Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grandma's Marathon: Race Report

Near the finish of Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon weekend was supposed to be a PR race. After training hard to set a PR at the Milwaukee Marathon last November and having a mis-marked course thwart that PR attempt, I decided to try again for a PR in a spring marathon.

Unfortunately, several weeks into my Grandma's Marathon training, I knew I wasn't going to set a new personal record there either. In the first three months of my training for Grandma's, I dealt with a gastrointestinal issue that reduced my running to two or three days a week as opposed to my normal six or seven. Three months is about 75% of a training cycle, so a PR was out of the question by the time I was feeling better.

So, back to Grandma's Marathon. My weekend started with a ride to Duluth from my friend Brittany. Her, her twins, and I drove through horrendous traffic from Eagan to Duluth. We got to the expo as vendors were beginning to close down, but still within plenty of time to pick up my packet.
After a delicious dinner provided graciously by Brittany's sister-in-law, we talked about running. There were quite a few of us there, and four of us were running the marathon the next day: Brittany's sister-in-law Madeline, and her in-laws, Jen and Wayne. We then settled down for the evening to get some sleep for an early morning.

That morning we all grabbed a quick breakfast and made a short walk to the bus. The ride to the start was in a coach bus rather than the standard school bus, and it was nice to have a comfy ride. At the start was my only complaint about the race: long lines for the porta potties. I was in line for almost forty minutes, and made it to the start line with about five minutes to spare.

My plan for the race was to go out at about a 7:00 - 7:10 first mile and see how I felt from there. Instead, I came out at about a 6:45. I thought to myself, hey, that didn't feel so bad, so I decided I might as well go for a sub three hour finish--about 6:52 a mile.

The course was nice--more rolling hills than I expected, but scenic. There were nice views of forest, rivers, and Lake Superior, as well as the singing of white-throated sparrows. Along the way to the finish, I saw about half-a-dozen people I knew either running or spectating. As we got closer to Duluth, there were more and more spectators along the course, which gave a nice boost.

One thing that was bothering me was the outside of my right ankle. It'd been giving me a little trouble off and on throughout my training cycle, and about seven miles into the marathon it began to hurt--especially when I was running on the cant on the left side of the road. After a while, it felt almost as if a tendon was flapping around in there, but after several miles of discomfort, it pretty much faded away.

With the scenery and the ample runners, the miles really ticked by. Then, it started to warm up. The race had started overcast, but it wasn't long before the sun came out. At that point, I really started to feel the humidity as well. The heat had me drinking more than I had in any previous marathon. Every aid station I would grab a drink of water, then a drink of Powerade, then another drink of water. When I could, I would grab a cup of ice to and pour water or Powerade in that.

By mile 21 it'd become clear I wasn't going to break three hours. Though I'd slowed a little, I was still on pace for a sub-three, but my legs were telling me it wasn't going to happen. For a while I thought maybe a 3:02 would be possible, but I soon gave up on that as well.

By mile 23, I'd decided to be satisfied with a Boston qualifying finish of under 3:05 (later I learned my BQ time is actually 3:10). I came through the finish at 3:04:26, so mission accomplished.

After the race I ran into a running buddy and we chatted for awhile. He hadn't hit his time goal, mainly due to the heat. After we talked, I headed to the food. Unfortunately, my stomach began to hurt. I ate a fourth of a bagel, then gave away my drink ticket to a grateful stranger.

I lay in the grass for about ten minutes, then headed over to find Brittany and her family. I checked on them, watched Jen and Wayne finish, then walked over to a park bench to lie down. An hour or so later, I went over to watch again, but right away I began to feel nauseous. I went back to my bench to rest so more, then made another try at watching the finish. I didn't make it long, and a few minutes later I threw up into a storm drain.

At that point I felt fine. I watched Madeline finish, then we went over to a restaurant near Madeline's house where I had a big dinner.

All in all it was a fun weekend. I did about as well as I thought I could considering my horrible training, and ran my first Boston qualifying time since 2014. Now it's on to my next marathon this fall.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Back from a long hiatus

For anyone still following my blog(s), you may have noticed that I haven't posted for months. This was not really intentional--it just sort of happened.

