that even if I ran the last 2.2 miles at 10 min/mile, I would still come in at 3:45.  But I didn't slow to 10 min/mile.  All along Summit, I just picked people in front of me, and passed them.  One after another, I kept doing this.  I've got some really cool statistics for a later blog post about this.

Left hamstring.  Ignored it.

Mile 25: 8'16"

There was a little hill in that last mile, but I didn't notice.  I knew I had 1.2 miles to go, and I wanted to finish, so, so bad.  I was hurting, but not stopping.  I mostly just looked at the double yellow line on the road, and focused on that.  It kept going, so I did too.

Interesting fact.  Al Franken-stein was cheering along this last stretch of the course.  I can't stand his politics, but I'm glad he was out supporting the runners.  I waved, he waved back.  He was also shouting: "Point seven miles to go!".  In truth, it was more like 0.4, but he's a comedian, not a scholar, so I'll give him a break.

Coming around the curve and seeing the Cathedral was just as cool this year as it was last year.  Last year, I teared up a bit seeing that.  This year, I kept pushing.

Also at this point was my favorite group of farm animals.  Really, just the chicken was upright and doing things, but I'm sure the other animals were there somewhere.  I saw Steve cheering for people, then he put the chicken head back on.  Turning, he saw me, ripped the head off, and grabbed his camera.  I think we high-fived (sorry Steve, everything was a bit cloudy right there!).

Down the hill I went.  The big American Flag was tangled up, but still an awe inspiring sight.

Legs.  Ignored them.

Mile 26: 7'51"

Yeah, baby!  You read that right—sub 8 on the last full mile.  I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed to get to that finish line.

I hit the mat, and leapt up with a shout and a fist pump into the air.

Last 0.2: 1'37" (8'05" pace)

Then I hit the ground.  Truth be told, when I "leapt", it was more like I reduced my normal force on the ground slightly.  Remember that I am (a) white, and (b) at the end of 26.2 miles.  

When I hit the ground, my legs said "Uh uh".  And they stopped.  Muscles said "no".  I was frozen in place for a few seconds.  I had to coax any movement out of them.

Fun things happened after I crossed the line, but I'm saving that for another post.

Very happy

And here I am with the best spectator in the world.  Katie rode her bike over 27 miles to catch me at all those places on the course.



Time: 3:42:01
Average Pace: 8'29" per mile
Overall Place: 1814 out of 8212
Men Place: 1434 out of 4818
Men 22-29 Place: 314 out of 951

So, I beat my goal by 2'59", and I took 67 minutes off my marathon PR.  67 MINUTES!  Holy cow!

I've got plenty of analysis I'm going to do in another post, but I wanted to show 2 plots first.  The first is my pace chart from last year.

See that climb around mile 18?  We call that "The Wall".  I hit it.  Hard.  Here's this year's pace chart:

You'll see this chart again in a later post, but what you must remember about The Wall is:

There is No Wall.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Quick Update

Hi all, just a short update here.

I made it under 3:45!  My unofficial time was 3:42:04!

I'll have plenty of blog posts coming soon on what turned out to be the perfect race!

Thanks to everyone for your support and words of encouragement!

0 Days to Go: I Packed Your Angry Eyes

I'm leaving for the Dome in about an hour.  I'm excited and calm at the same time.  I know it's going to be a good day, and I just want to start running now.  I also know that something will go wrong.  Nothing major, but nothing ever goes completely according to plan.  I can accept this, and I know to move beyond it.

Last night, I may have already experienced the thing that goes wrong.  At 11:23pm, I am awoken to some yelling and screaming.  It was so loud that I was almost positive that it was coming from my own apartment.  It wasn't.  It was my neighbors being loud and obnoxious.  I was NOT in the mood for such things, so I put in my angry eyes and gave them a piece of my mind:

They then quieted down.


To everyone running today, have a GREAT race!  If you're spectating, I can't wait to see you out there!