The main reasons I stopped blogging was that my running wasn't going well and that I just wasn't interested.

So, this will just be a quick update, and I'll let you know what's in store for my blogging future. First, the update:

This past year both Laura and I have had some health problems. Thankfully we're both recovered, but for a while things were a little on the hectic side.

My issue was some sort of gastrointestinal problem that had me nauseous almost every day, and sick enough to throw up at least once a week. After numerous visits with doctors and several tests, I was never given a diagnosis. Fortunately, the issue has largely cleared up on its own, so for the last month I've been doing pretty well.

A month, however, is not enough time to get in a good marathon training cycle. For the first three months of my training cycle, I was only running three days most weeks as opposed to the six or seven days I'd normally run during a training cycle. The only fortunate part of my training was that I was usually feeling well enough on Saturday or Sunday to get in a long run (though I was often feeling too sick to run on the other day), and I only missed one long run the whole cycle.

With a terrible training cycle (if you could even call it a training cycle), I had a hard time deciding a race plan for Grandma's Marathon. In my next post, I'll write a quick race report to let you know how it went.

On to my blogging future:

I'm going to continue this blog, which will be mostly about running, but will definitely have some other stuff thrown in as well. The big change I'm making is retiring my coaching blog. I'll still do some coaching, but I won't be advertising or seeking new clients. I'll leave the blog up, so if anyone wants to read any of the posts or contact me about coaching--great.

That's all for now. Run well.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

There's ice ahead and other setbacks

Last week was supposed to be the first week of my training plan for Grandma's Marathon. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.

Two weeks ago, I went on a final longish run before my official training plan started. It was beautiful in Minnesota--warm enough that I was wearing shorts, a long sleeve, and no gloves. My plan was to run somewhere around ten miles.

The run started out great. That morning we had taken little one-year-old Calvin to baby swimming lessons at the YMCA, so I threw my bag in the car and ran home while Laura drove Calvin. The YMCA is only four miles from our house, so I headed south to run in a u-shape to hit ten miles or so.

I wanted to run a hilly route, which is easy to do in Eagan, but I wanted a really hilly route. There's this nice paved trail called The Highline Trail that has two really steep hills and a couple more gentler ones, so I decided to run there.

 Besides the hills, the other nice thing about running on The Highline Trail is its beauty. It goes through a restored prairie and by a couple of ponds, so there are often birds, turtles (not so much in the winter) and deer to be seen. Though it's not as pretty in the winter, it's still nicer than running along one of Eagan's busy streets.

So, as I was enjoying the hills and the beauty, I came up on a group of walkers. "Watch out," one said. "There's ice ahead."

"Thanks," I said.

The walker wasn't kidding. At the top of a hill there was a twenty foot section of ice shaded by the trees. In my infinite wisdom I thought, OK, I'll just run this section really slowly--I'll keep my strides short so I don't fall. It was a brilliant plan.

Or not. After a few strides, my feet flew from underneath me and down I went. I was able to keep my head up, so I didn't get knocked out, but my back, glute, and pelvis didn't fare so well. I landed hard on my right side, slid about five feet, and came to rest. I'd landed sort of on my lower back, slightly to the right, so the bulk of the force went through the top of my pelvis, my glute, and my lower back--all on the right side.

Unfortunately I was still three miles from home. So, I hobble-ran the last two miles, which gave me pain in my hamstring the next day.

Due to my stupidity, I had to take an entire week off of running--which really stunk because we had amazing weather for three of those days.

But, I was thinking it wasn't a huge deal because my marathon training plan didn't start until the next week. Then, another setback.

Last Saturday night I started feeling nauseous, and by Monday, the first day of my training plan, I wasn't any better. Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting kept bothering me, and last week I only felt good enough to run on Tuesday and missed the entire rest of the week.

Yesterday I finally went to urgent care, and the doctor there sent me to the ER. At the ER, after a CT scan, they diagnosed me with colitis. They gave me some prescriptions for medications for the nausea and stomach pain along with an antibiotic for the colitis.

They also gave me some medication in for the nausea through an IV, and after the third try and second different medication, my stomach finally felt better. After getting out of the ER I was able to eat real food for the first time in four days.

I took the nausea and stomach pain medications this morning, and as of right now I'm feeling pretty good. I'm optimistic that I'll actually get to start training for Grandma's this coming week.

Run well.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Social media use can lead to depression. You heard me right--that mindless scrolling, looking at your friends' pictures, political postings, and status updates can leave you depressed. According to an article from Forbes.com, "Research Links Heavy Facebook And Social Media Usage To Depression," researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found a link between a high amount of social media use and depression.The study states that, "highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives."

One thing I enjoy about running is the ability to be unplugged. Sure, I sometimes listen to podcasts, recorded books, and watch T.V. on the treadmill, but for the most part I run sans technology. Running unplugged takes me away from the informational stream of social media--Facebook in my case. I wouldn't call myself a heavy user, but I use it often enough that it definitely affects me.

Running unplugged helps me clear my head. I'm not reading news articles posted by Facebook friends. I'm not scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed, looking at people's status updates and photos. Instead, I'm spending time in motion, enjoying the outdoors, and being able to think without the "noise" of technology.

Regardless of whether you run or not, I encourage you to spend some time unplugged. It's nice to have a mental break.

Run well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Running Books: Fiction and Biographies

Though I've written some posts about running books before, I thought I'd share some books runners (and non-runners) may enjoy. For my non-running readers, I'll share some fiction and biographies, and memoir first. Though avid running readers would most likely enjoy all of these books, non-runners would likely enjoy several as they are well-written and tell good stories.

Once a Runner series
by John L. Parker Jr.
These books include "Once a Runner," "Again to Carthage," and "Racing the Rain." "Once a Runner" is a cult classic among runners--a well written novel about a collegiate runner, Quenton Cassidy, striving to reach the top of his sport.

"Again to Carthage," the sequel, follows Cassidy several years after his collegiate career as he tries to make the Olympic team in the marathon.

"Racing the Rain," the prequel to "Once a Runner," chronicles Cassidy's athletic endeavors in middle and high school as Cassidy moves from basketball to running as his primary sport.

You don't have to be a runner (though it helps) to enjoy these well-written novels. The characters are believable and the story is engaging. I read the novels in order of when they were written, but it may be more interested to read them in chronological order, starting with "Racing the Rain" and ending with "Again to Carthage."

The Perfect Mile
by Neal Bascomb
"The Perfect Mile" tells the story of three runners racing to break the four minute barrier in the mile. It follows Wes Santee, Roger Bannister, and John Landy attempting the break the elusive four minute mark, less than 60 seconds around a track four times.

Duel in the Sun
byJohn Brandt
"Duel in the Sun" tells the stories of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar, framing the story leading up to and after the 1982 Boston Marathon, know as "the duel in the sun." This book is very well-written, and you'll enjoy it whether you know who one the race or not.

Born to Run
by Christopher McDougall
"Born to Run" is a story both of adventure and of barefoot running. The author, along with several friends and acquaintances, head to Mexico to visit and run with the Tarahumara, a native Mexican tribe known for their distance running. This book sparked the barefoot running phenomenon, and though barefoot running has somewhat faded from the trend of "barefoot" running shoes, it still enjoys a popular niche in the running (and walking) communities.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Favorite Running Movies: Dramas/Comedies

This category is tough. Unlike the biopics and documentaries, running is not the main component of all these films. There are a few films that some include in running movies where I don't think running is an important enough part of the plot to include them like, "Marathon Man," where although Dustin Hoffman's character is a runner, that part of the plot doesn't seem very important.

There are others, however, that might not come to mind when you think about running movies, but I included them because I don't think they'd be the same movies without running. Feel free to comment on those I left out or those I included.

Saint Ralph
I thought this one was funny and somewhat heartwarming. Ralph is a troubled boy who's mother is in a comma, and he basically lives alone while attending a Catholic school. He finds running as a way to cope, and becomes connected with a former marathon running priest who trains Ralph to run the Boston Marathon. While the plot is a stretch at times, especially in the race itself, and though parts of the film are crass, "Saint Ralph" is definitely entertaining.