To your mom, and beyond!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

1 Day to Go: TK-421, Why Aren't You At Your Post?

Last night, Katie and I ventured to the Expo under the guise of picking up our race packets.  The real reason someone goes to the Expo is for the stuff.  Lot's of stuff.  And I caved:

Yup, those are my new Brooks Launch.  I have heard some really great things about these shows, and they were 20% off at the Expo.  20% off!  So I bought them.  I gave them a test run this morning, and I LOVE them.  They're considerably lighter than my Adrenalines, and they just feel great.  I can't wait to go on a longer run with them.

Fun Side Note:  At the TC10k this morning, there was a really close finish for first place.  The guy who took 2nd?  He sold me these shoes.

Speaking of the 10k, Katie raced it this morning too!  It was a cold morning (probably about 40°F when we got to the Capitol around 6:30am).  We hung out in the family fun tent by the heaters for a while, then Katie left to warm up.  When she finished, I decided to get a free cup of coffee from Caribou.  Remember, I hate coffee, but I REALLY needed to warm up.  So, I spilled the coffee all over the cream and sugar table decided to have only a quarter cup of coffee.

So, race time.  Katie was excited, and it was a great morning and course for her to meet her goal of a sub-60 10k.  Here she is about ready to head to the start:

Her race number reminds me of TK-421

Katie then leaves for 2nd Grade:

Look closely at the signs up ahead of Katie

So, my next goal was to spill more coffee get up ahead of the starting line to see her start.  Remember, now, that I'm trying to rest as much as possible before the race tomorrow.  I moved as quickly as I could, with a quick pause for the National Anthem, but everyone started moving!  Well, I guess the starting line wasn't where it said "Start", but 100 meters ahead of there, so everyone had to move up as part of a parade.  I JUST made it to catch Katie go by:

Looking very happy

Runners on their way.  Isn't this just a fantastic place to have a race?

Yup, I'll be looking at this tomorrow

So, I hung around for a while while she was out running.  My big goal was to find Hannah, who had a fun token for me (more on this later).  She is super cool and works for Twin Cities in Motion, and after texting back forth, I discovered she was at the media tent.  I searched for the media tent, but since exactly zero tents near the starting line are labeled, she had to help me again (thanks Hannah).

Runners started coming in, and when the clock said 55ish minutes, I knew Katie would be coming soon.  Lo and behold:

Not as cheery looking, but she's barreling towards the finish

So, did Katie meet her goal?  She sure did!  By a lot!  57'12"!!  I'm super proud of her, and I think she had a great time too!

I warmed up, Katie cooled down, then we left.  We almost had a disaster waiting for us in the parking lot.  When we got there in the morning, it was still dark, so I turned the interior lights on in the car so we could pay for parking.  When we got home later, the lights were still on.  Oops.  Thanks to Chevrolet for making the car smarter than me and preventing the battery from going dead.

Friday, October 01, 2010

2 Days To Go: What to Look For

Are you coming to cheer for the runners this weekend?  If you don't know how, I gave a primer yesterday—read it.

When you come to the course, there are certain things you should look for.  One of those is my bib number—2490.  (It's also helpful to know that if you want to track me via the texting.)  The second important thing to look for is my outfit:

On Sunday, I'll actually be wearing these things, so imagine me in the clothes.  If you're unsure of what you're looking at, here's the lowdown:

Sunglasses:  Helpful for keeping sun out of your eyes.  Also saves spectators from your evil glare when they use cowbells.
Singlet:  Will be combined with band-aids and Body Glide to prevent unwanted chafing.
Shorts:  They're red.  They're short.  It's a runner's thing.  Get over it.
Shoes:  Weights for the end of your legs.  Makes the last 6 miles seem even longer.
Socks:  Keeps your toes in line and blister free.
Watch:  For what?
Pace Band:  Because I didn't have any place for my TI-86 Graphing Calculator.

Got it?  Good.
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