Forrest Gump
Running is one of the most important parts of this film--don't even argue on this one. Forrest gets into college, becomes a military hero, and  gains national attention because of running. What would "Forrest Gump" be without Forrest's run across America? Without his famous line, "Ever since that day, I was run-en!"

Run Fat Boy, Run
This film employs the quirky humor of Simon Pegg as he attempts to train for and complete the London Marathon--in a span of about three weeks. This film is entertaining, though parts are completely unbelievable, such as Pegg's character and rival running at the front of the race with the elite athletes for far too long. On my best day I could maybe run one mile of a marathon with elite athletes, and Pegg seems able to run with them for a decent stretch on three weeks of training. Pegg's attempting to complete the race to earn back the respect of his ex-fiancee and mother of his child, and after Pegg stops running with the elites, the rest of his race is actually pretty entertaining.

Across the Tracks
"Across the Tracks" features a very young Brad Pitt as a half miler on a quest to win the county championship and earn a scholarship to Stanford. His younger, troubled brother has just returned from juvenile detention, and although is initially met with hostility from his brother, he also begins running for his track team. This one is a little cheesy in parts, but the running scenes are actually pretty decent and the story is entertaining enough that you might enjoy it if you're a runner.

Running on the Edge
In this Bruce Dern film, Dern plays a runner unfairly banned who sets his sights on winning an iconic mountain race 20-some years later. The race is age-handicapped, so Dern's character has a chance of winning. The race itself is based on the the famous Dipsea race, and Dern plays a compelling runner. The race itself plays out like a Jock Semple/Kathrine Switzer scenario with an angry director trying to remove a runner from "his" race.

The Jericho Mile
This one's fun if not purely for the 70s lingo. Set in a prison, a talented runner is spotted by prison officials who see his talent, set up a race for him, and try to get him entered into the Olympic trials. If you can get over the pure 1970s feel of this movie, the running scenes are actually decent and the story isn't awful.

Friday, January 6, 2017

It's Goal Time 2017

Last year I didn't set any goals on my blog for the first time in several years. My lack of goal setting was partially due to my my lack of success in 2014 and 2015. Instead, I decided to set a couple of private goals, and I met one officially and another unofficially. The three goals I'd set for myself was running under 17 minutes in a 5k, and setting PRs in the marathon and half marathon.

I didn't meet the goal of running under 17 minutes for the 5k. I only ran one 5k in July, and though I likely would have run under 17 minutes if the weather had been more cooperative, my time off from running in June and the first week of July had me in less than peak shape. It was the only 5k I ran, so I never gave myself another chance to break 17 minutes.

My goal of setting a marathon PR was unofficially met. You can read all about the debacle that was the Milwaukee Marathon (parts one, two, and three), but suffice to say I ended up covering almost 30 miles. I took a split at the 26.46 mark, figuring that would be about right considering GPS correction and not running the tangents perfectly. My unofficial split at that point was a PR, so I unofficially met my marathon PR goal.

As for my half marathon goal, I officially met that one, running a PR time of 1:16:09. Everything came together at the City of Lakes Half Marathon. I was in good shape, had a good day racing, and the weather was almost perfect. It felt good to set a PR in the half marathon, especially since my last half marathon PR was over four years ago.

So there's the rundown of my 2016 goals. Three goals seemed like a good amount, so I'll do the same of 2017.

Goal 1: Set a PR at the marathon distance. I'll be running Grandma's Marathon in June, a marathon that won't be in danger of having a mis-marked course. I'm hoping for good weather since running in the heat is tough after training in cold and cool weather in Minnesota's winter and spring.

Goal 2: Break 17 minutes in the 5k. I'm looking to run a 5k in February, and if the weather is decent I'll have a shot. If it's too cold, I'll probably try to run a 5k in the fall.

Goal 3: Set a new indoor mile PR. I'm running a mile race in less than a week, and my training has been going pretty well. I'll have to break 4:52, and I think that based on my training I've got a chance.

These should all be doable goals. I'm looking forward to a great 2017!

Happy Running!